We should have known a Mets win was in the bag shortly after Geoff Blum spoiled R.A. Dickey’s bid for a second consecutive complete game victory with one out in the ninth inning. That may not have seemed like the moment for Mets fan self-confidence, but if I had done my homework, I might have divined precedent dictated the outcome.
Blum’s bomb to right-center at Minute Maid Park tied the score at two and broke our Dickey-loving hearts, sure. But once R.A. departed and Hisanori Takahashi took us to the tenth, the game was clearly tilting our way. How do I know that? By doing my homework after the fact.
See, the last extra-inning game at Minute Maid Park in which Geoff Blum homered was an Astro loss. Unlike Keith Hernandez’s dad, I’m by no means a Houston buff, yet I do know one thing well about Geoff Blum: he hit the latest home run in World Series history. It was at Minute Maid Park, it took place in extra innings and the Astros lost….in fourteen, no less.
The circumstances were a little different five years ago than they were Wednesday night.
October 25, 2005 had become October 26, 2005. The Astros were hosting the White Sox in Game Three of that year’s World Series (an exquisitely tense World Series that is never mentioned as one of the best because it was a sweep). It was 5-5 in the top of the fourteenth, two out. Geoff Blum, a former Astro, was up for the White Sox, having been inserted into the game a half-inning earlier in a double-switch. Blum had not batted in the World Series to that point. The journeyman infielder’s only postseason plate appearance occurred in the first game of the American League Division Series — following at-bats by two players whose names will warm Mets fans’ hearts: Willie Harris and Timo Perez — and he’d popped up. Geoff Blum was no more than a fringe player for the ’05 White Sox, the kind of guy who stays on the bench until the bottom of the thirteenth.
But in the top of the fourteenth, with two out, Geoff Blum faced Ezequiel Astacio and delivered a fringe benefit for the ages: he lifted a fly ball that just kept carrying down the right field line at Minute Maid until it was gone.
Chicago 6 Houston 5. The White Sox scratched out one more run on a pair of singles and a pair of walks and then withstood a brief flurry in the bottom of the fourteenth (Mark Buehrle, Ozzie Guillen’s ninth pitcher of the night/morning, came in Mike Pelfrey-style and recorded the final out) to win 7-5 and take a three games to none lead at 1:20 AM Central Daylight Time, just nine minutes shy of five hours played. They became world champions one night later.
Geoff Blum…it’s safe to say I hadn’t thought about him very much since October 26, 2005 when I was an ad hoc White Sox fan, based primarily on their not having won a World Series since 1917. Back then, I was thrilled by his sudden burst of power. Wednesday night, watching him ply his intermittent long ball talent again in Houston didn’t do nearly as much for me.
Until he launched his game-tying homer off Dickey, his first of the season, I wouldn’t swear I was conscious that Geoff Blum was still an Astro. Or had become an Astro for the second time in 2008. Or was “active” in the major league sense of the word. Honestly, the last thing I specifically remember Geoff Blum doing was homering off Steve Trachsel in 2006 on the night everybody else remembers as the night Mike Piazza returned to Shea Stadium as a Padre. Geoff was in his second San Diego tour — he seems to have a built-in homing device for his old teams. I gave a standing ovation to Mike Piazza and a respectful one to Mike Cameron in recognition of their meritorious Met service; when Blum took Trachsel deep in the second inning, I applauded real softly, as if it was the middle of the night the previous October and I didn’t want to wake anybody. The Mets went on to beat Piazza and the Padres, which was the main goal of the evening, and Blum receded into my subconscious for the next four years.
Too bad he came back to mind so strongly in the ninth last night. Too bad Dickey couldn’t finish his own win or win his own game (I will cop to prematurely putting it in the mental books with two outs to go, which is a breach of Mets fan conduct far worse than not terribly minding Geoff Blum homering off Steve Trachsel). Too bad anybody who is entranced by the 2010 Mets was compelled to stay up an extra five innings for the satisfying conclusion.
Yet a few ultimately good things happened as a result of Blum awarding us bonus baseball.
We saw what our starless bullpen — Takahashi, Parnell, Dessens and Acosta — could do when it absolutely had to. They were as good in relief as Dickey was starting, and Dickey was wonderful starting.
We saw that not having to designate one reliever as a “closer” and insisting he warm up umpteen times in advance of a road save opportunity that may never arrive doesn’t preclude an effective ending.
We saw Jose Reyes reach base a fourth and fifth time, and when Jose Reyes reaches base a lot, the Mets win. (FYI: the more Mets who reach base a lot, the more the Mets win.)
We saw Angel Pagan break his endless ohfer in the tenth and Ike Davis do the same in the thirteenth.
We saw a game in which Pagan, Davis and Ruben Tejada (his ohfer mercifully slain in regulation) each collected a base hit for the first time since July 11.
We saw the Mets score a go-ahead run without a base hit. Their big fourteenth-inning rally consisted of a walk, a bunt, a steal, a walk, an intentional walk and a fly ball. What the hell, a run is a run, especially after midnight.
