I’m sure I’ve been wrong more than twice recently, but two instances in particular call for a public correction of the record.
Eleven days ago, I worried aloud about whether Johan Santana was definitively on the downside of his career. A pair of sterling efforts later, it appears he is not. I’m perfectly happy to admit to gun-jumping in writing him off.
A few hours ago, I was far louder and far more adamant in my assessment of Jerry Manuel’s managing acumen. When he emerged from the first base dugout and jogged toward the mound, I screamed from atop Section 508 of Citi Field as well as my lungs, “MANUEL, YOU’RE A FUCKING IDIOT!”
I retract my statement, at least as it pertained to his handling of Santana in the ninth inning of a steamy, sultry, shvitzy pitching gem that begged, like a weary traveler checked in to the Marriott, not to be disturbed.
Johan, having proven my previous assessment of his moundsmanship as “mortal” inoperative, had gone from allowing the Cincinnati Reds absolutely nothing to a ghost of a chance. Two runners were on (one via Jason Bay choosing a fine time for his first error since 1943) and only one out was recorded. Manuel, a veritable Will Rogers when it comes to save opportunities, thought he’d met one. His team led by three, ergo it was time to bring in…
Let me say, my personal Saturday evening meltdown notwithstanding, that I’m predisposed to root for Frankie Rodriguez. I discovered him the same time most baseball fans did, in the 2002 postseason. Then he was 20, electric and disposing of Yankees, Twins and Giants at the very moment I decided the Angels winning the World Series was of paramount importance to me. I wouldn’t say I fell in love with K-Rod, but I followed him with a bit of ardor from that October forward. He would establish himself as one of the elite closers in baseball, though every time I saw an Angel ninth inning, Frankie was tiptoeing above it on a tightrope. He generally made it through and I continued to pull for him.
When he became a Met, I expected an upgrade from where we stood with Closer Pro Tempore Luis Ayala, certainly, and figured, given his youth and health, he was a better bet than Billy Wagner to shut doors well into the 2010s. Nevertheless, I also expected to be made terribly nervous because I’d seen him teeter in Anaheim and because he would now be a Met closer. Frightening the NY off your cap is just what they do. Still, with the exception of this past weekend in Washington, I was generally fine with him working our ninth innings and did not regret my March 2009 good faith purchase of a RODRIGUEZ 75 t-shirt.
I bring this up because if I’d had that shirt with me Tuesday night, I might very well have (in my fantasies, at any rate) raced downstairs and choked Manuel with it if he tried to bring in Frankie Rodriguez to replace Johan Santana when Johan Santana was two outs from pitching a shutout. And if they hadn’t dragged me away, I would have choked K-Rod with it right after.
But, as you probably know, Jerry Manuel was just out to stretch his legs in the ninth. He trotted to the mound, he was informed he was not particularly welcome there, and he moved along. Nothing to see here. One neat Ike Davis dive and one David Wright Player of the Month grab and throw to second later, everything was copasetic.
Thus, because he did not remove Johan Santana in favor of Frankie Rodriguez in blind, robotic obeisance to the currently accepted Way To Go, I indeed retract what I said: In this particular instance, Manuel, you were not a fucking idiot. Or as Ron Swoboda told Newsweek in 1969, “Met fans boo out of frustration, not viciousness.”
Now that I’ve flogged my mistakes, let me tell you how brilliant I can be.
It’s the bottom of the third, Ruben Tejada is on first. With Johan Santana taking ball one, Tejada — now officially, upon the return of Jose Reyes to the starting lineup, part of the longest-running homegrown infield in Mets history — takes off for second. Mustachioed Corky Miller, taking a break from playing the Michael Imperioli role in Life On Mars, throws him out. And I say to my co-blogger the following:
“What a shame. Now Johan Santana’s first home run as a Met will be a solo shot.”
Matt Maloney then proceeded to throw eleven more pitches to Johan. Six were fouled off. One was ball two. Then three more were fouled off. Then Johan Santana hit his first Met and major league home run.
It was, as I had projected nearly a dozen pitches earlier, a solo shot.
That’s the kind of thing I like to be right about.
With a 3-0 victory sealed shut by its progenitor, everything was right at Citi Field Tuesday night, no matter how many digits the park’s temperature contained. My soup-to-nuts experience was of the Ice Cube today was a good day variety: good company for Jason and me provided by our hosts Sharon and Kevin; good judgment on the part of Citi security not making folks discard their open bottles of water at the entrance (“we’re showing some mercy tonight,” my favorite guard told me…and yes, after 50 games at Citi Field, I have a favorite guard); good random LIRR meeting with a good dude who read my book and told me he liked it (which, quite frankly, I never get tired of hearing); good and cold Blue Point Toasted Lager from Catch of the Day; good Mets lamp post banner sighting while I nursed my Blue Point — Marv Throneberry in his Polo Grounds finery (and who was celebrated on more Polo Grounds banners than Marvelous Marv?); good and respectful Reds t-shirt sighting, too — SEAVER 41 in Cincinnati’s current font.
And Jerry Manuel didn’t even have to use his AK…or his K-Rod. I got to say it was a good day.
Best of all, from a statistical standpoint, the Mets and I are now on a twelve-game winning streak together. The Mets in real life have never won more than eleven in a row. They accomplished their longest flawless stretches in 1969, 1972, 1986 and 1990. Next to the elusive no-hitter, the one thing I’ve been waiting for my entire life as a Mets fan is for the Mets to win a dozen consecutive games. Until it happens where everybody can see it, the next best thing, for me anyway, is that it’s happened on my watch.
I never would have guessed I’d get twelve wins in a row. But I did call Johan’s shot.
Monday, July 12 is AMAZIN’ ALL-STAR MONDAY, with Marty Noble and Howard Megdal. Come out to Two Boots Grand Central at 7 PM. It’s in the Lower Dining Concourse of Grand Central Terminal, 42nd Street and Park Avenue, accessible via Metro-North as well as the 4, 5, 6, Times Square Shuttle and, of course, the 7 train. Phone: 212/557-7992. Full details here.