I had business north of the city Thursday afternoon. By the time it wrapped up, the Mets and Padres were already in the fourth, the inning when Beltran walked, stole second and, thanks to Robert Fick forgetting to lower his shades on a foul pop into the Petco sun, got driven in by Cliff Floyd. It made for good listening as I wound my way to the Metro-North station and then, once on a 4:51, back to Grand Central.
We were in the tunnel for the final leg of the train trip when I heard David Ross send a liner sinking into shallow right-center. Howie said of Beltran and Cameron “they dive” and “they collide” — verse as play-by-play — and that the ball wasn't caught. I could tell by his the tone of his voice that it was a lot worse than that but by then we were so deep into the tunnel that I lost WFAN. Obviously whatever the aftermath of the interaction was, it wasn't good.
Usually I would shuttle from Grand Central to Times Square and then go one stop to Penn, but given that I was left hanging by lack of reception, I opted to trot outside and determine just what had happened to our guys. Maybe I'd get an update and then head back down to the subway. The first thing I heard when I tuned back in was, “Our prayers go out to Mike Cameron.”
With that, I decided to walk through the humidity. Five blocks west, eight blocks south — not a big deal but it felt vital. It felt like I needed to be there with my team, with my centerfielder, with my rightfielder. They weren't going to magically heal just because my ears were directed their way, yet I had to be with them somehow.
After 9/11, I remember berating myself for the manner in which I took Mets' injuries so seriously and didn't worry nearly as much about the health of the people I'm related to by blood. I had the feeling after that week that I would never take baseball so life-and-death again. You know how that went and I think we'd both agree that to some extent that it's better to live a little for what we love. Still, I don't know what to make of my reaction today. Our announcers described it in such chilling terms, as the worst collision they ever saw, and that would have to include Mookie-Lenny, Blocker-Heep, Theodore-Hahn. Those were bad. This was worse?
As I walked to Penn Station, I couldn't decide if the game mattered anymore. Not in the ur-sense that I pondered in September 2001 but this game in particular. How could I even think of something as Philistine as a win when two human beings were hurt, potentially very hurt? On the other hand, they got hurt trying to attain victory. That's what they do. And I was worried about them, all humanitarian impulses aside, because they were trying to attain victory. That's what I do.
Joe Randa did what Joe Randa does and put his team ahead of my team. Damn, I guess. Padres 2 Mets 1. This wasn't healing our fallen fielders either, so why not win? Yeah, why not? When the Mets came to bat in the top of the eighth and Reyes led off with a four-pitch walk, I sensed something might happen, something just.
What do I mean just? It wasn't a beanball or a brawl that took out two-thirds of our outfield. It was just a watermain of happenstance tapped into by the hustle & flow of the game, and when it broke, it was freakishly bad luck that gushed forth. Two millionaires racing hellbent for one ball…funny, if both of them had pulled up and the ball fell in, chances are we'd be poking the offending parties with a stick, branding them nonchalant so-and-so's who don't respect the sport that made them wealthy. But if they'd done that, Ross would've been held to a single and Beltran and Cameron would be in the lineup in Los Angeles. Discretion, the better part of valor and a pair of healthy flycatchers are all the rewards of 20/20 hindsight.
Reyes stole second. Offerman struck out. Then Floyd stepped up. Would he also Step Up? Of course. He's Floyd. The Man. The Last Outfielder Standing. Cliff Floyd, who spoke truth to power almost a year ago when he said, quite correctly, that there was no light at the end of the tunnel; Cliff Floyd, who this year has been lighting candles and preventing darkness. Surely Cliff would do something just.
Instead he gets hit by that pitcher with the weird transfer between his glove and his hand…Otsuka, that's him. I've had it in for him since last year (I have it in for all pitchers I've never heard of who baffle us; I have it in for a lot of pitchers). And who's the home plate ump? Our old pal Eric Cooper, he of the antennae so sensitive he could pick up an AM broadcast in Grand Central Station. Hence, the whole thing has descended from morality play to farce. I keep walking but there's not a damn thing I can do for them. Cliff drags himself to first and gives way to David Wright who, until the seventh, had been in on the most memorable defensive episode of this series. Surely, David will wreak revenge on…the Padres? The fates? I didn't know who to blame.
Wright rapped into a 6-4-3 double play. Nobody came through. The Mets were done for the eighth, the game and, though it can't be told for certain, their longshot playoff chances suddenly sounded more shot than long. I didn't get a final until I was on the 6:10 out of Penn. Word was Beltran didn't remember what happened though he was deemed generally OK. Cameron was less so but the damage wasn't as horrible as it looked like it might be.
A pretty decent substitute for victory, no?