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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 Joys of House Money

The Mets are fun again.

Before we wax rhapsodic about that, let’s be honest in a eye-rolling, way-to-be-a-bringdown way: the Mets are mostly fun again because they’re winning, leading us to attach all sorts of significance to those wins.

But it’s not all fan rationalization. Tonight I found myself thinking something I thought last September, as the Mets kicked aside the crumpled husk of the Nationals and marched to the playoffs: they’re playing with house money. Nobody expected this, so it just gets to be fun.

And last year was fun, right up until they botched three winnable games that just happened to be in the World Series. Ah, so what: even with that record-scratch of an ending, it was still pretty great. Looking back, I find myself smiling about Daniel Murphy scampering to an unguarded third and Noah Syndergaard entering in relief and Yoenis Cespedes hitting a ball to Mars and Sandy Alderson sitting incognito in the Wrigley Field stands; and I shake off images of quick pitches and errors and what might have been and get back to smiling.

Over the last two weeks this seemingly lost season has become a funhouse mirror of last season. No, the Mets aren’t going to storm past the Nats this time — satisfying Sunday wins notwithstanding — or get to fine-tune their rotation for October. They’re going to have to scrap and claw and make stuff up, and they might well come up short.

But I didn’t think they’d get this far. Finding them with something to play for in September feels like house money. Maybe the bills are in smaller denominations than last year, but the feeling’s sure similar.

House money is sending Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman — call ’em the ReplaceMets, the ReplaceMatts or the ReplaceMatz the way things are going — and having them pitch with poise and aplomb. The baby-faced Lugo looks like a reincarnation of Jason Isringhausen 1.0 when we couldn’t watch his debut because of the stupid Baseball Network, but he’s got a fastball with run and bite and sink and somehow it’s working. Gsellman looks like the middle stage of a morph between Jacob deGrom and the GEICO Caveman imitating Jacob deGrom, but he’s got both good stuff and guts, as he showed when he turned the world’s least fair major-league debut into a win. Can they keep it up? Hell if I know, but then I didn’t think they’d get this far.

House money is a lineup of one-legged guys, reclamation projects paid by other teams, players we wanted to get rid of and are now glad we didn’t, prospects turned suspects and reacquisitions playing a crazy carousel of positions and somehow getting the job done.

House money is guys you might have given up on seeing come through doing exactly that — Curtis Granderson had three RBIs tonight and Jay Bruce had the other two. Suddenly it no longer feels so crazy to think Curtis might regress to the mean and Bruce might relax and those processes might be glorious things.

Hell, let yourself dream a little more — dreaming is free, after all. Lucas Duda‘s back to baseball activities, and Steven Matz is going to throw again, and maybe those multiple starts missed will mean a stronger deGrom. It’s not crazier than the things that have worked over the last two weeks.

It’s house money. May as well bet it all.

53 comments to The Joys of House Money

  • Paul Schwartz

    On the money again Jason!

  • mikeL

    funhouse-money.

    i’ll take the old scratch and claw and makes shit up over sweeping the cubs and going idle for a (was it a full?) week.

    not that we’ll likely get *that* far…

    but who knows?

  • Matt in Richmond

    It’s always annoying having to deal with any announcers other than our irreplaceable ones….the early game fawning over Bryce Harper was particularly nauseating. However, as the game continued I was struck by how impressed the ESPN gang was with how competitive we’ve remained despite all the injuries and adversity, and how confident they seemed to be in our chances to remain relevant down the stretch. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad sign, but it was nice to hear TC and the boys getting some well earned respect.

    • mikeL

      yep, i noticed that as well. during last sunday b’cast i found myself incensed at least once every inning.

      tonite was different.

      …and nice that the national audience was actually told that familia was the MLB saves leader – especialy as he failed to get his moment in the all-star game.

