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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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The Meaningful Exhibition Game

Do you remember R.A. Dickey shutting down the Mets last June in Toronto and then letting it be known he was pitching a couple of days after his father’s death? Taking the ball was something his manager, John Gibbons, said he felt he had to do. That stayed with me in light of my father at the time attempting to recover from his recent brain surgery. I wondered whether if placed in the same situation soon — not inconceivable, given the long odds my dad faced — I’d want to write about a baseball game like I usually do.

It turns out I do.

Dad, flanked by admirers, the year before I began thinking about baseball.

Dad, flanked by admirers, the year before I began thinking about baseball.

My father, Charles Prince, died in the early hours today. He was 87. Those of you who’ve faithfully read this blog over the past fourteen months are probably aware of the ordeal he endured, one which I am frankly thankful is over. If you’ve read my occasional dispatches tracking his journey from diagnosis to rehabilitation to relapse to inevitable decline, you are probably also aware that baseball often provided the two of us with an oasis from the onslaught of discouraging medical news. We watched a pennant race together. We watched a postseason together. We watched a World Series together. We even got one final Spring Training game in together.

Clearly there are things in life more important than a baseball game, especially a baseball game with no impact on the standings. But after this past year-plus, I wouldn’t call any baseball game meaningless, not if being distracted by it for a spell puts you in a better place.

Today, my mind is necessarily elsewhere, yet it keeps drifting back to last night, hours before I got the phone call to tell me my father died. It drifts back to the last baseball game I watched while my father was still alive, when I worried about him, but couldn’t technically say I missed him. I did miss him from when he was truly himself, of course, but he wasn’t in the past tense on Tuesday night. Now he is. It’s strange.

It’s also strange that despite nothing being more important in my thoughts right now than recalling the man I knew and loved, I’m still irked at how last night’s All-Star Game went down. Not so much that the National League lost, but where, from an admittedly parochial perspective, the National League’s manager went wrong.

In conversations today, I’ve discussed two subjects: my father dying and the All-Star Game. Perhaps it’s an outlet. Perhaps it’s compartmentalization. Perhaps I just have skewed priorities. I do know that thinking about an allegedly meaningless exhibition game somehow feels better than dwelling on the reality that is never going to leave me.

I don’t need a tissue, thank you. I need to write like I usually do.

Specifically, I need to blog about Terry Collins mishandling his most simple task as All-Star Game manager: get one of the Mets on the mound for a minute at least.

To be surprisingly human about it, Terry looked awfully tired in his postgame press conference, and I really do hope he’s OK. He’s 67, he’s a month removed from an unforeseen hospital visit in Milwaukee and he was working without the usual built-in break most baseball people are granted in July. No doubt everybody wanted a minute of the National League manager’s time. Throw in the additional transcontinental travel, and I’m sure the experience wore on him. When he was shown listlessly answering questions Tuesday night about his leading the N.L. to its annual midsummer defeat, he looked like he wanted nothing more than a decent nap on the flight home.

So I hope Terry’s all right. I also acknowledge All-Star Games have a Brigadoon quality to them. By Friday, few will much remember the 2016 affair. Terry’s gaffe — and I do believe it was a gaffe — will dwell primarily in our collective subconscious as we get back to games that count (I mean really count). It won’t spring back to a full-blown existence until “that time the manager didn’t use any of his own players” becomes an overcited anecdote in July of 2017, then July of 2018, then probably forever more.

Despite my concern for the well-being of the manager and the grip I have on the scheme of baseball things, I do think Terry mishandled his assignment. If you’re the All-Star manager, you have two public relations responsibilities: get somebody from the host team in the game if he’s in your league; and take advantage of the rare opportunity to show favoritism to the players from your club. Terry took care of the Padres. He didn’t take care of the Mets.

His stated strategy of holding out Jeurys Familia for the ninth with a lead and Bartolo Colon for extras in case of a tie crackles with logic on paper, but by two out in the bottom of the eighth, as the American League batted (they were the designated home team because MLB is silly that way), the National League was down by two, with only one of fifteen participating senior circuit clubs not having had one of its players enter the fray.

You know which one.

