Quiet anniversary: The sober end of the Original Mets

Joe Pignatano, warming up at Wrigley Field, where . . .

At a Baseball Assistance Team dinner over a decade ago, Joe Pignatano—once a reserve major league catcher whose career began with the Brooklyn Dodgers and ended with the New York Mets; later a respected Mets bullpen coach—eased himself into a stool behind a table. His old Brooklyn Dodgers teammate, Sandy Koufax, was stationed behind the same table, signing assorted memorabilia and bric-a-brac.

“Hey,” a voice hollered, “how come he gets to sit there?” Koufax flashed a grin and replied, “Roomie seat.”

Homer Bailey, One, None, and Done

Spreading his wings after no-no-ing the Pirates . . .

“Late success,” Sandy Koufax once mused, “is quieter.” I’m not entirely convinced it’s true in Homer Bailey’s case, since he’s gone from a seventh-overall 2004 draft pick to a shaky major league beginning despite the ballyhoo to standing on top of the world, or at least the PNC Park mound with his Cincinnati Reds owning the National League Central, and himself proving, at long enough last, he belonged in any serious Reds rotation plans.

R.A. Dickey’s Second Mountaintop

Twenty the hard way . . .

Describing the performance of 37-year-old Sal Maglie—longtime New York Giants nemesis turned Brooklyn Dodgers pennant-race saviour—on the rear end of Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game, Peter Golenbock (in Bums) wrote, “It was a special performance by a great pitcher in the twilight of his career.” On Thursday afternoon, New York Mets fans, who’ve had little enough to cheer since the All-Star break, got to cheer a special performance by a pitcher who taught himself how to be great when he was approaching Maglie’s 1956 Series age.

Manny, Deactavated

Taking the fall with six games left . . .

A little over a month ago, Big League Stew‘s Kevin Kaduk wrote of Manny Acta, “Not only is he willing to play sacrificial lamb in front of his players but he’s starting to publicly question the flawed makeup of this Indians team. It’s hard to think that any member of Cleveland’s front office wants to have a spotlight shined on their failures by a member of their own organization.” Apparently, they didn’t and don’t. Acta has been pinked with a mere six games left to the Indians’ regular season.

Freeman’s Flog, and Other Flaggings . . .

Freeman’s flog fitted one more run at the flag for Mr. Chips and company . . .

Well, at least one of the teams who collapsed ignominiously last September has secured history’s failure to repeat itself. And when Freddie Freeman’s game-winning two-run homer dropped on the far side of the center field fence in the bottom of the ninth at Turner Field Tuesday, it couldn’t have seemed sweeter with retiring Hall of Famer in waiting Chipper Jones crossing the plate ahead of Freeman.

Tough Means Sometimes Having to Say You’re Sorry

Collins, the man the Red Sox probably only wish they’d hired instead of you-know-whom . . .

If you want to know the best reason why New York Mets manager Terry Collins isn’t anywhere close to the proverbial hot seat, and why Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine may be lucky to escape with his life when the season ends, you need look no further than what Collins did after a gruesome enough loss to the Philadelphia Phillies Thursday and before a blessed enough win against the Miami Marlines Friday.

Captain Clutch v. Charlie Hustler

Jeter in a typical moment . . .

Murray Chass, the Spink Award-winning journalist and former New York Timesman, can’t resist the opportunity to tie Derek Jeter to Pete Rose. Not because Jeter is now or on the threshold of becoming embroiled in the sort of thing that made Rose a pariah, but because Jeter’s renaissance season (he leads the American League in hits and is performing enough like his old self after two seasons in which, by his standards, his age showed somewhat dramatically) has now inspired speculation as to whether he can break Rose’s record for lifetime hits. And, because Rose’s latest known act once again shines a dark light upon the dark side of his soul.

Escobar and intolerance

An apology, and a no-pay suspension . . .

Flanked by his manager, general manager, and a coach, Yunel Escobar apologised for the eye-black black eye at Yankee Stadium this afternoon. Leaving little if any room to ponder he might have been punk’d, as had been pondered in the hoopla’s immediacy, the shortstop said inscribing tu eres maricon on his eye black strips was intended as a joke.

Yunel Escobar, eye black or black eye

Yunel Escobar, wearing the eye black eyed ’round the world . . .

You could make a case that the hoopla over Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar’s eye-black graffiti, which has just got him suspended three games without pay by the Blue Jays themselves, should be phrased more properly as a hoopla over a black eye, as in the one he’s now thought to have inflicted upon baseball. (Eye black, for the uninitiated, is used to repel sun glare or the glare from stadium lights at night. Some players apply the goo directly, others use specially-made strips of it.) But a few thoughts come to mind otherwise, and in no particular order:

Not Quite, Bobby V . . .

He’s no September historian, either . . .

Bobby Valentine’s bicycle seems to spend more time backpedaling than anything else when he’s aboard. And he has no better sense of direction than when he’s trying to pedal forward.

A few days ago, when a reporter had the audacity to ask in which if any areas the Red Sox needed improvement, Valentine delivered yet another remark the kind that has Red Sox Nation and Red Sox critics alike wondering when, not if, Valentine gets pinked. Not because he’s wrong, necessarily, but because he has a need, apparently insatiable, to take the low road, implying he can do nothing much past playing what he’s been dealt.