The 2014 World Champion New York Mets’ highlight DVD — whose title, Soak It Up, of course refers to the several million 7 Line hit towels we twirled as our boys rode triumphantly up the Canyon of Heroes — features one of the biggest blows of the year, Daniel Murphy’s fifth-inning, opposite-field, three-run homer, the one that put the Mets up, 4-1, in that pivotal Wednesday afternoon game against the Phillies in late July.
Interspersed with interviews of Murph, baserunners Ruben Tejada and Curtis Granderson and hitting coach Lamar Johnson are reactions of “typical fans” like myself. You’ll see the part where I talk about being busy doing other things in the middle of the day but pausing in front of the television long enough to watch Daniel’s at-bat versus Kyle Kendrick, and when he drove the second pitch he saw over the left field wall, you hear me say, “For the first time I could remember all season, I jumped up in my living room and raised a fist in the air.”
They used that part of my interview, but they cut the part where I added, “The only thing missing was a curtain call.” It’s a shame that they didn’t bother including my historical riff on how the 11-2 win took its place among memorable Mets midweek home afternoon wins over the Phillies, including the sweltering slugfest from 1985 when Doc faced Koosman; or the day Delgado got the big hit and the Mets prevailed in the then-rivals’ July 2008 showdown series; or — and I really think they should have kept this — that this game provided an echo of the game from the previous August, when Daniel collected four hits, which turned out to be Ralph Kiner’s penultimate game as a Met broadcaster. They also omitted my observation that this romp over Philadelphia occurred on the 45th anniversary of the doubleheader loss to the Astros, the one in which Gil Hodges strode purposefully to left field and removed Cleon Jones for not hustling after a ball.
“The Mets were swept that day at Shea in 1969,” I explained, while trying not to sound pedantic about it, “but it was a very real turning point toward turning a young team into world champions, and now, at Citi Field, we were looking out to left field and seeing something that pointed the Mets toward October…different but similar in terms of momentum.”
Can you believe they didn’t use that bit? These people have no sense of history.
Instead, they flashed Lucas Duda’s bomb to the Pepsi Porch from the eighth before making a perfunctory Sharknado reference and then moving on to how the Mets approached the trade deadline the next day and how it paid immediate dividends the ensuing weekend when the Mets exacted revenge on the Giants for a series sweep suffered in early June in San Francisco. What really disappointed me about the production, however, was they didn’t use the other aspect I wanted to talk about from the July 30 win. You’d think they could’ve at least included it as a DVD extra or something.
Here’s a partial transcript of what I told them:
“Yeah, so Murphy’s home run was huge, no doubt. And I really did jump in the air and raise a fist. I mean, I hadn’t been this excited about a given swing in quite a while. It was just one of those instinctive Mets fan reactions when something happens and your body doesn’t even know what it’s doing and your head doesn’t stop to think about it.
“But still, it was only 4-1 at that point, and Wheeler had really labored. Yet Zack’s still in there for the seventh, which on one hand you like to see, but given how many pitches he’d thrown in the early innings, I had to wonder why Terry hadn’t made a move. Sure enough, frigging Jimmy Rollins — can I say frigging? — leads off with a homer, and now it’s 4-2, and eventually Collins pulls Wheeler and brings in Dana Eveland, who’d been hit on the elbow a couple of nights earlier, and he doesn’t have it, and suddenly the Phillies have runners on first and third and Marlon Byrd of all people is coming up. I can envision the whole thing unraveling right then and there.
“In another season, Byrd hits one off of Eveland or Jon Rauch or I don’t know who, but this wasn’t another season. This was 2014, when the Mets were changing for the better — hey, maybe you guys can use that as a title: Changing For The Better. Or you can stick with the towel thing. It would be great if you could get the rights to use “Car Wash” instead of using a generic music bed. I don’t know what your budget is, but since they started playing Rose Royce at the ballpark, it would be a nice touch.
“Anyway, Eveland goes out and Jeurys Familia comes in. I was bracing for the worst, because that’s just what you do as a Mets fan with the bullpen in play and the Phillies in town and an ex-Met at the plate.
“But y’know what? I should’ve braced for not the worst. Well, no, I should always brace for the worst, because it’s when you let your guard down that the worst happens with this team. At least it was prior to 2014. I guess after winning the World Series maybe I can ease up on the precautionary thinking…no, maybe not, because that’s what helped get us here. That and what the front office did at the July 31 trade deadline. But you said you wanted to get to that later.
“Where was I? Oh yes, Byrd was up and Familia was in. Familia was so good all year, y’know? When was the last time we had an eighth-inning guy like him? Aaron Heilman? And we remember what happened with Aaron Heilman. You’re probably not going to use that, are you? Only contemporary upbeat stuff, huh? Well I was usually very upbeat about Familia and he didn’t let me down. Byrd swings at the first pitch — Marlon’s better than that, but the Phillies must’ve really wanted to get the game and the season over with — and he taps it to Wright, who throws to Duda and the Mets are out of the inning, still up, 4-2. And then comes the five in the bottom of the seventh where even Familia is driving in a run, and it’s 9-2, and at the end of the day it all looked so easy, even preordained.
“Thing is, it wasn’t. Without Familia getting Byrd out, without the kind of lockdown bullpen the Mets had after all those years when you worried about who’d leave the gate open — there, that should make your sponsors happy — we had guys who wouldn’t let leads get away at crucial junctures. I know Murphy was the hero that day, that all you asked me to do was remember where I was when Daniel hit that homer, but I had to mention Familia. That was the real fulcrum of that game, maybe the whole season. Familia’s contribution was so enormous that I was still thinking about it the next morning.
“I know the Phillies sucked…I mean…let me try that again…I know the Phillies weren’t very good, but to be a first-place team, you have to beat the last-place team, and the Mets had to beat the Phillies that day. Lose to them and it’s ‘same old Mets,’ but they weren’t the same old Mets. The whole team — Murphy, Duda, Familia — they all contributed, just like 1969.
“Maybe not exactly like 1969…what’s that? We’re out of time? Oh, OK. You sure? Because I have a couple of parallels to draw between the Mets trading for Clendenon at that year’s deadline and that deal the Mets made on July 31 this year…or should I say the deal the Mets didn’t make?”