Now that Super Joe is officially gone, I feel bad. I
know it was the best thing: For all his intensity and hard work, for
all the joy and hustle he brought to playing baseball, it's been years
since he did enough between the white lines to justify a roster
spot. In the Times today
he describes himself as a little New Yorker even though he's from
Philly, and that's sweet, but it doesn't translate to numbers, even though right now I wish
I have no doubt Joshua will come home from college one day and we'll
discuss how Super Joe has taken the managerial reins in Philly or
Detroit or even here, and we'll note that gosh, he's been in uniform Joshua's
entire life, and I'll say nice things about him and how he owned the
Unit and all the rest. But in 2005, come that day game after a night
game, or the sixth-inning pinch-hitting appearance, I'll take Woodward
or Cairo. Baseball's pitiless that way. We must be pitiless too.
From the Grasping at Straws Department: Matt Ginter had 10 no-decisions last year for a terrible
baseball team. Unlike Aaron Heilman, he isn't afraid of his own stuff.
Unlike Jae Seo, he's coachable. He demonstrates bowhunting in the
clubhouse (nothing could go wrong there, nope) and plays a mean banjo.
I will not throw in the towel just yet, rude fortune cookies be damned.
As the Human Fight noted, it's not like Trachsel's Bob Gibson. And,
hey, if Ginter does flame out, at least the losses will go by a helluva
On to the 70s. Between Saberhagen, Bobby Bo, Cedeno and Jefferies,
that's a whole lot of problems big (playing cards during Armageddon,
lacking a cerebellum) and small (throwing bleach, not liking Roger
McDowell). This part of the All-Time Clubhouse seems reserved for
Players With Issues.
I was in the stands at the Vet for Bret Saberhagen's
last start in '94. He was masterful, throttling the Phils on a night
when the attention of players and fans alike were focused on The
Strike. I'd paid up for scalped field-level seats, thinking hopefully
that I'd feel like a fool for wasting my money once labor peace was
reached. The next night the Mets lost in 15. They didn't play again in
I drove up to the Vet several times while I lived in D.C., even
dropping all my plans and getting in the car so I could see Bobby
Jones' debut in August 1993. I wound up sitting in the upper deck with
my back practically against that gigantic Diamondvision they had. It
made these large, vaguely frightening noises all game and you could
feel the amount of heat on your neck change (from, say, oppressive to
unbearable) when things were happening onscreen. Jones pitched OK even
as various Mets wandered around behind him colliding and flailing at
balls, somehow getting the win thanks to a two-homer night from Tim
Bogar. Bogie's second home run was an inside-the-parker: He broke his
hand sliding into the plate and was never the same player again. In
fact, after that he was Joe McEwing.
Gregg Jefferies was my favorite
player in college, something I defiantly proclaimed to the world and
that prompted the Human Fight to declare scornfully that “you only like
Jefferies because he's the Met most like you.” In 1989 I was quite
proud of that, since plenty of reasonable people regarded Jefferies as
a brash, talented prodigy. By the time we left college Jefferies had
curdled into a one-dimensional sociopath; soon after that he became a
resident of Kansas City. Not wanting to be any of those things, I
thought about him as little as possible by then.
Terry Leach makes me feel
guilty. He wrote a book, and I even read about five pages of it at
Chronicle one afternoon, but I didn't buy it. I sometimes feel like
this puts my fandom in question, since I have a
not-quite-Greglike-but-still-impressive collection of Met tomes. (I
refuse to read the Golenbock abortion and that irritating 70s book that
was all in lowercase, but that's about it.) I also worry that Terry
could use the money, unless he made some really wise investments back
in the day. I'm a bad fan.
Whatever happened to Kelvin Chapman, anyway? It's not easy to vanish
from the face of the earth a season removed from hitting .289 in nearly
200 at-bats, but he managed it. Did he become a monk? Get kidnapped by
aliens? Tire of jokes about temperature and Keats? I've always wondered.
By the way, Topps is revving up the PR machine for its 2005 Fan Favorites set
– a neat set featuring old Topps card designs with never-before-seen
photographs of players of that era. The 140-card set contains 19 Mets,
which is startling even before you register that one of them is Barry
Lyons. Barry Lyons?