This won't be the last time I bring it up, but briefly, there is a great new book out. Buy two copies: one for yourself, one for somebody you care about. It's called The 100 Greatest Days in New York Sports and it's no ordinary list book. Author Stuart Miller has researched the hell out of his subject, something to which I can attest first-hand since I was one of his late and presumably insignificant sources, yet he indulged my arguments and assertions as if I were the The New York Times on microfiche. The result of such commitment is the New York sports history book you've been waiting your whole life for.
Stuart hits on just about every significant sporting event that took place in the five boroughs since before New York City became New York City. Your great Uncle Sol's game of Johnny on the Pony might be in there. You won't agree with every choice he's made — for example, I find his geographic contention that the Giants' two Super Bowl victories weren't New York championships a bit on the shaky side — but that's the beauty of this work. You read a page, you argue with it, you learn from it, you nod at it, you congratulate it and you read another page. It's a thorough and fair examination of milestone moments, which is code for don't worry, the Mets get their due.
Like I said, I want to explore this book further as we while away the hours to April 2, but right now I simply want to borrow his concept to highlight the 20 best Mets days of 2006.
This is a pretty straightforward operation: I pick 20 days that I believe defined this team and this season for the good. As with any list, no matter the objective criteria applied, you can debate what's in and what's out. You're certainly more than welcome to. I try to take the overarching historical view — that is, what should we remember about this season when we're asked why it was one of the Mets' greatest? I imagine my personal experiences as they intertwined with this game or that play colored a couple of these selections. So be it. As editor Jim Nelson writes in this month's GQ, an issue devoted to sports (otherwise I can't imagine I would have bought it):
Women always complain that men don't like to talk about their feelings, but they're sadly mistaken. Men would just rather talk about their feelings…about the Mets.
There were some terribly exciting and dramatic days in the life of our team in 2006 that didn't crack this particular Top 20. Better there's a surplus than a shortage. This was, Praise Minaya, a year of plenty.
20. October 19: There Must Be A Catch
Admittedly, this is a Mrs. Lincoln choice. The unavoidable reality is that this was involuntarily the final game the 2006 Mets would ever play, Game Seven of the National League Championship Series. Insisting something of enduring Met value arose from it may be akin to being the Red Sox fan who recalls October 25, 1986 as the night Dave Henderson went yard on Rick Aguilera.
Granted. Nevertheless, a day that includes what October 19 included can't be all bad. The good is simply too good to be ignored.
Correction: Too great.
We can say a game that ended a season on the wrong end of a 3-1 score and an 0-2 count has no business being on a list of greatest Mets anything, save for disappointment. We can also say a game that ends St. Louis 3 New York 1 even though the bases were loaded for our superstar slugger who mashed 44 home runs in 2006 — three of them against this opponent in this series — has no business being lost. Yet when we say those things, we must say two others:
1) We had no business riding the left arm of Oliver Perez as far as we did.
If we indulge the grumbling that the World Champion Cardinals' regular-year mark of 83-78 makes a mockery of the postseason, what do we say when a pitcher goes 3-13 for six months, gives up more than six runs for every nine innings he throws and then tosses a beauty at the team that would soon taste ticker-tape? Either every statistic is a damn lie or Oliver Perez was the most genius acquisition of Omar Minaya's very heady tenure.
The Oliver Perez trade had been the Roberto Hernandez trade on July 31, perhaps the Xavier Nady trade; the Cecil Wiggins trade would be most accurate. Talk about creating chicken salad from DUI. However Perez wound up a Met, whatever he showed or didn't show in sporadic auditions down the stretch, whoever couldn't pitch so he had to be relied upon with only a pennant in the balance, lefthander Oliver Perez was the right man on the right mound at the right moment. So what if before Game Seven (despite a decent effort in Game Four, when his offense mistook him for Steve Trachsel), it was fair to conclude Oliver Perez loomed as the most unlikely, most obscure, most unsettling playoff pitcher in Mets history?
Move over Masato Yoshii and tell John Maine the news. By the sixth inning of Game Seven, Oliver Perez was channeling every home-team big-game lefty from Koosman to Matlack to Ojeda to Leiter to Hampton. This was the Oliver Perez who accounted for that line in Pittsburgh a couple of years before when he was somebody everybody wanted. Gone was the obvious impostor whose southpaw stock sunk so low that a perpetually rebuilding franchise decided he wasn't worth keeping two weeks shy of his 25th birthday. Here was talent harnessed the way you kept hearing it could be but were warned it probably would not be. Here was Oliver Perez squirming then rolling through the Cardinal order, surrendering almost nothing.
