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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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Damned When They Didn’t

It would have been nice had somebody gotten three outs without giving up three runs in the eighth inning of a Jackie Robinson Night celebration that rapidly deteriorated into, as a Twitter correspondent of mine so aptly put it, the Bummer of 42. Jacob deGromFernando SalasJerry Blevins…the Easter Bunny…whoever. That remains my takeaway ample hours after a postgame loaded down with ping-ponging recriminations.

DeGrom, dazzling almost without pause since a couple of early belts from Elijah the Passover Gopher, could have started the eighth, considering there is no confirmed scientific evidence that his right arm, unquestionably valuable as it is, was going to fall off for him having thrown a few more than 97 pitches.

Salas, whose right arm might have already fallen off (it’s amazing what they can do with CGI these days), could have been led away from the mound after surrendering a troubling two-out walk and an anxiety-inducing two-run homer.

Blevins, one of four lefties populating a bullpen so crowded that the manager doesn’t want to go there anymore (yet does, frequently), could have been the choice to face lethal lefty Christian Yelich. Instead, Blevins sat and Yelich did a very unChristian thing to Salas, sending one of Fernando’s pitches in the direction of Jerusalem, or at least Boca Raton.

My takeaway doesn’t matter. The Marlins did the taking away that mattered, taking away a 4-2 Mets lead and converting it into a 5-4 win for their own insidious Saturday Night purposes. DeGrom (7 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, THIRTEEN STRIKEOUTS and probably the best 2017 Met who has yet to wear The Crown) wound up with a no-decision after Terry Collins made one of his Terryble decisions — not necessarily terrible, just characteristically typical. He opted to protect the business limb of one of his tri-aces in the belief that pitches not thrown in April will preserve his viability for starts up the road. In doing so, he potentially sacrificed a win now for who knows what later. Making deGrom go one more inning, per the manager’s cranky explanation, might have destroyed the republic, or perhaps done untoward damage to a pitcher who needed to pay down the deduction on his Ramirezcare and have an ulnar nerve repaired.

Would one more inning have killed deGrom or at least made him untenable in the 2017 long-term? That’s not a rhetorical question. I really don’t know. I understand why Terry wants to proceed with caution. I also assume Terry wants to win, and winning behind a starting pitcher who’s been turning out the lights all night — thirteen frigging strikeouts! — seems the best bet to lay down in any South Florida fronton.

But the S.S. deGrom had sailed and Fernando Salas’s tugboat was again being asked to blow its horn with whatever fuel it had in its tank. It’s a seaworthy vessel, all right, so much so that the skipper takes it for a three-out cruise virtually nightly. Two-thirds of the journey was splendid. The last part washed ashore when Miguel Rojas walked, Giancarlo Stanton went deep and Yelich yanked Salas and the Mets into the depths of the deep blue sea.

Presumably Blevins had a good view of the wreckage as he trotted in after Salas’s seahorse was out of the barn.

There are no foolproof answers to, “What should have Terry done?” because hypotheticals refuse to contain them. There are educated guesses, though, and the ones that speculated, “Bring Salas in” and “Leave Salas in” probably needed to go back for more educating. The best answer was, “Win the freaking game,” an option that didn’t seem to top the manager’s priorities, but he’s got the whistle, the clipboard and practically the longest tenure in Met managerial history and I’m just some guy trying to figure out which 42 is which.

17 comments to Damned When They Didn’t

  • Jerryk

    The team is built around its young starters ( and Cespedes). Better take care of them and maybe prevent DL stints. Harvey and Wheeler have missed seasons. Matz is on the DL now,deGrom missed the end of last season. Be careful,be very careful.

  • Harvey Poris

    Collins should have brought in Blevins to face Yelich. That same night, Dave Roberts brought in 3 pitchers, each facing one batter, to protect the lead in the eighth. The last was the closer, Jansen who got the 4-out save.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Another option would have been for the Mets to score a F’n run or two in the 9th inning. It was 5-4 but they went down like it was 12-4. I got no beef with Collins on this one.

  • Curt

    I can only say I completely agree. With the way deGrom was slinging it Terry had to know what 99.99% of the world did – that there was a better chance of winning with him than Salas. Hernandez actually groaned on air when he saw Salas warming up. A choice between a win or saving a dozen pitches? (I’d have capped him at 110 or when a man got on, whichever came 1st.) Well, we have an extra dozen pitches. Somehow I think that will matter less for getting into the playoffs than the W. This one hurt.

    • Dennis

      Same here. I like Terry and think I he’s done a good job here, but I see no harm in letting him start the 8th. As you said, see how he goes; man gets on and you can pull him.Tough loss but time to regroup and get out with a 5-2 trip. LGM!

  • Eric

    Gotta give credit to Hernandez on the broadcast. He predicted the trouble with going to Salas in the 8th. He also defended pitching to Ozuna in the 16th inning, then Conley singled to left.

    I want to criticize Collins but his choices made sense in the big picture.

    In normal conditions, a better alternative would be deGrom starting the 8th inning with a 10-15 pitch cap and Blevins and Salas or Reed ready to take over at the 1st sign of trouble. But deGrom is one of the Mets’ multiply, freshly surgically repaired pitchers who’s a Cy Young award candidate … in between operations. Meanwhile, Salas has been a reliable set-up man since he was acquired last season and had been steady this season until yesterday’s game.

