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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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Rob’s Got This

As long as Rob Manfred is announcing that extreme shifting will be a thing of the past in 2023, let’s retroactively get rid of double plays. In the spirit of the pitch clock that will redefine the imposition of time within the confines of the once-timeless game of baseball, let’s turn the overall clock back 24 hours and declare that any ground ball fielded by an infielder with at least two runners on base and one of them on third can result in no more than one out. Since there’s no time to test it in the Atlantic League, just apply it to the geographically southernmost game played in the majors Friday night. Explain that it’s for competitive reasons or necessary to appeal to an action-oriented youth market that won’t tolerate rally-killing. “The best of interests of baseball” is a dependable chestnut. Whatever flimsy rationale Manfred manufactures will suffice. The bottom line is you can still have double plays, just not from a ground ball inside the parameters of the infield and not with a runner on third.

According to the Manfred Revision, which has just been ratified by unanimous vote in my head, if a team is up in the top of, say, the third inning, with a runner on first and a runner on third and one out, and the batter grounds to the first baseman, once the first baseman throws to second to force the runner coming from first, that’s it. No more throwing. The runner from third scores.

Another example: It’s the top of the seventh with one out. The bases are loaded. A sharp ground ball is hit to third. The third baseman throws to second and records one out. That’s it again. The runner from third scores.

On the other hand, in the hypothetical bottom of the seventh, a team has one runner on, on first with one out. The batter hits a ground ball. Go nuts, defense. Get two outs if you can.

Under this scenario in a not so hypothetical game I might have watched last night, the Mets, who trailed, 4-3, after completing a 1-6-4-3 double play to end the seventh, would be ahead at least 5-4 after seven. Then, in the bottom of the eighth inning, another of Rob Manfred’s new rules — so new it hasn’t even been committed to press release — could be invoked:

Never use Joely Rodriguez late in a one-run game again. That one pretty much explains itself.

So we exchange an out for a run in the top of the third…and exchange another out for another run in the top of the seventh…and we get over this fetish for spreading Joely too thin…and, hey, look, we just won, 5-4, and the Mets are still in first place.

Nice going, Commissioner!

Alas, the rules for which I am lobbying after the fact do not exist, not yet, anyway. Perhaps if a gambling consortium sponsored them and branded them with élan — the Lucky Ball; the Lefty Sit — they’d be MLB law. Instead, we have the ability to ground into double plays with runners on third and we have the unfettered compulsion to deploy shaky southpaws, and we don’t have a Mets 5-4 win over the Marlins. We have, instead, a 6-3 loss in Miami, which, when coupled with a 6-4 Braves win in Seattle, places the erstwhile division-leading Mets second in the National League East.

Which, in turn, doesn’t mean all that much with more than three weeks to go in the regular season and means only so much in light of almost everybody and their uncle going to the playoffs provided they don’t out-and-out suck for 162 games. That’s right: Rob Manfred has essentially legislated crashing and burning from perilous heights out of our Septembers. Seven teams meet the bare minimum standard of winning more than they’ve lost in the National League this year. Four of them are postseason locks, including (and you’re not going to believe this) the Mets, who, appearances to the contrary, aren’t going to blow their date in October. They may have it pushed up, but the Commish ensured their participation by making Wild Card qualification practically blowproof for any team whose sucking has been, at worst, intermittent, episodic and fairly recent.

Thanks, Rob!

Francisco Lindor, who hit into one of the two peskily legal double plays that made Friday night too steep a hurdle to clear versus a supposedly lesser opponent, framed the Mets’ difficulties after the game. He’s too polite to say “we shouldn’t have used Joely Rodriguez to go from being behind by one run to go to being behind by three runs in the eighth inning” and he wasn’t specific about his own seventh-inning double play or Jeff McNeil’s in the third. Instead, he posited, “I think it’s just baseball. I think it’s that time of the year, you know? A lot of us kind of hit the wall. We’ve got to find ways to break through the wall, and do it together. That’s what good teams do, and I’m sure we’re gonna do it.”

That’s a reasonable assessment in September, if an alarming one when set against the experience of a rival that burst through its wall in June and never stopped bursting, but that’s OK. It gives Rob Manfred a chance for more creativity.

Let’s remove walls!

Retroactively by 24 hours, of course. That way the two two-run homers the Marlins blasted over walls — one by Garrett Cooper off David Peterson in the first, the other by Charles Leblanc off the theoretically ineligible Rodriguez in the eighth — might have been caught. As for Pete Alonso’s own two-run dinger in the sixth, nobody can run down a Polar blast!

I’m using a surfeit of exclamation points in this essay to convince myself that any of what I’m suggesting is remotely workable. On the off chance it’s not, here are two final suggestions before tonight’s game and the fresh energy I will devote to suddenly contemplating the Mets’ potential opponent in a 4-vs-5 best-of-three first-round matchup (if we play the Phillies three times at Citi Field, Noah Syndergaard presumably plans to use the occasion as an opportunity to gather extra rest):

1. If you have to put Starling Marte on the IL, which from more than a thousand miles away seems like the healing move, promote Triple-A bopper Mark Vientos already. I don’t usually join minor league savior choruses, generally figuring seasoning is what makes a prospect well done, but every time I turn around, he’s hitting a ball out of Syracuse and into Canada. Besides, give or take other roster machinations, it’s a three-week window, not to see “what he can do” (the song of Septembers far sadder than this), but to maybe, just maybe, catch lightning in a bottle. Three-plus weeks of Tidewater callup Mike Vail helped keep the Mets viable into September of 1975. And you know who has the same initials as “Mets viable” and “Mike Vail”? Mark Vientos, who could prove most valuable. Also, Mo Vaughn, and he injected some pretty distant mood vaccinators into our bloodstream, too. Either way, it’s not like there’s no room in our offensive inventory for bottled lightning.