Terry and his college of coaches — did you ever dream you’d see so much of Dick Scott on national television? — didn’t pause to improvise a contingency plan. With the N.L. behind and not guaranteed of roaring back, it was an ideal moment to call Familia in from the bullpen. Jeurys has been the best closer in the league this year. He is the unsung hero of many Mets wins. He’s as good a reason as anybody that Terry was granted the honor of wearing a ridiculous batting practice jersey to begin with.

But let me not be too altruistic about this. I really like Jeurys Familia being our closer. I think he may be the best we’ve ever had, certainly from the right side of the menu. Yet my dismay that we didn’t see him face one batter isn’t generated only for him. This one was for us. This is the only high-profile game in the course of a year that is conducted with minimal competitive implications, almost solely for the enjoyment of the fans. The enrichment of corporate sponsors, too, but mostly the fans. World Series home field or not, you can mess around a little.

They mess around a ton. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t make substitutions all night. Terry had one final substitution to make, and it was simple: substitute a Met into the game. He didn’t have Yoenis Cespedes. He didn’t have Noah Syndergaard. He definitely needed a long man kept available, so, fine, he didn’t have Colon in the single-digit innings (and even I would have resisted the temptation to pinch-hit at Petco in a two-run game). But he had Familia. He had a Met. He is the Met manager. If you’ve somehow landed the All-Star gig, you make your fans happy. You don’t even have to think about it.

Terry clearly didn’t. Jeurys didn’t pitch. The N.L. neither tied nor led in the ninth. On a broadcast in which it was proclaimed Collins judged it vital to make sure every team’s uniform was represented on the field of play, one style of clothing was conspicuously absent…unless you count Terry trudging to the mound to exchange Fernando Rodney for Kenley Jansen. In that case, yeah, we saw a Met on the field.

Yippee.

Three years ago, Terry’s professed professional role model, Jim Leyland, was managing the American League at Citi Field. It was going to be Mariano Rivera Night, whether we wanted it to be or not. Rivera was an icon because of how he pitched ninth innings. Leyland understood there might not be a ninth for an A.L. reliever to pitch. Thus, he determined ahead of time that Rivera would pitch the eighth. Mariano mission (such as it was) accomplished.

Something like that was all Terry needed to do. The script was simple to follow:

“Jeurys, Kenley, take a knee, fellas, let me tell ya what I got in mind for you two…if we’re behind, Kenley, I’m using my guy, since one of your teammates will already have been in. And Jeurys, Kenley’s gonna finish the eighth if we’re ahead, so be ready in the ninth.”

Not that hard.

Now for a commercial message:

Please don’t tell me that the non-use of Familia or, for that matter, Colon, is some kind of stealth victory for the forces of good because neither got hurt, and you can’t get hurt if you don’t play, so what a genius that Terry is for unrolling the virtual bubble wrap. If that’s how we’re gonna handle the All-Star Game, mail everybody selected a certificate and don’t bother me with three hours of Joe Buck. Players from 29 other teams (give or take Oakland) risked life and limb so not only they’d enjoy a moment in the proverbial sun, but so their fans at home could say “yay!” before getting back to staring out the window and waiting for the second half. Besides, Familia hadn’t pitched since last Thursday and won’t pitch any earlier than this Friday. If he’s not concealing one of those ever popular bone spurs, he can throw to a batter.

Now for a caveat:

Come season’s end, if Jeurys is pouring champagne over Bartolo’s head and they revel in having been kept fresh in San Diego while all those other chump players exerted themselves during the meaningless All-Star Game, then Terry’s a freaking genius. I’ll accept that conclusion if it comes to pass and offer a full Met-a culpa.

I watched the 2003 All-Star Game in which the lone Met representative, pity pick Armando Benitez, didn’t appear. That’s the way it goes, I reasoned. Same thing in 1994, when Bret Saberhagen was the extent of our delegation. Same thing in 1978, the year of Pat Zachry. Managers are more conscious of “everybody plays” these days, but you can only do so much. Sometimes somebody’s gonna sit.

