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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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The Most Wilmer Flores Game Ever

I mean, what else could you call it? The Mets’ most lovable misfit toy, who’s 25 years old chronologically but about 700 in Mets-drama years, was repeatedly front and center in this one … in good ways and bad.

Wilmer Flores collected three hits, all off the righties he’s not supposed to hit, the last of which came within a whisker of turning a deflating loss into a dramatically tied-and-now-to-be-determined affair. He also made two notable plays in the field. The first was an interesting Rorschach test, simultaneously a smart play and a lesson about Wilmer’s pretty serious limitations. The second was a less-interesting lesson about those limitations, and lost the game.

We’ll start with the first play: with the Mets clinging to a 3-2 lead, Fernando Salas relieved Tommy Milone with Giants on first and third and one out. Gorkys Hernandez topped a ball to Flores at the third-base bag. Wilmer, instead of starting the round-the-horn double play to end the inning, threw home, shot-putting the ball into the dirt in front of Kevin Plawecki. Plawecki corralled the short hop and tagged out Christian Arroyo; Salas then fanned Michael Morse.

No harm done, but the play sparked a lively discussion on SNY and in the smarter precincts of the Citi Field stands: had Flores made the right play? After thinking about it a bit, I concluded that he had — but not for a reason to be celebrated. Yes, Hernandez is reasonably speedy, but Flores had time to turn the double play and instead gave the Giants another out.

So why was the fielder’s choice the right play? Because of Wilmer’s limitations. His footwork is slow and awkward, his throws are worrisomely inaccurate, and his instincts are nonexistent. Apparently knowing that, he took the one out he was sure he could get instead of the two that a more confident and sure-handed fielder would have treated as a given.

(Alternately: Wilmer didn’t even think about a double play and took the play right in front of him. Which would be basically the same lesson as above.)

Given ample opportunities to blow a reeling Giants team out of the game and sweep the series, the Mets spat the bit and took that same skinny 3-2 lead to the ninth. Enter Jeurys Familia, last seen the previous night with a five-run lead — circumstances during which one might not expect to see the closer, particularly with an afternoon game on deck.

That came up in Terry Collins‘s Q&A after the game, with the pint-sized manager fountaining out at least a gallon of anger in response to a question he’d clearly anticipated and been stewing about. Basically, Terry said, he saw Tuesday night’s game as a must-win since he didn’t know what he’d get from Milone on Wednesday, and while Familia was working for a third-straight game, he’d only thrown 15 pitches in the first two.

Terry’s right on the second point: 15 pitches in two days shouldn’t preclude a third day’s work. On the other hand, even a bullpen made up of spastic pyromaniacs ought to be trusted to not give up five runs in one inning against a pancake-flat team. Terry elevated the Mets’ odds of taking Game 2 from “very good” to “very very good,” but at a cost for Game 3. That strikes me as tactically debatable at best.

Another mistake, in my view, was not subbing Rene Rivera for Plawecki in the ninth. Familia working a third straight game and protecting a one-run lead in a day game after a night game ought to have been at least a flashing yellow light, and called for the Mets’ foremost pitching whisperer, praised before in these parts for coaxing Familia through days when his engine’s sputtering.

For whatever reason, Familia wasn’t himself and we all braced for impact. With one out he walked Joe Panik and then couldn’t put away Eduardo Nunez, who — credit where credit’s due — put together a dogged at-bat, spoiling pitch after pitch.

And then Nunez hit a ground ball to Flores.

The ball was hit hard, no doubt. But it was a step to his left. It was a game-ending double play.

Flores took an awkward step and bobbled the ball. The double play was gone, but he still had plenty of time to get an out at second base. He picked up the ball, rushed the throw and lost that out too. The next batter, Hunter Pence, singled in the tying run; two batters later, Arroyo slammed a ball up the gap for a three-run lead, and celebrated with the kind of youthful enthusiasm he hasn’t displayed since winning the Brooksville, Fla., soap-box derby two weeks ago.