His first baseman muffs a pop fly in the first, but Perez pitches out of it. He is littleballed for a run in the second, but nicked no more. Works around the terror that is Pujols in the third. Nothing. One-two-three in the fourth. Challenges Pujols with a runner on in the fifth and leaves clean.
Oliver Perez is keeping the Mets alive in the seventh game of the league championship series. He stays in to bat in the bottom of the fifth, leading off and striking out. By the bottom of the fifth, this isn't surprising. After all the forecasts of gloom, doom and Darren Oliver, Oliver Perez is pitching like a Game Seven pitcher. He's in a 1-1 pitchers' duel with Jeff Suppan. Why on earth would you take him out?
The top of the sixth. Gets Encarnacion. Walks Edmonds unintentionally. First legitimate free pass from a pitcher known for wild streaks. Scott Rolen is next. The manager who left him in trots out to the mound. Take him out? No way. Skip tells Perez something. Don't know what it is. The initial evidence is it wasn't helpful.
2) We had no business expecting Endy Chavez to be our leftfielder.
Not in the seventh game of the National League Championship Series, not when you dusted off the orange-and-blueprint as it was drawn up in St. Lucie in February. Our leftfielder was supposed to be Cliff Floyd. Made sense. Cliff was our best everyday player in 2005. 34 homers. 98 ribbies. Legs healthy enough at last to patrol left almost every day of the previous season. If the Mets were going to contend for a pennant, you'd have to assume Cliff Floyd would be right in the middle of it.
It wasn't Cliff's year. He ached. He slumped. He sat. He recovered. He hit in the first playoff series. But then he ached again. Couldn't run. Wishful thinking penciled him into the starting lineup for Game One against the Cardinals. Tangible Achilles pain removed him.
In came Endy. Familiar story in 2006. In came Endy when Carlos Beltran felt a tug here or there. In came Endy when Xavier Nady required an appendectomy. In came Endy when Lastings Milledge reverted to the future after flashing by as the fleeting present. As the season wound down, Endy Chavez was as in as any Met outfielder. He was going to play sooner or later. Might as well be from the first inning on.
So there he was, standing in left field in the top of the sixth inning as the Cardinals batted. Edmonds on first, Rolen at the plate, Randolph having whispered a piece of advice in Perez's ear. It was either bad advice or great advice executed poorly. Whatever Willie said to Ollie, Scott Rolen didn't care. He launched Perez's first pitch toward the left field bullpen.
I don't know exactly where Endy Chavez started from when he realized Rolen's ball was headed in his general direction. I do know he went back as far as he could. I do know he leaped. And I do know the ball cleared the fence.
The next thing I know is Rolen is out and Edmonds, reasonably rounding second, maybe third, is out and the Cardinals are out and Perez is out of the inning, having given up no runs in the sixth, and the Mets are not behind in this game. They are tied. I know all that because Endy Chavez wears springs for spikes, favors a net over a glove and owns a sense of direction not seen in Queens since Jay Gatsby knew enough to drive over and past Corona's valley of ashes.
Endy Chavez evoked Tommie Agee, Ron Swoboda and Willie Mays in one dash, leap, grab and fire. The next guy who does anything remotely like it will evoke Endy Chavez. If anybody who saw it had ever seen a greater catch in a tighter spot, they weren't saying. It set the new standard for Met defense. It saved two runs, produced two outs and preserved a two-team race for the flag. It was so stunning that your chronically loquacious, occasionally eloquent correspondent was reduced to sputtering a string of high-pitched gasps in its immediate dust. It was as if I swallowed all of 2006 without chewing and needed to be Heimliched if I hoped to watch the bottom of the sixth. Stephanie thought I sounded like a Warner Bros. cartoon.
Indeed. That catch was all, folks.
19. June 22: Face Time
Whatever figured to be left in Pedro Martinez's right arm once the four-year contract he signed in December 2004 expired was of minimal concern to those who agreed to pay him his millions. Pedro was courted and captured not for what he'd do long-term but for what he'd mean short-term.