The difference in 2016: Terry Collins manages the Mets. The Mets manager almost never manages the All-Stars. Only in four other instances did a Terry predecessor get the chance. You know what Gil Hodges, Yogi Berra, Davey Johnson and Bobby Valentine had in common? They all got at least one Met in the All-Star Game they managed. It didn’t seem too much to ask.

49 comments to The Meaningful Exhibition Game

  • Dennis

    God bless you and your Dad and may he RIP.

    I love Terry, but I also agree about getting one of our guys in there.

  • Pete In Iowa

    Greg, please accept my sincere condolences to you and your family on the passing of your Dad. May he rest in eternal peace and may you forever enjoy sweet memories of him.

  • Dave

    Greg, your writing about your father’s condition and your relationship with him in the later stages of his life were beautiful, heartfelt writing. Those columns helped remind us, as we came here to read about the Mets, of what’s important and what is, ultimately, entertainment, a diversion. I thank you for sharing those thoughts and feelings and extend my sincere condolences to you and your family.

    As professional sports All-Star games have become meaningless displays of a diluted version of the game as it’s properly played, I’m not losing any sleep over Terry disregarding his own players…but I’m also not condoning it. That was odd, to say the least.

  • Kate Avallone-Serra

    I am delighted that you wrote like you usually do — eloquently, emotionally, and truthfully. “The reality that is never going to leave me” hit me square in the heart.

    If only TC had followed the gleeful advice of Howie Rose, who suggested he get Big Sexy into the on-deck circle to pinch hit. “It would bring the house down!” It might have alleviated the anger and disappointment that our MVP Jeurys didn’t see the action he has so richly deserved.

  • Bob

    Greg:
    Please accept my sympathy/condolences to you & family on the passing of your father.
    You did exactly the right thing in spending as much quality time together as possible!
    You got to enjoy last season with your father..
    If I had an orange & blue candle I would light it for you & your Father.
    Met fan since Polo Grounds–1963.

  • Seth

    So sorry Greg. Unfortunately I know what you’re going through. Hang in there.

  • Ari

    First and most important, my condolences to you on the loss of your dad.

    Second, and much, much, less important: I don’t think any Oakland A’s played last night.

    Agree fully with your point: the last of the spoils of winning the pennant is getting to enjoy the next All Star game a little more than usual. Instead, all we got to remind us of the Mets was bad bullpen management and an inability to hit with runners on base.

  • Made in the Shea-de

    I’m very sorry to hear about your dad, Greg.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    You might quibble with the priorities in my post, but first and foremost, condolences on your Dad’s passing. I went thru a similar stretch of about 4 years with my Mom in the 00’s and I know how stressful it can be for everyone, and the sense of relief and guilt about that relief when it ends. Cherish the time you did have with him.

    I’m more annoyed that Collins didn’t get Colon into the game. Familia should be an all-star for years to come (we all hope..). Who knows if Colon will have another chance.

    BTW, I read Colon quoted somewhere that he wants to pitch one more year. Sign him. Now.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    So sorry to hear about your father. I’m happy that for his last October on Earth, you two got to do something wonderful and memorable together.

    If it helps to keep talking baseball–I was hoping Terry would pinch hit Colon for Murphy to lead off the 9th. We’d be singing Terry’s praises, even if Bart went down on 3 pitches.

  • Ed

    Greg,
    My sincere condolences on the passing of your father. Please take care and thank you for doing your blog today.

    BTW I had no problem with TC not using Familia or Colon. I was mortified that he did not pinch hit for Russell with Murphy in the 4th inning when we had 2 runners on and 2 out being 3-1. Then he took out Russell in the bottom of the inning. It doesn’t really matter in the larger scope of things.

  • sturock

    Sorry to read about your dad, Greg. May he rest in peace.

  • NostraDennis

    So if Familia pitches to a single batter in the eighth, and the NL makes an improbable comeback, you trot him back out in the ninth, and get Colon warmed up. Not difficult.

    More important, though, Greg, deepest prayers for your whole family as they suffer through this loss. I felt the same way when my dad passes in 2001 – reluctantly relieved for his sake. Blessings to y’all.

  • Pete the Midnight Golfer

    Love never dies. Your love for the Mets, the game, and your father. All else must pass. But live the love!
    P MG

  • DK

    Greg, my sincere condolences on your father’s passing. I teared up at each of your posts over the last year or so in which you’ve written about him.

