How Carlos Beltran Almost Made My Girlfriend Dump Me for the First Time or “Nothing is Funnier than Unhappiness[i]”

23 Nov

When I replay the inning in my mind, I think that it never should have come to this.

By way of introduction, I started rooting for the New York Mets in 1987. Good timing, right? Granted, it is unlikely that my four year old self would have been able to appreciate the 1986 team that ran roughshod over the NL East, or would have enjoyed the two drama filled playoff series that followed. Heck, my five year old self only picked the Mets because he thought the name Strawberry looked cool in the box scores he perused every day during the summer. It didn’t hurt that his grandparents in Florida were Mets fans since 1962, and he could talk to them about the team on the phone, but there was no more rhyme or reason to it than that. Nevertheless, he threw himself headlong into the team. He started collecting their baseball cards, and poured over the stats on the back.[ii] He caught the odd game on a Sunday afternoon on WWOR after church. But mostly he followed the team in the newspaper. It was in those pages that one day he found he had suddenly developed a vague, but abiding, hatred of Terry Pendleton. He didn’t really understand what had happened, but this was now the face of evil. It was September. School had started for him now. The summer was over. He was a Mets fan.

(The less said here about my six year old self, the better. His father was a die-hard Dodgers fan, since the Brooklyn days, who had a particular fondness for Orel Hershiser[iii] and Mike Scoscia[iv]

No, this would not end well.)

Two decades is a long time to salve the wounds, though. Recently, Bill Simmons[v] wrote, tweeted or podcasted[vi] something to the effect that the games mean more to you as a teenager than they will ten years before or after. I don’t know if that is true. This is, after all, coming from the guy who wrote a book entitled Now I Can Die in Peace in his thirties.

I was a teenager in the late nineties, and remember the 99 and 2000 teams fondly. But there were fewer games on TV in Connecticut by then, and the local coverage in the newspaper had been reduced to a capsule among the rest of the NL slate from the previous night. Now, I did almost jump through the floor when Ventura hit the Grand Slam Single,[vii] and then almost threw the TV through the almost hole in the floor when Kenny Rogers became Kenny “Bleeping” Rogers. I got a little misty eyed as the Shea crowd chanted for Bobby Jones during the most improbable of one-hitters.  I had the “The Best Infield Ever?” issue of SI, dog eared and worn, in my room for a while, and a bright blue Rey Ordonez jersey t-shirt was a recurring figure in my wardrobe.[viii]

But for some reason those never felt like my teams.

The early 2000 teams reside in a kind of haze. I was stumbling through college, no time to pay attention to the Mets with summer jobs and crazy girlfriends and a rigorous course load[ix] all taking priority. Then one depressing summer a few years later, I stumbled upon the Mike and the Mad Dog simulcast on YES. This was towards the beginning of the whole ‘people yelling at me about sports on the TV’ epoch,[x] so it still seemed fresh to me, even if I knew these guys were a bit full of it. But they talked Mets just about every day, dissected the games, and had the manager, the coaches, and the players on the broadcast. David Wright was just coming up from the minors and everyone expected big things. As I sort of floated through a depressing summer,[xi] I landed once again upon my baseball team.[xii] And there is no zealot like the convert.

Of course, 2005 was a bit of a mess and will be an essay unto itself at some point. Said essay will most likely focus on Willie’s decision to bring in Shingo Takatsu to face Miguel Cabrera despite having a reverse platoon split. I know this because they flashed it on the screen right before Cabrera doubled home the winning runs and struck the first of a series of blows against the Mets wild card hopes that year.

A few years later I used the radio call of that play in my surrealistic science fiction thesis film[xiii], thus making it useless to try and submit it to festivals[xiv]. I knew this, but used it anyway, because in my mind this was the only background audio suitable for this scene of the protagonist in existential crisis.

