Monday, February 19, 2007

The Strength To Be Endy

This is #2 of 5 Key Mets for 2007.

The ball is a blur as it flies through the air of the cool, wet October night off of the bat of Scott Rolen. Too high. It's surely a Home Run that will give the Cardinals a 2 run lead.

I watch the left fielder sprinting back towards the fence. Maybe a futile leap, but that's all.

Ball, wall and left fielder seem to converge at a frightening speed. That ball is coming down quickly! Perhaps a shot? Only the best timed of leaps could flag this ball down.

Suddenly, just as it appears the ball is gone, the left fielder takes a flying leap off of the warning track, as if he'd jumped off of a trampoline. He might have this one!

Leaping higher than he's ever leapt before, he goes over the fence with his glove extended. The ball lands safely in the webbing of his glove, momentum carrying it slightly backwards. But the left fielder's hand is sure. He squeezes it. He's Got It!

And as he comes down, the ball safely in his glove, he stops and rifles a throw back to the infield. Not only has he robbed Rolen of a sure fire Home Run, he's doubled Edmonds off of first base for a miraculous double play.

As he returns to the dugout, the sellout crowd screaming and chanting his name, he's given a hero's welcome by his teammates.

That was Endy Chavez. For the moment, it looked like he would be the great unsung hero in the Mets World Series run. Instead, the catch is simply remembered as an eerie prelude in one of the most miserable nights in Mets history.

But Endy did much more for the Mets last season than make that catch. Truth is, he'd been making catches like that all season long.

Picked up off the scrap heap following a 2005 season that saw him get released by both the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Cheesesteaks, Chavez was considered a 6th outfielder for a team that only needed 5 in Spring Training. "Why even bother picking him up?" people asked. "Useless." "A bum."

But Chavez stuck it out, and eventually made the team, against all odds. He would bring speed, and a steady outfield glove, we thought, but not much else. No punch offensively. Few thought he would last the season. After all, he failed miserably as a starter and a leadoff man for the ExpoNats, and had spent most of his career bouncing around from team to team, a fringe Major Leaguer at best.

But instead, Endy shined. Off the bench, he came in late in games for defense and sparkled, making great catches look routine. Offensively, he bunted and used his speed, and served as the key for several Mets rallies. And when Cliff Floyd went down with his balky achilles, Chavez stepped in and made the transition seamless. All year long, Endy produced for the Mets, in a fashion that was seldom spectacular, but definitely not un-noticed by Mets fans, who knew, that with Floyd ailing, Chavez would be a huge key player for the Mets as the postseason began.

Game 2, NLDS. It's Chavez, starting in place of Shawn Green, against the Left hander Kuo. See Endy square around and drag a bunt leading off the 3rd inning.

The Dodgers are befuddled. Chavez beats out the play easily and scores the Mets first run in a 4-1 victory.

Game 1, NLCS. Floyd starts, but can only last until the 2nd inning because of his achilles. Chavez comes in. The game is a pitchers duel. With 1 out in the 5th and a man on first, Ronnie Belliard hits a slicing line drive to Left. It's sinking fast. Endy knows he must dive, and at least try to trap it. It dare not get by him, for surely that would be a disaster. He dives.

He catches.

And as we look forward to the 2007 season, so we look as well to Endy to be that guy off the bench who comes in and always does something to help the Mets win. He'll never be spectacular. He'll never blow you away. But he'll be consistently good, tough in the clutch and sharp with the glove. He'll be forever remembered for that catch, but he contributed so much more to the cause and cannot be overlooked on the Mets roster.


El Guapo said...

So the million-dollar question is why is Shawn Green the presumptive starter in right? He's lost his stroke (maybe has flashes of his old power left, maybe), and the runs Endy saves would more than make up for what Green drives in.

Bat Endy 7th or 8th (or 2nd); use Ben Johnson against tough lefties and to spell Alou. Green's had a nice career, I just don't see him having a role on this team.

El Guapo said...

The above assumes two things: 1) Lastings Middledge starts the year in Triple A, and 2) David Newhan sticks as the 5th outfielder and primary lefty pinch hitter.