Sorry, Charlie

Charlie Montoyo

Montoyo takes the fall for somewhat less than gets other managers executed.

Let’s see. The Phillies sat 22-29 and having lost 11 of their previous 17 when they executed manager Joe Girardi in favour of Rob Thomson—whose team has gone 24-14 since.

The Angels went from 27-17 to 27-29, the first team in major league history to plunge from  ten games over .500 to a twelve-game losing streak, and sent manager Joe Maddon to the guillotine in favour of Phil Nevin. Nevin’s crew has gone 12-21 since, including 2-11 to open July.

The Blue Jays went 46-42 through Wednesday morning but suffered a five-game losing streak after opening July with a win, went 1-7 against one American League West wild-card contender and one of the division’s weaker teams, and awoke Wednesday at 2-12 for the month to date. Thus did they decide manager Charlie Montoya had a date with the firing squad despite the Jays beating those Phillies Tuesday.

Bench coach John Schneider was handed the bridge with the usual “interim” tag. The Blue Jays’ first act under their interim commander was to beat the Phillies to sweep a two-game set. Thomson’s been a steady skipper thus far; Nevin’s been little more than an apprentice seaman. One win isn’t enough to make the call on Schneider.

But something stunk about Montoya’s firing at first that was a little more profound than the fragrances surrounding the Girardi and Maddon executions. The timing especially.

Earlier this month first base coach Mark Budzinski’s seventeen-year-old daughter Julia was killed in a tubing accident. On Monday, Montoyo—who’d left the dugout with Budzinski in the middle of a doubleheader on receiving the news—joined other team reps in attending Julia Budzinski’s funeral.

Maybe collapsing to a 2-12 July opening gave the Jays enough reason to think Montoyo had to go, but with the All-Star break approaching it’s not unreasonable to think they might have waited just a short while longer, maybe on the eve of the break itself, to align the firing squad.

This may have been the second most cold-blooded managerial firing in modern major league history. The first would have to have been the Yankees dumping pennant-winning manager Yogi Berra in favour of the man who beat him in the 1964 World Series, the Cardinals’ Johnny Keane, the day after the Cardinals won in seven, a move that was planned back-channel before the Yankees put on the stretch drive (going 30-13) that nailed their pennant in the first place.

It looked even worse if you thought about was Montoyo having managed the Jays to 91 wins and a near-miss to the 2021 postseason despite the continuing coronavirus pan-damn-ic compelling the team to make three different cities the site of their home games.

But as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic pointed out in the immediacy of Montoyo’s execution, the Jays may have their still-euphemistic “compelling reasons” to give the command to fire. If that’s true, maybe they shouldn’t have let him stay on the bridge with a one-year extension and a couple of option years to follow to open the season in the first place.

Like Girardi and Maddon before him, Montoya bore the burden of a misconstructed team even if it’s a team still in the new but dubious wild card hunt. It wasn’t Montoya who delivered a bullpen that finds as many bats as it misses or a starting rotation whose rear end resembles the northbound end of a southbound moose.

They opened July in second place in the tough American League East, but hitting the skid let the re-horsing Red Sox and the Rays pass them in the division standings while letting the Mariners match them for the third wild card thus far.

Now it comes forth, too, that some in the Jays clubhouse thought they needed a somewhat firmer hand when they hit the skid and Montoyo, as loved and popular as he was on the bridge, wasn’t quite the man to offer that hand.

Athletic Blue Jays beat reporter Kaitlyn McGrath found at least two players willing to talk about the clubhouse atmosphere, one anonymously but another willing to go on the record. Of course.

The anonymous Jay told McGrath that hitting the skid required what Montoyo apparently lacked. “When you’re [in a] 1-9 [slump], you’re looking for someone to come in and either kick you in the ass or pump you up, just something, some guidance,” the player said. “And you could have it as players, for sure, and we did, but you really do need it coming from the top and that just wasn’t happening . . . If we were playing better, this wouldn’t have been as much of an issue, but we weren’t, so you’re looking for leadership and a lot of us felt like it wasn’t really there.”

But even that didn’t erode the respect the Jays’ players have for Montoyo the man, if you take the word of pitcher Ross Stripling, who earned the Wednesday win against the Phillies with six strikouts but eight ground outs and ten fly outs in seven innings during which he surrendered two earned runs on two hits.