If you want to argue Terry/Familia, this has to be part of it too: if Flores makes a play you expect a major-league infielder to make, the recap is that Familia walked a guy and battled Nunez before getting the double-play ball he needed. In which case grumbling about bullpen usage might suggest that you’re determined never to be happy.

(Oh yeah, there’s also this. It’s from 2014, but it’ll always be true.)

This was the Mets, though, so we were far from done. (You could also say this was the 2017 Giants.) The Mets more than battled: they put two men on against Derek Law and Wilmer — because it had to be Wilmer — slammed a ball to the fence in left-center.

Baseball is famously a game of inches, but this was ridiculous. Six inches higher and Wilmer’s drive would have scraped over the orange line for a game-tying home run. An inch or two to the right and it would have been ensnared by the glove of old friend Justin Ruggiano for an amazing catch. It hit the fingers of Ruggiano’s glove and became airborne once more — and with a little bit of spin or a couple of inches of inadvertent glove assist it would have been a home run anyway.

But it was just a well-struck two-run double. A minute or so later, Plawecki hit a little nubber in front of the plate and the Mets had lost the most Wilmer Flores game ever.

49 comments to The Most Wilmer Flores Game Ever

  • Matt in Richmond

    Too bad. A sweep and moving over .500 would’ve been nice, but hard to get too upset after 4 straight series wins. You certainly hit the nail on the head with the title. I think it’s pretty clear at this point that our friend Wilmer might hit enough against lefties to make up for his other shortcomings, but not against righties (today’s uncharacteristic box score notwithstanding). I’m somewhat baffled by the generally held belief that he hasn’t ever gotten enough of a shot to fully prove what he’s capable of. He’s nearly racked up 1000 plate appearances vs righties now and has a .283 OBP and .365 SLG. That might barely cut it if he were Rey Ordonez.

    A somewhat rhetorical question; with all the furor over Salas being “overused” how come there’s been no such concern over Robles’ usage considering he’s actually thrown 3 MORE innings? I say somewhat rhetorical because I think the obvious answer is because he keeps putting up zeros. Anyway, thanks for the link to that 2014 column. Spot on, and quite funny actually.

  • eric1973

    Physical errors are a part of the game. Always have been, and always will be. That’s Flores, who probably should have been removed for defense anyway. But we don’t do that, or pinch runners, very well around here, do we?

    Mental errors, though, are less forgivable. TC is a human mental error. He will never ever get it, that JF should not be used as a mop-up man, with 5 and 9 run leads. After all, what is the sense in that, when we have a long season to go, and……… oh, what’s the use? It’s like shouting at the ocean, and it will never change.

    • Dennis

      I’m a staunch Terry defender, but I agree with you eric on his odd use of Familia at times. When he came into the game Tuesday night I thought that it wasn’t necessary to use him there with the score 6 – 1, and just MAYBE you might need him fresh for the next game. You knew you had a 5 run lead on Tuesday night…..you don’t know what situation you will be in the next day. Oh well….another series win at least. On to Milwaukee and LGM!

  • eric1973

    Hey, if Buck and Maddon, the acknowledged geniuses of baseball, cannot manage a bullpen, as their post season decisions were universally panned, what real hope is there for the rest of us?

  • Daniel Hall

    Seeing the Brewers on the weekend? Great! Hey, Mets – when you leave on Sunday, tie Wilmer’s leash to a fence post outside the ballpark in Milwaukee, with any luck the Brewers still want him and won’t let him starve outside…

    And I can’t even get into the rage I have in my head for Familia, the most overrated, and most consistently overrated wannabe middle reliever that ever tumbled into a closer’s role. I barked things during that ninth inning…

    And if Conforto was good enough to pinch-hit after all, why didn’t he pinch-hit with three on and one out instead of Abysmal Caballero? Might have resulted in a run rather than two choke outs by him and No Way Jose…

    • Dennis

      Familia isn’t overrated nor is he the best closer in baseball. He is like an other reliever who will have a bad game now and then. If he’s as bad as you say he is, who do want to replace him with?