    • Pete In Iowa

      What was really nauseating Matt was watching what Harper did after he caught Flores’ pop to end the first. Close to the stands after making the catch, he put the ball in his throwing hand and deked an underhand toss into the stands, only to stuff the ball back into his glove and then turn and race away. How colossally bush league!! I’ve never seen anything like it. Some little kid probably thought he had a shot at getting that ball. Thoroughly unprofessional and (apparently) completely unnoticed by the three ESPN clowns – who then blindly went on and on with their pre-planned, prepared bit about Saint Harper right after this episode.

  • Harvey

    What’s really great is the remaining schedule. Mets have only 3 of remaining 25 games against a team with a winning record (Nats) and their opponents have a combined .443 percentage. Cards have 10 of 27 games against winning teams and 6 more against the .500 Pirates. Their opponents have a .515 percentage. Particularly helpful is that they have 4 games vs. Giants in SF. Giants have 6 games left with Dodgers and those 4 with the Cards among their 26 remaining games. Giants opponents have a combined .486 percentage. It’s there for the taking for the ReplaceMets.

  • eric1973

    Great win, and after using Reed and JF with a 4 run lead, we better not hear that either are ever unavailable for any games for the rest of the season.

    Moves reek of desperation, and we’ve got plenty of other guys we could have relied on in that situation, and it’s not only about the 1p start today.

    • Curt

      I didn’t care for that either, particularly Familia – seems by the 9th with a 4-run lead we could have at least tried to give him a night off with an afternoon game following. I’d think Reed, after 26 pitches, is out for today. Familia can probably go.

      As a side note, the last walk Familia gave up was on August 1. He seems to have given up his Cardiac Closer tendencies, temporarily at least.

    • Pete In Iowa

      While I understand your position, I didn’t have any problems going with Reed and Familia in that spot. Normally, a four run lead may feel comfortable, but at this time of the year, with where they are (a game BEHIND), nothing should be taken for granted. These games have to be nailed down. I always like using the BEST option, rather than saving for some other spot which may never arise. One or the other should have pitched in the ninth on Friday as well.
      Like Reed said to the press about a month or so ago – he gets paid to pitch, period.

    • Eric

      I thought using Reed was justified because he faced the meat of the Nationals order in the 8th. Once Reed disposed of them, I thought Familia should have been held back in the 9th until it turned into a save situation or closer. But Collins tends to treat 4 run leads like a save situation.

  • Matt in Richmond

    So, just so I’m clear: your position is that you are in favor of using our closer & best reliever in games that we are losing, but opposed to using them to nail down a series win against our division leader when up by 4? Also worth noting that Reed in the 8th was facing the heart of their order.

    That’s some……questionable logic.

  • eric1973

    To be perfectly clear, that is the logic. Using Reed and JF down by a run in the 8th and 9th is a better use of their innings than using them with 4 run leads.

    Using them last night was a waste. Neither of them ever should have even warmed up last night. There will be plenty of close games where they will really be needed.

  • Mikey

    i have absolutely no problem with TC using Reed and Familia last night. a 4 run lead against WAS is like a 2 run lead against anyone else. and we had to have that game to keep pace with STL. I would have done the same thing.

    I’m not as confident about the schedule….we tend to play up or down to the level of competition. but the Mets really seem to want this bad.

    and I noticed something this morning. I know this sounds greedy but we are just 3.5 games back of SF….and hosting a wild card game.

    now let’s keep the good vibes going today…LGM!

  • Greg Mitchell

    Agree with Eric to a point. I would have used Reed in 8th because making up 4 runs in two innings is very hard but it happens fairly often. Getting 4 runs in 9th against decent pitcher is rare, so I would have used, let’s say, Blevins–who some here really, really love–and if two get on then go to Familia. The point is not to burn both. Once you get through the 8th, and heart of order, the odds are very, very long against getting 4 in ninth, but Terry is an automaton in these cases. Even with a game the next night–or in the current case, 1 pm the next afternoon.

    As for using Reed when down one run in the 9th–it can be smart, if he has not been used one or two nights before then. Your team has a much, much better chance of getting ONE run in the 9th to tie the game than the other team has of getting FOUR runs in the game (in the other scenario) to tie the game. That’s, as you say, “logic.”