“I don’t think anyone would ever think that he doesn’t want us to have success individually or as a team, the whole Blue Jays organization,” Stripling told McGrath.

He had our backs all the time and wanted us to win baseball games. And it’s a shame—he’s been here since 2019, when this kind of young core got going—that he’s not going to be there to see a lot of their success and where they go and where we go as a team. But I think everyone would say thank you to him and the effort that he gave us for the years that he did and that we love him and wish him well.

General manager Ross Atkins, who carried the execution forth, said it’s not “necessarily” good starting pitching and good bullpens alone that contend and win. “Look at the history of the game,” he said, “good teams win championships. The person to look to is me. I’m the one that needs to be accountable. And we will continue to work hard in every area of our team to improve.”

In other words, don’t blame me because Charlie couldn’t make do with shallow starting and bullpen bulls.

For now the Phillies have lived a somewhat charmed team life since Girardi’s dismissal, even while losing Bryce Harper to a thumb fracture after the right fielder was limited to DH duty thanks to an elbow injury. They’re only nine games out of first in the National League East, though they have a formidable wall to climb with the first-place Mets and the second-place (and defending World Series champion) Braves making life none too simple.

The Angels? They could bring Casey Stengel back from the dead and still sputter. Especially since, in addition to their still-usual pitching problems not named Shohei Ohtani, the bottom of their order became such a trainwreck that it didn’t matter what the bigger bats did. It comes into sadder play when such bigger bats hit the slumps to which all bats are prone, even those of future Hall of Famers.

Nevin’s tenure has been a plane crash thus far. Especially when he landed himself a ten-game suspension for being none too subtle about looking to avenge a ninth-inning Mike Trout head hunt the night before and sending an opener to start the game and exact revenge. The Mariners may have had it coming, but one behind-the-back pitch and a subsequent plunk was out of line.

And while the umpires sounded mealymouthed in not starting the game with warnings after Trout was inches from decapitation in the ninth the night before, the ensuing brawl after Andrew Wantz hit Jesse Winker in the hip cost Nevin a key relief pitcher (Archie Bradley) for a month, at least, when he hopped over the rail to join the fracas and broke a bone in his pitching elbow.

It’s gotten to the point where the published calls for the Angels to start thinking about the once-impossible: trading both Trout at this year’s trade deadline and Ohtani before he reaches his first free agency, the better to get a replenishing return (hopefully, with pitching slightly above the level of arthritic cleaning crews) while the getting is prime—aren’t waiting until their season is all but officially dead.

So the Blue Jays aren’t exactly that bad off just yet. It’s still too soon to call a single win under a new bridge commander the beginning of an in-season resurgence. Who knows what Atkins might move upon as the trade deadline approaches? But there’s still something badly disconcerting about the Montoya execution. The man’s been a class act who’ll probably get another chance to take another major league bridge soon enough.

There may yet be more to come in the way of deeper details. As often as not, there usually are. And it’s not impossible to ponder whether Atkins himself might now be on a seat whose temperature rises a little more as the season goes forward.

Listen up, Bleacher Creatures

Derek Rodriguez, Mark Lanzillotta

Derek Rodriguez (in his Yankee hat and Aaron Judge T-shirt) hugging Mark Lanzillotta gratefully, after Lanzillotta handed the boy a sixth-inning bomb Judge hit in Rogers Centre.

Recall if you will that I went to Opening Day in Anaheim with my 28-year-old son. From the moment he became a baseball fan in earnest at age six, his dreams included catching or otherwise obtaining one bona-fide major league baseball at the ballpark. On said Opening Day, 22 years later, I managed to make his wish come true.

An Astro lined a foul into our section during batting practise. Thanks to a small but clustered group of fans standing up adjacent to us, neither Bryan nor myself could see which Astro hit the ball. No matter. It bounded around a few times before making its way beneath my seat, where I snatched it and handed it to him.

Neither Bryan nor I cared that it came off an Astro bat, even if he (and I) might have preferred it courtesy of an Angels bat. It was a baseball, major league regulation, a simple but profound little prize of fandom that you can go a lifetime without obtaining, regardless of how often you’re at the ballpark.

