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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
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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A Grand Waste

Last September 24, after the game that made third base infamous, I asked my friend Mark, he of Mets Walkoffs‘ bottomless bag of statistical tricks, if he could find out how many times the Mets had lost a game in which a Met had hit a grand slam. Carlos Delgado’s four-RBI connection had just gone to waste on the heels of many Met miscues; it always takes many Met miscues to neutralize a grand slam’s goodness, but the one we all remember and that some of us can’t quite forget was the failure of David Wright to drive in Daniel Murphy from third with nobody out in the ninth inning of what had become a tie game against the Cubs.

Wright wasn’t the lone culprit that dismal Wednesday evening. Ollie Perez wasted a 5-1 lead. Duaner Sanchez wasted a 5-3 lead. Brian Stokes wasted a 5-5 tie. All the Mets could muster in the way of scoring following Delgado’s third-inning slam off a clearly discombobulated Carlos Zambrano was a bases-loaded walk to Ramon Martinez. But come the ninth, the Mets were even at six. Then Murphy tripled in the ballpark where triples weren’t everyday commodities. He was on third and the Cubs were at ease. They had clinched. They weren’t even particularly trying. If Murphy was going to go to third with nobody out, no skin off their playoff-bound noses.

Up stepped Wright and down went the Mets when Wright didn’t step up. David struck out with the winning run on third and the Wild Card and division hanging in the balance. Wright, again, did not act alone. After two intentional walks, Ryan Church and Ramon Castro most decidedly did not get the job done. In the top of the tenth, sic transit closer Luis Ayala allowed three Cub runs, and that was all she and Kerry Wood wrote regarding Shea Stadium’s final extra-inning fiasco.

That was going to be a great night. It had been, for a while, a wonderful night. That was the second and final night I spent in the Pepsi Picnic Area, an event arranged by Matt Silverman who decided early in ’08 to buy up a block of bleacher seats and put on a party under the tent just because. The food was as Shea-good as Shea food got. The company was Shea-sublime. The occasion was almost transcendent. I spent the late afternoon with David G. Whitham, someone I was proud, for a day, to call “my photographer,” as he made pictures that would appear in my book. I reacquainted myself with Dana Brand, already author of one essential Mets work and, at the time, closing in on a second. Of course there was Matt, and there was Jon Springer, and there was Mike Steffanos, and a whole lot of friendly, informed faces. There was even the little bonus of being interviewed that evening for a documentary commemorating Shea’s final season (and its final concerts two months earlier).

Yes, a great night. That turned into a horrible night. How did we lose that game? How did we go from up 5-1 to over 9-6? Mike, Matt, Jon, David, Dana, me, tens of thousands of others…we were disgusted deer in the headlights of an oncoming choke. We didn’t know what was hitting us and we wanted to ram our antlers into the first windshield we saw.

Wright’s failure to bring home Murphy, and everybody else’s complicity in the third-to-last loss in Shea Stadium history, resulted in three baseball atrocities:

1) Painfully altering the pennant race;

2) Irrevocably tarnishing what had been a perfect day;

3) Unforgivably wasting Delgado’s grand slam.

You get four runs on one swing, you should win. I didn’t think it was possible to lose in those circumstances. You’re +4. How do you wind up -1? Ever? In the wake of September 24, 2008, I remembered only one other incident when it happened. Gary Carter hit a grand slam at Wrigley, also against the Cubs (natch), also during a stretch drive, also for naught. On September 25, 1985, Ron Darling, my future fellow Mets author, couldn’t make a 4-1 lead hold up. By the end of six, it was 4-4. In the bottom of the ninth, with two out, Jesse Orosco walked Davey Lopes. Lopes took off for second…safe. Lopes took off for third…safe. Carter and Orosco couldn’t quite get their signs straight. Bob Dernier then walked. Finally, Chris Speier did what seemed just a matter of minutes in the making but also seemed impossible: he drove in the winning run in a game in which the Mets hit a grand slam. I seem to recall Gary and Jesse sniping at each other a bit in the paper the next day.

That was my only other Mets slam/Mets lose memory before last September. I had to ask Mark, is that all? Were there others?