    A final note: people who have defended Sandy for not getting a high-quality reliever in July, and then August, should wonder about that, after situations like last night, and so many others.

  • Jacobs27

    You are on fire in this post, Jason! I second all of it.

    The ReplaceMets is so good it should be on a T-shirt.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Some people on here really love Blevins because he has had a phenomenal season. 2.72 ERA. 42/13 K/BB ratio. As of a week or 2 ago he was 1st in inherited runners stranded and 2nd in percentage of runners stranded. (I assume those numbers are about the same now, I just haven’t seen an update on them.) So yeah, I and most rational people will take that.

    People defend Sandy because he has had an exceptional run as Mets GM. Im not going to run down the list again, but he has absolutely crushed move after move. Would we like to have another top notch reliever? Yes, as would just about every team in baseball. It’s not a simple proposition. You’re always weighing the benefit of what you can get vs. the cost of what you might have to give up. I like the group we have going right now, particularly if Smoker can continue to shine.

    Using Reed in the 8th inning last night was 100% the right move. With the middle of their lineup coming up (Werth, Murph, Harper, Rendon, Ramos) a 4 run lead was by no means safe. Could someone else have started the 9th? Probably. But JF had already warmed up. In that situation, you hate to sit him down, then have to get him back up again if someone else runs into trouble. All due respect guys, you are throwing out solutions in search of a problem that doesn’t exist.

    • Greg Mitchell

      See this analysis using stats which show team down by 4 runs in ninth has exactly a ONE percent chance of winning. Surely you would trust Blevins with that lead.

      http://www.foxsports.com/mlb/just-a-bit-outside/story/baseball-strategy-tactics-hitters-pitching-blowout-040715

      • Edited to remove the snark. This is a good point and the article is really interesting — thank you for both. Personalizing the argument just makes it less likely that it gets read and becomes part of our baseball tool kit.

      • Rob E.

        Baseball “groupthink” misinterprets a lot of these statistics, but this one is not as simple as ” the Nats only had a 1% chance of winning surely you would trust Blevins.”

        First of all, I know you don’t think Blevins is worthy as a “LOOGY” because Reed holds lefties to a lower batting average, but to the Mets he is their lefty specialist. They are not going to burn that guy just because they have a 4-run lead and a 99% chance of winning. If it WAS anyone else, it would have been Robles. And I’ll also throw out two words about what can happen when you rely on “a 99% chance”: Eric O’Flaherty.

        Secondly, if you look at the way that game progressed in the ninth, after the pinch-hitter got a hit, you had Trea Turner up, who is hitting .335, and Werth up after that, who kills the Mets. If it got that far you would have had Murphy up as the tying run, and Harper up after that. Throw in the post-season implications of that game and there was MUCH more to it then a “4-run lead and a 99% chance to win.” It wasn’t nearly as “in the bag” as you are implying.

        For the record, teams entering the ninth leading by ONE run win 85% of the time, which is still pretty good odds if you want to justify the “trust anybody” philosophy.

        http://joeposnanski.com/the-closer-you-get/

        • Greg Mitchell

          Note: Terry just said that he won’t pitch Familia and Salas (with his 4.30 e.r.a.) is today’s closer. Of course, Terry has said that before and changed mind but: you rather have Familia available today or with 4-run lead last night? That’s what it comes down to.

          • Rob E.

            They absolutely needed the game last night, and they were one batter away from Murphy coming up as the tying run. If you can guarantee that someone else would close it out decisively enough that Familia wouldn’t have to warm up, then yes, save him. That not being possible and with what was at stake, you slam the door on yesterday’s game and tomorrow is another day.

  • Dennis

    No problem at all with Terry ‘s use of Reed/Familia last night. Last game of a great homestand……nail it down. You go to anyone else in the 9th and they get in trouble, you’re going to use Familia anyway.

    A ton of baseball to be played and I’m going way ahead if myself here, but if this team does make the playoffs with the injuries they’ve had, you would have to think that Terry Collins should be hands down manager of the year in the NL.

