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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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Stop Doing the Thing That Hurts

Before Tuesday’s game the Mets diverted a river into the Augean stables of their bullpen, sluicing Jeurys Familia onto the IL with a vaguely defined shoulder injury and washing Drew Gagnon out to Syracuse, in favor of Daniel Zamora and newcomer Stephen Nogosek.

Mickey Callaway also called a team meeting, after which his players said all the right things.

The Mets then went out and walloped the Braves.

So is that sequence chronological or causal?

Zamora’s looked like he knows how to pitch and been mostly effective in his brief big-league career … but we would have said the same thing about Gagnon not so long ago. Nogosek, the last remnant of the fire-sale trade of Addison Reed two summers ago, has logged less than 13 innings of Triple-A ball.

Spaghetti-at-the-wall reliever swaps should be greeted with the same diplomatic silence granted that friend who bravely insists that this manipulative, shiftless, “functionally high” boyfriend really does have good qualities that the others lacked. And team meetings make that kind of this-time-it-will-be-differenting seem like hard science. If you believe in them, I’m going to do you the kindness of not asking publicly about the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny.

Maybe I’m wrong and that’s too cynical. I would love to be wrong. If I am wrong, I will risk my by-then brittle old bones by performing a shaky but gleeful interpretive dance at the launch party for Greg Prince’s much-anticipated 30th-anniversary book about the 2019 Miracle, the one that devotes a chapter to the cavalry-style arrival of Zamora and Nogosek and pauses for a joyous point-counterpoint between Callaway’s rallying of the troops and Tug McGraw channeling M. Donald Grant. (We’re gonna have it at Foley’s, with an open bar. Or at least food vouchers.)

But it’s more likely that the part of the Mets’ plan that can be causally linked to Tuesday’s results was sending Jacob deGrom to the hill, and an angry Jacob deGrom at that.

DeGrom’s been merely good this year, perhaps because he’s laboring in the shadow of one of the all-time great campaigns by a starting pitcher, perhaps because sliders have become unreliable. It’s been interesting — and sometimes painful — to watch him navigate that unfamiliar psychological terrain.

Suffice to say that the previously stoic deGrom has not hid his frustration this season. It’s been visible when plays aren’t made behind him, when pitches don’t go where they were directed, and when good work has gone for naught through mischance or bullpen failures. Half the time, it feels like, he’s been pitching while seething.

Tuesday night he had plenty of reason to seethe, from the serial incompetence around him to having his pregame routine scrambled by a delayed starting time that somehow wasn’t properly communicated. He looked coldly furious from the jump and took it out on the Braves, annihilating them with a fastball that hit 100, a slider that actually slid and a change-up that could have been classified as a war crime.

The Braves had no chance until deGrom tired in the ninth, north of 100 pitches. He surrendered back-to-back solo homers and the mound to Robert Gsellman, who managed not to lose an eight-run lead. (Seriously, given recent bullpen outings it does need to be specified.) After the game, he seemed mostly PO’ed about Outs 26 and 27 proving elusive.

Meanwhile, his teammates more than did their part. Pete Alonso was on base six times, connecting for a home run that looked like a routine fly ball until it came down 425 feet away. Jeff McNeil chipped in three hits, including a homer of his own. And Michael Conforto subjected a baseball to a cruel act, redirecting it to the top of the Braves’ annoying Chophouse beyond the right-field stands. Every starter had a hit — even Robinson Cano did things that suggested a mirror held up to his mouth might actually fog.

Maybe the Mets need daily team meetings. Maybe they should cycle relievers on and off the roster before each game. (Letting them actually pitch seems less advisable.) Maybe they should agitate every starter and tell him he’s pitching into the ninth. Maybe they should clone Jacob deGrom.

Or maybe the Mets’ ace performed like an ace, which makes even the dopiest plan look sound.

Because the rest of the day … ehh. We learned Brandon Nimmo has been shut down from baseball activities for a month, the same Brandon Nimmo who was sent back out to play a couple of days after getting hurt. Which makes Nimmo’s case similar to Cano, Justin Wilson and Jed Lowrie, and that’s considering this season alone. That sure sounds like those who shouldn’t be involved in Mets medical decisions are up to their old self-destructive tricks.

