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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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Little Things

The Mets won. That, as always, is the big thing.

On Monday night they won by clubbing balls into the stratosphere, delivering a 14-run beatdown that turned a 7-2 deficit into a 16-7 rout.

Tuesday night was different. The Mets got off to a fast start, with a Yoenis Cespedes homer making the score 2-0 before most of the seats were warmed. But the Phillies came back to take the lead on Noah Syndergaard‘s youthful mistakes, and there was a different feeling in the air — this was a game that was going to come down to bullpens and a critical at-bat or two.

Unfortunately, a lot of what will be written about this game will concern Hansel Robles‘ quick pitch to an ill-prepared Darin Ruf, which was followed by Jeff Francoeur screaming and yelling and Larry Bowa having a Someone Taser That Scary Man-level fit, though that’s pretty much Bowa’s default way of interacting with the world.

Let’s get this out of the way, shall we?

I try to stay away from weighing in on unwritten rules of the game, because a) I stopped playing baseball competitively before puberty, so what the fuck do I know and b) such discussions are inevitably pointless and boring.

What I do when a dreaded unwritten rule pops up is try to put my emotions and loyalties aside and look at how normally level-headed baseball people reacted in the moment.

Francoeur may have trouble with the concept that four balls means a trip to first base, but he never struck me as a hothead. Home-plate ump Dan Bellino didn’t allow the pitch to Ruf despite being in position. And d’Arnaud himself seemed to be telling Robles to wait. (Indeed, he confirmed as much after the game.)

If “make sure the batter’s looking up” is one of those unwritten rules of baseball, it seems like a sensible one to me — and, far more importantly, it seemed that way to the actual baseball people involved. (As for Terry Collins‘s note about the legality of the pitch, that was for public consumption; I’ll bet you $100 he said something else in private. Which is as it should be.)

Bowa’s freakout — during which even an amateur lip-reader could discern “fuckin’ bat flip” — turned out not to be a reference to d’Arnaud after his bases-loaded walk, but to Daniel Murphy, whose bat flip on Monday night was … well, let’s say memorable. Hell, I was surprised Murph didn’t tote a boombox around the bases blasting the theme from “The Natural.” Not to sound like Tim McCarver, but in 1965 or 1975 or 1985, the next Met would have been on his back, and he would have blamed Murph, not the pitcher.

I’m glad that batters are less likely to be hit in the head for the crime of doing what they’re supposed to — I still get angry thinking about Piazza and Clemens in Yankee Stadium all those years ago. Nor do I particularly mind celebrations — this game’s fun, dammit. But there’s a difference between trying to hit a guy in the head (which not even Bowa suggested Murph had coming) and showing a bit of anger when being curb-stomped.

What happened to the Phillies Monday night was a truly humiliating ass-kicking — 14 unanswered runs. By the end, Mets batters were diving across the plate, swinging from their heels, and sending a record number of balls up gaps and into seats.

The Phillies’ response? Nothing. No batters sat down, no inside pitches, nothing. They stood there glumly like they were waiting for an unpleasant commute to end.

Maybe I’m just getting old, but I thought it was very strange. I can only imagine what Bowa thought. After Tuesday night’s game, Phils manager Pete Mackanin said — I suspect both wryly and wearily — that he guessed Bowa “just got mad at everybody.”

Yep. Starting with his own ballclub.

More important to me by far was the aftermath of the jawing and the milling about. And that was Robles — a young pitcher still learning his craft, with a penchant for blowups — erasing Ruf with a beautiful breaking pitch on the outside corner at the knees.

Or Tyler Clippard in the eighth, battling Domonic Brown with fastballs and then fanning him with a change-up. Hopefully Syndergaard was taking notes — our young Norse god has a bad habit of abandoning his breaking pitches early and throwing nothing but fastballs, which he’s repeatedly seen doesn’t work. The 2-0 pitch Syndergaard threw to Freddy Galvis in the third? It was a 97 MPH fastball, which is impressive. Galvis also knew it was coming, and so turned it into a souvenir. This keeps happening to Syndergaard, he keeps acknowledging it, and then five days later he’s throwing nothing but fastballs. It’s a bit confounding.

