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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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The Orosco Ovation

In the land of small sample sizes, the curious factoid is king, so all hail this minuscule nugget: The current series against the Red Sox represents the first series in which the Mets have dropped the first two home games versus Boston since the 1986 World Series.

Obviously, a world championship is just days away.

Until then, on the heels of listlessly losing a second consecutive “unusual” Interleague matchup to those stubborn Sox, we’ll have to make due with our slightly diminished first-place lead of 5½ games and take solace in Saturday being only the second day in three weeks when Washington actually gained ground in what we hope will soon stop qualifying as a pennant race and start registering as a runaway.

Winning in a walkover would be quite acceptable, too, but we don’t want to be greedy. We’ll take whatever we can get from our lofty National League East perch where only Mets and their trusty parakeet sidekicks dare to soar. We’ll surely take our Jesse Orosco bobbleheads and show up as early as we have to secure them.

If you were at Citi Field Saturday afternoon as I was, perhaps you nearly fainted as I could have at the sight of lines, lines and more lines outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda two hours before first pitch. I know the game was sold out. I know the bobblehead was to be granted to only the first 15,000 ticketholders (which is downright miserly, but that’s another story). I know bobbleheads are one of the few items to which I would affix the overworked adjective awesome.

But all of a sudden we’re lining up two hours early for a giveaway? Wow. We as a people have never done that as best as I can recall. I’ve shown up at Citi for just about every bobblehead handed out since the place opened and by arriving about an hour ahead of time, I’ve never entered the joint disappointed. I couldn’t believe a two-hour lead time would be required for bobble purposes.

The buzz was unmistakable in the week leading up to Jesse Orosco Bobblehead Day, however: get there way early or get completely shut out. So Joe and I got there way early, we got on/in line (behind a brood of anticipant Bostonians, which is its own brand of weird) and we got what was coming to us. Once that primary mission was accomplished, there was still well over an hour-and-a-half until our secondary mission of watching the Mets play ball could commence.

Have to say it again: wow.

All things being equal, I don’t mind spending an extra hour inside a ballpark. I think it was the first time I saw anybody (the visitors) take batting practice without my having to flash a press pass or some similar credential. It’s probably more fun to take in from Promenade than it is up close. Still, the whole idea that you’d better get there by two o’clock for a four o’clock start’s premium was startlingly strange.

Citi Field is like this now. It has lines and people and buzz. It’s wonderful, even if on Saturday it only served to preface a game whose air came out of it almost immediately. You put a baserunner on third in the first and second and you score no runs, it’s a bad sign. Jacob deGrom was untouchable for five innings, and then just touchable enough in the sixth. Joe Kelly was never in anything resembling trouble. Ultimately the only on-field highlights were Eric O’Flaherty’s failure to completely implode and Bartolo Colon’s tantalizing success in a new role.

To be fair, O’Flaherty and Colon did essentially the same thing: they each pitched a spotty but scoreless inning. Yet Colon was the revelation, pitching in relief for the first time as a Met — maybe a harbinger of October, if there is such a month in the Mets’ future — while O’Flaherty might have been throwing his last frame here. After the game, word spread that Addison Reed was on his way from the Diamondbacks. I assume he was obtained to replace O’Flaherty. At least that’s my fervent hope. Too bad the rumors didn’t swirl sooner. We could have given Eric a Wilmerian sendoff, albeit an intensely sarcastic one.

The Met offense didn’t click whatsoever, save for the Boys of Late July, Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, combining to create a single run in the seventh, by which time the Red Sox had scored an insurmountable three. After a week when every number quoted was sensational and indicative of spectacular achievement, the last two games have been marked by two depressing statistics:

• On Friday, Red Sox pitchers walked 12 Met batters and the Mets lost anyway.

• On Saturday, Met pitchers struck out 16 Red Sox batters and the Mets lost anyway.

The tendency things have to even out may have been on display. The Mets couldn’t lose at home and couldn’t win on the road and now that’s evening out. The Mets couldn’t hit but could surely pitch for the longest time. The evened out until re-evening out. Given the Mets’ presence at 13 games over .500, I hope the evening out soon ceases, because I don’t want to spend the final 33 contests of 2015 in a 10-23 slide that gets us to the quintessentially evened out record of 81-81.

See how easy it is to get carried away when you’ve lost two in a row? So stop losing any in a row altogether, Mets.

Things were never exactly even-Steven for Jesse Orosco, New York Met from 1979 through 1987 (save for 1980, when he was a Tidewater Tide, which was only like being a Met). Those of us who lived the Orosco era remember a shaky, young lefty at the beginning, a dazzling stopper in the middle, a typically aggravating closer after a while and then an avatar of apocalypse by the end. His arc in Flushing crashed. If you mentioned Orosco by the latter days of ’87 and suggested anybody line up outside Shea, somebody would have brought a length of rope.

