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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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Murphy's Met Law

Some Met — I can’t remember whom and it’s resisting my Googling skills, so let’s just say it was Ron Swoboda — once noted that fans have it tougher than the players, because the players can do something, while the fans have to sit there and watch. Is it so? I’ve seen the photo of Ralph Branca supine on the stairs, watched Freddie Patek and Wade Boggs cry on TV, and sighed at Andy Van Slyke sitting in stunned amazement in Fulton-County Stadium’s center field. Those guys looked pretty devastated. But it’s true — they at least got to run around, to dig into the box, size up the pitcher and take their hacks. We’re stuck trying to outguess the cosmos.

My partner warned you about this, but for several hours there last night it looked like we had the cosmos figured out. The Mets and Jenrry Mejia had just unleashed a tanker truck of whoop-ass on the Nationals, who looked like they wanted to do anything except play baseball. Now we and they would sit around for a couple of hours before sending Matt Harvey out against the rather pedestrian Ross Ohlendorf. It looked like a sweep. And it was hard not to get carried away from there, what with the Nats shell-shocked and the Phillies in freefall and the Braves playing tallest midget and the memory that 40 years ago a highly imperfect Mets team got off the deck as summer ebbed and blasted past a similarly weak National League East, with only the Oakland A’s and their own manager keeping them from another World Series title.

Yeah, that’s what happens when you get giddy: Matt Harvey’s on the mound tonight, ergo we should be printing playoff tickets.

Still, for the majority of the actual game it looked like the universe would be cooperative too. Harvey didn’t have his best stuff, with his thunderbolts a bit wayward and the secondary pitches iffy. But it was good enough to keep the Nats essentially helpless, and meanwhile the Mets had scratched Ohlendorf — he of the old-timey windup that looks like a Ken Burns outtake — for a run, which seemed like it might be enough.

But then Justin Turner screwed up everything by making a spectacular play.

No really. That’s what happened.

In the fifth the Nats had men on first and second and one out when Wilton Ramos hit a troublesome bouncer up the middle. Turner raced over and flipped it with his glove into Daniel Murphy’s bare hand at second. Before you could even oooh, Murph spun and flung the ball a good 10 feet to Josh Satin’s left, actually managing to hit Ramos in his stately advance on first. While Mets scrambled for the ball and equilibrium, the loathsome Jayson Werth scampered home from second, and we had to sort out that yes, a great play had turned awful in a split-second.

I mean, my God. Ramos moves with the approximate velocity of India burrowing under Asia — Murph probably could have pushed the ball over to first with his nose while smacking his feet together and making seal noises. So what the hell happened? “I just got caught up in [Turner’s] great play,” Murph admitted later. “He fed it to me and I had all day, and I just got caught up in his play and I threw it in the crapper. It cost us the ballgame.”

That’s what I figured had happened — in the aftermath of Werth coming home, the cameras cut to Murph standing near second with his hands on top of his head in deep distress, a sort of baseball Guernica that I was imitating on my couch. He got caught up in the moment, did something heroic when dull and steady would have done the trick, and yes, it cost us the ballgame.

That wasn’t apparent for a while, though. Because surely Ohlendorf would crack … nope, he didn’t, despite gasping in exhaustion as he flung balls up to home plate with the Nationals trying not to look at what they were doing to their teammate. But then the Mets ambushed Rafael Soriano in the ninth and had Andrew Brown at third with one out and a 1-0 count on Ike Davis, and surely Ike would get something done, setting up another round of hopeful discussions about his being fixed and (most importantly) saving the blameless Harvey from another no-decision.

Ike walked.

Not the end of the world, because Juan Lagares was coming to the plate and we’ve learned to trust Lagares, loving his supercharged first step on balls in the gap, his rifle arm, silky glove and emerging skills as a hitter. 

Lagares fouled out.

Which was bad, but here came Murph, and since we all know baseball is a game of redempt —

Murph flied out.

And then, all of a sudden, I knew we were licked. To steal a line from that noted baseball prognosticator Boromir, one does not simply walk into extra innings at Nationals Park. Sooner or later, something very bad will happen.

This time it was sooner — regulation, even. Ryan Zimmerman can’t throw, but he can still hit, as LaTroy Hawkins and we found out almost instantly.

And then it was time for Murph mea culpas, and for us to remember something that we shouldn’t have forgotten in the first place: For all their good play of late, the Mets are still eight games under .500. Frankly, Murph’s boner was a reminder why. As miscues go it was forgiveable, even weirdly endearing — our second baseman lost a game because he saw his teammate do something SportsCenter-worthy and got too excited. It’s the kind of mistake one of us might have made, if we’d struck a Joe Hardy bargain and found ourselves out in the middle of the diamond with everything going on all at once.

