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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 Mental Game

Baseball’s a mental game. Perhaps you’ve heard.

For a maddening, frustrating game this one was actually kind of fun. Wait, hear me out on that.

The Mets lost because multiple members of the team made physical errors, followed by multiple members of the team making mental errors. Those weren’t the fun parts.

But these parts were pretty neat:

  • back-to-back home runs from David Wright and John Mayberry Jr.;
  • an collision at home between Andrelton Simmons and Travis d’Arnaud that was adjudicated by pre-Sabean norms, with both players admiring each other’s effort instead of sniping about unwritten rules;
  • Simmons adding to his very long career highlight reel with a jaw-dropping robbery of d’Arnaud from the outfield grass on the wrong side of his third baseman;
  • great confrontations between Rafael Montero and Cameron Maybin and Phil Gosselin; and
  • a duel between Jason Grilli and Lucas Duda that ended with one of the more evil sliders you’ll see.

Not all of those moments went the way we wished. But if you need a steady diet of MINE MINE MINE, baseball’s not for you. The season you’ll cherish your entire life is still going to have 50-odd nights that end with you grumbling about a loss. That’s a lot of futility to sign up for, so you learn to appreciate the game even when it doesn’t go your way.

But let’s get back to those physical and mental errors. Jon Niese‘s performance did nothing to dislodge him from his hard-won status as my least favorite Met since Michael Tucker, but consistently throwing a ball to the corner of home plate is a lot harder than it looks from the couch, so I’ll give him a pass for one night.

Are Wilmer Flores‘s errors physical or mental? The responsible answer would be How the Hell Do I Know?, but I can’t be the only armchair psychiatrist who noticed that Wilmer looked wide-eyed and dry-mouthed and uncertain of hand whenever the ball arrived for a visit, like it had just transformed into a shot put that he somehow had to transport to first base. We’re still in that part of the season where you can remember every important moment of every game, which means we’re trying to make patterns from what might just be blips. But early blips can turn into yips, self-fulfilling prophecies that can wreck a player’s confidence.

The game crumbled, though, because of mental errors committed by guys you’d expect would know better. First was Juan Lagares, who dove for a leadoff 8th-inning single by Chris Johnson that not even he could catch, turning it into a double. Lagares is a wonderful center fielder but not actually capable of flight.

Jace Peterson ran for Johnson, and Montero rebounded nicely, fanning Christian Bethancourt and getting a ground ball to third from Simmons. Except Wright — inexplicably and shockingly — tried to reverse field and tag Peterson instead of throwing to first for the second out. Insult to injury: With the other Mets arrayed to back up the expected play, everyone was left staring in horror at the unguarded second base, which Simmons promptly took possession of.

Montero intentionally walked Alberto Callaspo and prevailed in a nifty duel with Cameron Maybin, fanning him for what should have been the third out. Instead, he had to face Phil Gosselin. The seventh pitch was a fastball, low but with too much of the plate, and Gosselin rifled it into center. Too many fastballs with not enough wrinkle on them? Perhaps, but I thought Montero showed poise when he could have indulged in Niesean sulking and unraveling, and I’m not going to kill him for a pitch he never should have had to make. Hand a team an extra out and two free bases in an inning and bad things will generally follow.

There were some more moments to be admired before all was said and done, but that gory eighth inning was the ballgame. And it was no fun at all.

5 comments to A Mental Game

  • Lou from Brazil

    The frustrating part of Flores’ performance was that those were more routine plays that he flubbed. Granted, it seemed like the ball was taking funny hops to all infielders, but his should have been managed. I’ve been a big proponent of Wilmer but if he’s not going to be adequate over there, woof. Niese looked awful, but at this point that’s what I have come to expect. Good performances feel like the exception, even if his record is decent.

    This should be the year we take it to the Braves, but that was one big belly flop out of the gate.

  • Dave

    Far as I can tell, the Mets signed Flores when he was about 9 years old, because it seems as though he was an up and coming prospect for a very long time. The consensus on him was always that he’ll get his hits, but he doesn’t project as a shortstop. Sometimes the experts are right.

    To quote the great 20th century philosopher, 90 percent of the game is half mental.

  • Lenny65

    Niese always seems so easily flustered, at least to me, and it’s annoying sometimes. And while I’m pulling for Wilmer big-time, we can’t have every ball hit to SS becoming a huge adventure, the team simply doesn’t score enough to allow for his “growing pains” at the position. But still, it’s early and with this game you never know, so I’m not going to head for the nearest ledge just yet. I did enjoy seeing the Mets get just a trifle chippy after the home plate collision, though, that’s the fire we want to see.

  • […] Niese Night was a comedown from Harvey Day and the Gee interregnum guaranteed the first losing streak of 2015. The closer had tested positive for some banned substance that had somehow infiltrated his system (he “honestly” has no idea how it got there). The captain felt compelled to tongue-lash his teammate in the third-person to the media. The shortstop was inspiring several nicknames, none of them flattering. […]