    As to the game, the bubble wrap argument is BS. If TC was thinking that way, I would think he would tell them before or during the game so they could manage their emotions. Instead, Colon and Familia were pissed afterwards, initially declined to talk to the press and when Familia did, was short in his responses.

  • I’m so sorry for your loss, Greg. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

    The New York Mets were the common bond between me and my father and we hardly saw eye to eye on anything else. When he passed away after a long battle with cancer, all I had as a reprieve from the grief was our Mets memories together.

    They weren’t always great memories because alas these are the Mets, but they were our memories and I cherished them all.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family, my friend.

    Joe D.
    Metsmerized Online

  • Pat

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Greg. My deepest condolences.

  • Paul Schwartz

    Sorry for your loss. You as always write beautifully.

  • Joe

    Greg – sincere condolences about your dad. Glad to hear you can take some small relief in the fact that he’s no longer suffering. Really appreciate you sharing your story over the past year – it’s definitely been some of your most beautiful work. Best wishes & prayers to you and your family

  • Linda

    I am truly sorry for your loss. Everything does change and we don’t have to like it. You have already been dealing with the loss of your dad… The healthly one… Thats the one you miss. ..not the stranger sickness leaves behind. Remember all the good times, the normal days. He must of been so proud of you!

  • Stephen Kairys

    Greg,

    Deepest condolences on the passing of your Dad. He was fortunate to have such a loving and devoted son; you were fortunate to have him as your father. Hang in there.

    Less importantly, I realized a practical reason to pitch Familia in the ASG. If he hasn’t pitched since last week, he needs the work. So, give him an inning, to do right by him, and the fans…and to keep him sharp for when the games count again this weekend.

  • My sincere condolences for you and your family’s loss.

  • CBaron

    Very sorry for your loss, Greg. Wishing you and your family all the best through these difficult times. If baseball – and writing about baseball – offers you some reprieve, then no further justification is needed. Take care.

  • Lenny65

    My sincere condolences and very best wishes to you and yours, Greg.

  • Steve D

    Sorry for your loss, Greg.

  • eric1973

    So sorry, Greg. May he rest in piece.

    You, through your Dad, has brought enjoyment to, and enriched many lives.

    We all thank him for that.

  • eric1973

    It’s not the first time TC has mis-used Familia, and it won’t be the last.

  • CamLwalm

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Greg, my thoughts are with you and your family. There is nothing else I can add that hasn’t already been said.

    As far as TC not using Familia, he was being a good soldier trying to win for the NL. The previous Mets managers weren’t playing under the ridiculous this time it counts rules. Unfortunately, TC did this to the detriment of his own team. After not having pitched since last Thursday, Jeurys may be very rusty the next time he takes the mound.

  • Michael G.

    Greg — So sorry for your loss.

  • Dak442

    So sorry for your loss. Remember the good times.

    Everything Terry did made sense – holding his best reliever for the save opportunity, and saving Bart to be the long man. Imagine the outcry had he been forced to use someone else’s pitcher for 2 or more innings! He’d be roasted. Doesn’t mean I liked it, but I don’t fault him for it.

    Boy Howdy do I wish we still had Murph. I don’t want to hear about how losing him got us Yoenis because that wasn’t their plan, it was dumb luck. And the defending league champion in the biggest market in America shouldn’t be sweating payroll, it’s embarrassing.

  • NYM 25

    So Sorry for your loss Greg. I know what it’s like to loose a parent after a long illness.
    I remember the 1974 all star game in Pittsburgh, Yogi Berra put Jerry Grote on the NL squad, upon his entrance the cameras got a shot of some disgruntled Pirate fans holding up a banner that read “Yogi’s a Yo-yo Where’s Manny”?
    My favorite had to be 1979 in Seattle when Mazzilli homered off Kern it made my season.

  • Will in Central NJ

    I’m sorry to hear of your loss, Greg. Thoughts and prayers to you and your family.

