“It was nice to be back,” Guillermo Mota said after last night’s Zito-induced somnambufest, a 2:29 sleepwalk that featured no Mets runs and an hourlong nap in the middle of it by your correspondent. I woke up in time to see Mota’s return. Like everything else in this game, it barely stirred me.
Amplitude Modulation radio hosts whose insights are not ample and whose modulation is completely lacking — so what are they doing on AM? — were on their soaringly high horses earlier in the week instructing Mets fans (a breed so unsophisticated we need etiquette instruction from these enlightened professionals at every turn) that if we want to hate on Barry Bonds, we need to express venom toward Guillermo Mota. For the record, I did neither.
From the loge Tuesday, I didn’t boo the second-greatest slugger by total in the history of baseball. I didn’t cheer him either. I wished him out, a conclusion Scott Schoeneweis couldn’t provide. But I did stand during his at-bat, partly out of tension, instinctively out of respect…for the numbers, not for the man. It actually saddened me, this response he’s plainly earned. Someone on the brink of ascending Mount Aaron should be greeted enthusiastically on principle. You don’t need to root for him to homer against your team (a result nimrods who flourished amid the McGwire-Sosa hysteria always seemed to crave) but you should be able to acknowledge the inherent greatness of the protagonist. With Bonds, for reasons that are depressingly familiar, it’s impossible.
It was thrilling when Aaron passed Ruth. It should be thrilling when Bonds passes Aaron. It won’t be.
Mota? He committed a misdeed against Metsdom when he came in exceedingly high and tight on Mike Piazza. Twice. I assumed I’d never forgive him for that heinous crime, that there would never be any reason to contemplate forgiveness. Then he mysteriously appeared on the 2006 New York Mets, a division leader that was all about good feelings. Mota slipped into the bullpen and onto the mound rather anonymously and pitched well and, with Mike in San Diego and the Mets running toward the playoffs, Guillermo Mota was OK with me. He remained so until he gave into Scott Spiezio in chilling Game Two of the NLCS.
Then he was caught ingesting whatever it was he was ingesting and he was suspended by baseball and I assumed, again, that I wouldn’t have much reason to concern myself with Guillermo Mota any longer. I assumed wrong again. Omar re-signed him because Omar knows more about the sport and my team than I do. Last night, after serving his sentence and saying he was sorry, Mota made his 2007 debut and looked very sharp in two scoreless innings. He was greeted more warmly as he departed than he was when he entered. It was nice that he was back, not because I feel any great simpatico with the guy, but because he’s a better bet than Ambiorix Burgos (or Scott Schoeneweis) to retire opposing batters at dire junctures of ballgames.
Hold a grudge against Guillermo Mota if you like. Boo Barry Bonds if it makes you happy. I’ve stayed mad at lesser lights for reasons far more obscure. But such tired exercises in indignation aren’t why I watch baseball. Really, it’s why once in a great while I nod off in the middle of it.