You may have noticed that we at the Defectostanian embassy all have our favorite teams, and tend to go on and on about them at a rate that far outraces mere nausea. And nobody is more devoted to slathering on about his favorite team than the lovely, beguiling, and downright adorable Comrade Roth. He has done more to make the rest of us hate the New York Mets than we already do, and that’s a considerable achievement.
But then the bastards go out and get this guy, and in two weeks he becomes what the New York Post describes with its usual elegant understatement as a folk hero.
This was the real highlight of a day when Jacob deGrom strangled the Atlanta Braves—Daniel Vogelbach plowing around the bases on Mark Canha’s double to help the Mets take win the series and take a week’s worth of lead in the NL East.
The clip is mesmerizing, and while the Mets in general have done some fine post-all-star work (they are now 12-4) and between the return of deGrom and their trade deadline deals they seem for the moment reminiscent of the mid-to-late season improvements Atlanta made a year ago to become a World Series champion, these are still the Mets. Bet on them at your peril.
But Vogelbach is in and of himself a glorious example of how elastic the definition of athleticism can be in baseball. He hits like he looks, and maybe he runs like he looks, but he traversed the bases on Canha’s double in such a way that one lit a mental candle for the repose of the soul of Atlanta catcher William Contreras in case there was a play at the plate. Both are six feet tall, but Vogelbach has 50 percent more human than does Contreras, and at his rate of speed a collision would have had that train-meets-VW-microbus feel to it. That, and the game would have been delayed while Contreras was hosed out of the backstop screen.
Vogelbach has been a Mariner, a Jay, a Brewer, and a Pirate before this, and between Seattle and Toronto he was actually DFA’d because after hitting 21 homers and making an All-Star Game, he collapsed in the second half, and has been an itinerant ever since. He has been a Met for 13 games, though, and because it’s New York he’s answering questions about bat flips from a decade ago: “It was just one. It was a [high school] playoff game—just one of those I didn’t even realize I did it. It was a big moment and just a young, stupid Daniel.” Hard not to love the combination of mass and modesty.
But never mind the details. Just watch that clip again. Then again, and again, and again. You don’t even have to root for the Mets—that’s Roth’s job, and his passion, and his burden. It explains that facial twitch that makes him look like a bloodhound sticking his face out the passenger side window on a freeway drive, but he knew the job was dangerous when he took it.
But his perk is that he gets to believe in this perpetually silly team against the overwhelming historical evidence, and he gets Daniel Vogelbach. It’s a trade that helps both teams.