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What It Means to Meet The Mets

Yesterday was the first game of the year in which the throw pillows on the couch lived up to their name. With that game-tying line drive intercepted just shy of the end zone (Georgia being SEC country), I threw a pillow clear across the living room.
With that, the 2007 season became real. The f-word that’s neither faith nor fear made its maiden appearance of the year. Welcome back frustration. (There may have been a fourth f-word flung toward the television as well…a lot.)
The moment that made it more unbearable than one L after four W’s should be was the penultimate out of the ninth inning. After Wright singles and Delgado trots to third, Alou comes up. Moises Alou seems like somebody I would want up here. He’s off to a warm start and he’s a proven RBI man. Then Joe Buck tells me Alou is a notorious first-ball hitter.
He is?
Moises Alou has been knocking around the National League since 1990, and knocking around the ball quite effectively. But all these years that he’s been a Pirate, an Expo, a Marlin, an Astro, a Cub and a Jint, I confess that I’d never watched him closely enough to know all his tendencies. He’s a notorious first-ball hitter? Does that mean he’s going to swing at Wickman’s first offering even though he went to 3-and-2 to Beltran before striking him out, 3-and-2 on Delgado before walking him and 3-and-1 on Wright before David’s single?
It does. Moises does Wickman the biggest favor imaginable and swings and pops meekly to center. Instead of working the count and pressuring the closer, there’s only a second pointless out cramping our style.
This was a game the Mets didn’t particularly deserve to win, not the way they fielded, not the way Glavine was pitching, not the way Smoltz outclassed our lineup. But great teams occasionally pocket games they have little business winning. This ninth inning, not unlike the ninth inning of the last Met loss of any consequence, shaped up as a ninth inning in which we could grab a couple runs off the shelf while the gods were out having a smoke.
Nothing doing. One distressing repositioned lineout later, I was left to ponder Alou the way I was forced to ponder Beltran last October 19. I reasoned then if Carlos got this far in his career by not swinging at curves breaking inside then it was ludicrous to demand he change his habits with a pennant on the line. I’d spend the winter reasoning the opposite, too, but that was winter and last year, so never mind that right now. Point is my, your, everybody’s rule is when a pitcher is playing footsie with the strike zone, don’t make it easier on him. When it’s first and third and you’re down by two runs with one out in the ninth, DON’T SWING AT THE FIRST PITCH!
But if this is how Moises Alou has become Moises Alou, maybe he sees something that I don’t and maybe he was right to swing when he did. Despite being aware of Moises Alou for 17 years, I realize I don’t really know him yet. And that you don’t really know a man until he becomes a Met.