(GRAND) SLAMMIN IN CINCY
No, the last part obviously didn't occur, and I'm not moonlighting as a meteorologist (the guys we used to call Weathermen). I'm just explaining, in advance, that my power's been out since about 20 minutes after last night's game ended (whew!), and I couldn't make or buy any coffee in my neighborhood this morning. I'm working through the first cup at the office as I write this.
I'm not a happy man right now.
But . . . I was happy last night for 20 minutes after the game ended. After missing the first 5 innings due to a combination of subway-related nightmares on my way home (see: NY Heat Wave + Thunderstorms, as discussed above), I caught four innings worth of what I love: Met win; Gary & Keith in the booth. Yeeessssss.
So, in light of the sleep in my eye, not to mention the lingering hangover you all must feel from my War & Peace-length posts last week (not sure whether hitting was war and pitching was peace, or vice versa. 'Cause when you think about it . . . oh wait, you're still here. Never mind), I present a brief -- but densely-packed with fun & frivolity -- Random Thoughts. Let's get to it, shall we?
Carlos! Beltran! (Yes, he's earned the exclamation points): Like the cold-blooded cyborg he is, The Beltranator continues to demolish all that lies before him. That wasn't a dig at the miles of empty space that lies before him as he plays center field from the warning track; I like his fielding. That grand slam last night was, dare I say it, a freakin bomb! Wow.
By the way, the games he missed matter, so I'm not trying to turn his season into something bigger than it is. But, for the perspective's sake, I'd like to note that in 82 games he's played, The Beltranator has hit 27 HRs and driven in 78 runs. That's a pace for a 50+ HR, 150+ RBI season without injury. Oh, did I mention the 71 runs scored, and 20 2Bs?
And . . . he's hit grand slams in 2 straight games, driving in 9 in the process. And what did the Met's favorite cyborg say about that feat? "That's baseball. Some days you feel good, some days you feel not so good." Uh, thanks, Carlos. I think we can safely say he's not letting himself get too giddy about it. Unlike . . .
David "The Greatest Star in Baseball History" Wright: What's he doing?! No extra base hits since the all-star break? One RBI? I hope he enjoyed his biiiiig weekend in Pittsburg, because the honeymoon's over in NY, big guy. That's it, he's not my favorite Met any more. And even though Rapido scored twice last night, I'm still pissed that he missed those games after stoo-pidly sliding into first. That's it, Beltran's my favorite Met now.
Until The Prince of New York goes yard. Then he may earn his way back into my good graces. But the pressure's on him now. Remember, folks, Young Mr. Wright does not want to piss me off. Remember that.
The Braves: Yeah, I don't even wanna think about it. Yeah, I know you don't wanna think about it either. But we're all thinking about it. Damn.
Power of positive thinking, guys. Positive! It's not like they've won more divisional titles in a row than any team in the history of the world or anything. C'mon, they're waaaaay back. I've never heard of the years 1951, 1978 or 1995. Never existed. The calendar just skipped over them. I don't even know what you're talking about.
The What Was Willie Thinking Moment: It's been a while since we've had the pleasure of a W3TM, but that's how it goes when you win and lose every game by blowout for a month straight. But last night in the Reds' 7th . . . well, Willie showed us why we're all worried about the Braves even though the Mets are up by 11 1/2 games.
Following Beltran's moonshot, the Mets had a 5 run lead. The Domestic Partners known as Chad-Brad came in and got two quick outs, while giving up a single (following LoDuca's dropped foul pop). After throwing only 12 pitches, Bradford handed the ball to Willie, who passed it on to The Other Pedro.
Yes, that's correct: 12 pitches, 5 run lead, overworked reliever Duaner Sanchez & bad reliever Aaron Heilman in the pen. Dunn & Griffey due up, so maybe going to the lefty was a good idea, right?
Wrong. Dunn is hitting 310/436/664 vs lefties this season, and 221/348/514 against righties (Griffey is slightly better versus righties, but the difference is negligible). Now I'll admit that Chad-Brad is better against righties, as is Feliciano versus lefties. But the differences are not of historic proportions, and most importantly, the Mets had a five run lead. The key, for Willie in that spot, was to finish the game without taxing his overworked bullpen. And, as usual, he failed to achieve that simple goal.
