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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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Now Pitching for the New York Mets, Squeak Scolari

Al Michaels: And it all comes down to just one man.

Bob Costas: Unfortunately, that one man is Squeak Scolari.

Public Address Announcer: Now shooting, No. 23, Squeak “Little Bitch” Scolari.

The above dialogue from the funniest and most misunderstood sports movie ever, BASEketball, came to mind Sunday afternoon as the bottom of the eleventh was about to begin. Gary Cohen set the scene by unintentionally channeling Bob Costas. Paraphrasing here:

It's 7-6, Mets, and look who's coming on to try to save it — Aaron Sele!

He may as well have called him Squeak.

We'll skip the other names Mets fans must have been formulating for their relievers so as to maintain the thin veneer of being a family blog, but Cohen's intonation was, essentially, you're not going to believe this, but Willie Randolph thinks he's going to escape this impending disaster with a washed-up starter turned discredited long reliever, someone he's used all of three times in September, someone he avoided calling on in a dire situation three nights earlier despite his having warmed up that very inning and someone who pitches almost exclusively when the Mets are far ahead or, as is more often the case, far behind.

If Gary didn't say that, that's clearly what he (and we) had in mind. Entering Sunday, Aaron Sele had made 32 appearances as a Met and the Mets were 9-23 when he pitched. So you don't think it was all a coincidence, Aaron Sele held a 5.29 ERA for 2007 from the beginning of the season to September 17 — six games earlier, which was the last time Randolph saw fit to use him. It's been a year plainly worthy of Kenny “Squeak” Scolari, BASEketball's resident luckless nebbish.

Except that after running through six relievers in five innings, Willie was down to his whaddayagonnado? corps, and Sele was the best of that lot. For the first time, in the 155th game of the season, Aaron Sele did what he had to do. Let the scorebook show…

One pitch to Hanley Ramirez: 6-3.

Two pitches to Dan Uggla: 8 (though not without a little Endy effort).

Either not knowing a good thing when he had it goin' on or deciding not to press his luck, Willie went to his ninth pitcher of the day, lefty Scott Schoeneweis, to go after a lefty batter, Jeremy Hermida. Schoeneweis, whose situational Squeakness has been largely ignored in the wake of Guillermo Mota's total Squeakness, needed but two pitches to induce a grounder to first.

The save was Schoeneweis'. The holiest of holds was Sele's. The sigh of relief from one end of Metsopotamia to another was audible.

Three wins in a row for the worst first-place team we've ever rooted for, the worst first-place team to maintain its lofty position for 131 days and counting, the worst first-place team to pick up ground on the scariest second-place team any fan base has ever felt breathe hotly down its collective neck from no closer than 1-1/2…now 2-1/2 back.

Baseball is cyclical in so many ways, as a freaky omen of sorts reminded me. Late Saturday night I listened to the Rockies beat the Padres on XM. When it was over, I was turning the dial back to Home Plate, their baseball news channel, planning to shut off the satellite radio altogether. Except I heard Gary Cohen's voice. It was one of their MLB Classics, from October 1, 2000, the final game of that season. It was a thirteen-inning affair between the Mets and the Expos, though other than the length and the Mets winning on an errant throw, there was nothing particularly classic about what was otherwise a tuneup for the coming playoffs. Nevertheless, I was at that game (with Jason and Emily), so I took a special interest in listening to it seven years later.

When I picked up the rebroadcast, the Mets were going down in the sixth to a middle reliever named Guillermo Mota. And when Gary and Bob (a chill in itself hearing him) were running down the out-of-town scoreboard, the probables for the important Seattle-Anaheim game not yet started were Aaron Sele for the Mariners and Scott Schoeneweis for the Angels.

The record compels me to report first-year manager Mike Sciosica opted for righty Mark Petkovsek instead of Schoeneweis (and lost), but still…hearing those three names on a Mets broadcast from a whole other era, none of them of more than the most passing interest at the time…it rated a “wow!” in the wee hours of Sunday morning for sure.

