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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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Selectively Prescient But Perfectly Satisfied

I’m sure I’ve been wrong more than twice recently, but two instances in particular call for a public correction of the record.

Eleven days ago, I worried aloud about whether Johan Santana was definitively on the downside of his career. A pair of sterling efforts later, it appears he is not. I’m perfectly happy to admit to gun-jumping in writing him off.

A few hours ago, I was far louder and far more adamant in my assessment of Jerry Manuel’s managing acumen. When he emerged from the first base dugout and jogged toward the mound, I screamed from atop Section 508 of Citi Field as well as my lungs, “MANUEL, YOU’RE A FUCKING IDIOT!”

I retract my statement, at least as it pertained to his handling of Santana in the ninth inning of a steamy, sultry, shvitzy pitching gem that begged, like a weary traveler checked in to the Marriott, not to be disturbed.

Johan, having proven my previous assessment of his moundsmanship as “mortal” inoperative, had gone from allowing the Cincinnati Reds absolutely nothing to a ghost of a chance. Two runners were on (one via Jason Bay choosing a fine time for his first error since 1943) and only one out was recorded. Manuel, a veritable Will Rogers when it comes to save opportunities, thought he’d met one. His team led by three, ergo it was time to bring in…

Let me say, my personal Saturday evening meltdown notwithstanding, that I’m predisposed to root for Frankie Rodriguez. I discovered him the same time most baseball fans did, in the 2002 postseason. Then he was 20, electric and disposing of Yankees, Twins and Giants at the very moment I decided the Angels winning the World Series was of paramount importance to me. I wouldn’t say I fell in love with K-Rod, but I followed him with a bit of ardor from that October forward. He would establish himself as one of the elite closers in baseball, though every time I saw an Angel ninth inning, Frankie was tiptoeing above it on a tightrope. He generally made it through and I continued to pull for him.

When he became a Met, I expected an upgrade from where we stood with Closer Pro Tempore Luis Ayala, certainly, and figured, given his youth and health, he was a better bet than Billy Wagner to shut doors well into the 2010s. Nevertheless, I also expected to be made terribly nervous because I’d seen him teeter in Anaheim and because he would now be a Met closer. Frightening the NY off your cap is just what they do. Still, with the exception of this past weekend in Washington, I was generally fine with him working our ninth innings and did not regret my March 2009 good faith purchase of a RODRIGUEZ 75 t-shirt.

I bring this up because if I’d had that shirt with me Tuesday night, I might very well have (in my fantasies, at any rate) raced downstairs and choked Manuel with it if he tried to bring in Frankie Rodriguez to replace Johan Santana when Johan Santana was two outs from pitching a shutout. And if they hadn’t dragged me away, I would have choked K-Rod with it right after.

But, as you probably know, Jerry Manuel was just out to stretch his legs in the ninth. He trotted to the mound, he was informed he was not particularly welcome there, and he moved along. Nothing to see here. One neat Ike Davis dive and one David Wright Player of the Month grab and throw to second later, everything was copasetic.

Thus, because he did not remove Johan Santana in favor of Frankie Rodriguez in blind, robotic obeisance to the currently accepted Way To Go, I indeed retract what I said: In this particular instance, Manuel, you were not a fucking idiot. Or as Ron Swoboda told Newsweek in 1969, “Met fans boo out of frustration, not viciousness.”

Now that I’ve flogged my mistakes, let me tell you how brilliant I can be.

It’s the bottom of the third, Ruben Tejada is on first. With Johan Santana taking ball one, Tejada — now officially, upon the return of Jose Reyes to the starting lineup, part of the longest-running homegrown infield in Mets history — takes off for second. Mustachioed Corky Miller, taking a break from playing the Michael Imperioli role in Life On Mars, throws him out. And I say to my co-blogger the following:

“What a shame. Now Johan Santana’s first home run as a Met will be a solo shot.”

Matt Maloney then proceeded to throw eleven more pitches to Johan. Six were fouled off. One was ball two. Then three more were fouled off. Then Johan Santana hit his first Met and major league home run.

It was, as I had projected nearly a dozen pitches earlier, a solo shot.

That’s the kind of thing I like to be right about.

