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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Giant Steps

Ah, the ballet. I watched some myself today.

For a while, the matinee between the New York and San Francisco companies seemed hardly worth saving the program. There was a fine performance from Steve Trachsel, who's not exactly a diva but known to like everything just so, and to take changes in his carefully established routine out onstage with him. The other lead, Matt Morris, is most certainly a diva, as was obvious when Barry Bonds was nowhere to be seen as Carlos Delgado's sixth-inning double bounced off the wall: Morris spread his arms out as if to say, “What on earth?” Oh dear: Recent asterisks and clubhouse reputation aside, that's a Hall of Famer out there, and more importantly, he's wearing your colors. The San Francisco company appears to need a little group therapy.

Barry, ugh. There's nothing more cringeworthy than an aging dancer falling out of pirouettes and not being able to stay en pointe. He still fills out that orange and black tutu impressively, but the horizontal Arabesque he essayed during what became an Endy Chavez triple was painful. His replacement, Jason Ellison, was slightly more graceful: Only a hasty en arriere by Jose Valentin prevented Ellison from erasing him as the tail end of a most unlikely 5-4-7 double play. That would have been one to stare at in the scorebook when discovered years hence.

Alas, Bonds wasn't the only one whose art was lacking today. Jose Reyes, normally so reliable, opened the door to horror by getting too cute on a double-play ball. He's still just 22, our Jose, so you have to expect the occasional young-player mistake, but that was a bad time for a casual toss a la seconde. As for Sanchez walking in a run, well, merde.

And that's not even mentioning my favorite move from today's exhibition: The nifty pas de deux between Reyes and Morris with Reyes on third and only Manny Acta for company, thanks to the overshift against Delgado. Morris's look of terror at seeing Jose 40-odd feet down the line was priceless, as was the crowd all but ordering him to steal home. (Too bad it all came to naught.) I would like to know what passed between Acta and Reyes before Jose seemed to shorten his lead; I bet he was told he was distracting Delgado as much as he was bothering Morris. Whatever the communication, Jose looked like a Lab who'd just had the expensive cowboy boot he was chewing on taken away: He seemed to understand, but wasn't going to hide how disappointed he was.

And, of course, the half-inning that had the crowd all demi-pointes. That would be our belated (and ultimately ineffectual) revenge against one Armando Benitez. Yesterday Armando seemed like a lock for a walks-then-a-big-hit meltdown and wriggled free; today he seemed like all systems were go and then inexplicably threw a rod. Confusion reigned in the Fry/Bernstein household, however (or at least in my half of it): We'd had to pause TiVo and so were 40-odd seconds behind with Valentin at the plate when Joshua accidentally changed the channel, erasing TiVo's recording and hurling us into the present, but on some random channel. I flipped back (26? Augghh! Think! Oh! 11!) just in time to see Lastings' drive sail over the fence, which threw me into a paroxysm of rage: Oh these tack-on runs! Now it's 6-5 and Lastings' homer doesn't matter! Second night in a row! Fricking Heilman! And he got got by the guy from Double-A whose name still isn't spelled right on his uniform! Wait, why is the WB claiming it's 6-6? Stupid WB, they can't even get…wait a minute, did somebody else homer? Valentin? Endy? Who cares? YAAAAAY!!!!

(As for Milledge's post-homer oh-no-he-didn't decision to slap hands with the customers along the right-field line, we'll revisit it the first time he faces a Giant next year and immediately takes a pitch in the earflap. For now, let's just say that when the other team's psycho reliever, your own cool veteran and your old-school manager agree you fucked up and tell the press as much, you fucked up.)

All in all, a recital that see-sawed from exhilirating to excruciating, but was never anything less than hugely entertaining. I only wish I could let go of my quarrel with the New York company's choreographer: In the 8th, with Valentin on second and nobody out in a tie game, why was Chavez bunting? The base-out matrix will tell you that's a bad idea, but you didn't have to be a stats geek to hate that call. Bunting there puts Milledge — a rookie who had two big hits but has also looked very overeager — up against a guy who's a ground-ball machine. If the 21-year-old can't get it done, you've got a pinch-hitter coming in with two outs. And, indeed, Milo grounded out and Franco struck out. Ack!