Keeping with the baseball-is-cyclical theme, is it possible the cycle of losing that was going to break us has passed with us having lost only one game off our ragingly adequate lead in a week's time? It doesn't feel like a three-game winning streak, but once more, truthiness doesn't matter here. The legitimate truth is the Mets found a way to win on Friday and Saturday and, at last, Sunday — despite no help from the relatively dependable Feliciano, Heilman (who jiggled his right shoulder after every pitch like something's terribly wrong with him) and Wagner (spasm-free but rusty) but because of loads of help from the generally dismissed and/or despised Sosa, Mota, Smith, Sele and Schoeneweis.

We ain't too proud to beg. We begged the Nationals to not roll over against the Phillies, and they didn't…even though we are hours from begging them to lay down like dogs at Shea for three straight nights. And we ain't too proud to accept a St. Bernard's keg of bourbon, first aid and outs from the Treacherous Three no matter how many times we've cursed out mutts like Mota, Schoeneweis and Sele. It's late September. Everybody who can contribute meaningfully is welcomed back into the family with open arms.

It's not much of a formula for winning to have John Maine strike out nine, leave at the first sign of stress in the sixth and then shuttle arms in and out like Ollie North dealing with the Iranians and the Contras, but if it works, it works. It's not ideal to have Carlos Beltran smack a knee into a wall in the midst of his second game-saving catch in three days, but you gotta hope he rubs some dirt on it and is rarin' to go sooner than later. It's not inspiring to hear the undisputed Hit Streak King tell Kevin Burkhardt that playing every day has him gassed and looking for Red Bull, but Moises, baby, you had the shank of summer to not play. All hands on deck.

Here's a worry I'm ready to release into the atmosphere because it seems valid despite no current trend in its favor: we're gonna stop hitting any minute now because it's exactly what the Mets do. They've been able to afford to indulge in deadly round after round of bullpen roulette because the offense has clicked to record-breaking proportions. The Mets have scored at least seven for six straight days. They've never done that before. Who here thinks they'll keep that up? There was a similar stint in August (also when we were playing mostly second-division clubs) that we lit up the runs column. Then we stopped. You know the relief pitching will tighten up the second Alou's streak stops, the moment Paulie remembers his hand hurts, the very night neither of the key Carloses can any longer swing, when even David isn't of all that much Value. And then we'll be off on another thrilling baseball adventure.

Just a horrible hunch. Hope I'm wrong. I find it better to articulate my darkest fears and then root like hell that I look silly in retrospect than keep it all bottled up. Better for me to feel silly than Sele to be Squeak…so to speak.

18 comments to Now Pitching for the New York Mets, Squeak Scolari

  • Anonymous

    I wouldn't be surprised if the hitting stopped at some point. Of course, I expect the pitching that got us through the early part of the season to make a re-appearance.
    It's amazing when you think about it, that is if you can stand to think about it anymore. Early in the season we had the following:
    – John Maine pitching like an ace.
    – Moises Alou missing in action……scratch that…..just missing.
    – Jose Reyes stating his own MVP case.
    – Mota, Sele, and Show making a case for Omar having lost his mind.
    – Wagner being virtually unhittable. (Take a second and absorb the notion that any Mets closer would ever hold that tag)
    – Carlos Delgado looking pretty washed up.
    Come September and what do we find?
    – John Maine strikes out all of greater Miami and still can't get to the 6th inning.
    – Moises Alou is not only playing but hitting everything in sight.
    – Jose Reyes trying to hit everything in sight but only swatting flies.
    – Mota, Sele, and Show stopping the bullpen bleeding and saving the weekend.
    – Wagner offering rewards to anyone who can find his early season health and dominance.
    – Carlos Delgado still only hitting sparingly, but oh what beautiful hits they've been.
    This team has rarely looked pretty this season. That's fine, I've rooted for many a Devils squad that looked great all season and ran into a first round buzzsaw. I've also rooted for Devils squads that have gotten to the playoffs by winning ugly and ended up winning it all.
    All we need is that ticket to the dance and then we can all exhale. Hopefully at that point, it will all click the right way…….or should I say, the Wright way?

