Friday, December 28, 2012

A new year, a new beginning and a new role for the (former) Gnome of Defeat

As Crash Davis once said, “We’re dealing with a lot of heavy stuff.”

A lot has happened since Aug. 19, when we last were able to post. 

In a nutshell, we got the son off to college, got to help cover part of the presidential campaign, considered a career change, respectfully turned down offer for career change, traveled to Florida, New York, Minnesota and Washington, celebrated our 25th anniversary, chaperoned the marching band and accepted a new role at work. And, today I got a iPad.

As all this was going on, the Mets fell apart, R.A. Dickey won 20 games, the Tigers knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs (sweet!), the Tigers collapsed in the World Series, Jason Bay got banished, R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young Award, David Wright signed a long-term contract, the Mets unveiled new alternative jerseys and caps, Jose Reyes and half the Marlins got traded to the Blue Jays and then R.A. Dickey got traded to the Blue Jays, too.

Throughout this, good friend Greg Prince encouraged me to work through these trying times with the keyboard, and I appreciate that. And, he was tired of seeing the Gnome of Defeat bobbing in the surf as the Nationals continued pounding on the Mets.

So, for better or worse, we are back. You can blame Greg.

I thought it would be appropriate to announced our presence with authority with a glorious Deezo Friday Five.

The rebranding of the Gnome of Defeat

We learned something during the Mets trials and tribulations. It’s a lot more fun the photograph the gnome than the Flag of Victory. 

For one thing, he’s a lot easier to smuggle into places like the Liberty Bell Pavilion than the flag. And, he’s just too happy and cool to be always associated with defeat. If the Mets are going to turn things around, as we all hope, we’d see less and less of the gnome and his antics and travels.

So, as of today, the Gnome of Defeat is reborn as the Gnome of Victory and Celebration! Yes! The Gnome of Victory and Celebration can make appearances after Mets win a game, but also to note other things that make us happy.

Mr. Met on batting practice caps

Yes, batting practice caps are generally useless and exist to try and pry more dollars from fans who must have everything.

The last three versions have flat-out sucked, designed to fit no one well and made of material that looks all lumpy and frumpy.

Usually, news of new batting practice caps is met with ridicule or hostility, sometimes both.

But this week, MLB rolled out new designs for each team – and most look pretty cool. The Braves and Yankees are exceptions. Atlanta for reasons known to no one resurrected an yelling Indian head design from the 1970s that will serve only to reignite the whole debate over Indian team names and logos.

The Yankees design is horrible because it is the Yankees. 

The Mets, however, actually recalled the team’s colorful history and added Mr. Met to the cap. He appeared on the uniform just once before – on the giant NY faux-backs best remembered for the David Wright beaning.

Coupled with the new blue alternate jerseys, and it seems the Mets are continuing to attempt to please their fans. The Gnome would celebrate this.

Awesome Christmas gift collection!

My baseball-loving nephew Zack keeps his eye out for things for Uncle Dave all year and at Christmas presents me with a bag of glorious things.

This year’s bag contained: A Normal Cornbelters fleece blanket and All-Star Game cap and Diet Coke snuggie, a bat and cards from the Peoria Chiefs, and schedule and program from the Las Vegas 51s -- the Mets' new Triple-A team -- an ornament from the Joliet Jammers, two sets of cool glass snowmen ornaments wearing Mets colors, two packs of 1990 Topps -- and an autographed book from Denny McLain. 

Plus, he gave me several cards from the 1970 Topps World Series subset and Gil Hodges, the 1971 Topps Gil Hodges, and a 3D Kellogg’s Tom Seaver card!

Thank you, Z-Man!

Baseball books for Christmas

The McLain book, “I Told You I Wasn’t Perfect,” – with the personalized autograph – was one of several cool baseball books I found under the tree this year.

First, my Dad sent John Grisham’s “Calico Joe.” I don’t usually read fiction, but Caroline made me break that rule with the three “Hunger Games” books before I could see the movie, so we’ve already started down that slippery slope.

Then, my son gave me R.A. Dickey’s “Wherever I Wind Up,” written while he was still a Met. I know, the book has been out since spring training. But, as discussed, we’ve been dealing with a lot of stuff.

Finally, I opened Greg’s “The Happiest Recap – First Base: 1962-1973.” This was confiscated after the box arrived from Amazon and wrapped. 

Greg’s recounting 500 glorious wins. I love Jim Haines’ jacket design showing Shea with the beloved orange and blue panels. It would be cool if each of the four volumes showed Shea in its various decors and then Citi Field, but I’m leaving that to the experts.

Christmas music

I can’t go cold turkey on Christmas music once Dec. 26 arrives. I love it too much.

I’m one of those people who starts looking for news of the new Christmas releases in early October, begins tinkering with new iTunes playlists around Thanksgiving and launch into full jingle mode by Dec.1. That’s way too early to set up decorations – we have rules – but I can’t resist the music.
I’ll start tapering off this week, and will be done tapering by, well, May.

