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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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Baseball Is Cruel, Ridiculous and Also Sometimes Fun

Our blog pal Shannon Shark of MetsPolice has a running gag in which he imagines the Mets aren’t a ballclub but a TV show, with Greg as its fiendishly inventive show runner.

Confronted with games such as Monday afternoon’s, I wonder if Shannon might be on to something.

Last week, you’ll recall, Terry Collins caught hell from a fair-sized chunk of Mets nation (including this writer) for removing Robert Gsellman after 84 pitches, a decision he made a night after burning his least unreliable relievers despite a big lead. Spoiler alert: the shallow end of the bullpen failed Gsellman and Terry and the Mets lost.

Fast-forward to the sixth inning of Monday’s game. The Mets had a 3-2 lead, which with our bullpen is basically like being down two, and had loaded the bases with two out. Gsellman had thrown 89 pitches, showing off an effective sinker that generated ground balls and allowing just one run on three hits.

Due up to bat? Gsellman, of course.

I mean, you tell me what to do there. A base hit could give the Mets a 5-2 lead, which with our bullpen is basically like being tied. Gsellman’s not where you’d typically turn for a base hit. Yet he’d thrown only five more pitches than in the outing when his removal became a federal case. One more inning from Gsellman would mean one fewer inning from the bullpen. It would mean better-rested guys on Tuesday with unknown quantity Tyler Pill taking the hill. And so on.

It’s the kind of dilemma a mean-spirited show runner might throw at a manager and an increasingly high-strung fan base. (As well as yet another obvious reason the designated hitter is bullshit, but that’s a different post.)

That was the cruel part. Terry chose to let Gsellman bat, which led to the ridiculous part.

Facing reliever Rob Scahill, Gsellman worked the count to 2-2 and stared at a 94 MPH fastball on the inside corner. It was a good pitch, and strike three … except for the part where C. B. Bucknor called it a ball. Manny Pina‘s shoulders slumped slightly behind the plate. Scahill paused in front of the mound, restrained himself from hopping up and down in disbelief, and returned to his post. Gsellman took one step backwards, out of the batter’s box, and stood there looking faintly embarrassed.

The next pitch really was a ball. Gsellman walked and it was 4-2 Mets.

Gsellman cruised through the seventh and gave way to newly beloved Met Paul Sewald, who turned in a spotless eighth. Enter Addison Reed, a steely and reliable setup man turned nerve-rackingly shaky closer. Reed gave up singles to the first two guys, and oh lord it was happening again.

Even the most dispassionate fan will catch himself or herself squirming in agony on the couch and fuming that So-and-So needs to try harder. It’s dumb, but forgivable in low doses — from the comfort of the sofa it looks like it shouldn’t be that hard for a world-class athlete to throw a ball over the plate, hit the ball to the right side, or lift a pitch to the outfield. Just try harder, we urge athletes who’ve outworked thousands of competitors to attain their current position. Just focus, we implore guys whose workplace includes thousands of screaming onlookers and a guaranteed public dissection of failure.

In good times and bad, Reed looks vaguely perturbed on the mound — he always reminds me of the deputy in a Western who’s tried reason but now finds himself reluctantly sauntering out into the dusty street to settle things with sixguns. I know it isn’t true, and thinking otherwise is just dopey guy-on-the-couch projection, but Reed looked like he’d had enough of this self-inflicted shit. He nodded at Rene Rivera and went to work on Pina. Suddenly the fastball looked like it had a bit more bite, a little more wiggle. Reed fanned Pina on three fastballs cutting over the edges of the plate, struck out Jonathan Villar on the last of four fastballs, then threw a pair of sliders to Orlando Arcia, the second of which arced softly into Michael Conforto‘s glove.

And just like that, justice prevailed again in Metstown. That, unexpectedly, was the fun part.

27 comments to Baseball Is Cruel, Ridiculous and Also Sometimes Fun

  • Matt in Richmond

    Don’t look now, but these Mets might have something cooking here. At a minimum I think it’s safe to say that rumors of their demise were greatly exaggerated. As shitty as it felt when our bullpen was struggling and games we seemingly had in hand were slipping away, it’s instructive to sometimes remind yourself that this is something that happens to all teams from time to time.

