The American League doesn't know what it's missing.
Eff the DH. Eff the “nine hole”. Eff the whole concept that the pitcher is an automatic out, because in those lunar eclipse moments when maybe once a year, maybe once every few years, you see your guy take the other team's guy deeper than the night, stronger than the north wind blowin'…well, shoot — is there anything more fun in this ol' game of ours?
And when it's John Maine? Not just “the John Maine” of your staff, as in the pitcher who's batting ninth only because they won't let him bat eleventh, but actually John Maine himself who didn't connect for even one base safely until the end of the 2006 season? John Maine himself who was carrying (presumably folded up in his back pocket) an .088 average to the plate in the bottom of the fourth when all 49,122 of us at Shea assumed a bunt was in order? That or a white flag attached the to barrel of his bat?
When it's exactly that John Maine who finds a high strike from Ian Snell in what we'll assume is his wheelhouse and it's exactly that John Maine who decides a swing is as good a bunt and it's exactly that John Maine who sends a high fly ball to left that never stops being high until Jason Bay is watching it be gone?
Nope. There's nothing more fun.
Except, perhaps, watching John Maine round the bases. There was plenty of time for that.
Remember Darryl Strawberry doing in Al Nipper and the Red Sox once and for all in Game Seven? Remember how he Cadillac'd around first and made it home just in time for the next day's parade? Remember Vin Scully snorting upon the replay, “It'll take him about 20 minutes to go around the basepaths.” and Joe Garagiola concurring, “Oh, he really took his time.”?
Darryl Strawberry's still waiting at the plate to greet John Maine.
I don't think Johnny M. was trying to show up Snell or the Pirates or the fans at PNC Park for serenading him with DAAARRRYYYLLL! last September. I think he was just wondering “uh, which base is next?” I swear, though, I watched the homer, I indulged in a celebration, I considered the last time I saw one of these (Bobby Jones in the Home Opener in '99) and I looked down and he was only at third. His reluctant curtain call was quicker and believe me, it was reluctant.
Once you've got your pitcher hitting a home run, you've got no business losing, so Maine took care of that, too. He seemed, as he so often does, uncomfortable in the early going. Hitting the homer seemed to straighten him out. (“So that's what one of those feels like? Dang, I don't want to have to stand on the mound while somebody else rounds the bases. I'm gonna pitch much better now.”) Thus, that was pretty much that. Lastings Milledge would tickle the stratosphere for emphasis later and the Mets oh-by-the-way won decisively.
Where does a pitcher home run rank in terms of “you know what I saw tonight?” events? I'm not exactly sure. A pitcher home run isn't a no-hitter (not as if we would know) and it's not a cycle. Maybe it's a triple play, though one run on one swing is one run on one swing regardless of who swings, whereas three outs on one pitch is pretty fricking amazing. Maybe it's a steal of home, an inside-the-park job; maybe the moral equivalent of a five-for-five or a three-homer night by a nonpitcher. A pitcher home run is more than an oddity, maybe a bit shy of an epiphany.
But when the John Maine of your staff does it…it's just so cool is what it is.
Speaking of cool, I'd be remiss if I didn't (again) quote the late Howard Beale to express my joy and gratitude that so many you took up the righteous cause of enshrining Dick Young in the singularly sublime Metstradamus Hall of Hate, letting it be known that we, the truest of the blue and orange, will not be distracted by petty flavors of the month when it comes time to set in virtual stone our hardiest grudges:
Last night I got up here and asked you to stand up and fight for your heritage, and you did, and it was beautiful…the people spoke, the people won. It was a radiant eruption of democracy.
It won't negate the trade of Tom Seaver nor the several lean years that ensued, but this little statement of ours certainly feels appropriate to this particular endeavor, doesn't it?