If you're producing a sportscast tonight and you have one highlight to show from this afternoon's Mets-Cubs game, that's easy. You pick Jose Valentin singling up the middle with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the tenth and then receiving highly affectionate super atomic noogies from his teammates for his walkoff RBI, scoring the only run anybody had all day.
Life is fun when you win by one, so that's absolutely the money shot; the ambassador to Azerbaijan could tell you that. But if you could show two highlights, you'd back it up two batters to Carlos Delgado at the plate. There were already two outs then, Beltran on first and Glendon Rusch — remember him? — going lefty a lefty with our cleanup hitter. Delgado, no longer in a slump but not having done anything yet today, did something he almost never does.
He went the other way.
It was dynamite. Placing a ball just over and inside the third base bag, it trickled far enough down the line to send CB to third and CD to second. That forced Pitch-Count Killjoy Dusty — he removed Prior after 103 tosses and 5-2/3 no-hit innings — to order Rusch to walk Wright, load the sacks and bring up Valentin. The nonchantworthy Jose (Ho-ZAY! Ho-Zay-Ho-Zay-Ho-ZAY!) did the rest.
Earlier in the season, when the Delgado shift began to eat its namesake alive, it was asked in polite company why Carlos D. didn't just go the other way. The answer — “he doesn't do that” — reminded me of perhaps my favorite Peanuts strip ever. It's a real cold night, see, and the gang is surrounding Snoopy's doghouse worried about the beagle's warmth as he lay atop his abode. We could bring him a blanket, somebody says. We could get him a heater, somebody else offers.
Why, asks Linus, can't he just sleep inside the doghouse?
Everybody stares at Linus and then gets back to their discussion.
I don't know why Carlos Delgado won't or can't hit to left more often, but like staying inside on a chilly night, it makes sense to me.
Going the other way turned out to be the theme of Camp Day. Prior sure departed from his previous injury-riddled form, though to be honest, we don't care. Maine, coming up as big as Utah, has taken what appears to be a permanent U-turn from Norfolk. He's a lock for the five- or six-man rotation…at least through next week. The Mets themselves have left Loserville (and the Cubs) behind after a disturbingly long layover there. For those of you whose skies fall far too easily, the Braves can take two from the Marlins tonight and tomorrow and then three from us, and we'll still be eight ahead of them on Sunday.
Attention worst-case scenarians: Go the other way and relax.
The best other way we've gone is way the fuck away from 1993. 1993, you say? Why bring that up? Today, in our 101st contest of 2006, we achieved our 60th win of the season — one more than we managed in toto thirteen horrible years ago. If it felt like an eternity trudging from Saturday to Wednesday to top 59 wins, imagine or recall what 1993 felt like when it took 162 big ones just to reach that tragic number. '93 was also the last time we were no-hit, an occurrence that seemed unlikely today, but after 6-1/3 going without, thoughts of Darryl Kile (and Ed Halicki…and Bill Stoneman…and Bob Moose…) pound in your head.
No matter what happens during the rest of 2006, even if John Maine turns into Dave Telgheder, we are now assured of nothing less than our eighth-lowest win total ever.
1981: 41 (strike year)
1994: 55 (strike year)
Watch out 61-101 squad of 1967 — we're coming to get you next! If we can take one of three from these Cubs, then anything's possible.