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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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Collins and Clockwork

Fate took Johan Santana away, and we wondered if the season would be lost. It hasn’t been.

Then Fate came for Ike Davis, and we feared the same. But the Mets kept plugging along.

Then David Wright heard the knock at the door. The Mets kept rolling.

Now Jose Reyes is detained by Bad Luck, we hope only briefly. And the Mets are 4-0 in his absence.

The best thing is they aren’t doing it with late rallies, ferocious comebacks or other magical happenings in the night. Don’t get me wrong, those things are wonderful. It’s just that that particular well tends to run dry awfully fast. The Mets are winning in ways that aren’t as exciting but are a lot more repeatable. They’re turning in smart at-bats, collecting two-out hits, running the bases well, hitting cutoff men, and staying composed on the mound. They’re running like a not particularly fancy but reliable and well-maintained machine, one that turns out workmanlike win after workmanlike win late at night for us to appreciate in the morning.

Consider the eventful sixth inning. Carlos Beltran doubled, then used Daniel Murphy’s flyout to left to pick the pocket of Eugenio Velez, who’s living proof that baseball teams will never stop trying to turn guys with raw speed and no instincts into things they’ll never be. Beltran read Velez’s painfully bad relay throw perfectly, taking third. The scoring chance looked lost when Jason Bay (who, in fairness, hit in some bad luck) grounded to second, but Hiroki Kuroda bounced one in the dirt that nearly knocked A.J. Ellis’s helmet off, allowing Beltran to scamper home with the go-ahead run. After Lucas Duda and Josh Thole singled, Ruben Tejada turned it yet another superb at-bat, doubling up the gap to score Duda and Thole and make it 4-1 Mets.

The Mets would need it, too: In the bottom of the sixth, Jonathon Niese committed the sin of walking the leadoff batter, a transgression compounded by the fact that it was Rafael Furcal, grown impossibly old and thick but still detectably the loathsome assassin who plied his trade for so long as a Brave. Niese then allowed a bloop hit to Jamey Carroll, now officially a pain in the ass. Up came Andre Ethier, who singled to make it 4-2 and bring up big bad Matt Kemp. So Niese — whose curve was excellent all night — got exactly the ground ball he needed, a double play that … was missed by first-base ump Greg Gibson.

(Speaking of horrible umpiring, did you hear Ron Washington go off on Angel Hernandez, who’s not only the worst ump in the history of baseball but also the worst potential arbiter of any competition ever? Washington’s post-ejection comments on his run-in with Michael FTucker’s bestie? “Angel is bad. That’s all there is to it.” I move immediately that Ron Washington be given the additional job of umpiring czar, and suggest his first act be to maroon Angel on an atoll, where he can be pointed out to passing boatloads of children as an example of what happens to people who are simultaneously terrible at their jobs and assholes about it.)

Anyway, back in the present Greg Gibson pulled an Angel and instead of a runner at third and two out it was first and third with one out, and I thought Niese was going to jump out of the stadium in indignation. He got Juan Uribe to fly out (bringing in an undeserved run) and retired James Loney as the extra-special fourth out and stalked off the mound hurling imprecations not quite at Gibson but near enough that I was worried about him in the seventh. So what did Niese do then? He took the mound still visibly steaming, but turned in a 1-2-3 inning, followed by superb work by Bobby Parnell and Frankie Rodriguez. The last inning was accompanied by a steady drone of “Let’s go Mets!” from giddy visitors in deplorably empty Dodger Stadium, and the Mets had won. The series is already theirs; tomorrow they’ll go for the sweep and see if they can make poor Don Mattingly age even more visibly before our eyes. Mattingly started out Monday night looking weary but stoic; by the end of this evening he was bent and withered and constantly muttering to himself, like he’d spent several years living in a culvert.

Meanwhile, how about some praise for Terry Collins? I was one of many who wondered if the Mets’ new manager was too intense, particularly after watching him run bowling nights in St. Lucie like a climber preparing to summit Everest. And maybe that will be the final judgment — every team eventually tires of a manager’s style and goes deaf to his entreaties. But for now, Collins and his coaches have the Mets playing sound, clockwork baseball, and seeming to get better with each body blow to the roster. It’s still early, and the Mets face a lot of obstacles, from injuries to financial questions to the fact that the Braves are playing even better. Some combination of those three will probably prove fatal to their postseason chances. But they’re in it, and playing a lot better than we might have imagined despite being undermanned. Hats off to Collins for that.

14 comments to Collins and Clockwork

  • BlackCountryMet

    I’m definitely up for praising TC, think he’s been a breath of fresh air and no small part of why we’re doing better. He’s an intelligent manager and gives the team every chance to win. Let’s hope the front office recognise this and do the same. I think that we have a number of young,emerging players, (Turner,Tejada,Duda) that together with the older, more senior members of the team, could mesh into a good team in the next couple of years(not there yet)At present, they’re fun to watch when playing well. Get the broom out and lets sweep West Coast stylee!!

