Mets 10 Nationals 5
Lots of excitement, especially for only the third game of the year. First, the 2006 debut of Pedro Martinez. Pedro was not very sharp, and did not have his best stuff. But Pedro being the guile, aggressive, wiley pitcher he is, gave the Mets six good innings and the bullpen a one-run lead. Once again, Duaner Sanchez made things look easy, pitching two strong innings before giving way to the Chad, who by the ninth inning had a five-run lead and no problem holding on to the victory. In between, all kinds of emotions erupted from the players, fans, umpires, and at least one manager.
To start, the Mets hit 4 Nationals batters — the most ever in the Mets’ history for one game. Jose Guillen was hit twice by Pedro, and took a few steps to the mound after the second time. To his credit, Pedro stared him down as the home plate umpire and Paul LoDuca held Guillen back. Senor Guillen is a good hitter — probably the most dangerous hitter in the Nats’ lineup — but he ain’t too smart. Here’s a guy who crowds the plate, always stares the pitcher down after an inside pitch, complains to the press that his pitchers don’t protect him by retaliating, yet wonders why he got plunked 19 times last year and is on course to get hit 162 times this year. C’mon Jose, figure it out: you’ve made it very clear to every opponent that you don’t like pitches near your body. And so guess what they’re gonna do to mess with your head? Jose? Are you following?
To their credit — and in their defense — the Nats pitchers did try to retaliate. For example, Ramon Ortiz tried to hit David Wright; but Wright is young and spry and was able to get out of the way. And there were a few other close shaves, but the Mets hitters didn’t make a big deal out of it (the proper reaction). Even when Paul LoDuca was plunked with a purpose pitch, he calmly tossed the bat and hurried to first, not even looking in the direction of pitcher Felix Rodriguez. F-Rod was promptly tossed from the game, as was Frank Robinson, though Robbie did not leave without giving the ump a 15-minute diatribe. The beanballs back and forth, and the emotions tied to them, have set the stage for what should be a good old-fashioned rivalry between the two clubs. It will be fun to watch!
But the rivalrous raucous between the clubs was not the only emotional issue at stake. In addition, the Shea Stadium crowd continued to crow at Carlos Beltran after his first three at-bats, but the boos turned to cheers after his fourth at-bat yielded a huge 2-run homerun. The cheers were thunderous, and the crowd clamored for a curtain call. Beltran, however, refused to go out, and had to be pushed out onto the top step of the dugout by teammate Julio Franco for a one-millisecond acknowledgement. After the game, Beltran confirmed that he did not want to go out, sounding bitter about being booed earlier. Well if Beltran doesn’t quickly thicken his skin, and cover his ears, or start producing, the remainder of his 7-year contract is going to seem more like a jail sentence.
It’s clear that Beltran is sensitive, and now it’s questionable that he will be able to handle the pressure of playing in New York with a big contract. Lesser men than he have succumbed and been run out town: Ed Whitson, Bobby Bonilla, and Roberto Alomar are just a few. And there have been much better ballplayers — Reggie Jackson, Jason Giambi, and Derek Jeter immediately come to mind — who had been booed just as unmercifully, and for a longer period of time, yet were able to eventually win the fans over. In no other city does Darwin’s theory of the survival ring more true than in New York. Beltran needs to realize there was a reason that Houston and Kansas City and other small towns could not offer $119M over 7 years, and there is a lot of baggage that comes with the paycheck. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.