Flushing, New York, is the home of the mets and, IF you say it fast enough, an idea whose time has come. In fact, I would like nothing more than to begin this baseball season by flushing New York and its biggest springtime sports stories as far from my memory as possible:
Flush...and spiraling away goes Darryl, the autobiography of drug-rumormonger and former Met Darryl Strawberry, which was released as spring training was starting. In the book he points an accusatory finger at his alleged best friend, Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden.
Flush...and East River-bound is the incriminating urine sample of Yankee pitcher Pascual Perez, who was suspended early in spring training after testing positive for drug use. Perez accused the team of somehow setting him up.
Flush...and into 1) the legal system or 2) oblivion is ushered this spring's most malodorous affair, in which Mets Vince Coleman, Daryl Boston and Gooden stand accused of—but, as of Monday, not charged with—raping a woman during spring training of 1991.
And, at last.... Flush...there goes the absurd, yet somehow logical topper to this befouled spring: the $8.1 million lawsuit brought by three women charging Mets pitcher David Cone with committing lewd acts in their presence, including one that allegedly occurred in the Shea Stadium bullpen before a game three summers ago.
Were it only this easy. Flush...and the Tidy-Bowl man takes it all away on a garbage barge to god knows where. Instead, you can wrap the assorted sordid episodes of this spring in all the back pages of New York City's tabloids, then bind them in all of the related videotape aired by the tabloid TV shows and then plow the whole stinking package into a toxic landfill somewhere down the Jersey Shore, and I'll still be smelling this spring come October.
Forget, for the moment, whether the allegations against the Mets have merit: True or false, rape accusations are usually ruinous to someone—the accused, the accuser or both. And forget, New Yorkers, about ponying up postage for your Letter Bombs to the SI Editor: I know that all of this can't necessarily be blamed on the City That Never Sweeps.
And besides, I write this not in my day-job guise as a sanctimonious sportswriter. I write this as a fan—a fan who is struggling daily to continue caring about baseball. Long before this spring I had the feeling occasionally that baseball, with its preoccupation with money, had run through my stop sign, rounded third and was sliding headfirst into hell.
But spring training had always been like spring cleaning. After four months of winter you could shake out the unseemly dust of $5 million salaries, steam clean the stains left by departed free agents and Rug Doctor the remains of all those other off-season repugnancies. Don't forget to sweep Boggs and Garvey from under the bed. Then a spring-fresh phenomenon such as Cecil Fielder would hit a ball through a hole in the ozone layer in someplace named Clearwater or Baseball City, and suddenly the game wasn't so bleak after all.
The straws, to say nothing of the Straw, never broke my back. How can you ignore the Game if you can't ignore the games? Even this spring it was impossible to turn away knowing that Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox might hit a ball to the alley—Alligator Alley. When, after a month, the Baltimore Orioles' 23-year-old Mike Mussina had three zeroes in his ERA, it didn't matter anymore that half the players in baseball have six zeroes in their salaries. Nolan Ryan was still throwing. Carlton Fisk was still squatting. Sparky Anderson was still talking about the Detroit Tigers' chances in the American League East the way Cal Ripken still plays shortstop—all day, every day, without pause.