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More Fun Than a Trip to the Dentist

Most people don't like going to the dentist. I've become somewhat desensitized to it, as I've gone through enough painful experiences (4 wisdom teeth and I believe 8 regular teeth pulled in my days as a youngster) to know that a trip for a cleaning, like the one I'm making into NYC this morning, is a walk in the park. My dentist happens to be a baseball fan, which makes things a little easier.

An excursion like this gives me the opportunity to ruminate on a Mets comparison. What is the Metsian equivalent to a trip to the dentist? I suppose that for some, the answer could be "Watching Keith Miller try to play centerfield."

A couple of days ago I hinted at Miller's lack of skill in the outfield. Today I'll approach it in more of a full-fledged manner. Keith Miller was not a very good centerfielder. There you have it.

I don't know why, but my most significant memory of Miller is watching him take a blooper of a 65 mile-per-hour curveball from Bob Knepper to end a loss against the Astros on July 8, 1988, rather than his lone walk-off moment as a Met, which happened a few weeks prior.

Miller was one of those players who raised expectations with a cup-of-coffee appearance, this one a .373 batting average, eight steals effort in 25 games in 1987. He was a scrappy player and that made him popular pretty quickly.

Miller was never quite able to live up to that effort over the next four years of his Mets career. His batting average took a significant dip after that initial burst. Miller, a second baseman by trade, was aggressive and fast, and that inspired Mets management to do what they seem to do best (or do worst, depending on your perspective) and that is: have one of their guys play out of position. Miller made seven starts in center in 1989 and than 42 in 1990. Though he didn't make many errors, let's just say that it didn't work out. His overagressive play led to injuries, something that plagued him for the rest of his baseball career, after the Mets dealt him to KC in the Bret Saberhagen trade.

Anyway, if you stuck it out through the 14-inning affair, 262-minute affair between the Mets and Phillies on June 18, 1988, good for you. It was tough in those days to watch a full Sid Fernandez effort without getting a little impatient (though his starts didn't last as long as Al Leiter's). This was actually a good pitcher's duel between Fernandez and Phillies lefty Shane Rawley, and it went to bonus-baseball mode with the score even at one after Wally Backman was thrown out at home trying to score on Gary Carter's single. The Mets also had a chance to win in 12 cut short when Mackey Sasser grounded into a 4-2-3 double play.

The Phillies (who also had a Keith Miller on their roster at the time) took the lead in the top of the 14th on Steve Jeltz's sacrifice fly off Terry Leach, but the Mets specialized in extra-inning rallies in 1986 and 1988, and this would be one of them. With two lefties due up, the Phillies used southpaw Todd Ritchie to try to shut the Mets down. He went 1-for-2, walking Dave Magadan, but retiring Darryl Strawberry. Having already used their primary closers, the Phils followed Ritchie with middle reliever Todd Frohwirth, who was looking for his first career save. Instead, Frohwirth was tagged with his second major-league loss. Kevin McReynolds singled, and after a wild-pitch, Carter brought in the tying run with a sacrifice fly.

The Phillies went 65-96 under Lee Elia and that was partly because moves like this one backfired. With a runner on third and two outs, Frohwirth intentionally walked both Len Dykstra and Sasser to pitch to the righty, Miller. Those who have watched how David Wright has responded to intentional walks in front of him this season will be pleased to note that Miller apparently was a little insulted, at least enough to hit a slow grounder that the shortstop, Jeltz, couldn't come up with. It was good enough to plate the winning run.

True Metsquests know...A perfectly good random piece of trivia. The only two Mets with a walk-off home run and a walk-off walk in the same season are Hobie Landrith (1962) and Ron Swoboda (1966). Stump your dentists with that one.


Kermit said…
I liked Miller. But he jammed a finger every week from sliding headfirst into something.

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