Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Parallel Emotions

I was strangely calm before Game one of the 2006 NLCS. I probably shouldn't have been, but there were no butterflies, no knots, no shakes or chills. I came to grips that we probably wouldn't see Orlando Hernandez until at least game three or four of the NLDS. I even resigned myself to the fact that Pedro wasn't going to be with us on what was sure to be a magical ride through October. Heck, I took a cue from the Washington Nationals last week, when they hung Nick Johnson's jersey in the dugout…this is perfect. I just happen to have a #45 model Martinez jersey, which is now hung from my doorway with care and will stay there for the rest of the playoffs.

But after I woke up, the problems came. First off, Hernandez is out for the entire playoffs. This presents a problem…I don't have a “HERNANDEZ 26” model to hang up. I'm out of commission in terms of mojo and I feel helpless here.

Then, I find out that Billy Wagner is writing a column for the New York Post. Haven't the Mets learned from David Cone's disastrous experience writing a newspaper column during a playoff series with the Dodgers? And of all people, did it have to be Country Time? I mean, my goodness if you put the Mets roster in front of me and asked me which player I thought most likely to call Takashi Saito's slider a high school quality slider, Wagner would be the first player to come to my mind.

And another eerie parallel to 1988: When the Dodgers beat the Mets back then do you know what I had in my hand? That's right, World Series tickets…for two of the middle games of the series (four and five, I think). Instead, I had useless pieces of paper that I had to mail back to Shea Stadium…there wasn't even an eBay where I could sell the stubs for, like, six bucks each. I had to send them back for crying out loud.

I turned eighteen that year. This year I turn thirty-six, which as you know is two helpings of eighteen. And if you’re wondering, yes I indeed have a ticket to game one of the 2006 NLCS waiting for me…staring at me tantalizingly. Does that mean double the heartache?

Well today, all it meant was double the runners tagged out at home on one play.

One of the great things about going to a sporting event is that there's always that chance that you'll see something you haven’t seen before. Jeff Kent getting thrown out from second base on a double off the wall is amazing enough. In fact, that play was very “Fluff” like. But watching that play unfold on television was priceless, because I had no idea that J.D. Drew was coming. He just…appeared. And then he disappeared from the scoreboard in an instant, as all Paul Lo Duca had to do after tagging out Kent was turn around, and all of a sudden you had a real life blooper reel before your very eyes.

In truth, I wasn't nervous until Jose Valentin tried an asinine force play at second on a grounder towards the first base hole. Don’t call me a second guesser on this, because as the ball was rolling towards Jose's glove side, I let out a primal scream that sounded a lot like “GET THE SURE OUT”. Instead, Valentin listened to the voices in his mustache that ill-advisingly told him to be a hero and wheel and fire to second. This further proves that mustaches make terrible managers.

Just a little while later, with Nomar Garciaparra up in the seventh with two outs, and runners on first and third, which turned into second and third after Rafael Furcal stole second after driving in the Dodgers second run (who says the Braves pose no threat to the Mets in the playoffs?) the nervousness was ratcheted up a few notches. Of course, the ESPN coverage really captured the essence of these key moments in the seventh inning by having Tim Robbins in the booth to talk about his new movies, because that's what we need to hear at a key moment in the game: "So Tim, what new movies do you have coming out?"

Celebrity diversions aside, this is the situation where not having Pedro Martinez or Orlando Hernandez hurts you, and it hurt the Mets two-fold in the seventh. First off, after the two run double by David Wright to give them the 4-1 lead in the sixth, the Mets loaded the bases with the pitcher’s spot due up. With John Maine only going 4 and 1/3, and Willie Randolph managing match-ups in the fifth and burning Pedro Feliciano and Chad Bradford for one out each, Randolph attempted to stretch Mota to two innings of work, and that meant he was sent up to bat for himself with the bases loaded in a spot where a pinch hitter may have broken the game wide open. Instead, Mota flew out to right field, and then gave up the two run double to Nomar to tie the game. So Maine gets a quick hook that Pedro/Orlando probably would not have gotten, and Randolph gets burned in the seventh.

Stupid calf muscles!

But what have Met fans been trying to tell the world all along? The Mets are more than Pedro…more than Orlando…more than the bullpen (and don’t get me wrong, the bullpen was brilliant yet again tonight and the world is about to find out how brilliant they've been all season). There's a pretty gosh darn good lineup out there too. And when Brad Penny and his wretched back came in the game in relief, it was a needed reminder that there are flaws everywhere in the National League, not just in Queens. The Mets crushed Penny back in early September when he was supposedly healthy, and crush him again they did with Carlos Delgado's fourth hit of the night which drove in Jose Reyes, and David Wright's dunker to right that brought in Beltran for a 6-4 lead.

After Billy Wagner's small hiccup in the ninth against Ramon Martinez…an RBI double to cut the lead to 6-5…he faced Nomar with the game on the line. It was then I had a flash-forward to the unfortunate Wagner column in tomorrow's New York Post, letting everyone know that his column will be discontinued because half of it will be unprintable if he lets Nomar beat him. But after all the consternation about the starters, the Mets had a one run lead with Country Time on the mound. It didn't matter much who started the game anymore, did it?

