The Starting Rotation
Most other regulars on the Mets blogging circuit have thrown in their two cents on the Jose Reyes re-signing, so I'll throw mine in to the pot, as well. Besides the generally abhorrent nature of the domestic violence charge against him, I've seen, and respect, an opinion about his conduct in his final game as a Met in 2011- when he got a hit to clinch the NL batting title, immediately came out of the game, and did nothing to acknowledge his fans in that half-inning or thereafter.
That's the easier charge to address: unlike his later conduct, I think that, at that time, it was understandable if not defensible. Reyes had been a Met throughout his development. He'd been part of the young-star core of the team along with David Wright, coming to within an inning of reaching the 2006 World Series. He'd survived the double tanks of the ensuing two seasons, the subsequent move to Ebbets Vault, and the slow termination of talent around him. By the end of the 2011 season, the Mets hadn't- and ultimately wouldn't- try to make even the most minimal effort to commit to him. So I can understand his feelings as he rounded first and headed to an inevitable new home.
Two years later, after he'd realized the error of signing with perhaps the only owner in baseball worse than a Wilpon, I saw him here- playing on rehab for the Buffalo Bisons, the team now affiliated, as he was, with the Toronto Blue Jays. Though he was now older, injured (hence the rehab) and had suffered yet another management betrayal, it was still the old Jose that I could see. From my game recap of it at the time:
He almost beat out a routine grounder to first as the Bison leadoff hitter. Here he is, coming back to the dugout after that:
He then reached on an infield hit in the fourth (then Buffalo's first baserunner) and almost tried to stretch it to a double. He followed that by trying to steal second four times, all four being fouled off, before finally taking off on a hit-and-run that almost ended with him landing safely on third. He ended the appearances I witnessed with a nasty comebacker to the pitcher that would have been a hit if it hadn't line-shotted right into the dude's glove. When he went down in the ninth, I headed out....
and after the game the following night, so did he, back to The Show- but only after leaving his AAA teammates with a major-league spread in the clubhouse to thank them for helping with his rehab.
I next saw him in 2014, at an August Rockies game at Citi Field. He didn't show quite the spark against the Mets that he once had for them, but I wondered, in that still-almost-giddy stretch where 90 wins was the goal, whether he might find his way back to the Mets at some future point.
And now, he has- but only because of the horrific off-field events during last year's post-season. You might wonder whether I could ever tolerate such a return, given how outspoken I've been about shunning, to the point of "Voldemort"-ing their names, any number of celebrities caught perpetuating assault against women.
The jury here is still deliberating. On the side of "dead to me" are two things:
* What he did; and
* Whatever he did, whether out of coercion or contrition, to get his wife to stop cooperating with the prosecution.
Supporting forgiveness, on the other hand, we have:
* He has expressed contrition, unlike those who Must Not Be Named, who deny charges of rape and even incest against them from victims with no motive for lying;
* He has served his time on the non-criminal sentence meted out by MLB for his actions; and
* Although he's mostly going to be paid in Rockiebucks with the Mets kicking in only the veteran minimum, he will always have to endure the stigma, and the watchful eyes of team and media and fans, reminding him that forgiving does not mean forgetting- and he will have to take what he is given in terms of a role, be it third base or outfield or pine rider- choices he would not have had to agree to had he come back to New York under better circumstances.
And so, I reach at least an initial verdict- a conditional one, at that. I will not cut off my team in the fiftieth year of my fandom on account of what he did or what they have now done. I will cheer any heads-up play he produces on the field or in the batter's box. But I propose that the Mets stick with a simple and visible statement from his first day on the field that he is not, and will never be, the Jose Reyes we once loved:
No Number Seven.