    Salas got 2 outs then lost his command all of a sudden and never got it back. Blevins, who ended the inning by striking out Bour with a wicked curveball, facing Yelich would have made sense. But pulling Salas after 2 outs and 1 walk would have been a quick hook for an until-then clockwork reliever.

    Then the game was tied. Was there a better option to pitch to Stanton? Robles? Blevins to the righty bat? Burn Reed in a tie game? The better option would have been to entice Stanton to fish and then hand the ball to Blevins for Bour after Stanton walked. Except Stanton hit Salas’ misplaced pitch over the CF fence where Ozuna had flied Robles’ misplaced pitch only to the warning track on Thursday.

    The problem is structural. The combined vulnerabilities that are already wearing out the team’s top relievers aren’t going away. Familia’s return will help but he’ll be over-used due to the same structural vulnerabilities: the Mets need to be careful with their surgically repaired aces regardless, the offense is feast or famine, and the middle relief is shaky. If Lugo and/or Matz come back, their usage will be careful, too. Added up, that means the team’s top relievers are on call all the time. Throw in an extra inning game, and an already tightly stretched bullpen snaps with the result of Salas’ fumes suddenly running empty against the middle of the Marlins line-up.

    Alderson has made good moves, not the least of which has been shoring up the bullpen with the likes of Salas. But like last season’s offensive droughts highlighted the failure to bring back Murphy from the National League championship team, if a worn-out bullpen sinks this season, that event will highlight the failure to bring back the innings-eating Colon.

    To make up for the domino effect of losing Colon, the Mets at minimum need Syndergaard to solve his blisters and torn fingernails and Gsellman to get on track in order to eat innings in order to save the bullpen for their surgically repaired fellow starters. Big leads more often would help save the bullpen, too.

  • I have a radical suggestion that goes against baseball tradition. I’m sure there will be more negative comments than positive, but here goes. Start your most rested middle reliever, when his spot comes up in the order, pinch hit. Then bring in DeGrom or Harvey, etc. This will save them 20-30 pitches and maybe they can pitch the 7th, 8th and even the 9th innings. Try it once or twice thru the rotation. It may fail, but maybe you should have your ace pitching late instead of early!

    • Even if your middle reliever gives up a couple of runs in the 1st-2nd inning, you have about 6 innings to come back with your ace pitching the next 6 innings, instead of a tiny chance in the 8th or 9th. Today’s rally was nice but kinda rare.

  • LeClerc

    Yes – odd as it may be to contemplate, the game was effectively given away as a ransom payment to increase the likelihood of more consistent success later on in the season. If that sounds convoluted – it is – but that’s Terry Collins’ calculus.

    Meanwhile…, how about Conforto batting lead-off, starting in CF against right-handed pitching ?

    With Familia, Matz, and Lugo back, Edgin and/or Montero can go somewhere else, and everybody else will have more room to breathe.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Terry may have already Henderson-ed Salas with 8 out of 12 games heaving the ball. Wasn’t that movie called “Terry and the Hendersons”?

  • eric1973

    Henry, it’s not a bad idea. We used to think taking out your starting pitcher after 6 innings was radical, and now it is accepted as normal, even if he is replaced by a poor middle reliever who naturally is ineffective.

    In order for your idea to work, the first two innings would need to be pitched by your 3 or 4 best relievers —- which we have —- most of the time. These are considered non-pressure innings, so you can throw in your “poor” middle relievers as well. Then your starters can pitch the 7th and 8th innings, and Familia in the 9th.

    The only problem is getting the players to buy into it psychologically, which is the problem with everything nowadays. Also, the hold-loss record would help determine the starting pitcher’s worth, rather than the win-loss record, which would piss off a lot of starting pitchers and their agents.

    • Yes I agree the starters would object but its worth a test run for a month or so. You would burn a bench player to pinch hit early, but imagine how everyone would copy it if it works! A manager without fear but with faith would try it! How cool would it be to see an ace pitching the 9th again, like Seaver, Gibson and Koufax!

  • Dave

    Here’s an idea. Mets win last night and this afternoon if Familia been man enough not to beat up his wife. Can’t blame that on TC.

    Mets need back end help in the pen, including a reliable long man. If Lugo and/or Matz were healthy, there might be a solution somewhere, but in the meantime, hope Sandy is working the phones.

    • Pete In Iowa

      The Mets can get all the “back end help in the pen” they want. The truth is if the starters are constantly babied to a five, six or seven inning limit, it won’t matter a whit. Under this scenario, the “back end” gets spent no matter how many guys you have.
      Any reasonable person would laugh at the suggestions that our boys had a better shot to win with Salas over DeGrom, and then Salas over Blevins vs. Yelich. BTW, I don’t buy the argument that if Blevins don’t get Yelich, what do you do with Stanton. That’s should be a non-starter — you don’t bring in a lefty specialist vs. a lefty hitter and figure he’s NOT gonna get the out!! And if he doesn’t get the out, leave him in the game. There’s certainly no law against that!

  • Joey C

    Another radical pitching idea: Steven Matz goes to the bullpen for a reliable two innings a few times a week. The guy has shown he cannot start an entire season. I think this is really a better usage of him than 2 to 3 months of five-inning starts before he’s off the field again. We may be able to get the rest of the season out of him this way. Admittedly, it’s radical, but only because it addresses a situation no one wants to confront publicly.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Hear hear Dave. Exactly what I’ve been saying.

  • New post up regarding Sunday’s debacle here. Please direct relevant comments there.