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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.

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Stupid Wins As Stupid Does

Tim McCarver called it a classic. The Baseball Tonight crawl called it a classic. Yet don’t mistake long for excellent. That was not a classic. It was certifiably long, the final result was immensely preferable to the alternative, and there were certainly aspects of it to like and even treasure, but that 20-inning Mets win we just witnessed was no classic.

It was something, though. It was futile for the longest time and then it was astoundingly absurd. I suppose, too, that it was survival of somewhere between the fittest and the dimmest, though I’m not sure that either unit was fit for battle by the end. I do know they were both kind of dim.

How do the Cardinals attempt to sacrifice a baseball game that counts? And how do the Mets almost not let them?

Gosh, this feels like wet blanket patrol. I mean let’s have some whooping and hollering to celebrate the only game the Mets have ever won past the 19th inning. Let’s hear it for all kinds of folks, starting with the starting pitcher Johan Santana (9 K’s in 7 shutout innings…duh, of course they were shutout innings) and flowing through every reliever except the really well-compensated one. You gotta give it up to Mike Pelfrey for coming out of the bullpen as well having the nerve to rock the world’s worst rally cap (inside out, Big Pelf, not sideways — don’t let Mex see the video). You gotta give it up to Alex Cora, almost never a first baseman but making a dynamite foul ball dive as a first baseman. Luis Castillo either executed the best tag or the best fake tag in the history of 19th innings. Jeff Francoeur and Jose Reyes could not have been more productive as 0-for-7 hitters.

And yet I feel dirty from the final three innings. I feel dirty because Tony LaRussa, know-it-all Artie Ziff to our squad of befuddled Ralph Wiggums, stopped using pitchers and started using fielders. Well, to be technically correct about it, he used a pitcher in left, but a shortstop and then a center fielder to pitch. That’s what you do when you’re losing 13-2 or it’s the last day of the season and you promised Jose Oquendo he could play all nine positions. But no, Tony LaRussa was serious as death. He sent out Felipe Lopez to pitch the 18th and Joe Mather to pitch the 19th and, when one materialized, the 20th.

It didn’t work, it wasn’t going to work, but it almost worked. And that’s why I feel dirty, because WHAT THE HELL WERE THE METS DOING SWINGING AT ANYTHING FELIPE LOPEZ AND JOE MATHER THREW AT THEM? They turned the farcical into the nearly tragicomic. It wasn’t surreal because nobody could have dreamed up the scenario of Lopez, the grand slam hitter from Friday, pitching to Raul Valdes, the grand slam pitcher from Friday. Valdes gets on and then gets thrown out trying to stretch an infield single that was thrown away into a double. I’m sitting on the couch yelling at Valdes for getting caught. It doesn’t even occur to me that this is Raul Valdes who probably hasn’t touched first base since he was six, and the whole irony of Lopez as the guy who slammed Valdes the night before is lost on me.

This isn’t supposed to happen quite this way. Marathon games are supposed to be wild, but they’re not supposed to be this…let’s say bogus. Forty-third inning? OK, pitch infielders when you have nobody left. Score is 28-28? Pitch the batboy. But it was nothing-nothing and LaRussa had pitchers left. He had Kyle Lohse (unless he pulled an Ankiel and changed his line of work when I wasn’t looking). He had Brad Penny. Are the Mets so not worth his time that he was just throwing whoever had a minimum of one arm out there?

And like I said, it nearly worked. The Mets couldn’t score off Felipe Bleeping Lopez and were lucky to scratch out a run with a sac fly in the 19th off Joe Bleeping Mather. Then, finally, the real deal, Frankie Rodriguez, fresh from warming up every inning since the 10th, probably, in to put the damn thing to bed. But this game was too cranky to be put down that easily. Ryan Ludwick tried his best to help the Mets by attempting to steal with nobody out while Pujols was batting (he also tried — and succeeded at — getting thrown out at home in the 16th), but Rodriguez couldn’t stand a hint of prosperity, and next thing ya know, Pujols (walked so often earlier that I could swear he had morphed into Barry Bonds) does what Pujols does, and he’s on second, and then, thanks to Lohse (natch), he’s on third. And then Yadier Molina drives him home.

Of course he does. Yadier Molina’s waiting in the weeds for us since October 19, 2006. “GET THE FUCK OFF THE COVER OF MY BOOK,” I told him, but at last look, he’s still there (and available in paperback with an all new epilogue, FYI).

