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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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And We Have Escaped Ourselves, at Least for Now

The good thing about 5-0 leads, besides the obvious Us > Them factor, is that it lets you screw up a fair amount and not have it be fatal. Which Jerry Manuel and Frankie Rodriguez promptly did, with a little help from Elmer Dessens. Elmer has somehow been fairly reliable, certainly reliable enough to be able to secure another out, but Jerry had to manage by the rulebook and be ruled by a perfectly stupid statistic, so out he came and up went his hand and in came K-Rod, who didn’t actually record an out on his own, but benefited from more Mets shenanigans around second base. It’s fitting that a game whose first inning saw David Wright give Nyjer Morgan’s foot an assist away from the base ended with Ruben Tejada dropping his foot between Roger Bernadina’s hand and the base in the ninth. Jim Riggleman’s Medusa gaze from the dugout was priceless; if I were Bernadina, I might have considered spending the night lying beside second base, rather than have to speak to Jim Riggleman before he had a chance to get a good night’s sleep and enjoy a nice breakfast.

A nifty play, to be sure, and God bless Tejada for his hustle, talent and welcome precociousness, but it was ridiculous that things had descended so far, or that for the second night in a row Jerry’s managerial goal seemed to be trying to make us all hang ourselves. Gary Cohen was killing Jerry on the air for managing with saves in mind; I was hiding behind the couch muttering nasty things about him; and Amazin’ Avenue’s Eric Simon was concocting the best rant of the night: “Before making any pitching decision, ask yourself whether you’d make that same decision if there was no such thing as a save. If the answer is clearly ‘yes’, go ahead and make the move. If the answer is ‘no’, go back to the drawing board.”

This, as the kids say.

(By the way, Eric Holder needs to stop telling people how he left Game 6 so he wouldn’t have to see the Red Sox win. That was some embarrassing bullshit there. Plus this interview with ESPN New York reveals he’s one of those civic-minded asshats who roots for everybody. Boo!)

The Mets’ revival is a marvelous thing, but I can’t help but see foreboding signs and imagine disaster. And a lot of those hypothetical disasters involve K-Rod doing something dreadful, as he has done far too often in his nine rather unimpressive months here. His quotes about making things dramatic but always having a plan are cute; they’d be a lot cuter if I believed more than half of that statement. As for Jerry, I almost believe he enjoys torturing us. Witness his pregame musings that there’s no place for Tejada once Luis Castillo returns — because Luis’s veteran status is magical enough that we should overlook the fact that he’s a gimpy hitter who struggles to hit the ball 110 feet or reach any ball he can’t crumple on top of. I should have learned by now to pay what Jerry says no particular attention, but that agitated me. There’s been far too much praise given to the Mets for ceasing to do idiotic things several weeks after everyone else concludes they’re idiotic; let’s see them get ahead of the curve for once and consign Castillo to the bench or the beach, rather than hurt the club by removing Tejada from what’s been a wonderful mix.

But anyway, enough crying. We won, didn’t we? David Wright got lots of hits. Alex Cora got one big hit. Jon Niese was great, winning a game in which he looked like he had to think hard and work hard.

We won, and R.A. Dickey faces Stephen Strasburg later today in a game that could be enormous fun, if we allow ourselves not to make too much of it. It’s not for all the marbles, just one out of a bag of 162. It might be a wonderful clinic in two or three very different ways you can make hitters miss a baseball, each of which can be wonderful to watch. From the way he wrote his preview story, I take it David Waldstein tried out his metaphor on Dickey, suggesting Strasburg is supersonic jet and Dickey is an old Piper Cub. Dickey’s response made me love him even more than I thought I could love a gentle, ligamentless knuckleballer who reads actual books: “It’s the F-15 vs. the butterfly. I like that because the butterfly is alive.”

11 comments to And We Have Escaped Ourselves, at Least for Now

  • Andee

    I find it hard to believe they wouldn’t at least want to keep Tejada around for a defensive replacement. A few more plays like this, and he’s going to be very difficult to send away. If anyone not named Castillo gets cut, it ought to be Tatis, whose pumpkin struck midnight quite a while ago. No reason Ruben can’t play third in a pinch.

    And again, I have to wonder if these are actually Jerry’s decisions to make, or whether “you’re playing the guy we’re paying out the nose for, or you’re fired” is the directive coming from the Wilpons. If it’s the latter, changing managers won’t accomplish doodley-squat.

    But yeah, Frankie Lidge is going to kill me yet. Is it our dharma to always have closers who are (or eventually become) oily rag arms, forever and ever?

  • Matt from Sunnyside

    Dude, can everyone please stop slamming Jerry Manuel? Here’s the thing, if you were shitting on this team during the offseason, you can’t say Jerry Manuel is a bad manager. Because you’ve got a manager with a supposedly horribly imagined team that could not possibly be effective, that’s now 10 games over .500 right before the break. So Jerry Manuel has apparently managed an egregiously inferior team to 10 games over .500.

    Or, if Jerry Manuel is such a bad manager, then it must be that he has an awesome team, bestowed upon him by the brilliant Omar Minaya, which has allowed Manuel, in all of his assheadedness, to get to 10 games over .500, right before the break. So you’ve got to admit that Omar Minaya is a genius.

