Steve Lombardi at the Baseball Reference Blog had an interesting post the other day listing all of the players who ended their team’s post season by taking a called strike three. The post was inspired by the season-ending strike outs of Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez this weekend. The last occurrence prior to that was, of course, Carlos Beltran’s season ending backwards K against Adam Wainwright. No surprise there.
What is surprising (at least to me, anyway) is that Beltran wasn’t the first Met in that situation: Howard Johnson took a called strike three to end the 1988 NLCS. Hojo’s K was slightly less dramatic than Beltran’s: the Mets were trailing the Dodgers 6-0 at the time and Orel Hershiser was working on a complete game, five hit shutout. Those circumstances likely spared Hojo from the treatment Beltran has received in the past four years. In fact, I could only find two Hershiser-centric articles that briefly mentioned Hojo in passing (here and here). Given the pounding Beltran’s taken, I wish Johnson had been a little more vocal about his experience (though part of me understands: it’s never easy to talk about negative events).
Another ex-Met on the list also stands out, even if his post-season ending moment didn’t happen in the orange and blue: Willie Randolph took the final strike against the Royals’ Dan Quisenberry in 1980. Now, I could swear I remember Willie mentioning his strike out in defense of Beltran at some point, but I can’t find it in a Google search. While I’ll trust my spotty memory to give Willie the benefit of the doubt, I’m still frustrated with the media (and fans) who refuse to give Beltran a pass. It’s past time to move on and let it go, but Beltran’s career as a Met is doomed to be overshadowed by that one at bat.
In the interest of thoroughness, three other players with connections to the Mets appear on the list: former Met Randy Myers struck out Omar Vizquel to end the 1996 ALDS, future/former Roberto Alomar K’d looking against Jose Mesa to end the 1997 ALCS (in another twist, both series pitted the Indians against the Orioles), and Derek Lowe punched out former Met Terrance Long to end the 2003 ALDS. Throw in the fact that A-Rod and Alomar will both eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame and Vizquel has a decent shot, Beltran isn’t exactly keeping poor company here. But I’m sure that fact will go unreported, too.