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The Center of Saturday Night in Atlanta

Game Six against the Red Sox. The Steve Henderson Game. The Marlon Anderson Game. The Rob Gardner-Chris Short Double Shutout that went 18 innings and was terminated by curfew. The Largest Comeback in Mets History, at the Astrodome, when an 8-0 deficit became an 11-8 win.

The Mets have played some great Saturday night games in their history. Their most recent Saturday night game wasn’t one of them [1].

I wouldn’t call myself an aficionado of Saturday night Mets games, but I seem to watch all of them and blog most of them. That’s more or less OK, I suppose. I’ve never been one of those people hitting the streets in search of action on Saturday night, not when I was theoretically of an age when action was everything, certainly not two decades deep into married life with a soulmate who’s every bit the homebody I am. On most of my Saturday nights, I’ve mostly looked for something good to watch.

Or failing that, a Mets game.

This Saturday night, the last Saturday night of 2012, wasn’t a bad game if you were a Braves fan. If it had taken place at Citi Field, SNY might have had to have installed a new Cholula meter to measure Craig Kimbrel’s stuff in the ninth inning. The kid quite clearly has hot sauce in his veins. The Mets somehow got two runners on against him, yet there was no chance they were going to score. None. Craig Kimbrel has a .124 batting average against. Think about that: It’s like Craig Kimbrel faces nothing but Jason Bay over and over.

Jason Bay has a .158 batting average for. When it was down to .153 after his first two at-bats, it occurred to me that if you plucked any position player from the minor leagues, the independent leagues, college ball, high school ball, American Legion ball, any organized ball — essentially anybody combining any discernible baseball skill with some semblance of athleticism — and gave him Jason Bay’s 190 at-bats, it seems unlikely that that player wouldn’t exceed .153.

And he would do it for substantially less than $18.125 million.

Mind you, the idea of averaging more than 15 base hits for every 100 at-bats, when .153 is framed in those terms, sounds very impressive to me. But I have no discernible baseball skill and never displayed any semblance of athleticism — plus I’m closing in on 50. So I won’t be one of those blowhards [2] who insists “I could do better than that!” I couldn’t. Many others, however, probably could.

I was thinking that when Bay was 0-for-2. Then he collected a base hit to put with his other 29 from this year, and I thought I was being a little hard on him. Then I was reminded on the replay that his batting average when he swung, as posted on the right field scoreboard, was .153 and it had only just now risen to .158. So, no, I don’t think I’m being at all hard on him.

Conversely, something should probably be said in praise of Chris Young, but…I dunno. I’ve watched this guy be exactly the kind of Met that Met GMs pride themselves on signing: used to be pretty good; encountered genuine adversity; worked incredibly hard to get back; knows how to pitch; can register outs until he can’t; returned to throw game after game that with a few breaks could have been wins but mostly weren’t. Unless a pitcher in that situation has taught himself a knuckleball and kept a journal, those guys just don’t get you to your feet with two strikes. Chris Young has done a fine job of being all the Chris Young he can be [3]. It is commendable, it is admirable, it’s just not…like I said, I dunno.

Chris Young went six adequate innings and gave up two runs. Mike Minor pitched a little longer and a little better. Minor won. Young lost. That could have happened any night of any Met week in 2012, except more IDs were probably checked by Turner Field security given the pronounced presence of those known to be Minor and Young.

In the end on this Saturday night when the Mets ensured their record will be no better than last year’s, my co-MVPs were, per usual, Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez (who will relinquish their title on Sunday afternoon when they move to Channel 11 and Cablevision flips me their final bird of the season). Upon one of Chipper Jones’s plate appearances, as our announcers paused to heap praise on him like it was Cholula Hot Sauce, a graphic appeared illustrating what a terrific switch-hitter Jones has been. It showed his average against “rightie” pitching and “leftie” pitching.

And as I gasped in the disgust only a nitpicking editor could really gasp, there was honest-to-god cackling coming from the SNY booth. Gary, who has observed the baseball team equivalent of a typographical error for the vast majority of 158 games, couldn’t believe his channel couldn’t spell “righty” and “lefty” properly. Keith seemed pretty amused by Gary’s being floored — and absolutely scandalized a little later when an SNY field mic picked up Scott Hairston’s exploding f-bomb after Scottso flied out.

“Ooh,” was Keith’s reaction to a ballplayer cursing loudly or, perhaps, to a ballplayer’s curse plainly going out over the air. And when Kimbrel caught Lucas Duda standing, looking and helpless to end this Saturday night in Atlanta, “ooh” was pretty much all I had left.