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Seeing is believing

Mets role player isn't so sure of their 'destiny' anymore

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Posted: Thursday October 26, 2000 3:42 AM
Updated: Thursday October 26, 2000 3:49 AM

  Lenny Harris has had only seven postseason at-bats. Ezra O. Shaw/Allsport

By Jeff Pearlman, Sports Illustrated

NEW YORK -- Eighteen days ago, Lenny Harris preached destiny. It was a beautiful thing, the savvy 35-year-old veteran of 13 big league seasons, spewing from his pulpit (really, his Shea Stadium cubby hole) the gospel of divine certainty, champagne flowing through the black curls of his mini-fro.

Having vanquished the vaunted Giants in four games in the Division Series, Harris and the Mets were updating the "You Gotta Believe!" theme of nearly three decades before. This time, it was "We Will Win -- Guaranteed!"

"We are a team of destiny," Harris told me.

Are you serious? I asked.

"I've been playing this game for a long, long time," he said deliberately, each word straight from the Martin Luther King Guide to Powerful Inspiration (Vol. 1). "I've been on a bunch of teams, and I've seen everything there is to see. But I've never seen a team like this. We never give up. We will win the World Series. It's supposed to happen."

CNN/SI at the Series
Closer Look
The New York Mets had two chances to finish the comeback job Mike Piazza started. They couldn't do it.
Yankees Locker Room
If they have their way Thursday, the Yankees' flooded clubhouse again will be awash. With champagne.
Mets Locker Room
Mets second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo is searching for his swing at the worst possible time.
SI's Jamal Greene
The Yankees' accidental midseason acquisition, Jose Canseco, isn't of much use to them in the playoffs
SI's Daniel G. Habib
Bobby Valentine appeared to get the best of Joe Torre in the seventh -- until Mike Stanton struck out two batters.
SI's Stephen Cannella
Joe Torre didn't hesitate to make the move he had to -- remove Denny Neagle in the fifth inning
SI's Jeff Pearlman
Even the normally ebullient Lenny Harris' resolve is being tested by the Mets' 3-1 deficit.
SI's Kostya Kennedy
Yankees fans were out in force at Shea Stadium. And they brought their smugness with them.

Bullpen, Yankees
After Denny Neagle lasted only 4 2/3 innings, the quartet of David Cone, Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton and Mariano Rivera shut the Mets completely down. The bullpen pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing only one hit and striking out five -- all while protecting a one-run lead.

Bobby Jones, P, Mets
Everybody knew the Mets needed a big game from Jones, but after one pitch it was evident they weren't going to get it. The Yankees got to Jones in the first three innings, including Derek Jeter's leadoff HR, putting the Mets in too deep of a hole.

I sort of believed Harris because, having witnessed several of New York's 45 regular-season come-from-behind triumphs, it was, well, believable.

Much like the '69 and '86 incarnations, these Mets routinely avoided death in the most unlikely of ways. J.T. Snow's three-run homer off Armando Benitez? No biggie. Down five in the bottom of the eighth? Big whoops.

"Trust me," Harris told me. "It can happen."

At 12:22 this morning, I found Lenny Harris again. He was in the exact same space, in the exact same duds. Now, however, there was no champagne. No spewings of greatness. No ode to joy. Certainly, no smile. The Amazin's -- team of destiny -- just lost a 3-2 heartbreaker to the Yankees, positioning the Bombers one game from of a third consecutive world championship.

The Mets had played as well as they possibly could, and it wasn't good enough. Too much Yankee pitching, too much Yankee defense, too much Yankee Jeter.

Harris did everything he could. He yelled and screamed and hollered and cheered and pepped. In his one at-bat, a seventh-inning pinch-hit appearance, he walked after six Jeff Nelson pitches. The next two hitters didn't fare so well. Bubba Trammell struck out swinging. So did Kurt Abbott.

Harris, alone to ponder his ponderings, was suddenly less than thrilled to chat destiny.

"I still believe," said the man with 130 career pinch-hits, fourth all time. "We're OK. We've been down before, and we've come back. We're OK."

This wasn't the Harris of 18 days earlier. Not even close. Back then, he was more than willing to recall the details of a long, winding career; one that had taken him from Cincinnati to L.A. back to Cincy to the 75 games with the Mets in '97 to Colorado to Arizona to, once again, New York.

"I've never had a chance to play in a World Series," he said on Oct. 8. "I've always dreamed of it."

Now, Harris (understandably) dismissed me. He talked a bit ... "You can't put your head down ... We've had the opportunities ... You have to give Joe Torre credit" ... but the words were dull and the message was clear.

Destiny, schmestiny. The Mets are in deep trouble.

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