Oh well. We didn't get the win, but I can't say I wasn't riveted. Sometimes you wind up delivering your Bravos to the other guys.

(Ballet terms butchered thanks to Wikipedia.)

8 comments to Giant Steps

  • Anonymous

    I agree that Chavez shouldn't have been bunting, but looking at that matrix raises some questions. If it goes from 1.189 with 0 out and runner on 2nd to 0.983 with 1 out and runner on 3rd, that suggests it doesn't make sense to bunt even if you had 100% certainty of a successful sacrifice. We need to know (i) the probability of a clean sac (ii) the probability of a botched play that gets to 1st and 3rd none-out and (iii) the probability of a botched bunt that results in runner on 2nd and 1-out. The math dictates that 1.189 includes all those situations where teams have bunted the runner over to 3rd and 1 out, which would be equivalent at 83%. I'm sure this has been covered somewhere.
    Regarding Milledge, I liked seeing it and I guess I'm just ignorant to “The Code.” If it really is a rule that you can't celebrate anything except a game ending event, fine. But if I had a hustling name like Lastings and I just connected after a week of feeling love from New York, I would absolutely be wanting to give love back. Cam sitting on top of the dugout signing balls and loving New York comes to mind. Also brings to mind when the Knicks were good and the squad seemed like the were family and nothing was tougher than a Knicks huddle because it was all about protecting the fam. I guess I just like having Milledge in the fam.
    As far as retaliation, they can bring what they want. To quote Raekwon, “Got guns? Got guns, too.”

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, the base-out matrix does raise questions: To me, the most vital is, “Never mind the # of expected runs, does a sacrifice increase the chances that I'll score at least one run?” (I don't know — I can't even add, so this stuff is sadly beyond me.)
    What struck me about the Endy situation was that the stat-guy case and the player-personality case both clearly said “no” to me: Don't give up the out and don't put so much on the raw rookie battling a wily vet.
    My first impression seeing Lastings slapping hands going up the line was, “That's really cool.” My second impression was, “He's gonna get drilled.” But yeah, it's nice to have a player whose error is to not be aloof enough from the fans….

  • Anonymous

    milledge had not been clued in enough to answer the curtain call after he had returned to the dugout following the home run. nor, might i add, did any teammate inform him. so when he came out to take the field, that's when he showed the love.
    if you say it's inappropriate, bad baseball form or worse, setting the team up for a slapdown by the baseball gods, well then, his buddies in the dugout bear a bit of the karmic load.

  • Anonymous

    I didn't even think anything of Milledge's interactive delayed curtain call other than “hey, that's a pretty cool way to make up for not doing a curtain call right after the homer” until the grand poobahs of Baseball Tonight spent way too much time tsk-tsking young Lastings for celebrating with the fans. I liked those guys better when they were mocking A-Rod for homering in 9-1 games.
    When did it become a crime to show some enthusiasm? Look, when a batter stands at home plate to admire his home run I find that as obnoxious as the next person, but I like that this team isn't afraid to jump for joy when something good happens.

  • Anonymous

    Milledge can high-5 me any day of the week & twice on Sundays…

  • Anonymous

    I'm with you on that, Jessica, everyone needs to lighten up a little. He's young. He's Lastings Milledge. He was excited. The fans were excited. Let them show it, for crying out-loud! Does being a veteran mean you learn to be un-enthusiastic and aloof, and that the other team is full of extremely temperamental people who take things extremely personally? Are pro's egos really so fragile? Obviously you don't want players to show-boat, but that was so obviously not Milledge's intention….c'mon. I respect his desire to share some joy with the fans. Baseball doesn't have to be so grim and melodramatic.
    If Alfon(z?)o had hit his homerun in San Fran, and he had done that, I wouldn't have begrudged him it at all…though I would have been pretty amused since he's hardly a prospect of Lastings Milledge proportions. I really don't buy this “Rookie Mistake” thing. Yes, it was a Rookie Thing to Do (from a veteran it would be a tad obnoxious), but not a Mistake.

  • Anonymous

    That's well-said. It was a Rookie Thing to Do. A Rookie Thing to Do Not Appreciated by Veterans, even. But that's not necessarily the same as a Rookie Mistake.

  • Anonymous

    This link is a good starting point:
    as is this link:
    And we devote 50 pages to analyzing bunts every which way possible in our book: