Call it an insight, if you will, or maybe just a sneak peek into the psychological engine room that operates 24-7 inside Bobby Valentine. Just before the start of this year’s Subway Series, Valentine was asked what he thought of the current schedule of interleague contests between the two New York ballclubs, which placed the Mets in da Bronx in June and has the Yankees coming to Queens in July. Should the teams play once a year? Twice a year?
“I’d really like to play ’em three times this year,” said Valentine.
“You mean three games?” someone asked.
“No, three times—if I had a preference,” said the Mets skipper, looking a bit surprised that the assembled literati hadn’t gotten the gist of what he’d just spoken. Namely, that if he had his druthers, the Amazin’s would not only make it to the World Series, but would find the defending champions as their opponents.
But then, because he is Bobby Valentine, the verbal dance continued in characteristic why-quit-when-you’re-ahead fashion. “I’m sure there’s not a person in the Mets organization who would be disappointed if we got to the World Series and the Yankees weren’t there,” said the New Perfessor. “But if we had to write the perfect postseason, I think everyone in the organization would have the opponent be from the Bronx,” said Valentine, now moving gingerly through his self-planted land mines. “There are people in our organization who would prefer that. I think we have those competitive fluids that think positively, and think in the best interest of our team and our sport would be to make it be the biggest and best scenario.”
Of course, he concluded, with square one now thankfully back in his refocused sights, “I think we’re a long way from there. I’m not talking World Series here. I’m just answering a hypothetical question. Which I hardly ever do. Damn.”
So it is, then, that after two symmetrically split games (who’d ever dream of seeing comparable outings from Roger Clemens and Bobby Jones) and one anticlimactic rain out (and while we’re here, let’s hear it for Robin “Deuce” Ventura and his complete-with-drawn-on moustache impression of Mike Piazza huffin’ ‘n’ puffin’ around the bases), the 2000 Battle of New York remains undecided, at least until the Yankees invade Shea in a few weeks. In the meantime, feeling all the electricity and energy in the air, it’s hard to see, at least in towns with two major league clubs, anything horribly wrong with interleague play.
“These guys are performers. They like the stage; they like the brighter light,” said Valentine about the general vibe of New York vs. New York. And, clearly, so does the ever competing guy who manages the Mets—even if that light never stops reflecting off him with the oddest of glares.
Speaking of bright lights and big cities, rookie Jason Tyner’s first week in the big leagues was a refreshing reminder that in this post-ironic universe, there are still a few folks who don’t mind letting you know that they’re actually enthused about life. The 23-year-old former Mets No. 1 draft pick has been taking it all in like a blindfolded kid who just got dropped off at FAO Schwartz. He even joked about his baby-faced, high-stockinged look by saying that Roger Clemens probably thought it was the bat boy who doubled off him to lead off the Mets’ 12-2 win on Friday.
Tyner is unabashedly thrilled about anything and everything happening to him, from hitting the ball over Bernie Williams’s head in center field (“You get in the big leagues, you get excited, and you hit the ball harder than you think”) to even getting razzed by Yankee fans (“I’ve never been booed that loud before!”). Asked if he was aware that his little hometown of Beaumont, Texas, is famous mostly for breeding country singers, Tyner nodded his head affirmatively and rattled off their names: “Clay Walker, Tracy Byrd, and Mark Chesnutt, right?” Absolutely. This is one young man who knows where he comes from.
Finally, spend enough time—like five minutes—around Derek “Fun Boy One” Bell’s locker and you’re likely to get an earful about all sorts of things buzzing around his neatly shaved hive. While virtually all pre-Subway Series talk in the Mets locker room Friday involved the interleague gestalt, Bell was going over a variety of equally pressing hot topics. First there was his latest hip-hop music purchases. “Tuesday, that’s when the new releases come in; you gotta hit the stores on Tuesday,” said Bell. “I got the Eminem. He’s good. Yo, he’s with Dr. Dre.”
Next, his recent exploits as a concession-stand ambassador: The other night, during a pitching change, he grabbed some cotton candy from a vendor and handed it to a little kid. “My fans are at Shea Stadium now,” the free-agent-year player explained. “I want to make them happy.” (Does this guy know how to offset a slump or what?)
Finally, the conversation turned to . . . Judge Judy. “I watch her all the time, ever since she started,” noted Bell. “She makes me laugh. She don’t take no crap from no one. You see people go to court and try to get away with things, trying to be slick, but she just goes, ‘Ah ah ah’ and tells ’em, ‘Shut up.’ She’s awesome. I want to meet her. I want her to throw out the first pitch—and I’ll catch it.” Yes, but will she want a tour of the yacht afterward?