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Our Cocky Icons

Three of the cockiest icons in Mets history have each crossed the path of the Mets fan who's been paying attention these last 24 hours.
1) Pedro Martinez. Tells the AP he's gonna be back…back in the New York groove [1] in the second half of this year and feel like he did when it was great to be young and an Expo. Pedro's placid brand of cockiness is most pleasing most times, but this time, good sir, just keep rehabbing and keep mum and keep our hopes down. The idea all along is Pedro rejoins the team in August. But counting on it looms as a grand setup. Some of us counted on him being ready for the 2006 playoffs. If I believe in anyone in this game, it is Pedro Martinez. But I'll do some believing after I do a bit of seeing.
2) Tom Seaver. Did a bit of seeing Tom Seaver during yesterday's pitching-free telecast. Though the Terrific one empathized with Mike Pelfrey's showerful fate, one assumes Tom did not acquaint himself with the tiles and the Ivory that early very often. I love the way various Met greats have flitting through the booth and postgame set this year (even Dave Gallagher, for some reason), but seeing Seaver unleashes a set of emotions unlike any other. He definitely gives off that vibe of fulfilling a contractual requirement, but when Cohen and Darling ask about pitching, he'll talk pitching, at least until his car arrives. He speaks of his craft as a master, and if you can't keep up, too bad. Jerry Koosman a couple of weeks ago spoke slowly. Tom talked fast. Glad they met in the middle all those years ago.
So he's not thrilled to be there and he's not all that accessible. Yet that one inning of Tom Seaver presence was glorious. He's Tom Seaver, damn it. That's all I have to know. We've had, by my reckoning, two out-and-out, certified immortals play baseball in Mets uniforms: Willie Mays and Tom Seaver (Keith, Mike and Endy reside just a notch below). Willie was immortal long before he was a Met. Seaver's immortality was completely tied up in his Metness. Having him broadcast regularly between 1999 and 2005 diminished his luster a little for me. How immortal could you be while reading promos for the WB 11 Morning News and deconstructing Satoru Komiyama's myriad shortcomings? This is better. He's listed in the media guide as a club ambassador. I'm fine with that. I don't need much more than diplomatic relations from the gods.
Found it ironic, then, that hours after a glimpse of Himself that Jake Peavy was challenging [2] Tom's most sacred, most heretofore unapproachable record, the ten consecutive strikeouts he threw past Peavey's predecessors in Padre togs on Earth Day 1970 [3]. Down goes Ferrara! Down goes Colbert! Down goes Campbell! San Diego swung through or looked at everything from two outs in the sixth to the bottom of the ninth when Al Ferrara (who had homered earlier) loomed as the tenth straight K and 27th out of the day. Seaver got him, too, his 19th in toto (then also a record), finishing up a two-hitter, winning 2-1.
What's more amazing by 2007 standards — all those strikeouts or the fact that Seaver pitched a complete game? Jake Peavy strung his K's against the Diamondbacks in the second, third and fourth, after which I found out he was nearing Tom. I turned on XM and rooted like hell against him. Normally I root for records to tumble on the oft-stated theory that they're set to be smashed. But I wanted Tom to keep his. So, apparently, did Jeff Kellogg. Umping first, Kellogg ruled Eric Byrnes, the potential Ferrara in this passion play, held his swing on a 2-2 pitch (maybe that's the most amazing thing of all, a check swing being called a check swing). Peavy walked him on the next delivery. Record safe in Arizona, sigh of relief exhaled on Long Island.
Peavy went on to strike out 16 Snakes in seven innings. Trevor Hoffman blew the win for him in the ninth. A premier starter has struck out 16, has allowed no runs, two hits and three walks and is removed because he has thrown 117 pitches. Not in Tom's day.
A contemporary account (captured in Tom Seaver: An Intimate Portrait by John Devaney) claims Johnny Podres, recently retired from the Padres, watched Seaver dominate his ex-mates that April afternoon and declare that the defending Cy Young winner would never throw that hard again in his life. Seaver's response?
“That's what Ron Santo said last year after my imperfect game against the Cubs. He said I'd never throw that hard again. Maybe Podres and Santo ought to get together and have dinner.”
3) Bobby Valentine. Required reading [4], everybody. Chris Ballard's profile in the current Sports Illustrated of our former leader of men is breathtaking. Everything you ever loved or hated about Bobby V is in exponential effect on the other side of the world. I knew he was big in Japan, but I had no idea how big. (Or how little he thinks of at least one current and one former Major League manager.) They've practically renamed the country for him. He's either happier than he's ever been or still cultivating a grudge that he's not managing in the States given his success with the Chiba Lotte Marines. I've generally fallen into the pro-Bobby camp though I can see why he has his detractors. As for the Valentine worship among the Japanese, it would not surprise me one bit if he's in for a Treehouse of Horror-type death spiral, figuratively speaking. Maybe they stop drinking BoBeer [5] or don't record any more dance records or name any more streets in his honor. Surely every culture has its Bobby Valentine breaking point.