But then, but then, but then, there was the 2006 team. I listened to every radio broadcast I could, caught the PIX games, and watched all the highlights on MLB.com the next morning.[xv] This was my team. I even learned to stop worrying and love Jose Valentin (and his ludicrous UZR). The team was fun. They had a ton of walk off wins. They had seventeen inning games. They beat the piss out of the Braves down the stretch with Beltran turning their staff into BP pitchers.[xvi] Their bullpen was airtight. September was one big party as they ran away with the division. Of course they lost the one game I went to at Shea, but my record in that regard is horrendous.[xvii]

And then the playoffs came and somehow we were the favorites in the NL. This was all new to me. I caught the radio call of the Floyd homer in Game 1 in my car and almost broke my hand pounding the steering wheel in jubilation.[xviii] I got caught up to speed on the ludicrous double tag out at a nearby bar, which was convenient as Guillermo Mota soon after drove me to the bottle. My father stopped by in time to see Wagner’s tight rope walk through the ninth. In honor of Antonio Alfonseca, I had imbibed about eleven fingers of Jack Daniels at this point, and I think I may have pointed at him and shouted “Venganza!” over and over[xix]. Game 2 was a thoroughly pleasant experience. Game 3 had Steve Trachsel, starting pitcher, but still somehow resulted in a win, as it did with such perplexing frequency that year.[xx]

A three game sweep. 1988 avenged. The Cardinals once again stood between the Mets and the World Series.

When I say it never should have come to that, I am thinking specifically of that last at bat at Shea. But really, it never should have come to that game. If only Orlando Hernandez hadn’t hurt himself jogging[xxi]. If only Pedro’s arm hadn’t fallen off in September. If only Duaner Sanchez had ordered room service. If only Guillermo Mota could get anyone out. If only Guillermo Mota had been suspended for PED use before the playoffs[xxii]. If only Guillermo Mota had been removed from the space-time continuum as the result of an unforeseen consequence of top-secret experiments with the Large Hadron Collider. Well, then things might have not even gotten to that point.

I was stuck at work for Game 7. This was not a good omen. I had previously been stuck at work for Game 3. Which turned out…poorly.[xxiii] I had brought along my lucky Mets hat. (basic blue, fitted, with a Fernando Martinez autograph on the brim[xxiv]) It sat nearby as I at least tried to maintain a professional appearance, as it was not like I was actually going to be doing any professional work. I was instead to be glued to the small TV, trying not to disturb the clientele with bursts of Oliver Perez-inspired profanity[xxv].

Then came the bottom of the sixth. That morning in the paper I had read an article seeking to determine if Oliver Perez was the worse pitcher to start a Game 7 in history. His 2006 season certainly made a solid thesis statement. He was terrible that year, a throw-in in a trade where the ‘big prize’ was the approximately 77-year-old Roberto Hernandez. Perez gave up home runs. He walked guys. He needed about 11 runs in game 4 before I felt remotely safe. And here he was, grinding his way through a very good and now healthy Cardinals line-up. But after he walked Edmonds with one out, I thought that was that. Come on, there is no way they let him pitch to Rolen here. They had a quick trigger on Maine in Game 1 of the NLDS with less on the line. And Maine was even pretty good that year. You can’t lose this game with Oliver Perez on the mound. Isn’t this the reason we had Chad Bradford? Right-handers had a .612 OPS against him that year. He was a groundball machine, lethal to inherited runners. Willie went out to the mound, of course he did. There’s only one play here, bring in the right-handed submariner. But then Willie walked back to the dugout, leaving the next Sandy Koufax to face the actual Scott Rolen.

I was about to leave work. The hat was on.

Of course Rolen crushed the first pitch.

Just. Murdered. It.

And then, and then, and then…[xxvi]

This, by the way, is not the reason I named my dog Endy Chavez (I named my dog Endy Chavez, he’s a Welsh Corgi mix.) I actually didn’t get him until the next summer, the night of one of those terrible losses to the Phillies in 2007.[xxvii] This was the 11-10 nightmare where the Mets came back from 5-0 and 8-5 only to lose 11-10 when Wagner got brought in for a six out save (he got four) and imploded. Endy Chavez had made it 8-8 with a bases loaded single a few innings before and I promised myself that if he got a hit there I would name my dog in his honor.[xxviii]

And then, I raced down the length of my building shouting pure gibberish with my arms raised high above my head. Luckily, the building was mostly empty now. And so, I sped off for my girlfriend’s apartment with WFAN on the radio.