My son’s gratitude was boundless, of course, even at age 28. “You gotta be a man to play baseball for a living,” Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella once said, “but you gotta have a lot of little boy in you, too.” Savouring and rooting and appreciating this game means the same thing when you’re watching at home or at the ballpark. Even professionally.

So imagine easily how it felt for a nine-year-old boy in Rogers Centre Tuesday, wearing a Yankee T-shirt with Aaron Judge’s surname and number 99 on his back, praying to God and His servants in the Elysian Fields that maybe, just maybe, he might catch a ball hit by his hero. He got the absolute next best thing.

A Blue Jays fan named Mike Lanzillotta sat in the second deck behind young Derek Rodriguez and his father, Cesar, Venezuelan natives living in Toronto the past five years.  Somehow, the boy’s eagerness got to Lanzillotta throughout the game. He didn’t have to imagine when lo! Judge batted a third time in the top of the sixth inning, against Jays pitcher Alek Manoah, who’d struck him out twice earlier in the game.

Not even Mark Harris, W.P. Kinsella, Ring Lardner, Bernard Malamud, or John Updike could have sketched this one. I’m nowhere in their league so I’m not sure I’m doing it right.

Judge caught hold of a fastball sailing a little inside and drove it . . . right into Lanzilotta’s hands. As Judge rounded the bases, Lanzillotta kept the promise he made to himself and handed Derek the ball. The boy’s gratitude poured into a hug around the older man’s neck and shameless tears of joy. Television cameras caught the moment and it went viral almost at once.

“I almost started crying,” Lanzillotta admitted to reporters. “For real, I almost started crying.” The father soon enough faced a question from his son: “I said, ‘If you were young, and the same thing happened to you, but with a home run off of Derek Jeter, what would you do?’” the boy revealed. “And he said I would cry the same. And fun fact, I was named after Derek Jeter.”

Aaron Judge, Derek Rodriguez

Derek got to meet his Yankee hero before Wednesday’s game.

Funner fact: The tale of Derek Rodriguez, Mike Lanzilotta, and Aaron Judge’s blast reached Judge himself after the Yankees demolished the Jays, 9-1. Reporters told Judge of the Kodak moment. (Oops! Today we’d call it an iPhone moment.) Known for being as fan friendly as the day is long, Judge himself seemed almost overcome by the revelation.

“That’s what’s special about this game, man,” the Yankees’ Leaning Tower of River Avenue told reporters, after grinning and observing you’ll find Yankee fans around the world. “It doesn’t matter what jersey you wear, everybody is fans, everybody appreciates this game. That’s pretty cool. I’ve got to check out that video. That’s special.”

He did more than just check out that video. Before today’s game, Derek got to meet his Yankee hero, who signed the home run ball for him. The still boyish-looking Judge looked as though he’d been taken back to his own boyhood for a few shining moments.

The Blue Jays didn’t exactly appreciate being blown away by the Yankees Tuesday, but it didn’t stop the team from giving more than a tip of the beak to Lanzillotta. They dropped a special team gift package on him for his sportsmanship. Cesar Rodriguez called him a friend for life. His cell phone was all but nuked with texts and calls following his gesture.

“I spilled my beer” retrieving the Judge home run ball, Lanzillotta said, “but it was worth it.”

Now listen up, all you Bleacher Creatures around the Show. You, the mental midgets who think it’s funny as hell throwing the opposition’s home runs back onto the field, pouring  abuse upon an opposition pitcher known to struggle with clinical depression, thinking it’s funny as hell throwing garbage and other debris on the field when an opposition fielder is injured on a play.

You should be made to watch that Judge bomb, that Lanzillotta gift to nine-year-old Derek Tuesday, and the boy’s meeting with Judge today. You might learn or re-learn a few things about sportsmanship. About real baseball rooting and caring. About plain human decency.

The dog ate his homework

Baltimore Orioles

Manager Brandon Hyde and his Orioles after one of their own got drilled following back-to-back bombs in Camden Yards Saturday night. They know damn well Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah didn’t just slip a runaway fastball inside.

Here’s the Saturday night scenario in Baltimore: A rookie pitcher surrenders back-to-back home runs. He hits the next man up squarely on the bicep with the first pitch. He gets ejected post haste, then speaks to the press post-game.