With a 3-0 victory sealed shut by its progenitor, everything was right at Citi Field Tuesday night, no matter how many digits the park’s temperature contained. My soup-to-nuts experience was of the Ice Cube today was a good day variety: good company for Jason and me provided by our hosts Sharon and Kevin; good judgment on the part of Citi security not making folks discard their open bottles of water at the entrance (“we’re showing some mercy tonight,” my favorite guard told me…and yes, after 50 games at Citi Field, I have a favorite guard); good random LIRR meeting with a good dude who read my book and told me he liked it (which, quite frankly, I never get tired of hearing); good and cold Blue Point Toasted Lager from Catch of the Day; good Mets lamp post banner sighting while I nursed my Blue Point — Marv Throneberry in his Polo Grounds finery (and who was celebrated on more Polo Grounds banners than Marvelous Marv?); good and respectful Reds t-shirt sighting, too — SEAVER 41 in Cincinnati’s current font.

And Jerry Manuel didn’t even have to use his AK…or his K-Rod. I got to say it was a good day.

Best of all, from a statistical standpoint, the Mets and I are now on a twelve-game winning streak together. The Mets in real life have never won more than eleven in a row. They accomplished their longest flawless stretches in 1969, 1972, 1986 and 1990. Next to the elusive no-hitter, the one thing I’ve been waiting for my entire life as a Mets fan is for the Mets to win a dozen consecutive games.  Until it happens where everybody can see it, the next best thing, for me anyway, is that it’s happened on my watch.

I never would have guessed I’d get twelve wins in a row. But I did call Johan’s shot.

Monday, July 12 is AMAZIN’ ALL-STAR MONDAY, with Marty Noble and Howard Megdal. Come out to Two Boots Grand Central at 7 PM. It’s in the Lower Dining Concourse of Grand Central Terminal, 42nd Street and Park Avenue, accessible via Metro-North as well as the 4, 5, 6, Times Square Shuttle and, of course, the 7 train. Phone: 212/557-7992. Full details here.

17 comments to Selectively Prescient But Perfectly Satisfied

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by You Gotta Believe!, Greg Prince. Greg Prince said: Johan Santana's first major league homer, eleven pitches before it happened! #Mets http://wp.me/pKvXu-1A9 […]

  • March'62

    Actually it’s a good thing in retrospect that Tejada was thrown out trying to steal 2nd. If he had been safe, they may have walked Santana with first base open and he wouldn’t have had that opportunity to go yard.

    Seriously Greg, can we entice you to visit Citifield for 3 games this weekend? A sweep would be nice.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    (and who was celebrated on more Polo Grounds banners than Marvelous Marv?)

    Yep, and me and my friends showed up in ’62 with one that said “Marv T. for Syracuse” (Syracuse being the Mets AAA farm team that year.)

    One of the other Mets pointed it out to Marv who turned around and sort of smiled at us. The next day the NY Times actually made mention of the banner, in connection with an article about Marv, who was just beginning to become the legend he became.

    Highlight of my first 14 years (maybe my next 48 as well…)

  • Roger Tusiani-Eng

    If you can catch it somehow on SNY, Gary Cohen additionally called Santana’s shot, and location where it went out. Nice job on twelve in a row. The next step will be the Baker’s Dozen!

  • How’d you spot Marv while nursing the Blue Point? Are there new banners inside?

    Congrats on the 12.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    Had Tajada either stole the base or remained on first, Santana would have been bunting instead of swinging away. And in the booth they were also criticizing Manual for what seemed to be the hook only to be as surprised as the rest of you when he kept him in. Has Jerry been reading FAFIF?

    While it was no doubt hot as hell in the promonade, that had to be nothing compared to what it was like for the production crew for Gary and Keith told us the air conditioning had gone out in SNY’s truck outside. Both got off a friendly jab or two debating which was more important – the staff or the equipment overheating.

    By the eighth we were told some equipment finally conked out so there would be no more on-screen graphics.

  • Inside Pitcher

    Great game and great company.

    I didn’t hear you swearing at Jerry. I was too busy repeatedly screaming, “NO!” at him. Booing him off the mound may have been my favorite game experience so far this season (certainly my most satisfying one).

    • Hard to imagine any one particular appraisal of Jerry Manuel’s prospective strategy could stand above the din of what would have to be described as general dissatisfaction with his appearance.

  • CharlieH

    This season is F-U-N FUN!

  • Sean

    Since you never get tired of it– and since it’s true– I read your book and loved it. It was a Christmas present from my wife. I will not soon forget sitting in a blessedly deserted laundromat and laughing my head off during the spin cycle while I read about your therapist’s session brought on by the Mets three game series in Oakland.

  • […] are criticized, his penchant for bunting is criticized, his bullpen juggling is criticized (often loudly), nothing about what he does is praised, but Jerry Manuel’s team is three behind the great Bobby […]

  • […] Johan Santana, who had started four of the fourteen wins that composed The Streak and had even homered in support of it, pitched without a clue for the first inning. Was he tipping his pitches? Were the Cardinals […]