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Ollie the Untouchable

They pull a knife, you pull a gun.

He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.

They start Clemens, you start Perez.

That's the Met way.

In five games this season against the despised Braves and the detested Yankees — the intersection of haunting nightmares and the uncontrollable shakes — Ollie's ERA is 1.26. He's 5-0 against our most bitter rivals. If you need someone to take out a ghost or two, Ollie is obviously your man. Throw in his respectable work from seventh games of championship series and it appears this fellow might very well be a keeper.

Oliver Perez is clearly the most interesting starter on the active roster. It's no longer a question of not knowing what you're going to get. You know you're likely to get quality. You're just not sure how you're going to get it. Friday night I found it fascinating that both Billy Wagner and Jorge Posada, who presumably did not compare talking points, both called him effectively wild. That's a lot different from “oh dear, he's gone three and oh again.”

Of course he had help. It's about time somebody on the Mets helped somebody else on the Mets, each of them riding around the last road trip aimlessly, 25 Mets in 25 directionless cabs. Carlos Gomez certainly threaded the needle in left, the needle being morons with outstretched hands. There was a little pinch of Endy on display, though certainly not as polished. He does have that “Skates” quality in his stride; two or three times I was sure he pulled something he needed for running.

Back in the era of good feeling, I was ready to stamp Carlos the Third's ticket back to N'Awlins, having watched his average spiral and his savvy fail to sprout. Seasoning is why we relocated our triple-A operations to the home of Cajun cooking, right? But the Mets are in no position to send back a player, no matter how undercooked, who can create a run and save a couple more. And this unexpected accumulation of Major League service time might not be so bad. His career trajectory to date is a bit reminiscent of his big brother Jose Reyes. Jose was up too soon, it was said, and could have used a little more good Tideing. But between injuries and pervasive team lousiness in 2003, Reyes was never shuttled off to Virginia and, growing pains notwithstanding, I think it was to his benefit. We could see it with Gomez. Let the trial be by fire. But somebody make sure the kid stays on his feet.

Had to love the bunting on Clemens and his fatigued groin (boo frigging hoo). It's just smart baseball. You've got the tools, use them. Ron Darling noted fielding bunts is one of those disciplines drilled into you during Spring Training and hey, guess what, Clemens didn't bother with Spring Training. But he and his agent did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last month.

Six-and-a-third innings of two-run ball, as representative an outing as it was for (grumble, grumble) a Hall of Fame pitcher, rates a million bucks? Now that's smart baseball! Why bother with the fundamentals when all you have to do is show up in June, stick around the premises only as long as you feel necessary and not be expected to complete seven?

Apropos of nothing except my enjoyment of The Ballclub [1]'s recurring and regularly compelling Lost Classics feature, I found myself recalling the last two times the Mets faced the, oy, Rocket. He was an Astro and he was good.

May 16, 2004 [2]: 7 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 10 SO

April 13, 2005 [3]: 7 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 9 SO

Clemens as an Astro didn't pack quite the putrid punch as did and does Clemens the Yankee only because Strychnine presumably doesn't taste as bad as Drano. Don't get me wrong. I was steadfast in my desire to watch the mound open up and swallow him and his rapidly fatiguing groin with one enormous suck during his Houston hiatus, but I was willing, in the abstract, to grudgingly admire his pitching output if not the outputter himself. Mike Piazza's two-out, ninth-inning, game-tying home run off Octavio Dotel to cost Clemens a victory at Minute Maid in '04 (Jason Phillips getting his wallop on to win it in the 13th) and Kaz Ishii — remember him? — matching Clemens pitch for pitch the following April at Shea (Reyes singling home Victor Diaz in the eleventh for walkoff closure) positions each of these as Lost Classics candidates, but what seals their respective nominations is the fact that Roger Clemens started, Roger Clemens excelled and Roger Clemens was no-decisioned as the result of Met lightning striking.

I'd give Clemens plenty of credit for striking out eight Mets during his lucrative if abbreviated Friday night stay, but those of us who remained awake through the Los Angeles lossquake know that isn't terribly impressive (4 through 8 in the order: 0 for 19 with a walk), especially since three of those K's were Delgado, Delgado and Delgado, with more Delgado striking out a fourth time after Clemens left. CD really is in Montañez territory right now. Here's what I mean:

Wille Montañez 1978

First Met Year

Age: 30

Games: 159

HR: 17

RBI: 96

BA: .256

OPS: .712

Willie Montañez 1979

Second Met Year

Age: 31

Games: 109 (traded in August)

HR: 5

RBI: 47

BA: .234

OPS: .594

Or try this:

Bernard Gilkey 1996

First Met Year

Age: 29

Games: 153

HR: 30

RBI: 117

BA: .317

OPS: .955

Bernard Gilkey 1997

Second Met Year

Age: 30

Games: 145

HR: 18

RBI: 78

BA: .249

OPS: .755

As for the present:

Carlos Delgado 2006

First Met Year

Age: 33/34

Games: 144

HR: 38

RBI: 114

BA: .265

OPS: .909

Carlos Delgado 2007

Second Met Year

Age: 34/35

Games: 62

HR: 10

RBI: 39

BA: .221

OPS: .687

Delgado owns a deeper portfolio of accomplishment than Montañez or Gilkey, but he's also older as he teeters. His predecessors in disturbing falloff surprised the Mets with their acquisition-season productivity; Gilkey tied the team ribby record (in his walk year — also very smart) and Montañez's 96 runs batted in were actually third-most in Mets history at the time…and driving in nearly one hundred 1978 Mets was a feat of mind-boggling proportions considering how doubtful it is that one hundred Mets actually reached base in 1978.

We know Carlos was extremely streaky in 2006. His April, however, set the tone for the new, improved lineup and when he faded for extended intervals, it barely mattered as everybody else was scorching. It felt like Delgado got back half his power numbers in about three weeks in August (a month when he swatted eight homers and drove in 26 runs), thereby piecing together one of the better slugging seasons we've ever seen in these parts. That batting average was eerily low, but he was getting on base and driving the ball enough to write off that .265. Now .265 is sadly aspirational.

Don't mean to take the edge off a sweet victory, considering the circumstances, the opponent and the opposing and losing pitcher, but I'll feel a lot better when Delgado is cleaning up something besides the dregs of what was a fabulous career.