- Take a one-run lead into the twelfth inning.
- Dispense one base on balls to the leadoff hitter.
- Add one balk call for no discernible reason.
- Broach one sacrifice bunt.
- Induce one ground-ball-hold-the-runner surprise.
- Infuse another balk.
- Lose composure entirely.
- Cough up game-winning dinger.
This was Armando Benitez’s night at Shea Stadium. The Giants are 24-26.
Tonight’s first-base umpire, Bob Davidson, sees a balk around every corner, hence Mike Krukow’s longtime nickname for him: Balkin’ Bob. (I think of Davidson as someone who was through at least 10 years ago, but that’s just my correct opinion.) Davidson just doesn’t feel comfortable in a game until his fist has shot into the air—still attached to his arm, I mean. The defense could still be in the dugout, waiting to take the field, and Davidson will still call a balk if he can. Then again, it could be not a balk call so much as an extremely weird, inconvenient nervous tic. There has to be some rational explanation for Davidson calling a balk on a stationary Benitez—I mean, the guy did not move. Not the first time, anyway. The second balk, in all fairness, was all Benitez.
As our closer prepared to enter his stretch, Carlos Beltran began scooting down the line at third… and Benitez bit. And balked. And blew. The save, I mean. Tie game. Then Armando turned his attention… Carlos Delgado, the batter? The game situation? Nah—Balkin’ Bob. So upset was Armando that he felt he had no choice but to lob what appeared to be a Pony-League-pitching-machine fastball. This Delgado crushed—I mean, I nearly turned off the TV before the pitch, but no, I had to stay tuned. Had to watch Delgado’s ball zoom over a distant fence. Must be my fault.
But no. I won’t cop to this one. What we have here is someone who’s lost whatever guts he’s ever had, despite whatever confidence he may unjustly retain. I wouldn’t be surprised if he yet again said, “Hey, I did my job”—his standard line when he blows a save despite, say, getting a ground ball. All I know is that I’m sick of this guy and want him out.
And yet, I’m not even angry. It’s not as though tonight’s result was a surprise or something, even though he’d saved nine of 10 this year (somehow). Indeed, I’d been pretty patient all season. Really. Benitez threw well in the spring, and he looked as though maybe he’d turned it around. But now, every appearance he makes ups the collective blood pressure of Giants fans everywhere—even, I daresay, the ones who say they’ve got faith in him.
I can’t imagine another team being willing to take Benitez (and his contract) off the Giants’ hands, but if there’s anybody in the world in worse need of a change of professional scenery (besides me, I mean), he must be one sorry bastard. He needs out. I need him out. I’d rather have Rod Beck and his 10-years-dead arm out there. He’s 38, three years removed from Major League Baseball, and all he has is guts. Maybe the only current Giant I’d hate to see closing games more than Benitez is Vinnie Chulk. Maybe.