There were. David’s negation of Carlos was the tenth such episode in Mets history. Shame on me for forgetting that the ninth occurred within the Faith and Fear era, on a gloomy Wednesday afternoon in September 2005, Cliff Floyd having put the Mets ahead of the Nationals 5-4 one one four-run swing of the bat (off Liván Hernandez). The Mets were in freefall that late summer and this was their final plummet, Braden Looper giving up the lead in the ninth, Roberto Hernandez giving up the tie in the tenth, another hundred people getting off of the bus whose ride had seemed so promising just weeks earlier. Little could anyone foresee that the Mets would turn around what was left of their season directly thereafter, finishing with their best record in five years and setting the stage for 2006. What we knew on September 15, 2005 was everything about losing a game in which one of your guys launches a grand slam sucks.

“The home run doesn’t mean jack,” Floyd reflected after the loss. Just like Delgado’s didn’t last September. Just like Todd Hundley’s bomb in the very first Coors Field contest, April 26, 1995, one the Mets would squander to hot-dogging Dante Bichette in the fourteenth inning. Just like Joe Orsulak’s in May of ’94, Kid Carter’s in ’85 and the five other grand slams the Mets wasted in 1962 (Frank Thomas), 1966 (Eddie Bressoud), 1967 (pitcher Jack Hamilton), 1971 (Tommie Agee) and 1973 (Rusty Staub). As you can see, it’s so rare a phenomenon that you need a Mets Walkoffs to look it up for you.

But it’s apparently not as rare as it used to be, because Wednesday afternoon, a mere 37 games since it happened previously, it happened again. Today it was Fernando Tatis driving in four runs at once, putting the Mets up 6-4 on the Braves in the fourth. The giveback was almost immediate, as Jon Niese couldn’t make it out of the fifth. By the top of the eighth, the Mets were behind again. In the bottom of the eighth, Gary Sheffield went all button-fly — home run 501 — on Rafael Soriano and it was reknotted. By then, Tatis’ grand gesture had become mired in a muddle of details you’d need SpongeTech to help you absorb. In the end, there was enough poor hitting, poor running, poor fielding, poor pitching and poor construction of dopily high outfield walls to waste, for the eleventh time in New York Mets history, a New York Mets grand slam.

It’s a shame to throw out such good salami.

Enjoy what David Whitham shot last September and whatever words lie between the covers of Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.

20 comments to A Grand Waste

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    It really wasn't a team effort that caused that grand slam to be wasted — it was Jose Reyes. His stunts have once again cost us another ball game.
    First Reyes takes off for third with a grounder hit to his right. To compound things, he didn't slide or even attempt to create a run-down in order to allow the other runner to get into scoring position.
    Then he trots while missing having gone deep in the eleventh, which meant we only had one chance instead of two to score on a sacrifice fly, a critical at-bat wasted sacrificing him to third because he should have been there to begin with.
    One would think Jose would have learned from his previous mental errors. He nearly cost us the game yesterday trying to stretch that double into a triple, not paying attention to the play unfolding in the outfield. He cost us the game Monday misplaying an ordinary two-out gounder because he was unsure of which base to throw to.
    On that list of grand slams hit in losing causes, you mention one that came off the bat of Met pitcher Jack (Hairbreath Harry) Hamilton. I remember that game vividly. The Mets were trailing St. Louis 4-0 when Hamilton's shot tied it up. He gets back to the dugout stunned because nobody is congratulating him. Raising his arms in disbelief, he then realizes he was being given the cold shoulder in jest.
    I think his team mates should do the same with Reyes, but not out of humor. He should be chewed out badly for his lack of concentration.

