He just stood there. Bases loaded, two out, two strikes and he just stands.
This has been a tiring and ultimately frustrating week and now all the analysts will chime in and the pressure will mount on GM Omar Minaya to bolster the pitching.
But it wasn’t the pitching that failed the Mets this week. We got two who-would-have-believed-it performances from erratic Oliver Perez and gems from Tom Glavine (in game 1) and John Maine (in game 6). The pitching, both starters and bullpen, did pretty much as expected despite the glaring absence of Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez.
It was the hitting that was absent. Forget the 12-5 win and focus on Endy Chavez being 0-12 with runners in scoring position, or David Wright’s under .200 average, or the total absence of clutch hitting from Jose Valentin. Time and again, the Mets missed the key hit. They weren’t moving runners over, they were swinging too early in the count and not making the opposing pitchers work.
Twice they put Cliff Floyd up and twice we hoped for his Kirk Gibson-moment. After he failed the first time, I would have thought twice about putting a guy who can’t run up at bat. Floyd isn’t accustomed to pinch hitting, hasn’t really hit in a few weeks and showed how rusty he was with poor timing. Deb and I argued over the value of having my personal fave, Julio Franco, up there in lieu of Floyd last night but he hasn’t been delivering either.
They got beat by the better team.
I spent much of last night watching in the family and then running into Deb’s office and watching on MLB.com’s gamecast as I IM’d with Kate. She was finishing a mid-term paper and watching on the same site. We anguished over every missed opportunity and I tried to describe what it was like watching Endy Chavez’s amazing catch at the wall. It was odd hearing her describe the sunrise over Cairo as the game wound down.
And both us began rewriting Ernest Thayer as the game ended. My good pal, Michael A. Burstein, did a much better job than me. Herewith, his updated lament (with a minor tweak courtesy of Peter David):
(With apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer, and to Carlos Beltran, who did his best.)
The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the New York Mets that day:
The score stood one to one, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Rolen got to first, Molina’s turn at bat
Made it clear to one and all the game shouldn’t end like that.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Beltran could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now, with Beltran at the bat.
But Floyd preceded Beltran, as did also Valentin,
And the former one was injured, while the latter wasn’t “in”;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Beltran getting to the bat.
But Valentin and Chavez to the wonderment of all,
Hit two singles in a row, they really slammed that ball;
And though hopes were pinned on Reyes, after Floyd’s depressing stance,
With Lo Duca loading bases, it seemed the Mets might get to dance.
Then from a million throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Beltran, mighty Beltran, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Beltran’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Beltran’s bearing and a smile lit Beltran’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Beltran at the bat.
Two million eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
A million tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Beltran’s eye, a sneer curled Beltran’s lip.
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Beltran stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the changeup pitch it sped—
“That ain’t my style,” said Beltran. “Strike one!” the umpire said.
>From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Beltran raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity great Beltran’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
This time it was a curveball, and the umpire said, “Strike two!”
“Fraud!” cried the maddened Mets fans, and echo answered “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Beltran and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Beltran wouldn’t let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Beltran’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And Adam Wainwright holds the ball, and now he lets it fling
And now the crowd is screaming because Beltran doesn’t swing.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Metsville—mighty Beltran has struck out.
— Michael A. Burstein