“I tried to get that fastball in and it slipped away,” said Alek Manoah, the Blue Jays righthanded rook who drilled the Orioles’ Maikel Franco in the fourth inning, right after Ryan Mountcastle hit the first one-out, one on service over the left field fence and D.J. Stewart hit a 2-1 pitch over the right field fence.

The dog ate his homework.

And the Blue Jays overthrew the 5-2 lead Mountcastle and Stewart provided to gorge on the Orioles with a six-run ninth and a 10-7 win. It’s gotten that bad for this year’s Woe-rioles. They can’t even claim safety in a three, then a four-run lead.

But Franco looked distinctly unamused after he got that very pronounced plunk, and as Manoah stepped down from the mound walking toward the plate area. He looked as though he couldn’t decide whether he’d like to have Manoah for dinner or have him crucified on the warehouse behind the yard.

“I was confused by his reaction,” Manoah said. “I was questioning ‘What’s going on? What’s wrong?’ Those were my hand gestures as I was walking toward him. I didn’t understand the frustration there.”

“Even rookies don’t usually have to be told that a guy who can’t hit with a telephone pole this season doesn’t understand why he’s being made to pay because you just surrendered long distance back-to-back on your dollars,” said my long-distance pitching acquaintance, Sticky Fingers McSpidertack, on the phone this morning.

“So you’re telling me the dog ate his homework?” I asked, without a single thought of being a wisenheimer.

“Dig,” McSpidertack replied. “That Mountcastle guy took him out over the center field fence with one out in the second. And who’s that guy, Cedric Mullins? Took him out over the right field fence with two out in the third.”

“So Manoah’s a little on the frustrated side,” I replied. “Didn’t anybody in the minors teach him even for a few minutes that the best pitchers in the business are going to have days where they’re going to get slapped silly? Happens even to the Hall of Famers, Stick.”

“He spent, what, three games in Triple-A,” McSpidertack answered. “Maybe that’s not long enough to teach a few baseball life lessons, maybe it is. I’m the wrong guy to ask. I didn’t get much past Single A, you know.”

“I know, but you don’t have corn flakes for brains, either. I don’t think I ever saw you try putting a hole in the next guy’s anatomy after you got hit for a skyrocket shot.”

“Of course not,” McSpidertack said. “And Franco’s not the one who hung that slider, kept that fastball’s feet tied at the ankles, or threw him a melon even a guy below the Mendoza Line could have given a ride.”

“A ride? OK, Mountcastle’s shot in the fourth just barely made it out, hit the rail behind the fence or something. Got a fastball to hit for that first shot in the second, this time he gets the breaking ball and breaks it because it didn’t really break.”

“Right”

“Then Stewart turns on 2-1 and hits it right onto the Camden Yard promenade. Maybe it landed a few feet from where Boog Powell used to have and run that great barbeque pit.”

“Oh, yeah. I remember that pit, too. There wasn’t one single healthy thing coming off that pit, thank God.”

“Now it’s Franco. Compared to him this year, Mario Mendoza looks like Monster Mashup. The last guy on the planet, or at least on the Orioles, who’s going to take him into the ether. And Manoah throws one right up and into the poor guys’ upper bicep.”

“Or lower shoulder ball.”

“Well, let’s not get technical.”

“Fair enough,” McSpidertack said. “So when it’s all said and done, what’s the take?”

“What the hell do you think it is, Stick?”

“You’re gonna make me say it, aren’t you.”

“That’s my job, Stick.”

“Yeah, I know. OK, here it is. Manoah was full of manure last night.”

“I had to open my big mouth, didn’t I?”

“Your fault, buddy,” McSpidertack said, laughing. “Now tell me what all that was when skipper Hyde comes out of the dugout looking like he wants to take someone in a Toronto uniform apart but also looks like he doesn’t want his guys to do anything of the kind.”

“You need me to tell you that? I don’t think he wanted to take someone apart himself. I think he just wanted Manure—sorry, Manoah—thrown out of the game post haste. Which is exactly what he got. After he returned a few, shall we say, vulgar mash notes from Charlie Montoyo.”

“The Blue Jays manager.”

“Yeah.”

McSpidertack excused himself a moment to refill his morning coffee. I needed another coffee jolt myself while he was at it. When he came back, I said, “Did you see Manure–sorry, Manoah again—talking to the press after the game?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you hear him say he tried to slip that fastball in and it got away?”

