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Squeals & Echoes

Have you ever squealed in the literal sense? An honest-to-goodness squeal? Like a pig?

Have you ever pursed your lips and let out an “oooh!” like you were really amazed?

Have you ever reflexively combined a squeal and an “oooh!” again and again? It might sound something like this…

SQUOOOH! SQUOOH! SQUOOH! SQUOOH!

That was me when Endy put down the bunt that ended the game in the twelfth. It was really loud, too. Woke up the wife and everything. She’s the one who pointed out to me during Game Seven that Endy’s catch [1] elicited a Warner Bros. sound effect from my throat. That was more an “uhAAH!” then an “oooh!” and less a squeal than a Hamilton Beach blender set on grate.

uhAAH! uhAAH! uhAAH! uhAAH!

Endy Chavez should go into ADR [2] when he’s done playing, which is to say not for a very long time.

Of course Endy is about more than sound effects. He’s about sound baseball. It’s easy to take him at his leaping essence after he demonstrated The Strength To Be There [3] last October 19, but as if we’ve forgotten, he’s a helluva player no matter what he’s doing out there. A helluva thinker, too.

Anybody can be blessed with speed (well, anybody but me and Ramon Castro) but Endy also has the gift of vision. He saw Clint Barmes playing back at second. He saw the drag bunt as a legitimate winning possibility. And he took what he saw.

That’s thinking. The Mets are good at that. The Met you tended not to think about before Tuesday night is a prime practitioner, or so we learned. No doubt a clever drag bunt into the devil’s triangle bounded by first, second and the mound is using your head as well as your feet. But a ball clean-and-jerked well over the left-centerfield fence? Damion Easley gave that one some thought and revealed it wasn’t just brute force at work.

Just after the game, SNY’s Kevin Burkhardt asked Easley what he was thinking about up there when he tied it in the tenth. Maybe because Damion had had two full innings to contemplate the answer or maybe because he has plenty of time to think in his job, he had a great and thorough answer.

“I’m just tryin’ to relax,” he said, walking Burkhardt and us through the whole at-bat, how he took one pitch that he shouldn’t have and then swung at one in his eyes that he was still obviously annoyed by. So he relaxed and he eventually got to Brian Fuentes, admitting later on “I kind of expected it to go out.”

The Shot Heard ‘Round Ten O’Clock may not have been the most dramatic home run in baseball history but Easley’s thought process was remarkably similar to that of another New York National League slugger who delivered in a late inning once. Bobby Thomson has been asked to replay what was going through his mind when he approached the plate to face Ralph Branca on October 3, 1951 probably thousands of times. The answer is always terrific: “I kept telling myself not to get overanxious…give yourself a chance to hit.”

In other words, relax. I thought of Thomson when I heard Easley. I thought how little baseball changes in the way these guys have to think their way through game situations no matter how much talent they may have. I thought, too, of how Jose Valentin was thinking clearly when he laid down a less celebrated but just as crucial bunt as Endy’s in the twelfth, the perfect sacrifice that moved Shawn Green from first to second. I even thought Ryan Speier was as heads-up as he could possibly be in trying to flick Endy’s dachshund [4] of a drag to Helton with his glove. It didn’t quite make up for his maybe-thinking-too-much balk that pushed Green from second to third, but it was admirable in a desperate sort of way.

I also like how Willie Randolph thinks. When he was asked if this was his favorite game of the year, the manager did not sound like a fan. No, it was not his favorite — we left too many men on base for that. Good point, one he’s paid to remember, one we are free to forget, though I must confess I wondered as the zeroes were applied to the scoreboard how it was possible that two Major League teams, one of them our certified offensive powerhouse, couldn’t score for nine innings. Good pitching beats good hitting, but good hitting is good hitting. We’re just so used to scores like 7-2, 9-6 and 6-1, that 0-0 administers a shock to the system.

Though 2-1 is the balm that ensures a sound night’s sleep.

***
Say, here are the complete Major League standings through last night, April 24, 2007 [5]. Let me know if you notice anything similar to those for the close of business from September 3, 1990 [6].