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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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Albert's Supporting Cast

I suppose what I’ll remember from this game is the look of anguish on Raul Valdes’s face as he watched his curveball not curve.

Or, rather, it did curve — very gently, so as to offer itself politely to Felipe Lopez’s bat and thereby begin its long trip to a final destination beyond the left-field fence. Grand slam, Cards up by three, Oliver Perez’s singularly unlikely masterpiece ruined. The Mets held Albert Pujols in check, but boy did his supporting cast do a number on them.

Maybe if Ollie can repeat that surprising performance consistently we’ll see this as the beginning of hope instead of as a doubly cruel tease — a duel evaporated and a comeback turned aside. (From the Cardinals’ side, justice was served for Chris Carpenter, gone after a scintillating performance but still the pitcher of record when Lopez struck his blow.) More likely, we’ll remember this one as yet another reason to question Jerry’s use of the bullpen. Pedro Feliciano was laid low with a stomach bug, but wouldn’t it have been better to see Ryota Igarashi — who’s had a long record of success in Japan — than the iffy Fernando Nieve and Valdes, a 32-year-old rookie recently the property of Tabasco? The game was on the line right there, and Nieve and Valdes failed in spectacular fashion.

And before we get too excited about the bullpen, most of its early success has come during garbage time. The relievers have made four appearances in games where the Mets were up by a run or tied, and the only successful outing has been Hisanori Takahasi’s second appearance. The other three appearances saw Takahashi, Jenrry Mejia and now Valdes give up fatal home runs.

I could unearth positives. Yes, there was Ollie — what an odd turnabout to be hoping the Mets live up to Ollie’s fine work — and some nifty plays by David Wright, and contributions from the so-far underwhelming Frank Catalanotto, Gary Matthews Jr. and Mike Jacobs. But the Mets blew the lead in excruciating fashion and then failed to regain it in excruciating fashion. I have trouble extracting any kind of moral victory from that.

9 comments to Albert’s Supporting Cast

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    Will admit not hearing Manuel’s post game explanation as to why he took out Oliver Perez in the seventh. True, Ollie didn’t seem too upset about being removed and he might have been running out of gas but at the same time, with the way he was pitching, he didn’t APPEAR to be running out of gas either.

    So I am upset with Manuel’s decision. No doubt most managers would have made the same move but still, even if Ollie was beginning to tire, he was also still in control, fooling and overwhelming the batters and, most important, feeling confident.

    I don’t care what the stats might show with match-ups, statistics and odds. Those coarse figures don’t account for the human element, the times when a pitcher has it going so well that one can just throw the book out the window. Am sure St. Louis was glad to see him taken out. Could one expect the available relievers to have the same adrenalin flow that Ollie (at least for this one evening) had sustained and flourished on? And being so early in the season, wouldn’t it have been great for Ollie’s fragile psyche to have let him in to at least face one more batter?

    Just proves that those at the helm, with all their knowledge, insight and instinct, sometimes know too much and over-manage when the simple observation made by the armchair manager would be sufficient.

    Ollie was doing his job and I’m sure he had it in the tank to go at least one more batter. If he blew it, the loss would not have been the manager’s fault. I don’t believe any manager can spark a team of multimillionaires that refuse to adhere to discipline but I do think Jerry is responsible for losing the game this evening.

    • I hear what you’re saying, but I didn’t mind the decision to take Perez out, for reasons that also have to do with the human element: Ollie had thrown 97 pitches, written a good story, and has a history of letting things upset him and lead to an implosion.

      What I did mind was turning to lesser relievers with the game on the line. It’s like Jerry couldn’t use Igarashi in the seventh because he’d been anointed as the guy for the eighth. What does that matter if the game’s lost an inning earlier?

      Ugh. If Freese doesn’t turn Tatis’s double into an out we’re perhaps grousing about it amid happiness over a win instead of back staring into the abyss. But that did happen, and so here we are.

  • Lenny65

    I didn’t see the entire game. I tuned in for a bit in the 3rd and thought to myself “hey, Ollie hasn’t melted down yet, nice”. Then I tuned in during the 7th and did a double take. “Those socks look like his but wait, mets up 1-0 in 7th…that…CAN’T be Perez…can it?”. Note to Perez and Pelfrey-whatever you did during your last starts, please for the love of God keep doing it. We want to like you, we really, really do.