“Yeah,” McSpidertack said. “And if I had a dollar for every time I tried to get a fastball in that got away, I could buy that Antarctican beach club of yours.”

“No you couldn’t, Stick,” I said. “You said yourself your career was over before it really began. You didn’t really have time to learn how to slip runaway fastballs inside. At most you’d have had enough to buy me a new set of guitar strings.”

“Then the dog ate his homework.”

No, Roberto Alomar wasn’t Pete Rosed

Roberto Alomar

Roberto Alomar’s new baseball ineligibility doesn’t mean a backdoor pass into Cooperstown for Charlie Hustler.

Let’s get this out of the way first and foremost, since (it almost figures) at least a few social media tweeters raised it. Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar’s fresh ineligibility to work in baseball doesn’t mean Pete Rose suddenly gets a pass to stand for Hall of Fame election.

The news broke Friday that Alomar—working as an advisor to baseball’s government and a Blue Jays special assistant concurrently—is now on baseball’s ineligible list over sexual misconduct said to have occurred in 2014, at the sad expense of a baseball industry employee. He’d been elected to Cooperstown on his second try in 2011.

“Roberto Alomar got Pete Rose’d today,” tweeted Ice Cat Sports Cards, from South Dakota. “If Roberto Alomar is on the Ineligible list,” asked a tweet by someone handling himself ElScorcho, “how can he stay in the Hall of Fame? I mean that says Pete Rose should be in right?”

Wrong.

Specific details of Alomar’s sexual misconduct aren’t disclosed as I write. But it happened three years after he was elected and inducted into the Hall of Fame. (To its credit, the commissioner’s office engaged an independent law firm to investigate.) If he’d committed the misconduct that now has him purged before 2011, Alomar wouldn’t have even been on the ballot, never mind elected.

Rose violated Rule 21(d) before he would have made his first Hall ballot. The very likelihood that he might be elected despite his ban prompted the Hall to rule: if you’re ineligible to associate with organised baseball, you’re not eligible to appear on a ballot conferring the game’s highest honour.

No, ladies and gentlemen, Roberto Alomar did not get Pete Rosed on Friday. Any drumbeating for shoving Rose into the Hall of Fame on the basis of Alomar’s banishment is factual and moral idiocy. So don’t even think about hammering the Hall of Fame for refusing to purge Alomar.

“When he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in the Class of 2011, Alomar was an eligible candidate in good standing,” the Hall said in a formal Friday statement. “His plaque will remain on display in the Hall of Fame in recognition of his accomplishments in the game, and his enshrinement reflects his eligibility and the perspective of the [Baseball Writers Association of America] voters at that time.”

Alomar isn’t the first to land on baseball’s permanently ineligible list over sexual misconduct or its concurrent behaviours. Former Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman got there for crowing he was so [fornicating] glad they obtained relief pitcher Roberto Osuna while Osuna was still under investigation for domestic abuse. A rant delivered in the presence of three female reporters in the Astro clubhouse after they won the 2019 American League Championship Series.

The persona non grata list also includes one-time Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa, thanks to his being caught red-handed hacking into the Astros’ databases. It also includes former Braves general manager John Coppolella, after he inflated or deflated signing bonuses for Dominican prospects to maneuver around baseball’s international signing rules.

Maybe the BBWAA will fume over the Hall of Fame refusing to purge Alomar. But at least  one member might advise not so fast. “I don’t disagree with the Hall’s more measured response,” wrote Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiMinno Friday, after commissioner Rob Manfred announced the Alomar termination and purge.

It would be insupportable to retroactively banish someone from Cooperstown when egregious conduct comes to light. Just imagine going backwards in time and stripping a player of that specific honour, a summation of career brilliance, for behaviour which is now recognized as reprehensible but wasn’t then. So many scoundrels are in the Hall and, at least figuratively, their statues would have to be toppled.

Please don’t ask which such scoundrels not named Cap Anson and Kenesaw Mountain Landis would be removed from the Hall right now. You won’t like a lot of the answers. They might or might not only begin with Babe Ruth.

Lisa Banks, the attorney for the unnamed woman at the center of the Alomar purge, sent a statement out as well. Quoted by DiManno, Banks said, “We applaud MLB for having this matter thoroughly investigated and for taking meaningful action against Mr. Alomar . . . My client has no plans to file a lawsuit or take further action. She has not exposed Mr. Alomar’s behaviour for notoriety or for money and looks forward to moving on with her life. She simply wants to ensure that Mr. Alomar is held accountable.”

