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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.

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Mulligan Not Needed

There was nothing particularly memorable about the Mets’ Labor Day matinee against the Reds: Bartolo Colon was really good, Matt Reynolds had a nice day, and the Reds played terrible baseball whenever it was helpful to the Mets for them to do so. That about covers it.

But this was a game that deserves to be remembered more than that. Because the ho-hum nature of the victory was itself pretty extraordinary.

The Mets were expected to lose this game, and most of us would have grumpily excused them for not just losing it but sleepwalking through it. When ESPN claimed Sunday’s finale of the Nats series for an 8 pm start, Major League Baseball should have moved Monday’s game to 4 pm. Instead, 1 pm stayed 1 pm, and the Mets were forced into a brutal turnaround. They didn’t get to their hotel in Cincinnati until after 3 am, and were at the park by mid-morning. That’s not a schedule those of us who do less than physically taxing stuff such as move money around or make PowerPoints or write stuff would have accepted; most of us would have rightly complained that it was a lousy recipe for effectiveness. Yet the Mets, with their five months of wear and tear and aches and pains, didn’t have a choice.

With his team having been screwed by MLB, Terry Collins‘s reaction was very stubbornly TC, however one might want to define that: he gave his frontline starters (or at least the ones not already lost for the season) a blow, sending out the JV in their stead. No Curtis Granderson, despite being one of Sunday’s heroes. No Jose Reyes, despite having become the sparkplug of the lineup. No Asdrubal Cabrera, despite having saved the Mets time and time again of late. No Yoenis Cespedes, despite being Yoenis Cespedes. Jay Bruce, one suspects, was only sent out for duty because his return meant so much to Reds fans, and came complete with a pregame ceremony that included his wife.

Put those things together and this didn’t look like much of a game to bet on.

But, well, there’s a reason they play ’em. Colon, one of the heroes, had at least arrived a day early — one likes to imagine delighted Mets fans stumbling across him in the Queen City on Sunday, snacking on chili and dispensing Zen wisdom. The other big hero, though, arrived even later than the rest of the Mets: Reynolds got on a plane in Salt Lake City around 11 pm Sunday, flying to Cincy via Boston (not recommended unless you’re on a mileage run) and arriving around 9 am. Reynolds played the matinee on two hours of sleep at best.

So of course Reynolds went out and collected three hits, including a home run.

Even the Mets’ failures came with pretty decent silver linings. Wilmer Flores seemed determined to turn his day into baserunning clinic, demonstrating for all you kids out there what not to do. In the first, Wilmer whistled a ball into the left-field corner, tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out by Adam Duvall. In the fourth he cranked one to much the same spot, but higher. It just missed being a home run and bounded away from Duvall. Wilmer, who’d thought it was gone, now turned on the jets to reach third, except Wilmer doesn’t have jets. This time Duvall threw him out at third.

Such sounds like the stuff of tragedy or farce, depending on your philosophical bent, except both balls were socked off right-hander Robert Stephenson. For a guy who supposedly doesn’t hit right-handers, Wilmer’s doing pretty well of late at it — and his BABIP of .244 suggests he could be doing even better.

So there you have it: a sleepy hero, a day of rest for guys who needed it, a player making the case that he’s evolving as a hitter, and Bartolo being Bartolo. Oh, and a win. That’s not a bad holiday, not at all.

30 comments to Mulligan Not Needed

  • open the gates

    All due respect, but that wasn’t Collins being Collins. That was Collins being a damn good manager. With that godawful schedule, if he hadn’t rested his regulars, some of the commenters here would have clobbered him, and rightly so. It’s September, we’re still in a race, let’s see what the kids can do and give the elders a chance to catch their breaths. And then they went and won the damn thing anyway. Good job all around.

    • Eric

      Add Rene Rivera to the starters who sat.

      The schedule, plus it’s better to rest the starters with the unflappable wily vet on the mound than with one of the rookies. Montero needs the veterans more than Colon does.

    • As someone who’s equal parts a fan/admirer of Terry and exasperated by him, I thought TC being TC captured it well.

      • Rob E.

        The problem I have with “TC being TC” is that almost ALL managers do these same things. If you want to criticize him, criticize him for just being a vehicle through which upper management actually manages the team (remember the scenes with Art Howe in Moneyball). I don’t think managers today have as much free reign to “manage” as they did 25 years ago.

        LOTS of teams rest key players “too much,” LOTS of managers are slaves to innings limits and pitch counts and arm injuries and pitcher/hitter matchups and various complex sabermetric stats. Terry Collins didn’t invent any of this stuff.

        There’s a perception “fog” when we evaluate managers. When we lose, the manager screwed up somehow, it’s never a player’s fault or it’s never the other team doing something well. When we win, it’s never the manager’s doing (or the OTHER manager screwing up or the OTHER team not executing), it’s “see how great we are when the manager doesn’t interfere?” I suspect it’s the same in other cities.