  • Roger Tusiani-Eng

    My condolences for your loss. I lost my Dad last year in the offseason, but we were able to watch SNY show replays. Although he wasn’t talking much, when Mike Piazza hit the home run after 9/11, all Dad said was Home Run! Your memories of taking in the postseason with your Dad, mirrored my memories. And thus, I thank you for the memories. Keep writing, it not only makes you happy, but me as well.

  • Jacobs27

    Sorry for your loss, Greg. Hats off to Charles Prince. And hats off to you, for sharing something else with RA, besides liking to read. Good company.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Pitches Familia with a 10-run lead in regular game, but can’t put him in for one out in a 4-2 game on national stage. An opportunity he will have exactly how many times in future? Yet some hailed Terry pushing for “milestone” complete game for Noah. Then there’s the argument that need to use closer every few days so they “get work.” If that logic is true–which I’ve questioned–how you defend Terry not using him in AS game? Go figure.

    • Dennis

      Regarding the constant mentions of the Syndergaard game and Familia’s usage……..the dead horse has been beaten too many times to count. Time to move on and let it go Greg

  • David Kristiansen

    Sorry for your loss, Greg. Thoughts and prayers!

  • MetFanMac

    Baruch dayan emet.

  • Matthew Braswell

    So sorry to hear about your loss. You and your family are in my thoughts.

  • Michael

    I’m late to the news of your father’s passing, but as I’ve come to think of you, and your family, as part of my life’s story, I feel I have to offer some (mostly hollow, and now often repeated) sympathetic words.

    You have often provided your readership, cathartic release from the stresses of being a Mets fan, and you have even done so for dealing with the more important losses in life. Now, it’s our turn to offer a way to help you through a most trying episode in your life. We’ll send our condolences, we’ll offer up words to express our sympathy and empathy for what your enduring in this troubling time.

    And, if it helps you to write about the Mets’ we’ll do what we do most…we’ll read what you’ve written. We’ll absorb it, we’ll comment back…we’ll agree…we’ll argue…we’ll do what friends and family always do…we’ll share our troubles. You’ve shared your father with us, and in this way he’ll live on, not just in your (and your family’s) memory, but also in ours.

    I’m so very sorry for your loss.

    Tonight I’ll lift a glass to you and your dad (and me and my dad (who passed last July) and repeat the words I’ve come to use more often than I would like…”To those who’ve gone before us, and to those of us yet to go…”

  • eric b

    Condolences to you and yours Greg. I’m a fan of your work (and bought all 3 books!) and am thinking about you during this difficult time, though we’ve never met (and I rarely comment). RIP to your dad. (And you’re right about the All-Star Game too.)

  • Tim H.

    Greg,

    Condolences to you and your family. Getting your feelings down on paper is always cathartic, and when you have a gift for writing, the end product is something special.

    I lost my dad when I was 24 and he was 65. Not very old. (In fact, I turn 65 next year.) But, one of my fondest memories was his surprising me one Thursday afternoon in May of 1964 when he treated me to my first live MLB game at the brand new Shea Stadium. I didn’t care that we took the escalators way up to the Upper Deck (at $1.35 a seat). After all, the best seats in the house cost a whole $2.15 more. I got to experience something that I have heard countless times from other grown men when reminiscing about their first ball games – the expansive greenness of the outfield grass. Of course, I also got to spend time with my dad – something I certainly (and foolishly) took for granted at the time. And, that day, I got to see the Mets beat the Reds, 3-2, behind a scrappy Al Jackson, who beat the visiting team’s ace, Jim Maloney.

    Losing someone so close is always hard. (I lost my eldest brother, Eddie, in February.) But, if you have a raft of treasured memories, the burden is eased just a bit.

    All the best,
    Tim Hanley

  • Matt in Richmomd

    Sorry to hear of your loss. Your father was blessed to have you for a son and I’m sure he knew it.

    All the best.

  • […] The Meaningful Exhibition Game »    […]

  • JerseyJack

    So sorry to hear the sad news, Greg. Best to you & your family…

  • Bill Slocum

    Sorry for your loss, Greg. You have been a regular source of entertainment and insight these last few months, and I owe your father something for that.

  • […] how much it meant to him and me to watch the World Series together. I’ve told you he died last week. So I’m not going to revisit all of that again. If anything, I want to get past his illness and […]