Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Number of Days Until Spring Training: Keith Hernandez (#17)

I'm Keith Hernandez.

Well, not exactly. I'm Matt Laudato; I'm in my second year of law school, and I currently reside in the mecca of National League baseball that is Brooklyn. I live a few blocks from the building wherein Jackie Robinson signed his first Major League Baseball contract.

During my first summer in the BK, I caught the 2 train over to Flatbush for my obligatory pilgrimage to the former location of historic Ebbets Field - once the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers and more recently, the inspiration for the Mets' new Citi (Taxpayer?) Field. Not that even the slightest hint of the stadium remains - a tree-obscured plaque on the plot's apartment building pays the only geographic homage - but I felt it my duty as a lifelong Mets fanatic to tip my cap to baseball's storied past.

You see, my fellow Brooklynites inherited the Mets as the trust fund to their collective rooting interest in 1962 when the Mets materialized up in Queens, while the Mets inherited the Brooklynites' beloved Dodgers' blue caps and pinstripes (the NY Giants lending their orange). Not to be cut out of the will, I inherited the Brooklyn Dodger fan base's notorious status as the long-suffered. "Wait till next year" became "You gotta believe," and I was born a tortured Mets fan through no fault of my own.

And now, here I am. Like Brendan, I am to provide the dissent to the majority's showering of Yankee praise; a sort of blogospheric system of checks and balances. Unlike Brendan, however, I don't have the luxury of two recent championship rings to stave my Yankee contempt- though I've honed my self-control considerably since moving so close to enemy territory. I'll do my best.

One thing we Mets and Yankee fans do have in common - especially if you're around my age - is that we both had near Hall of Fame caliber first basemen to emulate whilst we cut our teeth on the diamond in Little League. You guys had Donny Baseball, we had Keith Hernandez.

Though neither of those guys have yet gotten the nod to Cooperstown (they will, they have to), they surely taught us how, or at least inspired us to try and play good, fundamental ball. Hernandez was just unreal in the field: 11 consecutive Gold Gloves and such a strong and accurate throwing arm that even Mookie Wilson would relay to Hernandez on his throws home from center field. An MVP and a batting champ to boot, Hernandez served not only as a key component to the 1986 World Series Championship team, but as a beloved linchpin in franchise history.

And boy, can he talk. Having Keith in the booth is like having your favorite, inappropriate uncle narrate your family gatherings. When Keith's not eating ribs in the booth, enlightening us with Mad Men-esque views of women, discussing where he's going to dinner in a visiting city or explaining how his mustache precluded the need for eye-black, Keith is keeping the Mets players and fans honest.

The Spitter sure knows his baseball, and is not afraid to call out Reyes for doggin' it (which later spurred a confrontation between the two and the infamous "I was just doing my job, you should do yours" line) or defend a slumping Beltran from the fans' ire by pointing out his graceful, crucial defense. Sure, Keith's "When I was playing..." routine gets a bit tiresome every now and then, but at least his mouth diarrhea isn't as severe as Seaver's, and thankfully we have Gary and Ron to balance him out.

Kind of like my role on this blog, except I can't give free mustache rides.

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