Anyway, Clippard got the out he desperately needed and then gave way to Jeurys Familia, who looked better than he has since the first half, with both the sinker and the slider essentially unhittable.

But let’s go back to the little thing that turned the game. No, not Michael Cuddyer‘s two-run single in the top of the sixth, though that was wonderful. (Imagine this lineup if Cuddyer gets going too!) It came a few pitches before, while d’Arnaud was facing Jeanmar Gomez.

With two strikes, d’Arnaud ticked a sinker back into Carlos Ruiz‘s glove. It stuck there for a moment and plopped to the ground. Chooch smacked his fist into his mitt, angry that his failure to hold the ball had turned a third strike into another chance for d’Arnaud. Given that chance, d’Arnaud worked the count full and then walked, tying the game and bringing Cuddyer to the plate.

Three pitches later, Gomez threw a sinker that didn’t sink and the Mets had the lead for good. It was a little thing, but not every game is a home-run derby. Most of them turn on a little thing.

Update: The Robles thing doesn’t seem to be an unwritten rule, but an unenforced one. Hat tip to Craig Calcaterra for digging up the relevant portions of the rulebook. Hansel, stop doing that. Now on to more important things, I hope.

37 comments to Little Things

  • MLB Network debated the pros & cons of Robles’s move — predictably, Al Leiter pro, Harold Reynolds con — and then showed footage of Robles being dealt with in the dugout.

    He got some serious talking-tos from Juan Lagares, Cespedes & Collins. Everyone applauded the nice job of self-policing.

  • Mikey

    first of all Jason, thanks for posting this early this morning….I was pleasantly surprised that there was a post waiting to be read and I always stop here first (since I read Greg’s book in June) for recaps and commentary.

    you are so right about the little things. I had that thought both when D’arnaud worked the walk and when Kelly Johnson booted a routine grounder that preceded Ryan Howard’s bomb. I’m glad it was the former and not the latter that mattered.

    I’m glad they dealt with Robles internally too….that just wasn’t cool. funny too because I kept telling my wife that when Cespedes came up he was going to get plunked and he didn’t. I have a feeling someone is getting plunked before the series is over, I just hope things don’t get too ugly. We can’t afford suspensions during a pennant race.

    anyway great win….the Nats have to be frustrated when looking at the scoreboard, and you know they are.

    • Eric

      37-38 games left, 5.5 games back is in it. Those 6 head-to-head games are waiting. Nationals are hanging in there and, with Span back, their team is whole again. The Mets look in the rearview mirror – objects are closer than they appear – and the Nationals will be there chasing grimly.

      Push the lead out to 7 and we can relax a little.

      • Made in the Shea-de

        Um, please don’t say things like, “Push the lead out to 7 and we can relax a little.” I was there, man. I lived it.

        ;-)

        Seriously, a small, irrational part of my psyche is hoping they never get out to a 7-game lead, because… etc.

  • Dave

    Yeah, Thor’s reliance on muscle memory is frustrating, reminiscent of Pelfrey. Yes young man, you once faced batters who could not hit 97mph cheddar if their lives depended on it. You now pitch to hitters who rose above those guys though, and they will grate your 97mph cheddar for their omelet in the morning. I suspect the veterans and Warthen are working with him, but during those times when I’m inclined to put the cart before the horse, I wonder if his postseason role will be out of the pen.

  • Eric

    It seems like lately the Mets young aces have been giving up an awful lot of HRs.

    Syndergaard is still struggling on the road and that should have been solved by now. I think the issue has been command and location more than pitch selection. Rookie wall … any word on when Verrett will take a start for Syndergaard or will the Mets wait for Matz to take it?

    Ultimately, the pitcher is responsible for his pitches. But if Syndergaard is stuck on tunnel vision with his fastball, shouldn’t d’Arnaud be checking that?

  • Kevin from Flushing

    100% agreed that nobody getting plunked over the 16-7 clobbering was surprising.

    Howie and Josh made a great point (no surprise there) on that foul tip Ruiz couldn’t rein in: catching foul tips is the one thing you can’t really practice. I imagine it’s frustrating.

  • cleon jones

    Thor needs to work on his breaking pitches more. Combined wirh his fastball he will be an ace.Lets go METS !!!!!!

