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Recognizing Our Mets-in-Law

When the Hall of Fame voting [1] was announced Wednesday, I felt a mild surge of Metsian pride as two of the four new members were ushered into immortality. Chipper Jones was the quintessential turn-of-the-millennium Atlanta Brave and Vladimir Guerrero’s many splendors were established as a multitooled Montreal Expo. Given their respective pedigrees, we take this moment to recognize them as true Mets-in-law, essential elements of our extended family.

Every extended family has its supreme pains in the ass. In baseball, those are your divisional rivals’ stars, the ones who show up on your doorstep or to whose doorstep you drag yourself. “Oh, hi…good to see ya…how ya been?” You make your small talk through gritted teeth, screwing on a good face to be polite. These out-of-towners tend to cause you heartache and give you headaches. But you put up with them. You see them a few times a year, year after year, because tradition dictates the get-togethers. You’re used to these people. You don’t necessarily care for them, but familiarity will spur you and they to develop a grudging mutual bonhomie.

In the case of the Hall of Fame Class of 2018, National League East branch, that’s Chipper/Larry and that’s Vlad. We had different experiences with both. Chipper required a surfeit of visits before he sort of, kind of grew on us in that “at least we’re not surprised anymore” sense. Come to think of it, it was the almost two decades of visits that landed him on our nerves, but we couldn’t do anything about those. Also, he needed to learn tact. Age seemed to take care of that. Time heals some wounds, or perhaps reframes their context.

Vlad was more gracious. He came to kill us, sure, but never said a discouraging word, at least not that we picked up on. The side of the family he was from, in Canada, was never nearly the issue that Chipper and the Georgia relations were, certainly not in Vladimir’s day. He was fun to have over when you could forget why we were seeing him. Vlad we might have liked to have had stay on a more permanent basis. Such an arrangement wasn’t meant to be.

The other two Hall of Famers selected by the Baseball Writers Association of America — Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman — weren’t total strangers, but rate, to us, as Met acquaintances at best. Thome passed through our field of vision now and again, but he did the bulk of his nice-natured destruction elsewhere. Hoffman you had to be a night owl to know from where his best work was concerned. Overall, you heard good things regarding both. Their numbers, like those compiled by our Mets-in-law Chipper and Vlad, are suitably impressive. Now that none of them is trying to ruin a Mets evening or season, live and be well on a wall Upstate.

Most parochially pressing from the latest round of Hall voting is the ASAP disappearance of Johan Santana, a most discouraging result. Ten years ago, right around this moment, we were edging to the front of our collective seat because news was spreading that Johan was on the verge of becoming a Met. If you could permit yourself to dream of any pitcher joining the bosom of your immediate baseball family in the winter of 2008, or in the several winters preceding that one, it would have been Johan Santana. He was the best of his era, an era that didn’t endure quite long enough to crack the consciousness of the ballotholders. Johan received 2.4% of the vote, higher by far than the portion of Major League batters who wanted to face him between 2004 and 2010, but well off the 5% needed to continue to be considered for Cooperstown.

As disappointing as the expulsion of one of the greats from the ballot is, the upside, I suppose, is no lingering à la long shot Mets Billy Wagner, Jeff Kent and Gary Sheffield, none of whom neared 20%, never mind the necessary seventy-five. Of course it’s better to be up for a lightning-strike election than immediately dismissed, but there’s something undignified about players who crafted outstanding careers having to be treated as also-rans January after January, one self-serious expert after another paying them lip service, then skipping the box next to their names. A year from now, we won’t have to hear writers offer afterthoughts on Johan, that he was really, really terrific…but not really that terrific, or not as terrific as ten other players, almost definitely not terrific for as long as would have been preferred.

The First No-Hitter in New York Mets History is the First No-Hitter in New York Mets History and always will be. I’ve got a plaque in my head for June 1, 2012, and it was installed unanimously. As for the conferring of immortality, anybody who witnessed Johan Santana carry his team and our ballpark to one more day of life [2] on Saturday, September 27, 2008, doesn’t require further validation. We saw a Hall of Famer that day and we will never forget what he looked like.

I was honored to be the first guest on the new A Metsian Podcast with Sam, Rich and Mike. Thank you Messrs. Maxwell, Sparago and Lecolant for having me on. You can (and should) listen in here [3].