Oh, he could pitch. In 2005, he electrified Shea Stadium, a facility notoriously short on megawatts just prior. A Pedro Martinez start for the Mets promised success (usually delivered) and excitement (a lock). It was almost impolite to notice Pedro faltered in a key game against the Phillies at the end of that August or note he begged off his final couple of starts once the Mets were eliminated. His toe wasn't quite right and his second-half numbers took their traditional dive, but he was Pedro Martinez and he was a Met. Who could ask for anything more?
By June 2006, Pedro's short reign as the Met of Mets, as the face of the franchise, had quietly and almost imperceptibly petered out. The great team success of the first two months of the season — much of it due to Pedro — removed an onus from the pitcher. The Mets didn't need him to attract fans and they probably wouldn't need him to attract free agents, the way he surely helped draw Carlos Beltran into the fold. Pedro was still Pedro, but the Mets were about winning as a whole. If anybody was going to front for them, it would be somebody else.
The Mets were David Wright's band as 2006 unfolded. It was a bloodless coup, but you couldn't miss it. David was just advancing beyond great Wright hope status when Pedro arrived. He undeniably acquitted himself well in 2005, his first full big-league season and the buzz behind him kept building. Come '06, the shirts in the stands seemed to have lost a digit. 45s had been in vogue but 5s were now de rigueur.
Why? Start with Wright's combination of average, power and accessibility. There was nothing not to like that a few on-target throws to first couldn't take care of. If not a completely complete player yet, he was as close as any young Met had ever been. He wasn't an enigma. He liked to play ball and said so in virtually every publication. Reyes was still learning. Delgado was still new. Beltran was still wary. Martinez was still Martinez, but Martinez wasn't Wright. He didn't play every day and he, unlike the precocious kid at third, wasn't getting any younger.
By June 22, Pedro Martinez wasn't quite the Pedro Martinez of the year before. Not even the month before. The Mets had been doing everything well, but Pedro hadn't done much for us lately. Hips don't lie, and one of his was on the fritz even if he didn't advertise it. All the naked eye saw was an ace who struggled in L.A., was adequate in Arizona and got outpitched by Kris Benson (for god's sake) at Shea. When Pedro Martinez started a Thursday afternoon game at home against the Reds, he was beginning to look, just a little too much, like the past.
The first was OK. But in the second, two singles and two sacrifices made it 1-0 Cincinnati. The fourth was tough to bear as Pedro walked Scott Hatteberg, then Austin Kearns, then Adam Dunn. Pedro does not walk the bases loaded to begin an inning. At least that's what we thought. From the right field mezzanine, he appeared uncomfortable. Pedro, it's never going to be 1999 for you again, but can it be 2005? How about April 2006?
Brandon Phillips, a Red menace throughout the week, brought home Hatteberg on a fly ball. But that was it. Pedro got out of it, down two-zip. David Wright, predictably, came to his rescue in the bottom of the frame, tying the score on a two-run bomb. The Mets presented Pedro with a lead for the fifth, 3-2 when Nady drove in Franco, but Pedro didn't appear up to the task of holding it. With two out, he walks Felipe Lopez, who steals. Then he walks Scott Hatteberg. Lopez steals third. This is nervy. This is discouraging. This is Pedro.
This is better: Martinez strikes out Kearns.
It's the middle of 2006. Sooner or later, the Mets are going to unhinge a mediocrity like Eric Milton. They do it in the bottom of the fifth, capping off another three-run rally when Wright deposits another two-run job in the bleachers. He's the MVP by our chants. He'll finish the day batting .338 for the runaway division leaders. Sounds plenty valuable to us.
But here's something that sounded even better. Top of the sixth. Pedro, staked to a four-run lead, finds it within him to be unadulterated Pedro.
Adam Dunn goes down swinging.
Brandon Phillips goes down swinging.
David Ross goes down swinging.
As Pedro leaves the mound, 46,000 roar. David Wright may be our MVP, but we are reminded that Pedro Martinez has been our savior.
His day is done and, except for what amount to cameos, so is his season. Pedro's return to Boston will be an artistic calamity. He'll go on the DL for most of July. The hip will heal but a calf will act up. He has exactly two more wins coming his way in 2006 and he's just a man with an arm in a sling by October. David Wright is still young and gifted and widely adored but his average never sees .340, his power production declines and, for whatever reason (wear, tear, exertion, exhaustion, internal competition), he's no longer our MVP by proclamation. He's a big part of the rest of 2006, and an integral component for 2007 and beyond, but like Pedro, David peaks at the very beginning of summer even if we don't quite realize it until hindsight kicks in.
