WEARING BELTRAN TO FENWAY.
We’re off to Fenway for tonight and tomorrow. I’m wearing my Reyes jersey tonight, and a newly purchased (as in, emailing TBF on Friday afternoon with ‘Can you make it to the Team Store on the way home’) BELTRAN shirt.
There are people on the team who I do not like, and would not be bothered if they were removed from the team. (TBF can tell tales of my epic hatred of Victor Diaz, for example, and I am not a big fan of, say, Ramon Castro.) I can’t say that about the core lineup on this team. I’ve never said that about the core lineup on this team. I am not nuts about some of our current choices from an offensive or defensive perspective and maybe some of these guys just aren’t good enough yet, but getting rid of Reyes or Beltran is just crazy talk to me.
Do you remember this game? August 23, 2006?
And then – and then – the 9th inning.
Lo Duca gets to first.
I’m watching the clock, calculating that maybe I can get home at a reasonable hour, maybe it’s going to be okay, maybe we can tie this one up, even with extra innings I’ll be okay, TBF ran home after work to get the car so we aren’t stuck in G train hell. Beltran to the plate. He stands, touches the base with the bat. I can barely remember it now and I need to go set the DVR because dear deity in heaven, I need to see it again.
And then it launches, and people are on their feet, except I have learned enough to not do that automatically any more, but people are on their feet with feeling, and I can’t find the ball, and then I see it at the same moment I rise to my feet, and I stop looking because I want to see what’s going on in the dugout, except the dugout is empty and every one is standing around first base, angled up the third base line, I’ve seen this happen on tv with other teams at other games and love that our love and our intensity and our passion is paralleled at that moment through the players.
And Beltran crosses home plate and bounces – yes, Beltran BOUNCED – into the joyous waiting huddle which immediately engulfed him in raucous celebration. “Taking Care of Business” plays, everyone is high-fiving everyone they possibly can, no one is running out just yet, wanting to watch the celebration on the field, wanting the moment to last just a little longer. I am beaming. TBF is glowing. The scoreboard reads:
BUY ONE CARLOS, GET ONE FREE.
People say “he’s not trying hard” and I think, How do you know? Didn’t we pay him so much money because he is so good at what he does? Don’t you have more confidence in Beltran looking calm and relaxed in centerfield than, say, anyone else who might be sweaty and running too hard and having to make dramatic diving catches? Isn’t it better that he can just GET THE BALL (well, most of the time) without risking injury?
You want to say “he’s not a gamer”? What happened when he and Mike Cameron collided into each other in 2005? I wasn’t blogging yet, and we weren’t at that game, but we were watching it (I had just started to get the baseball bug). Did he not come back and play with that plastic face guard? How much more of a ‘gamer’ do you need him to be? If you do, I’ll point you to those catches in Houston, that – again – effortless climb up Tal’s Hill in 2007? Do you know what he told Marty Noble after that game?
“Used to work on it every day with [Astros coach] Jose Cruz when I was here,” Beltran said. “I took flies out there on that hill. You don’t know if you’re ever going to need it. Today, I did, and I was happy I could save the game.”
Is that not enough ‘grit’ for you? Would Willie Mays have just been born with the ability to negotiate that ballpark oddity or would he have wanted to practice on it every day, too?
And don’t get me started on the criticism of Jose. Selfish, immature, self-centered, lazy (as my friend Matthew Leach pointed out to someone on Twitter who made that criticism, ‘Hard to be lazy when you’ve stolen 65 bases in three years.’), the list is endless. When he runs hard, he gets hurt. When he doesn’t run hard, he gets piled on. When he celebrates, he gets criticized. When he doesn’t, it throws his game off. He’s not David Wright. He’s Jose Reyes. He’s not a white boy from Virginia.
How much of it is that? I mean subconsciously. Some of it is conscious, the “International Latino Baseball Conspiracy” is what I have always called it, those WFAN callers who say things like, “Well, if his last name was Martinez, Omar would have signed him by now,” statements so ludicrous I can’t even get my brain wrapped around them.
I am new to this. I did not grow up with it. I can’t wax rhapsodic about the 1986 Mets because I wasn’t there. I never saw Willie Mays or Tom Seaver (although I could have, TBF and I were talking about this, various trips with Jewish summer day camp to Shea as a child meant that I could have seen him – but I digress). I don’t want someone to be a jerk, or a wife beater, or a racist, and be on my team. I want them to go out there and play. I don’t need them to pretend that they always wanted to play for the Mets since they were a little kid — although that is a nice thing to have, I am