Never mind that it's already taken by TDA. Do not for a moment permit one of those clubhouse deals that enable switches regardless. It's probably best to turn to the expert on the subject, and that would be Mets By The Numbers, which has already thought of the same two things- one probably wrong and one ultimately right- that I did:
Back in 2003, when Reyes was a but a Met puppy, the Mets (idiotically, it turned out) signed the Japanese free agent Kaz Matsui to a contract. Matsui wore 7 in Japan and some bright people suggested then they creatively solve the issue by giving Matsui 77. They didn’t. Things would have been different, I tell you.
So I can see the Mets going that route, maybe. Perhaps, though, presenting Reyes with 77 (or even 07) is too larded with tender forethought to be appropriate for a guy coming off a wife-beating rap. I am coming around to the idea it would be best if Reyes gets a number that sends the message that the Mets aren’t doing Jose Reyes any favors beyond the opportunity to wear a uniform. Any uniform. Give him No. 46. It’ll all be a weird scene anyway.
Perfect. No single digit. No number worn by anyone remotely famed in our past or our future, to taint it if it ever comes up for retirement (since THAT happens so damn often:P) If you could do it, send him out there as a Man Without a Number. I don't see a lot of merch sales no matter what he does.
And first time you get on base, Jose? Act like you've been here before and salute your fans. Because you
I almost titled this with a reference to "killed Kevin," which seemed to work between seeing Kevin Mitchell in the booth late in yesterday's game and then reading this Times tribute to him. But the real news of late yesterday was the seeming arrival of that all-elusive gateway to the ninth inning in the sometimes shaky person of one Antonio Bastardo.
On a weekend already put in the books for intense weirdness, the setup to Antonio's setup was almost pedestrian in its WTF quotient. Matt Harvey had his insurance policy canceled in the bottom of the seventh through a quirky infield double, a sacrifice fly barely behind the basepath, and a balk where Jim Henderson basically fell off the rubber. Then, bottom eight, Blevins and Reed gave much more cause for pause, with three straight singles loading them up and Number 59 getting the Verizon Call to the Bullpen that put the day's minute quota way out of whack.
So what else to expect from a shaky newcomer except a strikeout, an eventually-invoked infield fly popout, and one more swing and miss-K. From a guy I couldn't have told you for sure was even on the roster.
The lead stayed at one, but who cared? Jeurys was 9-for-9, and before there was even a blink it was 10-for-10. That, along with some continued help from Chicago, rendered the SD trip a split and the division lead ours.
And now it's Dem Bums who have the long cross-country trip while the Mets have little more than a bus ride. As something of a Mother's Day accommodation yesterday, I listened to the final innings on MLB At Bat while watching the PIX feed with the sound off; it's quite fun listening to Howie and Josh going somewhat surreal about time travel and margarine company sponsors. This is my first year in ages with regular access to the radio broadcasts, between the phone app and a Rochester station picking up the Mets Radio Network; I'm still partial to Gary's style and Keith's craziness, but now having to choose between the two is the epitome of First World Problems....
and, as of today, First Place Problems:)
Well, at least closer to Lost.
We all remember The Numbers. Six of them, echoing throughout that utterly confusing series of Wednesday nights:
4 8 15 16 23 42
Meanwhile, in the Real Life that is Metropolitans baseball, fifty-four seasons have come and gone, just over 1,000 men have worn the orange and blue, and until today only one's on-our-field accomplishments merited inclusion in what has, seemingly, forever been a foursome:
37 14 41 42
Four numbers. One, not even ours- last worn here by Mo Vaughn, and last first-issuance to a homegrown Met by Butch Huskey. Neither is Hall material, although Butch Huskey should be in the Baseball Name Hall of Fame. Only one of the three homeworn numbers was sported by a Mets player during the peak of his playing career....
Until today. Now we are two:
One has to wonder why this took so damn long. Across the Triboro, numbers are retired like peanut shells tossed from the bleachers into Monument Park. This past summer added Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada to the latticework. Nice players, good records, but the quintessence of the Hall of Very Good. They're up to twenty numbers out there, plus assorted unnumbered Legends™ taking up parkland. Now they do have a half-century-plus on us, but the Met-agement has been downright miserly over the years with the honor.
