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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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Not Emotionally Tall Enough for This Attraction

That’s what I was thinking in the 10th inning, with the Mets trying everything in their bag of tricks to keep the Braves from winning the game and kicking them — let’s hope temporarily — out of the second wild-card spot. I’m not sure I’m emotionally tall enough to ride this attraction.

In the early going, Saturday night’s game looked like it would be another blissful stop on the Mets’ suddenly magical journey. In the first, with one out and a runner on first, the Braves pulled off the remarkable feat of inducing three consecutive double-play balls and converting them into two enemy runs. They made errors, they didn’t challenge when they had a case, they did everything but dip the game in gilt and hand it over.

Unfortunately, they weren’t feeling so generous after that. Former Met farmhand John Gant pitched well despite being treated shabbily by his teammates, and Bartolo Colon was imperturbable as always but not untouchable.

Still, all seemed well: in the fifth, with the score tied at 2-2, Yoenis Cespedes connected. At the moment of contact I wasn’t sure the ball was out, but my opinion was less important than Cespy’s. He went into a classic slugger’s Cadillac trot as the ball sailed into the night, promising happy endings and a Sunday bounce in our stride.

But then it always feels that way during a walk-on-water winning streak, up to the moment everything changes.

Matt Kemp retied the game with a bolt into the stands that Cespedes barely bothered looking at, and then it was a battle of the bullpens, with first blink determining the winner.

Not to kick the hornets’ nest, but Terry Collins detractors have what strikes me as evidence for the prosecution: with two outs in the eighth and a bench population to rival that of a small village, Terry left the go-ahead run dependent on the less-than-winged heels of Wilmer Flores. Terry’s decision to pinch-hit T.J. Rivera for Friday night hero Kelly Johnson came up aces, as the minor-league batting champ stroked a single, but Wilmer was rounding third like a mammoth in a tar pit and A.J. Pierzynski was waiting at home with the ball and uh-oh. The list of Mets who would have been safe … well, let’s just say it’s long. Wilmer was not safe, not in the sense of scoring a run and not in the sense of avoiding bouncing his head off Pierzynski’s leg. Tie game, still.

The game ground on. Hansel Robles found his way past Kemp; Jerry Blevins was blameless; on the other hand, the Cardinals had won and the Giants were winning. In the tenth, Erik Goeddel came in and I felt something I hadn’t experienced in a week or so: doubt.

It’s probably unfair to observe that Goeddel looks a bit like Aaron Heilman. It may also be untrue, and I’m just projecting. Goeddel gave up a sharp single to Dansby Swanson, a Brave I’d hoped wouldn’t start breaking our hearts until 2017, followed that with a hit-the-Bull-level wild pitch, then surrendered a single to Pierzynski, who threw up his arms in celebration.

The veteran was the one who was overeager; Swanson’s just a kid but he obeyed his third-base coach and didn’t test Cespedes’s arm. Goeddel, to his mild credit, fanned Tyler Flowers, then departed in favor of Josh Smoker, who pitched with Ty Kelly summoned from the outfield to play whatever the position of awkward extra guy is called. (How about Awkward Extra Guy?)

Ender Inciarte has an ill-omened name, as my blog partner noted on Twitter. Ender’s also got game. This is where I got to worrying not just about the Mets, but also about myself and my ability to endure more thrills and chills.

But Smoker coaxed a pop-up from Ender and my goodness, it looked like the Mets were going to get out of it. Hooray the Mets! We’re resilient, courageous, indefatigable, unstoppable, unbeatable! Perhaps Jay Bruce would be the hero — he’s got to be one of these days, right? Or maybe James Loney would prove a trifle faster than the departed, hopefully not concussed Wilmer. Or who knows, Rivera or Kelly might…

Except Adonis Garcia — whom you may remember from this melancholy affair — rapped a single through the suddenly (and perfectly sensibly) less-crowded infield, and that was that. It was cruel, in a way that Inciarte beating out a ground ball or hitting a sac fly or dropping a ball over the infield frankly wouldn’t have been. But then you had to figure Turner Field had one more set of ghostly chains to rattle before its unlamented end. Let’s just hope it’s the not-so-old rattletrap’s last thing that goes bump in our night.

And if you don’t believe in ghosts, well, baseball’s cruel whatever the venue. If you didn’t know that before, you know it now. Like all of us, you’ll forget it during the next charmed-life winning streak. That’s OK — you’ll be reminded.

33 comments to Not Emotionally Tall Enough for This Attraction

  • Matt in Richmond

    I’m not going to argue with you about pinch running for Flores. That would have been a reasonable time to do it, and could have won the game. On the other hand, how often does a team pinch run, not get the run home, then lament losing that bat later in the game? It’s just another one of those classic baseball conundrums where there is no definite right or wrong move.

