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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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Don't Worry, I've Got a Plan

Baseball is a lot like life. The line drives are caught, the squibbles go for base hits. It’s an unfair game.

That’s the best-known saying of one of Western thought’s foremost philosophers, the esteemed R. Edwin Kanehl. For those 21 words contain a multitude. You can use them as a lens for examining the lives of kings and commoners, the affairs of states and faiths and the slowly turning wheels of histories and economies. You’ll invariably find perspective in them and sometimes comfort — though occasionally you’ll have to settle for grudging acceptance.

They’re even useful for appraising baseball.

Take Monday night’s baffling, befuddling and ultimately entertaining Mets win over their neighbors from Philadelphia. From the Mets’ perspective, a whole lot of squibbles went for hits and a bunch of enemy line drives were caught. Unfair? Hell no. It was lovely — so long as we remember that the next time we’re the ones left fuming and fluttering agitated hands over the sheer injustice of it all.

Settle in — this is going to take a while, as things so often do playing in this park.

Jacob deGrom found that his pitches were sailing and had to call audibles from the get-go. When the first inning ended, the Phillies were up 2-0. One of those runs deserved an asterisk, as Curtis Granderson broke the wrong way in center (outfield defense again) but deGrom walked off looking perplexed and wary, as if surprised things had turned out as well as they had.

He’d have been forgiven a stinker after that — forget it, Jake, it’s Citizens Bank — but fortunately deGrom has a knack for improvisation. Shorn of his arsenal, stuck with a subpar defense and acutely aware of his bandbox surroundings, he still scuffled and scrambled and figured stuff out.

The Mets halved the deficit on Jay Bruce‘s home run — more on him in a bit — and then tied it via another unlikely sequence. In the seventh, Bruce broke from first with none out and a full count on Granderson, who smacked an innocuous grounder to Cesar Hernandez‘s right at second. If Bruce hadn’t broken it would have been a double play, but Hernandez stumbled into the ball on the backhand, then turned and made an awkward throw across his body. The ball eluded young Brock Stassi at first, sending Bruce to third. The Mets had somehow converted nothing into something, with Neil Walker asked to cash in.

Which wasn’t necessarily ideal. Walker’s been terrible so far in 2017, eaten up by breaking pitches. And, indeed, Jerad Eickhoff got to 0-2 on a pair of curveballs, prompting Cameron Rupp to call for a high fastball to change Walker’s eye level and speed up his bat as preparation for another breaking ball. Good idea, except Eickhoff threw the fastball shoulder-high instead of eye-high, allowing Walker to lift it into the outfield for a sacrifice fly and a tie game.

So could the Mets hold the fort? It seemed in doubt as Josh Smoker allowed a pair of two-out runners in the bottom of the inning, forcing Jerry Blevins to be called on.

Blevins threw one pitch — or rather he Duda’ed it, shot-putting it between Travis d’Arnaud and the on-deck circle. Disaster, except d’Arnaud somehow snagged it and hurled it to second, behind Hernandez. Well, that was the idea anyway — instead d’Arnaud tried to throw it into center field. Disaster, except Asdrubal Cabrera somehow gloved that and threw to first, behind Howie Kendrick. Kendrick regarded Lucas Duda glumly until he was tagged out, then trudged away wondering what exactly had just happened. I couldn’t exactly blame him — I was trying to catch up myself.

Cabrera was then present for a bit of a contretemps. Edubray Ramos greeted him with a fastball behind the head, prompting some intramural barking and hard looks followed by the oh yeah moment of realization: Ramos was the luckless Phillie on the mound when Cabrera connected last September to deliver 2016’s best win and unleash an epic bat flip. He hadn’t forgotten, though Cabrera (entertainingly) professed not to have connected Ramos with That Guy From Last Fall.

I get why Cabrera was peeved — hitters generally accept a retaliatory ball in the ribs or butt but fuss about one near the head. But I also get why Ramos felt it was his duty to make his displeasure known. The happy prejudices of fandom blind us in such situations, so it’s instructive to do a mental uniform exchange and be honest about your likely reaction. For Cabrera, sub Maikel Franco; now make Hansel Robles the witness of a bat turned airliner instead of Ramos. In that mirror world, I suspect I would have winced at the altitude of Robles’s pitch but also probably tweeted something like “that’s right, we remember.” Cabrera’s bat flip was fine — this game’s supposed to be fun, dammit — but so was having Ramos retort in their next meeting.

