January 31 - Enter Sandmen
It is a one run game in New York entering the bottom of the ninth. The
bullpen door opens, as the familiar opening chords of Metallica’s “Enter
Sandman” blare over the PA system. Out walks…
You look around and make sure you aren’t dreaming. You aren’t. You are
just sitting in Shea Stadium, rather than Yankee Stadium. But everything
else is exactly as you see it.
And that will be the scene come this spring.
No, I’m not making it up. New York’s newest closer, the crown jewel of the Mets’ off-season
restructuring, enters games to the same song as the Yankees’ longtime closer, Mariano Rivera. And
the first time Wagner enters a game and “Enter Sandman” plays, a controversy is going to erupt
unlike any New York baseball has seen in a long, long time.
Here is the thing: New Yorkers believe they live in the center of the universe (as a New Yorker, I
occasionally fall into this belief). If it happens here, it can’t happen anywhere else and, if it does, they
are all just copying us. So imagine everyone’s surprise when it comes to light that someone else
besides their beloved Mo, has used “Enter Sandman” for a long, long time.
I checked and it is true. According to Lisa Gray of the Houston Astros blog The Dugout, Wagner has
been entering games with Metallica playing since at least 2000, when the Astros moved into their
new stadium, and possibly before that while they were still playing in the Astrodome (Wagner has
been closing games since 1997, first in Houston and most recently in Philadelphia). The debate over
who used it first really is moot at this point, since both have been using it for so long. New Yorkers will
immediately take possession, since Rivera has been using it HERE longer. But that really doesn’t
matter, does it? Why should Wagner change, just because Rivera plays in the same market? Both
closers have been using the song for a long time. That is all we know and all that really matters. It
doesn't matter which closer is better, it doesn't matter who saves more games.
I know what everyone is thinking, of course. What’s the big deal? This is a stupid debate over
something incredibly minor and inconsequential. Well, this is exactly the kind of thing that gets New
Yorkers all riled up. Anyone who doesn’t think this is going to add a little flavor into the New York
baseball rivalry is going to be very surprised when the argument of whether Wagner should use the
song becomes one of the hottest topics of the early baseball season. This is a tabloid town and this
is a tailor-made tabloid story.
Consider this the two-month warning. When this happens in the spring (the Mets open at home first,
on April 3), this will be a back page story. Yankee fans will clamor for Wagner to change. Met fans will
use it to feed into their inferiority complex. And sports radio will be obsessed with it. New York will
make the current Texas A&M versus Seattle Seahawks fight over the use of the phrase "The 12th
Man" look like a backyard game of tag.
And “Enter Sandman” will be the most played song in New York.