Does any of this sound like a classic? Does it sound like a classic that we got to the 20th inning and Joe Mather was still pitching (I loved how Stephanie, who has very selective retention of baseball detail, recognized him immediately as Joe Mather from the inning before, as if Joe Mather was now literally a household name). Once again, the Mets couldn’t just stand around with their bats on their shoulders and dare Joe Bleeping Mather to throw strikes. They got it in their heads that the Cardinals had just reactivated Bruce Sutter from the Hall of Fame. Whatever; they manufactured one more run, turned their fate over to Mike Pelfrey and made a winning pitcher of Frankie Rodriguez — the only Met who gave up anything all day and night.

Omar Minaya can rest easy. The Mets have taken one of three.

Listen, I’m thrilled we get to update the Metsian annals where incredibly long regular-season games are concerned. Move over, Ed Sudol, C.B. Bucknor is now a marathon man behind home plate just like you were three unbelievable times. Move over, Ron Darling, Pelfrey is now the most recent starter to close when nobody else possibly could have. All the ghosts of Hank Webb and Les Rohr and Galen Cisco can go back to sleep. You pitchers who lost the 25th, 24th and 23rd inning affairs can doff your caps to K-Rod, somehow. He won what you guys couldn’t. Tom Gorman, someday you can bump into Messrs. Lopez and Mather and ask how they didn’t manage to give up a home run to Rick Camp. The 20-inning Mets-Cardinals game of April 17, 2010 will now be deservedly woven into the kind of legend and myth the Mets used to weave for hours on end every few years.

It will be legend. It will be myth. But it wasn’t a classic.

More epic coverage here from ESPN New York’s Mark Simon. Mr. Simon also queries Jason, me and a few other Metheads on less happy outcomes here.

53 comments to Stupid Wins As Stupid Does

  • Jay

    Completely agree. I wasn’t happy at the end of this game, I was disgusted.

    I’m not a Jerry Hater, but by the end of this game I am fully convinced he should be relieved.

    – How is Castillo bunting against a positional player?
    – Why are they swinging AT ALL against guys who cannot throw strikes?
    – Why in the world pitch to Met Killer Molina when there is a clearly inferior hitter behind him?
    – Do we really need to bring Pelfrey in, disrupting his schedule, when K-rod has practically not pitched at all this season?

  • Matt from Sunnyside

    Hey, man. We won!

    Also, Jose Reyes may have missed spring training, but this game makes up for it, because it lasted an entire frikkin month.

    • The guys who were hot will probably go into slumps, but the guys who were slumping are now due to get red hot. And since there’s been more slumping than hotness — watch out above!

  • dykstraw

    while i can appreciate the hell of it is a historical curiosity, i’m squarely in the “this game was a disgrace” camp.

  • I don’t know what was worse. The complete lack of hitting and then the attempt to hit all the junk being thrown by Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather or Tim McCarver butchering every name he could think of and then messing up so many details from the 19-inning game against the Braves in 1985.

    McCarver incorrectly gave the time the game ended (he missed by three minutes), the inning that Rick Camp homered (he said it was in the 16th inning when it was the 18th) and the fact that the Braves only scored one run in the 19th inning when it was actually two runs.

    Now we get to watch Jon Miller and Joe Morgan cover the game for ESPN on Sunday. For the love of Tim Bogar, please don’t play 20 innings tomorrow!

    • The MVP was clearly Joe Buck for deciding he had better things to do Saturday than this game.

    • And thanks to DirecTV’s lag, I can’t even listen to the game on the radio while I watch onscreen, since Howie’s radio calls are several long seconds before whatever flashes on my TV screen. I’ll have to suffer through Joe Morgan’s blowhardishness.

      I really wish last night’s game had been on SNY, since we all know how much Keith “loves” long games. Would have been fun to hear him bitch and moan between his bouts of boredom and distractedness.

