John Maine got the win last night…on the very first pitch of the game.
I didn't notice Nelson Figueroa responding to the Nationals' dugout antics Monday night, cocooning deep in my parka between innings as I was, but apparently the Nationals were acting like “softball girls” for encouraging each other on rhythmically. Given that they'd worked out five walks while Nelson was pitching, I might add they were softball girls with a very good eye.
Figueroa was pissed because, well, probably because he sucked his way off the 25-man roster but also because the Nats had violated some unwritten rule about comportment or enjoying themselves too much. Whatever it was, he was steamed and, presumably, his suddenly former mates on the baseball boys team (the one that lost 10-4) didn't take it too well either.
So what does his successor in the rotation to which he used to belong do Tuesday night? He hits the first batter with the first pitch.
And to that I say way to go John Maine — way to go! (clap clap!). Way to tell the Washington Nationals to cut out that extraneous, superfluous BS that had nothing to do with why the Mets lost Monday. Way to say you can take your cheers and rub them on your bruises if you don't like it, just as the Nats had said, through their steady scoring, that Nelson Figueroa could take his indignation, fling it wide of Brian Schneider's mitt and pack it off to New Orleans or destinations unknown.
I'm ambivalent where technically nonexistent codes and conducts are concerned. I've never been able to figure out for certain why a curtain call is supposedly showing up the pitcher, why a non-curtain call is supposedly sending the wrong message, why it's all right to toss your helmet after a walkoff home run, why some batters can stare at their deep fly balls without repercussion, why the best player in the sport is bush for yelling at the opposing infielder trying to settle under a pop fly, why it's OK to come inside, why it's wrong to come inside, why a good, clean takeout slide is definitively different from a supposedly dirty slide, why an effusive handshake is either too much or absolutely appropriate, why turning your headgear inside out and yelling “attaboy” is being a good holler guy, why urging on a rally from the dugout with a bit of creativity is akin to acting like, heaven forbid, a girl…it's all very confusing to me. Hence, my rule of thumb is thus:
• If the Mets do it, it's fine.
• If somebody does it to the Mets, it's not.
Hypocrisy is at home and logic takes a holiday, but do we really watch baseball to make Socrates happy? Or are we trying to advance the cause of whatever logo is on the cap we're wearing at night games even though caps are designed to keep the sun out of our eyes? Screw logic — Let's Go Mets (clap! or woo! or not).
Maine, by the way, said he was merely trying to establish the inside of the plate when his very first pitch just happened to get away and just happened to hit Felipe Lopez on the leg (Shawn Estes, take note). Another crazy coincidence, don'tcha think? Team that gets beat like a drum by a showy drummer seems intent on breaking the other team's drumsticks at the very beginning of the next night's set — John Maine has better control than that. But his judgment is even better than his control.
Let's not extrapolate this from message pitch to the specter of Bert Campaneris flinging a bat at Lerrin LaGrow. It doesn't always have to escalate or deteriorate. Last night it did neither. Putting the first runner on (there went the perfect game) doesn't mean, either, that you're digging yourself a terrible hole, not when you're the very competent Johnny Maine. Back during the Clemens Wars and such I was usually against manly retaliation because I didn't think the Mets could afford to give the Yankees extra outs. Top of the first, against the Nationals, the Mets could. That, too, is taking care of business. And hat tip to the umpires for not going overboard with warnings, even when Lopez glared at Maine.
Umpires should always let the players police themselves. Or the umpires should always take control of the action right away. Whichever one works to the Mets' advantage, whichever one makes me feel avenged at the operative moment.
John (or “Mainie Eisenhower” as I sometimes call him from the couch in terms more endearing than Nelson Figueroa might grasp) took matters in hand and then took the Nationals with him. Other than the homer to Ryan Zimmerman — sooner or later there's going to be a homer to Ryan Zimmerman — he was soothingly effective. Glad he got enough runs to literally get the win, too. It gave him five on the year which broke the three-way tie for team lead among himself, Santana and Jorge Sosa. In fact, until Saturday, Sosa was the staff leader in wins. Now Sosa, ERA 7.06, is Assignmentbound (frigid fans behind me were loudly advocating the activation of Matt Wise Monday night, so you had an inkling Sosa was literally and figuratively going down), same as Figueroa, ERA 5.12. Both succumbed to a club indulging in softball tactics. Thank goodness one night later Johnny Maine, ERA 2.81, came to play hardball.