Our annual visit to Florida’s baseball mecca began inauspiciously. I deferred, as usual, to Elaine’s preference for checking bags on airlines, but nonetheless reiterated the standard arguments against doing so. Southwest proceeded to confirm my “fast thinking” by misplacing Elaine’s luggage. (Mine was delivered without incident.) The loss of Elaine’s bag meant that she had to sleep in my “well-aged” undershirt, but dormant passions were not aroused. No harm, no foul: the bag arrived the following morning and Elaine switched back to her own threads.
The second day we went to breakfast at a favorite deli, TooJays, and pigged out on carbs, oblivious and delirious. After blinnies, potato pancakes, both with sour cream, cherry preserves on the former and applesauce on the latter, we belched our way to the new Ball Park of the Palm Beaches, a pretentious name for a quotidian ambiance. This is the new spring home shared by the Houston Astros and the Washington Nats (lovingly, the Nits).
Deploying my most authentic Janet Yellen accent, I was able to “schnorr” two (almost) free tickets from a generous bystander. For the $10 cost of parking his car he gave us two $32 face value tickets behind home plate. I was wearing my L. A. Dodgers windbreaker and newsboy cap so he probably knew I was a displaced crypto fan of the Mets who suffered an ignominious defeat.
Gio Gonzalez and friends managed to pitch a one-hitter. The Mets were so flat I became dispirited and totally unprepared for the 16-2 walloping they administered to the Cardinals at the Mets’ home park in Port St. Lucie the following day. Indeed, Wainwright and Weaver of the Cardinals managed to gift the Mets 14 runs in the first three innings. The hitting star of the game was Wilmer Flores, no longer tearful, with a double, a grand salami, and six RBIs. Less than suspenseful, this game was good for laughs and it exposed the managerial limitations of both the Mets and Cardinals field managers, an enduring condition I fail to understand.
The only adventure came with obtaining tickets for this game. We have lovely friends at the Cardinals who comp us when the Mets play the Cards, home or away. However, this was the second time the efficient Mets administration could not find the tickets set aside for the Greenbaums. We were rebuffed at the VIP window maybe five times and were ready to throw in the towel and pay for proletarian seats in the far off outfield when an apparently delusional woman circulated among the crowd of fans screaming “Greenbaum, Greenbaum, Greenbaum”. I fearlessly confessed and she seemed mightily relieved, explaining that they somehow had found our tickets. No harm, no foul: the Mets-Cards spread of 14 more than doubled that of the University of KY over Northern KY in the March Madness tourney. The previous year the people at Port St. Lucie similarly could not find our tickets and Travis D’Arnaud’s dad happened to be standing nearby to generously offer us two from his bulging envelope.
The third game we observed again pitted the Mets against the Cards, but the venue was the Cards’ home field at Jupiter. We were thrilled at having seats #1 & 2 immediately behind the Cardinals’ dugout. No sooner had we settled in than another frantic lady approached us imploring that we exchange our tickets for seats #7 & 8 in the same row behind the dugout. It seemed the DeWitts, the managing owners of the Cardinals, were claiming their regular seats. Being appreciative “Schnorrers,” Elaine and I obligingly moved over. Noblesse oblige!
This game again offered a striking contrast to its predecessor. The Mets led 4-1 going into the last of the eighth when the Cards managed to score three runs and all in attendance at Roger Dean Stadium seemed to expect the Mets to cave. Surprise, the Mets, thanks to Carpio and Carillo, minor leaguers both, stroked back-to-back doubles producing the leading run. Then Corey Taylor, an A-ball closer, closed out the Cards for a 5-4 Mets victory. Thus, we had ridden the rollercoaster of baseball emotions and exited elated.
Our our fourth and last day in Florida took us to the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach for a taste of over-the-top opulence. I found this supercilious and invidious consumption off- putting, a persuasive argument for progressive taxation. We further celebrated over pastrami at TooJays on our way to the airport at Orlando, a long and tiring schlepp.
No report of this kind would be satisfying without a few dark horse picks and prognostications. Watch for Phillip Evans and Corey Taylor, the former a third basemen who played in double-A last year and the latter a closer in advanced single-A. You heard it here, both seem ready for the show, even if management is probably too conservative for that to happen. I also believe the Mets may face frustrations with their vaunted rotation. Matt Harvey is currently 0-4 with an embarrassing ERA and Zack Wheeler is being mollycoddled two seasons past Tommy John. On the other hand, I like Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, the latter starting for Puerto Rico in the WBC finals, and Rafael Montero is having a surprisingly good spring. Fitting together the rest of their one-way players into a smooth functioning team is likely a managerial feat that exceeds available managerial talent in the dugout.
Oh well, this trip was great fun, even if too brief. I do hope Elaine and I have the will, wealth, and wigor to return next year.
Guest Blogger: Stuart I. Greenbaum, edited by Margaret Elaine Greenbaum