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On the Other Hand...

If we're going to talk about violent swings, as we did yesterday, former Met Tony Clark's was one that got my stamp of approval.

It probably helped that I had an experience with Clark that shaped my viewpoint. During the 2002 season, I was at Fenway Park, gathering some information for my real job, and it just so happened that Clark had a terrific game. My familiarity with Clark came from his early days in the minors, with the Tigers Double-A affiliate, the Trenton Thunder, where he became famous for his long home runs.

The media gathered around his locker after the game, but Clark wasn't there. Maybe he had ducked out, but that seemed unlikely since he played well. The wait got to the point where most of the other Red Sox were on their way out. Finally, Clark arrived fresh from a long shower.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said deliberately to the reporters he had kept waiting, "I would like to apologize."

That was a new one for me. A player apologizing to the media. That's pretty rare. Clark proceeded to answer every question, his answers profound and intelligent. Clark likes to pause before he speaks, and though this writer is not a big fan of players who sprinkle religion into baseball conversation, Clark did it in a manner that was not bothersome.

Clark became a Met in 2003, signing with the team as a free agent that January. Though the best days of his career were behind him (the tops, a .291 BA, 34 HR, 103 RBI campaign in 1998), Clark was a useful player, primarily as a bat off the bench and sometimes starter with a respectable glove. He was prone to slumps and strikeouts, but tried hard, and when he did make contact, the ball tended to rocket off his bat. He's 6-foot-8 so his cuts always look pretty big.

Clark had two walk-off hits for the Mets. The first came on May 21, 2003 against the Phillies, a contest in which the Flushing 9 rallied from a 4-2 seventh-inning deficit. Clark walked with the bases loaded to bring in a run in the seventh, than singled home Marco Scutaro with the winning run in the ninth, after the Mets had tied it on Cliff Floyd's home run in the eighth.

The second came on July 1, against the Expos, in a game in which the Mets blew a 6-3 lead. But with the score even and two men on base with two outs in the ninth, Clark singled down the right field line, bringing home the winning run in a 7-6 victory.

Clark hit .232 with 16 home runs in his lone season as a Met, but it was evident that he was a positive influence based on his signing with the Yankees the following season. He's with the Diamondbacks now and has been one of their best players in 2005. Entering the weekend, he's hitting .330 with 16 home runs, 52 RBI, and apparently, no more apologies.

True Metheads know...The 2003 Mets were the first Mets team since 1991 not to have a walk-off win in either August or September.


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