      • nestornajwa

        Growler:
        Directv has its strong points, chief among them is the fact that it is the only provider to show almost every “Extra Innings” package game in HD. But that lag is a killer. I live in the DC suburbs and I spend most games talking to my friends who are still in NY. They’re usually about 5 seconds ahead of me. I achieved a partial solution when I erected an over-the-air antenna on my roof. My Directv DVR (I think it’s the HR-20; it’s a few years old) has a dual tuner that integrates the over-the-air channels into the Directv channel lineup. Anything on the over-the-air channels runs a few seconds AHEAD of any cable feed. Bonus: the signal is uncompressed, so the HD picture is even better than Directv’s (admittedly excellent) compressed signal. Bonus #2: you get a bunch of extra channels operated by the local PBS and network affiliates. The antenna cost about $300 including installation. Of course, the antenna isn’t helpful if you’re watching the game on SNY.

  • Andee

    That was a big bowl of Cream of Bizarre, all right. So what was the point, again, of bringing in the guy you’re paying beaucoup bucks to hold a one-run lead after he’s already thrown more pitches in the pen than Ollie did all day yesterday? At that point, they might as well have let Francouer pitch.

    But as off the wall as Jerry’s (and Warthen’s?) management decisions were, LaRussa’s were off the freaking sky, and caroming off the rings of Saturn. Can you imagine the fan mutiny if Manuel had let Francouer pitch, and then had Reyes pitch, too, on top of that? And then lost?

    I find it hard to believe that LaRussa was willing to actually concede a loss in order to keep his bullpen minty-fresh; his team ain’t that far ahead in the standings (they’ve got the Pirates, of all teams, breathing down their necks), and he’s got Wainwright going tomorrow besides. No, what was going on is that the Mets’ bats were in such a deep freeze, you or I could have gotten them out, so LaRussa figured there was no sense in wasting “real” pitchers on them. The Mets managed a 20-inning win without an RBI hit. Should the Cardinals lose the division by one game, this is the one their fans will point and scream at.

    It could have been an inning shorter had the Mets realized Albert Pujols should never, ever, ever get a damn thing to hit, especially in the bottom of the 19th freakin’ inning; Y$%^^r M@#$%a would’ve had a harder time knocking him in from first than from second. But if you ever wanted a textbook case of Managers Doing Stupid Shit And Lots Of It (for seven freakin’ hours, no less), look no further.

    On the bright side, the starting pitching the last few games has been aces. Hope it rubs off on Maine.

    • Quietly, three consecutive Met starters have reached the seventh inning, which is actually fantastic. John Maine would do everybody a massive favor by doing the same.

    • Joe Posnanski’s great quote on Twitter last night:

      “If Tony La Russa is one of baseball’s great overmanaging artists, this is his Mona Lisa.”

    • Gina

      LaRussa’s OBSESSED with pitch counts, i actually think it’s completely believable that he would do that to preserve arms. Just think about how SOL we are tomorrow with Maine on the mound and no one available, we’ll likely see 5 innings from Pat Misch.

      • Andee

        On the other hand, if Jerry had kept one or two bullpen arms in reserve and lost the game, he’d have to relocate his entire family underground. (Not that I’m completely positive he hasn’t done so already.) Since it would take a miracle for Maine to beat Wainwright anyway, even if Maine pitched relatively well and they had a fresh pen, not much lost there, really.

        • Gina

          I agree, but that’s probably because everyone hates Jerry and the whole world knows he’s a lame duck, along with the general rage and panic surrounding the entire mets team, where as LaRussa obviously has much more faith and respect and job security. He can say screw this winning this one game isn’t worth possible injuries to my key guys and I don’t care what the fans think cause I’m friggin Tony LaRussa, Jerry obviously can’t because both him and the mets haven’t done anything to warrant that kind of respect/trust from the fanbase.

  • Also worth noting: When the Mets eked out their run in the 19th, they were all smiles and backslaps. When they were forced to score again in the 20th, it was all grim trepidation.

  • I really can’t properly express how thoroughly I hate Tony LaRussa. It feels like the game is less important than making sure everybody notices him managing it. STOP WATCHING BASEBALL AND TALK ABOUT HOW CLEVER I AM! I AM OUTSIDE THE BOX! LOOK AT ME! I AM AN INTELLECTUAL! I WAS A LAWYER! I STILL BELIEVE MCGWIRE! I ZIG WHEN EVERYONE ELSE ZAGS! NO! YOU! LOOOOOK AT MEEEEEE!!!!!!!

    On the other hand, Jerry Manuel would zag straight off a cliff because that’s what Connie Mack did. He really may be dumber than a box of rocks. Why in the name of fuck was Castillo laying down a sac bunt against a position player who couldn’t throw strikes? Even a brain-damaged Neanderthal wouldn’t manage that conservatively.