I've heard rumors of exclusiveness dating back to Payson days- that one needed Cooperstown cred, derived from their Mets accomplishments, to qualify for exonumerology. If that remains the case, it explains why one number remains off the wall despite having two plaqued candidates to justify its retirement. I long ago advocated to Make 8 Great after Gary Carter's sad demise, and to do it while the then-Oldest Living Met, its other main wearer, would be still be old and living enough to see it.
They didn't. He didn't. But they should.
Clearly, the Wilpons are conscious of the marketing potential for this kind of event. They chose a weekend series against Colorado, hardly a rival or traditional draw. (Hell, two of my last three randomly chosen Citi visits were against the Rocks.) The July 31 date also looms significant, because any deficiencies in Trade Deadline Activity will likely get lost in all the Piazzaz of the weekend.
So not this year, but next? We're talkin' Larry (Yogi) and The Kid. Another sure sellout.
Following that? Keith Hernandez next comes up for Veterans Committee consideration in 2017. See what I did there?
That would Get The Mets to six orange numbers to never again call their very own:
37 14 41 31 8 17 42
It might even inspire a big lottery win:)
If you came here because you saw an "adult content" warning connected to this blog, move along. Nothing to see here. The Murphy in the reference is to 28, and the Boner in the reference is to '08. Only a few weeks ago, I was extolling the madness of our New York Giant heritage, but I was focused on the reckless abandon of Mays- not the mind-numbing mental error of Merkle.
But that's where this Series took its turn Saturday night. I admit- I was out by that point. These 8-and-past p.m.. starts and painfully long commercial breaks keep the action going way past my functionality- and I had a busy morning and company coming Sunday with two dogs in tow, so I left at seventh inning stretch time with the score 3-2.
As it was when this happened:
Heroes and goats, and they're all the same. We would not have been playing past the second week of October if Murph hadn't been Supermurph for that amazing stretch. We likely wouldn't have gotten past October 4 if Cespedes hadn't been equally super for August and September. They got us to the penultimate game they eventually cost us.
Likewise, last night: Duda's throw to the plate balanced, but never canceled, his Herculean effort at just the right time to get the Mets into this Series. That throw was far less significant than the decision to throw Matt Harvey out top nine, and even worse to keep him there after walking the leadoff man. That was Terry's Boner, and he admits it now.
In the end, though? This World Series was essentially decided in southern Ohio in the early part of July, when the Mets' offense was at its woeiest. That's when an AL All-Star team, consisting largely of these same Royals thanks to their ballot-stuffing fans, beat deGrom (not so much) and the rest of the National League (a lot more) and "won" home field by virtue of carrying off the latest
Bingo Long Bud Selig Traveling All-Star Circus of Stupid Award. If Bud Black had done a better managing job that night, the Mets would have had the first and last two at home. It's worth noting that both of our World Championship clinchings came on our own home field; the valiant effort of '73 failed in the late-day Oakland sun, and the loss in 2000 was their Last World Series Play At Shea, a game which also ended near the stroke of midnight.
This team overcame so much adversity, so often, that we came to expect it. Yet it was the opposition, this time, which came from behind to win each of the four corners of their trophy. At the end, I was sick to death of their enthusiasm in their dugout, of the constant camera shots of Dyson doing the fucking whip a nae nae behind Addison "I'm not even supposed to be here today" Reed, of every one of their batters fouling eight pitches before finally hitting one where they ain't.
They, however, are the foreshadowing of us. They lost, they learned. We will have the most amazin' rotation in the world next year. Our superbats will be either back or backed up. Our fans can stuff the ballot box to put eight Mets into the ASG lineup- and our manager will be managing them. And then we can win one at home- for me, for you, for Nelson Doubleday and Yogi Berra and Bill Webb and Gary Carter. Even for the Wilpons, if they can manage to get a champagne bottle open:P
This morning dawned warm and sunny in Buffalo. (The Sabres beat the Islanders before a near-empty house in Brooklyn yesterday.) We still believe. Pitchers and catchers in 110 days.