  • Anonymous

    You can't fault Reyes for not reaching 3rd base in the 11th. Even if he ran his heart out on that one, he hit the ball to left and Anderson fielded it cleanly. That play would've been too close for comfort, and you don't make the first out at third base.
    You only need to look at Tuesday's game where Reyes tried to turn a double into a triple in the 8th and was thrown out, ending that rally prematurely. Why would the Mets risk that again? Reyes didn't, and I can't fault him for it (even if I didn't appreciate him watching the ball's trajectory rather than running hard).
    He's damned if he does, and he's damned if he doesn't.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed. He's one of the most exciting players in the game, and he plays instinctively. He doesn't make a whole lot of mistakes, but when he does they're either electric or heartbreakingly close. What do you do? Take away his green light?
    As much as a 12th inning loss and a wasted grand slam suck, I thought Tuesday night's game was a big bad-karma eraser. I mean, how many times did we have to watch those types of games go the other way last year? Comebacks in the 8th and 9th, then a bases loaded walk in the 10th. That win made me feel not the slightest bit guilty. Best of all, it was Beltran just watching at 3-2 with 2 outs. Awesome. Take that 2006.
    High scoring games in the 12th begun by your 6th starter? Those can go any way, and you still know the team's got a lot of fight in them.

  • Anonymous

    First off , I see a conspicuous lack of attention to Beltrans horrible at bat in that final inning. For a player with such a good start I guess you guys are cutting him a break..Thats fine-but please dont forget it at Sheffieds expense. His homer was totally clutch!
    As for the 'instinctive' Mr. Reyes..He makes a pretty fair amount of mistakes of the mental kind..Getting thrown out going from 2nd to 3rd on a ground ball hit to the left side? I have seen this happen to him before..Base running and fielding mistakes have followed him his entire career!!
    We will never know if his double would have been a triple if he was busting it out of the box on his presumed home run.But this kids 'enthusiasm' can and will get in his way..Bottom line with him, and to a larger extent, his generation-they will do it one way and ONLY one way!
    It cant be all about instinct and sheer physicality- you have to use your head to take your game to the next level..
    Rich P

  • Anonymous

    Matt,
    One can definately point the finger at Reyes. Everything I cited above dealt not with judgement or hustle but rather the lack of both.
    Back in 2006, the chant of “Jose, Jose, Jose” was well deservant not just for his enthusiastic spirit but also for the way his being on the basepaths affected the game with his proper use of his gifted talents and wise baseball intellect. These same attributes are now being wasted by a lack of concentration .
    Going on 26 and Into his seventh major league season it's unfortunate Jose is showing the wrong signs of “maturity” so prevalent of today's major leaguers – a lucrative contract going to his head. That's the shame of it all.

  • Anonymous

    He cost us the game Monday misplaying an ordinary two-out gounder because he was unsure of which base to throw to.
    How come the Reyes error cost us the game, but the Wright errors on Monday and Wednesday didn't? How come when Reyes makes an error its always because of a lack of concentration, but when Wright makes one its bad footwork or “He had too much time to think about the throw.”
    Reyes makes too many dumb plays, but its become habitual to say every mistake he makes is because of immaturity or a lack of concentration.

  • Anonymous

    Wright is having a pretty bad year with the glove so far..He came up with one tough chance yesterday and I thought, 'finally he stabbed one' but you're right David has a lot of apologists.
    In our nearly 50 year history the Mets have been blessed with some fine shortstops in the field. Will Reyes become one of them?
    Rich P

  • Anonymous

    SpongeTech — the ProCede of 2009!

  • Anonymous

    Wright's inability to drive in runners, slump at the plate and miscues in the field are related to not performing up to his ability. Those snafus in the field and the basepaths have nothing to do with Jose's inability to play up to his level of performance — they're soley due to a lack of concentration and a lax attitude. He wasn't paying attention to his third base coach, running hard out the box or focusing on the situation at hand.
    That is the difference. Wright's performance woes might prevent us from winning ball games but the lackadasical indifference on the part of Reyes certainly insures losing them . This is why we lost two out of three instead of possibly sweeping Atlanta . Too bad it's a different world today. If it wasn't, Jerry Manual would have walked out on the field and removed Reyes from the game the same as Gil Hodges did with Cleon Jones 40 years ago.

  • Anonymous

    So your saying when the ball goes thru Wright's legs he's concentrating, but just not playing up to par, but when reyes boots a groundball it's obviously because of a lack of concentration.
    I'm not trying to be an apologist for Reyes or to pick on Wright but your assertion that the only reason the Mets lost is because of Reyes is assinine.