        • We’re in the realm of zero evidence, but I suspect there is a fair amount of tension — generally kept under wraps, as is proper in a well-run house — between the front office and Terry about how he uses players and about which players he uses.

          Leaving the bullpen aside and focusing on the lineup, I suspect our FO would be much less inclined to have young players platoon and to play Proven Veterans (TM) over those younger players. But I think Alderson et al respect Terry (as I do, for whatever it’s worth) as a teacher and as the day-to-day clubhouse temperature-taker and preparer, and so they’ve let him have his way.

  • Eric

    This doesn’t match last season’s thrill of shedding LOLMets and chasing down the Nationals, but these broken down, patched together, offensively comatose Mets waking up to make an unexpected late run at the WC are reminding me of last season’s thrill.

    I’m not there yet, and I’m still holding out hope deGrom will recover in time, but I’m almost comfortable with Colon starting the WC game. His velocity is up. Reynolds reminds me of a young Justin Turner. Flores runs as slow as a regular guy. So far, Salas looks like he might be the missing piece in the bullpen as the 7th inning man or sharing the load with a tired Reed.

  • eric1973

    Turns out others besides Reed and JF can close out a 4 or 5 run game.

    Case closed.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Come on eric. You’re a smart guy. Are you just baiting us here or what? Surely you see the pacific ocean’s worth of differences in the 2 scenarios.

    Case not even remotely closed.

  • eric1973

    A little baiting, but you see what I mean.

    We’ve got a really great bullpen, that those guys could have handled it AND have Reed/JF available yesterday. That they were not was the major issue.

    Like the lineup yesterday. Not the best one to win yestrrday’s game, but TC rested guys to keep them fresh for the stretch drive. A great move by TC.

  • eric1973

    Then, say Reed/JF have a couple days off, and so bring them in in the 8th, down by a run, as they need the work.

    Rosie scenario, for sure, but high potential for reality as well.

  • Matt in Richmond

    No, frankly, I don’t see what you mean. I still say bringing Reed in to that CRUCIAL game to face the heart of the Nats lineup was 100% the right move. Then once JF got warm with 2 runners on in the 8th it made more sense to bring him in than risk starting the 9th with someone else and having to
    warm him up a 2nd time if trouble developed. Of course anyone would acknowledge that we have guys capable of securing 4 run leads other than those 2. But in that circumstance it was the right move, and hey, it worked perfectly. We got that win, then doubled up with a “house money” win yesterday.

    My advice: let’s enjoy this roll we’re on and stop looking for problems where none exist

  • Dennis

    Still not sure what the debate STILL is with the use of Reed/Familia on Sunday. They won that game and won yesterday without them, giving them the rest that everyone is so concerned about. Collins is doing a great job managing a hobbled team in a pennant race. This should be enjoyed. Anyone remember September baseball 2009 through 2014?

    • Dave

      Can I get a AAAAAyyy-men? If it worked, don’t keep debating it, move forward. I admit that I figured this team was toast a few weeks ago, so let’s just enjoy wherever this takes us, and give full credit where it’s due. As a renowned 20th century philosopher said once, it ain’t over ’til it’s over, and as another one reminded us, Ya Gotta Believe. This could be 73 all over again.

      • Pete In Iowa

        It’s amazin’ (to coin a phrase) how much this IS looking like ’73. Mets playing their best ball of the season while other most competitors are collapsing around them. My God, look at the mess the Giants have become, not to mention that the Pirates & Marlins have exactly one win in their last 16 games COMBINED! Yikes!
        Number 1 wild card is very much in play.
        LGM!!!!

  • Mikey

    incredible that we just keep winning despite the injuries and a patchwork starting staff.

    the only thing that tempered my excitement yesterday was watching the Pirates’ pitchers implode against the Cards. Wow, Jeff Locke is just awful. And Gyorko continues to be a Jerko. but hey, the Giants are stumbling now too and only 1.5 games separates the three teams. we might have meaningful September baseball right up until we have meaningful October baseball.

  • Gil

    Don Bartolo looks awfully lively in these late season games. The man is unflappable. Young guns going down with fatigue, soreness, blah blah blah, Don Bartolo gets up there and cocks the ball at his ear and just lets er rip with very simple mechanics as he throws one of his 25 different fastballs and he just keeps winning games. Don’s neck also looks like the neck of someone who plays right guard. What a beast.

    Also, Jay Bruce has gotten some hits lately! I think I saw him smile during a game. Much better than screaming into your batting helmet after missing a changeup by 4 feet. Couple nice plays out there in right too, minus the throw from last night.

    Keep going boys! LGM!

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Wilmer getting thrown out twice trying to stretch hits simply adds to his legend. He is what he is, and he will always be a favorite of Mets fans and he’ll be there for us.

