Saturday, June 2, 2012

Johan's No-Hitter—Will the Devil Come Calling? Who Cares!

Terry Collins hugs Nohan Santana. Photo: AP
Anyone see a monkey run by here, the one that finally got off the Mets' back now that Johan got a no-hitter? Didn't think so, cause it was flying like it was headed toward Oz.

With that dubious marker now fallen by the wayside, that's one less badge of shame for the Mets to wear. The fences got moved in and now homers are increasing (if not exactly gushing yet), but that's not what the Mets are about anyway. It's just one less hurdle. The Madoff situation is somewhat under control. Now if Ike Davis could just manage to get his average above .200 and the shortstops would stop falling like flies... And now, with the no-no, one less. 

Back to the no-hitter, and the stories within the story. Let's start with Beltran's hit up the third base line that was called foul. In St. Louis, the headline was "NO HITTER*." You can't blame them for being bitter, but really, how many strike/ball calls does every home plate umpire blow during each game? And those decisions could certainly sway outcomes, if not as egregiously as this one. Still, that's the beauty of the game... so many intricate moving parts that build a story with each game.

Catcher Josh Thole, just off the disabled list for the dreaded zombie-land concussion, calling a no-hitter. And Baxter's self-sacrifice, throwing himself full-speed, left shoulder first, into the padded outfield wall to make a catch and save a hit. If anything sums up being a Mets fan, it's seeing him lying there, crumpled on the ground, writhing in pain, while knowing he saved a no-hitter. Pride and pain, my friends. Nothing comes easy.

And the big story, the one that perfectly embodies baseball's Faustian bargain—Terry Collins deciding to leave Santana in to pitch after his pre-game limit of 115. In the middle of the 7th, Santana left the dugout and went into the clubhouse. Would he just pack his shoulder in ice and call it a night? Heck no. When he returned with his helmet on, the crowd went wild. The bat in his hands may as well have been Gandalf's staff. "You shall not pass!" Then and there, it felt momentous, supernatural, and the happy ending would unspool, out by out, in 134 pitches.

Collins, ruminative in his post-game comments, pondered that if in five days Santana had a lot of soreness, he might regret his decision. But even given that possibility, there was no way he could take Johan out. So: facing a historical achievement for both yourself and the Mets, versus possibly overtiring or even damaging your 33-year-old, just-surgically-repaired shoulder, what do you do?

You pitch a no-hitter, that's what you do. And pay the devil when he comes a calling.

p.s. - today's game is on, bottom of the 6th, and RA Dickey's got a 3-0 lead (not a no-hitter). We've gotta be in for some serious doom and gloom soon, ammiright Mets fans? That's the spirit!

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