Nothing to be done.
So begins the script of Waiting for Godot. In the case of baseball, we have to call it Losing All the Mo.
Certainly none of us expected a sweep of the NLCS when they set out the schedule; if anybody at the league or network offices had, they likely would've thought it would've been something like the Cardinals over the Pirates in four, but certainly not the LOLMETS.
So instead of last night being Must See TV on TBS, it was No See TV for MLB. The Jays and Royals needed that mandatory full off-day for clearing customs and exchanging their loonies, so by yesterday afternoon, everybody outside WFAN went back to talkin' football and NBA and whatever that other minor sport is that occasionally gets a mention on national sports media.
Things do get back to American business tonight, and possibly tomorrow night. That will still leave two whole blackout days before the Mets return to a playing field, whatever state or country that field might be in.
I've never understood the need to pre-program the dates of multi-game playoff rounds. It's not like they can make advance hotel reservations, not knowing who will be playing and (except for the ludicrous All-Star Game Rule) who will have home-field. And sure, knowing the games will be on X,Y, Zed and Zed Alpha dates might help the media and even some fans do some planning- but they still can't plan on the where or even the times of day- or, whenever possible, of night.
That latter decision appears to be driven entirely by TV ratings. How else can you explain this past week's decision to run all ALCS games in the afternoon and all NLCS games at night whenever there was a conflict? It must've been especially Maddoning on Saturday, when Cubs and Mets were forced to play outdoors in full nijab wear while there was a much warmer venue in Kansas City shut down for the evening.
These were then followed by two straight nights where MLB chose to ignore the existence of a climate-controlled venue and sent the Mets and Cubs out into the evening elements. Play a day game at Wrigley Field? We've never done THAT! The participants were fortunate this time that the cold weather stayed away from those games- but as Game Three wound down, the rain started coming down. Lots of it. Enough of it for me to have my only real worry of the entire series- that we'd be stuck in a bottom-nine rain delay into Halloween morning and our closer would have a CLOSED sign on him by the time play resumed.
As it turned out, the afternoon weather in Toronto was perfectly nice both afternoons- but the Lords decreed the lid be sealed. That alone messed with the pitching preferences of R.A. Dickey, and his performance showed it. Maybe they were just trying to keep Rob Ford from breaking in through an open roof, but still.
There has yet to be a rain delay of any of these games, but there's rain in the KC forecast for today, so maybe we need the potential three extra days of nothingness before Game One gets going. Still- it makes me shiver- with antici....
Hey. If you're gonna still be playing baseball on Halloween, you may as well have a Frank with your beer.
I was among the first to post a quick Facebook update after the final pitch last night-
- but am a bit late to the party in terms of posting more extended remarks.
So much of the magic has already been discussed, by beatwriters and bloggers. I have two different takes from those to share.
One, about our roots. The orange of Harlem and the blue of Flatbush. We are the descendants of Hodges and Hodges.
Gil, you know of. The first and second-to-last Mets player to have his number enshrined. Who stood for methodically good play on the field- as Wright's fielding and Cespedes's throwing and just about everybody's suddenly speedy baserunning epitomized in this series just past. But for me, last night, the main channeler of Number 14 was one multiple-of-seven up from him: Lucas Duda.
Maury Allen wrote this about Gil's Dodger days in one of those quickie, order-from-Scholastic-Books, pulp paperbacks that went to press within hours of the Mets' 1969 World Series triumph (which I of course instantly ordered, eventually lost, and blessedly reacquired through alibris.com a few years back):
Hodges had gone hitless during the entire 1952 World Series for the Dodgers. While a congregation met in a Brooklyn church, the priest asked for prayers for a base hit for Hodges. It hadn't worked.
