By Ernie Palladino
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The word benign always seemed to fit Mr. Met.
The original seamhead, with his ever-present smile and super-friendly attitude toward kids and adults alike, never projected aggressiveness toward anybody. He was so nice that it was hard to imagine even the mildest of epithets crossing his mind.
All that held true from his 1964 debut at old Shea Stadium until Wednesday when he got a bit cheeky with a group of fans during Jacob deGrom’s 7-1 meltdown against Milwaukee.
Up went a finger — not THE finger, mind you, because Mr. Met only has four fingers on each hand, but close enough to get the suits’ underwear twisted in a bunch. By the next morning, those same, tightly-wound execs fired Mr. Met’s human conscience of his duties.
They should have given him a medal for injecting a little life into a dying season.
Oh, well. What’s done is done. But if the powers that be have any brains, they’ll forgive the next guy under the Mr. Met outfit if he steps out of character again. In fact, it wouldn’t be all that horrible a thing. A misbehaving mascot can serve as an occasional distraction from a mundane season, which is exactly the kind of season the Mets will continue to have as long as the bullpen remains shaky, the hitting remains inconsistent, and the disabled list remains long.
Really, would it be a bad thing if Mr. Met got into it with the Phanatic when the Phillies come in at the end of the month? That’s easy enough to choreograph. The two come out and shake hands at home plate. The Phanatic sticks that big honker of his in Mr. Met’s face and gets answered with a big, old head butt from Mr. Met’s big, old head. The Phanatic goes down on his fat rump, Mr. Met drags him off by his feet, and Citi Field goes wild.
Nothing terribly violent. Strictly G-rated stuff that even the kids can laugh about while Terry Collins’ crew continues its trudge toward an empty October. It certainly doesn’t have to rise to the level of a 2008 tete-a-tete between the fabled San Diego Chicken and Barney, the obnoxious purple dinosaur of children’s TV. Those two got into it bigtime during a dance-off on the minor league Chattanooga Lookouts’ field.
What started innocently enough with each character doing his lame schtick wound up with Barney throwing the Chicken down and the Chicken running across the field and tackling Barney. Then they rose and embraced as they walked toward the dugout, where the Chicken chucked Barney over the protective fence in front of the steps.
A prop wouldn’t be a bad thing. Although Mr. Met has been known to carry a baseball bat on occasion, we‘re talking more of an effigy here, like the Tommy Lasorda doll the Phanatic carried onto the Veterans Stadium field one afternoon in 1988.
The Dodgers manager didn’t like that at all, probably because the thing over-emphasized his famed pot belly. So Tommy went out and swiped the Phanatic’s scooter to lure him into his trap. When the mascot got close enough, Lasorda broke for the him.
Showing an incredible burst of speed for an overweight old man, Lasorda ran down the Phanatic, knocked him to the artificial turf, and ripped the dummy out of his hands. For good measure, he gave the Phanatic a farewell whack with the doll before walking triumphantly back to the dugout where he probably deposited the look-alike in an appropriate receptacle.
The possibilities are limited only by the bosses’ imagination. Then again, firing the guy underneath Mr. Met proved those imaginations aren’t very big. But it wouldn’t hurt them to allow Mr. Met to show a little feistiness now and then. A little hat-fling here, a spirited gyration there.
Let him get that hot-head Bryce Harper going with a royal salute when the Nationals come in in two weeks. That should be fun. Anything to bring some life to a season headed in the wrong direction.
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