    When Jacobs came to the plate with Pagan on first, I hefted my bedside lamp and told Emily that if Jacobs bunted I was going to beat myself to death with it. Miraculously, I am alive and we won.

    • LaRussa would have used the lamp as a bat and sent one of the pillows out to pitch the 21st. He brilliant that way.

      And the Mets would have swung at linen.

  • dak442

    You always hear about games being “moral victories”. You almost claw all the way back from a 10-run deficit, it’s a moral victory. You lose a 1-0 game with your #6 starter to a clearly superior opponent, it’s a moral victory.

    Well, despite the much-needed tick in the W column, this was a moral loss. (Or was it an immoral victory?) I mean… I mean… Lopez and Mather were frickin’ AWFUL out there! And we could only push across 2 runs via sacrifice flies in three innings against them?! I wanted to kick my TV in when David fouled out. And I guess I can see K-Rod being tired after too much warming up, but cripes – if not for a questionable call he loses the game to Maher!

    It was fun, and as you pointed out, could have been more fun if GKR did the game. I did catch a fair amount of it on the radio, and they did a nice job conveying the absurd. But wow, I hope we start playing better soon.

  • I was tempted to go the Howie route, but Fox wasn’t altogether intolerable with Buck absent, and the 15-second delay would have spooked the wife. Besides, I wasn’t in the mood for a Wayne Hagin-conducted tour of St. Louis.

    That said, they’ll probably be called on Sunday night in service to sanity.

    • dak442

      I wonder… if you DVR the game, can you synch it up with the radio feed? That might finally be the thing that pushes me into the 21st Century (yes, we still rely on VCRs… go ahead and mock).

  • this was a great game i dont get why you all hate it mike jacobs is really going to start turnin things around soon

  • Gina

    To be fair to K-rod he apparently warmed up 6 different times and threw 100 warm up pitches, after throwing a 70 pitch bullpen session before the game. His arm was probably past dead.

  • LarryDC

    Also a nice Mets zeitgeist coincidence that it happens on the night (day/night) when those Colorado Rockies get their first no-hitter. Oh, the Rockies must be so relieved … they waited SO long to finally get one.

    • Just be grateful that the Mets accomplished something so ludicrous last night that we’re not collectively weeping over a much younger team getting a no-hitter before us.

  • dmg

    this actually was vintage mets — just look into the “excruciating” file.
    biggest question i have is whether the swings at those bozo pitches meant managerial malpractice or a player insurrection. did manuel forget to require players not to swing? or have the players already blown off this season?
    strange thoughts from a win. but that’s our 2010 mets: leave no doubt behind.

  • ToBeDetermined

    I just want to know who had Pelfrey in the “First Met Save of the Season” pool.

  • I hear you that classic is a bit extreme. But it was a rare breed. As I sat watching innings 8 thru 13 slowly tick away on my MLB at bat app on my Droid I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop on the Mets. But that is kind of where I am at Sunday morning after that rarest of air games, the 20 inninger. I think that the Mets have so much negative baggage from the last three years it was less a wow this game is exciting, but when is this painful dagger going to get pushed all the way into the back?

    What this game teaches a fan, more than anything, is that even the most revered managers make epically poor decisions, and sometimes OFTEN. The biggest failure of LaRussa was not even the position players, but basically taking Albert Pujols out of the game with his double switch on Holliday. And in that regard the Mets effort and strategy (probably too strong a word, who about execution) on the defensive side of the game was pretty entertaining, if not classic. Takahashi’s digging out of 2nd and 3rd with nobody out, pretty fun stuff.

    Yesterday was a microcosm of the last four years, since that painful flat hanger from Heilman, to the Glavine thrashing, to Daniel Murphy being left on third with nobody out to 2009 Mash. It was all the dread, heartbreak, excitement, rebound, dread, disillusionment, amazing, dread, implausible, relief at once.

  • Matt I

    Say what you want about LaRussa’s crazy stratgey at the end, it almost worked. Obviously not the strategy of taking out Holliday. Let’s not forget he let relief pitchers hit with runners on when he had a position player on the bench still.

    I’ll just assume that Castillo was sacraficing on his own. Jerry couldn’t be dumb enough to call that.