  • Steve D

    What Robles did was wrong…but this Ruf wastes a lot of time looking down in the batter’s box. Somewhere along the line an umpire should have said something and this would have been avoided.

  • Jesse Sands

    Meanwhile, outside DC, Bryce Harper pretended a fair ball had hit his foot, nobody checked for shoe polish, and the Natinals went on to have a game-winning inning. I wonder if there’s an unwritten rule among umpires about young players who make you look very silly on replay.

  • 9th string catcher

    Very impressed with what Syndergaard has done and continues to do as a guy who started the season in AAA. To be top 3 on this rotation is impressive.

    Two thoughts on the HRs from the young guys – they are probably loosening up because they don’t have to win 2-1 or 1-0 every night, challenging hitters and getting burned occasionally. In the long run, should result in less stress. 2nd – they may be missing Plawecki who they’re more familiar with and calls a better game. I would much rather see him backing up TDA than Recker for those reasons.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Cuddyer is just the latest in a long line of Mets who, once written off as useless by fair weather fans, now healthy and part of a complete team, are proving their value.

    • Steven

      BINGO Matt in Richmond. Granderson is terrible. Cuddyer is terrible. Lagares is terrible. Niese is terrible (OK, I’m guilty of that one and still shudder whenever he starts to get in a jam). Duda is terrible. Flores is terrible. Murphy is Murphy (well, that one is spot on…still can’t decide whether the good he does is outweighed by the bad and dumb).

      Oh, also, the bullpen is terrible (and has saved the team the last 5 days (including Verrett is part of the bullpen).

      I like this collection of terrible players!!!

      • Steven

        And recently, Terry hasn’t been terrible (but I have ZERO faith in him because I’ve seen way too much across way too many years).

      • Matt in Richmond

        Murph has maybe been our most consistently good player the past month or so. You’re right, he will do a mind numbingly dumb thing every now and then, but his contributions far outweigh his mistakes. He’s even become a mostly good fielder at 3 positions! Almost nobody plays the game like Murph, and I hope we keep him for a long long time.

        • Eric

          Problem is Flores is a younger, cheaper replacement who fills the same role.

          • Matt in Richmond

            Flores has been great, but no, he doesn’t fill the same role. Murph is more versatile, is left handed, and is a much more consistent hitter. Also, as this stretch run has shown so vividly, infield depth is a great thing to have.

          • Eric

            Flores has played 3B, SS, 2B. Murphy has played 3B, 2B, 1B. How is Murphy more versatile?

          • Matt in Richmond

            Murph is more adept at multiple positions. Flores has mostly struggled defensively anywhere but second base. Murph is also better at hitting in multiple spots in the lineup. He’s a good RBI guy and a good hit and run guy. Lastly, he’s also a bit faster. Bottom line, and this isn’t a knock on Flores because I’m very glad we kept him, Murph is a much better all around player and more valuable.

          • Eric

            I haven’t seen that Murphy is a better defender than Flores at the positions they share, which flatters neither of them. At the positions they don’t share, back-up SS is a bigger need than back-up 1B for the Mets.

            I’d be pleased if Murphy returns. But he and Flores fill the same role as bat-first utility infielders. Will the Mets carry both of them next season despite that the older Murphy will be much more expensive? Or is the younger, improving, cheaper Flores Murphy’s heir-apparent?

            It’s not necessarily the case there will be room for only one of them on the roster. There are several questions about the infield construction next season. But if there is only room for one of them, the edge goes to the younger, improving, cheaper choice.

        • Matt in Richmond

          I hear you on the fiscally conservative approach Eric, but I don’t think Murph is going to cost all that much (relatively speaking), nor is he all that old. He’s got several prime years left. Flores is improving, but his ceiling is unlikely to go as high as Murph’s. Hope it doesn’t have to come down to an either/or decision.

          • Eric

            That’s the thing. The choice for Murphy on next season’s roster is not either/or. The choice is and/or.

            Barring a trade, Flores will most likely be on the team. The decision will be whether one bat-first utility infielder is enough and Murphy’s roster spot should be used to fill a different team need. Or whether they should add the now more-expensive Murphy to Flores.

            Setting aside re-upping Uribe and/or Johnson, questions about Duda, Herrera, Tejada, Cuddyer, and Wright affect the Murphy question, too.