  • mookie4ever

    Now, THIS is a more familiar position, the scratching and clawing underdog playing with house money, as you say, Jason. That game was such fun to watch, with Grandy & Bruce more Grandy-&-Brucified and Murphy much less Murphified and maybe even a bit subdued. Ah, the perks of having a 9.5 game lead in September. Lugo (and Gman too) worked the Nats over quite well and actually pretty matter of factly, as if to say to their elders, see, these guys, they’re not the big bad wolf after all, we can take them. We’re the goddamn NL Champs, after all, and we’re gonna play like it. I was out at a minor league game (Blueclaws) so when I watched full game on DVR later I was pleasantly surprised to find what you said about the ESPN team to be true, Matt. From reaction on Twitter, as I was following the game, it sounded to be the typical anti-Mets-pro-any-other-team BS, but they did actually show some respect. True, it’s grudging respect, since they clearly expected to see a blowout by the vastly superior Nats, and our boys spoiled that narrative, but respect, nonetheless and I’ll take it. There’s clearly no quit in our Mets, and now everybody can see that. Keep it rolling, boys, keep making us proud! LGM!

  • 9th string catcher

    Not much season left – I think you gotta go for the kill. Get the win and worry about tomorrow tomorrow. I do wonder what salas could have done in the 9th, but it is Washington. Stomp ’em.

    I think the worst scenario would have been extra innings. Imagine going 12 and then starting a road trip with a 1pm start. Ugh!

  • mookie4ever

    9th, totally agree, TC had to first and foremost, step on their necks and secure that win in 9. Big game, had to keep pace with Cards. And a nice national showcase for our lockdown guys as a bonus.

  • eric1973

    Gotta say, I love Sandy, and virtually all his moves are right on. Salas looked great a few days ago, and Smoker has been great as well. If Robles and Henderson are effective, we could have the best relief core around. And Blevins is great, too.

    Hey, side note:
    The Mets announcers sound more like homers than they have in the past. Very subtle. Wondering if anybody else thinks so.

    • The Mets announcers sound more like homers than they have in the past. Very subtle.

      They go to less trouble to hide their inclinations than in the past (or their predecessors did). I believe they remain unfailingly fair in their reporting and analysis, giving credit where credit is due, et al, but nobody makes any bones about who they’d prefer win.

      We’ve become a society — enabled by technology — that prefers to be superserved where our interests and opinions are concerned, and the Mets broadcast (TV and radio) apparatus has responded effectively. Yet the occasional veer in the other direction is appreciated. In the WOR pregame show on Saturday, I listened to Wayne Randazzo, the one voice from somewhere else, interview Mark Melancon, and it was a welcome break from simply hearing the Met angle all the time. It reminded me, after having recently read this charming book, that Ralph Kiner interviewing the star of the game from the other team didn’t kill us.

      And I still appreciate how Howie called Chris Heston’s no-hitter, not moaning for the Mets, but saluting the accomplishment.

  • Jim

    Great column. This immediately took me back to maybe my favorite column by Jason, written on the eve of that fateful final 2008 series against the Marlins, with a Nor’easter bearing down on New York, and the Mets hanging on with chicken wire, baling tape and one leg of Johan, where he thusly observed:

    “And so. We have survived. Survived to confront, yet again, who we are. It’s daunting, no question. We’ve got no bullpen, we don’t know who the hell will start Saturday, we don’t know if we’ll even get to play Friday. Or Saturday. Or even Sunday. Our enemies include Marlins, Phillies, Brewers, wind, rain, 2007 and ourselves. But what the hell. We’ve come this far, haven’t we?”

  • Dave

    With any luck, given the strength of the schedule the rest of the way, there should be a few opportunities to rest Familia and Reed. Last night they had to make sure that game wasn’t going to get away. Salas should be able to contribute too, maybe he’s the 8th inning guy today if needed.

