added 10/23/2006 by Daniel Cohen
It happened again.
Such words are reserved for those that have actually been there before. Okay, maybe it is for those that have had family that have been there before. The rule in baseball is that you must stick close to your team history, including all travesties that come alongside it. As a Yankee fan, the 3-zip BoSox comeback sticks hardest and freshest in the throat in spite of ownership over 25% of World Series championship rings to date.
1986 is like yesterday, even to fans such as myself (I was two years old at the time). We can feel Kevin Bass at the plate, huffing, breathing and compacting every bit of batting knowledge into one plate appearance, attempting to will his team into the World Series. He was stopped by Jesse Orosco, a formidable opponent but hardly a Dennis Eckersley or even a Billy Wagner. For the record, it was a big fat K that spelled the doom, the worst kind of blast in baseball.
Bass was no Kirk Gibson. Adam Wainwright is similar to Orosco and equally different from Eckersley. It was his job on October 19, 2006 to prevent a huge upset at the hands of a dreaded Astro enemy known in most major league circles as “The Cardinal”.
“The Cardinal”, an extravagant bird known for it’s one ace in the hole pitcher and a beast of a muscle (known as the Pujolsian tendon) may shown signs of weakness at crucial moments known as “pennant races” or the “World Series”, but can also flex it’s muscles into devastating left field jacks at a moment’s glance.
(Side note: Reyes really hit that ball hard. That was a big hit denied by the baseball gods.)
The Houston faithful of the ‘80s just prayed day in, day out that the Mets could experience just a bit of the pain felt that year when Doc and the Bad Boys hung the nasty on the amazing Mike Scott and poor Ol’ Bill Buckner. It finally happened.
Just as Wainwright was no Eckersley, Beltran is Kevin Bass, Kirk Gibson and more. In case you really just DON’T-KNOW-BASEBALL, Carlos Beltran was the best player on the Astros in 2004. He had the best postseason of all time that year against both the Braves and the Cardinals (remember when he golfed that ball off the ground?). He probably was MVP of the 2004 NLCS, “official” awards be damned. Any given year, he’s worth 30 dingers, 30 steals, 100 runs, 100 RBIs, 50 doubles… you name it, he gives it to you.
Wainwright kicks and delivers a fastball down the middle. Beltran watches it: It’s balsy to swing on an 0-0 fastball with the bases juiced and two outs with two runs to make up.
Now he’s in a hole. Don’t wanna be in a hole. I mean, you’re the best hitter on a potent National League offense. You’re playing a team that won 83 games the whole year. We’re talking a team with a worse regular season than the ’87 Twins just waltzing in and scampering off with the pennant. All this, riding the crucial moment with a semi-closer named… Gomer Pyle? Oh yeah, Adam Wainwright. That’s right.
In a hundred years, Adam Wainwright might be a blip on a timeline and a profile on baseballreference.com. Tonight, he is the front page of ESPN.com.
Beltran chops at an inside pitch in a defensive movement. This smells bad. A New Yorker with a huge contract stinking up the big moment, overshadowing all the years with a .300, 30 HR, 100 RBI line… sound familiar? Maybe a bit like a shortstop on the Yankees. If only I could put my finger (Alex) on his name (Rodriguez).
Regardless, Beltran chopped the second ball into the dirt for strike two. The Mets fans look to the sky, hoping for the hand of a deity to bless Shea Stadium. It was all for naught.
Beltran watches it in slow motion. The curve breaks perfectly on the outside corner, belt high and far different from the fastball down the middle and the heater up and in that preceded in the two pitches before. It cracks the edge of the plate and the ump harrumphs, signaling the rock from rock-paper-scissors in the wicked fashion of a ringing bell.
Be careful what you wish for: you may get it. A cocaine habit and propensity for psychotic violence weren’t enough damage to be done to the Mets. Fate answered our prayers and punished them in the three-fold fashion of crucial karma. The New York Mets have received their stomach punch twenty years later.
Too bad that in the meantime the Mets slipped from a direct rival to a side project like the Milwaukee Brewers or the Cincinnati Reds. It would have felt good to watch them die out like this, but it had to be at the hand of our own worst enemy.
I’m not saying you should kiss a Mets fan, but never dwell on the past because it always comes back and it’s never the way you wanted. Often, the fangs are sharper and the plot even more sinister in the revival.
Wait ‘til next year. The Astros, the Mets and the Cardinals will all be 0-0 again and spring will pick us back up with the sounds of new bats and the sight of new WBC faces.
Go Tigers, and enjoy your off season.