    WTF? Closers occasionally need to get into the game, if they haven’t pitched in 6 or 7 days. But people will not shut up about when or how he uses Rodriguez. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Other relievers too. He has to keep tabs on who is feeling good and who isn’t, in the bullpen and on the field. He’s got a confusing bullpen, three catchers and a bunch of banged up players right now.

    And why praise Eric Simon? The guy writes a post slamming Jerry Manuel (when last time I checked, he didn’t have any sort of tap on the bullpen phone) and never once mentions that we won the game, or that Ruben Tejada made an AWESOME play.

    Seriously, who wants to read that after a win?

    • But Matt, a win on a given night doesn’t absolve everything. I think Jerry’s bullpen use is bizarre and not particularly bright. He picks a guy he thinks he trusts and tries to make his arm fall off (Nieve), pays no attention to what guys do against lefties and righties (Feliciano), manages to the save rule instead of to picking the best matchup for getting the win (K-Rod), and is generally too obsessed with “Player X has a role, therefore Player X must appear in that role” (Everybody). You don’t need a tap on the bullpen phone to see that or object to that, and it’s the kind of thing that I fear will catch up with the Mets.

      I think Jerry handles the bullpen very poorly and sticks with veterans far too long, though I’ll acknowledge Andee’s point that we don’t know how much is Jerry and how much is Omar and/or ownership. That said, yes, his players seem to like playing for him and it feels (because I can’t really know) like he’s effective as a mentor, communicator, etc. He gets credit for that, but it’s not a Get Out of Jail Free card for the rest.

      • Matt from Sunnyside

        I agree with most of those points, especially about Nieve and overusing guys. The main reason Nieve is basically useless right now is because Manuel completely wore him out at the beginning of the season, and now the guy can’t seem to get his confidence back. And I hope that didn’t read like I was attacking you, in particular. I actually read (and was irritated by) Simon’s critique before your post was up.

        But, with the bullpen, Manuel does seem to be trying to set Parnell up for an 8th inning role. That was a failed experiment last year, so he’s been cautious, but he has been consistent in keeping Parnell’s work to one full inning lately. Mostly the 7th. And, it made sense to me that he didn’t want to throw Rodriguez into a 5-1 game in the 9th. Putting Feliciano in yet again to get one out? I’m not sure about his thinking there. It’s Adam Dunn, sure, but geez. Give Feliciano a night off every now and then. Once it started looking like the inning might get away from Dessens, though, I think he went to his best remaining option to shut the door, and K-Rod, as usual, made it a tear out your hair and avert your eyes type of deal. I have trouble believing that Jerry was just trying to give him a free save opportunity.

        Anyway, Manuel definitely has his faults, and I definitely wouldn’t call his use of the bullpen a strong suit. But really, even during the month of June, when the Mets were playing better than pretty much everyone, there was a contingent of fans that never let up on Jerry, which I really don’t understand. I mean, look at this team. Home-grown rookies at first and second, a would-be bench player who has been having a career year in center field, two aging catchers, an expensive slugger in left who hasn’t been slugging, a rotation that includes a knuckleballer and a 35 year old rookie from Japan, etc. But somehow, it’s working, and I think Jerry and his staff deserve at least some of the credit for that.

  • Andee

    Oh, dude, I know what you mean. I get the feeling that some fans would just HATE it if the Mets went all the way. “Now we’re stuck with Omar and Jerry, and we’ll never get our Ivy League Stats Guy Dream Team.” I mean, gahhh.

    FWIW, the Great And Omniscient Mike Scioscia did the very thing tonight (Friday) that people are slamming Jerry for — he took out a guy (Joe Saunders, who has been struggling) who was pitching a shutout and hadn’t thrown that many pitches in order to get Brian Fuentes a save. Which Fuentes promptly blew. And then they lost in extra innings. To the freaking Royals, no less. So if even Scioscia has save-itis, are there any managers who don’t? I’d love to know who they are.

    • oldtimebaseball

      I believe there was some rumbling in the press a couple of weeks ago that K-Rod was unhappy because he wasn’t getting enough save opportunities. I suppose that Jerry, on top of everything else, has to keep his prima donna closer happy. My gripe is more that Bobby Parnell, who got the side out neatly in the 8th on fewer than ten pitches, wasn’t left in to pitch the 9th.

  • dykstraw

    i left last night in the 8th and assumed a smooth finish until i came across this post. glad i did.

  • […] Jason Fry has a great post on the events of last night game in D.C. and the fact as Mets fans we are on the edge of our seats when the Mets have a late inning lead. Part of it is our paranoia over the bullpen but the bulk of our fear is the way Jerry Manuel misuses his relief core. I also find it hysterical that some of the comments on that post are chastising fans for calling our the managerial flaws of Jerry Manuel with the simplistic refrain old “hey the team is winning he must be doing something right”  but the don’t list what those “right things”. Folks the Mets are winning in spite of Manuel, it helps that D-Wright has found his game elite game and Angel Pagan has matured and that Big Pelf, Jon Niese, Ike Davis and even Ruben Tejada have mature and given this team the shot of young blood we have been craving. […]

  • John Isom

    Half way through 162 games: if the season ended today, the Mets would be…

    …the NL wild-card team!

    ya gotta believe!!

  • Told you. Fucking K-Rod. My loathing for him could melt lead.

  • Louie

    I love you guys–you are so right, Jason