But nobody thinks of that anymore. They don’t think of the Jesse who wasn’t ready in 1979, the Jesse who had to feel his way in 1982 or even the Jesse who earned All-Star honors in 1983 and 1984. Anybody who was around for Jesse — and certainly anybody who knows him only from a loop of video clips — thinks only of Jesse flinging his glove skyward. Orosco pitched in 380 regular-season and postseason games for the Mets. He only did that glove thing twice, once in Houston against the Astros, once at Shea against the Red Sox. The latter episode (technically its knee-dropping, fist-raising immediate aftermath) was captured on 15,000 bobbleheads. I am the proud owner of one of them.

On October 27, 1986, you know what Jesse Orosco did and how it is revered to this day. On September 9, 1986, you probably have no idea that the very same closer couldn’t hold a 7-6 ninth-inning lead versus Montreal. Jesse allowed a two-run homer to Andre Dawson and an insurance run besides. The Mets went on to lose, 9-7. Prior to that outing, he’d fashioned a scoreless streak of 11⅓ innings. The Mets’ lead remained 21 games despite Orosco’s faux pas. Just one of those things, you might say.

The Shea throng said differently on that Tuesday night. Jesse was hooted off the mound. “No one on this ballclub deserves to be booed,” declared frequent jeer target Darryl Strawberry. “You hate to see Jesse or anyone get booed.” Orosco had less to say about his treatment to reporters: “I’m still not talking, sorry.”

Less than seven weeks later, Jesse’s heavenbound glove spoke volumes.

Lesson? Win the game that wins your club the World Series (along with three others in the playoffs). It will elevate you toward immortality. People will line up for your ceramic likeness. People will line up for your autograph once they’ve received your likeness (and there was a long line for it at the top of the Rotunda escalators). A person who answers an on-camera trivia question in which you are the answer will meet you as the “surprise” guest and appear to nearly faint from joy. A crowd that witnesses you coming out to greet the trivia-answerer will jump to its feet and applaud you in appreciation for doing what you did 29 years earlier, something nobody has done for them since.

You, Jesse Orosco, became the symbol of the franchise at its finest hour, winning the seventh game of the last World Series it won. You could go 3-9 with a 4.44 ERA the next year; give up the home run to Luis Aguayo that absolutely buried the last chance the Mets had of repeating as world champions; get traded to Los Angeles, help them beat the Mets for the 1988 pennant; and keep pitching for seemingly everybody but the Mets through 2003; and you’ll still forever be that symbol of when everything was perfect.

The Mets nesting in first place by a comfortable margin as the Red Sox of all possible opponents came to town was a nice coincidence as the promotional calendar flipped to August 29. The 1986 overtones are stronger when there’s a reason to believe 1986 won’t always be awaiting its endlessly overdue sequel. (Kudos to whoever decided to set Kiss Cam to a medley of 1986 love songs — nice touch!) The current standings probably had more to do with the buzz and the lines and the people than the chance to stare at Jesse Orosco in all possible forms. But the image of Jesse and what he represents is magnetic enough to attract you to thoughts that transcend a ho-hum 3-1 defeat. It made me think that I look forward to Joe and I returning to Citi Field on some future Saturday to pick up our Jeurys Familia bobbleheads, the ones which capture the exact pose Jeurys struck upon recording the final out of the 2015 World Series.

Maybe it won’t take 29 years to schedule that promotion.


Thanks to all of you who expressed such lovely and heartfelt sentiments regarding my dad’s situation. You’re wonderful readers and even better listeners.

26 comments to The Orosco Ovation

  • Matt in Richmond

    The absence of Duda has become more noticeable the past few days. Hoping for once we get someone back from the dl on the announced timetable. Serious tight sphincter time when Cespedes appeared to tweak his back on that swing and miss. We’ve already had more than our fair share of bad injury luck this year right?

  • eric1973

    Amytime, Greg.

    In retrospect, that 1986 era team represents great dissapointment, as we had the best team in MLB from 1985-1988. Everyone has their reasons (and excuses) why more World Series were not achieved.

    That would be like if Al Arbour and the Islanders only won one Stanley Cup.

    • Matt in Richmond

      The Braves of the 90s have even more to lament.

    • I wish the Mets had won more than once in the period in question, but damn am I glad they won the one they did. Disappointment of varying degrees from ’85, ’87, ’88, but none associated with ’86. It overshadows all the other years in that regard.

      • Eric

        Mets were dominant in 1988. Then again, so were the A’s. It would have been a great World Series. But Dodgers got hot. Destiny. What can you do?

      • DAK442

        It’s all my fault. At one point in the Shea parking lot after Game 7, I turned to my friend and said “You know the best part of this? We’re gonna win against next year, and the year after! We’re the best team in baseball!”. He still goofs on me for jinxing us.

