Thursday, June 17, 2004

Game 64 - Mets
Slop Sloppy Baseball

Indians 9, Mets 1
Record: 30-34

At first glance, this was a throw-away game, one of those 35 games a year that Rob talks about being a predetermined loss. But it wasn't, really, and the problems that led to the 9-1 whipping aren't an aberration and aren't going away with any more firings. The game was 2-1 into the 6th. The 35 doomed games come when you must tip your cap to the other team for simply being better on a given night. Committing two errors, firing a pair of run-scoring wild pitches, and bungling several more fielding plays certainly means the Mets were worse, but were the Indians really that much better last night?

Yeah, okay, pretty much. C.C. Sabathia threw a great game, making the Mets look bad -- fire-your-hitting-coach bad. Their batters had timely hits, the kind the Mets swore off sometime in April. Part of that is top-to-bottom hitting, with every player contributing something. While the Mets haven't been making contact all that well, their timing has been worse. I'm not talking about bat-meets-ball timing, though that could obviously use an overhaul as well. It's times when the 1-2 hitters go 6-for-8 and the 3-4 hitters go 0-for-8, and one run is scored. Last night saw three hits by the 2 & 3 spots and three hits by the 7 & 8 spots sandwiching a fat slice of 4-5-6 oh-fer turkey. How many times have the Mets worked to load the bases and then shot themselves in the spikes? The defense has the excuse of being played largely out of position, but that complaint doesn't really transfer to the offense, unless you count "in the major leagues" as "out of position."

Speaking of playing out of position on defense, that reminds me of a story. Wanna hear it? Here it go. Sometime over a decade ago (yikes), Rob Russell and I attended a Tidewater (now Norfolk) Tides game at Met Park. Met Park was a strange old place. Right off I-64, it was a dated, run-down, very minor-league-looking stadium that sported us to not only good baseball every time we made the trip, but also to something bizarre and usually humorous. From our bellowing buddy Chris dropping a foul pop on TV to Chuck Carr lacing a triple to the gap three minutes after Rob's and my definitive conclusion that you couldn't possibly leg out a triple in that park to this mildly humorous episode, it was always a little bit out there. (Not to mention my touchdown at my high school Homecoming game in the Park -- that was certainly X-files rare.)

Rob and I didn't notice it in the second inning, but I think we picked up on Tim Bogar's position switch to start the third inning. And when he took left field to start the fourth, we knew what was up. It was the last game of the season for the Tides, and starting shortstop Tim Bogar was playing a different position every inning. He made his way around the outfield in the middle innings and took first for the seventh. Rob and I mused whether he'd actually suit up the gear and get behind the plate, and especially whether he'd take the mound. Sure enough, there was Bogar at catcher in the eighth, and doing a pretty good job at it, too. The Tides had a comfortable lead, making this sidelight gravy. Bogar completed the feat as he stepped onto the hill in Top 9. The crowd roared when Bogar fired a strike. That he might be competent at the role was unexpected. When he struck out the first batter, it was a as frenzied as it could get for the postseason-denied Tides; these theatrics were taking a pleasant evening at the ballpark and raising it to a level that obviously embanked itself in my memory. The thought of this infielder possibly coming in and striking out the side to end the season was, albeit in a baseball equivalent of small-town community theater, high drama. And then Tim Bogar reared back and fired a fastball right into the face of the second batter. The hitter was taken to the hospital and Bogar was lifted for a "real" pitcher, who did close it out. Hollywood feelgood becomes black comedy. Awesome. And that, my friends, plus the sinister, muffled laughter Rob and I choked back until we got to the car, is why this little outing is memorable. Tim Bogar did make it to the bigs with the Mets and Astros; his numbers were largely unimpressive (.228 BA), but every time we saw him we'd think of him re-arranging someone's facial structure during his little gag. He actually had a pair of major league pitching appearances, with a 4.50 career ERA. And you think Roger Clemens scares hitters?

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