    I think the Reds can be summed up into what happened in the bottom of the 6th. With the Mets leading 2-0, Iribarren (who?) leads off with a triple. Peraza (who?) hits a line drive to right field. Jay Bruce throws the ball over d’Arnaud’s head and Iribarren never left third base. Colon gets a couple of foul pops with a walk to Votto in between, and the Reds never score.

    Let’s hope the same Reds show up the next two days.

  • DAK442

    Are the travel concerns just a little bit overblown? They hit the rack at 3 AM, and slept until 11. Eight hours’ sleep should be enough, especially factoring in airplane naps.

    • Dave

      My understanding is that the plane landed at 3 (I also heard 3:30). Get off the plane, get everybody on the buses, get to the hotel and then get everyone checked in and up to their rooms, and then for a 1:00 game I sure hope that no one was still asleep at 11…they were probably taking BP by then. Sounds like a lot less than 8 hours of shuteye to me, and some people can sleep on a plane, some can’t. Everyone presumably all good and rested by game time tonight. Expanding the 25 man roster to what seems like about 71 players should help too. This is the most all-hands-on-deck September callup I’ve ever seen the Mets do…more evidence that the organization’s mindset is all-in.

  • Matt in Richmond

    You’re fudging the numbers. They got to the hotel around 3. When knows what time they actually got to sleep. Then i believe they got to the ballpark around 11 meaning they probably woke up between 9-10. I bet they avaraged 5 hours or so.

    The bigger issue is why is mlb putting them through this. It’s not only unfair to the players, it’s competitively bogus and produces a poorer product for the fans.

    • Pete In Iowa

      You don’t know why MLB is putting them (and other teams, BTW) through this??
      M-O-N-E-Y. And no doubt, many fans are screwed by the Sunday “flex” as well – changing plans, late night concerns with work/school the next day, etc.
      Not rocket science here.

      • Matt in Richmond

        I understand why there are Sunday prime time “flex” games…and the players agreed to them. I don’t understand why the 1:00 start time couldn’t have been pushed back. Not sure what negative financial consequences that would have had.

        • Pete In Iowa

          Well I don’t know for sure whether changing the Monday start time would have been an MLB or Reds call. Intuition tells me it would have been up to the Reds to make that call. I can see two reasons for not changing:
          1) A competitive advantage over the travelling Mets; and
          2) Maybe the Reds are the rare major sports enterprise which respects their fans and didn’t like the idea of changing the start time on a holiday on very short notice which would no doubt have caused problems/conflicts with those who had already purchased tickets expecting a 1:00 start.
          BTW, was only referring to the money reference concerning Sunday “flex” games, which are purely done for the sake of TV cash. Switching Monday’s game would have no monetary effect that I could see, other than the very real risk of annoying paid customers expecting an early game AND early arrival home after said early game (with school and work the next day).

  • mikeL

    i sometimes have my best mornings on absurdly little sleep *if* there’s a good reason to be up (like skiing deep powder on 1hr sleep after 5hrs of white knuckle driving)…it’s always the day after when the body hits the wall…so, the B-squad can rest tonite while the A-team picks ’em up!

    resting starters and closers didn’t scare me.
    these mets are on a mission from (baseball) god!
    they’ve saved their best ball for the minth when so many mighty have fallen…flat.

    like the tortoise, this team appears poised to finsh strong, if battered, one-legged and short-handed.
    in a week, our guys may have very well run away from SF and stL…and then the sniping around here will be about the mathematics of inevitable COLLAPSE! that’s a luxury for us!
    LGM

  • eric1973

    Guys, just because you win the game does not mean you do not try to better yourselves. Yesterday proved you can close these games with others just fine.

    That strategy will work in the future as well. Let’s not be lemmings. Let’s be leaders and do what is right.

    Can I get an ‘AMEN?’

    • Matt in Richmond

      eric my man, you have got to let this one go. Yesterday did not prove anything we didn’t already know. Nobody was doubting that we have other relievers capable of closing out games decided by 1 run or 10. Surely you must see the enormous differences in Sunday’s game and Monday’s game. The 8th inning of the deciding game vs DC, with the heart of their order coming up, was a time to go with option A.

      End of story.

      Amen and Hallelujah.

      Can I get a witness?

  • Rob E.

    The strategy they used already worked! They won both games and have a rested bullpen and lineup. They achieved the best possible outcome. What needs to be improved here (that happened in the last two games)?

  • Lenny65

    This is all very peculiar and I never should have expected anything else. I dunno, but I’m starting to feel like they redeemed the season somewhat already, being jacked about my Mets on Sept. 7 isn’t something that happens all that frequently. Goddamned weirdest season I’ve ever seen.

  • eric1973

    Ditto, man. They win no matter what. And they called up so many guys, and the funny thing is that many of them have been starters for portions of the year, and so already have some experience, and we are very familiar with most all of them.