But DiManno goes forward saying that while baseball has a perfect right to purge someone over particular misbehaviours, since being in professional baseball is not an absolute right but an absolute privilege, something about the Alomar case isn’t quite passing the proverbial smell test yet.

. . . I don’t know what Alomar is alleged to have done and Manfred isn’t telling. I do know that some accusations, when exposed in a court of law, criminal or civil, do not rise to the threshold of conviction. And nowhere have I seen a claim that Alomar’s conduct was criminal. It might or might not pass the sniff test of a human rights complaint. It clearly did not pass scrutiny of the MLB investigation — conducted independently by an external legal firm . . .

I wish there were more details disclosed about the alleged incident, which surely could have been done without identifying the complainant . . . I’ve covered enough legal proceedings on this subject to understand that a great deal of nuance separates accusation from even the lower bar of civil action proof. The vacuum of information leaves a worrisome gap for warranting so ham-fisted a decision.

And that, she continues, “comes from someone who was once called a [fornicating (four-letter euphemism for ‘vagina’ starting with ‘c’)] by a player in the Jays clubhouse; who, on another occasion, had a player simulate pelvis thrusting from the rear while I was bending over to conduct an interview with another player at his stall. These were not incidents I reported to the club or to my employer. I’m just not that delicate a flower.”

The Blue Jays will disappear Alomar’s presence promptly enough, the team has said, including pulling his commemorative banner down from Rogers Centre and removing him from its Level of Excellence. The Jays also said in their own statement they’re committed to an environment of respect for everyone in their organisation, applauding concurrently the unnamed woman who stepped forward in the first place.

This is not a pleasant denouement for the man who hit what DiMinno says remains, arguably, the single most important home run in Blue Jays history. That would be the Game Four-tying two-run homer off Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley in the top of the ninth, finishing a comeback from a five-run deficit, pushing the Jays to the eleven-inning win that gave them a 3-1 American League Championship Series advantage in 1992. En route their first World Series conquest.

I’m not entirely convinced that launch compares to Joe Carter’s World Series-winning three-run bomb in 1993. But you can’t convince me Alomar’s blast off Dennis the Menace wasn’t just as important in Jays history. “Emotional bonds are difficult to sever,” DiManno opened. “Historical facts can’t be expunged.”

Neither can a Hall of Famer eligible for election and getting elected well enough before the acts that got him banished from baseball eligibility. Alomar’s behaviour as a three-year Hall incumbent is terrible enough, without using it to argue Rose into the Hall when Rose’s rule breaking got him blocked before he was eligible for a Cooperstown ballot at all.

The Buffalonto beatdown

Wearing his NYPD hat to commemorate the 9/11 atrocity, deGrom pinned the Blue Jays while his mates bludgeoned them Friday night.

Until two starts ago, Jacob deGrom must have felt like the single most neglected spouse in town. He was said to be keeping non-support court filings signed and sealed in his locker just in case things went from bad to worse to lost cause entirely.

Then, last Sunday, his New York Mess (er, Mets) gave him seven runs to work with before his day ended and dropped seven more on the Philadelphia Phillies after he came out of the game. You couldn’t blame deGrom if he’d awakened the next morning asking himself whether he’d been dreaming.

So what to make of Friday night against the Buffalonto Blue Jays in the Jays’ temporary, pandemic-season home?

With the Mets allowed to wear first-responder hats at last to commemorate victims and their attempted rescuers in the 9/11 atrocity nineteen years earlier?

With deGrom pitching like the two-time defending Cy Young Award winner he is . . . and the Mets giving him fourteen runs to work with before his outing ended after six innings? Including and especially a ten-run fourth featuring Dominic Smith slicing salami?

This was no band of pushovers deGrom and the Mets massacred Friday night. The Jays were in second place in the American League East with a 24-19 record when the game began. They’re not exactly driven back to the basement after the Mets’ carnage. But they might have been tempted to crawl into the nearest Buffalo basement to hide at least until Saturday’s game.

Maybe the Jays just faced the wrong New York team. Earlier this week they dropped a ten-spot on the Yankees in the sixth. On Friday night, the Mets—who came into the game leading the National League with a .275 team batting average and a .351 team on-base percentage—looked more like Murderer’s Row than a Mess.