    Of greater concern to me is this diving into home nonsense. Can someone please put a stop to it?!!! Wilmer is really lucky he didn’t separate a shoulder or get a concussion or any number of other horrific and TOTALLY unnecessary injuries. Can’t the coaches simply outlaw this practice? Institute a 10K fine for anyone who goes headfirst into home.

    Big picture wise with TC, I enjoyed hearing Keith gently chastise the Mets manager’s detractors while giving him some much deserved praise. I’m fully on board with fellow commenter Dennis’s observation that if the Mets do manage to qualify for the postseason it’s hard to see anyone else as deserving for MOY honors.

    LGM

    • Pete In Iowa

      “Classic baseball conundrum where there is no definite right or wrong move?”
      Geez, even Collins himself admitted he blew it and did the wrong thing. And his explanation was a real classic — he wasn’t (or anyone else in the brain trust for that matter) “thinking about” putting in a pinch runner. Huh?? It was the FIRST thing I thought of when Wilmer stroked a double with 2 out!
      Look, we can chew all day long about conundrums and the like, but the simple reality here is that it is awfully discouraging to know our skipper did not even “think” about using a runner there. After all, we’ve only got about 15 guys right now who would have been a better option in that spot. Which, by the way, evokes another question. Who is the fastest guy in our entire system and why wasn’t he included in the mass call-ups who could have been used in just this exact spot? After all, even with our 37 player crowd in the dugout, we still have room for three more. It’s an advantage afforded by the roster changes on Sept. 1 and many teams have done exactly this to take full advantage of this (ridiculous) rule.
      Bullpen use, pinch runners and the like in my mind boil down to one thing and one thing only — what is the BEST option to give you the best chance to win? You can’t worry about what MIGHT happen later in the game (which may not even happen) — you have to live in the here and now, especially given the vital importance of putting away a winnable game like this in a September pennant race.
      There is no doubt in my mind (and Collins’ as well, BTW) that there were copious better options than having Flores remain in the game in that particular spot.
      Would someone else have scored?? Maybe not, but that’s not the point. The point is you have to go with your BEST option, whether that happens to work out or not.

      • Jacobs27

        I respect Collins for his candor, but you’re right: it is really distressing how often his explanation for not making a move is that he didn’t think of it. The way Collins himself tells it, it’s as if he doesn’t anticipate. As if somehow the game were going too fast for him.

        In addition, I think the Manager of the Year award is kind of silly to begin with. It has no real clear or objective criteria and certainly doesn’t seem to track anything like talent (look at Matt Williams). I don’t understand the line of reasoning that says if the Mets make the post-season, Terry Collins should earn MoY. So, I think I get part of it. In the abstract if a team perseveres in the face of crippling injuries, the manager deserves some credit. True. And I actually do think Collins’ post-game rant contributed to re-galvanizing this team. But their making or not making the post-season depends on so many contingencies that the manager has nothing at all to do with. Terry Collins doesn’t become a better or worse manager depending on how the Cardinals play down the stretch. It really shouldn’t even be in the conversation.

        I think the same is true for MVP voting. Whether the player’s team makes the postseason or is mired in last ought to be irrelevant (except insofar as it gives the player opportunities to come through in key spots with high stakes). And yet MVP voters routinely act as if it matters, as if a good player on a good team is somehow more valuable than a good player on a bad team (when, in fact, the opposite may be true, to some extent). Makes no sense.

      • Jacobs27

        The booth is being very classy about Collins’ taking the blame, which is nice to hear. Collins certainly does deserve credit for that.

  • Jacobs27

    Had to lose one eventually. The key is shaking it off. I think this team can do it. Unfortunately for Wilmer, thats will take a few days at least.

    For the record, Terry Collins said mea culpa on not pinch running there. I think he’s right. With the sprawling September bench, that was the move. There were enough faster Mets and solid bats to replace Flores and give us a better chance there.

    The diving into home is an instinctive play, hard to get rid of. But there’s no question a foot-first slide is much safer, especially if you’re anticipating a collision.

  • eric1973

    Terry doesn’t do pinch-running, except when he uses our starting pitchers, and Matz was unavailable. Geez. He did not pinch run for Cabrera at third the other night and it did not cost him. 

    Glad to see Terry’s favorite hard-on is back, Erik Goedell, to torture us once again. The ‘Suck Patrol’ is back in business. Interesting to see the announcers chiding Terry for only using Robles for one batter, and then winding up giving all this face time to Goedell. 

