A baseball game is just a baseball game, and a baseball game played on frozen earth in a whirl of snow flurries is just barely a baseball game. The game that was played on Tuesday night, in the second half of a split doubleheader between the Mets and Rockies -- a doubleheader occasioned by a snowstorm that left eight inches of snow on the field the morning of the game -- will count in the standings.
It was real enough: there was a winning pitcher and a losing pitcher and a box score and multiple instances of Mets outfielders pursuing fly balls as if they were wearing buttered roller skates -- so, a big league game, played at high elevation and low temperature in early-mid April between two big league teams. The same will be true of the game the teams play Thursday, once the field is re-cleared of the snow that canceled Wednesday's scheduled game. These are all real games.
It's important to remember that, because Tuesday night's game -- ten brutal innings, four-odd very odd hours, innumerable frozen-stiff on-field flubs and infinite Terrence Malick-ian slowness -- felt somehow bigger and stranger and worse than any baseball game should feel. It was and is just one game in the standings, a loss for the Mets and a win for the Rockies. It was, also, a remarkable and awful thing: a cruel piece of performance art, or if you're more literal-minded, just one of the lousiest baseball games in recent memory.
I might as well admit that the team I hoped would win did not win. That would be the one that spent the game fielding grounders as if they were rocket-propelled bowling balls and flopping to the field like drunks in a windstorm; the one that was up by six runs in the fifth inning and led by two when Michael Cuddyer tapped a deceptively routine-seeming grounder, with two out and two on in the bottom of the eighth, that Ruben Tejada promptly bazooka'ed towards the dugout for his sixth error in 13 games. That, all of that, did not enhance my enjoyment of the game any more than you might expect if I'm being honest.
But, but: there were a great many things more wrong in this game than the wrong team winning. Some of these won't be replicated: as part of a throwback promotion, the Mets were wearing their 1993 home uniforms on the road, the Rockies their '93 road uniforms at home. Some of them -- brutally ineffective work from pitchers Aaron Laffey and Jeff Francis, who didn't even have the grace to be ineffective quickly; the Mets bullpen's grunty low-jinks and Todd Helton's wheezing, fall-at-the-ball defense -- will be repeated entirely too often. It was just a bad game. So why do I keep thinking about it?
Well, because I'm kind of an idiot for baseball, maybe, that's probably part of it; that there was no cleansing get-em-tomorrow game on Wednesday is also a contributing factor. But if the early part of the season is about bringing Opening Day's giddy, Escher-like ornate optimism into line with bleaker baseball realities -- the non-negotiable fact of a starting shortstop who commits an error every 18 or so innings; the unstinting Yorvit Torrealba-ness of Yorvit Torrealba -- then it's also about remembering all the things we've forgotten since October. For the most part, this is a happy, bracing process -- if we don't exactly forget how the game works or feels during the baseball-less winter, it's still sort of sweetly startling to be dropped back into the particular rhythms of a pitcher's duel, or even the little ebbs and surges of momentum and tension in a workaday 5-2 Wednesday nighter. These are all awesome things that don't get less awesome as they play themselves into shape through the season's ascent into summer and the winnowing and tightening of the stretch and fall.
But bad games will happen, too, to some teams more often than others. And that takes some getting used to, too -- you don't have to be a Mets fan to be familiar with the queasy bottoms and stop-and-start dread of a game like Tuesday's, with the errors and the walks and each bit of frantic managerial overcompensation punished swiftly and with mirthless cosmic irony. It happens to every team, this sudden intensification of gravity and graceless plummeting. It could happen to the Marlins for an entire month this season. It happened to the Royals for like five straight years and the Indians for the better part of a generation. It happens.
We just forget quite what it feels like, being there for these compounding, punishing collapses. It takes time for fans to get into game shape, too, and part of that is getting familiar again with the dreary certainty that every ball hit on the ground will be biffed or kicked or fielded cleanly and then heaved into the mezzanine; the knowledge that every reliever shuffling in from the bullpen is doomed in one way or many ways. This is not the part of the game that we look forward to over the winter, of course. All that slackness and sluggishness; all that nervous, nauseous inertia: you don't need me to tell you that's not the good stuff. The sounds of the game we miss most do not include punch-drunk, exhausted broadcasters -- Keith Hernandez, already and always punchier than most, delivered himself of some epic on-mic sighs on Tuesday -- or grumpy fans; the frozen few at the Rockies game were murmuring, then groaning, and finally delivering themselves of one Gob Bluth-esque "COME ON" after another on Tuesday. I and everyone else who saw the Mets and Rockies on Tuesday will forget it, soon, and be glad we did.
But it's a testament to the excitement of a new season that, now that the game is safely over and I am safely no longer watching Ruben Tejada field grounders, I'm remembering this horrible game almost fondly. To be clear, if I have not been sufficiently clear: it sucked out loud, it was awful in most every way, and I hated watching it a lot. I would watch Guy Fieri eat a pot of chili with his hands twice before I watched Mets/Rockies again even once; I would talk politics with Kim Kardashian for an hour before spending another minute waiting to watch Carlos Gonzalez pound the ball past the nonsensical shift the Mets deployed against him. But it was baseball, and after a long winter and punishing recent days, I'd still rather be trapped in the forbidding, doom-heavy high-gravity environs of a bad game than anywhere else. Although a tidy 3-2 game might be nice.