While they're both on top of the world, though, the world is a very nice place to be.
18. September 2: Our Man In Houston
You really have to want to hate in order to hate Carlos Beltran. He's quiet, he's religious, he's charitable, he displays all five tools, he says not a disparaging thing about anything or anybody. Immaterial except that it's great news for his family, he's rich, very rich. That's just testament to the free market…and did I mention that he got rich in New York?
I guess that could be a problem in Houston.
With nothing in particular on the line for his team, Carlos Beltran went all-out against his old employers in early September. The Astros desperately needed to beat the Mets. They couldn't the night before and they wouldn't again thanks to Beltran, who risked his well-being by crashing into the Minute Maid Park outfield fence to swipe a ninth-inning, extra-base hit from Lance Berkman. He doesn't make the catch, the Astros tie the score and are in position to inflict psychic pain on Billy Wagner. Instead, Carlos takes one for the team. He goes down in what has to be agony. The Astro customers, those who profess eternal betrayal because their Rent-a-Beltran didn't stick around more than a few months, cheer when Beltran does not immediately rise.
Class tells, you know. Carlos limps out of the game, but he's not on a stretcher. This isn't 2005, not in the Petco Park sense (no Cameron) nor in terms of what it was like the first time Beltran came back to town. Then it was the lions devouring the Christian. This time the Mets won two of three, their centerfielder healed and Houston was left to stew in the Minute Maid juices of its manufactured resentment.
17. June 4: High-Five!
One and two pitch. Fly ball, driven to left field and it's GONE! Home run into the Giants' bullpen, Lastings Milledge, his first Major League home run and could it have come at a bigger time? He's tied the game at six in the bottom in the tenth inning!
Ed Coleman never sounded so excited, which only means something if you've heard Ed Coleman keep an even keel for nearly 20 years. On a Sunday against San Francisco, as fill-in voice over WFAN, he vocally chest-bumped the Mets' next superstar for touching up Armando Benitez and keeping the Mets' afternoon going at least a little longer.
Eddie wasn't the only one enthralled. Milledge had been up for less than a week. Everything he did or didn't do was a big deal in those first fresh days of his recall. He wore a wooden cross the size of the Keyspan sign. He gunned down a Diamondback at third from right. He scampered home with the walkoff win the night before as a meticulously inserted pinch-runner. But he hadn't hit one out yet.
Give him time. Give him until there were two outs in the tenth inning of an affair that the Mets wouldn't give up easily on the eve of a Western swing. Then Lastings shows off his muscles against no less than the closer who had tormented Mets fans for years (as a Met, mostly). Give him an ovation, he deserves it. Hell, make like Eddie Coleman. Give Lastings Milledge a high-five. The right field line crowd can't resist and offers 'em up. Lastings Milledge returns the favor as he jogs to his position for the eleventh. Slap! Slap! Slap! right down the line. Everybody's so excited about the Mets, that such an exchange seems natural.
That is so cool!
Or uncool if you check the unwritten rules. Lastings Milledge has raised a ruckus between innings. Either he's too wet behind the ears to have any idea that “you don't do that” or he knows exactly what he's doing. After the Mets have fought the good fight and lost, all anybody talks about is Lastings. First the hitting of the homer, then the slapping of the palms. Was he showing somebody up? Was he not knowing his place? Was he just having fun?
The Lastings Milledge who lit up Shea in early June didn't reappear very much. He settled into a recurring callup, a tentative freshman who was overmatched by pitchers and confused by the descent of baseballs. His constituency shrank. His status is as TBD as anybody's in the organization.
Moral: Don't turn down a high-five. You never know when your next one is coming.
16. October 12: Tom & Again
This is why you bring Tom Glavine onto your team. Never mind you ink him for four years and the first three range mostly from disastrous to indifferent. You're thinking long-term, the fourth year. Not even the fourth season, but its postseason. You know you're going to be scuffling for pitching. Your titular ace was already hurt. Your traditionally strong October weapon — October surprise! — goes down unexpectedly. You face baseball's seventh month, your first crack at it in six years, with the starting-rotation equivalent of paper clips, rubber bands and airplane glue. You don't know what you've got.
Except for Tom Glavine. You've got him and, at last, you and he are on the same page. He's pitching when it counts and you're counting on him to pitch. A week ago, he handily beat the Dodgers a Game Two. This is Game One, next series. This is Glavine Time all over again.
