Thursday, April 14, 2011

One Wrongball Kills Whole Doubleheader

Everything was going according to plan. Bases loaded, bottom of the 9th, down by one, David Wright at the plate. Sure, this could have been easier, but Terry Collins saw the long season, and he knew an ordinary victory wouldn't do.

"If the lead doesn't change after the 6th inning it's like watching television on a Wednesday," he told pigeons as he fed them. "You go to bed like a human, but you don't get to say 'Yeah!'" To Collins, the season came down to how often and how loud you could go "Dananananananana!!" He went "Dananana," for Reyes' homer and "Danananananana!" for Hairston's but he still wasn't satisfied, he needed the full blast. When something truly awesome happened he did a wiggling dance and emphasized the "na" that happened when he completed his rotation. Several Mets had whispered to each other about this habit the first few times they saw it ("He reminds me of yesterday," said Bay; "He reminds me of tomorrow," said Ike; "He reminds me of a ladybug, crawling up a window, standing on transparent eternity, crawling into nothingness, vanishing into ever-smaller specks, feeling 7s and 9s at the ends of its feet, pondering Spain in the fall," said Ryota Igarashi) but after a few weeks most of them barely noticed it.

Collins had designed this moment to elicit his dance. If he could do the full "Danananananananananana!!!" with the complete wiggle, surely the Mets would be inspired to many wins. He did the dance at his interview to get the job. He did the dance to remind himself who he truly was. Wright would strike the seamed sphere with the mallet of truth and glory would be the emotion of choice in Queens. Sadly, Jim Tracy, chief communicator between rocks and Rockies, had a counterplan. As the 9th inning trickled forward and more and more Mets occupied the bases, he was Wright on the horizon and knew he was doomed... unless.

He called the bullpen.

"Who of you throws a wrongball?" he asked. One by one the rocky pitchers shook their heads in negation. The line of head shakes reached Matt Lindstrom who shrugged. "I tried it once in college," he said. "Then damnit, get in the game," said Tracy.

Lindstrom, as you may have seen could do little against most Mets. He even struggled for five pitches against Wright, and then we were where we started, where we wanted to be all along. Bases loaded, bottom of the nth degree, two outs, the fate of humanity pretending to enter into the equation.

"Who is Wright?" asked Ike from the on deck circle.

"I'M WR-" bellowed Wright, but then Lindstrom released the wrongball, and like the scout killing the captain in Stratego, the wrongball could only do one thing, but it did it well. The wrongball beat Wright. The "Danananana!!" that had begun to uncoil with Captain Collins was stifled and he coughed up a hairball.

"All is lost," he sighed.

"But TC-thousand," said Umptar the Umpire, "there's still a whole 'nother game!"

"I said, all is lost!" cried Collins, and Umptar didn't push the matter, because he could see that Collins was feeling surly. A stifled "Danananananana!!!" will do that every time. For the second game of the doubleheader, Collins stayed in the clubhouse. He drank whiskey, smoked cigars and played backgammon. Capuano simply pitched until he didn't feel like it anymore, and then he placed the ball on the mound and announced that whoever grabbed the ball first had dibs. It was only a baseball game because it counted in the standings. It only happened because so many people saw it.

Wright sipped the precious juice of a young coconut. "Dang, what was that pitch?"