Wow - I'm still buzzing after a night's sleep. It finally happened. And what a back story:
- Genuine pre-game buildup - about Beltran's return.
- A disputed call off his bat that proves the Baseball Gods must have been sitting in box seats.
- A no-name kid from Queens making the defensive gem ensuring himself of Mets mini-mortality but possibly spilling his cup of coffee in the process.
- Running a full count on the final batter with the shadow of the dreaded Molina-tor in the on deck circle.
- A pitcher returning from an injury that was supposed to leave him a shadow of his former self.
- A pitch count that made the unthinkable, pulling him before the 9th, actually defensible.
- Best of all it happened on a Friday night, just like the ones in my youth, when I was allowed to stay up and watch the game! Just think of all the 7 - 12 year olds who probably would have been sent to bed if it happened on a Wednesday.
And best of all to my mind - the fact that it came from Johan.
I was 9 and glued to the black and white television for Seaver's "Imperfect Game" and to me that's when it all began. If Tom Terrific had managed to shut down Jimmy Qualls, I've no doubt the club would have seen more no-no's from at least some of the likes of Kooz, Nolan, Doc, Ronnie, Sid, Coney, Pedro, heck maybe John Maine would have hung in there.
As a kid Seaver defined all that was beautiful about this game of ours. He combined god-given gifts with tenacity, baseball IQ and the focus and work ethic that made you believe he had no existence outside of baseball. He was a Titan that become the club's only homegrown Hall of Famer.
As much as I loved Doc, in many ways he was the anti- Seaver. He was all-natural gifts, undisciplined, troubled off the field in ways that changed what he did on it. But that's ok because the '86 club was as different as possible from the '69 Amazin's.
One was innocent and joyful - the other was arrogant and pressured. One was exceeding the wildest expectations - the other carried the weight of expectations every inning of a grinding post-season. One was a bunch of men playing the boys game before big money had transformed the professional athlete - the other featured a captain who'd served a drug suspension and an ace who's career would be damaged by his addiction.
As different as they were, Seaver and Doc perfectly reflected their respective clubs.
While it would have been beautiful to see a homegrown Doc deliver a no-no in his prime I'm thrilled it was Johan because to these 52 year old eyes he recalls Seaver in his prime. Pedro was electric but like Doc he was a natural - nothing wrong with that - I loved watching him pitch, in some ways more than Johan.
But the Mets aren't about natural gifts or things coming easy. They're about long-odds, belief in the impossible, commitment and of course . . . miracles.
Enter Johan. A true Hall of Fame caliber talent but a guy who emerged from Rule V infamy thanks to his Seaver -like baseball intelligence and work ethic. And throwing THE NO-NO on the heels of shoulder surgery similar to that which effectively ended Pedro's reign as a great couldn't happen without some left-over Miracle Mets fairy dust.
More than anyone to don the blue and orange, Johan Santana is Seaver's true heir . . . it's only fitting he's the one to deliver the one gift Tom Terrific could never manage as a Met.