  • Matt in Richmond

    I knew someone would get bent out of shape about Goeddel. It bears noting that inning got started with Swanson hitting a 2 strike pitch virtually off the dirt for a clean single. Sometimes instead of blaming your guy for not getting the job done, the right approach is tipping your cap to the other guy. Swanson is a legit talent (1st overall pick) and showed why there. I had no problem with the bullpen last night. Can’t win em all.

  • eric1973

    Obviously not about Goedell, but how we got to that point. The minor leaguer didn’t put himself in the game. Guess Ynoa was not available.

    Smoker or JF should have started the inning, but I guess it is not a crucial-enough game. Used Reed, though, but then lost his train of thought, and put in a lesser talent.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Yes, Terry admitted he should have pinch run for Wilmer, but that doesn’t get him off the hook. He said he was “distracted” by thinking about pitching matchups. Really? Especially with Reed slated to pitch 8th? And bench coach didn’t remind him–or did he wave him off. Cost them the game. No biggie.

    And there are some who still defend Sandy for not picking up another major league reliever, and now we see the parade of minor leaguers pitching in key spots–when it’s been clear all year the Mets need more quality (note that word) depth than any team in baseball with not a single pitcher who can go 8 innings on the team all year and now minor leaguers also making up most of the starting rotation. Been clear for months that can not count on Henderson. I know some love Smoker–with his 5.40 era (even without getting charged last night) and 3 HRs allowed in 10 innings.

    And also with that in mind, crazy to waste Robles for 1/3 of inning last night and then Blevins for 2/3, thus guaranteeing the parade of non-entities. Could have gotten 3 innings total out of them instead of 1.

  • 9th string catcher

    The thing I’ve been wondering about is, how did the Braves lose so many games? A lot of tough hitters in that lineup, a whole lot of home runs. And, yep, should have pinch run in that spot. The team was due for a loss – get back on the horse and create a new streak. LGM!

  • LeClerc

    The time is coming soon to put Jay Bruce’s picture on a milk carton.

  • GroteFan

    Eric-
    What do you mean that Terry “doesn’t do pinch running?”
    Is he unable to? Told by the Wilpons not to? Do the players refuse to go in if told to pinch run….?
    Or do you mean that as the worst manager in baseball, he just cannot figure out how to do it?
    Again, guys cannot find seats in the dugout because it’s so dad gum crowded and he cannot find a player to run?
    Full Disclosure-I despise this guy as a major league manager-if you couldn’t tell.
    Don’t they talk about this in anticipation of situations?
    Ok, with two outs and players x, y, z, on 2nd, do we consider pinch running, and if so who do we use?
    Ugh…..

  • Greg Mitchell

    And by the way, hats off to Dodgers manager for bravely pulling Hill after 7 innings even with perfect game, mindful of his blister woes which have cost him much of season. Unlike some managers he used his head not his heart and made safe move with future games and the team in mind.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Wow! All of these wins. This epic storm back into contention. And then 1 extra inning loss and it’s back to the manager sucks. I remain completely baffled as to how a presumably intelligent human being can on the one hand give absolutely no credit to the man for all of the good things and then utterly lambaste him the minute something goes wrong. Just a mindset that I will never be able to relate to.

    On to the specifics. It first must be mentioned how utterly hilarious it is to hear people talking about Robles as if he is Mariano Rivera now that there is a situation that fits their anti Terry rhetoric. Pinch runner for Wilmer? Again, I can totally see the argument for it, I just wish people would stop acting like it is a slam dunk black or white decision. That seems to ignore the fact that there were two outs with a pretty unproven rookie coming up to hit. As it turned out, that could have won the game, but there are actually many more scenarios where that could have hurt us by taking away one of our best bats (our #1 vs LHP) for extras.

    In fact…those of you jumping up and down on TC need to look at the logic behind what you are saying. On the one hand when you question his pitching moves you are saying he burned through his best relievers too quickly and should have kept some in store to pitch deeper into extra innings. But then when you beat him up for not pinch running for Wilmer it’s like you completely forget about extra innings and want him to make an “all in” move.

    Ultimately, I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with you or TC on any of these moves. I’m just trying to perpetuate the notion that these moves are never as black and white as you guys sometimes act like they are.

  • 9th string catcher

    I definitely don’t bash TC – I often think if he was managing in 07 and 08 they might not have folded. But how many times does Flores have to get thrown out before you pinch run? Again, not trashing the coach, but that was the right move to make. It’s like pinch running for a catcher in that spot – fairly straightforward.

  • Eric

    The just-enjoy-it, don’t-try-to-understand-it nature of this Mets run was highlighted again in the Braves series by the Mets winning the games that Gsellman and Lugo started while losing the game started by mainstay Colon. Colon didn’t pitch poorly and kept his team in the game. It was like the National series where the Mets lost the game started by acting staff ace Syndergaard while winning the Gsellman and Lugo starts.