One of the more popular memes around these past few Mets teams has been their lack of clutch hitting. They have had some very high profile at bats where they have been unable to get runners in from third with less than two outs. This, empirically speaking,[xxix] is most likely due to a lack of gritty gamers who play the game the right way and know how to make those productive outs. You would think Jose Valentin would fit the bill. He had a handful of very nice seasons for the White Sox at the beginning of the decade, but was well into the ‘crafty veteran/clubhouse leader/probably washed up dude’ phase of his career by 2006. He started the season with a .136/.136/.136 line in April[xxx], before taking over the full time second base job.[xxxi] He somehow managed to put up a 3+ win season but was struggling in the playoffs when he came up in the bottom of the sixth with one out in the bases loaded. He quickly struck out.

How many times have we seen a guy make a great play in the field and then do some damage at the plate? Apparently only in Sportscenter highlights. Endy Chavez swung at the first pitch and flew out. Somehow, Jeff Suppan[xxxii] was stymieing the Mets line-up. I drove on, but I can’t help but think maybe if the Mets had scored there, things would have been different. I don’t know. Wagner pitches the ninth, probably. I mean, he should have anyway, despite his own problems in the series. It just didn’t work out that way. But if the Many Worlds Theory is accurate, somewhere out there is a universe where Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez are regarded in Queens with the same fondness as Bobby Thompson and Willie Mays were in Manhattan. I would like to visit that universe.[xxxiii]

I arrived at my girlfriend’s by the eighth and bit my nails down to the quick by the ninth[xxxiv]. I had visions of walk-offs in my head, Howie Rose screaming “Beltran![xxxv]” or “Wright” over and over again with the same raw, unrehearsed exuberance he once lent to Stéphane Matteau. Of course, at the time I would have had to settle for Buck’s half-hearted homerish monotone call of the same, but even that would have been music to my ears in its own way.

Then Yadier Molina came into my life. He was previously dubbed by my girlfriend ‘that weird dude who keeps sticking his tongue out.[xxxvi]’  You might better know him as the guy with a .274 OBP and 6 home runs that year. Heilman threw him a first-pitch change-up and he promptly delivered it to the left field seats. And with that, the stadium deflated with a slow hiss. The carnival was over. I have never heard a stunned silence like that before. Maybe Pujols’ shot off Lidge a few years earlier, but that was Albert Pujols. Sure, the ball was still going up when it hit the façade in Minute Maid. But that was Albert Pujols. This, this was Yadier Molina.

Apropos, I guess. Pendleton.[xxxvii] Scioscia. Molina.

This is what Bill Simmons calls a Stomach Punch game.[xxxviii] The warning signs were all there: at home, favorite in the series, a journeyman pitcher shutting the line-up down, blown chances to take the lead. The chance for this kind of devastation increased exponentially with each passing inning. And now the stage was set. Heilman had just walked a guy. He did give up home runs. He was stretched for a second inning, because you can’t use your closer in a tie game in the ninth.[xxxix]

The nomenclature is particularly accurate physiologically. Your breath catches in your throat. Your face gets pale and flush at the same time. Then you tense up and get more then a little nauseous. I mentioned that I was feeling sick, and I didn’t mean it in the colloquial sense. I thought I might actually vomit. I was twenty-four at the time. There is no reason to be this attached to a baseball team. It’s not healthy.

Of course, there was still the bottom of the ninth to play. If the Mets had rolled over and gone down in order, I would have been upset of course. Morose? Sure. Probably even a little depressed. But the goddamn team wasn’t done with me yet. Valentin and Chavez get hits[xl] and Willie goes to the bench to bring in Cliff Floyd. When I say at the top that it never should have come to this, I am thinking of this moment. A precognitive moment flashed before my eyes. Floyd was going to hit a walk-off home run. Right here. I could see it. Just like he had against Anaheim the previous year.[xli] This was going to be our Gibson moment. Floyd limping off the bench to hit a walk-off home run. The clubhouse leader, Wright’s mentor, would make us forget all the injuries and time missed with one swing of the bat.