    Just for one day’s worth of anecdotes; yesterday the Rangers pen coughed up 5 runs to lose 10-8 to the Rays. The Red Sox pen choked away a late lead to fall to the White Sox. Arizona’s pen gave up 3 runs including a walk off homer to fall to Pittsburgh. I’m not sure how to describe what happened to Minnesota’s relief corps but they surrendered 14 runs in just a couple of innings to lose to Houston. Keep in mind these are all teams that either were expected to be contenders or are contending. Safe to assume their fans are bemoaning their pitiful pitchers and/or castigating their manager today.


  • Curt

    Yup. Much as I hated seeing him pulled early the last game, I think manager-me hits for him this time. When Gsellman drew a walk after the un-strikeout it felt like the baseball gods had decided to let us have this one. Of course the baseball gods can be deceitful as anyone who recalls a certain Endy Chavez catch knows. And I actually think Gsellman pitched because the Mets had no one in the bp warmed up with the 3rd out coming to the plate.

    I hope TC finds a way for Flores to hit more often. He’s swinging the bat too well to sit.

  • Matt in Richmond

    A tip of the cap to the late Frank Deford. In addition to being a fan of his writing I saw him speak at the University of Richmond about 7 or 8 years ago. He was a unique character who knew how to bring his own style and flair to a story while still not making it about him. He was charismatic and funny without being a show off. He will be sorely missed.

  • eric1973

    Great move by TC keeping Gsellman in the game. Having him pitch another inning is more valuable than a PH (Walker?) cold off the bench, who will most likely not drive in a run.

    Managerial decisions matter more than we like to admit. Here’s just another example. Great move, TC.

  • LeClerc

    Gsellman walks with two out, bases loaded, to drive in the “insurance” run.

    Reed gives up two consecutive hits to bring the “go ahead” run to the plate in the top of the ninth. He then retires three consecutive batters. Mets win!

    The previous evening in Pittsburgh, in the bottom of the ninth – Neil Ramirez walks two batters (as he is wont to do) – but then coaxes outs from the next two Bucs. Mets win!

    Yes – I would have put Walker up to hit for Gs.

    But it all worked out fine. Mets win!

    Is it time to bring Montero back up? Just kidding, just kidding…,

  • Daniel Hall

    Between a .067 hitting pitcher and the Mets’ bench, you can’t err too badly on the side of the .067 batting pitcher…

  • Ken K. in NJ

    That last Fastball to Pina may have been the nastiest pitch the bullpen has thrown all year (Ok, not the greatest praise). And it was EXACTLY where Rivera set up his glove. I actually felt like we had it under control from that point on.

  • greensleeves

    Agreed! Addison Reed looks like the proverbial taciturn gunslinger. For two seasons we’ve had the pleasure of watching his unruffled sheriff carve notches into his six gun. Lately, like everyone else in that sweatshop of a bullpen, he’s been taking the hill with nary a bullet in his holster. Not last night. Last night was a tonic; a return to yesteryear.

    There’s no sweeter sight than when he snuffs the fire, takes his index finger to bump back the brim of his hat and strolls coolly toward the dugout.

  • Is it me, or is Addison Reed beginning to physically resemble Braden Looper?

  • Gil

    “Maybe they’re not so shi$%y” – translation from the Indians Groundscrew

  • eric1973

    I think Reed looks facially like a young Nolan Ryan.

    BTW, looked like Gsellman swung on that check swing, so thanks to the ump for allowing him 5 strikes on that time at bat.

    Gotta get Flores more playing time, as he can now hit righties. All he needed was a little experience, as he is still only 25.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Mets rolling? Have won 5 of 9 vs. two of worst teams in majors and one okay team. Schedule to date has been easiest in majors with some actually good teams coming up. Let’s see where we are in 2 weeks after two more Harvey starts and Matz and Lugo with at least one under their belts…

    As for Terry’s big move in the 6th–it shows where we are when we praise the obvious move. There were two outs and Walker’s chance of getting a needed hit was 1 in 4, by the averages. Gsellman (who had just hit a sac fly so not hopeless) odds were maybe 1 in 6 or 7. With one out it would have been a tougher decision. Given over use of relievers–Blevins unavailable again–and Mets already ahead it was easy move. And maybe all the criticism the week before of yanking Gsellman actually had an effect.

