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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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Upward and Inward and Onward

Yoan Lopez came up and in on Nolan Arenado in the eighth inning of Wednesday afternoon’s almost incidental Mets loss to the Cardinals. Like what Shawn Estes threw in the greater geographic vicinity of Roger Clemens’s backside twenty years ago, Lopez’s pitch didn’t touch the batter he was facing. Unlike with Estes, Lopez’s pitch did what it was supposed to. It transmitted a message. We’ll see if anybody receives it.

Before the 10-5 downer to end an otherwise successful road trip was in the books — Carlos Carrasco wasn’t Cookie-crisp; England Dan and Sean Reid-Foley wasn’t the answer; Long Island’s Own Steven Matz withstood one shaky frame in four; and the lofty baserunning ambitions of Mark Canha and Luis Guillorme refused to be fully realized (each man was thrown out going for an extra ninety feet in the sixth while the Mets trailed sizably) — Lopez did what every baseball fan intrinsically understands to be the right thing. He brushed back the other team’s usual third baseman after the Mets’ third baseman, J.D. Davis, had been struck where his left ankle meets his left foot. Davis had a full count on him at the time. As Ron Darling asked regarding Genesis Cabrera’s errant delivery, “How can you miss that badly on a three-two pitch — honestly?”

Honestly, after nineteen instances of one pitcher or another missing badly and instead hitting Mets over the season’s first twenty games, Buck Showalter was no longer interested in rationales. Instead, through whatever wink, nod or direct instruction was necessary, the manager let it be known to Lopez, who’d never pitched for the Mets before but surely rates a warm greeting at Citi Field if he’s not optioned to Syracuse by Friday, to do a little something about the HBP epidemic that’s been on the Mets’ minds and bodies all season long.

Thus, the pitch up and in on Arenado, who it should be noted isn’t a pitcher. The pitcher doesn’t bat in the National League anymore. By the bottom of the eighth of a 10-5 game, no pitcher was going to bat even if the NL had retained real baseball rules in 2022. Perhaps it’s poetic justice that Arenado, payback target du jour, was serving as designated hitter. More likely, it was a matter of Arenado leading off to start the home half of the inning. He was the first guy the Mets had a chance to move off the plate, which is what a pitcher is supposed to do in that situation.

Personally, I’d prefer some variation on the demented lunch-period game we’d play in high school. It was called asses-up handball. If you were the first combatant out, you faced the wall and somebody got a shot at your buttocks. It was stupid then, but at least it was direct. Like Roger Clemens at Shea in the early (if not early enough) 2000s, it should have been Genesis Cabrera putting himself in the box and on the line. Arenado didn’t throw at Davis. I’m not sure Cabrera threw “at” Davis. We can be certain too many pitches have gotten away from too many pitchers. Somebody has to face the wall and the music.

Arenado, to be clear, wasn’t hit. He didn’t have to limp away as Davis did minutes prior. He didn’t have to be tested for a concussion as Pete Alonso had the night before. He didn’t have to handle his rib cage with care as Starling Marte did that same night. Nolan Arenado was simply the proxy for the rest of the league. This one’s a warning, fellas. We’re winning most of our games, but we are rapidly losing patience.

Instead of stepping out, glaring briefly, and getting on with his at-bat, Arenado disrupted the kabuki. The batter used his outdoor voice and then some. Next thing you know, all the St. Louis Cardinals and all the New York Mets are on the field, sorta, kinda going at it. Most every man fancied himself a peacemaker. Maybe not Cardinal first base coach Stubby Clapp, who went after Alonso (just what Pete needs: a case of the Clapp). Coach Stubby was ejected. Arenado was ejected. Everybody fumed. We hated the Cardinals again. I mean more than we already did for 1985, 1987 and 2006. Some grudges are simply dormant until reignited.

Timeless advice. (Courtesy of the Gary Nusbaum archives.)

In situations such as these, we reflexively become Romans rooting for the lions, which is more rewarding than what people in Detroit doing the same thing get for their troubles every fall. “GET ‘EM!” is a perfectly valid reaction from the sidelines. Nineteen passes to first or not, it stings to watch the guys you root for take nineteen for the team. I don’t blame Buck for telling Yoan to experience the briefest of control issues. It was a ball, by the way, not a hit by pitch. Gotta keep saying that. Nolan, who has been known to field splendidly in his time, mishandled his reaction to the pitch that got him snarling. His rookie manager, Oli Marmol, clutched his own pearls a little too tightly, too: “When you come up top like that and jeopardize someone’s career and life, yeah, I take exception to that.”

Showalter, veteran of a few rodeos, sounded more serene and sane. “I’ll let them handle their players,” Buck said about St. Louis’s protestations. “I know our player [Alonso] got hit in the head and went to first base.” While everybody else is playing checkers, Showalter is managing baseball.

Lopez’s unremarkable role in the ongoing 2022 subplot of these Mets being hit and not enjoying it couldn’t help but bring to mind Shawn Estes’s wayward payback pitch at one of the all-time villains in Met lore. In 2002, when Estes, after missing Roger Clemens’s humongous ass, whacked his two-run homer off the man who’d thrown a ball and a bat at his current batterymate Mike Piazza in 2000, it may have been the only instance in the history of baseball where your pitcher takes their pitcher — both a despised opponent and one of the best the game had ever seen — over the wall and it registers as a consolation prize. Never mind that Estes wasn’t a 2000 Met (he was one of the Giants the Mets defeated in the NLDS on their way to meet Clemens in the World Series). Yoan Lopez had been a Met for an inning and change when he was assigned the task of clearing his new ballclub’s collective throat over being hit nineteen times. Yoan said, with one pitch and so many words, “AHEM” and “OK.”

That’s how you do it, the fan who’s been watching baseball longer than Buck Showalter’s been managing baseball says from the proverbial cheap seats. It’s easy to dismiss Arenado’s flared temper when it’s not a 94-MPH fastball coming near us. But it’s also what we do. Sort of like detesting the Cardinals.

Hot Rod Kanehl and Miguel Cabrera get together in this week’s National League Town. Go up and in to your favorite podcast platform or listen here.

6 comments to Upward and Inward and Onward

  • Eric

    I hope Davis isn’t hobbled. His career has been held back by injury. The NL DH opens up opportunities for him, but not if he’s hurt again.

    Alonso’s comment on Clapp was fun, that he understood Clapp’s action because he (Alonso) is a big strong guy who can hurt people if he wants to.

  • open the gates

    “I’ll let them handle their players…I know our player [Alonso] got hit in the head and went to first base.” That was about the finest response that any manager could have given in that situation. It’s good to have our manager be the grownup in the room for a change.

    I actually forgot that Estes took Clemens deep in that game. Gotta move Estes up a few clicks on my Old Met Pitchers Fondly Remembered list.

  • Ken K.

    My take-away from all this is it’s comforting to know there is someone on a Major League Baseball Field in a Major League Baseball Uniform in 2021 with the name Stubby Clapp. If he was a Jeopardy Answer on Tuesday Night, I would have guessed “Who pitched in 6 games for the 1911 Washington Senators and was never heard from again”

  • open the gates

    Another thought: I kind of wish that they had kicked Genesis Cabrera out of the game. You know the New York Post would have had “GENESIS EXODUS” as their sports headline the next day.

  • Seth

    As long as they were out there, I wish someone had punched Adam Wainwright. You know, just because.

  • Jack S

    Nice shirt from ‘85 ( or ‘87 ?) …. I think I have one in my shirt drawer still !