"Can't anybody here play this game?"
-- Casey Stengel on the 1962 Mets.
Casey Stengel said this 50 years ago discussing his expansion New York Mets, a team that lost a lot more and did so in more bizarre ways than any Major League team before or since.
Perhaps it is fitting that the 50th anniversary of the team coincides with one of the strangest seasons in Queens Democratic politics since the days Marvelous Marv Throneberry.
The team that last September brought us David Weprin from outside the 9th Congressional District to lose a seat that Democrats had held since the Calvin Coolidge Administration looked like it had regrouped by selecting Assemblywoman Grace Meng for the seat being vacated by the retiring Gary Ackerman.
Meng is popular, knowledgeable and hard-working - and is a Chinese American candidate in a district that has a large and growing Asian population. The move made sense.
Enter Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who had desired the nomination that party leaders bestowed on Weprin, and who has name recognition and a sizeable war chest, announces his candidacy for the primary on June 26.
Trust die-hard Democrats to choose a candidate for themselves?
Before Lancman could say Choo Choo Coleman, comes the campaign announcement in Flushing from Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, whose patron, her cousin Joe, is the 7th District Congressman and chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party.
Published reports claiming inside knowledge ran the gamut from party leaders setting her up to siphon some of the white vote from Lancman (former Anthony Weiner staffer Avi Fink bolts Sen. Toby Stavisky to run her campaign) to Joe being privately furious with her.
Then Lancman lands Ed Koch and other potentially influential endorsements, and party leaders or Meng's campaign or Jeff Gottlieb himself decides that Gottlieb, a career party functionary, would quit the Meng campaign, for which he had been circulating ballot petitions, and run for himself, and direct accusations from Lancman that party leaders were attempting to divide the Jewish vote.
So now one can't tell Democratic candidates for Congress without a scorecard.
But voters can tell that somebody in Queens does not want Grace Meng to face a straight-up fight.
Why? And do they think Dan Halloran will be so accommodating in November?
Can't anybody here play this game?