  • eric1973

    Wow, you got that right, Holy Moly!

    So TC says he would have let Harvey pitch the 7th inning if it was the playoffs. Someone better let him know you gotta get there first, and that he hasn’t clinched First Place yet. Can’t say I blame him for doing what he did, it’s just the cavalier attitude after.

    • Eric

      I didn’t see a cavalier attitude from Collins. Harvey’s TJ recovery plan is Harvey’s TJ recovery plan. He simply reiterated that regulating Harvey’s innings now allows the limits to come off for the post-season.

      The Mets ought to be hold a 2-0 lead, but the unreliable middle relief reared up again. We thought we had found the solution with Verrett and his .8-something ERA. Unfortunately, this time Verrett didn’t cover for Harvey.

  • Mikey

    and we’re back to struggling against no name pitchers with inflated ERA’s

    i think we all accept that we are going to lose a few down the stretch. what worries us is the team’s DNA and how wins and losses tend to bunch together lately.

    also yes lets get rid of EOF so that Terry can’t be tempted to use him. where are Doug Sisk and Randy Niemann when you need them?

    • Eric

      In hindsight, the Mets needed a LOOGY in the 7th inning of Harvey’s start, although at the time, we were hoping Verrett would be the reliable 7th-inning guy who could dispose of hitters on both sides of the plate.

  • Eric

    Two strong outings by the staff aces – not their best work, but ace-like enough to win – wasted.

    deGrom seemed to noticeably tire in the 6th inning, which may have been due to lingering weakness from his stomach virus (apparently not food poisoning, with apologies to the kitchen at the hotel the Mets stay at in Philly). Fastball down a tick. Location off a tick.

    That’s 5 games in a row now lost at home where the hitting has struggled disturbingly like the MLB-worst offense from the early-mid part of the season, where they make middling opposing pitchers look like aces. Where they’re getting men on base okay, but nothing else seems to enervate the Mets hitters like going up to bat with teammates on base.

    It’s also 5 games in a row at home where the Mets’ disappearing hitting exposed the weak links in the bullpen and they broke.

    The failure that has upended the Red Sox series is Verrett’s failure to hold Harvey’s 2-0 lead in the 7th inning. We thought the Mets had finally found their (7th-inning) set-up man to the (8th-inning) set-up man, but Verrett spit the bit.

    Yesterday, the Betts HR off Robles didn’t lose the game, but the insurance run for the Red Sox was big given the Mets’ struggle to hit. Robles is another one who we hoped to fill the middle-relief role. How many HRs has Robles given up on 0-2 and 1-2 counts? Pitchers with good stuff but less-good control are chewed up in the post-season.

    If the Mets pick up Addison Reed, it’s not for the LOOGY role but as another attempt to stuff the hole in the team’s middle relief.

  • Dave

    O’I don’t know why if Orosco was in the building yesterday, he didn’t pitch. And O’I suspect I know who Addison Reed replaces on the roster, whether he’s a lefty or not. Thank you for trying, and good luck in your future endeavors, Eric.

    • Eric

      Even yesterday. O’Flaherty wasn’t scored on, but man oh man, he was throwing some hittable slop up there. Lefty Parnell. His pre-TJ slider is wherever Parnell left his pre-TJ fastball and knuckle curve.

      Clippard is a bad scout.

  • eric1973

    Totally right about Robles and the counts where he gives up homers. These guys throw 2-strike pitches right down the middle. Not sure if you can coach that.

    In a couple of weeks, this innings garbage has to be thrown out the window. The goal is winning the World Series when you have a good chance, which the Mets do.

    • Eric

      True – it’s not just Robles. Despite the praise given to Colon for not giving up a run yesterday, he nearly gave up a HR like Robles did in an otherwise quality inning.

  • Matt in Richmond

    What a win! Love how the veterans are getting it done. Wright, Uribe, Murph, and most of all Cuddyer just really leading the charge right now. And Familia remains off the charts on the clutch meter. LGM!!

    • Eric

      The Mets hung onto that win by their fingernails.

      The 9th inning was like the win over the Orioles again. Familia is unnerved by defensive misplays like the Duda error in the Orioles game and Tejada’s should-have-been-an-error in this game. Familia pulled himself together quick after the Swihart single, though. Adding the splitter seems to have changed his mindset.

      The Mets remain a flawed enough team so that they won’t allow the stretch run to be boring for us. Alderson may empty out the entire surplus in the organization to try to plug holes before the season is done.

      The Nationals are playing better, too. They’re not going to concede the division and those 6 head-to-head games are looming.

      The division lead easily could be down to 4.5 games now. Instead, it’s a relieved 5.5 games. I’m glad to be done with the Red Sox. Tough line-up. They’re going to be good next season.

