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Time Flies, Timelessness Endures

Saw a dude at Shea yesterday sport a plain white t-shirt on whose front was drawn a clock. On the back, he or somebody assisting him scrawled LIMA TIME!

I wonder at what point in the afternoon he decided he’d ruined a perfectly good undergarment.

That Lima’s a pistol, all right. His right arm may never genuinely emerge from quadruple-A purgatory, but he can put on the trappings of a show. From the dye job to his hugging a fan in the stands who wore one of his old Dodger jerseys (before he took his warmups; I thought you weren’t allowed to talk to a starting pitcher for 24 hours before he goes to work) to inserting himself between Lo Duca the catcher and Lo Moron the umpire, he was everywhere…except in Angel Hernandez’s version of the strike zone.

We’ll probably see Jose Lima again in a few days despite and not because of how he pitched Sunday. He wasn’t any good but he wasn’t that bad. That’s enough to earn you a second look from the first-place Mets these days. Because they are the first-place Mets, I can’t get too mussed up about him or Jeremi Gonzalez or Dicky Gonazlez or Dicky Selma. Ask me again after three games in Philadelphia.

Watching Lo Duca’s Coneheaded blunder unfold from the mezzanine, it didn’t take three seconds to realize it was David Vu all over again. He got a huge hand after his ejection, proving that the fans love a hollaback guy more than grace under pressure. I weakly applauded his piss if not his vinegar since it struck me that Paul Lo Duca did nothing right after his tag went unrecorded by Hernandez (Howie Rose suggested we were paying for the bad call we liked on Opening Day). Arguing without paying attention to the runner — even if it is to argue with the worst umpire in the history of the world — and making contact with an umpire — even if it is the worst umpire in the history of the world — is stupid times stupid. Bad beloved backstop! Bad!

But Angel Hernandez is the worst umpire in the history of the world. The story that came out afterwards about him deciding in advance that the Lima Time Zone does not extend as far east or west of the plate as Eastern Daylight Smoltz is more proof, as if we needed any, that his next assignment should be in the California Penal League.

That said, his actions weren’t unprecedented. Yes, as much as you go to a game and you see something you haven’t seen before (except for me seeing yet another Mets loss in 2006), Hernandez’s declaration that prior success is rewarded at the expense of a less celebrated opponent is nothing new. And it isn’t always the Angel of Awful’s doing.

Continuing to slog through John Feinstein’s Play Ball, his as-it-happened tour of the 1992 season, I came upon this anecdote this morning from then-Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove:

…[E]arly in the season…I had umpires telling me we were no good or we had no right to yell about calls… Heck, I remember when I played here and [former umpire] Bill Deegan called me out on strikes one night on a pitch that wasn’t even close. I said to him, “Bill that’s not a strike.” He followed me back to the dugout and said, ‘So what if it wasn’t a strike? You guys are playing over your heads, anyway.

One chapter after revealing that umpires can be presumptuous and unprofessional, Feinstein reported, no kidding, that Braves fans take regular-season success for granted and that Barry Bonds is a total jerk.

Baseball’s timelessness can really be overrated.