Hendu Misses Shea, Omir Gets It, Church Is Like Kingman

From inside the Mets (and Rays) clubhouses I gleaned several conclusions Saturday:

Carlos Beltran is a real gamer (I proposed trading him a month ago because the returning bounty would fill several holes, but I agree with a post who called me “insane” ). He’s hurting right now. (scheduled for a MRI Monday). His knee barks loud when he has to put on the breaks. His diving catch yesterday, that saved two runs, is probably less painful than pulling up in the outfield or on the base paths.

With the team treading water, and the rash of injuries, Jerry Manuel can’t afford to rest Beltran. But, he may have no choice, or risk losing him for an extended period.

When I used to interview players in the clubhouse at Shea, because of the close proximity of the lockers, eavesdropping players would often chime in with a woof that added color to my stories. However, with the vastness of the new digs, a conversation becomes a very private affair. Moreover, with the off-limits section of the clubhouse, replete with pool table, and spa-like hot tubs, etc, many players are no where to be found before or after games.

Great, another obstacle to overcome to garner quotes. Fans want to hear from the players, but how can the reporters gather their precious quotes when the players are not accessible? Add the Jay Horowitz factor (Mets longtime PR man), whose favorite word is the same as Jim Carrey’s “NO,” and you have to be creative and dig to get the word out to the fans.

Nevertheless, we all have our burdens, and when you talk to a guy like Omir Santos, it makes it all worthwhile. He appreciates every minute he dresses in a major league clubhouse. His eyes light up when he talks about being a Met. Add Fernando Tatis to the list of players who “get it.” Both take nothing for granted about the game and life.

On the other end of the spectrum is Ryan Church. He could use a puppy because he has no friends in the Mets clubhouse. He sits alone, mopes alone, and leaves the park alone. Maybe because his body language screams, “get me out of here.” He reminds me of Dave Kingman, who was a fierce loner, that rarely interacted with his teammates or the writers ( unless he was delivering a put-down or a dead rodent).

From the Rays side, there were more clubhouse attendants roaming inside than media. There was an intimate gathering inside Joe Maddon’s office pregame, and speaking to him you realize how sharp this guy is. By the way, Maddon had a stack of printouts on his desk, seemingly for every situation available. Makes me think Davey Johnson was ahead of his time.

Steve Henderson, the hitting coach, and former Mets outfielder, was lamenting about Shea’s demise. He did remark that Citi Field is a “sweet park,” and still fondly recalls his Mets career. “I will never forget how the fans treated me, and the opportunity that the (Seaver) trade gave me. To this day, I still call him, ‘Mr Seaver,’ because if it wasn’t for him I might have never made it to the big leagues.”

Something tells me Hendu would have made it regardless. However, at the time of the infamous “Deadline Massacre” of June 1977 he was toiling in the minors at Indianapolis, teammates with Dan Norman, who also came over from the Reds (and Doug Flynn and Pat Zachry).

(If anyone wants to know what became of Norman, just ask and I’ll tell you. Just seeing if anyone is out there!) Henderson hit one of the most dramatic home runs in Mets history-in 1980, a two out three run walk-off against the Giants’ Allen Ripley, believe it or not. The ball landed in the Mets pen and I watched the majestic flight from the right-field boxes. My voice box never recovered!

Anyone remember it?

Talking to Ben Zobrist, the Ray’s utility man, who only four years ago was a Troy, NY Valley Cat of the NY Penn league, was a pleasure. A highly religious young man whose enthusiasm is infectious has come into his own this season with 15 home runs and leads the AL in slugging %. He blasted an insurance homer off Sean Green for good measure in the 9th. On Friday night he hit several shots that were run down by Beltran and he laughed at the prospect of playing 81 games in the cavernous park.

Speaking of home runs that required a tape measure, or more aptly, a GPS, Carlos Pena’s home run Saturday is still in orbit. I told him they were “able to show a double feature on that flight,” and he smiled in appreciation.

If the Phillies keep losing this could turn out to be 1973 all over again (Mets won it one game over .500).