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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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This Call to the Bullpen

Justice Potter Stewart, who slipped his colleague Harry Blackmun the 1973 equivalent of a Breaking News text alert while the United States Supreme Court and National League Championship Series were simultaneously in session — “V.P. Agnew just resigned!! Mets 2 Reds 0” — is probably best remembered for his concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio, a First Amendment case dealing with what was or wasn’t obscene material. The associate justice couldn’t offer a comprehensive definition, except to hold that the Constitution protects obscenity as free speech, unless it’s “hard-core pornography”.

Stewart’s guideline for what fell under that lurid heading was, depending on how you take your Bill of Rights, either good old common sense or so full of holes that it could constitute Swiss cheese. “I know it when I see it,” Stewart reasoned. Had the shrug emoji been invented, one gets the feeling he would have buttoned his thought with that single keystroke and then swiped back to MLB.com.

Potter Stewart sat on the high court for 23 years but was a hard-core Reds fan forever. Whatever he thought of Spiro Agnew, you can be sure he wasn’t thrilled by the other development that got his attention on October 10, 1973, the one that wound up Mets 7 Reds 2 with New York winning the pennant at the expense of his beloved Cincinnati. When he had a chance to catch up on the details, he must have been all SMH regarding the veritable turning point of decisive Game Five, wherein Reds third baseman Dan Driessen stepped on third for a force play that didn’t exist. Wayne Garrett doubled to lead off the fifth of what was by then a 2-2 contest. Felix Millan attempted to sacrifice him over. His bunt was fielded by Jack Billingham, who wheeled and fired to Driessen, then a rookie. Dan made a rookie mistake in not tagging Garrett. Wayne was safe. Felix was safe. Nobody was out. Soon enough, the Mets went in front, then way in front, then on their way to the World Series. It’s a reasonable standard to assume Stewart muttered a few constitutionally protected obscenities to himself over that turn of events.

It’s just as likely that Stewart, like any baseball fan, took outsize pleasure in what we shall, with the court’s indulgence, refer to as baseball porn. What is baseball porn? It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it and you feel it deeply.

Baseball porn is the batter who, instead of slamming down his bat and turning to the dugout, runs at full speed on a pop fly and lands on second when the fielder who catches that ball ninety-nine times out of a hundred misses it completely. It’s the lefty batter who, after being foiled so often by an overshift on the right side, bunts in the deserted direction of third base and is rewarded with a single. It’s the center fielder who grabs a ball off the wall with his back to the infield and displays the presence of mind to toss said ball to the nearby left or right fielder because his teammate is in much better position than he is to make a throw to keep the runner from taking third. It’s the runner who tags up from first on a deep fly to right; the runner on second who crosses to third on any kind of out; the hitter who answers a pitch up and in with a line drive through the box; the starter whose ongoing gem crashes the hundred-pitch limit and continues his outstanding work uninterrupted; the closer who comes on to get the key out before the ninth inning; and, when necessary, the manager who removes his closer during the ninth inning because roles and egos are not nearly as important as getting the final outs of a particularly crucial game.

By that last-listed standard, Terry Collins did some obscenely good managing on Friday night. His call to the bullpen, in which Josh Edgin was summoned to replace Jeurys Familia with the bases loaded, one out, the Mets leading the Nationals by two and Bryce Harper strolling to the plate, was certifiably steamy stuff. The skipper was not sticking to the book. Familia let three consecutive Nationals reach base before registering one out. If Jeurys didn’t carry the title of closer, there would have been no reason to leave him in to face one of the world’s most dangerous hitters. Terry opted to apply a common-sense standard to a situation that encompasses no definitive indisputable resolution.

Managerial strategy can serve as very fleeting baseball porn because the execution has to be as pleasing as the idea. If Edgin — rarely confused for a sure thing, but, like Harper, a lefty — doesn’t untangle Familia’s mess and preserve all the good the Mets had produced earlier (deGrom’s 12 Ks in 7 IP, d’Arnaud’s two Washington Monumental blasts and the five runs they delivered, Reyes’s slashing and speeding reincarnation of himself as Jose-Jose-Jose from 2006), then Collins’s move would have led to no more than a steaming pile of stuff. And you would have known it when you saw it.

The game was now on Collins’s head and Edgin’s arm. So was the opportunity to halt a horrible losing streak, reverse a Cespe-less malaise and, despite April not yet yielding to May, rescue the season. The last-place Mets were already 0-3 against the first-place Nats. You want to win your division, you better win some big games. None come bigger earlier than a game that’s 7-5 in the ninth, sacks full of opponents, your main reliever (and his setup man, for that matter) having let you down and your fate residing within the ability of one of your fringe southpaws. It was no wonder Gary Cohen set the scene by channeling Bob Murphy. “Fasten your seatbelts,” Gary suggested before breaking for commercial.

We braced for Bryce. Edgin threw ball one. Harper of the .400-plus batting average and .500-plus on-base percentage then fouled one off. The next pitch to the former and possibly future MVP was miraculously bounced back toward the mound. Josh grabbed it, flung it accurately to d’Arnaud for the force and then stood by while Travis relayed it to new first baseman T.J. Rivera to create a 1-2-3 game- and skid-ending double play. If a team not at bat can be said to have forged a walkoff win, this was it. The Mets didn’t break a tie and they didn’t storm from behind. They stayed from ahead. Sometimes that’s what you have to do.

