I don't want to alarm comely Christine Glavine, but maybe I should have stayed in bed with her husband.
Though at long last I consider myself firmly entrenched as one of Tom's acolytes, perhaps I need to extend the above thought for clarity's sake:
Maybe I should have stayed in bed with her husband pitching a perfect game.
See, I flipped on the radio inches from my pillow in my usual Saturday afternoon groggy state around the third inning to hear Tom McCarthy oversell the fact that Tom Glavine had retired nine in a row to start the game.
Oh? Really? Too soon, but, uh, you know…nine in a row equals three innings and that's only six innings shy of…
I'm not going anywhere.
Glavine made it through four, then five without a single Astro reaching base. The gods and the Qualls were clearly choosing up sides. You can't screw with the possible Big One in progress. But I needed to get up already yet. What to do?
All the signs that this might be The One (believe me, I always find signs) demanded I hide under the covers with both ears peeled:
• The glorious symmetry of Buchholz, the Red Sox rookie, last week giving way to Glavine the 300-game winner this week
• His buddy Smoltz coming fairly close Friday night
• Seaver having been in the ballpark the night before to pay tribute to Gil Hodges
• My dim recollection of Eric Milton taking advantage of a similar sleepy, visiting, young, string-playing-out bunch (the Angels) on the second Saturday afternoon of September eight years ago
• The mystical presence of Pedro Martinez and Chris Burke in opposing dugouts two years and three months after their passion play
• My fleeting vision that Sunday might be the day Pedro does it because I'll be there and it would be awesome
• The strange coincidence that I wrote something about the Mets and no-hitters hours earlier (in the context of an MVP being something besides a no-hitter that we've never had) but shelved it lest I seem prescient
• Wright, whose sudden award boomlet was the impetus for that Most Valuable thought, bobbling but recovering Ty Wigginton's grounder for the 15th out in the fifth
• Wiggy, David's predecessor, having been the third baseman when Glavine carried a no-hitter seriously deep against the Rockies three years ago
• And my favorite sign: Five perfect innings.
On the other hand, I just had a sense that this wasn't The Big One. Glavine usually doesn't have the kind of stuff to keep a lineup, even one composed of apathetic Astros, off balance for three spotless go-rounds. Besides, my lifestyle isn't nearly sophisticated enough to permit me to wallow away an entire Saturday afternoon in bed, even with a 300-game winner.
I got up. I went downstairs. I turned on the TV. And just as I was deciding that Ralph Kiner's unbilled appearance in the booth was yet another positive indicator, our longtime nemesis Hoozhee McRandom singled. And there it went.
Maybe I should've stayed in bed. But probably not. Unlike my bitter disappointment when John Maine's somewhat more tantalizing attempt at shifting the Earth's plates crumbled in April, I viewed Glavine's no-hit bid as an ornament to the Mets' sudden run of steely resolve. The real prize, or at least the gateway to it, is suddenly in sight. The magic number isn't zero hits. It's 16 properly distributed wins and losses. It took no rationalization to decide seven beauteous innings from Glavine along with two more from the previously discredited firm of Heilman & Wagner was an Amazin' enough pitching feat for this particular Saturday.
Hours away is Pedro versus Oswalt — it's serendipitous that this game has been on my “go” list for months. I'm actually giddy over such a matchup, which seems like a recipe for Astros 9 Mets 7 disaster, but let's let the maestros tune their instruments and take it from there.
As long as I'm between morning naps, a couple of quick questions:
When did David Wright become the leading MVP candidate?
Somewhere down the list from another world championship and, yes, an eventual no-hitter, I'd like to see a Met named National League Most Valuable Player by a panel more official than the voice inside my head (from whence Carlos Beltran 2006, Mike Piazza 2000, Robin Ventura 1999, Darryl Strawberry 1990-1988-1987, Gary Carter 1986, Dwight Gooden 1985 — shared with Carter — and Keith Hernandez 1984 have all accepted trophies). Suddenly I can't go three clicks without reading a story about David Wright surging into contention or the actual lead in the MVP stakes.
Really? A Met? Fantastic!
Maybe he has a real chance at the award given that unlike his theoretical predecessors, it had barely occurred to me that he's a candidate (and what do I know?). The Mets' roster has seemed breakthrough-free this season unless you want to count Ruben Gotay as having a career year. Until recently I'd have said Wright 2007 wasn't anywhere near Wright 2006. But after a lackluster April, he has been the steadiest of first-place Mets. His August was downright D-Wrightful: 1.172 OPS, 21 RBI, his third month driving in 20 or more. He's got that potential 30-30 thing going. He homered in support of Glavine Saturday. I guess he's legit.
David's numbers pale against Prince Fielder's, though Fielder's team has taken steps to render unvaluable all individual Brewer efforts by blowing that lead they had, but they ain't dead. And Rollins has had the kind of season voters are often taken in by: he's been very, very good and the Phillies have been…wait for it..better than expected. Well, maybe Rollins expected them to be awesome, but with their lousy Wrightlike April, the Phils seem as if they've come out of nowhere. A Herculean/Yastrzemskian September in which Philadelphia comes very, very close — which is the traditional Phillie equivalent of winning something — would probably capture Rollins votes. I also hear there are worthy candidates on other clubs, but without monster years in the Bonds/Pujols vein, this may be a year in which a high-performer like Wright actually gets credit for helping the only consistently leading team in the league to its standing at the head of its class.
Imagine what that might do to vitaminwater sales.
Do we care about Craig Biggio?
It wasn't until Bill James produced a new Historical Baseball Abstract a few years ago that I realized how great a career the Astro second baseman had been having. James wrote in the 2001 edition that Biggio was the best player active in the game, the 35th greatest ever by his win shares formula. The traditional measurement for immortality among everyday players is 3,000 hits and Biggio surpassed that milestone earlier this year. Don't forget he came up as a catcher and put in team time in the outfield amid his star turns at second.
He's not the main attraction, but those of us attending today's game might bear witness to the final New York plate appearance of a Long Island boy who made very good. There's no reason to keep Craig Biggio out of the Hall of Fame. None at all. Should he start or just bat once, we will see somebody who is plaquebound.
But do we care?
Usually you get a player of that caliber on his last trip through town and you want to get up and give him a hand. Why not? It doesn't cost you anything. I reserve the right to withhold such treatment from anybody who's been a particular pain in the ass to the Mets (it's a long list in the N.L.), but Biggio's been a solid citizen and an honorable opponent. Yet he's been so unspectacular — so 2007 Metslike, if you will — in building his credentials that it's kind of hard to get excited about seeing this future denizen of Cooperstown in the flesh. If you knew you were seeing Aaron or Ripken or Gwynn step up at Shea for the final time, wouldn't you applaud by instinct? I'll have to remind myself to do it for Biggio if in fact he plays tomorrow.
FYI: Biggio has never won a Most Valuable Player award. He finished in the top five twice but hasn't received a vote in this century. In case young David doesn't get one this year or ever, it just goes to show even the greats miss out on some of these baubles.
And for our college football fan(s) out there, this final from late Saturday night: my USF Bulls topped the No. 17-ranked Auburn Tigers, at Auburn no less, 26-23 in overtime on ESPN2, a result described by the pinhead announcers as a potential “program-maker” for the most anonymous gargantuan school in the land. It wasn't an easy victory to come by as our kicker missed four field goals, our special teams unit failed to field eleven men at one point and our personality-deprived coach called play upon play as if he had taken Auburn and was laying the points. The Metsiness of my alma mater's flirtation with the big time shone through for me when I blurted out to no one but the cats at a quarter to one, “Why do I always have to root for teams that have no idea how to score?”