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It Don't Mean A Thing If You Ain't Got That Swing

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I want to address the last comment of my last post: My wish that Carlos Beltran had swung the bat with an 0-2 count with the bases loaded and two outs in the last of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the NLCS. Nearly two weeks have gone by and I've yet to shake out the remnants of my sadness and anger related to this particular moment. The echo from the men's room at Grand Central Station still rings my cries of anguish from that evening, and my car still reverberates from my yelp after picking it up at the airport the other day...

"WHY DIDN'T HE SWING??????????"

I have read the eloquent New York Times column by Bill Rhoden, listened to the words of Mets general manager Omar Minaya, and read the thoughts of other bloggers and their friends who have come to the defense of Beltran on the subject. While their thoughts are perfectly legitimate and their interests are pure, I have still come to the same conclusion. He should have swung. Feel free to disagree if you like, but allow me to vent, as I feel it will be theraputic.

If I may paraphrase the work of Alfred Lord Tennyson (who to my knowledge was never a baseball fan): "T'is better to have swung and lost than never to have swung at all."

I think that when you come to the plate in a last-out situation, you have an obligation to your teammates and to the fans to do everything within your power to prolong the game for as long as possible. I haven't played much baseball in my life (due to lack of height, weight, speed and skill as a youngster), but I can twice recall scenarios in which I struck out as the last out of a Little League game. One time I took strike three and one time I swung and missed. It's 20-odd years later and I still remember the feeling of letting my team down. But I feel good about the time I went down swinging because the pitch was a strike and I gave it my best shot. The pitch that struck me out looking is one to this day that I don't think my nine-year-old eyes ever saw- an Armando-Benitez esque ankle-high fastball- until it landed in the catcher's glove. Carlos Beltran can't use that as an excuse.

I've heard a lot about how Adam Wainwright's curveball of choice in that instance was "unhittable" and while I've never faced a big-league curveball (I don't even remember facing a Little League one), that doesn't wash with me. I can recall instances from every season in which "unhittable" pitches have been hit. Dave Henderson had a couple prior to homering off Donnie Moore in a similar scenario in the 1986 ALCS. Alfonso Soriano had one of the most amazing foul ticks I've ever seen, two pitches prior to homering against Curt Schilling in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Even a pathetically nubbed foul would have served the purpose of prolonging the game and the season in which I had more of an emotional investment than any other for one more pitch. But you can't foul that pitch off unless you swing the bat. If you think that the pitch is going to be anything within the vicinity of home plate, you owe it to your team to swing.

Do I blame Carlos Beltran for the way that Game 7 went? No. Baseball is a team game. This was a team defeat. I just wish he had swung the bat. I have no qualms with the manner in which Willie Randolph managed the game, or the ninth inning. I have no issues with Aaron Heilman being on the mound instead of Billy Wagner, or Cliff Floyd coming to the plate instead of bunt-happy Chris Woodward. My issue is with Carlos Beltran and my wish that he had swung the bat.

There are a lot of things that can happen if you swing the bat at an 0-2 curveball. Some of them are good. Some of them are bad. You might swing and miss. You might swing and foul it off. You might make contact and hit the ball to a vacant piece of land. You might make contact and hit the ball to an occupied piece of land- but the occupant may not be able to handle the incoming object. If you take an 0-2 curveball, realistically speaking, only two things can happen, one of which is acceptable and one of which, as those like myself who were in attendance saw, is very, very, very, very, very unfortunate.

I never pictured that this Mets season would end in a manner befitting a Charlie Brown comic strip and that a team which went one win better than the 1973 Mets (in both regular season and postseason) would end up as the champions. I anticipate that it will take quite some time before I am over this defeat.

Let's end this discussion by putting it in a manner befitting of this blog. While a three-run walk-off passed ball serves as a terrific subject for fantasy (the idea of such, referenced in one blog, brought a smile to my face) it is an unrealistic conclusion and one that goes unfound in the 341 entrants into my Mets walk-off database. Whereas, I can point you to many, many examples in which positive conclusions were reached because a batsman lived up to the duties that he was brought home to fulfill.

You may also wish to read , if you appreciate such works, "Beltran at the Bat," which can be found here


Anonymous said…
I think that it would have much worse for everybody if he would have swung and missed but i am not saying that staring at a ball is the smartest thing to be doing either. However I am a Met fan and notice that he tried but there was really something wrong with that umpires strikezone. They went there as a team they lost as a team. Do you remember back in 2005 when Beltran started to always get booed. Which it then started agian in 2006 but not for that long. I do not hink that he will get booed this time around.
Anonymous said…
OH and one more thing LET'S GO METS

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