“How do I handle 9-3?” Howie Rose said, repeating a question. “It’s cute. It’s adorable. But it’s nothing you marry and have kids with at this stage of the season.”
This was in the home dugout at Citi Field on a lovely Wednesday afternoon, at which time the Mets were 9-3 and thus at least mathematically the best team in baseball.
But Rose, a Mets fan since 1962 and the team’s longtime radio announcer, knows as well as anyone who follows the fickle fortunes of Flushing’s favorites that the season is long, and fraught.
He recalled the 1972 Mets, who started 25-7 and finished 13 ½ games behind the Pirates, among other fast early starts that were not sustained.
“I’ve seen enough to temper not the enthusiasm, but the expectations,” he said. “You maintain enthusiasm because it’s organic. It’s what we do. That’s what we’re here for — to enjoy.
“I’m sure there are some fans who are planning the parade route as we speak, but I’ll be the old guy sitting on a rocking chair saying, ‘Yeah, I understand, sonny, but let’s hang in and let life take its course.’”
Shortly thereafter, that course led the Mets to a dreary 5-2 loss to the Giants, in which the previously stellar Chris Bassitt allowed three runs in the first inning and a seventh-inning rally was short-circuited by a curious base-stealing attempt.
But savvy Mets fans were not alarmed by the setback, because they knew how to take the hot start — with a grain of salt.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying successful slivers of a season, and nine victories in 13 games is an excellent pace in baseball.
So it was a day to smell the roses, or in this case the hundreds of colorful tulips outside Citi Field, including in the neighborhood of the new Tom Seaver statue on the 55th anniversary of his first major league victory.
As they walked off a 7 train, two stadium workers recalled the dramatic events of the doubleheader sweep the night before and anticipated more to come.
On a Citi Field elevator, two other workers were talking, and one said, “The Mets are flying!”
The other quickly said, “It’s early. It’s EARLY! Just shut up until Sept. 1.”
Cue the vinyl record scratch sound effect.
That’s baseball, Suzyn.
Sports fans in general, baseball fans in particular and Mets fans most of all know not to draw sweeping conclusions about the state of affairs in April.
Golly, that’s early enough as it is, but the schedule is a week earlier than it would have been if not for the Major League Baseball lockout delay.
So yes, the Mets are one big, orange-and-blue TBD.
For many nervous fans, looking at the MLB standings on Wednesday morning might have seemed as reckless as looking directly at the Sun, but for most, turning away was impossible.
And remember, the ace pitcher, Jacob deGrom, has not played yet. Even the popular new manager, Buck Showalter, was not around on Wednesday, having undergone a medical procedure.
But time marched on, as it does.
One of the good things about the endless baseball season is that brief segments of the schedule — good or bad — do not necessarily mean much in the bigger picture.
If the Mets were an NFL team, they would be a near-lock for the playoffs already.
If they were in hockey or basketball, one could plausibly draw at least some conclusions with 15% of the regular season complete.
Not baseball, where time famously does not exist — until the inevitable arrival of pitch clocks, anyway.
There is no reason for the Mets and their fans not to enjoy what has come so far, regardless of the result of Wednesday night flop.
This team is a hit so far.
Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, starring Max Scherzer, more than doubled last season’s average viewership on SNY among adults ages 25-54, a key demographic.
It’s all good. Fans are back in the seats, the roster looks deep and talented, and the sagacious Showalter is in charge.
The first two weeks of the season mostly have been blooming tulips and happy recaps.
Temper the expectations, but never the enthusiasm.