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

Bad Albert

Hope nobody's on when he hits one.

That, famously, was the scouting report for how to pitch to Hank Aaron, a.k.a. Bad Henry when the Mets were plotting a course past the terrifying Atlanta Braves in this newfangled thing called a League Championship Series. Now, a couple of generations later, we have Bad Albert — Jose Albert Pujols, the Ted Williams of our times. The man has 200+ home runs. The lowest batting average he's recorded as a big leaguer? .314. The fewest RBIs he's amassed in a season? 117. And he's 26 years old!

This is the terrible thing: that this curdled baseball age has us all looking askance at Pujols, wondering if that talent and power and consistency comes out of a syringe. This is what Mark and Sammy and Jason and Barry and all the guys whose names we'll never know have done to the game — they've made us look for something wrong with Pujols, who's never been connected to any shady business as far as I've heard, instead of just being in awe of his accomplishments. Doubt and cynicism are the new starting points for watching the game we love, and it will be years before it's otherwise.

Fortunately, there's a good thing, however small and temporary: Tonight Bad Albert was mortal. A bit fumbly, if anything, down to his pratfall on the rain-slicked surface of New Busch. A swinging bunt, a gorgeous dissection by Glavine after a 3-0 count, a groundout, a flyout and he even made a throwing error along the way. It's a measure of respect that this kind of washout by a player of Pujols' caliber leaves you a bit nervous: Might it have been better to see him hit a 500-foot solo shot than have him regress to the mean by pounding the tar out of us Wednesday or Thursday? You don't think that kind of thing after, say, Brady Clark goes 0-for-4. (Note I picked a player from a team we don't play again. I'm not a complete idiot.)

Still, no reason not to enjoy tonight in worrying about tomorrow. Floyd showed signs of luck and life, Lo Duca was his usual amusingly volatile self (anybody else want a game without a disagreement with an ump?), Glavine was good enough and Wright got his hits and made a gorgeous bare-handed play.

The rain delay felt inevitable — is there anywhere in North America that isn't sporting a good coat of mold right now? — and I had to go check on the rule for suspended games, for fear we'd somehow get screwed the way we did last week. (Rule 16.A.3 states that if a team takes the lead in the top of the inning but cannot complete the bottom of the inning, the results of that inning are discarded and the team that took the lead is docked an additional run for being presumptuous. Sorry Mets!) Sure, it was a nice piece of karmic balancing to put Glavine on the long end of the score after three years of frustration, but continuations have a way of getting out of hand, and I spent the time I wasn't scoffing at moronic FAN callers fretting about how Heilman would do, whenever the game would resume.

And, indeed, things did get out hand. For us [1].