And when you’ve done it the way these Mets did, you know how good it feels.

19 comments to This Call to the Bullpen

  • UpstateNYMetfan

    I didn’t expect to see Potter Stewart or Harry Blackmun in today’s comments, but I’m diggin’ it! And to T.C. and Josh E, to capture both the words and spirit of Harry Dunne from Dumb and Dumber…”Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this… and totally redeem yourself!” Nice job, fellas:)

  • LeClerc

    Degrom, D’Arnaud, Edgin. Reads like victory.

    The very best in-game decision Terry has ever made.

    Undeniably gutsy – because if Harper gets a walk-off hit, Collins’ name would have been mud in a NY minute with the twitterverse and sports media.

  • Greg Mitchell

    I was in the crowd the day of the Agnew resignation and Mets playoff win, out in right field. Went to get a dog and heard huge ovation, came back and saw Agnew announcement on scoreboard. What you leave off in your account of that 5th inning was that my hero Willie Mays was called on to pinch hit in fifth inning (!) with bases jammed and it was still 2-2. Willie did about what he could by then–hit a swinging bunt that went about 40 feet and plated winning run (his last ever such until the Series). As I recall, Tug then came in and pitched old school 4 innings for the “save.” Don Hahn finished the game in rightfield and waved to us as we kept chanting “Hahn-dough.”

  • Andrew Galvin

    Long windup. Excellent delivery.

  • mookie4ever

    Wow is all I can say. How is tiny TC able to lug those big brass ones around? I liked the move, so gutsy he matched his starter. This team has shown us time and again that they can get up off the mat and fight. All the positive signs we’ve been seeing (talking ourselves into?) last couple of games came to fruition. And Travis and Jacob, they are de’gamers. Good for them. Need to split that crown some nights. Jake just set his jaw in that grim way he has & said IDGAF you get no more. So of course Greg you were right when you told me, they are not dead yet. Believe.

  • eric1973

    Gutsy is not exactly the word I’d use for that. More like crazy, but it worked. Many of TC’s crazy pitching moves do not work out, and, like pornography, we know them when we see them.

    I’m all for removing JF when he is struggling, which we hopefully will see more often (the removal part, not the struggling), but Edgin had an angel on his shoulder last night. That move will fail most of the time, and I doubt we will ever see it again. We should see it again, but not with Edgin.

    Bryce was probably as shocked as I was.

  • 9th string catcher

    5 walks for the mets- step in the right direction. If the catcher, 2b, RF and catcher positions stop being automatic outs, we will win more than lose. TC with a good game last night – he wont always make the right call, but more often than not he will.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Kind of lost in the sauce was the fact that Harper was 0 for 4 with 4 strikeouts vs. Edgin. I was in and out from radio to TV in the 9th inning, so I forget who mentioned that, but one of the guys did.

    PS: Now it’s Reyes’ fielding that we have to worry about. He’s been awful and getting worse.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Reyes with another multi hit game…cautious optimism there

    TDA coming up huge again (anyone still think Rivera should get more playing time? anyone still ready to give up on Trav entirely?) You’ll made plenty of noise last year….

    TC demonstrating once again why I love him. He does not care about doing the “safe” thing. He’s willing to think outside the box and open himself to criticism if a creative plan doesn’t work. Big brass ones indeed.

    LGM

    • Jason Fry

      Matt, stop personalizing this stuff. Either by calling out specific fans or a subset who share a point of view you disagree with.

  • Curt

    As I watch Conforto steal a base in the 1st today, I’m wondering when we became a running team?

    I’ll give TC credit for that along with pulling Familia when he didn’t have it – and for deGrom getting the 7th inning. And with the dp we don’t have to wonder if Salas or Smoker would have been asked to finish the game.

    Nice to see Reyes swinging the bat like he’s actually swinging a bat rather than swatting at flies but his third base play is cringeworthy, and not improving.

    At least the bleeding was temporarily stopped. And credit to deGrom.

    • Eric

      For me, deGrom starting the 7th inning at over 100 pitches and finishing out with 112 pitches was the most promising takeaway from the game. It indicates he’s put to rest post-surgery concerns and related limitations have been taken off.

  • eric1973

    Yup, he shies away from balls he needs to cut off.

  • 9th string catcher

    4th and 5th innings should be instructional. 4th inning – despite another long inning for wheeler, Mets bats give SS a 10 pitch inning. 5th inning, Mets batters are selective, get on base, make SS work, score three runs. The offense affects the pitching – get the starter out of the game early and you’ve done your job.

  • Lenny65

    The Mets are on an unstoppable rampage! TWO wins IN A ROW! And even Jose Reyes contributed, apparently just to spite me! Go figure. Seriously though, I truly, truly hope this is merely the start of big, big things for Mr. Conforto, as he’s looking really sharp right now.

    • Eric

      That HR was a big insurance run with Zimmerman’s bomb off Reed.

      Good, clutch jobs by all out of the bullpen after another typically short Wheeler outing except Reed is now the one getting hit hard. Also conspicuous that Collins pitched Robles 2 innings and skipped Salas.

  • […] You didn’t know that Josh Edgin would ride a ninth-inning steed to Jeurys Familia’s rescue on Friday. You didn’t know that Zack Wheeler would get out of so many jams on Saturday that he’d merit an […]