The skies, they drench, but the magic number, it drips. Saturday afternoon, it dripped from 14 to 13. Though it was possible more could have been done about it, it only dripped from 13 to 12 Saturday night. Mets won but so did the Phillies. Not a biggie, though. Who wants the Braves to sweep anything? Both they and Philly could feel diminished while we (pending our MVP’s knees) just get enhanced.
12.01: Manager of the Year. While it’s not as impressive in some minds as guiding a crew of teal children to almost .500, Willie Randolph, No. 12, has done the best managing job in the National League in 2006. Joe Girardi will get the award because what he’s done is also impressive but also the sort of thing that gets voters’ attention. All Willie has done is exceed expectations and overcome obstacles and succeed to the maximum level in the toughest market in America. He’s not a touch-feely guy but I find myself respecting him more every week.
12.02: Another Trivia Question Already. The player who used to be known as the first Brooklyn Cyclone to reach the Majors should also be thought of as the last Met to wear No. 12 before Willie Randolph. Danny Garcia hit .227 as a Met in 2003 and 2004. Willie Randolph, in 1992, hit 25 points higher. Willie’s always been a winner.
12.03: Forever Linked. When the Mets acquired a reluctant Shawon Dunston for the 1999 stretch drive, his eyes lit up when he was handed his uniform. 12? That’s Ken Boswell! I’ll bet not even Jack Heidemann, who followed Kenny into the number, knew that.
12.04: He Liked It A Lot. Shawon Dunston’s leadoff plate appearance in the bottom of the 15th inning of Game 5 of the 1999 National League Championship Series lasted 12 pitches. He singled and scored the tying run. The Mets won when Robin Ventura also singled. Dunston was making “I love you, man!” speeches in the visitors’ clubhouse two nights later, a Met fan who grew up to be a postseason hero. In 2000, he was a Cardinal…and we booed him like the Houston crowd boos Beltran. (No we didn’t.)
12.05: A Comfortable Margin. The Phillies kept our magic number at 12 by beating the Braves by 12, 16-4. On consecutive Saturdays in July 1985, the Mets beat the Braves and then the Astros by that identical score. We were in the middle of a run in which we won 30 of 37. We finished 98-64. And there was no Wild Card.
12.06: Know Your Limits. In 1969, 1972, 1986 and 1990, the Mets forged 11-game winning streaks. Each attempt to extend those skeins to 12 failed, by scores of, respectively, 7-2; 2-1; 7-2; and 7-4.
12.07: Good As Over. In the 12th game of the 2006 season, Pedro Martinez defeated the Atlanta Braves 4-3 for his 200th victory, raised the Mets’ record to 10-2, increased the team’s lead in the East to 5 games and, in my eyes, clinched the division. Seriously, I never had any real doubts after we started that strong.
12.08: A Real “This Date” Buzzkill. Remember that great Mets game 12 years ago today? If you do, you’re a stone liar or a Strat-O-Matic junkie. The strike of ’94 was in full effect.
12.09: Sandpapering Over Our Differences. On October 12, 1986, Mike Scott worked his scuffy magic and defeated the Mets in Game 4 of the NLCS, 3-1. Except for Jim Bouton gaining fresh perspective for the latter portion of Ball Four, have the Houston Astros ever served any purpose?
12.10: More Like It. On October 12, 1969, the New York Mets recorded their first World Series victory, 2-1 in Baltimore. The winning pitcher was Jerry Koosman, No. 36. Kooz won 3 World Series games as a Met. 36 divided by 3 is 12.
12.11: Privileged Character. Why is 12 a dozen? There’s no special name for 11. 13 is a baker’s dozen, which strikes me as coattail-riding. And how come no 6 contiguous states outside New England are labeled with a formal title? I don’t mean Mid-Atlantic States or the Upper Midwest. I mean something that’s accepted as a defined multistate geographic entity. (Delmarva doesn’t count.) When I was a kid, I’d occasionally see my hometown referred to as Long Beach, Long Island. Is there another region that gets to stand in as a quasi-state jurisdiction? You could address mail to Long Beach, L.I. and it would get delivered. They don’t say “Syracuse, Upstate,” do they? And what’s the deal with this airline food?
12.12: Punch The Clock. Negotiations that go down to the 11th hour imply a 12 o’clock deadline. But as Kent Brockman once pointed out, the 11th hour is, literally, 10 o’clock.