Strike three, game over. Mets lead the series 1-0.

There was a commercial for NHL Live 2007, where Eric Staal is reminding everyone that while you might think is just another face off, "what if I lose that face off? And what if they score, and we lose by one goal? And we lose the Stanley Cup by one game? Would you still think it was just another face off?"

I feel there's a similar commercial coming in the spring for MLB '07…starring J.D. Drew. “You may think it’s just another dopey base running play…but if Marlon Anderson gets a single on the next play, and I'm not there to score that run, and we lose the game by one run, and we lose the series by one game, would you still think it was just another dopey base running play?"

Hey didn't the Mets lead one game to none in 1988 too?

Damn these eerie parallels.


Kyle in Newport News said...

That game was so much fun! I just wanted to let you know that I also noticed how the announcer asked Tim Robbins to elaborate on his new movie smack in the middle of the game's tensest moment. I even thought that Robbins sounded reluctant to say much about it, realizing himself that, in that moment at least, his movie was of pitifully small importance. He seemed to have a better grasp of the weight of the game situation than the announcers. But then, I guess that's not too surprising.

WHY IS STEVE PHILLIPS IN THE BOOTH DURING A METS PLAYOFF GAME??? Every time he announces a Mets game, he has to find a way to mention that he was once their GM. Shouldn't he be trying to live this down? Or is he setting up a plan to sell signed baseballs for $1,000 a pop with the inscription, "I temporarily ruined the Mets franchise with my incompetence"?

But, I really can't care too much about any of that. And do you know why?


Mets Beast said...

great game.. but stop with the potentially jinxing phrases and ideas lol... ur really scaring me... game 2 here we come!

jabair said...

YESpn actuallly had a clock running to show the time left before the SKANKS game... like it was freakin new years eve.. and to top that off, the game got rained out.. HA!

why was oliver perez picked over dave williams..

im with you on 1988.. i keep reaching back for 86 but keep finding 88... im holding my breath...

Metstradamus said...

In the interests of fairness:

During the Twins game there was a countdown clock for the Mets game.

adenzeno said...

Should have PH for Mota and asked Heilman to pitch 2 innings-bad decision, BUT ther is no gurantee that the PH will get a hit- The REALLY unexplainable move is no defensive sub for Green in the last inning- Green looked SLOW! chasing all the balls hit his way

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mestradamus, BE AN OPTIMIST!
The METS proved they have the bats and the HEART to win 10 more.

Patrick Burke said...

Shawn Green is a waste of space. Give me Endy in right!

Ed in Westchester said...

Green a waste of space? The man made an outstanding play on that double play at the plate. Played the bounce perfectly, made a perfect throw to Valentin.
How is he a waste of space?
Oh, I get it, Endy would have gotten to those balls in the 9th right? What crystal ball showed that? What if he was playing close to the line? He would have had little chance to get those balls.
They won. That is the bottom line.

Unser said...

Steve Lyons, a regular broadcaster for the Dodgers, is the color man for tonight's game on FOX. What the hell?!?

Fun game - love the post-season.

Hope Reyes calms down a bit tonight. He was swinging at pitches which bounce well in front of the plate.

elliot said...

Kyle: speaking of Steve Phillips (gaahhhh), when they pitched out to LoDuca TWICE - on the first two pitches of the AB - Phillips said that with Reyes on first, that was "good managing". Then, later, Phillips said that LoDuca got a single because the two pitchouts put Lowe in a hole.

Adenzo - Chavez was already in as a defensive sub - for Floyd, who is hurting. Even Chavez can't play left AND right field simultaneously.

sheadenizen said...

The biggest blunder of the day....imo, of course belongs to Grady Little. Brad Penny and Shea Stadium should never be said in the same sentence if you are a fan of the team from Hollywood. Did anyone show Little Penny's numbers at Shea. Obviously and thankfully no!

Sean said...

Wooooooooo. Good stuff.

I was actually listening to most of the game on the radio in one ear because I had work and class the whole time.

I feel pretty good about this series. Bullpen was great, though I also think that maaaaybe we should have PH'd Franco for Mota. (Though to Willie's credit, a three-run lead with our bullpen is usually a pretty sure bet; nobody knew 'Stache was going be a bonehead.)

The only thing I'm worried about...Steve Trachsel and Ollie Perez as our 3rd and 4th starters in a seven game series? I'm all for his ability to strike out 12 in 6 innings, as long as he learns how not to give up 4 or 5 runs in the process...

The Metmaster said...

I hope my Jack Daniel's supply holds up if all the games are like this one. I definitely needed something for my nerves in the 9th.
Is it just me or does Shea sound louder and look better in late afternoon? That place was rocking. In '86 Lenny Dykstra won Game 3 and Kid Carter won Game 5 in "the gloaming", and Shea literally was bouncing. I know, I was there. Give me day baseball in October anytime!


OJ is Innocent! It was a double suicide! Nicole just happened to cute her own head off!

Anonymous said...

The double play at home was PRICELESS. I don't know what they showed on tv, because I was there (!!!), but Drew stopped when he was almost home as if he didn't know what to do and then decided (too late of course) to get a move on home. If he would've just kept going he would've been in there. Yay for the Mets he got confused a bit. What a great game that was.