We had similar prayers for Duda, as he came in on a 3-for-27 post-season tear (rhymes with "fear"), roughly half of them strikeouts. We prayed harder seeing him up with two men on after Daniel Murphy had somehow failed to be Daniel Murphy for a brief second and left those runners temporarily stranded. This time, the prayers were answered, as they were again and again and again as Duda came around in the lineup.
(The chapter of Maury's book containing that anecdote was titled, "You Gotta Have Heart." That referenced Gil's non-fatal heart attack at the end of the 1968 season, the year before the Miracle. He couldn't have known the sad irony in another fatal one befalling Hodges just before the third post-Miracle season began. But I'm getting ahead of my second point here.)
So that's the blue in our blood. For the orange, we turn to the older, seated Hodges: Russ, the Giant broadcaster who I homaged at the start of my Met conference presentation, and again in that Facebook post. Howie Rose homaged him, too- and better, I might add:)
If the Dodgers gave us our method, who but the team of Willie Mays gave us our madness? Our reckless abandon? Our joy at playing or watching the game? That's our inheritance from that Hodges- and in part that joy simply magnifies because these post-season occurrences are so uncommon for us. Don Mattingly, he of that other New York baseball tradition, got the sack this morning because those modern-day Dodgers weren't methodical enough, weren't predictably good enough. We'd have savored an NLDS loss, or even a one-and-done if it had come to it. But it didn't- and whoever the opponent next week, those colors will again blend together into something that's uniquely ours.
Howie also helps me make my other point, but in a much more poignant way.
Say what you will about the deadline acquisitions of late July turning the tide for this team: and surely Cespedes, and to lesser extents the Brave acquisitions and Clippy, got us to the promised land. But it's worth noting that this season really began to turn earlier in July, one of the relatively rare regular-season occasions I was inspired enough to write here about. The Mets had just settled in to a 40-40 record and were about to head on their West Coast swing to the successor homes of their forbears.
I said at the time (minus a minor editing error;):
West Coast trips for this team have historically been one of two things and usually the second: redeeming, or Very Very Very Bad-dening. This is the one that will define 2015 and possibly years to come. If the 25 men on the roster and the guy in the manager's office are the same ones that return next weekend, I see that as a sign of the latter- and soon, quite possibly, of last.
Never let it be said I hide my bad predictions. That trip wound up way more to the good, as they took two of three apiece from both the orange and the blue. But that trip began with an unexpected detour to Detroit, where, we later learned, Howie Rose got pulled off the plane to treat an emergency illness.
And we worried- and prayed- and wished him all the best. Which, at least so far, is exactly what he's gotten.
That's what makes this team, and our team of fans, so special. Intermixed between the play-by-play and the roster moves, we have the stories of our own lives- which accompany the narrative, expand it, and on the best of occasions transcend it.
We have one of our most famous bloggers, Greg- whose post-game panegyric consisted mainly of the game and of Met memories, but necessarily came back to the reality of his own life, and that of his father, whose illness and progress have been intertwined with the success of his son's beloved team. Charlie is now in palliative care. Greg, to the greatest extent possible, is in our love and care for all he does for us and for his dad.
We have perhaps our most famous blogger of ever, Dana Brand. Boy did HE have heart- for his students, for his colleagues, for his fellow fans, but especially for his beloved family. As his Times memoriam noted, a stress test showed his heart to be completely healthy, but a pulmonary embolism wasn't, and his death shocked the early 2011 Met world as much as Gil's passing shocked us in early 1972. His memory brought us together more than ever, and keeps us together. His daughter Sonia, who just announced her engagement to a wonderful gentleman, pointed heavenward to "Daddy" with her first words of exhilaration after the game. She knows he was looking down, with Gil and Yogi and all the others we've lost and yet never lost, and was smiling on us left field to right field:)
We have Patricia, who has had to cope with the care of her aging mother- but who still rocks her Mets gear with pride and at least some understanding of what those colors mean. They mean tradition. They mean family. They mean love.
