So Lastings Milledge made his Mets debut tonight, accompanied by an enormous wooden cross, enough hype to launch several score circuses and approximately 50,000 mentions of Barry Zito and/or Dontrelle Willis. Collected his first big-league hit, too — a well-struck double off Miguel Batista to lead off the seventh.
Now that we've taken care of the historical record, let's admit that Milledge's debut is the only thing anyone will remember about this game, a listless tropical affair in which Alay Soler ran out of gas after a 10-pitch at-bat and most of the Met lineup looked like it had never filled up the tank in the first place. OK, people who brought dogs to the park will remember it, I suppose. Nothing against man's best friend, but the thought of being seated next to a panting dog on a night in which the stadium already felt like the bottom of an aquarium…ugh. After Milledge got his hit, the cheers vanished so quickly that you'd have thought someone unplugged something. Kid got his hit, it's 7-1 and hot as hell, Willie already threw in the towel by not pinch-hitting for Oliver, we're surrounded by dogs…let's go.
Can't say I blame 'em: I did think of going, but heat, tiredness, parenthood and rumor that Milledge might not make it to Shea in time kept me home. Sorry, Milo — I'll do better by you going forward.
The last big debut I remember swearing I'd attend was David Wright's, and that time I honored my pledge — I grabbed a friend from work and headed out to Shea on July 21, 2004 to see the phenom go 0 for 4 in a 5-4 win for the good guys against the soon-to-be-extinct Montreal Expos, a game about which I remember absolutely nothing except the cheers for Wright. The next day, without me looking down at him (but, if memory serves, with Greg in attendance), Wright would go 2-for-4 and the rest would be recent history.
Had I gone tonight, I would have missed an interesting stat from Elias, passed along by Gary Cohen: When Darryl Strawberry made his big-league debut, he was 21 years and 55 days old. When he took the field tonight, Lastings Milledge was 21 years and 55 days old. Too good to check, as they say in the less-reputable parts of the newspaper biz.
Not that any of us want to be in the business of comparing Milledge to Strawberry. Darryl arrived as “the black Ted Williams” and the savior of a downtrodden franchise, neither of them labels that did him any good. Milledge is, at least officially, just getting a taste until Xavier Nady returns from his appendectomy, and this team doesn't need saviors. (Though another back-of-the-rotation starter would not be turned away.) Straw came advertised as a prodigious home-run hitter; Milledge is still growing into himself, but is more of a contact-and-speed guy. Darryl won a World Series ring for us, but we all thought he'd wind up with more. Milo? Check back in a few months. And then there were worse things for Darryl, none of which we hope to see on Milledge's resume. Oh yeah, and Darryl wound up as a Yankee. Let's not even think about that.
Straw's debut? It was the night of May 6, 1983, at home against the Reds before 15,916 — and unlike tonight, it was a memorable game for reasons beyond personnel. Unlike Milo, Straw would have to wait for that first knock — he got it on May 8, which just happened to be my 14th birthday. On May 6, however, he struck out in the first, popped to third in the fourth, struck out in the seventh and ninth, walked in the 11th, and..well, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Tom Seaver started and went eight, leaving down 3-1. But the Mets tied it on a two-run homer by Dave Kingman with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. The Reds grabbed the lead back in the 10th; the Mets tied it on a solo shot by Hubie Brooks with two outs in the bottom of the 10th. Then, in the 13th, Darryl drew a two-out walk and stole second. Mike Jorgensen walked, and Frank Pastore gave up a walkoff three-run homer to George Foster. The winning run? A technicality, but it was scored by Darryl Strawberry.
Whew! Take a look for yourself — we would have blogged this one to within an inch of its life.