    Edited by moderator.

  • Eric

    Gsellman now has a string of quality relief outings and starts. When Matz and Lugo are both ready, should Gsellman keep his spot in the rotation or go to the bullpen? If he doesn’t start, I doubt Gsellman will be sent down to AAA to keep his arm stretched out because he’s an effective reliever and the Mets bullpen needs the help. I don’t recall that Lugo was more effective than Gsellman either as a starter or reliever last season, so a factor may be which role better protects Lugo’s fitness to pitch.

    • 9th string catcher

      My guess is that they will use Gsellman in the pen since he’s done it this year, and Lugo hasn’t pitched at all. Once they evaluate how effective both of them are in the roles, they might make an adjustment. Gsellman is the better pitcher, but also the most adaptable at this stage of the game. Ultimately, Gs will spot start until someone gets hurt or is ineffective.

      They could also try out the 6 man rotation, but I’m not sure how you would manage that. I guess 6 man would keep everyone stretched out and would allow for skipped starts, but again, not sure if that would solve the main problem which is starters not being able to go deep into games.

  • GroteFan

    The Mets are now 6-4 in their last 10 games, or dare I say 8-12 in their last 20.
    While I know you can only beat who you play, the Angels are 26-28, the Pads are 20-33, the Bucs are in last place at 24-28 and Milwaukee is 27-24.
    While I for one saw the bullpen as a net positive heading into the season, it’s been a disaster, created by the loss of Familia and the mismanagement by TC. How soon before Sewald is suffering from some malady as he’s on the list of league leaders in appearances?
    Don’t get me wrong, it’s better when they win than when they lose, I’m just not bullish.

    • 9th string catcher

      It’s really not as much about the bullpen as it seems. If the starting staff does not return to form, it won’t make much difference who is in the pen; the overuse that’s been necessary to this point will continue, making everyone increasingly less and less effective.

      If you turn around next week and have deGrom, Harvey, Wheeler, Matz and Gsellmen giving quality starts, you then have Lugo, Blevins, Reed, Sewald and Edgin getting you through the 8th and 9th. That’s a formula that can close out and win games. If the starters can’t consistently get through the 5th and 6th innings (a distinct possibility if Matz gets hurt again and Wheeler/Harvey/deGrom keep throwing as many pitches as they’ve been doing), it won’t matter.

      The offense is in a good place right now, and if we end up with a surplus of starting pitching (imagine that), the Mets will stack up against anybody.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I believe that either way [Gsellman] is going to get one more. If that goes similarly well I’d say it’d be tough to take him out of the rotation.

    Contending teams all over baseball routinely have bullpen meltdowns. It’s proximity bias that makes us think we’re the only ones having difficulties. The loss of Familia was a blow, no doubt, but I would actually pin most of the struggles of the bullpen on the rotation’s poor performance. As the rotation stabilizes and improves, so should the bullpen results.

    Edited by moderator.

  • LeClerc

    Question to Jason, Greg, or the comment community:

    On May 26th, Lugo was placed on the 60 day DL.

    How is it that he is expected back on the 25 man roster “after one more rehab start”?

  • Burbank Jake

    “A base hit could give the Mets a 5-2 lead, which with our bullpen is basically like being tied.”

    Sadly hilarious line.

  • Dave

    I would hope that the Mets can find room for both Gsellman and Lugo, considering some of the guys currently taking up roster spots. I think there’s work for both of them, especially given that Wheeler’s innings limit might have him done by late July. And if Wheeler were on a pitch count for the season, he might have been done already.

    • It wins you nothing, Dave, but worth noting that this is the 50,000th comment in Faith and Fear history.

      That’s a lot of Mets-related angst.

  • Dave

    Wow…as far as Mets related honors go, that even beats getting blocked on Twitter by Neil Ramirez! Thanks!