I've never completely understood the adage about not letting the other team's best guy beat you. He's their best guy. He's supposed to be the one who beats you if you are, in fact, supposed to get beaten. When Albert Pujols homered off Aaron Heilman in the fourteenth inning a few weeks ago, it wasn't fun, but it was Albert Pujols. It beat Yadier Molina beating us.
Likewise, I can accept Miguel Tejada or Lance Berkman pulling the trigger a lot less begrudgingly than I can the Astros' support crew doing us in. Brad Ausmus? Before today, he was a Killer B only by first initial. Darin Erstad? Power wasn't his game…before today. Good Major Leaguers continuing long careers, but not the guys who you picture crucifying your chances in the late innings.
But David Newhan? Christ Almighty, as David Newhan himself might think with total sincerity in the matter.
I was familiar with only two elements of David Newhan's biography when he signed with the Mets to become the new and hopefully improved Chris Woodward last year: 1) His father is a sportswriter of great renown; 2) he, like Shawn Green and Scott Schoeneweis, was represented by a card in my Jewish Major Leaguers set that these fine folks put out. As one who writes about sports and has been Bar Mitzvahed, I filed both facts under “couldn't hurt” and waited for David Newhan to perform utilityman miracles.
And I waited.
David Newhan's 2007 was one of the least inspiring of all Met 2007s. To put it kindly, he never quite got untracked. Hit a momentarily big homer against Milwaukee in a game that was ten minutes from devolving into a Brewer blowout. Contributed days later to the unlikeliest of ninth-inning rallies against the Cubs. And if he did anything else after May 17, I must have missed it. Willie Randolph kept sending David Newhan up to bat and, like Ricky Ledee (1 HR, 6 RBI, .222 BA), David Newhan (1 HR, 6 RBI, .203 BA) kept turning right around to reclaim his a seat on the bench. His unremarkable production as a bit Met was not unique. Utilitymen — whoever their father, whatever their lineage — are benchbound precisely because they are generally incapable of cracking a good lineup. It happened to Woodward. It happened to Joe McEwing before him. It happens to almost all of them. They also tend to wander through the desert seeking a 25th-man role on foreign rosters. Thus, David Newhan — erstwhile member of the organizations of the Athletics, the Padres, the Phillies, the Dodgers, the Rockies, the Rangers, the Orioles and the Mets — journeyed on after 2007, candles unlit in the Shea Stadium window regarding his return.
He came back this weekend anyway, not as a Newhan but as a new man — a man apparently bent on inflicting regret on those for whom he did next to nothing. Saturday night? A no-doubt home run off John Maine, his first of the year. Perhaps David, starting at second base, used his '07 pine time to really study Maine's arm angle in anticipation of someday swinging against him. Or maybe he succeeded as he did because Johnny's arm is perilously close to falling off.
Sunday? Sunday David Newhan stepped up as a pinch-hitter for the Astros. In 2007, as a Met, David Newhan batted .171 in pinch-hitting situations. In 2008, he'd tumbled far from that lofty perch. He was 1-for-21 (.048) as a pinch-hitter before facing Aaron Heilman in the seventh. Call it the rise of the new man; call it David Newhan's revenge; call it anybody could have whacked Aaron Heilman today. But David Newhan singled sharply to drive in the tying run for Houston (and might have eventually scored an insurance run had Astro third base coach Ed Romero not waved home dead duck Humberto Quintero).
Two days, two ringing hits, two darts fired at the Mets' slimming first-place lead. The Mets have seemed like a much better or at least much spunkier unit than their 2007 predecessors all summer long, not necessarily because David Newhan isn't a Met anymore but his absence, though largely overlooked, didn't hurt. His presence this weekend, however, sure has.
When I received my 2008 Jewish Major Leaguers update set, I was delighted to find portrayals of Scott Schoeneweis and Shawn Green in blue and orange that was authentic and not Photoshopped. But there was no David Newhan. I asked JML why Newhan as a Met was not included (if for nothing more than completion's sake) and was told that in light of David's chosen spiritual path — he considers himself a Messianic Jew, or what is referred to sometimes as a Jew for Jesus — “Newhan is considered 'out' in terms of current Jewishness.”
Funny, I thought. He was considered “out” by most pitchers every time they faced him last year.