Instead, it happened to one of our players. Which makes it very Mets, I suppose. Which kind of makes me feel better, but mostly doesn’t.

12 comments to Murphy’s Met Law

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    Ike getting that walk in the ninth shows how a free pass to first can really hurt a team in a close game. It might increase Ike’s OBP but putting the ball in play give one a chance to get that runner in from third whereas a walk does not. That also set up the double play possibility.

    I did not catch that top of the ninth so don’t know if Ike was being pitched around but suspect he wasn’t going to get any good ones to hit.

    Tough loss tonight. I got to see the home run. Can’t fault Hawkins with the way he has been pitching.

    BTW – I think I found the connection between the Mets and the Cosmos. Whenever Matt Harvey is on the mound, the Mets score as often as the newly formed New York Cosmos soccer team – or even the glorious days of the original older one from the long defunct NASL.

  • Andee

    We probably would have seen extra innings had it been Parnell coming in for the ninth instead of 800-year-old LaTroy Hawkins, Terry’s latest drug…er, arm of abuse. Yeah, I know Parnell blew a save there before, but at least he keeps the ball in the park.

    But noooo, you can’t bring your closer in with a tie on the road, Tony La Russa will smite you dead. They might as well just write it into the rule books and be done with it. Barf.

    As for Murph, he’s one of the guys Sandy has a tough decision to make about in the next six months. He’s developed some gnarly platoon splits he didn’t used to have, and he botches plays like this all the time. The much-maligned Valdespin plays a better 2B than Murph, for a lot less money. Yeah, he’s an asshole, but as Jeff Kent would tell him, they’ll put up with it if you can hit. And he’s tearing up the PCL now.

    • Dave

      I say bring up Wilmer Flores and see what he can do. We’ve been hearing about him since he was about 9 years old, he’s also tearing up the PCL and might not be an asshole.

  • Eric

    Don’t forget David Wright’s pop up in the 7th with Ohlendorf totally gassed and throwing meatballs. In my opinion, Wright’s pop up was worse than Lagares’s 3-1 pop up in the 9th because it was clear Ohlendorf had nothing left. Captain America needs to at least make a respectably hard out there, like Satin’s double play ball in the 8th.

    Does any team harmlessly pop out or strike out more than the Mets with runners in scoring position?

    Murphy’s error was as bad as it gets. Great play by Turner, should have ended the inning, slow runner in Ramos, and Werth scoring from 2nd with a poor-hitting pitcher on deck. It was like Murphy was thinking ESPN highlight when he caught the ball with his bare hand unnecessarily and tried to pivot and throw in one motion unnecesssarily.

    It’s great that Murphy is on one of his hot streaks right now, but I don’t know that they’re worth his long cold streaks, poor OBP, and suspect defense. I’d like an explanation for why Satin can’t get a try-out at 2nd considering he was drafted as a 2nd baseman. A .400+ OBP in the 2-hole wouldn’t hurt either.

    Loved Ohlendorf’s old-timey wind-up. The thing where he winds up with the ball in his glove and picks up on the swing is the icing on the cake.

    • mikeski

      Seconded on the wind-up. My wife asked “what is up with that?” My reply: “baseball like it oughta be.”

    • Will in Central NJ

      I fully agree with Eric, regarding Murph. In my 43 years of watching the Mets, Daniel Murphy might be the most frustrating player ever. He is fundamentally flawed and hits just enough to keep himself in orange and blue. Running into outs, holding when he should tag up, making ill-advised throws, rushing to field and throw a ball hit by a slowpoke batter, getting decoyed by opposing runners so they are allowed to wriggle out of a rundown play…arrgghh!!

  • JerseyJack

    Knew we should have saved some of those runs from the 1st game !!

  • Shawn Butler

    If we were 7-4 against Miami instead of 3-8, we’d be right at .500.

    Just saying.

  • kjs

    Murphy. Error? Slow runner? That’s the dugout’s fault–gotta coach the players, especially during the nightcap of a long day.

  • metsfaninparadise

    I will not read too much into this afternoon’s Mets’ 11-0 thrashing of the Nationals.

  • […] the weekend’s dreams turned to dust, I kept thinking about that play in Friday night’s second game — of Justin Turner’s glove flip to Daniel Murphy, and Murph’s heave into the body […]