  • Anonymous

    No one was begging the Nationals more than me (I was in DC for that final (two) game(s) of RFK stadium. The Nationals look horrible. At one point, a ball got through the second baseman, backed up by the right fielder….and it go by him too. Similar situation, an errant throw to first got away, and then the right field overran it trying to pick it up. It didn't feel like baseball, but the lovely Phillies bullpen pitched to form Sunday.
    Saturday night, as the Phillies tack on in the 10th, most of the Nationals fans have left, and the stadium is so exclusively Phillies fan that they've easily taken over the stadium, to the extent that a bunch of them ahev taken over two sections in the outfield to form a make-shift bleacher section, complete with roll call chanting and screaming. (allthough they were so far away It was hard to hear them.)
    My friend and I parked inthe right field lot, but were sitting in left field, so during a pitching change in the 10th, we made our way to right field, not expecting the Nationals to come back. As we make our way around the stadium, every section starts a loud boo and yelling at us (obviously we were wearing Mets stuff. Beltran and Maine) It's a weird feeling getting booed by virtually the entire stadium, but I got plenty of 'first place' and 'better luck next year' shouts in, as well as pointing at the 7-2 out of town scoreboard.

  • Anonymous

    the radio guys were equally dismissive of sele and schoeneweis. which, frankly, i thought was uncharacteristic and unnecessary.
    and then ed coleman had sele on afterward, and you know what? sele was as gracious and intelligent a postgame interview as i'd heard all year.
    i've felt all the highs and especially all the lows like the rest of us here. i've watched my son silently question why his dad insists on us being mets fans. hell, i've wondered what is up with a team that can relentlessly give back all those multirun leads to crap squads. and yes, it's no secret why the team's been hitting well — it's because they're stepping in against mediocre at best pitching.
    nothing is taken for granted, nothing. for one thing, they're coming back to shea, where they've been no better than 50-50 all year.
    but the mets are going to do it. you may not have to believe, greg, but i do. and that faith will be rewarded.
    now, the playoffs, with the lineup and bullpen all gassed…that's another story. but one we don't have to fret over for another week.
    lgm, dudes, lgm.

  • Anonymous

    nothing is taken for granted, nothing. for one thing, they're coming back to shea, where they've been no better than 50-50 all year.
    And we all know how supportive the fans will be the second a Met strikes out, grounds out, flies out, gives up a hit, a walk, a run… that oughta help matters immensely!! *sigh* This is the time to get behind your team out there, people… not boo them.

  • Anonymous

    it's been my experience that the real boos have been for terrible inning performances, and for Mota and Schoeneweis, who were getting booed based on disasterous seasons. I think Schoeneweis has gotten a repreieve for Sunday, and for his better pitching lately. But we're not screaminig at every player, or booing every strike out. We're not Phillies fans.

  • Anonymous

    I'm taking anything they'll give us.

  • Anonymous

    Somehow,Greg….I think you need to keep your darkest fears to yourself…just for another few days.

  • Anonymous

    Tim Marchman must be a FAFIF fan…

  • Anonymous

    thanks for that link. it's an awfully good column.

  • Anonymous

    But there's no Scott Stevens here to will the team through ugly victories and through the grind of the post-season.

  • Anonymous

    Or Lou Lamoriello to take over for the last seven games.

  • Anonymous

    That it is. He managed to make Hundley's left field experiment sound sweet as opposed to irritatingly futile.

  • Anonymous

    On the Phillies' side of the ledger, can they expect the tremendous relief pitching they'd received for the better part of the last week to continue? It began to revert to its' seasonal form yesterday giving up 4 runs in 3 innings. Prior to thay, the Phillie bullpen had mostly been great, except one game in St. Lous, since the beginning of the series at Shea.

  • Anonymous

    Speaking on behalf of all Ranger fans, that's enough Devils talk.

  • Anonymous

    Good point. The unlikely triumvirate of Romero, Gordon and Myers was used in every one of their wins last week.

  • Anonymous

    I heard that something like 38 of their 69 innings pitched last week were by the bullpen. That's incredible with a stellar group, let alone the cast of characters Charlie Manuel's been calling on.

  • Anonymous

    Too early to tell if these Mets have a Scott Stevens type. It wasn't until Stevens 2nd year as a Devil (and the arrival of Jacque Lemaire) that they really came alive getting to within a goal of the Cup Finals. And then the year after arguably being the second best team in the NHL after the Rangers, they struggled much of the season until the playoffs. Of course, that struggling team went on to win it all.
    Here's hoping the Mets can duplicate that feat.

  • Anonymous