So let me tell you a little story about a girl named Coop. About 5’3”, blonde hair, blue eyes. Die hard Mets fan since about eight years old. But let’s go back – way back – to when she was eight. Let’s just say the marquis player on the team was a dude named Mex and the star pitcher was a kid named Doc.
Doc was something special. Of course, Coop was too young at the time to realize it. Being eight, The Coop didn’t know much about Mets history. Sure she knew who Tom Seaver was, but this was before ingratiating herself in Mets history like she would years later. She also didn’t know at the time being a Mets fan usually meant more pain than pleasure, more sadness than joy, more ennui than excitement.
But back to Doc. I remember my dad and his best friend, who I affectionately call to this day “Uncle Gene,” talk about this 19-year old kid…meanwhile, at eight, Coop thinks– 19?! That’s ancient or some shit. But if most of you are old enough to remember – when Doc took the mound, it was an EVENT. Everybody came from miles around, and the stadium was electrified.
Looking back, I didn’t realize at the time just how special he was, but looking at old footage in my old age…I say…wow. Just wow. He was electric, he was switched-on baby, yeah!
Fast forward to the summer of 2006. Coop and her boyfriend Mr Coop aka Chas attend five games in a matter of six days. They talk to a ticket rep and decided to sleep on getting a season plan. Later on, Coop was talking to a fellow in the stands about 1986 versus 2006. The ‘86 team was special, yes. But as this dude said – I don’t remember the ‘86 team being this good. You know what, maybe it was youth, maybe the memories that fade with old age, but you know what – he was on to something. Coop and Chas bought the plan that day.
So why this long intro? Well, in real life, I am very long-winded person, so deal with it. But I wanted to show what my history was with the team. Well, short story long, I have always gravitated towards players with style, panache and as they say in my old neighborhood sabor. See: Why I am not a NY Yankees fan. See also: Why Jose Reyes is my favorite player now and potentially favorite player ever.
But I still haven’t gotten to why I am so high on Oh Pea.
So let’s go back to July 31, 2006… I was waiting – like most of you -- just waiting for the BIG MOVE Omar was going to make. Would it be Oswalt? Would it be Zito? Both in a wacky four-team trade where it would be easier to change the names of the teams? Oh Omar, please don’t keep me waiting anymore, baby please!
Instead a rumor comes out and says a player is injured. Huh? Turns out that injured party was Dirty Duaner Sanchez, someone I thought – as Mike says – is “balls deep.” Someone who I truly enjoyed watching pitch because he could “bring it.” (See also: why I like players with sabor). Instead of Roy Oswalt, Barry Zito or anybody, we end up without Xavier Nady (which at the time I thought was a mistake) and got back Bert Hernandez and Oliver Perez. Bert: OK in my book. But Oliver Perez - That guy??? WHY?!?!?
I remember going on The Metropolitans that day and dining my guts over the whole thing. We lost Dirty AND Nady? They were two of the best guys on the team. But Oliver Perez was rationalized to me as THE pitcher Rick Peterson could fix in ten minutes. Since I never thought much of “Soul Glo” Rick Peterson to begin with – I only thought he could “fix” pitchers names Hudson, Mulder or Zito – I didn’t buy it. Needless to say, I’ve been singing Rick Peterson’s praises lately and have had a sip of the Soul Glo Kool Aid.
At the time though I thought -- Another reclamation project? Well, that’s fucking great. Why don’t you fix my life in 10 minutes and make me a millionaire too while you’re at it there Soul Glo?
So let’s travel to August 26. I was in attendance at this Satuday night game and lo and behold, Oliver Perez was scheduled to start. I was like - *SIGH* --Oliver Perez is starting. FUCKING GREAT, part deux. I was fully expecting a blow out on the wrong side of a blow out. Hey, it won’t be all too bad. I figure, I’ll just drink a lot like I would when Jose Lima Time was pitching.
He starts the game by walking the first two batters. I thought – this is gonna be a looonng game. But then something happened. I don’t know what. The baseball spirits put their hands over Shea Stadium and all of a sudden Oliver Perez became William Wallace…he could shoot lightning bolts out of his arse. He ended up striking out the third out of the inning and he did something I never saw before.
He did a fist pump. And did a very dramatic jump over the foul line to get back to the dugout. I thought – holy crap! This guy has balls!
I couldn’t believe it. The rest of the game was like that. Oliver Perez was dramatic and creative and electric. I was hooked the second I saw him pitch, and although he had a lackluster turn out and gave up a few runs, the Mets got the win, and that’s all that mattered to me.
When I left the game, I thought – I need to keep an eye on this guy. Maybe, just maybe, this is Rick Peterson’s shining moment. And Ollie’s too.
Save one game against the Colorado Rockies which was a bona fide blow out, he had some decent outings. As Principal Edwards said in Wildcats once upon a time, he could make that a 100% more decent, and we’ll have some victory parties around here!
So during the playoffs, I was a little disappointed that OP (as I had abbreviated his name to at that point, since we had become “so close”) wasn’t going to be on the roster. Until El Puque went down, then I had some hope. I remember some Pirates fan telling me that I better hope Oliver Perez doesn’t start any playoff game. I said – you know what, I hope he does. I knew he would bring it. He did, but unfortunately, the baseball gods didn’t have it in them for one more Miracle at Shea.
And you know what, as much as I loved the 2006 team, and as sad as I was at the way Game 7 of the NLCS turned out, I was not disappointed. The team came a lot further than I had thought in March 2006. But another thing I thought was, being the English major I am and looking for deeper meaning in life, Oliver Perez’s growth and success was representative of the team. He embodied, to me, what the 2006 Mets were. They rose out of the ashes of teams past, and become electrifying and exciting and winners once again.
Which is why I felt more of a kinship with the 2006 team than I did with the 1986 team. And why I feel a kinship with Oliver Perez.
I hope that explains why I’m obsessed with him. Like Doc in the 80s, this kid is special. And I hope to say that about Lastings Milledge as a Met someday, because I think he’s got the goods to be balls deep too.
And another thing – why do I call him Oh Pea? Very simple. I told you above that I had shortened his name to OP. When I write to people in real life, take my Uncle Gene for instance, I call him “Gene-Oh.” I call my dad “Daddy-Oh.” Just something cutesy I do I guess. So instead of OP, I started writing down Oh-P in comments sections. Then I was going to do the phonetic thing with Oh-Pee. Then I thought it sounded too much like a bathroom code. So voila! Oh-Pea.
See you tomorrow!
WEEKEND POST: Coop’s “Best Met Blogs” in response to Sports Illustrated’s Best Met Blogs.