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Brian Schneider is Hella Good

I like Brian Schneider with a beard. He seems far more dynamic than the clean-shaven Brian Schneider. It’s like parallel universe Brian Schneider à la Eric Cartman from the parallel universe or “hella” episode of South Park, which was in itself an homage to the “Mirror, Mirror” episode of Star Trek, which I must confess I’ve never seen. But in the South Park in question, Cartman from the other universe had a beard and was everything he normally was not: considerate, caring, thoughtful (though I guess those are all more or less the same things). When he didn’t have the beard — when he was regular Cartman — he annoyed everybody per usual…plus he insisted on using “hella” as the adjective to describe everything he liked.

Schneider in real life? He recently grew a beard and suddenly delivered a clutch pinch-hit. He made the difference in Saturday night’s game by standing at the plate instead of squatting behind it. After hearing and occasionally seeing what a defensive stalwart Schneider is and then generally cringing at every 4-3 grounder he rolled, it was indeed the stuff of other worlds watching him go gap on Tom Gordon.

I won’t go as far to say the Mets pounding the Phillies was out of science fiction. The Phillies, despite manning first place, aren’t stratospheres better than the Mets, yet it was not just refreshing but kind of interesting watching how the Mets got the best of their neighbors. For example, balls hit to the outfield were not tracked and caught by Shane Victorino. It’s not that they were hit directly to him, but when has that mattered? It’s usually the Phillies finding gaps and the Mets finding leather. Not last night: Schneider, Easley, Delgado and Tatis all rung up purchases from the gap and left as satisfied customers.

It’s also usually the Phillies’ pen frustrating Mets’ bats, as if there’s a law enforcing such behavior. Saturday represented quite the pleasant flip-flop for the Mets, strategically abandoning their usual principled position of late-inning fealty to the Philadelphia relievers, the one that normally has them treating Romero as if he were actually another J.C. Not this time, praise be. Romero didn’t have it, Gordon didn’t have it, even old man Moyer didn’t have it. Gosh, maybe it was a parallel universe [1] down there.

That Schneider was even called on felt seismic. I’ve liked that Jerry Manuel has been playing Castro. Castro’s been too often treated like a secret weapon. If he isn’t hurt, he’s buried. But the gut even more than the book called for Schneider to face Gordon, lefty vs. righty. Pinch-hitting for the catcher with the catcher? Without Robinson Cancel lurking in the shadows for the emergency that never comes?

Why not? Win a game, why don’tcha? Jerry opted to go for it and Brian validated the decision. Even if it hadn’t worked, our Manuel would have been owed a kudos or two for having the sense to do what too many managers never try.

We hope, meanwhile, that the two guys who had to leave the game not through managerial wizardry aren’t gone for more than an instant. I’m not sure what it says that Maine had a cramp in his non-pitching arm and that Church had to take a seat from a non-concussion migraine. Not at all to lessen the severity of whatever they were feeling, but their ailments remind me of why Chris Rock said he liked Bill Clinton:

He don’t got president problems, he got real problems like you and me.

I get aches and pains like Maine and Church apparently do. It’s so rare you can view athletes and feel you have anything in common with them, yet I could relate to their reported maladies. I wake up with a cramp in my right foot now and then like Maine got in his left arm. I want to howl. I have a cabinet full of medications for my head as Church must. When I get a cluster headache, I can’t stand and wait for a bus never mind a fly ball. These two ached not from being athletic, just from being human. Again, I wish them immediate recoveries but somehow it makes me like them more that they have people problems, not just Met problems.

As for Schneider, I’ve never been able to grow a beard. Haven’t tried in ages. It looked hella terrible when I did.