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Though he was born and raised in Oregon, and now lives and works in Los Angeles, visiting New York City is a bit of a homecoming for Ty Burrell. The Emmy-winning Modern Family star spent the early part of his career pursuing stage roles and living in Queens, where over 12 years, he learned to become a passionate Mets fan — and experienced both the thrill of victory and (more often) the agony of defeat alongside the team from Flushing.
So, though he was in Manhattan on Thursday to promote his new film, Butter, in which he plays a retiring Iowan butter-carving champion whose Michele Bachmann-esque wife (played by Jennifer Garner) tries to continue the family’s tradition, Burrell clearly had his mind in the borough across the East River. After a talk about both the film and his Emmy-sweeping ABC comedy, the Mets entered the conversation — this reporter is also a passionate, if beleaguered fan — and one thing became clear: Burrell really knows his baseball.
THR: It’s been a tough year.
Burrell: It’s been a tough year, but I don’t know about you, but I went into this year not expecting the first half that we had. So my takeaway is that we’re right about where I thought we were going to finish on the season, which was still an upgrade on last year.
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THR: Last year was just disappointing.
Burrell: Last year was so painful because there was nothing hopeful about it. We still had all the payroll. It was oh god, this still has to get worse before it gets better. This year to me, even though we’re 25 games back or whatever we are, I feel very hopeful. I feel like [general manager] Sandy Alderson really has this team going in the right direction. They play so hard for [manager] Terry Collins, and they’re still playing hard for him. Their lineup is so depleted.
THR: It’s depressing, their lineup. Especially because [outfielder] Jason Bay has struggled so much.
Burrell: Yeah, Bay is just having a hard time. I relate to that as a performer. When you perform in front of people, you can get into long slumps. Like, I’ve had that happen on stage, where I’ve just given one bad performance after another, because you can’t get out of your head. And he’s having a particularly bad run, and I really feel for the guy, and it’s been really hard to watch.
THR: Because you know people are expecting it and you can’t break out of it?
Burrell: Yeah, and it folds in on itself. And it builds on itself. You go each at bat, or with me on stage, with each performance, you’re like please don’t let this be the fifth time in a row, if I keep doing this, it’s going to be even worse. And it somehow makes it worse. And my heart goes out to him on that. Because he’s still got great skills; he’s a great defender. But I’m encouraged because I think the financial situation for the Mets isn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be; Alderson I think is going to spend his money wisely, he’s not going to sign anyone to some crazy long-term deal.
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THR: I don’t think he can.
Burrell: No he can’t, but I think that’s smart. I think we’re all finding out that the long-term deals are dumb. Don’t sign anyone to 10-year deals, I don’t know why people still do that. But by the same token, I know they want [3B] David Wright back, they want [ace pitcher] R.A. Dickey back, as do we as fans.
THR: He’s going for 20 wins today. It’s such a great story [note: Dickey won his 20th game that afternoon].
Burrell: It’s incredible. So I’m excited. I’m super excited. And I’m excited about next year. There are a bunch of young players that I’m really excited about. [SS, Ruben] Tejada, I’m excited about the future of a bunch of our young pitchers.
THR: [Pitcher] Matt Harvey looked great this year.
Burrell: Yeah! He looked great.
THR: It was fun watching a good young pitcher for the Mets, doesn’t happen all the time.
Burrell: I know, right? And he seems like the real deal, don’t you think?
THR: He’s solid, he’s smart, he’s got a mix of plus pitches.
Burrell: Who do you like for the future, of guys you’ve seen this year?
THR: Well like you mentioned, Tejada, he’s been a surprise the last two years. Obviously he’s not [former Mets’ shortstop] Jose Reyes, but he doesn’t cost $100 million. And I was sad to see when [outfielder] Mike Baxter hurt himself, and he’s only just back now.
Burrell: He’s really productive, and so scrappy. I’m really curious about what they’re going to do about [first basemen] Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, because I see them both as having a lot of upside still, but are they going to get expensive? Is Ike Davis going to get expensive?
THR: He’s only in the third year of his contract though.
Burrell: Do they commit to him at first base? And then what do you do with Lucas Duda?
THR: I think Davis is an all around better player.
Burrell: He’s a great defensive first baseman.
THR: And though this year he didn’t have a great average, he’s rebounded.
Burrell: Because of that slump.
THR: Maybe Duda is better off in the American League as a designated hitter.
Burrell: Yeah, because they’ve had a hard time finding a spot for him.
THR: It’s nice to actually talk to a Mets fan, because there are no Mets fans these days.
Burrell: I know!
THR: I grew up around here, and 1999-2001, a few came out of the woodwork, briefly.
Burrell: Which drives you crazy, doesn’t it? I lived in Queens for 12 years, that’s how I became a Mets fan, and all I saw was Yankees caps. In Queens! And I would even go up to people, when I was first becoming a Mets fan it was because I was seeing all these Yankees caps, and I was like, why are people Yankees fans? We live in Queens! We’re Queens people! And it was like, because the Yankees always win, the Yankees have all these championships, so I was like OK, that’s it, I’m done, I’m a Mets fan. And I would get into it with this really great Pakistani family at a bodega, they were all Yankees fans, and we’d get into these really fun laughing fights every day about them being bandwagon people, and “You live in Queens, why aren’t you Mets fans? We need you! Look at the stadium, it’s empty!”
THR: Growing up a Mets fan was tough.
Burrell: I honestly think that we are going to enter into at least a little bit of a stretch where we’re going to be competitive for playoffs. Because I think Alderson is setting it up right.
THR: [Legendary 1B and now broadcaster] Keith Hernandez shaved his mustache today for charity.
Burrell: I heard that.
THR: It’s like Samson losing his hair.
Burrell: I know. Did he just collapse? It’s like his ballast… What do you think of the ballpark?
THR: I love it.
Burrell: I do too. It’s such a nice place to watch a game.
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THR: It’s small and compact. I was just at the new Yankee Stadium.
THR: It’s massive.
Burrell: A big mausoleum.
THR: I was also at the new Meadowlands.
Burrell: Giants or Jets fan?
Burrell: Me too.
THR: You pick the really put-upon teams.
Burrell: Well I choose the teams that have their origins in Queens, and they used to be out there as well. I was a Giants fan for a while, and then I was like, the Jets were Queens, I gotta stay with the Jets. And I’m also a Knicks fan, which is going to be hard now that Brooklyn has this super cool team.
THR: I don’t think they’re going to be as good as people think. They are getting [center] Brook Lopez back and they kept [point guard] Deron Williams, but they were really bad last year.
Burrell: What do you think about this Knicks team?
THR: I think that if they’re well coached, they can be really good.
Burrell: He [Mike Woodson] seems like a good coach.
THR: He gets them to play defense. And it depends on their point guard situation.
Burrell: If Ray Felton is motivated, he can be really good. If he’s in shape.
THR: Hopefully he’s more motivated than he was last year in Portland.
Burrell: That’s where I’m from, so I’m a Blazers fan. He didn’t get along with Nate MacMillan. I am actually, as much as I hated to see Jeremy Lin leave, I don’t think he was a great fit for the team if Carmelo [Anthony] is playing.
THR: He needs the ball, as does Carmelo.
Burrell: It’s a no-win situation. One of them had to go.
Email: Jordan.Zakarin@THR.com; Twitter: @JordanZakarin
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