If I didn’t know better, I’d swear Edubray Ramos was auditioning for the Texas Rangers to shore up their bullpen. Based on his work in the eighth inning Monday against the Mets, the Phillies righthander seems a good fit for a team sometimes renowned for waiting till next year and the last minute to settle a grudge.
Dallas Green, who died today at 82, once told his players he was the toughest sonofabitch for whom they’d ever play. Whether leading the Phillies to their first World Series title or surviving the furies of George Steinbrenner with the 1989 Yankees or the planned obsolescence of the early-to-mid 1990s Mets, Green’s kind of tough let him survive the kind of times that could break the toughest of birds at a moment’s notice.
Men who live in hard luck develop a courage sometimes impossible for those not making his voyage to comprehend. A pitcher who lived in such luck pitching for the Mets in the 1990s, is going to need that courage more than even when he suffered the major league record for a pitcher’s losing streak.
“The first major league pitch I ever called . . . a curve ball to Wally Moon,” Chris Cannizzaro once said. “I didn’t catch it.” That’s because Moon, then with the Dodgers, hit it far over the infamous Chinese Screen in left field in the old Los Angeles Coliseum, where the Dodgers were shoehorned into playing baseball until Dodger Stadium was ready in 1962.
Cannizzaro was then enjoying one of a couple of cups of coffee with the Cardinals. If he didn’t get to catch his first major league called pitch, he didn’t have any better luck in his first major league at-bat: he grounded out to second base against Sandy Koufax.
The rebuilding Braves decided a little senior leadership on the mound was what their budding pitching corps needs. So they signed the two oldest active major league pitchers this week. R.A. Dickey, the knuckleball specialist and erstwhile Cy Young Award winner (2012), signed for one year and $8 million guaranteed. And Bartolo Colon has signed for one year and $12.5 guaranteed.
Both signings ensure the Braves’ younger arms will be mentored by former Mets. If they happen to win some games while they’re at it, that’s a plus. But you won’t find two pitchers who left the Mets in more differing conditions when they did leave.
The Mets survived everything thrown at them in 2016 and came up three bucks short. The Giants survived themselves and, at the eleventh hour, punched their ticket to Chicago for a division series showdown with the Cubs.
And until Jeurys Familia threw the wrong pitch to a no-name number eight hitter named Conor Gillaspie, who had to step in for injured Eduardo Nunez late in the season, the National League wild card game threatened to go to extra innings and maybe beyond no matter who might be the last man standing on the mound.
Vin Scully ended his broadcasting career in the home ballpark of the Dodgers’ age-old rivals, receiving an affectionate pre-game visit from Willie Mays, awash in a sea of placards (THANK YOU VIN) and maybe the only known standing ovation ever afforded a Dodger in San Francisco. His final words were as gracious as you might have expected from this excessively modest man who always seemed to believe his gift from God was merely something on loan.
There are times when entire baseball seasons or championships are believed to turn, for better or worse, on single acts at the plate, on the mound, or in the field. Marshal the appropriate evidence and those beliefs can be either upheld or obliterated.
Thirty years ago, the Mets and the Red Sox locked in mortal baseball combat, in a World Series. It ended with the Mets on top of a baseball world that didn’t necessarily love that edition of the team, and the Red Sox having been kicked to the rocks below after having gotten close enough, yet again, to a Promised Land determined never to let them set foot upon it again, or so it seemed.
Don’t even think about saying the Mets have been cured completely of their June swoon just yet. And don’t even think about saying the Cubs have been broken back to the land of the mere mortals just yet. But it wouldn’t be out of line to suggest that a weekend sweep of the Cubs gave the Mets their first serious medicinal break of the year. And we use the term “medicinal” advisedly.