He does not disappoint. He takes down the Cardinals with ease, some nifty DP action and a long offensive assist from Carlos Beltran. Seven innings, no runs. He outlasts Jeff Weaver. He holds Albert Pujols in check. He does not impress Pujols, but that's not his or our problem. We've seen enough to be very impressed by Tom Glavine.
15. April 6: Meet These Mets
The 2006 Mets weren't the 2005 Mets…literally. Twelve of the 25 players who lined up and waved on Opening Day had never worn the uniform before. More than a few had strayed during Spring Training, choosing to wear the colors of their national team in the World Baseball Classic instead of their National League team in meaningless exhibitions.
Amazing, then, how quickly they became the 2006 Mets. In one three-game series against the Washington Nationals, they introduced themselves as something we hadn't seen in these parts in years.
There was the new catcher, Lo Duca, defending the plate with grit and improvisation in securing the opener. There was Nady, the right fielder who found Shea to be a hitter's park. There was Wagner, the cocky closer who marched to his own drummer (Lars Ulrich). There was Sanchez, who demanded a different kind of music — the sound of silence between third and home. There was Bannister, the rookie who forced his way to the hill on the second night and immediately gemmed it up. There was Delgado the slugger. He slugged.
The pieces new and old fit together beautifully. David Wright came out swinging. Anderson Hernandez took a dive…through the air…routinely. Jose Reyes was off and running. And Pedro Martinez wasn't giving up the inside of the plate to anybody, no matter how much anybody snarled.
Pedro took on Jose Guillen and won on April 6. A generation of Mets pitchers had failed to be proactive in this regard. But he was Pedro, we'd had him for a year, we knew he what he could do.
We had no idea about Julio Franco. No good idea anyway. He was 47, of course. You couldn't not know he was the oldest player in the Majors. It fascinated everyone but him. As the year progressed, his age would be an alternating source of wonder and concern, but in the third game of the year, it was his head and not his body that made all the difference.
First Julio came off the bench and threw himself between Guillen and chaos, defusing a could-be brawl into batter-take-your-base. Then, a couple of innings later, Julio sat on the bench when his teammate Carlos Beltran attempted to sit down. Julio didn't approve. Beltran had just homered, his first hit of the season in the third game of the year. The fans were appreciative of Beltran's performance, which struck him as unusual. Carlos B had heard it throughout 2005 and a little at the dawn of 2006. Beltran was the big-money signee of the year before. It wasn't a great year, it was a less than stellar reception. It was wrongheaded, but now the previously silent majority — the Mets fans who would never boo their own — tried to set the record straight.
They asked for a curtain call. Beltran wouldn't hear of it. The SNY cameras caught his discontent quite clearly. He wasn't going out there. Just as obvious was Julio Franco telling him in one language or another, get over it and get up. Julio wasn't around in 2005, but he knew what was required for 2006. He knew Jose Guillen was better off just going to first and shutting up and he knew Carlos Beltran and the Mets would be better off if he just stepped out and represented.
Delgado was already batting but the fans were still applauding, virtually unaware of the veritable Paris Peace Talks ensuing in the Met dugout. Ambassador Franco carried the day. Beltran acknowledged the fans. They were satisfied. For them, for Beltran, for the Mets, it was positively 2006. At night's end, we all moved into first place together and never looked back.
14. May 5: Rethrilliency
Even if the East was won in a cakewalk, there were times when it was practically brutal to observe the baking process. It wasn't quite a trip the sausage factory, but the foundation of the Mets' mighty May lead was built on some very long nights and some exceedingly hard wins.
Though it would be eclipsed in the popular imagination by later contests that resembled it in some form or fashion, there was no game in 2006 that was more draining or grueling to watch (never mind play) than the 14-inning war of attrition between the Mets and their old rivals the Braves at Shea on May 5. It was a game that very nearly refused to end.
The Braves led 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, 4-2, 5-2, 6-2 and 7-6. They lost.
The Mets drew 12 walks and recorded 15 hits in the first 13 innings. They never led.
The Mets left 19 runners on base.
The Mets' leadoff batters reached in the first, second, eighth, ninth and thirteenth. None of them scored.
David Wright had three hits and three walks. And no runs.
Cliff Floyd stranded 10 runners on his own. He also homered to lead off the home eleventh.
The Braves used nine different pitchers. Working with a 25-man roster. In May.
Brian McCann stole a base. Jose Reyes didn't.