“The guys did a good job of going out there and putting up runs for me,” said deGrom to reporters after the 18-1 bludgeoning, in what was probably the understatement of the night. “It was a little cold out there, so I was trying to stay loose in between, but I’m thankful for the runs and they did a good job all night of that.”

The Mets already had a 4-1 lead when Wilson Ramos opened the fourth working a walk out of Toronto reliever Anthony Kay. You may remember Kay’s the one the Mets traded to the Jays last year to get Marcus Stroman, who opted out of this season after it began and goes to free agency after this season.

Well, now. Brandon Nimmo chunked a base hit into shallow left to follow Ramos. After Kay walked Michael Conforto to load the pillows following that, the fun really began. J.D. Davis grounded sharply to Jays shortstop Santiago Espinal. Espinal had a clean shot throwing Ramos out at the plate. The throw hit Jays catcher Danny Jansen right on target. And it bounced right out of Jansen’s mitt and off to his right just before Ramos crossed the plate unmolested.

Up stepped Smith with the pillows still full. He swung on 2-0 and drove it clean over the right field fence. 9-1 Mets, five runs home in the fourth thus far, and the Jays hadn’t seen anything yet.

Robinson Cano followed Smith with a line single. Pete Alonso, who had a night he’d rather forget at the plate, struck out on a full count, but Kay came out of the game in favour of Jacob Waguespack and Jeff McNeil greeted the new man on the mound with a line single up the pipe, before Waguespack hit Mets rookie Andres Gimenez with a pitch that ricocheted off to the left side.

Here came Ramos again, and into the right center field gap went his three-run double. Nimmo pushed Ramos to third with a ground out to Espinal playing him up the middle, then Conforto—who’d hit a three-run homer in the four-run Mets third—sent a liner to left that bounced past a sliding Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. hoping for a shot at the circus catch. And Davis cued one just past third base and up the line for the double sending Conforto home.

Smith looking at strike three hitting the absolute edge of the low outside corner must have felt to the Blue Jays as though he’d decided to have mercy upon them. DeGrom in the Mets dugout must have watched the carnage and wondered, even for a split second, what new and unheard-of ways his mates would find to blow a thirteen-run lead.

The long layoff in the fourth and the Buffalo chill all night may have affected him a little. He had to wrestle a bit for his outs and to keep the Jays from getting any friskier than second and third in the bottom of the fifth, but he still finished his evening’s combination of work and leisure with nine strikeouts, two walks, one measly earned run (Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. singling home Randal Grichuk in the bottom of the first), an ERA shrunk to 1.67, and a second-best 0.87 walks/hits per inning pitched rate.

This time, the only thing the Mets blew was what remained of the Blue Jays’ fight for the night.

Erasmo Ramirez came out of the bullpen for the final three innings’ scoreless relief and a save under the three-inning side of the rule, while the Mets added two in the seventh (a bases-loaded walk to Cano; Davis scoring on Conforto’s ground out to shortstop), one in the eighth (Ramos hitting one over the center field fence), and one in the ninth. (Gimenez doubling home Alonso, who’d reached when he got plunked.)

If this is dreaming, deGrom must have thought when the game went into the books at last, I’ll kill the guy who wakes me up. To death.

“First and foremost,” said Conforto, “we got the win, and we got a win for Jake too. We’re always feeling good when Jake’s on the mound no matter how many runs we put up, but it felt good to do that for him.”

DeGrom wore a New York Police Department hat for the game. Other Mets wore that or hats for the New York Fire Department, the Port Authority Police Department, the Department of Sanitation, and the Office of Emergency Management commemorating the 9/11 atrocity.

Last year, after baseball’s government again told the Mets not to even think about wearing the hats during a game on that anniversary, Alonso decided to let the world know what he thought about that. He paid for 9/11 commemorative cleats for himself and his mates to wear when they played the Arizona Diamondbacks on the anniversary—and beat them with nine runs and eleven hits.

This year, baseball government wised up and let the Mets and the Yankees have their heads about the commemorative hats, just in time for the Mets to hand the Blue Jays their heads and for the Yankees to sweep the Yankees in a doubleheader Friday. Doing the right thing with or without official permission invites its own kind of good karma.