  • Stu Cohn

    >>Are the Mets so not worth his time that he was just throwing whoever had a minimum of one arm out there?

    Schizo-paranoiac Met fan that I am, I had this feeling throughout the final three innings of this game, like the Mets were being insulted. And I had this vision that they would lose…

  • I think the game went “classic” when it went wacky, when LaRussa, the manager who has batted his pitcher 8th instead of 9th, put in an infielder to pitch and a pitcher in left. I didn’t listen to the FOX broadcast, rather to the WFAN broadcast, where it became a “classic” broadcast a few innings before (when Howie Rose is telling about his friends in NHL broadcasting that were giving him jabs about overtime/extra innings when those friends had a 31 second overtime broadcast earlier in the evening – the equivalent of a walk-off homer in the TOP of the 10th, not even the bottom of the 10th). I could only imagine how punchy Keith Hernandez would have been by about the 12 inning, especially if he had dinner plans somewhere.

    But, it may be a classic day in the blogosphere with 20 innings of baseball to break down and how the Mets scored only 2 runs off of 3 innings of infielder-relief pitching.

    Go Big Pelf! Leads the team in both wins (2) and saves (1).

  • mikeinbrooklyn

    Have we reached the point now where literally anyone–anyone!–can come in and throw the ball past Jason bay?

    I take almost no joy in winning that game, although losing it would’ve been a disaster of epic proportions. My brother called me in about the 18th inning to tell me he was rooting for a loss in the hopes that it might get Jerry and maybe even Omar fired.

    On a personal note, I was visiting my parents last night, so I found myself sitting in the same exact spot I was when I watched the entire Rick Camp “classic”, albeit on a new couch, new TV, and about 40 new pounds around my midsection. I can’t decide whether that’s cool, or sad.

  • [...] From Greg Prince at Faith and Fear in Flushing (it might be time to change that blog title to Fear a…: … I feel dirty from the final three innings. I feel dirty because Tony LaRussa, know-it-all Artie Ziff to our squad of befuddled Ralph Wiggums, stopped using pitchers and started using fielders. Well, to be technically correct about it, he used a pitcher in left, but a shortstop and then a center fielder to pitch. That’s what you do when you’re losing 13-2 or it’s the last day of the season and you promised Jose Oquendo he could play all nine positions. But no, Tony LaRussa was serious as death. He sent out Felipe Lopez to pitch the 18th and Joe Mather to pitch the 19th and, when one materialized, the 20th. [...]

  • Justin

    While I spent much time screaming at Mets players not to swing, what I really don’t understand is trying to steal a base in front of Pujols. What was the point in that?

  • Jackabite

    Classic ineptitude, maybe.
    Props to Reyes though, not for his excuse me sac fly, but for his heads up play nailing Ludwick. Takahashi was magnificent striking out the side and essentially saving the game.
    But the game also showed how we are so weak in so many ways.
    I don’t see this game as much of a turning point as I so as milestone on a road to nowhere.
    But what about the Cards?? Are they worse than we are?!

  • I would have given my eyeteeth to have been at this game.

    I don’t think that it was classic but it was epic. On Twitter last night, which is like being at your local sports bar, the night started with the Mets fans and the Cardinals fans. And then, as other games ended, and the night went on, every other fan of every other team in MLB started watching, or at least following. There were cheers at Safeco Field when the out-of-town scoreboard went to 20. I got a text message from a friend saying that her husband did not believe her when she said, “The Mets and the Cardinals are in their 18th inning!” and that I needed to text him that it was true.

    we had concert tickets. The concert was down the street, it was a late show. At 9:30, we reluctantly started to walk to the venue. We got there, found spots, and huddled over earbuds and At Bat on the phone. I didn’t know what we were going to do when the opening band came on, but that’s when Pelfrey came up.

    It was strange. And bizarre. And horribly played. Not arguing the fundamentals. But as an event, it was one.

  • Rob D.

    The Cardinals really aren’t that good, I guess. which kind of makes me think that it’s the magic of Dave Duncan and not the snide “I’m the smartest guy in the room” Tony LaRussa that has made the difference with the Redbirds.

  • John Isom

    good pitching beats bad hitting every time.

  • Paul

    JACOBS TO TRIPLE-A

    KNOW HOPE

  • sportspyder

    I think watching Castillo sac bunt against Mather frustrated me more than anything else by far. It was just completely mind boggling.

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