NEW YORK — Here are a few baseball basics. When you pitch, try to throw to the catcher’s glove. If you don’t, the results could be bad.
And when you field a ground ball, put your glove all the way down, or else the ball may go between your legs. And that would be bad.
When you make a throw to the plate, first make sure there’s a reason to throw to the plate. If there isn’t, that would be bad.
And watch whom you’re running into. A guy can get hurt out there, which would be . . . well, you get the idea.
Had the New York Mets heeded all of the above Saturday night, they might not have lost, 1-0, or might not trail, 1-0, in the World Series this morning. But somewhere between their videos and their autobiographies and their endorsements and announcements and ring-fitting sessions and high-fives at the plate, they forgot — albeit briefly — that you cannot win if you do not play. And play correctly.
So here comes Boston’s Jim Rice to face Ron Darling in the seventh inning,
Game 1 of this Fall Classic, which, up till that point, was threatening to become the first World Series game to ever see people leave early in order to catch Saturday Night Live.
And Rice reached base on a walk.
Now Jim Rice can’t steal. He can’t even borrow. Like most of his Boston teammates, Rice is as much a threat on the base paths as a Tonka truck. The only way he could advance without a teammate’s hit is by something stupid, something very untimely, like, oh, say, a wild pitch.
Darling threw a wild pitch.
That was bad.
It was also not the end. One batter later, catcher Rich Gedman came up, and hit a grounder to Tim Teufel at second. An easy play. A very easy play. Unless it goes between your legs. Which it did. Not your legs. Teufel’s legs. And out into right field.
And Rice, who cannot run very quickly, sped around third — maybe sped is not the correct word, maybe lumbered or chugged, or something like that — and Darryl Strawberry, the right fielder, picked up the ball and heaved it toward home, which was not really the right play, because Rice was going to be safe, and while his throw was sailing in the air, Gedman made it to second base.
And Darling, who deserved a better fate than all this, went to cover home and ran into Boston’s Dave Henderson, who was coming out of the on-deck circle to cheer Rice on.
Move over, Darling.
Are you getting all this? OK. Henderson and Darling collided badly, they both went down, Rice crossed the plate with the first run of the World Series, and the Mets had their first lowlight for their next video, which is going to be called “Let’s Go Mets — To The Bahamas” if they don’t play a little more heads-up.
Not that it was easy to keep your head up during this game. There was a fear that the two teams would be a little flat after their dramatic playoff series. A little flat? Well, yes. We are not talking high drama here. We are not talking low drama. We are talking the guy next to me asking if he can borrow some mayonnaise to put in his roast beef sandwich. And that was during the ninth inning.
This lack of excitement left the New York fans angry and frustrated. They were so frustrated, they probably went out and slashed each other’s tires.
But you can’t microwave a World Series. You have to sort of let it heat up gradually. So perhaps you’ll forgive Game 1 of this Fall Classic for, well, falling classically. Going from the playoff series that preceded it to what transpired Saturday night was like getting out of a Corvette and into a Dodge Dart.
But tonight, Game 2, Roger Clemens against Dwight Gooden, will be the big event. Consider Saturday’s game like a preview of the show before it opens on Broadway. That’s the way they’re looking at it around here.
They have to. If they imagine the Mets playing this way the next three games, they would have to imagine them losing. And that would be bad.