In hindsight maybe they should have bunted. I hate the sacrifice; have argued with my father for years about the sacrifice bunt. He always complains when teams don’t bunt with first and second and no outs, no matter what the situation.[xlii] I think its stupid to give up outs. We fight about it constantly. Finally, while waiting for a flight in the Las Vegas airport, I showed him the run expectancy matrix from Baseball Between the Numbers. I think I finally won him over.[xliii] But they bring a pitcher into bunt here and they have two shots at driving in the runs. Chavez will score on most singles, and Reyes and Lo Duca aren’t exactly the ISO kings. Maybe they should have bunted. My whole life is a lie. I hate what this game does to me. I hate that I have been staring at the B-R play by play of this stupid game on and off for days. I hate having to recollect these memories.

But at the time I was sure Floyd would hit it out. We had the platoon advantage. Wainwright had gotten hit hard in the first two at bats. So of course he makes Floyd look foolish on a called strike three.  Reyes hits a soft liner to the center fielder, and somehow lo Duca works a walk. And so here it is. Bases loaded, two outs, down two. The same scenario that plays though the mind of millions of eight year olds in the backyard, year after year. Carlos Beltran, the Mets best player that year, the best player in the series, was at the plate. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else up there.

Carlos Beltran doesn’t strike out all that much, about 100 times in a full season. Pretty good for a guy with his power stroke. His career K% was 18%, comparable to guys like Jeter and Utley, and better than most of the elite power hitters, except of course for Albert Pujols. But then, Albert Pujols is not something that should exist in the realm of man.  He was facing Adam Wainwright, then a very promising prospect, but not yet the dominant starter he is today. And he was scuffling a bit trying to close the series out for the Cardinals.

There were so many scenarios that could have played out there that wouldn’t have ended with me curled up in a fetal position on top of the sheets on my girlfriend’s bed. More than half of Beltran’s hits that year were extra bases. Even a double, with Anderson Hernandez pinch-running at first,[xliv] and going on contact, would have resulted in a Mets win, followed by a joyous scream from me, followed by an irate phone call from my girlfriend’s upstairs neighbor/landlord. A simple soft liner or Texas leaguer, a seeing-eye single or misplayed grounder through the legs[xlv] would have tied it, and at least given me a reprieve.

Carlos Beltran usually crushes off speed stuff. Granted, that year he was only a tick above average on curveballs, and for his career he’s a tick below, but how many times had I watched him just sit on an off speed pitch and crush it. Everyone knew the hammer was coming at 0-2. Maybe he thought it would be in the dirt, maybe he thought they would waste a fastball away. But then Adam Wainwright unleashed a curveball that generated the hitherto unseen PITCH f/x kill screen,[xlvi] and I collapsed back on the couch in a deathly silence while Joe Buck could barely contain his glee.[xlvii]

And now it seems that at-bat, that moment, that physics-defying curveball has tainted Beltran’s Met career. There’s a reasonable case to be made that he should have won the MVP that year, but the BBWAA does dig the longball.[xlviii] It was still an unequivocally great season. He’s basically lived up to his contract, even with the injury woes and the rough first year in Flushing. But the fanbase and the media never really embraced him.

Maybe it was that abysmal first year.[xlix] Maybe his game, which is so fluid and effortless, makes people think he doesn’t try hard. Maybe it’s the injury controversies of the last few years informing the idea that he is ‘soft,’ even though no one plays while dinged up more than him.[l] But really, it comes down to this. They think he should have swung. Never mind that he hit three home runs in the series, including the winner in Game 1 and one that got them on the board in a must win Game 4. No one cared that A-Rod carried the Yankees past the Twins in 2004, either. Or that Blyleven, when given opportunities, was a better postseason pitcher than Jack Morris. This was confirmation bias at its worst. Of course Beltran didn’t swing, he’s too passive. He tries to bunt out of the three-hole. He looks for the walk instead of being an RBI man.[li] Look, the team lost. The bullpen blew it. These things happen.[lii] The Astros didn’t win in 2004 either, despite Beltran doing his best Sylvester Coddmeyer III[liii] impression.