On the other hand, the eighth inning of a tied game isn’t the best time for pointed messages. A perhaps-flustered Ramos walked Cabrera, meaning he was on base when Joely Rodriguez left a curve ball up to Bruce. He hammered it into the stands for a 4-2 Met lead. Yep, Jay Bruce. The same guy who arrived in a baffling trade that blew up the second-base plan, proved untradeable over the winter and is now the oddest-shaped Jenga piece in the Mets’ teetering tower of a logjammed outfield.

There’s a lot to criticize about that process, and one hot week doesn’t invalidate that — but Bruce is a decent fellow and a Met, so my nightly hope is that he makes my moaning and complaining look foolish. At least for a night he did exactly that; may he continue to do so.

But of course the drama wasn’t done — it never is here. Blevins got into trouble in the eighth, allowing a pair of one-out baserunners and ushering in Robles, who’s been even less reliable than usual so far this year. “I have a bad feeling about this,” I muttered on Twitter, and found no shortage of fellow travelers in my timeline. Robles took the ball and we all held our breaths.

So of course Robles immediately coaxed a double play from Rupp. Rarely has the sight of a massive leadfooted catcher making 90 feet look like 900 been such a welcome sight.

We still weren’t done. It was quickly apparent that Addison Reed had reported for ninth-inning duty unarmed — his control was off and his pitches lacked bite. Stassi — still hitless in his big-league career — extracted seven pitches from Reed before hitting the eighth over the fence, which I had to admit was pretty cool … provided the Mets won, of course. With one out Daniel Nava singled (uh-oh all over again), but Hernandez flew out and Reed struck out Kendrick on pitches that might have been slightly above and below the canonical bounds of the strike zone.

(Howie Kendrick’s favorite night playing baseball? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it wasn’t this one.)

So, to review: deGrom had nothing and improvised madly, Smoker was ineffective, Blevins got a W largely because of throwing one pitch that missed the catcher by several feet, Robles surprised us all by doing something right, and Reed had nothing but walked away with the save. And your scoring was built on a misplay, a flubbed pitch location, a bit of ill-advised pique and two homers from the guy who was recently available in exchange for any reasonable fringe prospect.

I wouldn’t recommend that as a blueprint for success, in baseball or anything else. But you know what? It worked just fine. Sometimes squibbles are your best friends.

21 comments to Don’t Worry, I’ve Got a Plan

  • eric1973

    Throughout Jay Bruce’s Met career, the idea of Jay Bruce has always been better than the actual Jay Bruce. If he plays just average, what a bargain.

    Just beginning to exhale after Robles’ appearance. He is a key this season, and needs to build upon that.

  • Matt in Richmond

    To anyone who properly uses the longview to analyze baseball there is nothing surprising about Bruce’s start. Yeah he struggled to acclimate to NY, but it’s like everyone forgot that he was a perennial borderline All-Star who was leading the league in HR and RBI when we picked him up. He’s always been streaky so I’m sure a cold spell will come at some point, but this is totally normal and predictable Jay Bruce production. And thank God. We’d be in the toilet without him.

    If Robles can reproduce his excellent 2016 (3.48 ERA, 10K/9) or possibly take another stride forward, we have one of the best and deepest pens in baseball. I know as fans we tend to panic at the first sign of trouble and see dark omens everywhere, but Familia, Reed, Salas, Blevins, Robles stacks up with anyone.


    • I’m sticking to my Jay-Bruce-as-Ray-Knight conceit…

    • Rochester John

      I agree about the bullpen, Matt. During most of the pitcher’s duels we’ve played so far, I find myself hoping to just keep it tied until both starters are forced out by pitch counts. Then I’ll take my chances against any other bullpen.

  • As for Reed’s strikeout finale, Kendrick has nobody to blame but himself. He let at least 2 crushable pitches sail right by without moving the bat.

    PS — with Reed and Salas gassed, your closer tonight is none other than Hansel Robles.