  • Andee

    The Braves are beating up on an awful lot of sub-.500 teams; they got 6 games with the Blue Jays and Orioles during interleague while we got Yanked 6 times. Meanwhile, the Mets have been beating playoff-slot (or close to it) teams on their turf: Brewers, Rangers, Braves (ha!), Tigers, as well as performing much better in LA and COL than they usually do.

    And they’ve been putting along while fixing the Bug with chewing gum and twine by the roadside. They’re like an improv troupe that knows even the people with one or two lines have to kick ass whenever they’re onstage, lest they be asked to step in for the stars (who always seem to get laryngitis attacks that last 3 months).

    Kind of scary to think of what they could do with the whole team intact, really.

  • kd bart

    Considering expectations coming into this season and how it started, 5-13, this has been a rather enjoyable season to this point. Team seems to play hard every night and gets a lot out of a roster that, on paper, really doesn’t amount to much. I mean Gee, Turner and Pridie have produced more than anyone had the right to expect.

  • 9th string catcher

    I think it’s quote appropriate to discuss Collins’ work while they are playing the Dodgers. The Mets could very well have the Dodgers’ record, translating good performances into losses by not playing good fundamental baseball and being overly distracted by outside influences. Instead, they are developing good game plans, executing good play, making improvements (see Parnell, Murphy, Tejada) and making strong decisions on injuries, individual roles and communication. Let the Braves have the easier schedule – the Mets do better when they play good teams anyway.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    I’ve become a Terry Collins convert – he’s great, just great. He has the Mets executing the fundamentals, which must be appreciated in the context that he’s using rookies and out of position players in the infield. He doesn’t seem like a guy one would start a petition to get rid of. He also deserves kudos for his managerial decisons for unlike Joe Torre with all those years in the Bronx, he has to do much more than just fill out a lineup card. With all the key players out, he knows the strengths and weaknesses of the players he has and utilizes them to the best of their ability. Gil Hodges would be proud.

    And I like that SNY had a microphone near the Met dugout Monday night. When Bay hit his second homer, Collins was the first too great him and we heard him congratulating Bay with encouragement and when Polino followed Bay into the dugout, he did not forget to congraulate Ronnie, either.

  • Ken K. from NJ

    (see if they can make poor Don Mattingly age even more visibly before our eyes).

    Yeah, I noticed that too, he looks about 10 years older than when we saw him 2 months ago. Last person I who I can recall aging that quickly was Jimmy Carter.

  • Lenny65

    No Mets team ever won anything without: sound pitching, quality defense and a useful bench. It also helps when you’re not lugging around starting pitchers who can’t get out of the second inning. Collins has dome an outstanding job so far, makes you kinda wonder what might have been if our last few managers had a similar approach. Oh sure, sniffing around the post-season would be fantastic but for now I’m willing to accept the gradual climb towards respectability.

    • Exactly. The clutch hitting has been great, but let’s not overlook that during this 4-game stretch, last night’s 3 runs have been the most allowed by the Mets. Since the last loss, Mets pitching has given up 2, 2, 0, and 3 runs. Keep getting that with any consistency, and you’ve got yourself a playoff contender.

      Everybody is ga-ga over Reyes and deservedly so, but over the long haul, winning is about the guys on the mound and 3-6 in the order more than anything else. That’s the meat of baseball. Whatever else you get is gravy. Right now, the Mets are cooking some mighty fine meat despite the gravy being on the shelf.

      As far as Collins vs. his predecessors, we win the division by at least 5 games in ’07 if 2011 Terry Collins is guiding the team. Then, you don’t waste a third of ’08 moping about a collapse your idiot manager tells you to pretend never happened.

  • …by the end of this evening he was bent and withered and constantly muttering to himself, like he’d spent several years living in a culvert.

    It’s stuff like this that keeps me coming back again and again and again and again…

  • Z

    Rest assured, JF, that you personally know (at least) one of last nite’s Dodger Stadium “Let’s Go, Mets!” chanters.

  • open the gates

    One thing that our three World Series managers had in common was an ability to make all 25 players feel that they were an integral part of the team. (OK, 24 players for Davey). Hodges got great performances out of blue-collar guys like Swoboda and Agee. Valentine the same from the likes of Benny Agbayani and Bobby Jones. And even though Davey J had more horses than the others, he still platooned everyone all over the place. There were no fifth wheels on any of those teams (OK, maybe late-’90’s Bobby Bo, but that wasn’t Valentine’s fault). I think Collins has that same effect on the various Turners, Dudas, Tejadas and Gees on the team – not to mention that he may be on the cusp of turning Jason Bay around. All in all, his hiring may be the Mets’ best move of the decade so far.

  • [...] in fairness, they got an assist from Angel Hernandez, everybody’s favorite umpire. With two outs in the third, Chris Capuano threw Hanley Ramirez — whose theatrical sulking [...]