Each year it seems a different Christmas CD dominates the iPod. Last year it was Jars of Clay’s “Christmas Songs” augmented by some live tracks.

This year it was David Crowder*Band’s “Oh For Joy.” It came out last year, but got lost in the shuffle. But after the great iTunes meltdown and computer crash, the EP got heavy rotation this year.

Crowder’s a quirky guy, and does nothing the way you expect it should be done. I don’t like all of his stuff, but I love this disc. The bluegrass version of “Angels We Have Heard on High” is a lot of fun, and he even manages Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Carol Of The Bells / Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” with the appropriate bombast.

But I’m enjoying “The First Noel,” with its mix of aggressive drums and lilting guitar.  He weaves the chorus from Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” into "O Holy Night." 

Everybody is going to start returning Christmas CDs to the library this week. Put a hold on “Oh For Joy,” throw it on your iTunes and forget about it until next December. Trust me.

It’s good to be back. Thank you, Greg, for the encouragement.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nationals lure Gnome of Defeat away from vacation

The Nationals? Really?

My buddy Will thinks the Mets season started spiraling out of control when we saw them lose the awful Cubs at Wrigley just before the All-Star Game. The team hasn’t been the same since.

This may be linked to depression over David Wright and R.A. Dickey getting hosed in Kansas City by Tony La Russa or the return of Jason Bay, I’m not sure.

But the team has been stink-o ever since.

Sunday offered a chance to win a series. But we knew that was unlikely with Jeremy Hefner on the bump. Not that Hefner has been all that bad, but he hasn’t been that good, either.

And when the other team scores more than two runs, the Gnome of Defeat starts getting ready.
So here’s the Gnome enjoying a day at the beach.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Matt Harvey pitches, hits and raises the long-lost Flag of Victory

It’s back! The Flag of Victory returns to its rightful place of glory after the Mets’ 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks and the electric debut of Matt Harvey.

How good was Harvey? He struck out 11 batters – most for a Mets big-league debut – and even had two hits!

I know there were doubters who feared the bully would blow this for the kid – why should he be different than any other starter? – but it allowed just one run to score, which is cause for celebration in and of itself!

Scott Hairston, rumored to be headed to San Francisco, doubled in two runs in the first inning to give Harvey some breathing room.

Hat’s off to Harvey for a spectacular debut and the Mets for breaking a very ugly losing streak.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Missing: One Flag of Victory -- and the Mets' season

Remember the Flag of Victory? It used to be so cool to see that fluttering in the wind, announcing to all passers-by that the Mets had once again emerged the winner in a big game.

Not that any of us can remember seeing the darn thing. Lots of Gnomes of Defeat, though, as the Mets season is not a fully engulfed free fall.

Not even R.A. Dickey can right this leaky ship, as Mets lost again to the Nationals, this time a 5-2 bonk on the head.

Can’t blame Jordanny Valdespin, who hit his fifth pinch-hit homer of the season, a team record.

The Gnome of Despair now shows up everywhere, including the public art activities at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. 

The Mets will finish their three-game series with the Nationals tomorrow when Jeremy Hefner battles Stephen Strasburg. I’m not optimistic.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Epic ninth inning comback saves Dickey, saddens Phils

Usually R.A. Dickey bails out the Mets. Today, the rest of the team helped him out.

The usually awesome R.A. was relatively human on Thursday and left the game on the short end of a 5-4 score.

But these usually-never-say-die Mets pulled off a ninth inning for the ages.

Ike Davis started the inning with a double, and was sacrificed over the third. Kirk struck out, as he is prone to do.

But this team does a lot of scoring with two outs, as we know.

But Jordanny Valdespin  was working out a walk before getting hit by a pitch and then stole second base.

Then Ruben Tejada worked out a walk to load the bases.

Daniel Murphy then slapped one off the leg of Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. If Papelbon fields that even semi-cleanly, the game’s over. Instead Papelbon kicks it into foul territory allowing the tying run to score.

That set up a bases loaded, two out situation for the exact guy you want in that situation: David Wright.

The man apparently not good enough to start the All-Star Game blooped one into shallow right to bring home the winning run.

A glorious walk-off victory against the once-dreaded Phillies means we fondly recall the Victory Flag in Philadelphia!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

New-look Phillies are a lot more fun!

I have to say I like this new version of the Phillies better than the group of thugs and punks we’ve had to endure the last five years or so.

The Mets went nuts on Tuesday, punching out 11 runs while Jonathon Niese give up just one and three hits over eight innings.

David Wright is just making silly Giants voters look even sillier, launching a 3-run blast that moved him into third on the team’s all-time home run list.

But we expect that. How about Daniel Murphy going 4-for-5 with a near-cycle, taking a triple, two doubles and a single – and a sweet leaping catch!

All this scoring made me remember the 17-run game against the Cubs, which I predicted by unfurling the Flag of Victory at Wrigley last week.