I hold no brief for Art Howe. Art Howe was the worst thing to happen to the Mets' manager's office since Jeff Torborg ordered new carpeting. Art Howe dimmed a room. Art Howe looked lost and did nothing in his actions to dispel that impression.
But I've always admired Art Howe for one thing:
He didn't intentionally Barry Bonds when he didn't have to.
Perhaps the greatest game of Howe's Mets tenure (you can eliminate about 318 from consideration right away) took place in APacSBellBCT&T Park on August 21, 2004. If you remember it, you'll remember it primarily for Todd Zeile lifting a fly ball into the rightfield sun and Dustin Mohr not seeing it. It led to the Mets' tenth and eleventh runs and, at last, a twelve-inning 11-9 win over the Giants.
But you should remember it tonight for what Barry Bonds did in that game.
6 Plate Appearances
2 Bases On Balls
1 Run Batted In
NO INTENTIONAL WALKS! Of course Bonds took the measure of the opposing pitchers, but Art Howe did not give in. He let Tom Glavine, Ricky Bottalico, Mike DeJean and Braden Looper give him their best shot. They both failed miserably (he was on base six times in six chances) and succeeded brilliantly (he did not dial long distance even once at a park named for three phone companies in seven years). It was exhilarating to watch Bonds be Bonds and Bonds be stopped to within an inch of the Mets' life.
Art Howe could have found a spot to issue him a free pass. Goodness knows Willie Randolph did Monday night. Twice.
And how did that work out?
The Mets won on August 21, 2004. The Mets lost on April 24, 2006, mostly at the hand of the man who followed Bonds in the Giants' order.
This round goes to Art Howe. It may be the only one he gets, but he deserves plaudits if by nothing else but very recent comparison.