And, when the Mets at last won, I could find myself thinking, “Hey, fourteenth inning, Minute Maid Park, Geoff Blum homered, Astros came out on the losing side…gosh, this feels sort of familiar.”
A few recommendations to fill the hours before tonight’s Minute Maid finale, the final game of the season scheduled to start later than 7:10 PM.
• Jerry Izenberg of the Star-Ledger, one of the great sports columnists in the history of the medium, appreciates Bobby Thomson and shares with us what it was like to be a young man who loved the New York Giants. (Thanks to Mets Police for the link.) May they someday write as many nice things for Geoff Blum in Chicago as they have for Bobby Thomson around here. Come to think of it, may we continue to write nice things about R.A. Dickey every fifth day for many years to come.
• Speaking of teams that no longer exist but touch the heartstrings nonetheless, try to catch or record MLB Network’s reairing of Triumph and Tragedy, a neat history of the not-so-neat downfall of the Montreal Expos, Friday at 4:00 PM. Slim pre-Met Rusty Staub and a mini-division clincher by the ’81 Expos at Shea are a couple of the highlights of parochial interest.
• Speaking of franchises run by people who don’t exactly seem to have their fans’ best interests at heart, you must read Matt Artus’s report on the focus group the Mets recently convened to learn what they could have learned from any number of blogs: that Mets fans are convinced the people running the franchise don’t exactly have their best interests at heart. Matt, per his site’s name, is Always Amazin’, but this piece is particularly resonant.
• Speaking of leadership that never swerves from a path that leads its followers smack into a wall, it’s a good time to descend into the Sports Illustrated vault and revisit Tom Verducci’s autopsy of the 1993 Mets. (Thanks to It’s Mets For Me for the link.) The real takeaway from this article is that two Met constants have stayed in place over these past seventeen years: a Wilpon at the helm and a certain after-the-fact arrogance about how things are going to be different this time. Whatever the era that has gone irretrievably awry, I am forever left with the sense that the Mets powers that be can’t be bothered to lock a barn door at night, but worry terribly how they will be perceived should a horse be seen trotting down the highway the next morning.
• Speaking of Mets matters that never go exactly right, R.A. Dickey’s surrendering of one hit last Friday led ESPN New York’s relentless Mark Simon to examine in-depth a most Metsopotamian phenomenon. The tally now stands at Mets One-Hitters 35 Mets No-Hitters 0.
• Speaking of Met pitching, specifically the ongoing absence of a certain high-profile closer via circumstances that weren’t exactly baseball-related, check out WFAN’s audio section to hear the podcast of Tony Paige’s lengthy interview with Duaner Sanchez. I’d actually been thinking about the Sanchez Disaster in the wake of the K-Rod Debacle. The cab accident that did in Duaner’s 2006 season (and maybe the entire team’s) was of course not his fault, but it’s always been murmured, “Why was he out so late looking for ‘Dominican food’?” With Paige, Sanchez — currently pitching for the Sussex Skyhawks of the Can-Am League — said he was not out late as everybody assumes. His version is he got in the Miami taxi of doom at 9:25 PM and returned to the team hotel from the hospital at 2:00 AM, yet “he was out at two in the morning” is what became the legend. What he claims may be the case, and the popular conception may deserve correction, but I find it ironic Duaner Sanchez chose to clear the air about his alleged penchant for nocturnal wandering as an in-studio guest on an overnight radio show.
• We’re not speaking of Charlie Hangley but maybe we should be, because our own CharlieH is once more working the other side of the Comments section. The former Serval Zippers chronicler and eternal Friend of FAFIF has unveiled My Entire Team… to an anticipant Metsosphere. Best of luck to one of the good ones.
Finally, apropos of nothing except for what I heard after listening to Tony Paige wrap up his conversation with Duaner Sanchez…
John Sterling only reaches my eardrums when one of his calls is featured on a WFAN update, but I’m never, ever not incredulous that he continues to reign, after 22 seasons, as the flagship radio voice of a team that fancies itself the gold standard of its sport. The clip I just heard was his call of a Curtis Granderson home run, featuring him singing, “The Grandy man can!” It may not read as the worst of Sterling’s forced and tired self-serving shtick, but the singing surely puts it over the top.
Thus I feel compelled to ask a fairly obvious question: Who with functioning eardrums — Yankees fan, Yankees hater, accidental listener who thinks Traffic and Weather Together on the Eights is a moment away — can possibly stand listening to John Sterling?
I don’t ask this to touch off a therapeutic round of Yankee-bashing. Baseball fans, regardless of affiliation, have to really love the game enough to witness it through a radio. TV, even if you’re not fond of the announcers, comes with a built-in override option: just turn down the sound; you can still watch. That won’t work with radio. It’s all about the announcer, a person on whom you rely to be your reporter, your analyst, your guide, your companion and your eyes. When those multiple roles are muffed, your experience a fan is truly diminished.
The only thing I could imagine relying on John Sterling for is an alibi. “Sure I went on that shooting spree, your honor, but you gotta understand — my car radio was stuck on 880 and he started singing…not just announcing but singing!” I mean, really, who actually likes this guy?