  • Dennis

    Many fans (unrealistically and unfairly) expect these players to perform like robots, not comprehending that a change of familiar scenery and teammates (in Bruce’s case over 8 seasons) can have an effect on their performance with a new team/city/teammates. After a couple of months and a full spring training, maybe Jay Bruce has become comfortable with the team and his surroundings. While its still too early in the season to tell if he will go on to have one of his big seasons like he did for the Reds from 2010-2103 (averaged 30 HR’s), it’s nice to see him get off to a great start and contribute like he has. I certainly will be rooting for him.

  • 9th string catcher

    Lost in the sauce was a terrific hustle play by Bruce to cut off Navo’s hit from turning into a double and potential 1 out RISP. I’d say Bruce’s night was the anti-Kendrick.

    • Gio

      That was a stunning play. Underappreciated – you’re right – but very, very clutch to hold the runner to a single.

    • Pete In Iowa

      Absolutely right. A big play for sure to keep the tying run at first, especially with Reed not being sharp. Nothing like seeing a guy hustle and do his job.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    A few takeaways from last night:

    After the 1st inning, the ball bounced the Mets way.

    Let’s enjoy Jay Bruce while he’s hot. Hopefully, when he slows down a few others will pick him up. Do you hear me, Yoenis?

    They could play the entire 8 minute version of Don McLean’s American Pie by the time it takes Cameron Rupp to run 90 feet.

    Jose needs to sit for a couple of days and get Wilmer or TJ into the lineup.

    How often do you see a confrontation between guys named Asdrubal and Edubray?

  • Ken

    Yes, Terry Collins should give TJ Rivera a start at third base. And, I’d like to see Michael Conforto get another start in center field before Juan Lagares returns, sometime next week.

  • Gil

    Give me Flores at 2 and TJ at 3 and Conforto in center!
    every caller on WFAN today (and maybe, just maybe me too)

  • LeClerc

    I appreciate the Chinatown reference.

    And another successful hit-and-run !

    And Blevins getting a W by throwing one ball to a hot dog vendor !

  • Eric

    d’Arnaud (maybe due to his injury history?) throws poorly but he’s an elite pitch framer. Reed’s last pitch was borderline at best and d’Arnaud sleight of handed it onto the plate.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Right before I began my commute home in the top of the 8th, I texted some buddies, “I wasn’t expecting to say this 7 games into the season, but I’m glad Bruce is up here.” Then, 10 minutes after screaming and cheering myself hoarse, I passed a sign for the Bruce Museum off Exit 3 on I-95 and belted out a BROOOOOOOOOOSE one more time.

    2 games came to mind: 1999 NLDS Game 1 when I thought to myself, “I can’t really expect Fonzie to homer AGAIN, can I?”, and the late April 2015 game in Miami where Murphy hit the 3-run homer off Cishek in the 9th; a game that felt so huge in the moment, but became an unfortunate afterthought by season’s end.

  • JS1056

    I had to watch the Phillies broadcast. Kruk and McCarthy went nuts when Ramos threw the ball over Cabrara. Before Bruce got up, Kruk called it selfish and mistimed not to mention you should never through at the head. Then Bruce hit the homer and he was beside himself.

    Kruk went on to say that he needs to look in his own dugout since Odubel Herrera bat flips after a pop up. He noted his hat tip after the first inning single. He said Cabrara’s was a walk off homer in a playoff race, and while he doesn’t like the flip anytime, he can understand it there.

    After the game, Kruk continued his criticism of Ramos.

    • Ken K. in NJ

      Thanks for the tip. Usually I find Kruk annoying, but good for him. My pregame warmup after dinner will be to watch that on MLB-TV.

  • Curt

    In the 8th I had to do a doublecheck to make sure there wasn’t a uniform swap.

    The Phillies loss was so Metsian. Seriously – you outhit your opponent 10-4 but let them off the hook repeatedly. You give them a run with a bad throw to tie it. Your pitcher gets caught up in something not related to winning the game and walks the guy who scores the go-ahead run. Then with 2 on you run yourself out of an inning in a goofy manner which I still don’t know whether to call bad luck, bad baserunning or a combination of both. Took me back to the years between Tom Seaver and Keith Hernandez.

    Fun when it happens to the other guy . . .

  • eric1973

    Asdrubal and Edubray?
    I just thought it was Dick Cavett doing Anagrams.

    Don’t recall Robles inspiring confidence last year. TC relied more on the worthless G-men, Gilmartin and Goedell. And this year, until yesterday, it was the two fat Joshes.