The Subway Series moved 8 miles Monday. Now at Shea Stadium in Queens instead of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, the Mets are in a 2-0 hole and facing a must-win tonight in Game Three (8:25, Ch. 29).
Monday was an off day that turned into a circus, just like the news conferences after the Yankees' 6-5 win Sunday night. There was virtually no talk about whether the Mets can figure out how to solve Yankees pitcher Orlando Hernandez and hand him his first career postseason loss.
Mets catcher Mike Piazza was the featured attraction. And the international baseball media couldn't get enough as the firestorm continued to rage over Roger Clemens' toss of Piazza's broken bat in the first inning Sunday night that provoked a bench-clearing debate between the teams.
Piazza walked into an interview room deep in the bowels of Shea just before 2 p.m. The microphones didn't work, so the session was conducted in a surreal quiet as Piazza strained to hear questions and the packed room of reporters leaned forward to hear his answers.
Sixteen minutes later, it was over. But not before Piazza first pleaded with the media to put the story to bed but then admitted he was ready for battle had Clemens done anything other than ask plate umpire Charlie Reliford for a new baseball.
"I can assure you if there was any sort of aggressiveness, if he would have said anything else to me at that point, it could have been a different situation," Piazza said. "But there was so much ambiguity as far as the whole situation. . . . He seemed apologetic, unsure, confused and unstable."
One of the biggest questions in the wake of the incident is why one of the Mets didn't make a move to go after Clemens. The only one who did was coach John Stearns, who pointed and shouted at Clemens when he came on to the field.
"He (Clemens) caught a broken bat and fired it," Stearns said Monday. "And all this happens in the first at-bat after he drilled Mike in the head in July? We all know what he's about. He particularly likes to go at people's heads and you can't be intimidated. We won't be intimidated. It's known he will throw at you if you try to bunt. We know that.
"The baseball community needs to recognize who this guy is and what he tries to do. I don't know why he wasn't thrown out. In the regular season, I would think he would have been. The thing that's sad is that he's a great pitcher with great stuff and he doesn't need to do this."
Major League Baseball vice president Frank Robinson is reviewing the play for possible disciplinary action against Clemens, although it's unlikely a suspension would be levied in the postseason.
Piazza noted the Mets were put in a no-win situation by the incident, clearly one of the most bizarre in Series history.
"You're damned if you do and damned in you don't," he said. "We punch him, guys get thrown out and we're selfish. We back down, we look gutless."
"I thought it was OK to leave the bench," said Mets manager Bobby Valentine. "And if, once we got out there, things heated up, I think that everybody was ready to do whatever we needed to do."
"It's hard to turn the other cheek when a situation like that happens," said Mets Game Three starter Rick Reed. "But I guess to get back (at the Yankees), just to win the World Series outright would do it. That would be payback -- for now.
"I felt he should have gotten tossed last night. There was no room in this game for what he did. . . . It was just uncalled for."
The line of questioning to Piazza truly got offbeat when he was asked if he thought Clemens was too dangerous to be allowed on the field.
"You're asking me if he needs a psychiatric evaluation?" Piazza said. ". . . Hey, I had not the least bit of intimidation. You cannot go into the batter's box with a guy throwing as hard as he does and think about getting hit. . . . But I do believe his actions should be looked at by Frank Robinson or whoever is in charge of conduct."
Valentine carefully chose his words in answering each question from reporters. After a few obscure answers, Valentine revealed that Robinson and commissioner Bud Selig had convened a meeting prior to the series with the managers and general managers of the teams and the umpires to remind them that the umpires were in charge and outbursts would not be tolerated by players or coaches.
"I don't think Roger was at that meeting," Valentine deadpanned to howls of laughter.
Valentine said after Sunday's game he didn't see the play. Asked Monday what the videotape showed him, he refused to make direct accusations at Clemens.
But his answers were dripping with sarcasm.
"The bat bounced twice and he (Clemens) made a pretty good fielding play and he came up throwing," Valentine said. "He was in a mechanically sound throwing position. He stepped toward where Mike was going to be."
Clemens again said there was no intention to hit Piazza.
"I told you (reporters) all about it (Sunday) night and I don't need to see a replay," said Clemens. "There was no temper involved. I thought it was a ball coming at me. Once (the bat) was in my hand . . . let's not revisit that."
The Mets know they better get a better handle on their emotions than Clemens had or this series will be over quickly.
They've made baserunning blunders, had three errors in the first two innings Sunday, and are hitting just .218 as a team. They've lost both games by one run (although Sunday's 6-5 loss was a blowout until they scored five runs in the ninth) and it could have been much worse because the Yankees have left 27 men on base."The bottom line is we're trying to win a World Series," Piazza said. "Unfortunately, this is a situation that has taken prominence over the ballgame. But that's just the way it is."