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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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It's a Cruel Game

Admit it: When Cristian Guzman came to the plate to start the bottom of the ninth, you thought, “Oh crap, here we go again.”

When Guzman then wound up on first, you thought, “You have got to be kidding me.”

When Ryan Zimmerman singled, making it a save opportunity, you weren’t the least bit surprised to see Jerry Manuel obediently pop out of the dugout to manage to the dictates of a stupid rule that invented another stat that doesn’t measure what happens on the field in a way that’s accurate or interesting. Actually Jerry looked hesitant and unhappy, but perhaps that’s because he knew the ghost of Jerome Holtzman was forcing him to bring in Frankie Rodriguez.

After innumerable K-R0d-related disasters, I know how he must have felt.

Baseball is a cruel game, and not just because (to reference the great 20th-century philosopher Rod Kanehl) the squibbles go for hits and the liners are outs. It’s cruel for the uncanny way in which one game’s situation is revisited the next day, or upended, or given a twist, so that a single at-bat seems like the culmination of something much larger. What were the chances that the Nats would creep back into view and Guzman would lead off the ninth? You might think they’d be 1 in 9, but if you’ve watched baseball for very long you knew that was pretty much a lock.

All credit to K-Rod for manning up that Saturday was “the [bowdlerized bad word] worst performance I’ve ever had in my entire life. … I think I should be ashamed of myself. I’m so embarrassed. I just want to apologize to the fans that were watching that.” That was appreciated — and all too rare in a major-league clubhouse. He could have, say, thought we needed a lecture in perspective and parsed the difference between “devastated” and “disappointed.” But as Greg noted, I’d gladly trade a Frankie who was a chiseling weasel in the clubhouse for one who was more of a stand-up guy between the lines, who fielded his position instead of indulging in histrionics, didn’t habitually allow runners by the bushelful, or have a penchant for walkoff grand slams. (Saturday was almost Frankie’s third in less than a year. If I had Elias on speed dial I’d inquire if that would have been a record.)

Yes, Frankie finished the game today — language not accidental, as I immediately and irrevocably renounce giving a shit whether someone gets a save or not, since the save rule is simultaneously fucking stupid and encourages witless, agent-driven managing. Yes, he looked better, getting Adam Dunn to ground out and erasing Josh Willingham on a nice pitch at the knees on the outside corner. But first off, could he conceivably have looked worse? And without a full-length dive and great feed from Ike Davis, Roger Bernadina singles in Ryan Zimmermann, Dunn moves to third, Adam Kennedy is the tying run and who the hell knows.

I have never trusted Frankie; I dread the idea of seeing him out there in September or October with our season on the line. To say nothing of the fact that we will be in all likelihood stuck with him through 2012, that final year a massive, $17.5 million rotting albatross of an easily obtainable option. The muscles you’ve developed accepting Luis Castillo as an unfortunate fixture on the roster will come in handy in two years, when an even older, rounder, less-effective K-Rod is blowing games in a role he no longer deserves but can’t be removed from because a) he makes too much money and b) is a veteran.

I’m sorry, I know we won and I’m ranting like we didn’t. But Jesus Christ do I loathe K-Rod.

Maybe it’s also that Saturday was a wonderful game that turned horrible, while Sunday was just kind of horrible.

Seriously, Saturday was a wonderful day until that happened. I was all set to write a follow-up post asking if there was any way to quantify smart play (a honest question, not an effort to bait the stats crowd) after watching Alex Cora work counts and take bases and torment Stephen Strasburg. Cora led the way — the Mets had smart at-bat after smart at-bat, relentlessly driving the rookie’s pitch count up, up, up and working him into situations where they knew what was coming. And meanwhile there was R.A. Dickey, the butterfly still drifting along on the wind currents after the F-15 had pancaked into the earth.

And then it all turned to shit, and never mind.

Sunday, on the other hand, started off with a barrage of Mets hits, but then came a barrage of Nationals hits, with both teams piling up whiffs. It was endless and alternately boring and irritating, like watching two crappy football teams shove each other’s defenses all over the field, or a Michael Bay spectacle on grass: tons of action, a deplorable lack of anything resembling elegance.

But it wound up in our column, the Expat/Ex-Expos road trip from hell is mercifully extinct, and the Braves’ loss allowed us to creep back to within two games of a decidedly unexpected NL East lead. It might not have been pretty. It might have come with more bad omens. But it’s a win to start the second half. And so I will shut up and wait for tomorrow.

2 comments to It’s a Cruel Game

  • oldtimebaseball

    This game was excruciating because once Hisanori Takahashi melted down in the 6th, there didn’t seem to be anyone Jerry could go to who could stop the Nationals for more than one or two outs. And when he went to K-Rod once the “save opportunity” presented itself, there seemed to be no choice. Bobby Parnell, who had looked so effective two nights earlier, didn’t look like he was going to get anyone out. Gary Cohen said it very well: Jerry seems to trot a reliever out day after day until said reliever can’t get it done anymore. He then recedes into the shadows of the bullpen in favor of whoever has just joined, or rejoined, the roster. Even “Perpetual Pedro” Feliciano seems tired. Our starters had better start going nine.

    • Jacobs27

      Does Jerry Manuel not know the rules of baseball? Or maybe it’s basic human physiology he’s ignorant of. Effective pitching isn’t actually a rare and mysterious humor that could vanish at any moment and ought to be squeezed dry while possible.

      Everyone’s worrying about the “revolving door” in the bullpen, and roles and who’s gonna show the manager they can get it done.

      The major problem, it seems to me, is just what you’ve highlighted. Why, in the name of everything Amazin’, would anyone work relievers the way Jerry Manuel does? Systematic overuse coupled absolute and total neglect.

      That was the 5th time in six days Parnell had pitched. Same for K-Rod. Pedro Feliciano is both lefty-specialist and all-purpose set-up man, often in the same game, i.e., multiple innings day after day.

      Fernando Nieve hasn’t pitched in a week.

      These are not excuses for the pitchers when they struggle, but they are reasons.

      This is a team working without a real long-man, with only one, extremely overworked lefty. It’s also a team that happens to manage as if certain active pitchers were off limits and others have to pitch daily. All this for no apparent reason.

      Yes, the bullpen has to rise to the occasion. And the starters could help out by going consistently deep into games. But Jerry Manuel and Omar could do everyone a big favor by actually using the players they have available. Establishing a role ought not be a death labor sentence. If Jerry doesn’t “feel he can trust” a member of his bullpen and has little intention of using him an any significant situation, that player ought to be DFA’d. Either that or the manager ought to be.