And if you needed hip boots to cover the Mets at their complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., you could still enjoy their games. Wearing number 68, Rodney McCray ran amok in the outfield, and you knew he would run through a wall for you as he did last summer in Triple A ball. Gooden had his curve breaking like a tawdry news story. Every day, spring games provided three hours of respite.
Trouble is, the games were not meant to be a respite from the Game. The Game should provide relief from real life. But it is difficult to conjure images of fathers playing catch with sons when fathers are playing censor instead, taking a scalpel to the newspaper before their sons are besmirched by baseball stories at breakfast. Like the one about the suit against Cone that ran last week in the New York Post beneath the headline WEIRD SEX ACT IN BULLPEN. Apparently, allegations of a conventional sex act in the bullpen would not be newsworthy.
Presumably, the players find these daily dips in the cesspool as repulsive as the rest of us. It is difficult to tell for certain. It is difficult to tell anything about increasingly gun-shy major league players. If the eyes are the windows of the soul, then wraparound Oakleys are the Levolor blinds. Given the gulf that gapes between ballplayers on one side and fans and media on the other, it was inevitable that sooner or later an entire team would stop talking to the press, a policy the Mets adopted last week.
Which means questions will go unanswered. That's fine with me, since the questions I have, I don't want answered. What's next? What could possibly surprise me anymore? Could I really just cease being a baseball fan? As I've said, I really don't want to know the answers.