          • Matt in Richmond

            That was the kind of game that shows how valuable The Murph is. Making all the plays in the field (including a highlight play for the ages)’ clutch hit after clutch hit, game winning RBI, and keeping everyone fired up. As nice a player and nice a story as Flores is, he doesn’t replicate that performance.

  • Matt in Woodside

    Last night it was too close and too late, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone got plunked tonight. The immediate OUTRAGE from the dugout led me to believe that they’d been steaming about the Mets’ use of quick pitches in general, though, and then they finally had an excuse to uncork with that pitch to Ruf.

    Francoeur afterward said “my whole point was, let the guy get in the box…. Give the guy time to get in the box and then pitch.” He didn’t say anything about it being potentially dangerous to pitch to someone who wasn’t looking. The pitch to Ruf really was bad form, but if they’ve got a problem with Robles (and Familia’s) regular use of quick pitches as a tactic, then too bad. I mean, that’s like a pitcher complaining that a batter keeps asking for time RIGHT when they are in a jam and having trouble communicating with their catcher.

  • Eric

    “Jeurys Familia, who looked better than he has since the first half”

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/gamelog/_/id/31687/jeurys-familia

    Under-the-radar story with all the team changes: Familia has not allowed a run in August.

    The only walks he’s allowed this month were the 2 in his near-meltdown against the Orioles.

    The best month so far of Familia’s season has followed the worst month of his season in July. 7 of the 12 runs Familia has allowed this season were in July. Now he’s back on his team-MVP pace.

  • open the gates

    I finally watched the replay on Robles’ quick pitch. Really? That’s what Francie got so steamed about? That’s what got Bowa tossed? C’mon guys. The ump called no pitch, that’s the end of the story. Get over it and play some baseball. If you can. Yeesh. Crybabies.

    Truth is, if the Phillies were an even half-decent team right now, they wouldn’t have even made this into an issue. Sad to say, reminds me of the Mets a few years ago.

    • DAK442

      Was Frenchie ginning up phony outrage to try and rally his teammates? Or just to look gritty and Great Clubhouse Guyish in an attempt at securing further employment? Because that offense was pretty weak.

      Speaking of taking offense at nothing, did anyone catch the goings-on in the Bronx with once-and-almost-again Met Carlos Gomez? Chucking a bat in anger is now something for the classy Yankees to complain about? Maybe they should review some footage of d-bag supreme Paulie Pie O’Neill.

      • Eric

        Competitive veterans on a scuffling team ginning up a show of ‘outrage’ in some calculated gamesmanship to shake things up? Unheard of.

  • eric1973

    I got an idea. Just go from a 6 1/2 game lead to a 7 1/2 game lead and skip 7 games ahead all together.

  • open the gates

    I’m starting to think that “O’Flaherty” is Irish for “Tzuris”. Oh well. All’s well that ends well.

  • eric1973

    Why’s TC announcing Clippard is unavailable tomorrow? Let the opposition prepare for EVERYONE. Just because all managers seem to do it does not mean it is right.

    TC was right in using his poorest pitchers in order to try and save Familia and some of Clippard for tomorrow. Knew it would not work, but had to try it on the oft chance it might.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Two weeks ago how many of us would have thought we’d have been thanking our lucky stars for the healthy return of Cuddyer?

  • eric1973

    Here we go again. 2 good weeks out of 20, and another superstar is born.

    How are we doing without Lucas Duda? At least he had 6 good weeks out of 20. The other 14 weeks he gave us absolutely nothing.

    • Matt in Woodside

      Man, don’t hate on Duda. Geez.

    • Matt in Richmond

      I don’t think anyone believes Cuddyer is a superstar at this point in his career. However, he has proven his ability to contribute as part of a complete team. Similarly, Duda struggled mightily with no lineup protection, but went on a massive power streak once we got some bats around him. He may not be a superstar either, but the lineup, not to mention the defense, is better with him anchoring it. Fortunately he will be back soon.

  • […] hero Logan Verrett was first out of the gate with a spotless inning, Hansel Robles stared down quick-pitch debaters Jeff Francoeur and Darin Ruf, Sean Gilmartin made the Phils look downright foolish with slow […]