The result? Feliciano got two outs, giving up yet another inherited run (including a hit against Dunn!), and Sanchez had to warm up and throw 13 pitches. Not a lot, I'll admit, but 13 more than the Mets wanted him to toss.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the cumulative effect of Willie's little screw-ups will influence the stretch run and the post-season. The Mets' talent may very well render those effects moot. But it's one additional hurdle they don't need. Anyway . . .
Keith, The Eternal Captaincy, and the Never-ending 'Keith Obsession Watch': As any of you that read me regularly know, the only obsession in play here is the one I have about Hernandez and his broadcast booth stylings. I don't know why, but he's a source of endless amusement to me. I root for blowouts every time he's on. Not so much to avoid late-inning stress, but because as soon as a game gets out of hand, there's just no knowing what Keith'll let out of the bag. Last night was no exception. Let's review:
1. After Chris Cotter's nightly visit, dealing this time with the all important topic of chili dogs, Keith asked Gary how Cotter "keeps the weight off" with all that he eats. And I thought he was vainly concerned only with his permanently black hair, and the fancy 'stache. I'm quite certain Keith spends more time in front of the mirror than my wife does. No women in the dugout, but men permitted in front of the mirror in the ladies' room.
And that's before he even steps into a stall with one of the "powder room denizens."
2. Keith loves "the game LoDuca calls." This hasn't quite reached obsession status, but let's put it this way: unless he covers two or three straight games (a) with Ramon "My Head Is Even Larger Than Keith's" Castro behind the dish, (b) featuring excellent pitching, an (c) fine pitch selection, then this will be an obsession by August.
I'm feeling it, what can I tell you?
3. Commenting on the phenomenon known as "no matter what a manager does, the players have to execute," Keith launched into a riff that may qualify some day for the Ralph Kiner broadcasting hall of fame (remember Ralphie's "so on this Father's Day, we'd like to wish you all a Happy Birthday!"). First, he noted that without proper execution, a "good move" can end up looking like "the wrong move." Not elegantly-worded, but so far, so good.
Then, as a counter example, the Eternal Captain explained that with good execution on the player's part, a bad move can "come out smelling like a rose." Technically, I'm not sure the "correct" execution of a "bad" managerial decision results in anything but disaster, but I'm still following him here.
And then, with that patented formula of breezy confidence only Keith Hernandez brings, he declared, "So like I always say, 'Two wrongs don't make a right.'" Hey, I'm only relaying the facts, don't ask me.
4. Accoring to Keith, California's state flag is "the best" in the country. I'm not sure what to do with that information either.
5. And finally . . . a wrinkle in the fabric of the Obsession Watch. This one could be troublesome. As many of you may recall, only two official obsessions exist: level swings & tumbling pitches. But, you also may remember that "Right down Broadway," as the description of a fat pitch, is right at the end of the bench, waiting only for the manager to beckon, and it would enter the game once and for all.
And last night? A change-up ("tumbling," I'm sure). Three times in the last four innings, Keith observed pitches that were "right down the pipe." And yes, you're reading that correctly, he said "pipe," not "pike."
Not to be overly pedantic or anything (me?), but the correct use of the cliche is "right down the pike," as in "turnpike," which is consistent with Keith's use of "Broadway" in the fat pitch-down-the-heart-of-a major-thoroughfare sense. "Right down the pipe" sounds like something parents says to the toddler they're feeding. Anyway, a quick Google search shows that lots of baseball folks make the same error, so I'll assume Keith just pulled his shoulder out too soon, and give him a pass on this one.
But if I hear him say "tow the line" instead of "toe the line," then we've got a problem. Of course, unless he spells out the phrase, how'll I ever kno -- Oh, you're still here? So . . .
For those of you scoring at home (score it 6-to-4-to-3!), only one of the three "pitches down the pipe" was met by a "level swing": Rich Aurilia's single in the 7th. Beltran's grand slam, as well as his 9th inning double, came off pitches "right down the pipe," but apparently utilized an uppercut, and not a "level swing."
The Keith Obsession Watch Raised to High Alert.