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A Grand Shame

The Giants certainly know how to slot their promotions, scheduling their annual Jerry Garcia Tribute Night for when the Mets came to town Thursday. A friend of mine, not much of a Grateful Dead fan, liked to tell the joke, “What did the Deadhead say once the drugs wore off — ‘man, this music sucks.’”

I like the music of the Dead (the official band of the 2016 New York Mets’ playoff hopes) just fine, but the entirety of whatever trip the Mets were on last night must have looked a lot better through a hallucinogenic prism. Not that the part where I imagined Justin Ruggiano [1] hit a grand slam off Madison Bumgarner [2] wasn’t, well, far out, but Jacob deGrom [3] and I kind of crashed when Bumgarner came up in the bottom of the very same inning, the fourth, and hit his own two-run homer to completely erase what was left of the lead Ruggiano built with a single four-run swing.

Trippy, right?

The eventual 10-7 defeat [4] negates a core tenet of my baseball philosophy: you should never, ever lose a game in which one of your batters hits a grand slam. Yet it’s happened to the Mets an unlucky 13 times in their 55-year history. Most recent before last night, it was Chris Schwinden [5] & Co. undoing Jason Bay [6]’s slamdiwork at Citi Field in 2011 in what became a 6-5 loss to the Braves. Most horrifying was Carlos Delgado [7]’s salami being cut down to size by Oliver Perez [8] and the oily rags who followed him onto the mound during the last week of Shea Stadium’s existence in 2008. This was the infamous tie score, Murphy triples to lead off, Wright coming up, bottom of the ninth, all we need is a sacrifice fly game that did not result in Daniel coming home. Luis Ayala [9] burned the place to the ground in the tenth, 9-6, and we soldiered on to Shea Goodbye, knowing damn well we’d blown our best chance to extend the ballpark’s life.

Saddest? Sadder than Ruggiano’s beautiful night (3-for-5 and a sweet, running catch) being sabotaged by deGrom enduring the worst outing of his and almost everybody’s career? I’d have to go with Jack Hamilton [10], Mets starting pitcher on May 20, 1967, blasting a four-bagger versus ex-Met Al Jackson [11], by then of the Cardinals, in the second inning at Shea. Hamilton proceeded to return to his hurling and promptly threw the lead back up; he was out of the game in the fourth and the Mets went on to lose, 11-9.

“Hey, Jack, how was your game today?”
“Oh, great, yeah, I hit a grand slam.”
“Wonderful! What did you and the guys do to celebrate afterwards?”

The rest of the fellas whose productive bats proved no more than ornaments to futility: Frank Thomas [12], 1962; Eddie Bressoud [13], 1966; Tommie Agee [14], 1971; Rusty Staub [15], 1973; Gary Carter [16], 1985; Joe Orsulak [17], 1995; Cliff Floyd [18], 2005; and Fernando Tatis [19], 2009. In a cruel twist of fate, Tatis was starting at first base a few days after Delgado had played his final game as a Met, though we didn’t know it was Delgado’s final game. He’ll probably just need a little rest, some rehab and he’ll be back as good as new before we know it. That was that year’s baseball equivalent of one of those marathon jams that made the Dead famous. Carlos’s injury turned out to be the canary in the walking boot in the coal mine from which the 2009 Met campaign could not be rescued. Everybody (just about) got hurt, every game (more or less) was lost.

What was wrong with Delgado again? I’m going to say it was a broken heart never properly healed from how the Mets lost to the Cubs the previous September.

No Dead tribute slated for tonight at Phone Company Park, but Seth Lugo [20] will be filling in for Steven Matz [21], who reported shoulder soreness and was therefore scratched. Just a precaution, they say.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on us. But not often.