  • Nick

    Collins reminds me of no Met Manager so much as Yogi Berra. Berra – unlike Gil, unlike Davey – had that incredible tendency to take his foot off the gas pedal when he should have been pushing harder. You give Matt Harvey ten days off, then for God’s sake, push the pedal to the metal and leave him in the game! This Innings and pitch count BS will be the death of me. If you need to, have these guys skip starts — but then let them pitch deeper into the game. This could have, and should have, been a sweep for us if he’d left Harvey and DeGrom in through the seventh or eighth or dare I say it through an entire game (!!!) – as it is, we’re lucky to have escaped with one win.

    Still, 5 and a half up on August 30. We’ll take it.

    • Eric

      deGrom gave up the winning runs yesterday.

      Losing Friday was frustrating, but Collins’s decision with Harvey was at least justifiable.

      First of all, Harvey’s innings limit due to TJ recovery is an organizational decision, not Collins’s decision alone. Second, Harvey has a history of unwinding suddenly after 100 pitches and he was at 103 pitches with an 110-pitch limit. Sandoval and Bogaerts had hit a number of foul balls in the 6th inning which (maybe) showed Harvey was losing a bit on his pitches (though he struck out Bogaerts to end the 6th inning).

      Third, it’s not like Collins replaced Harvey with Parnell. Verrett, in his prior 21.1 innings across 9 appearances with the Mets, had allowed 2 runs for a 0.81 ERA. He had pitched a clean inning on Thursday. But on Friday, handed a 2-0 lead, Verrett gave up 3 runs in the 7th inning.

      When Collins pulled Harvey, it looked like Verrett was establishing himself as a dependable 7th-inning set-up man. Instead, Verrett spit the bit. Back to the drawing board.

      If anything, deGrom and Syndergaard vindicated Collins’s decision to pull Harvey by showing what can happen when you give a little extra rope to a tiring pitcher, even a staff ace, against a hot-hitting team.

      deGrom’s fastball was a tick slower and his location was a tick off in the 6th inning. deGrom tired just enough and the Red Sox punished him with 2 runs to win the game.

      Syndergaard today is a clearer example. Collins left him in to nurse the 2-run lead in the 7th inning and bridge to Clippard. Syndergaard failed to make it out of the 7th inning with the lead.

      Taking out a pitcher a little bit early is better than taking him out a little bit late in a close game against a quality-hitting team.

      The Mets need to find a reliable 3rd arm and, better, 4th arm for quality-hitting teams that can Moneyball the Mets aces out of games in 5 or 6 innings rather than 7 innings.

      As for the Friday and Saturday losses, they’re more on the bats turning back the clock to May/June than on Collins’s decisions with the pitching. A lot of runners left on base.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Got to disagree with you on several fronts Nick. Jake was clearly tiring in the 6th, maybe lingering affects of the food poisoning, but regardless, he didn’t look ready to go deeper. Matt was looking strong, so you might have a case there, but his track record over 100 pitches is very poor as Ron pointed out. Bottom line, with a month left in the season you can’t manage every game like its game 7 of the World Series. The bullpen is going to have to pull its weight.

  • Steve2916

    Why is everyone assuming that Verrett’s poor outing Friday means he’s not the answer? It’s only one game in an otherwise effective season for him. He’s earned another chance.

  • eric1973

    Just heard they sent down Verrett for this Addison Reed. Who says this unknown is better than a known who had one bad outing? I was ok with giving him another chance — but only if the pitcher needs to be taken out — Don’t do it again, as it is too much of a risk. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

  • Nick

    Well, it’s true, Matt in Richmond, I may have been overreacting and focusing on Friday rather than seeing the whole picture. If it were the first time this season that Harvey’s been pulled a hair too early and the bullpen has let him down, I probably wouldn’t have reacted this way. There have just been too many games — maybe the statistics don’t even back this up, but it sure feels like about the 5th or 6th time this season – on top of some miserable 2013 starts – that the bullpen has coughed up a Harvey win. And the real problem is, when you don’t have an amazing bullpen, you can’t just say, well, we need to find arms to get us from the 6th to the 9th. If you don’t have them, then that’s when you stretch your young arms out a little. Granted, I don’t think you can do that with Syndergard – but Harvey and DeGrom can go much deeper. (De Grom’s food poisoning-weakened-outing yesterday notwithstanding….)

  • Ed Rising

    For reasons that escape me I missed Harvey and Degrom this past weekend. Your memories of Orosco’s struggles are remembered by me though its true I tend to forget in favor of his heroic image at the end of the NLCS and World series. There never has a been a Mets closer that has been a lock – no lights out Rivera for us. Makes me laugh at how lauded Franco is by fans and Mets management and yet he struggled so mightly as a closer. Hopefully we will have a Familia bobblehead day in the not so distant future.

  • […] days before Jesse was honored with a bobblehead — for his 1986 pitching — Carlos’s extra-inning hitting and running put himself in the same […]