Remember the other night when Charlie Manuel sent Brett Myers to the plate in the thirteenth with what appeared to be explicit instructions not to swing because with the bases loaded and nobody out all he could do to his team was harm? The intentional strikeout that followed looked bush but it paid off moments later when the winning run was delivered.
Jerry Manuel should have taken notes. He should have had, in a manner of speaking, 25 Brett Myers at his disposal last night. He should have had them all stand perfectly still in their hotel rooms. Then he should have called Joe Soilmaster Stadium, asked for Fredi Gonzalez and informed the Marlins’ skipper that the Mets would not be dropping by this evening, congratulations you win, enjoy the postgame concert with Olga Tañon, but don’t bother waiting for a postgame ’cause we ain’t comin’.
Forfeit? Not even try? Wouldn’t not showing up at the ballpark and automatically losing 9-0 be more embarrassing than letting a three-run lead slip away and going down 4-3 in the ninth?
It’s not about embarrassment. It’s fate, baby, it’s fate.
It’s the Thirtieth.
Why waste 116 valuable pitches from the right arm of Mike Pelfrey? Why deploy a generally undeployable bullpen? Why make Mets batters linger amid intermittent showers (though their bats certainly knew enough to come in out of the rain)? Why bother on the Thirtieth of any month?
From the First through the Twenty-Ninth and again on the Thirty-First, I’ll send the Mets out with requisite confidence and huzzahs. But on the Thirtieth, I’m ready to phone it in. It’s just not worth the hassle.
With a little help from my attentive-to-detail friend Ben, who wishes he had been surprised by Saturday night’s result, let’s reluctantly relive what happens when any given page on the calendar creeps to its last or next-to-last box.
Take a deep breath and brace for This Wretched Date in New York Mets History:
August 30, 2008: Mike Pelfrey’s strong effort is wasted first by Duaner Sanchez giving up a solo homer to Mike Jacobs in the eighth and then by Aaron Heilman allowing a walk, a sac bunt, a wild pitch, two intentional passes and one presumably unintentional pass. Mets lose 4-3.
July 30, 2008: Also at the Sack. Also Pelfrey, albeit a momentarily relapsed Pelfrey. Mets lose 7-5.
June 30, 2008: The Ghost of John Maine yet to come is shelled in St. Louis. Mets lose 7-1.
May 30, 2008: On what used to be known as Decoration Day, the Dodgers decorate the Shea scoreboard with abandon. Mets lose 9-5.
April 30, 2008: Ollie pitches and the Pirate bats explode. So does a water main at Citi Field. Even the Ballpark of the Future knows this is a bad day for a ballgame. Mets lose 13-1.
September 30, 2007: Final game of month. And the year. Mets lose 8-1.
August 30, 2007: It’s Philadelphia, so special attention must paid to the course of human events. Alas, the Phillies ensure it is not a good course (of course). Mets lose 11-10.
July 30, 2007: The Mets don’t lose. The Mets don’t play.
June 30, 2007: Rule proven by exception of 8-3 Mets win in Philly. But as Ben points out, it was “a game that saw Jorge Sosa get injured, forcing a week in which we got 0-3 from Vargas, Pelfrey and Williams. Maybe not a big deal at the time, but enormous when you look at the number next to GB at the end of the season.”
May 30, 2007: Following directly on the heels of the extraordinary twelve-inning 5-4 triumph over the Giants — Mets trail 4-3, Armando Benitez walks Jose Reyes, balks him around the bases and Carlos Delgado homers — Mets nap in 3-0 loss to Barry Zito. It’s the night Guillermo Mota returns to middling applause and wary rationalizations, neither of which anyone in his right mind would be proffering in a matter of weeks. It’s also the night from which many of those pesky their record since… pronouncements (the ones we cited ad nauseum to prove how crappy the Mets were playing) dated.
April 30, 2007: In his only appearance in a Mets uniform, Chan Ho Park turns Shea Stadium into the killing fields. Marlins jump to 7-0 lead and Mets lose 9-6. (Oddly, Park pitches beautifully to gain the win for the Dodgers exactly 13 months later, May 30, 2008; no, given the dates, it’s not odd at all).
September 30, 2006: Mets beat Nationals 13-0. But wait, says Ben: “Who got the win? T#m Gl@v!ne. Pretty ho-hum, right? Well, fans like us will remember that down the stretch in 2006, the gentleman who started games a day after John Maine did was Steve Trachsel. Only he didn’t start that day.” As Ben reminds me, that was the week when Trachsel left the team for mysterious personal reasons that, it turned out, regarded the dissolution of his marriage. (If there’s one person on Earth who would be incapable of getting a quickie divorce, it would be Steve Trachsel; also, if he were a chef, he would overcook a minute steak.) “We know the ramifications,” Ben elaborates. “Gl@v!ne took his spot, messed up the NLDS rotation and Trachsel gave the Mets two miserable playoff starts.” Coincidentally, I can’t find my 2006 World Champion Mets sweatshirt anywhere. [As reader Kevin points out, El Duque's calf injury had a little something to do with altering the rotation as well. But Trachsel...he was just so Trachsel.]
August 30, 2006: Mets win in Colorado, 11-3. It was all good. But wait…
July 30, 2006: Mets win 10-6, sweep Braves at Turner Field, bury the tomahawk, liberate France, the whole bit. Fine. But then the Mets board a plane to Miami, Duaner Sanchez gets the munchies (or something), hops in a cab, makes the accidental acquaintance of Cecil Wiggins…and something happened that changed us in a deep and profound way from that day forward. It’s still changing us as of the night of August 30, 2008 where Sanchez is concerned. Technically, Duaner was broadsided by Cecil the DUI Serpent on July 31, 2006, but it was still dark and he was still up.
The Mets lost on June 30, May 30 and April 30 in 2006.
They lost on April 30, 2005 in eight innings when it was discovered RFK Stadium — out of action since September 30, 1971 (which was a forfeit) — wasn’t handy with a tarp.
They were done in as potential repeat champions on September 30, 1987 when Luis Aguayo homered off Jesse Orosco in the tenth inning at the Vet, a loss far more definitive in determining the ’87 Mets’ misfortunes than the Terry Pendleton game. Now imagine having to look at Terry Pendleton coaching third every day 21 years later.
They were swept a doubleheader by the Expos on May 30, 1977, which got Joe Frazier fired the next day, thus beginning the managing career of Joe Torre. We would not benefit in any discernible way.
They were swept another doubleheader by the Astros on July 30, 1969, combined score 27-8. At the day’s nadir, Gil Hodges strolled to left field, told an unhurried Cleon Jones he was hurting and escorted him to the bench. It’s referred to as a great turning point for the Miracle Mets, but I wouldn’t have wanted to have sat through beatings of 16-3 and 11-5 and then be told there was a moral to the story.
They didn’t win a game on the Thirtieth of any month until May 30, 1963, their second year in business. And even then they had to lose the opener of a doubleheader to the Cubs 12-0 before they could claim a 2-1 victory. But back then, to be fair, they lost most days.
We don’t do that nowadays. Despite going 0-5 on the Thirtieths, we’re in first place. We might even be playing after our final scheduled game of 2008, which comes September 28. The playoffs will start no earlier than October 1. The Mets, should they be so lucky, will be tempting no fate this September 30.
Game Seven of the World Series, however, is slated for October 30 in the American League park.
Mets in six. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.