2. The Doors graciously furnished us with the Mojo Risin’ refrain in 1999. Thanks to Francisco, they’re being called on again. We tried to run (away from the Braves); we tried to hide (from the Braves). Now?

Break on through to the other side, fellas. Use your bats. It’s quicker that way.

11 comments to Rob’s Got This

  • Jacobs27

    Great post and concept.

    I can only imagine Mark Vientos is saying “Hello, I love you, let me jump in your game!”

  • Lots of shenanigans will happen. After 2 pickoff attempts, the runner can take a 45 foot lead and only the catcher can then try to throw him out at first? Or can the pitcher turn and throw to second, where the shortstop can start a rundown? What happens to the clock if the pitcher ‘drops’ the ball before he comes set? Or says his glove webbing needs repair? Or his contact lens needs some eye drops? Can you still have the hidden ball trick? Can the clock operator create a home team advantage with a slow start finger? Earl Weaver and Billy Martin would think of all kinds of tactics. At least we’ll see great arguments again. George Brett’s pine tar meltdown will seem tame by comparison. I think a pitch clock only works well with no one on base.

    • Jacobs27

      I agree that these rules do create all sorts of conundrums that may create shenanigans.

      That said, as far as pickoffs go, the rule is better than I initially thought. It says that the after two pickoff attempts, the third attempt has to succeed otherwise the runner is awarded the base. So the runner could not just take a huge lead because he still risks being picked off. The pitcher just loses the right to throw over without getting him.

      I don’t see anything stopping the pitcher throwing to second either, if the runner takes off early.

  • Dave

    They better Break On Through (To The Other Side), because if we’re close to The End, this fan base will not Take It As It Comes.

  • Bob

    The stench of The Manfred entity is powerful-like a overflowing sewer.
    He pollutes and fucks up all he touches…

    As for our Mets………SPLAT!
    But ya’ never know–

    Let’s Go Mets!

  • eric1973

    I think what this sport needs is a Robot Commissioner. It would definitely have more sense than Manfred and would reverse much of this muck.

    Any rule change has to stand up to the ultimate scrutiny:
    World Series, Game 7
    Game tied, Bottom of the 9th
    Bases Loaded
    2 out, 3-2 count
    Pitcher takes too much time.
    Umpire calls Ball Four and the World Series is over.


  • Curt Emanuel

    Been mulling over bringing Vientos up myself. Unless everyone is very wrong you can’t play him at 3rd right now so DH and spot 1b play.

    I’m resigned to the WC. I’m not even sure that’s bad. The rust vs rest issue. Though maybe I’ll be surprised. At least Pete hit one. Maybe he gets going.

    The pickoff rule will hurt us unless we get more speed. SBs will be much simpler IMO. And we don’t have many threats.

  • Question for Mets management: What happened to Nate Fisher? Remember him, the lefty reliever who pitched three scoreless innings at Philly in that memorable 10-9 win? In a hitters’ park, against a potent lineup in a high-pressure game?

    He’s earned the chance to make his case to be their go-to lefty reliever and he’s not with the big club.

  • Eric

    Marte on IL. Vientos called up. Hoping for lightning in a bottle a la TJ Rivera, 2016.

    The division race isn’t lost yet, but yes, the wildcard ticket, let alone 3 wildcard tickets, drains away much of the old-school drama since the Mets aren’t in the AL Central division race where the 2nd place team will probably be eliminated.

    If the Mets manage to win games 2 and 3 of the Marlins series after winning 2 of 3 from the Pirates, I can’t complain since that’s been the Mets winning pace all this season. Then, if the Mets consistently win series the rest of the way and still lose the division to the Braves, I’ll be disappointed that the Mets didn’t rise to the competition, but I won’t be disillusioned with the 2022 team. Not stepping up to match the Braves unrelenting winning pace is one thing. Derailing from the Mets winning pace all this season in the home stretch would be something else.

    In any case, the main worry isn’t losing the division to the Braves since the wildcard is a well-proven route to the World Series.

    The main worry is the Mets, as Lindor said, hitting a wall. All along the Mets have been an older team with injury histories and lack of depth that compensated for glaring weaknesses in the line-up and bullpen while they built their division lead. But we counted on the team weaknesses being fixed at the trade deadline. They weren’t. And now they aren’t being compensated for as well anymore because in the home stretch of a long season, injuries (eg, Scherzer) and fatigue (eg, Alonso) have set into a team that’s been older with injury histories and lack of depth all along, and key players are on the IL or playing hurt.

    In particular, if Walker, Carrasco, and Peterson don’t find their early season form, the Mets aren’t winning the division.

    The pass/fail problem is 38-year-old Scherzer, he of the red-flag 2021 dead arm, on the IL. Give me a wildcard slot with a fit Scherzer, deGrom, Bassitt, and Diaz, I’ll trust the defense stays tight and hope the post-season bullpen is pieced together and the Mets offense collectively rediscovers enough of its earlier 2015 Royals-esque form. Take Cy Young-level Scherzer out of the equation and I’ll doubt the Mets chances even if the Braves slow down and the Mets manage to win the division.

  • Adding to my earlier comment. Chaos will likely ensue every time ball four (or strike three) is (or isn’t) called as the clock reaches zero with the bases loaded just as the pitch is thrown. Will both managers call for a replay in slow motion? Is it a judgement call or reviewable when the pitchers fingers came off the ball? Jim Bouton would have a field day describing that! And what if the pitcher can’t hear the Pitchcom and wants to restart the catcher’s sign? What if he wants a new ball? Do they restart the clock too? Maybe hitters changing bats or the third base coach walking towards home and whispering signs to them. What happens to the clock then? A whole new cat and mouse game. I predict lots of rubarbs and ejections.