We saw what to my eyes sure looked like deGrom all but refusing to come out of the game, and his manager standing down. Even when you’re not sure about the warden’s qualifications, the asylum probably shouldn’t be reinvented as a collective guided by inmate consensus.

In other words, it was mostly a typical day in Metsland. A near-shutout and an offensive outburst will always drown out complaints about such things. But it’s a hard blueprint to follow consistently.

Postscript: The Braves hailed Gary Cohen’s 2,000th play-by-play appearance by sending him chocolate-covered strawberries and Champagne, a classy gesture from a franchise chiefly known for gestures that ought to be retired.

I often ride out insomnia and my own night-owl habits by watching other games on, and that’s taught me that the Mets’ booth stands alone. Their wisdom, easy flow and balancing of hometown affinities with clear-eyed analysis add up to pitch-perfect broadcasts on most nights, and Cohen’s play-by-play is the fulcrum of it all.

I can summon many Gary Cohen calls back to life if I close my eyes, reaching back to his radio days. But one, for me, will always exemplify his Hall of Fame talent.

(Warning: It’s not a call we remember joyously.)

It was the last call on the afternoon Jeff Francoeur lined into an unassisted triple play. Here’s the transcript: “2-2, the runners go! Line drive — CAUGHT BY BRUNTLETT! He makes the tag … it’s a triple play … and the ballgame is over! An unassisted triple play to end the ballgame! UN-believable! [beat] With the runners going and nobody out, Bruntlett — who had made two bad plays in the inning — has a line drive hit right to him at the bag. He stepped on second for the second out and tagged out Murphy to complete the triple play!”

Elapsed time of the play: 4.6 seconds. Total time of Cohen’s call: 37.5 seconds.

That’s not a walkoff homer, but a play that’s only occurred 15 times in MLB history. An unassisted triple play happens in the blink of an eye, and only a prophet or a lunatic would rehearse calling one. I can’t imagine a harder test for a baseball broadcaster, and Cohen aced it: In rapid succession, his call accurately captures what happened, the mechanics of a play almost no one watching has ever seen, and the context for the defender and the game. All without a single bobble or reversal. The lone pause? It’s there to let the moment breathe.

I marvel at Gary Cohen’s work every night, but for that one words fail me. We are so lucky to have him. Here’s to 2,000 more nights with him and his crew.

17 comments to Stop Doing the Thing That Hurts

  • Seth

    I see plenty of disagreements between Mets fans, especially these days, but the value of our broadcast booth is never disputed. What an absolutely perfect succession to Bob, Lindsey, and Ralph.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Of course what Jake should have mad about was being sent out to pitch the 9th already at over 100 pitches (after going over over 110 in last two starts) with…a 10-run lead. And then bringing in Gsellman, on paper our 3rd best reliever, with…an 8-run lead. If anything would have been a nice spot for new guy Nogosek’s debut. Oh well, why care if you pile up innings and stress on deGrom, we’ve only got him for…6 more years…

    • Matt in Woodside

      deGrom was borderline mutinous last night, though. Callaway went to shake his hand / tell him his night was over after the seventh (when he had only thrown 89 pitches) and deGrom straight up ignored him and just walked right past. Gary and Ron commented and showed a replay after the commercial break. I don’t really blame deGrom. Given the bullpen’s performance lately, who knows if an eight or 10 run lead is safe for six outs. But last night he looked like he would have thrown a gatorade cooler into the on-deck circle if Callaway had insisted on pulling him. I agree about Gsellman, though. That was a weird choice. Diaz was warming up late at one point, too. Why?

      • Seth

        It was all on TV. Mickey didn’t go to shake Jake’s hand at all. He tried to talk to him, and Jacob walked right past, ignoring him. Jake walked to the other side of the dugout and Eiland came up to him, obviously trying to deliver that message from Mickey. Jake looked incredulous for about 3 seconds, then the camera cut away. Whatever was said, he didn’t come out of the game at that point.