Kaz Matsui tied it in the seventh. Jorge Julio got the win.
Wright drove in the deciding run in the bottom of the fourteenth on a ground-rule double that was first scored a single even though it plated Beltran from second and it bounced over the fence.
It lasted for four hours and forty-seven minutes. It was finished at 11:59 on a Friday night. There was a 1:10 start Saturday.
The division title was a cakewalk. But a lot of flour got spilled in the kitchen.
13. August 8: Have Our Mike And Beat Him Too
The San Diego Padres had been coming to Shea Stadium since 1969. They didn't become a hot ticket until 2006. I wonder why it happened so suddenly.
Yes, that's it! They were boarding Mike Piazza for a year, giving him something to do while waiting to re-emerge as a Met in Cooperstown in another half-decade or so. Darn nice of them to provide him shelter and a diversion.
If Piazza's first trip home to Shea proved anything, it's that you can take the ultimate Met out of the Met uniform but he's still a Met. In a manner befitting Tom Seaver and no one else, Mike was welcomed back with no regard for laundry. He was toasted on DiamondVision. He was serenaded at the plate by Jimi Hendrix. He was stood for like it was 1998 to 2005 and clapped on like he wasn't just dropping by. Even the high crime and misdemeanor of singling against Steve Trachsel was treated as precious. Our Mike, always and forever.
Mike would be a little too much Mike the next night, homering twice — nearly thrice — and Mets fans remembered who they are and what Piazza wasn't anymore, at least not on paper. They had to let him know beating us wasn't all right. He didn't, but he came close. So we were left with two resoundingly good memories of the Padres' only trip to Shea in 2006. We swept Mike Piazza's team. And we got swept up in Mike Piazza one more time.
12. August 28: Start The Clock
A day that wasn't supposed to have a game turned on a rule that didn't exist. By the time it was over, we were knee-deep in something we hadn't had in a generation. And we loved it.
It was a makeup game, us and the Phillies, an early Monday start. Few made it to Shea. The Phillies had to wish they were on a bus heading south. Queens was not their kind of place in 2006. Dispiriting stuff happened to them here. Relief pitchers went seven and lost in sixteen. Starters baffled hitters but couldn't toss to first. And in late August, as those unlikely Wild Card contenders lunged toward September, something probably unprecedented happened to them.
Reset the scene: Mets on first and third. Wright up. He either doubles down the line or hits one a bit foul. It glances off third base or it just missed. It takes a bounce of some sort. It's unclear. What's more, it's for naught. The umpire calls it foul. Can you really argue that?
Apparently you can. Goaded by Manny Acta, third base umpire Randy Marsh asked for help from the other blues. Angel Hernandez — avenging Angel himself — emerged and ruled the ball fair: a single even though it looked like a double. It was all interpretation and judgment. It made no sense on the surface, but it worked for us. Wright was credited with a hit. Beltran trotted home. Delgado moved up one bag. The next couple of batters made the single/double decision moot by driving in everybody. On the whole, Philadelphia would rather not have been in Flushing.
It's always nice to beat the Phillies. It's always nice to get a call, no matter how mangled or bizarre. But it's really nice to start counting off, in earnest, your magic number. With the Mets' inevitable win and the Phillies' unavoidable loss, we could do that. It was 18 at the close of business on August 28 and it was only going to dwindle from there.
11. September 7: Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now
He could have kept going, you know. Jose Reyes settled for a three-run inside-the-park homer because home is the fourth of four stops on the diamond. Bet he could have turned and run to first. At least. He probably could have made it a six-bagger or just paused at first before stealing second on the next pitch.
Jose must have read the rule book because he didn't do that. When Dodger centerfielder Matt Kemp couldn't properly track down his ball, Shea knew what was coming. Jose had done everything else all year. He was stealing and tripling the way other players take BP. He became a traditional home run threat as well. Nobody talked about a lack of walks or low OBP — though those were coming along nicely. I'm pretty sure I heard mention of Honus Wagner at some point. That's the kind of shortstop company Reyes kept all summer.
He'd cycled in June, but the Mets lost. He'd homered three times in August, but the Mets lost. At long last, Jose could accomplish one of those rare, exceedingly breathtaking feats fans talk about for years and do it in the service of a Met win. There was no chance the Dodgers would halt his forward progress, but he slid headfirst across the plate for emphasis. I swear I didn't think he was ever gonna stop.
Next from 2006: Best Mets Days Nos. 10 through 1.