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Unlucky Me

So I was in the midst of my first media-guide surfthrough of the season the other day and that's normally a rather pleasant experience. But then I came across something that really bothered me. It came to my attention that Luis Aguayo is now a Met. Just my luck.

Aguayo the team's field coordinator, meaning that he oversees spring training for the Mets minor league teams, extended spring training, and the Mets instructional league team and for all I know, he may absolutely fantastic at handling the duties of that position. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Luis Aguayo is a Mets fans source of absolute heartbreak, not quite on the scale of Yadier Molina, but close enough in my mind to warrant thoughts of disdain.

It was the fall of 1987, some 20 years previous, when the Mets limped, stumbled and staggered their way to 92 victories despite a mess of injuries and the drug-related downfall of the Doctor. (Gooden). There were a lot of bad losses that season and though many point to "The Terry Pendleton Game" (September 11, 1987) as the tipping point of the season, the gutpunch came on September 30th.

The scenario for the Mets was that it was a must win game, because a victory in Philadelphia assured them of three meaningful games to close the season with first-place St. Louis, even though the Mets would have needed a sweep to achieve a first-place tie. Still, a flicker of hope is better than none at all.

The Mets fell behind 3-0, after having been shut out by that score in the previous game, but managed to rally against Phillies southpaw Shane Rawley. Darryl Strawberry homered in the fifth and then Tim Teufel hit a game-tying two-run shot in the sixth to even things up. The Mets missed a further chance to score in that frame, stranding Keith Hernandez in the sixth and failed to score in the eighth, even after Gooden led off the inning with a walk.

Gooden pitched splendidly in the fourth through ninth innings, with the spirit of someone who knew that the entire season rested in his hands. He allowed only two hits in that span and struck out eight. But manager Davey Johnson had a rule that he applied in the early part of Gooden's career, a rather dumb one in hindsight, but one designed to "protect" Gooden's arm. When the game went extra innings, Gooden was finished (a few days later, Mike Flanagan would pitch 11 innings in an equally meaningful game for the Blue Jays, leaving many Mets fans asking: Why not Doc?). So with two outs and nobody on in the Mets 10th, Bill Almon, batting for Gooden (a better hitter than Almon) struck out.

Johnson compounded his mistake by not turning to one of his better relievers, instead reaching back to the glory of 1986 for Jesse Orosco, whose season could be called miserable at best. Perhaps he thought Orosco could skate through the bottom of the Phillies lineup without issue. Wrong. With one out in the last of the 10th, the Phillies pinch hit Aguayo for shortstop Steve Jeltz, an odd move considering that Aguayo was referred to as mediocre by his team's own broadcasters and would finish his career with just one hit in 12 at-bats against Orosco. This was the one.

On a 1-2 pitch, Aguayo clubbed the Orosco offering over the fence in left center for a game-ending home run, one that had the effect of being season ending, because it allowed the Cardinals to eliminate the Mets and clinch the NL East the next day, with the Mets watching hopelessly on TV. It was an extraordinarily sad and rather disastrous end to a championship run, the kind that leaves 12 year olds with 20-year feelings of bitterness and annoyance

And now Luis Aguayo is a Met, sporting the same cheshire grin in his media guide photo that he had when he crossed the plate during his moment of triumph (I still remember him clapping his hands as he approached home). Appropriately, on Friday the 13th (oh, did I mention he was born on one, in March 1959), that's scary stuff.

True Metkaphobiacs know...The Mets have had one walk-off win on a Friday the 13th. It came on June 13, 1986, against the Pirates. You can read about it here.


Anonymous said…
I remember this game. Thanks for opening up the wound again...

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