You can to go a game in which the Mets are facing Greg Maddux and feel clean. You can watch a surefire Hall of Famer at the tail end of an honorable career and come away feeling good. You can say, hey, I saw a 300-game winner pitch, a guy who knows how to work fast and hit the corners and make another generation of hitters guess wrong.
This is not Roger Clemens. I’d have croup from screaming at him for hours on end. Roger Clemens is one of the best pitchers ever but you can’t look at him for a second without hoping a light stanchion falls on him. Maddux isn’t that. He was a bedeviling intradivisional opponent and it was always sweet to defeat him when we could and there was little shame (if a lot of frustration) in not getting to him. In a jumpy, antsy sports culture where we are quick to vilify anyone who wears the wrong uniform or throws to the wrong base in the right uniform, it’s reassuring to see a Greg Maddux take to the mound and give his best effort.
It’s even better when his manager pulls him after 72 pitches on a day when Maddux is doing fine. I don’t know if it was Maddux, rarely a hurler to extend himself beyond his limit, or Grady Little, still trying to figure out when and when not to yank immortals, but as glad as I was to see Greg Maddux pitch at Shea, I was way happier to see him removed. I’ll take my chances with Carlos Delgado and David Wright vs. Tim Hamulack and Brett Tomko.
And Orlando Hernandez, Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner against everybody in a gray, nameless uniform.
Props to my friend of a decade Laurie for treating me to this treat of a pitchers’ duel. I admire Maddux. She deifies him. Her day was both soiled by Maddux’s loss and enhanced by the Mets’ win (whereas I took my fifth straight victory with no ambivalence). Beyond a general preference for Met success, there’s no formula to Laurie’s cheering impulses. They are lavished upon Cy Young stalwarts, but also directed toward long relievers teetering on the scrap heap. Laurie’s loyal to who Laurie’s loyal to. It’s like she’s running a fantasy team in a league of her own. I can’t figure out whether she’s tied for first or last.
As if whittling the magic number to 6 wasn’t fun enough Saturday afternoon.
6.01: I’m Almost Stumped. In honor of Laurie’s ability to love the Mets and Met opponents in comparable amounts, here, strictly off the top of my head, are 6 players I like who never played for the Mets presented in no order except that in which they are typed and not counting guys from history who played before I was paying attention…and also they had to have played against the Mets at some point in their careers: 1) Dale Murphy. 2) Chone Figgins. 3) Hank Aaron. 4) Tim Raines. 5) Vladimir Guerrero. 6) Albert Pujols, though that’s conditional through the first three weeks of this October.
6.02: The Worst Trade Nobody Brings Up. Wally Backman, the pre-eminent No. 6 in Mets history, for three nonentity Minnesota Twin minor leaguers in 1988. The idea was to clear out second base for Gregg Jefferies. The Mets stopped being the Mets without Wally, who hung around and contributed to a few more teams for a few more years and never stopped being Wally, though I don’t think it ever meant as much to him again. It was great to applaud him on Old Timers Night. Wally Backman’s the kind of player you wish you could see play tomorrow.
6.03: The Worst Trade Not Brought Up Nearly Enough. Melvin Mora, the best No. 6 since Backman, for Mike Bordick, the starchiest stiff who ever played short for a pennant-winner. Melvin was Timo with brains, Jose with experience, Joel Youngblood without minding his versatility. Bordick was Kurt Abbott with a rep.
6.04: Can’t Listen to It, Can’t Live Without It. In its 20th year, the 6 best things about WFAN, Sportsradio 66 (previously 1050): 1) The Mets are on it. 2) When Howie Rose hosted Mets Extra. 3) When Howie Rose did a 5-hour talk show every weeknight. 4) Steve Somers when he was Captain Midnight. 5) Joe Benigno when he did overnights. 6) Scores every 20 minutes.
6.05: Be Grateful We’re The Pitchers’ League. Imagine the Phillies with their No. 6, Ryan Howard, at first and Jim Thome still around to DH. You shudder to think what their magic number might be. Then again, they had them both and Abreu and Utley and Wagner and a cast of thousands in recent years and where did it get them?
6.06: Movin’ On Up. There was a Jeffersons in which a therapist asked George to play free association. You know, “black…white; rich…poor”. The doctor said “sex” and George said “seven”. The doctor was shocked. George asked, “Didn’t you say ‘6’?”