  • Pete In Iowa

    Out here in the hinterlands, my lifeline is the Extra Innings package through Dish. While most every game offers a choice of either team’s booth crew, for some ghastly reason, SNY is HARDLY EVER offered. I can assure all who care about such matters, for the literal hand-full of times SNY has been available, it is an event not to be missed in our humble household. Unless you’ve had to sit and listen to ALL the others, you can really have little idea how good RKG are. What a treasure they truly are.
    On the Cano front — completely dozing at third on a wild pitch on which he would have scored STANDING if his head was even remotely in the game, he stays firmly planted at third.

    • Seth

      Can you do and watch on your computer or smart device? I’m far away too but that’s what I do — and you have your choice of feed every night. No GKR withdrawals!

  • Henry J Lenz

    Great column. I will fly in from LA to stand at Foley’s bar!

  • Left Coast Jerry

    For Pete in Iowa, I have extra innings on DirecTV here in California, and I get a choice of either team’s feed every night, except when it’s a national or regional broadcast on ESPN or Fox.

    As far as the team goes, I worry that last night’s victory was the exception rather than the rule, and by the All-Star break we’ll see players with expiring contracts like Wheeler and Frazier being traded for a bunch of Jacob Rhame clones.

    • Bob

      Left Coast Jerry
      My Padre Fan pal in Carlsbad, CA also gets DirecTV Extra Innings and gets away games for SNY.
      Here in North Hollywood with Rectum Extra Innings package -I almost never get choice for SNY away games.
      Depending on how bad other announcers are–I’ll mute the DC Expos, Fish & skankees. Some of the others are bearable for short periods.
      I DO appreciate GKR when I have the chance.

  • LeClerc

    Cohen is the best contemporary sports broadcaster – period.

    • K. Lastima

      While Cohen is without doubt the best active baseball broadcaster, nobody, not even Gary, comes close to the amazing Mike “Doc” Emrick who stands alone as the best sports play-by-play announcer, EVER!

  • eric1973

    NY Daily News calls Familia’s Bennett lesion a “Bennett liaison.”

    Looks as if there’s some fringe benefits to getting this!

  • mikeL

    wow nothing like a crisp, braves beat-down to remember that i not so long ago *rooted* for the mets…that simple act of fandom having been replaced by near-daily angry disbelief and morning-after quarterbacking.

    yes, FAFIF makes that maddening routine bearable and meaningful, as do gary and company. yea, i remember that play but was too stunned and PO’ed to really appreciate gary’s call. but every night he’s the ever steady and soothing presence as things on the field fall apart for our metsies.

    he’s a future MLB HOF’er…but only if he can call a championship win before he retires.

    (how’s that for a challenge, metsies?!)

    ps: what a funny line!

    ” …even Robinson Cano did things that suggested a mirror held up to his mouth might actually fog. ”

    keep ’em coming jason … humor may again be all we have!

  • 9th String Catcher

    There was nothing like listening to Gary on radio. No one ever created a word picture like that guy. It is definitely something we can all agree on, I think.

  • Jacobs27

    I worry about Jake looking so high strung this year. I certainly sympathize, but I hope it doesn’t get to him.

    Congrats to Gary Cohen. Here’s one of my favorite calls from his last year on the radio and Piazza’s last year with the Mets.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    …Spaghetti-at-the-wall reliever swaps should be greeted with the same diplomatic silence granted that friend who bravely insists that this manipulative, shiftless, “functionally high” boyfriend really does have good qualities that the others lacked. And team meetings make that kind of this-time-it-will-be-differenting seem like hard science.

    Wow. What a great analogy. We had a few of those with our daughter, but it all turned out all right (so far, of course), married a nice guy lawyer (the nice guy part is much more impressive to us than the lawyer part), just had our first Grandchild. Not so sure it will happen with the Mets though.

    PS: Sorry I am just reading and posting this as the latest Met Bullpen Explosion is taking place, so, not today, at the least.

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