Now it looks like Beltran might be traded at the Winter meetings. Maybe for Gordon Beckham, which actually could be pretty decent value once all the details get worked out. Reyes might be gone, too,[liv] which is a shame, and not just because it means I might have to sit through five hundred Ruben Tejada plate appearances next year. This core of players is not really all that different from the 86 group. For all the talent on the teams from 86-90, they only won the one title, and they needed the help of a leprechaun riding a unicorn carrying a lucky horseshoe to get that one, and then made one other playoff appearance. The 2006 team didn’t get those bounces and didn’t get that title and thus won’t be remembered nearly as fondly, but those are the breaks of the game.

I don’t remember exactly how I got from the living room to the bedroom that night. Everything before is so clear; everything after, a muddled mess. I think her roommate asked about the game. I muttered something in response. I think I cobbled together a few sentences about how it was a tough loss, but there’s always next year. My girlfriend rubbed my back for a while and asked me if I wanted to talk about it. I clearly didn’t. She got more and more frustrated at being totally unequipped to comfort me. This might have been the night when she asked me if I had to choose between never seeing her again or the Mets never winning a World Series, which I would choose. In that moment, well, I didn’t have a very good answer. Or any answer. It never should have come to this.

The playoffs are hard. Not just because the level of competition is higher, or because the pressure looms larger, or even because of the occasional plague of flies. Unpredictable stuff just happens in short series[lv]. The Cardinals were 83-78; the Mets 97-65. Fourteen games better over 162. That’s a lot. Over seven games, though? They are a little over a half game better. One good pitching performance[lvi], one bullpen implosion, one moment of late inning heroics can tip the scale the other way. The Mets outperformed their Pythagorean record that year by six games, probably due to a bit of close game luck[lvii] furnished by an overachieving bullpen that couldn’t replicate that success in the playoffs.

I know all of this intellectually, but that series still feels wrong to me. It’s as if it  were a mistake of history, waiting to be corrected in some not so distant future by Dr. Sam Beckett, stopping by in the person of Cliff Floyd, or Aaron Heilman[lviii], or Guillermo Mota, or Billy Wagner, or Carlos Beltran. Putting things right that once went wrong, and hoping this time that his next leap will be the leap home.


[i] From Beckett’s Endgame, because nothing says Theater of the Absurd like Mets fandom. Plus, we also get our share of existential crises, like when Pedro Feliciano is left in to face Matt Diaz and you start wondering if there is a God, and if there is, why he hates you above all others.

[ii] This was the era where Topps listed GWRBI prominently on the back. So it must be most important, right? I remember Kevin McReynolds having a bunch one year, maybe 1988. Fangraphs does have his WPA at 4.52 that year.

[iii] I was absolutely convinced, even at six years old, that we were dead in Game 7 with Hershiser going. I’ve mellowed on him over the years, probably due in part to him being decent for the Mets in 99.

[iv] He, however, can go to hell. He hit three home runs that year in the regular season! THREE!

[v] I know, I know. He still taps into the fan’s perspective better than most sportswriters.

[vi] And you might not believe this, but I’m paraphrasing.

[vii] This should always be capitalized. Like other major historical events, e.g. The Great Depression, The Teapot Dome Scandal.

[viii] Along with lots of flannel and those ugly rayon button-down shirts from Hot Topic. It was the late nineties, and…okay, that’s not really an excuse.

[ix] I think I passed eight classes in four years at college #1

[x] No end in sight, unfortunately. Time to start rooting for the asteroid.

