- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Joshua and the Balk Rule

Before this game goes into the books for good or ill (ill's tucked in by the rail and riding hard), a word about the improbable events of last night — perhaps the only time in Mets history a walkoff home run will leave me and Emily blinking in puzzlement instead of leaping about. (I mean, we were happy, but in a pinch-me startled way. And we agreed, to our horror, that we felt mildly sympathetic towards Armando Benitez!)

Joshua and I now have a morning ritual — at some point during the getting dressed, the wrangling of school items and the walking to school, he'll ask if the Mets won last night, since he rarely gets to see anything beyond about the fourth. The kid is working on his math, so he particularly likes the score — not the final score, but what the score was each time it changed.

I always happily indulge him as far as my poor memory will allow — I mean, my goodness, my kid wants to know exact details about the Mets game. This morning, as you might imagine, I was particularly happy to do so.

Daddy: Well, Joshua, in the first inning two Giants hit solo home runs, so it was Giants 2, Mets 0.

Joshua: That's not good.

Daddy: Then Carlos Delgado hit a home run with Carlos Beltran on base….


Daddy: Yep, a two-run home run.

Joshua (very fierce): No, it's a double-decker home run!

[Daddy backs down hastily. Yes, it was a double-decker home run. Hell, that's more fun to say anyway.]

Joshua: And it was Mets 2, Giants 2. And that's good!

Daddy: Yep. And then Carlos Beltran drove in a run, so it was Mets 3, Giants 2. But then ANOTHER Giant hit a home run, so it was —

Joshua: Mets 3, Giants 3. That's NOT good.

Daddy: No, it wasn't. And then Joe Smith allowed a walk and hit a batter —

Joshua (confused): He hit the batter?

Daddy: He threw the ball and it hit the batter. That's the same as a walk.

Joshua: He shouldn't do that. That's not nice.

Daddy: He didn't do it on purpose. It was an accident. He didn't want to do it because then the Giants had runners on first and second. And then [we'll skip the long explanation of bunting, which is a lot harder to explain to a child than you may think, if you've never tried it]. And then a Giant hit a ground ball to Carlos Delgado, who got the batter out at first and threw home but he was JUST TOO LATE to get the runner at the plate.

Joshua: So it was … Mets 3, Giants 4.

Daddy: Right. So [reminder of extra innings and how they work]. And Armando Benitez — who used to be a Met — was pitching for the Giants. And he walked Jose Reyes.

Joshua: I LOVE when Jose gets a walk! Or hits a home run!

[We pause to sing the Jose Jose Jose song. Because.]

Daddy: And then Armando committed a balk, so Jose got to go to second.

Joshua: What's a balk?

Oh boy. How to handle that one? Well, son, a balk is when … what the hell is a balk, exactly? It's when the pitcher tries to deceive the runner, but of course the pitcher does that all the time. It's … gee. I settled for saying it's when the pitcher doesn't throw smoothly to the base or to the batter, when he flinches or stops and starts. (Right? Kinda?) And when Joshua pressed me, I couldn't resist saying that a balk is the word that comes out of Bob Davidson's mouth when a neutrino unsettles a neuron in his brain. Because that first balk, wow. Sometimes Davidson is like a small-town cop a ticket shy of his quota at 4:35 p.m. on the 31st. There's a violation out somewhere, and Bob's gonna find it.

Anyway, eventually we got the balk sorted out and moved on to Endy's bunt, which happily we'd already covered, and then the disappointment of Beltran not getting the job done, which led to a revisiting of the sacrifice fly, which is also harder to explain than you might think. And then the second balk. Joshua thought this was fairly amazing. I told him he didn't know the thousandth of it.

The second Delgado home run? We were united in the opinion that it was very, very good.

* Trivia question for the adults: There is ONE situation where a baseball team may “decline a penalty” and choose the outcome of a play. What is it?