    Turning into one of the grittiest teams in recent Mets history. Manager has to get some/lots of credit for that. Seen lots of teams fold like a cheap suit under circumstances like these.

  • 9th string catcher

    Eric73 – I think the announcers outside of Keith have always been homers to some degree, but the difference to me is that a) they tend to critique their own team negatively as needed and b) they really know the other team the mets are playing. I remember watching tbs games in the 90s – those broadcasters didn’t even know how to pronounce half the mets players. Yankees announcers seem to have a tradition of living in their own yankeeworld. But to your point, I think GKR are getting excited about the very points that are listed in this blog – the lugo / gsellman / lineup by proxy / roller coaster season must be pretty exciting to broadcast.

  • Pete In Iowa

    “No, the Mets aren’t going to storm past the Nats this time….” Whoa there, not so fast Jason. I’m not 100% sold on this just yet. Maybe 95%.
    25 games still to go yet makes 8.5 possible, if not at all likely. We’ve gained 4.5 on the Cards in 15 games. Seems I recall a great baseball philosopher once saying – “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
    LGM!!!

  • Rob E.

    I don’t get the sniping after a game like last night’s. It was a must-win game. The Cardinals had won, the others had lost, we were playing a very good team with two game-breaking players that could have easily put up four runs. There are 25 games left and they still have to make up ground with Gsellman, Lugo, and Montero….you got to slam the door on that game and they did. That was as much a playoff game as you can have on September 4.

    It’s unbelievable how every single pitching move gets criticized win or lose.

  • open the gates

    “ReplaceMets” is awesome, and very appropriate for our boys. However, I seem to recall it as a moniker used by some to describe the replacement Met players during the infamous Spring Training of 1995. One of the local papers actually had a name for all of the replacement teams, the only other of which I remember were the “Gi-Ain’ts”.

  • open the gates

    And eric1973, one thing I have noticed was a tendency by Howie Rose and company of saying things like “Well, Jose Reyes hasn’t hit a home run in his last 57 at bats. Wouldn’t this be a great time for him to break out of that?” I love the Met announcers, but you may be on to something. And yes, as another commenter commented, they don’t pull their punches when it’s time to criticize.

  • open the gates

    Now that I’m thinking of it, I also remember the Philadelphia Fill-Ins and the St. Louis Dis-Cards.

  • Mikey

    Here is an example of why i have dialed back my criticism of tc lately….i saw grandy and bruce in the lineup and no conforto and rolled my eyes. Yeah about that….

    And announcers have no excuse about not doing their homework. I did some writing for big blue view and also covered the nashville minor league baseball team for a bit. You get a media guide for each game with stats, news and pronunciations. Gary cohen never messes up a name

    • Matt in Richmond

      Anyone who keeps a flexible enough mind to be willing to change based on substantive evidence has my respect. What I abhor are agendas that cause people to try to manipulate evidence to fit their view.

      Cohen is a rare breed. A pros pro. I’m embarrassed by the shoddy state of announcing these days, at least on tv. Maybe radio is better.

      • Jacobs27

        I agree, it sure does seem like a bad era for TV baseball announcers (at least based on my anecdotal survey of MLB.TV). After Vin Scully goes, is there anyone left whom you’d actively want to listen to even if you don’t root for the team?

        Is Gary’s excellence well-known outside of Metsfandom? I know GKR have won some awards, but do ordinary baseball fans know about them?

        • Rob D.

          I mean turn on MLB Network on any out of NY market game. The announcing is homerish and amateurish beyond belief. The Nats announcers are putrid. Having typed that, I did watch 1/2 of the Dodgers/DBacks game last night just to listen to Vin Scully. To plug another site, awfulannouncing.com listed the best/worst home announcers. GKR finished 4th which I don’t get.

  • open the gates

    Cohen’s “outahere!” call on Bartolo’s HR was one for the ages. I still watch the replay just to hear that call.

  • Matt in Richmond

    It was a great call. Also enjoy Ron’s giggling in the background and Cohen’s bellowing “Bartolo takes the long trot.”