[xi] College #1 and I had the Garafolo/Seinfeld mutual and simultaneous break-up, not that anyone believes me, either. Now I just say I was kicked out. Clearly it fits my James Dean good looks and devil-may-care attitude.

[xii] And they immediately reminded me they were the same team of my youth by trading Scott Kazmir and botching the Howe firing.

[xiii] I pitch it as La Jetee meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I don’t get many callbacks.

[xiv] “See that ship over there? They’re re-broadcasting Major League Baseball with implied oral consent, not express written consent, or so the legend goes.” – The Simpsons

[xv] This was back when MLB.com’s video highlights were much more user friendly and organized by game by month by year instead of by key terms that never bring up the clips I want.

[xvi] The pure unadulterated joy this brought me cannot be overstated.

[xvii] The first game I ever went to was a gloomy, wet,  rain delayed Rockies blowout where Jason Jennings threw a shut out and hit a home run. He got an only half sarcastic standing ovation for the homer. I never saw a win at Shea. Citi field has been a little better in that regard.

[xviii] I have yet to really physically injure myself as a result of some cataclysmic Mets game. The emotional scars, however…

[xix] Or something like that, my memory is fuzzy. It might have just been “j’acusse,” which doesn’t really make sense, but I imagine made perfect sense in my head at the time.

[xx] “List of possible explanations. One: I’m willing it. Inside where nothing shows, I am the essence of a man spinning double-headed coins, and betting against himself in private atonement for an unremembered past. Two: Time has stopped dead and the single experience of one coin being spun once has been repeated ninety times. (this is actually a pretty good description of watching any Steve Trachsel start) On the whole, doubtful. Three: Divine Intervention, that is to say, a good turn from above concerning him, cf. children of Israel, or retribution from above concerning me, cf. Lot’s wife. Four: A spectacular vindication of the principle that each individual coin spun individually is as likely to come down heads as tails and therefore should cause no surprise each individual time it does.” – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

[xxi] In his defense, he wanted to get back to the hotel in time to catch Matlock.

[xxii] This applies to the Schoenweiss years, too. I’m kind of ambivalent on PED use, but if we are going to employ PED guys can we at least employ the guys taking the drugs that work.

[xxiii] When H.P. Lovecraft writes, as he so often does, about some unspeakable, indescribable nameless horror with a black heart from the even blacker depths of the nether realm, yeah, he’s talking about Trachsel’s performance in Game 3.

[xxiv] I felt really weird asking for the autograph of a guy eight years younger than me. Never even been a big autograph guy, but he was right there. I even made some small talk, asked if I’d see him in Shea by the end of the year, even though I knew he was being rushed as it was. He said he hoped so. I still hope he makes it, even if the autograph has faded off the hat.

[xxv] There would be lots more to come. I certainly don’t feel like I got cheated in that regard.

[xxvi] The catch will get its own piece at some point. A point when I can talk about it rationally. A point far in the future.

[xxvii] Oh, there were a few, it took me a bit to find the exact box score I was looking for on B-R.com

[xxviii] The end of the 2007 did weird things to me. This game probably doesn’t make the top five weirdest moments of the season, despite my talking to the radio for the whole game and then promising to name my dog after a fourth outfielder.

[xxix] Research provided by Fremulon Insurance, inc.

[xxx] Leading to the creation of this awesome blog

[xxxi] Well, it was either him or Chris Woodward.

[xxxii] Who was regularly listed in the New Britan Red Sox programs of my youth as one of their top prospects. Along with Trot Nixon. I feel older than I should.

[xxxiii] I would also like to visit that alternate universe’s Mets Hall of Fame where Valentin has a bust, complete with stache, of course.

[xxxiv] Seriously, I feel like I have ignored the fact that Jeff Suppan pitched eight innings of one run ball against this Mets team. Jeff. Suppan.

[xxxv] I almost wish we had Jon Miller for the national broadcast, (even though that means the other guy too) so I could have heard him shout “Bel-TRAHN!”). He’s actually very good on the Giants broadcasts and it’s not like I have a great hope ESPN will bring in a more palatable national team anyway.

