- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Perception vs. Reality

To the rest of the world, Endy Chavez and Jose Hernandez are two unremarkable to flawed players. To me, they are behemoths. They have loomed over the past decade's Met fortunes like Shea ushers loom over the entrance to Field Level. They have gotten in the way of a perfectly good time on more occasions than I wish to remember and have added nothing positive to the Mets experience.

That's been my perception anyway. Reality seems to be catching up.

First, Chavez. Was I not the only Metsopotamian doing handstands [1] when we signed him? That's not an Itol'yaso. It's more a matter of wondering why everybody didn't walk around haunted as I was by Endy Chavez's brilliance as a Montreal Expo at least as it pertained to his at-bats against us. During Mets games, Chavez was a .364 hitter in his Canadian guest worker days. After we got him, I figured that would eventually work to our advantage. Never even took into account that he brings defense and speed to the park (nor did I worry that Frank Robinson couldn't get rid of him fast enough — Frank Robinson looks like he'd play with a four-man roster if he could).

Now Endy, after a slow start that had the lumpenmetseteriat lumpin' him in with the J. Valentins and the J. Julios, has us all J. Umpin' for J. Oy. His catch last night must have been the fifth pretty great one he's made this year (and the fifteenth for the outfield as a whole). His running has been something this bench has lacked since, I don't know, Leon “Motor” Brown was in fine fettle, and now he's hitting for us like he batted against us. The Endy Chavez of my perception has caught up to the Endy Chavez of our reality.

So, alas, has the Jose Hernandez that I remember. Did I say he was unremarkable? The dude struck out 373 times in a two-year span, so I guess that would make him extraordinary, but not good. Yet I've been certain that Jose Hernandez is the Death Star. He is Derek Jeter without the commercial presence. He is John Rocker without having said a bad word about our public transportation. He is bad news for Mets fans.

Isn't he?

I got around to looking up his stats lifetime against the Mets. He must be batting .500, .600, maybe .700, I figured. Y'know what his lifetime average is versus New York (N)?

After last night, it's .243 with 10 home runs and 28 runs batted in in 214 at-bats. In the imaginary full season, those are very decent power numbers for a shortstop, but not the Garciaparran-in-his-prime explosion I imagined. And he doesn't even get on base against us in three out of every ten attempts.

So why did I totally expect him to be the trouble he was in the middle of that horrible ninth-inning rally last night? Because I have a fan's selective memory.

This is what I remember about Jose Hernandez:

• That he collected three hits and blasted a how-dare-you? home run against us as a Cub on July 25, 1998 [2] in a huge Wild Card implications game. We lost 3-2 and we finished that season one game behind the Cubs and Giants for a playoff spot. I've blamed a lot of people for that shortfall, and Jose Hernandez is in the Top 10.

• That in the Greatest Game Ever Played [3], he came off the bench and calmly delivered a two-run single with two out to double our archnemeses' lead over us, stanch our momentum just enough to make our night's, year's and life's task a tad too daunting and, though we wouldn't know if for five more innings, wreck what should have been our historic “first team in the history of baseball to overcome a three-game deficit in the postseason” status. Jose Hernandez was an Atlanta Brave for 56 games. One of them had to be Game Six, didn't it?

• Last night and how he undid Pedro Martinez's W, unhinged Billy Wagner's invincibility and unearthed two of the worst memories I have in Mets rooting (three, counting the obvious analogy to that Friday night in Pittsburgh last July). That all's well ended well doesn't absolve him the least little bit.

I imagine the guy has done other nasty things [4] against us given all the years he's been around and all the teams he's been on, but these are plenty. I don't need to know of any more. Sometimes perception is close enough to reality. The reality is Jose Hernandez is one of the worst Metkillers (therefore one of the worst people) who has ever lived. He's worse than Endy Chavez ever was because Endy Chavez is making up for his crimes against humanity practically every night.

As long as we're resuscitating Jose Valentin [5] and regurgitating Jose Offerman [6] (again! [7]), we couldn't grab Jose Hernandez from the Pirates and stick him somewhere where he couldn't have hurt us? He may only hit .243 against us, but it's the most haunting .243 I've ever seen.

Or perceived.