  • Matt in Richmond

    I mean, Familia has a career ERA of 2.51 and has objectively been one of the 2 or 3 best closers in baseball the past few years, but OK. And regarding his “overwork”, this is a guy who is known to have a rubber arm and prefers to get lots of work. When our back end of the bullpen was weaker he was frequently called on to get multi inning saves and did so with no problem. He has pitched roughly 80 innings each of the past 3 years with no problem. But sure. 15 pitches the past couple days is to blame for today. Not the fact that a major league 3rd baseman couldn’t even get one out from a tailor made double play.

  • LongTimeFan1

    Here’s another question – when Cabrera went down and thus Reyes to short, why wasn’t TJ moved to third and Flores to first where the latter’s lessor defensive tools would be less risky?

    Terry Collins can drive a fan base mad with his fine motivational and communication skills his players love – but penchant for questionable, ritual decision-making that beget negative on-field consequences – like overusing pen and playing Flores at third base.

    • Guy Kipp

      I think the answer here is that TJ Rivera’s limited exposure at third has shown that he may be just as bad at the position as Wilmer Flores is.

  • GroteFan

    Matt-80 +appearances and no problem. Did you watch the World Series or the playoff game last year just to name a few?

  • Matt in Richmond

    I did in fact. Just as I’ve watched every closer who’s ever existed blow occasional saves. Mariano Rivera cost the Yankees the World Series in 2000. Was he overused? Familia has been at a minimum among the most successful of closers the past few years, so I find complaining about him, or how he’s been used to be odd.

  • Dave

    I had the game on the radio, spending the afternoon driving home from Vermont (thank you, 104.whatever it is in Albany). When Familia walked Panik (ok, I’ll say it), I panicked. When Pence came to the plate, had I not been operating a motor vehicle, I’d have tweeted my opinion that there was by that point a 100% chance the Mets were losing this game.

    Blame aplenty, everyone queue up and take your share. But I’m really concerned that Familia has at least a mild case of Ankiel syndrome, and is not snapping out of two consecutive postseasons of being a goat, maybe even the goat, and I am not using “goat” as an acronym.

    Miracles in Mets history…the Black Cat, shoe polish, Swoboda’s catch, ball off the wall, it gets by Buckner, and that they made it to the 2015 World Series with Wilmer playing almost every day at shortstop.

  • Greg Mitchell

    See my note yesterday once again accurately predicting Familia meltdown after the usual ridiculous use of him with 5 run lead a few hours before. Occasionally my predictions on this have proven wrong–but 3 out of 4 times correct.

    You can try to blame it all on poor Wilmer if you wish but Familia had nothing from the first pitch–could barely find the plate and was eventually shelled. Even the Wilmer bobble was a hard shot, Familia couldn’t put Nunez away in 10 pitches, and if the Panik HR drive hadn’t gone 5 feet foul you’d have a whole different narrative. Familia, as almost always when overworked, had nothing–as the Mets announcers all eventually noted, and they cited the 3 days in a row and pitching with big lead the night before.

    The assertion that he only threw 15 pitches in two games is absurd. Every time you get heated in the pen to come in a game, and then throw your warm-ups from the mound, you have been tossing two dozen or more pitches besides the ones in the game and, to say the least, not exactly gaining some rest for your arm. In fact, Mets relievers have also all warmed up several times and not even gotten in games. You think that doesn’t count?

    That’s also the problem with Terry’s manic use of others in the pen–with Robles, Salas and Reed all on pace for over 90 games and Blevins for 100 (and Edgin now catching up). Familia has pitched in 11 of 17 Mets games since his return. Do you really think that is sustainable? And you think the excuse of some guy only throwing a total of three innings –but pitching 5 times in 7 days–isn’t taxing his arm?

    If you want to cite Mariano Rivera? In his 18 year career he hurled 70 games in a season exactly….three times. And never more than 74.

    And yes, as someone above pointed out–when you are hailing Familia’s “rubber arm”–see his performances when he pitches too much, and at the end of season and in playoffs, the past couple of years…Yes, there are some pitchers who have magically resilient arms. Familia is not one of them. The point is: yes, there may be times where you risk throwing him out there 3 or 4 days in a row–when you have a one or two run lead in the 9th. He will survive some of them. But Terry’s repeat use of him with a big lead simply tempts fate far too often.