[xxxvi] “Seriously, he’s gross.”

[xxxvii] In fairness, Pendleton was actually a very good player and showed some pop in later years when he got out of Busch Stadium.

[xxxix] Guess Jerry had to learn it somewhere.

[xl] Cause of course they do. Where were those in the sixth?

[xli] I love, Gary, Keith and Ron. Really, I do. But part of me misses Fran Healy. He, along with Ralph Kiner, was the voice of my childhood. He was a blatant homer and parroted a lot of the usual clichés, but his call of the Floyd home run (and the Castro one later that year) with his voice cracking, was just perfect. I am a bit sad SNY couldn’t find something for him, even though I really shouldn’t be.

[xlii] So much so, that I am surprised Jerry didn’t bring him in to be the bench coach. They could have even talked basketball, too.

[xliii] My uncle is a bit harder sell. Of course, he still thinks Rocky Colavito is the greatest right fielder ever.

[xliv] Perhaps the most amazing thing about that inning was Paul lo Duca working a walk the at-bat before.  I guess when Carlos Beltran is on deck you just can’t let Paul lo Duca beat you.

[xlv] Least likely, but there is precedent.

[xlvi] BRK = TILT!

[xlvii] And your call of Endy Chavez’s catch sucked, jerkface. When I rewatch it on MLB.com (which I do about twice a week) I always listen to the Cohen call.

[xlviii] “Do you really want to have a frank and enlightening discussion about positional scarcity, advanced defensive metrics and platoon advantages or would you rather see me hit some dingers?”

“Dingers!”

[xlix] There’s hope for you, too, Jason Bay.

[l] Okay, Chipper probably does.

[li] Beltran was in the top ten in RBIs all three healthy…you know, I’m not even going to bother.

[lii] As the 2007 and 2008 Mets bullpens would ably prove.

[liii] The protagonist of The Kid Who Only Hit Homers by Matt Christopher, which I borrowed from the library approximately 27 times in elementary school, second only to The Reluctant Pitcher

[liv] If you believe unconfirmed and vague sources from a blog who also reported the rumor that ‘The Yankees are looking into Zack Grienke’s availability.’ Which apparently every mainstream sports site does. No need to independently confirm it. It’s probably true. The sources say so.

[lv] e.g. plagues of flies

[lvi] Jeff Suppan? Jeff Suppan? Really? Jeff? Suppan?

[lvii] They were 31-16 in one run games that year.

[lviii] After all of this, after this game and the ones to come over the next few years, I still feel a little bad for Aaron Heilman. He was very good that year, if a little homer prone. His change-up was a true wipeout offering. He probably had the arsenal and the velocity to make it as a starter, but got jerked around by a Mets team that didn’t exactly have elite starting pitching at the time. He was a first round draft pick and considered a bit of a bust before his one-hitter the previous year. You always did get the sense he was a bit bitter about not being a starter. He should, and probably will, get his own essay. But I will share this here: Heilman’s last year on the team, my brother and I went to see a Pedro Martinez start against the Pirates, my last game at Shea. Pedro pitched a late period Pedro start where you could see the flashes of brilliance that made him one of the greatest ever. He survived on a little more guile and a little less velocity. He pitched around guys when he felt like it, got some week contact when he needed it, and generally baffled the Pirates that day. (Granted, this is the Pirates we are talking about). Then the bullpen blew it, as they did a lot that year. Smith and Feliciano first, than Heilman to finish the job. As we shuffled out of the concrete toilet bowl that was my beloved Shea concourse, one slightly inebriated individual began to berate Heilman to no one in particular. He continued all the way down the escalators, talking sarcastically about going to get a Heilman jersey from the store, and then, presumably, shit on it. No one really said much. A few glumly nodded in agreement. But he didn’t stop. He might pause for a moment, but would soon start up again. All the way out of the stadium and down to my parking space by the marina I could hear this poor soul ranting about Aaron Heilman. I don’t know that Heilman deserves all that. But it is hard being a Mets fan sometimes.

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