    For that matter, the Mets have won both of Montero’s starts.

    If/when deGrom and Matz are okay to pitch, they have to…right? But if it ain’t broke …

  • Rob E.

    Regarding Saturday’s game, it’s interesting to me that no one brought up the REAL crime….that Familia was on the bench the whole time. This is not a Terry Collins criticism, but a “baseball groupthink” criticism. ALL teams, when they are on the road, save their closer for a save situation. Half the time, like Saturday, the save situation never presents itself and you’ve left your best guy on the bench.

    The essence of “closing” applies to nine-inning games. Beyond that point there is nothing logical about NOT using your best guy. If a game is tied in the bottom of the ninth, the goal is to PERPETUATE the game. You can’t win it if you are the visiting team, so the most important thing is to keep the game tied. Your best chance of doing that is with your best pitchers. What EVERYONE does makes no sense, but it is accepted because EVERYONE does it. I’m surprised that all the guys who are so quick to criticize the manager whiffed on THAT meatball.

  • eric1973

    I mentioned it up there at 935am .

    That one was set up on a tee.

  • eric1973

    Then, like TC, I became ‘distracted,’ and so did not drive the point home.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Of course the only problem with that eric1973 is if TC used Familia in all the ways you have proposed (games we are losing, tie games on the road, etc) then he either would shatter the record for appearances or simply not be available for numerous saves. For the umpteenth time, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. As Keith said yesterday, nobody I’d rather have at the helm right now.

    • Jacobs27

      Hmm, maybe Keith is feeling some solidarity with Terry. After all, getting distracted is kind of right in Keith’s wheelhouse… zing!

  • eric1973

    Yeah, with all those “painkillers” he said he was apparently taking.

    My Word. LOL!

  • Matt in Richmond

    Yeah, and when it comes to knowing what it takes to be successful at the major league level, I’m more inclined to put my confidence in random fans than borderline HOFers.

    16-5 over our last 21. Poised to make the playoffs for 2nd straight year despite nearly unprecedented injury luck. My goodness. Someone must be asleep at the switch!!!

    • kdbart

      It’s quite easy to manage or coach from your couch at home. The moves you make are all in theory and never put to the test in an actual game. You can never be proven wrong.

      • Jacobs27

        It is easier to manage at home. But that doesn’t mean you can never be proven wrong. Unless you only make decisions after the fact. But that’s just cheating.

        Anyway, no one instance proves anything in baseball. The “right” move isn’t the one that happens to work, it’s the one that had the best chance of working given available information. The question is whether you have a sound logic for the moves you make. That’s just as possible from your couch as from the dugout. It’s just that, from your couch, you’re under much less pressure, have less to think about, and generally less information (or at least different information) than the guy in the dugout. You’re also not held accountable for your mistakes and don’t have to actually face-to-face manage people.

        What I’m saying is, yes, it’s easier, but you can be totally wrong from your couch.

    • Jacobs27

      I certainly don’t mean to imply otherwise with my quip about Keith’s inattentiveness, there. But you gotta admit, on the air at least, Keith’s more a lovable goofball who marches to his own drummer than a font of baseball wisdom. Or at least the baseball wisdom is mixed with a lot of stuff that just makes you chuckle or scratch your head (occasionally wince). It’s part of his charm!

      Plus, I mean, how often does Keith just completely miss something going on in the game because he’s thinking or talking about something else? It’s practically a trademark of his. He makes it all work in his own inimitable way. I’m not sure anyone but Keith could, or that even Keith could without Gary, etc. You know what I mean?

  • Matt in Richmond

    Sure, Keith has an absent minded charm to him. That doesn’t detract from the weight his opinion carries, particularly when it comes to what makes a successful team click. He won 2 WS with 2 different teams and played for some of the most revered managers ever.

    • Jacobs27

      Yeah, I agree with that, especially in this case. I think Keith actually was speaking from a place of thoughtful consideration there.

      As a general rule, though, I would take Keith’s (on air) judgment with a grain of salt. He’s got a lot of experience, but often doesn’t think things through very far and is pretty dogmatic. (By his own admission, to some extent. He does call himself a dinosaur.)

  • […] for leaving things be. Maybe not when your emergencyesque starter is melting down. Maybe not when the potential tying run is being carried by someone who just took his molasses pill. Maybe not at lots of moments when keen foresight or legitimate hindsight suggests […]

  • […] (Let’s stop and recall that Terry didn’t have Wilmer Flores because Wilmer got hurt in a collision at home plate in Atlanta, a collision that wouldn’t have happened if Terry hadn’t forgotten to pinch-run for him.) […]