Never mind the duel that never quite developed or that Dontrelle Willis pitched splendidly, batted seventh and probably dragged the infield or that we lost. Thursday night wasn't about that.
This is what it was about.
Carlos Beltran comes to bat in the bottom of the fourth with one out and the score tied. The boos commence. Negative reaction outweighs positive. But it's not overwhelming.
Except from our Six-Pack section where I can't help but notice that about eight seats to our right and a row down, one guy is absolutely giving it to Beltran. He's yelling as loud as he can that Beltran has done every vile thing imaginable save for abandoning the residents of the Gulf Coast. I don't remember all the specifics, but the content of the message boiled down to Carlos, I am disappointed in not just your performance but in you as a human being.
He's entitled to his opinion. It's not an uncommon one. The substance behind it is well-known and damning to the object of his derision. There's little doubt that Carlos Beltran's first Mets season hasn't been what we dreamed or even reasonably expected. We've been through the possible reasons (quad, cheek, pressing, New York, miscast), but the sad truth is that Carlos Beltran has not been a tremendous or even much-above-average player in 2005. So it is not out of the realm to have developed an anti-Beltran bias as this man did. He's entitled to express the frustration that he feels as a result.
That also means I can express my frustration with idiot Mets fans like him who rip into individual Mets whom 1) I remain fond of despite their bouts with futility; 2) I want to see succeed; 3) I don't think are bad people. Whatever Carlos Beltran's flaws, I don't see a vile character as one of them. Yet this guy was tearing a new one on a player who has, in baseball terms, a perfectly serviceable one.
So it went something like this:
HIM: BELTRAN, YOU SUCK!
ME (unusually emboldened, reasonably relaxed and not one ounce of alcohol in my system): YEAH! YOU TELL HIM!
HIM (looking over toward me and tentatively nodding, a little startled that somebody seems to have picked up his cause): YOU SUCK, BELTRAN!
ME: THAT'S IT! KEEP GIVING IT TO HIM! YEAH!
HIM (less certain): BOO!
ME (with Laurie chiming in): YEAH, YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT! TELL HIM HOW MUCH HE SUCKS! GO AHEAD!
HIM (now defensive, yelling toward me as our rows watch in amusement): COME ON! HE RUINED OUR SEASON!
US (knowing a good opening when we see it): RUINED OUR SEASON? CARLOS BELTRAN BY HIMSELF RUINED OUR SEASON? IT'S ALL HIS FAULT? HOW DID CARLOS BELTRAN AND ONLY CARLOS BELTRAN RUIN OUR SEASON?
HIM (fumbling and wondering when heckling became a two-front proposition): I COULD DO BETTER THAN HIM!
There's two things you need to know:
1) Even allowing for the requisite hyperbole of the ballpark setting, few things offend me as much as illogical statements made by a person who actually believes them.
2) As baseball does require some degree of youth and physical acumen, I felt confident, after a cursory glance, that this man could not outdo Carlos Beltran at any aspect of the sport, even on the day Carlos Beltran lay dazed, bruised and confused in the San Diego sun following his full-speed dive to make a catch for the team this man nominally supports.
ME: OH! YOU COULD DO BETTER THAN CARLOS BELTRAN? YOU COULD? REALLY?
ME: YOU COULD DRIVE IN 71 RUNS?
The onlookers laughed. His buddy laughed. Everybody laughed.
HIM: UH, I'LL TELL YOU THIS MUCH…I COULD DO IT FOR $18 MILLION LESS!
At this point, a few booed him and told him to sit down. I didn't feel it necessary to point out that him doing it for $18 million less would leave him paying the Mets $1 million this year.
As Laurie and I congratulated ourselves on — in Game 77 of the home schedule and Game 6 of the Six-Pack — finally shutting up somebody who annoyed us quite a lot, we expressed the same thought to one another:
Don't make an out, Carlos. Do something here.
Carlos Beltran, he of the $17 million annual salary and the 71 RBIs, shot a base hit to left. Laurie and I jumped to our feet and clapped and cheered. The guy who could do it better put his head in his hands. His buddy patted him on the back. A couple of people pointed at him and laughed some more.
Beltran got another hit in the sixth. Our pal looked kind of sick about the whole thing. When Piazza came up to pinch-hit with two on and two out in the seventh, the guy was among many who stood and applauded.
“Seven years ago,” I told Laurie, “you know he was one of the ones telling Piazza how much he sucked.”