I’m still trying to get the soot out of my fingernails from having forcefully thrown Carlos Delgado under the bus when I discovered he was in the lineup Saturday. Not only did I want him to sit, I wanted him to pack for 2008…though the fact that I’m already sorting through next year’s lineup and deciding we’ll be in transition everywhere but short, third and center confirms for me at last things must be settling in for 2007.
Though it became immediately fashionable this past week, I never booed Delgado despite ample opportunity to do so. And I never will. For one thing, you don’t boo Mets — you just don’t, period. (Though you’re certainly entitled to boo situations at your considered discretion.) For another, every time the scoreboard shows he was born in Aguadilla, P.R., it makes me smile because last September I was wearing DELGADO 21 in the company of Dave Murray at an outdoor bistro on the Upper West Side and a man stopped at our table just to tell us, “I’m from Carlos Delgado’s hometown!”
But I have been disappointed in Mister Delgado, both the endlessly slumping player and the baffling DiamondVision video. I’ve been disappointed in his Willie Montañez-style falloff; I’ve been disappointed in his selective amnesia in not dealing with the media; I’ve been disappointed that his first base instincts have often abandoned him. I’ve been mostly disappointed in how woeful he was against the Padres and Dodgers.
Happy for him he emerged for at least one at-bat. Happier for us. Still think he and his balloon payments loom as an ’08 albatross. Hope to be happily wrong.
Thrilled to see Heilman out there in the ninth, not to promote Aaron or punish Billy but for how it adapted to reality. “Dead arm” they said for Wagner. I believe it. I think all pitchers could use a break now and then. Willie stayed away from Pedro The Other for a few games and it revived him. Bet Jorge Sosa was literally sore from being the bullpen’s new toy. He got a couple of days off, he’ll adjust and he’ll be, I hope, fine. Notice that they’ve given El Duque days off in the past and that it’s worked like a charm? I’ve become convinced that if they could find a way to skip one turn apiece for Glavine, Maine and Perez, they’d be much better in the long run of 2007, should, in fact, 2007 encompass a long run, as it appears more and more that it will (which, despite a juicy seven-game lead, is all the exuberance I’ll allow myself given the schedule that immediately awaits us after — oy — Sunday Night Baseball).
Hey, you know what team I was rooting my rump off for Saturday night? The world champion St. Louis Cardinals, that’s who. So unclean, but reasonably necessary. Of course they were playing the Braves and priorities are priorities. But still, rooting for the Cardinals of Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds and Yecchier Mofuckface feels so wrong. I actually heard myself blurt “C’mon Izzy!” with disturbing sincerity when it was time to nail down the Atlanta loss. Scott Rolen almost blew it by throwing away the potential third out of the ninth inning, which elicited my new favorite all-purpose putdown of enemy and own players alike when they fail to succeed: “What’s the matter, superstar?” It’s not original by any means (it’s what fellow inmates called Paul Crewe in The Longest Yard), but I snicker at my derision just the same.
I was rooting for the Padres, too, to do their part against the Phillies, having completely forgotten how much I loathed them just a couple of nights earlier, but that’s baseball. Couldn’t believe not only how much I was pulling for Trevor Hoffman, whose difficulties in securing San Diego wins lately (and pretty much every time I’ve ever seen him, 515 saves or not) have led me to coin a term for closers whose reputations exceed their results:
This guy is Trevorrated.
Something that lived up to the hype was Saturday’s McCarver-Kiner reunion. I vote it the broadcast highlight of the season; kudos to Fox for bringing them together and silent applause for Steve Albert’s nephew for shutting up the entire third inning and letting the old partners take care of business. The pairing echoed another good deed: CBS Radio’s game of the week that reunited Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy for one golden inning on June 8, 1985 (which I had to listen to on staticky 1210 AM from Philadelphia because it was prohibited from being carried in the New York market, go figure). Tim McCarver remains the only non-1962 announcer to draw out the twinkle in Ralph Kiner’s voice. As much as I love our Snighcasters, they, in the tradition of Fran Healy and Ted Robinson and so on, never know what to do with Ralph. Too much with the kid gloves and the broad questions about 1946. That’s why almost every Kiner appearance in the past decade has felt like “Best of Ralph” instead of normal banter and flow.
Tim took off his kid gloves ’cause he knows Ralph ain’t some icon carved out of soap. Beyond the Satchel Paige and Branch Rickey anecdotes (though, let’s face it, where else ya gonna hear those these days?), did you notice how smoothly Tim and Ralph talked about the game itself, analyzing Reyes’ speed and Wright’s swing? This wasn’t “we’re lucky to have” Ralph. This was announcer Ralph. It was wonderful to hear from that man once more.
And I’ll tell you what: Ralph Kiner makes Tim McCarver about a dozen times better than he’s been with anybody else in ages. I forgot how loose and human Timmy could be (goodness knows I haven’t thought of him as “Timmy” since the manager was named Buddy). Too many younger fans only know Kiner for being old and betraying the effects of Bell’s Palsy and McCarver for droning on like a pompous schoolmarm. From 1983 until about 1990, those two were dope on the air and magic on the mic. You could feel their electricity surge back to life in the course of their one Saturday inning. Give them a homestand together and they’d shake the rust off completely. Then Gary could go back to radio with Howie, and Keith could stop telling us what’s wrong with Carlos Delgado and start doing us some real good by telling him.