Clark Tries Golden Sombrero On For Size

Tony Clark wanted his revenge. He had already struck out three times in yesterday's game, but with two outs and nobody on in the eighth inning, he figured he would get one last chance at redemption. Yet Braves right-hander Darren Holmes froze Clark with a 2-2 fastball clocked at 90 miles-an hour, and the dejected first baseman slowly walked back to the away dugout.

Clark's fourth straight strikeout did not directly lead to the Mets' downfall in a 7-4 loss to their division rivals on Saturday, but it certainly did not help. But although Tom Glavine's poor pitching performance may have been the major culprit, Clark's offensive woes assisted in his team falling 24 games behind the first-place Braves in the National League East as they moved further and further away from contention.

The Fox network, which was broadcasting the game, had placed a microphone on Clark prior to the game, and he unknowingly made an interesting comment while on the air. Following the fourth punchout, Clark dejectedly held his head down and started speaking to teammate Cliff Floyd. "Sometimes I wonder if my bat has a hole in it," Clark told Floyd. The bat actually seemed to be in excellent condition, so Clark's reasoning might be misled. Yet there is no question that he has recently looked clueless at the plate, especially in games he has started.

Batting out of the seventh slot in the lineup, Clark went 0 for 4 and left three runners on base. His batting average is now at .221 despite the terrific power numbers he put up as a pinch-hitter earlier this year. Clark has already hit 10 home runs with 28 runs batted in as a Met. Last year, he had only 3 homers and 29 RBI during the entire season with the Red Sox.

Clark is not the first Met to be awarded the golden sombrero - a baseball term that refers to a batter striking out four times in a single game. A few years ago Mike Piazza came up in the ninth inning of a home game against Milwaukee with the tying run on third. He then struck out before Robin Ventura hit a double to left field to tie the score. The Mets then won in extra innings when Ventura blasted a solo home run.

Clark had little luck yesterday against Braves starter Russ Ortiz or Holmes, and his season continues its downward spiral. Unfortunately, the Mets are following suit with what has now become a four-game losing streak. New York has lost 10 of its last 11 contests.

With the trades of Roberto Alomar and Jeromy Burnitz, the team is in full rebuilding mode and is trying to play as many prospects as possible. Jason Phillips will be their first baseman for the remainder of the season, but today he was catching while Vance Wilson took the day off.

Whatever the Mets do on the field nowadays, they can't seem to catch a break. Clark's infamous accomplishment led them even further away from respectability.

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