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Bad Lieutenant, Great Subplot

Posted By Greg Prince On February 21, 2005 @ 8:06 pm In Main Page | Comments Disabled

“Ah, memories, memories … and here we go again, back on the same old trip: digressions, tangents, crude flashbacks…”

Have you ever seen “The Bad Lieutenant”? It’s not about Matt Galante, but rather a corrupt in every sense of the world NYPD detective played by Harvey Keitel. Several years ago, Fred Bunz recommended it to me at least partly for its Mets subplot. Stephanie and I finally got around to watching it Saturday night. Since the movie came out in 1992, I don’t mind providing spoilers.

The bad lieutenant has a whole lot of money riding on a Mets-Dodgers NLCS. He’s bet on the Dodgers, and L.A., led by Darryl Strawberry putting up monstrous numbers, is ahead three games to none. As we are reminded throughout the picture, no team has ever come back from 0-3 to win a playoff series.

As the bad lieutenant commits atrocities and indulges vices, the Mets, managed by Jeff Torborg (so you know it’s fiction) creep back. David Cone shuts down the Dodgers in Game 4 at Shea. Franco closes them out in Game 5. Back at Chavez Ravine, El Sid gets Darryl on a check-swing strikeout to end Game 6. Now the series is tied at three. The lieutenant is being pressured by the mob to pay up. Gooden will face Hershiser for the pennant.

In Game 7, the Mets go nuts. Bonilla drives in two to make it 5-0. HoJo blasts a three-run shot to put it out of reach. And, in a Spanish Harlem crack den where the bad lieutenant finds himself, a TV reveals the ninth inning. Bob Murphy’s play-by-play informs us Cone is on in relief to get the final three outs to complete “the most amazing comeback in playoff history” and that “in the clutch, the Mets pitchers just could not be denied.”

I’m guessing Murph wasn’t told what kind of movie he was contributing his voice to, but gosh it was good to hear it again.

Beyond that, here’s something that’s less trivia than an accumulation of facts in search of a purpose: The final out of Game 7 in “The Bad Lieutenant” came when Coney struck out Lenny Harris. Last September, for reasons I no longer recall, I compiled a list of every former Met who went on to face the Mets in post-season; every future Met who had previously faced the Mets in post-season; and every player who had been a Met, faced the Mets in post-season, returned to the Mets and during one of his tours of Met duty played in post-season. That last group consisted of two players: Lenny Harris (’98 Met, ’99 D-Back, ’00 Met) and David Cone (’88 Met, ’00 Yankee, ’03 Met).

Brutal rape, bloody murder, rampant drug use, horrible graphic violence and unspeakably degrading behavior also seemed to take place in “The Bad Lieutenant,” making it kind of hard to watch. Add four stars if you’re a Mets fan.

“When the ’72 presidential campaign ended I planned to give up this kind of thing…”

It was Victor Zambrano’s turn to be The Story on Saturday, at least in each local sportscast I watched. He’s healthy and rarin’ to go, of course. Victor told the pool reporter what a thrill it is to be on the same pitching staff with great pitchers like Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine. Except he pronounced Glavine “Gluh-vyne” to rhyme with divine. (Gla-veen as in Chavez Ra-veen I wouldn’t have even noticed.)

His awareness of his more-famous teammates to the side, I’m counting on Zambrano making everybody forget a little about Scott Kazmir. I know I’m in the minority on this one, but I liked that trade. Well, I didn’t hate that trade as much as you and everybody else in Metsdom did is a more accurate way to frame it. Going back to the sun-drenched Saturday we met at Gate D for the first time to watch Bill Pulsipher make his maiden voyage, counting on some young pitching stud to turn our lives around has been a staple of conversation. Inevitably, so was the disappointment that followed. It’s been the case for just about every homegrown Met pitching prospect not named Gooden since, I don’t know, Hank Webb.

The trade of Kazmir, as ill-timed as it was and as badly explained as it was and as questionable in talent returned as it was, was a weight off my shoulders. Kazmir’s great career to be was more burden than hope. We haven’t scouted, signed and developed a single pitching prospect who grew into a legitimate Major League starter for us since Bobby Jones, and none who grew into a true ace since Doc. It was all we could do to squeeze a decent first half out of Jae Seo a couple of years ago, and he was the first one since Gen-K went belly-up to do anything at all as a Met.

It doesn’t follow logic to say get rid of all future pitching prospects because most past pitching prospects imploded, but that’s really all I saw in my half-empty crystal ball for Scott Kazmir here and I simply didn’t want to go through that again. Zambrano I kind of liked from afar when he was a Devil Ray. I managed to witness his solitary home start last August, which was dazzling. Plus, we got Fortunato in the deal. Do you have a category for guy who did really well in his shot last year but doesn’t seem to get mentioned at all this spring? That Bartolome. (Add Keppinger to that list, too.)

The Times wrote up Yusmeiro Petit Sunday as the next very big thing to come out of the Met pitching factory. So if we need a prospect to breathe heavily over, whoomp, there he is.

“But what the hell? Why not? It’s almost dawn in San Francisco now, the parking lot outside this building is flooded about three inches deep with another drenching rain and I’ve been here all night.”

Conventional wisdom is as corrosive to baseball coverage as it is to politics. I pried my ears open early Saturday to listen to the generally uninformative, ragingly innocuous Eddie Coleman file a report from camp. He and the inane Richard Neer agreed Cliff Floyd is way too candid for his own good. So that means when you’ve got a player willing to break the mold and not spout A-Roddish clichés (and didn’t he appear quite the dandy as he was gaggled on the red carpet in Tampa?), you, the media representative, are openly warning your subject to cease being such a good interview and stop giving the fans a little more insight than they’re used to.

This, by the way, is the exact quote that Cliff Floyd, took so much grief for last August as the Mets were in the midst of losing 16 out of 17, leading to the dismissal of Howe and the restoration of Minaya:

“Things aren’t looking bright. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Quiet down Cliff. Get with the program. Shave that stubble. Don’t say anything so obvious to be construed as truthful.

Faith and Fear is one thing, but Fear and Loathing is, unfortunately, not far from my thoughts this Presidents Day.

“This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it ­ that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen.”

Good night, Dr. Thompson. How you ever made it to 67 we’ll never know.


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