  • Anonymous

    We have to look at the overall picture. Had Reyes not been lackadasical so often I would have thought that play was caused only by poor fielding. But seeing his overall focus was still in need of want the following two games it must be considered that his indecision was caused by a lack of focus which resulted in that 8th inning error. A professional like Reyes should automaticly have know what to do once the ball was in his glove. He is making too many mistakes in fundamentals not to be singled out. He needs discipline and needs to pay attention.
    We can disagree on this point but please remember, I respect your opinion and wish you would show the same with me instead of using the word “assinine” which I found insulting and inappropriate for this type of conversation.

  • Anonymous

    Also misspelled.

  • Anonymous

    Reyes plays with all the focus of a 6-year old during a tee ball game . . . he's a child and, sad to say, I doubt he will ever develop into a mature, thinking ball player . . .very gifted, but very immature, which is what is so infuriating . . . when he's 32 will we still be hearing the same apologist excuses about his boyish exuberance? . . . I do not believe the Mets can ever scale to the top of baseball's Mt. Everest with Reyes at short but Wilpon will never allow him to be traded . . . Wright is a bit of a different case because he just may not be physically as good as we all hoped, but Reyes has no physical limitation, just mental immaturity

  • Anonymous

    Well said.
    Another point regarding it necessary to single out Reyes (rather than the whole team) for losing Monday night. While hitters squandered opportunites and the relief corp didn't get that fourth out, none of that was due to any lack of effort whereas his error was. By not being focused, he squandered the time he had to throw the runner out at first resulting in a rushed play.
    His lasadasical play took away the opportunity to play for just one run in the bottom of the eighth. While we will never know what would have been, it is conceivable that the Mets could have played little ball to scratch out a run. Even if tied, KRod could have held Atlanta check in the ninth. We know the Mets then staged a mini two-out rally which would have been sufficient to have won the game.
    But Jose took away that chance. He let the team down. If he won't pay attention during the eighth inning of a tie game he most certainly deserves to be singled out from the rest of the players.

  • Anonymous

    Reyes out tonight with a stiff right calf. Hmm…

  • Anonymous

    Hmm is right.
    Will have to pay attention to the rumor mill to see if there's more to it than that.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Joe,
    I'm definitely not in total disagreement. Reyes does make mistakes, but I just love watching him play. Even when there's mistakes, I love the aggressiveness. That's a real factor; it seriously messes with pitchers, IMO. When he's 32 and still trying to turn doubles into triples, I'll complain, too. But when he lines one going slowly to the wall and you figure he's got a good 60-40 chance of making it to third, it's just awesome watching him give it a shot.
    How about Wright tonight, though? 3 for 3, 2 walks and FOUR STEALS. Man. Wow.

  • Anonymous

    Don't mean to beat a dead horse anymore, but the following is from Harper's article in today's Daily News:
    “the troubling part about Reyes' misplay on the slow ground ball up the middle that led to Monday night's loss was that he seemed to be rushing the play, as if he was unaware that he had all day to throw out Brian McCann running to first.”

  • Anonymous

    You've converted me, next time someone screws up a routine play I hope we get more articles about their lack of baseball instinct and that maybe they should be traded.
    I guess what's bothering me is I agree with the criticism of Reyes for admiring his 'Home Run' and for running the bases foolishly, but now we can read his mind on routine errors. The same thing happened early last year when Reyes was playing poorly. It began with reasonable criticism then it morphed into everything is Reyes's fault and maybe he should be traded.

  • Anonymous

    Indeed, nobody is immune to screwing up even the most routine of plays and as such should not be singled out or blamed for any particular loss.
    But remember, this current tirade did not begin Monday night when Jose's indecision blew that play. The scrutiny started after he didn't bother to look at his third coach and mushroomed into blame the next day after his lack of concentration became obvious . It was in that context that many began to look back at what happened on Monday in a different light.
    BTW – Keith Hernandez just commented on the FAN that Jose cost the Mets those two games. it is unusual for a player (current or past) to finger a loss on any one individual instead of referring to it as a team effort.