    But alas, with these Mets, good start always equals bullpen meltdown, lots of LOB’s, or the dreaded both. Does everyone just HAVE to first-pitch swing in the 9th like that? Sigh.

    I agree with the above poster. While I certainly understand the thinking behind pulling Perez and considering pitch counts and all of that stuff, would it have been any worse if they’d just left him in there and allowed him to try and work his way through it? What is there to lose by giving him the chance to gut it out? It would have been a nice boost for this team and its fans (not to mention Oliver) to see Perez run off the mound after tossing 7 (or more) scoreless innings against the Cards. It’s normally a minor miracle when he’s merely somewhat effective for five or six innings, if he’s throwing shutout ball, I say go with it.

    Plus, if we really needed to blow the game in the 9th, K-Rod was always available. Sorry, couldn’t resist some sarcasm. Humor helps keep me sane, for I am a Mets fan.

  • mikeinbrooklyn

    I have to disagree: yes, there is a moral victory here. One day closer to the end of the Minaya era! (And, yes, the Manuel era. But I don’t think ANY manager could win with this roster.)

  • Andee

    It’s Tony LaRussa’s fault. He invented this seventh-inning-guy, eighth-inning-guy, ninth-inning-guy stuff, and now almost all the managers copy it. (Although it could have been worse; it could have been Dusty Baker, and then Ollie would have been left in for 160 pitches.)

    Because that’s what managers do, they’re mostly copycats. Remember back around 1985, when Whitey Herzog decided to have a 24-man roster instead of 25, for completely inexplicable reasons, and then all the managers copied him for a couple of years? It hasn’t changed. I lost track of the number of times I saw Joe Torre and Bobby Cox follow the exact same bullpen orthodoxy, and get burned in the exact same way. But they had more margin for error.

    And Bobby Valentine and Bob Melvin and pretty much anyone else who’s eligible to replace Jerry did that stuff too, and would do it again. The only difference is, they might have let Ollie finish the damn inning, seeing as Ollie — bewilderingly enough — actually seems to know how to get Matt Holliday out.

    It just sucks that much more because right now there are only two hitters in our lineup, and one of them is a guy that almost everyone wanted the Mets to DFA over the winter.

  • Ron L

    I’m sorry, all, but I cannot agree with Jerry’s decision to lift Ollie Perez in the 7th. Maybe I’m a little too old school on this but I don’t see where it was necessary. Perez was on cruise control and was not laboring at all. He had given up an infield hit deep in the hole at shortstop which was aided by a poor throw from Reyes and then a sacrifice bunt. After everything Ollie had done up to that point it is my contention that it should have been his game to win or lose. To me, there was no indication that it was time to take him out. Yes, you can call upon Ollie’s past history and make your decisions based on that (by the book). But if he (and the other young pitchers) are to mature and improve they have got to be given a chance to do so on their own. I don’t see 6-1/3 and 97 pitches as a red flashing light to get’em outta there, especially when the pitcher is in a rocking chair like Ollie was last night. A very disappointing loss.

  • Dave

    You always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. How many more games are we going to lose because of the way Manuel manages his pitchers? Starters are all apparently made of antique porcelain, they must be treated as fragile and delicate. Relievers are mules, you can apparently run them out there over and over again, even if one of them was last seen as a starter. Why did they spend $3M on Igarashi if they’re going to be sending out retreads and 32 year old Mex League castoffs?

  • Joe D.

    I agree Jerry was trying to protect Ollie’s psyche. But it’s important to note that Perez didn’t seem upset and almost happy he was going to be relieved. If that’s the case then we are wasting our time with him. What young veteran pitcher going strong and on the winning side of a 1-0 pitching gem would want to be removed from the game? He would have instead been strongly trying to convince the manager to do the opposite.

    With seven seasons under his belt, Ollie’s long-term problems are too engrained in his psyche to be resolved at this point. Last night I was truly hoping to be proven wrong, however, his reaction to Manuel going out to the mound convinced me otherwise. With the way he was pitching, having no desire to continue is more indicative of what to expect from him (for whatever reasons) than those six and one-third innings of brilliant pitching.