We have Susan, who works professionally for those other Mets, and who had to forgo the potential Division Series clincher at Citi Field in order to play oboe at Lincoln Center. Her words about that conflict, and how it worked out, put her right at the top of our scale of true believers:)
So many others, who I've met, or just read- you have your stories, too. I even have my own: my wife of mostly mixed marriage of 28 years, who has been to a few games with me but mostly tolerates my lifelong disease for which there is no cure- even she stayed up and watched with me till near the very end last night, reveling in the stories of Murph and of curses and of Jenny McCarthy getting internet-shamed for showing up in Cubs gear the previous night, presumably unvaccinated. Two of our oldest animals in the living room with us, one awaiting a vet appointment (she's better), the other off his feed for going on 24 hours but still seeming fine and purring his brains out. Of course we left most of our animal karma with our youngest cat, who's been keeping the Curse of Leo alive this past week:
Oh- one more story of our "family" to acknowledge: that of Andrew. He's done an Amazin' job of improving his life and fitness in the past year. Two posts of his come to mind. One, a selfie taken right after the final out, captioned "Can you see the tears...."
But earlier, he posted a legitimate question about baseball strategy: should the Mets have used their overpowering 9th-inning closer on a night where they had a five-run lead going into the final inning? My instant answer was yes, because that's what closers do. But as I saw Jeurys channeling the methodical of Gil and then the joy of Russ in and after those final three outs, I knew I needed to these thoughts to my reply:
Yes, he needed to be out there. Not for the certainty of the outs, but for what his pitching has meant to this team all along. When it lost its presumed closer on Opening Day and then suffered the lost mind of his heir presumptive about 81 games later. When he did everything the manager, and the situation, called on him to do. Six outs? Four? You want me to BAT with two outs?!? No problem. All with class, and with determination. That was his mound to kneel on at the end.
He is Familia. And so are we.
Never mind the past-
-and forget the almost-here future*-
Game Three had its very own instant history that neither Billy nor Brown could influence.
Some of those events continued the more recent cursings of the first two games: Chicago unable to cash in on runners in scoring position. Small mistakes turning into big runs, particularly when Daniel Murphy was at the plate. Lots of action the other side of the left field foul line with the Mets batting, every one of them invoking the memory of the Curse from in between 1945 and "2015"-
Yet the biggest Curse of the night was the one that was only faking it- a haha of hoodoo, if you will. When Wilmer's fly ball got past Soler and got stuck in the ivy, depriving the Mets of an easily-scored run, you started to wonder if Bartman and the Black Cat and the Billy Goat would finally acquire a counterpart on the other side.
Instead they got two more innings of having to face Jacob deGrom- who's not getting older, he's getting better as each game goes on. That's all the cursing that needed to be done in return.
So now the trope is, Theo Epstein's done this before. And he has. Once. Not involving any player on either team being in the game (and, perhaps with the exception of Wright and Colon, even in the league). If that's the best that can be offered to stop this 7 train from sending the Cubs straight to the El for the rest of the month, I think I can cope.
*Btw, for all the talk of this prediction? It doesn't say World Series, does it? And the "sweep series in 5" detail is even less grounded in reality; no playoff series has been best-5-out-of-9 since 1921.
We watched, we saw, we celebrated. The big stories of Game Five have been the stuff of highlight reels and punditry for over 18 hours. We've deified Murph, mocked the shift that got him to third for the middle run, rooted for deGrom's resilience, Marvel-ed at Thor's Thor-iness, and praised Familia's six-out save.
Yet I am nothing if not eclectic, seeing the same things you do. And here, I present three moments from the game which have not- at least not yet- been analyzed to death, and which still meant possibly as much to the final outcome as the pitching and the Murphing.
Top first: the way the ball bounces.
Watch that first Murph hit, the one with Granderson on first. Watch especially around the eight second mark. (If that's not embedding, which is not unusual for this site, it's the first video on the page with this game story.)