    • Dennis

      Have to say Greg, you were right on the money with this one….that prediction was well before anyone even knew Familia was going to be used yesterday.

  • Matt in Richmond

    What is absurd is the need to find a way to blame someone every time we lose a game. Look around the league at how many blown saves occur. They happen nearly every day and I’m sure each teams fan base has a million complaints when they do. This column points out how average fans ALWAYS think they know better than the manager. It’s total bubkus. There’s always a million variables. Outsiders don’t have all the information. The other team is trying just as hard to win. There are no 100% black and white right or wrong answers.

    • Daniel Hall

      So why did Team X lose? Team X lost because of Y. And something goes into that blank for every single one of the 2,456+ games played every season. It may be…

      They lost because they only had two hits. Or…

      They lost because their starter allowed six runs in three and a third. Sometimes…

      They lost because down 2-1 with runners on second and third and two down in the bottom of the ninth, he lined a ball hard into the leaping shortstop’s glove. Maybe…

      They lost because Pitcher A threw hung a slider and the first baseman smashed it 420 feet for a walkoff. And then…

      They lost because six pitchers hung onto a 3-2 lead with the edges of their fingernails, and then the closer threw batting practice and was romped for four runs.

      They lost because the makeshift third baseman couldn’t handle a game-ending bouncer.

      They lost because they had the bases loaded and one out and choked rather than scoring an insurance run or two.

      I’d fill the blank above with the last three sentences, and assign 75% blame to Familia, who even after the Flores bobble still kept sucking and ended up allowing a run-scoring extra-base hit to a guy who at that point still had his paws in the sunflower seeds. When the going gets tough, Familia buckles. Has always been that way. Maybe he should pitch with 5-run leads or deficits more often, and less often when it counts.

  • Matt in Richmond

    My point with Rivera was to rebut the notion that somehow Familia’s playoff missteps were the result of being tired and to demonstrate that closers, even Hall of Fame ones suffer defeat. Thank you for further proving my point by illustrating that workload doesn’t have anything to do with it.

    I’ll just add this and be done with this discussion. At best the idea that Familia was tired and that’s the reason we lost the game is a theory and one that is totally unproveable. It presupposes that a casual fan has figured something out that the people who are in charge of managing the team and have reams of information that the fan doesn’t have not. The only thing that is undebatedly true is that Wilmer Flores should have executed the double play. It was as simple and basic as it gets at this level. I don’t say this to disparage him. I like him. But it is the truth.

  • BlackCountryMet

    Some good points made, all valid, all could be debated

    My views

    1) WHY did TC use Familia with a 5 run lead the night before? POOR

    2) Flores SHOULD have made the play(anyone think Walkers should still have tagged the runner or just me?)

    I’m a supporter of TC, however apart the change of pitcher to get Harper out the other day, name many in game decisions he’s made that have benefitted The Mets outcome wise? And then name the ones that have cost us? Fairly certain which way the balance lies there

    Although I do agree to an extent with Matt in Richmond

  • Greg Mitchell

    What? You are citing Rivera again to prove there is no correlation between workload and blown saves? Rivera is easily the greatest postseason reliever in history–probably at least partly because of lower stress during regular season.

  • GroteFan

    Matt-btw, it was Mariano’s bad throw that really cost the Yankees the world series.
    The point that I am making is that you have a tendency to make bold, blanket statements without the facts to back them up. There is no way that you can say that his use did not impact his performance in the post-season, and frankly to compare Rivera with Familia is kind of insulting to Rivera.

    Let’s make sure that we use a closer who by all accounts has a limited number of pitches in his arm in a 6-1 game. I don’t blame the pitcher, I blame the dolt in the dugout.
    Also, how did Terry box himself into a position of letting Plawecki hit in the 9th inning with the tying run on 2nd base? I’ll answer my own question.
    He hit Conforto with nobody on, and the lead, and then used Matt Reynolds to pinch run for Flores meaning Plawecki, he the owner of a .083 average this year, and .207 career average to ground out weakly.

  • Jerryk

    Flores isn’t a SS and he isn’t a 3B either. He platoons at 1B with Duda when Duda returns. How about a Flores for Dickey trade?

    • Greg Mitchell

      Or maybe TJ platoons with Duda…will be plenty of chances for Wilmer with Cabrera and probably Walker and Reyes missing games (all over 30, Reyes already seeing double duty, Cabrera with bad knee and Walker with bad back)….

  • 9th string catcher

    Familia is as strong as an ox and has worked fewer innings than anyone else in the bullpen. I think TC made a good enough call on Tuesday as they needed to get the win and rolled the dice. And if Flores makes the play, no one is talking about Familia today.

    Closers blow games. It happens. Familia is very good, though the higher the pressure, the greater the chance of meltdown. Let’s face it – he has not been good in the playoffs. But I don’t think the Mets get there without him.

    Fact is, the Mets lost the game by not putting the team away in earlier innings. 4 for 15 RISP, 11 LOB. One more run pushed forward and I think the 9th is a different story. That said, putting Reynolds in for defense in the 9th is the right idea – TC uses Lagares in that role, he should consider it for the infield as well.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I said I was going to be done with this discussion but a couple of you are still unclear on some of my points so I’ll try one last time to clarify them. I’m not comparing Mariano to Jeurys in any way. I’m making an extremely simple point that closers (even the very best ever) blow saves regardless of workload. It is therefore futile to always be looking for a scapegoat when things turn pear shaped.

    In no way do I make blanket statements that can’t be supported. In fact, the very essence of my positions tends to be based on refuting those that speak with certainty. I am the first to admit that I don’t have the answers. You know why? Because none of us do. One of my favorite FAFIF titles of all time was “Nobody Knows Anything”. THAT is true.

  • Gil

    4 straight series wins with two of the losses coming from your all star pitcher going down in the second inning and your former all star pitcher not showing up to the ball park.

    Terry, for the warts he has as a tactical manager, is one of the guys that Mets fans should identify as a key cog in the last 3 years of good baseball. Just 12 games ago he closed the clubhouse doors and the team jumped to life. They play hard for TC.

    It’s lonely at the top. Especially when your third baseman can’t turn a double play to end the game and all of the sudden you are to blame for mismanaging your bullpen.

    Lets go get those Brewers.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Amen Gil. Amen.

  • Dave Schulps

    Fans may not always be right in assigning blame for how games are lost, but that’s not a reason to defend a manager for not making moves that will increase his team’s chance of winning a given game. Three that apply to yesterday would’ve been: 1) don’t use your closer in a blowout when you might need him fresh the next day. 2) protecting a one run lead in the ninth, think “Are there any major defensive liabilities on the field and is there someone on the bench (Matt Reynolds) who might be better than what we’ve got on the field now?” 3) Down to the final out, is there someone on the bench who may have a better chance of keeping this game alive than the batter we’ve got coming up?
    TC had already used his LOOGYs twice this game, so he obviously trusts in percentages in certain situations. Why should replacing Wilmer with a fielder who clearly has a better chance of making a play at third, or Plawecki with a guy who’s batting over a hundred points higher and has been raking of late be off the table? If there are reasonable reasons for not doing any or all of these things, I’d really love to hear them. Maybe I’m wrong and Plawecki has some area where he statistically outshines Rene Rivera (I do recall him driving a run in recently, but I also recall Rivera driving in a bunch lately.) Or for leaving Wilmer in at third over bringing in Reynolds (more major league experience at the position possibly?). Yes, it’s easy for fans to criticize, but there does seem to be a pretty sound basis for some of it in this case. I know what TC has done with this team and respect him for it. I think he’s done a reasonable job for much of this season, but yesterday was just bad, and he deserves to be criticized for it.

  • Matt

    I missed the game, and it’s a moot point anyhow, but was there anyone on the bench they could’ve subbed in as a defensive replacement? Flores at 3rd in a one-run game with a well-trod closer sounds like it could’ve called for one.

  • Dennis

    I think its fair to criticize the manager on his strategy, but I don’t feel its necessary to call him an idiot, dolt, incompetent, etc.

    • Seth

      Yeah, that’s kind of the internet. On other blogs I’ve seen people wish for certain underperforming Mets players to get injured. It boggles the mind…

  • LeClerc

    The game was a gut punch. It left a very bad taste in my mouth.

    Harkening back to Tuesday night: Up 6-1, approaching the top of the ninth, I see Familia and Montero warming up in the bullpen. I get an uneasy feeling. With a five run lead, the probability that Montero will blow the game is low (but not impossible) – but…, the probability that he will pitch an uncomfortably long ninth inning is high. So the decision to go with Familia with a five run lead is far more likely to result in a quick, clean conclusion to the game – and a warm, happy feeling for me.

    Retrospectively, it would be far more satisfying to have put up with Montero nibbling towards victory on Tuesday, followed by a fresh Familia not walking Panik, and putting away Nunez without a foul-off marathon on Wednesday.

    Conclusion: Collins – like me – went for certainty over near certainty on Tuesday night. He and I blew a sweep because of our shared Montero-phobia.

    • Said it better than I did.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Note: Montero was not the only alternative that night–somehow (!) Terry had not already gone to Edgin or Salas. Also, he might have had Sewald as an option–except he threw him 59 pitches on Sunday afternoon just hours after he tossed two full innings Sat. night. Or maybe he’s on the DL already.

  • Dave

    Well, see the latest news about Familia…it never ends. It literally never ends.

    • Dennis

      And I said just before the season started that with the law of averages there was no way we would have the same number of injuries this season……HA!

    • Daniel Hall

      With the Mets, the usual follow-up question is:

      A) He missed grossly his entire outing and they decided to check him out and found something nasty

      B) He was physically ailing already but the brass guessed it was nothing and he should throw 30 pitches to get it out of his system.

      • Greg Mitchell

        Probably B) but you left out “he said he felt strong and Mets believed him.” Or “he was asked to take MRI but refused and Mets said…whatever.” I can believe anything. Got clot ringing Harvey’s doorbell last Saturday.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Yes, Familia with clot in shoulder and flying off to see doc…of course.

  • NostraDennis

    Josh Edgin, closer.

    I’m just sounding that out.
    Doesn’t quite ring well.

  • Steve D

    I guess Familia does not have a rubber arm after all. Just hope he is ok.

    You have to wonder how a guy is used three straight games and next thing you know, serious problem. You would think if he were feeling anything at all, he wouldn’t be used three straight and in a non-save situation for one of them. Did this just happen all at once or was he hiding something? It never ends with this team.

    • Dennis

      He was quoted after the game that his arm felt fine, so you wonder what precipitated him getting checked out. Maybe something they saw in his delivery? Velocity down? As you said…..hope he’s OK.

      • Steve D

        They say his velocity was fine…command was off. Pretty soon a guy will get an MRI after every outing.

    • Seth

      It’s getting to be a Familia story, isn’t it?

  • Gil

    I think the ragtag bunch of position players we are running out there right now can hold the fort until mid-June before Cespedes, Matz, and Lugo return. Not like it didn’t matter before, but the starting rotation has the weight of the Mets world on its shoulders right now. Harvey, Gsellman, and the new guy… hope you have broad shoulders. We really cannot afford to have the pen working in the 5th inning of games now that Family Man is likely done. The gunslinger goes from the 8th to the 9th inning. Maybe that’s where he belongs….

    All hands on deck and to battle stations! One game at a time. Keep the faith, guard against the fear, and LGM!

  • eric1973

    Well, at least now we won’t be discussing TC’s use of JF anymore…… but what if he feels fine, and says he can pitch?

    Now Reed can pitch in the 9th inning with the 5 and 9 run leads.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Unfortunate news. It does of course demonstrate that his struggles had nothing to do with the 15 pitches he’d thrown the previous two days.