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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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Finding Our Way

Billy Wagner was lost.

His momentum carried him across the first-base line, ball in hand. He got himself stopped, and turned, but didn't find the bag he was expecting — somehow it was an extra foot to his right, accessorized by a mildly dumbfounded Shawn Green. Oops! Billy kept turning, and Plan B arrived in the form of Kelly Johnson, who walked into the tag and became the final out of the game. Billy had found his way after all. As had his teammates.

One quality of Willie Randolph's that I admire despite the teeth-gnashing it causes is that he's not afraid to take risks in order to find out something important. It always goes like this: The camera focuses on an unlikely pinch-hitter, an unestablished reliever in an unaccustomed spot or an established pitcher trying to get one more out than you'd expect. Discussion ensues in the booth, followed by a shot of Willie at the dugout rail, looking even more stoic than usual. He's administering a test and wondering if his latest pupil will pass or fail.

So it was in the eighth. Heilman was faltering, teetering on the verge of collapse thanks to another Brave two-out rally. (If the standings were different, these would be terrifying instead of vexing.) In came Feliciano with one out to get. To first base went Brian McCann, whom I am heartily glad not to have to see again until next spring. Exit Feliciano, enter … Mota?

Yes, Guillermo Mota. Guillermo Mota who'd pitched fairly well of late, but only in garbage-time situations. Willie had decided to administer a bullpen pop quiz. I called Emily (attending the game with her dad) and said, “For the last hour I've been envying you being at a wonderful game on a nice night. Now … not so much.” She laughed.

The crowd handled Mota's arrival like New Yorkers often do — they booed the sight of him thoroughly, then grumpily accepted that for better or worse he was the one with the ball and tried to cheer him through his confrontation with Jeff Francoeur. Which he lost after a succession of good changeups and not-so-good changeups and foul tips and finally a clean single through the 5.5 hole. Tie game. Then Mota got Andruw and the crowd, reversing an earlier motif, roared its approval of the strikeout and then booed Mota to the dugout for his earlier misdeed.

No matter — Carlos Beltran promptly restored order with a sharp single, a steal of second off a kid catcher just up from Double-A, a wily theft of third beneath Yunel Escobar's nose, and then walked home courtesy of Green's third hit of the night. How about Shawn Green? He either needed a rest, has been revitalized by a move to first or — most likely — senses the barn after an admirable career. If he stays hot, he could retire with 2,000 hits, not counting whatever he might earn in a final October. That ought to be worthy of a last standing O.

The rest of the game? Crisp and exciting with occasional spots of worry. John Maine is so easily spooked by misfortune (in this case a muffed fly-ball single between Reyes and Beltran) that I'm surprised more teams don't try to rattle him. And Mota failed Mr. Randolph's exam convincingly. And got a win for his troubles.

But no matter. This is the time to find things out, to figure out what needs to be tuned up and what needs to be rethought. And there was plenty to celebrate. Reyes looks revived, Anderson and Milledge proved jolts of excitement, we beat John Smoltz (again), got up after a punch and responded with a knockout blow, and moved closer to Game 163. All in all, not a bad night's work.

10 comments to Finding Our Way

  • Anonymous

    Before I forget, did one of our denizens, resplendent in a FAFIF t-shirt, attend tonight's game, in Loge RF (approx. sec 29-31)? I could swear I glimpsed the aforementioned garment peeking out from underneath a long-sleeved shirt on a grey-haired gentleman, but I lost him as he headed (I believe) for the men's room… and I sure didn't want to chase him in there.

  • Anonymous

    What killed me most is that Mota got a win…they need to change that rule…if you blow a late lead, you are not allowed to get the win.

  • Anonymous

    I think if there'd been another pitcher between Mota and Wagner, the official scorer would have given the new guy the win. (See: Eric Cammack and the 10-run inning.) But with Mota bumping up against Wagner, there was no way to do that.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed. I always felt that in circumstances like that, the win should revert back to the original pitcher of record. It'll never happen, but I think it should. That win should be Maine's, not Mota's.

  • Anonymous

    How about we stop contorting ourselves as to who “deserves” the win and just admit that this game is the latest example of why it is the stupidest stat in baseball.
    The Mets outscored the Braves. The Mets won. Why ascribe a W or an L to a particular player? Give the W to Shawn Green. Or Carlos Beltran.
    Makes at least as much sense as giving it to Mota or Maine.

  • Anonymous

    Good idea, bring it up at the board meeting. But for now, I'll maintain that if a reliever blows a lead, he should not be able to earn a victory.

  • Anonymous

    That's a great rule.
    A win should only go to guys like the starting pitcher who allows 7 runs over six innings but leaves with a lead anyway because his team happened to score 8.
    Be a real shame to see some reliever blow that lead and somehow get an undeserved win.
    When is that board meeting?

  • Anonymous

    How about instead of giving the win to Mota, we give it to the reliever who got the third out of the eighth inning while leaving the bases stranded, keeping the game tied so the Mets could come back and take the lead with just one run. THAT guy should get the win!
    That guy is Mota.
    Put “aboloshing the pitchers's won-lost record” at the top of the agenda for the board meeting, would you?

  • Anonymous

    Hey, I wish there could be such a meeting.
    I agree that the W-L stat is flawed (if not completely worthless in determining the true value of a pitcher) but the truth is, until it's de-emphasized by the writers when choosing a CY winner, it's a valuable stat for pitchers. Ask Blyleven or John who will probably never make the HOF, despite being a handful of blown saves away from the “lock” number of 300 wins.
    Of course you could then argue that the CY (MVP, etc.) and the HOF are just a bunch of hokum anyway and I wouldn't necessarily disagree. After all, Mex isn't there despite all of his credentials, because he never reached the magic #'s of 3,000 or 500.

  • Anonymous

    I normally despise Hall of Fame arguments for that reason– selection is just so subjective that is has become almost meaningless.
    I'm as big a Keith-o-phile as you will ever find, however, Keith's induction would be a further watering down of the meaning Hall of Famer.
    If you take Hernandez, you then logically must take Mattingly. And Steve Garvey. And re-examine Mark Grace's credentials. Don't forget Kent Hrbek. Or Jack Clark. And on it goes.
    I greatly enjoyed witnessing his genius. But Keith's no all-time great.
    Hey, maybe someday via the Frick award.