Notice how close that blast came to bouncing over the wall. If it does, that's a ground rule double and Granderson is on third. Now- I put nothing by number 28 at this point; he could have stolen third and Jedi mind-tricked Curtis home before Duda got to the plate. Or, perhaps more likely, Greinke could've come apart and given Duda something other than air to hit for the first time all week. Still- with that kind of pitching up against you, there's never a guarantee. You take your claws and scrapes where you get them- and remember, that inning ended with a Met stranded on third. So the luck was much with us there.
Top four- the way the ball DOESN'T bounce.
Los Angeles's misplay of the infield shift, allowing Murphy to advance to third, was the key play of the inning- probably of the game. But overlooked in the blinding light of Murph's omnipotence is what happened next: Andre Ethier caught a ball. In deep foul territory. Allowing the run to score. Maybe I was alone in the baseball universe in thinking this at the time, but I'm again looking at the man on the mound and the overall futility of the Mets offense against him and saying, Why are you giving us a free run?
Again, the alternative universes could've gone better or worse from that point. Duda might've taken his free extra opportunity and blasted a two-run shot to Rancho Cucamonga. Or sac-flied to straightway center with the same single run scoring. Or or- and again, man on the mound here- he could've struck out, a not uncommon occurrence for the dude-a, and left Murph stranded and the Mets still behind.
There's been some minimal discussion of this point in the media, and Ethier simply said he didn't think before he just caught it. That's understandable. For one thing, he's the Dodgers' David Wright in terms of length of service and suffering. He also had just cause for being a little brain-rattled, between his amazing catch in the top of the second and his full-on scream at his manager in the bottom of the third. Finally, there's the Code, telling you never, ever to intentionally miss an out- just as NFL players were told never, ever to kneel down in the closing seconds until it finally cost somebody a game, whereupon everybody began doing it.
In hindsight, his lack of foresight worked out, and nobody will ever know what that unpitched pitch would've brought, good or ill. It was just another sprinkling of the dust on a completely magical night.
Top nine- the way the bat swings.
Managing and coaching decisions are always easy to second-guess with the benefit of hindsight- and brilliance is as likely to result as cries of Off with his head! if those little moments of luck and heads-up play change the dynamic even slightly. Terry Collins came off as brilliant for his moves: keeping deGrom in through six, sending Thor out for the seventh, and giving Familia his first-ever six-out save opportunity.
A squeaky win makes that all seem great, but a 4-3 loss would have led to endless questioning. Why all the Syndergaard warming-upping so he couldn't pitch the eighth? Why no double switch so the pitcher's spot didn't come up bottom eight? Why not a setup man bottom eight to save Familia?
Again, it all worked out, but the one unheralded moment of that whole game of Stratego was the one where Jeurys was wielding a different weapon than his usual 150-mph fastball. I utterly loved his at-bat, with a chance to extend the lead, and maybe votes changing at the next league meeting about whether the NL should have a DH after all (my vote still hasn't changed: drop the shitty thing altogether).
The TBS camera was close-in on him as he aw-shucksingly came up. Despite the bad blood of earlier games, the catcher and umpire seemed at ease and even empathetic with him. Chatting up the ump before you go back out? Nice move, I thought. And the guy's no slouch- the inevitable out lowered his lifetime batting average below .500. My biggest fear was that he'd get on, and get worn out. If Mattingly was anywhere near don't-give-a-fuck territory by then, he might've intentionally walked the guy just to up a few antes. In its way, that at-bat relieved some of the tension that was then not nearly as high when The Hated Utley opened the ninth. I had no expectation at all of a retaliatory pitch in that situation (although the next guy up did flinch on a high hard one). Vengeance is mine, I will save, saith the Closer.
I sat in my seat, not especially on the edge of it, for all six of those final outs. It just seemed inevitable before it was. And now, thanks to the strangeness of seeding rules, we advance with advantage over a team almost a dozen wins better than us and which cleaned our Longines and Armitron clocks, home and away, during the regular season....
just as the Mets had made short work of these same L.A. Dodgers during the season before they last met in 1988.
Believe in the little things, and the big things will likely take care of themselves.
That didn't take long. Whether the Mets go all the way or flame out in Flushing in two nights- whether the Three Wise (For Their Age Young) Men pitch perfectos in their next three starts- whether anybody gets injured during a post-game prank- we've already definitively carved the One Word Summation of this post-season in the Holy Tablets of Met post-seasons.
Joining them - from the inaugural word "Polish" from 1969 (that was a short O, just as it made short work of the O's) to the most recent inscription of "Looking" from 2006 (which wound up being a long look, almost nine years in duration)- is the word that should never have been heard:
I don't need to link to it. I still cringe when I look at it. Yet I come not to bury Chase Utley (that's what Met pitchers are for), but to call bullshit on the alleged arbiters that allowed the injury to be followed by four runs of insult.
He's a douche. This we knew; this, Tejada particularly knew from a previous encounter. But there's nothing to be gained by complaining about him, when the real offenses came out of the eyesights and brains (or lack thereof) on the part of the umpires and reviewers.
It was a bang-bang play, to be sure. (Ask the shortstop.) The on-field call was half right before it was re-ruled all wrong. Utley never touched that base; how could he have, when he was several feet away committing mayhem on the fielder he was out to stop from throwing? That was properly ruled on, until it wasn't. The fourth, fifth and sixth blind mice in the league office overruled the umpire's call, saying Tejada hadn't touched the bag, either, in the course of his trying to turn the DP.
But wait, we all say. Why are you reviewing a neighborhood play?
Everybody knows what it is, and why it is. It's to provide a modicum of protection to middle infielders who stand as immovable objects in the face of irresistible forces heading, spikes up and at high speed, at their middle to lower parts. If that shortstop (say, as in "say ouch") had to fear review of every potential DP turn and make that extra effort to ensure a spike on the bag, he's far more likely to get hurt during the runner's breakup attempt.
Gee- ya think?
No matter. The call that couldn't be overturned on a "proximity play" was overturned anyway as a mere "force play." In this universe of logic, if you don't try at all to touch second on the way to throwing to first, a resulting "out" call is not reviewable- but it you come as close as Tejada to doing it and you can see that bare inch of real estate between foot and bag on the replay, it is.
I'll file that absurdity along with the "tuck rule" and the new NHL coaches' challenges for posthumous offsides calls- but it wasn't even the right call anyway. It would've still resulted in a run scoring and the batter safe at first. No, what should have been called was a double play by rule, on account of Fuckley making such a brazen and outside-the-basepath run at the fielder.
They could've called it. They should've called it. They didn't call it. Scoreboard.
So a double play turned into a triple play of stupid: a non-call on the interference; a reversed call on the runner's second-base status; and a lack of any discipline on a player with a known history of being an ass, who got to stay in the game, and score, and gloat while our shortstop got carted off the field.
Worst of all, the little shit likely won't even be in the next starting lineup- and there's no designated hittee among the usual eight in it who really stands out to take the retribution. Still- if he is (and I wouldn't put it past Donnie Baseball), I'd respond by sending somebody Other Than Harvey out for the start of the game. I'd wait to see if that decision alone warranted a warning to the benches. Then, when the putrid little stain came up to bat, I'd pitch to him. Cleanly. And then bring in the Dark Knight to relieve, whether one got away from his predecessor or not.
Because beating their blue and white asses is the most important thing. Sending a message is a close second, but it needs to be the right one- and in this case, it's we're better than you are- in every sense.
We wait a little, gloat a little, spend a little too much time stuck in traffic...
Enough talk about the imminent post-season. The Mets don't need it.
Every one of their post-season appearances, good bad or indifferent, can be encapsulated in a single word. Here's the list: others will sit and stare, but every true fan can look and go, yeah....
Seven years. Seven specific moments that thrilled us on the way to victory or agonized us in the more Metiness of defeat.
What word will we add next month?