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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 New Market Inefficiency

This recap’s headline is a term we’ve heard a lot in the sabermetric age, as front offices search for previously overlooked and/or undervalued traits in players. The last two nights, I’ve found a new market inefficiency as a fan: You don’t need to watch the part of the game that doesn’t matter.

I don’t recommend this strategy, because a) it’s hard to pull off consistently; and b) the fun of baseball is the journey and not just the destination. But for two nights in a row I have to admit it’s worked.

On Monday night I arrived for duty in the sixth; once I had the Mets drew even, blew the Nationals’ doors off in extra innings, and then survived a harrowing bullpen meltdown to win. (Whoops, sorry, I meant to type “another harrowing bullpen meltdown.”)

Tonight a dinner out in Brunswick kept me away from my station, save for a couple of under-the-table glances at Gameday. (I kept getting caught because Face ID doesn’t work that way.) I saw the Mets were down 1-0 and then down 2-0 — the stuff of resigned sighs back in May, but not quite so worrisome now.

I saw that, but I missed the Mets drawing even on a Francisco Lindor homer and an RBI single from Brandon Nimmo, apparently recovered from the scare he got fainting and gashing his head in a D.C. hotel room, and in the game because of a scare Harrison Bader got crashing into the outfield fence. (Stay tuned.) I figured out those details later; when I turned MLB Audio on for the drive back up the coast all I knew and all I needed to know was it was 2-2.

Which it stayed until the top of the 10th, thanks in large part to Francisco Alvarez gunning down speedy rookie James Wood. That meant the Mets were looking to drive in their Manfred man, suddenly a nightly occurrence in these parts.

(I know you’re expecting the giddy part of the recap, but nope, I’m climbing up on this here soapbox.)

One of the things I dislike about the free runner — besides the fact that I enjoyed baseball pretty thoroughly before all the impatient tinkering — is that it spotlights failure rather than success. With nobody on and nobody out, you’re hoping for a series of successes to put your team in the lead — say two singles sandwiched around a steal, or a pair of guys-swap-places doubles, or one of many other winning formulas.

But with a free runner on second and nobody out, you don’t need much in the way of success to grab the lead. A grounder to the right side and a medium-distance fly ball will suffice, with the same equation holding for the other team. And because the odds favor that run scoring, rather than hope for two or three good things in close proximity, you’re dreading that your team will fail. A run coming home isn’t a success to savor, but a disaster avoided. It usually takes a lot less time, which MLB’s committees of MBAs consider a plus, but it’s an upside-down, faintly sour experience, one that isn’t going to make anyone yell, “Free baseball!”

That was running through my mind in the 10th: I exulted behind the wheel as Jose Iglesias drove in Tyrone Taylor and replaced him at second, then despaired when Jeff McNeil popped up a bunt — because, again, the assumption is the other team will cash its own gimme run, meaning anything less than a two-run inning is perilous. Lindor grounded out, and there was that dread again, despite the Mets being up by a run.

Fortunately the roof was about to cave in on Robert Garcia and the Nats. Boom! Nimmo doubled in Iglesias. Pow! Mark Vientos brought in Nimmo. Zip! Pinch-runner Ben Gamel stole second. SOCK! Pete Alonso drove one over the fence.

The Mets had scored five runs, though of course being Mets fans we were all thinking that the night before they’d scored six and before that one ended we were all wondering if scoring 60 would have been enough. But this time there was no meltdown: Dedniel Nunez (whose arm has got to be feeling a little dedniel by now) set the Nats down 1-2-3, with their Manfred man left standing useless and disconsolate at third.

It was fun — a half-inning that features your team and goes on for 15 minutes or so is almost always fun. But I kept thinking that innings like that used to be more fun, back in the days before everything got fixed.

4 comments to The New Market Inefficiency

  • eric1973

    I hate what MLB has done with almost everyone over .500 making the playoffs and every team has 5 different uniforms, each of them more hideous than the next.

    But I do love the Manfred Man and the pitch clock, as I could not take every 3 innings, extra or otherwise, taking 70 minutes in total.

    And I do think 1 run in the top of the 10th is enough in many cases, as it is not as easy as one might think to get em over and get em in.

    I wonder what the stats are on scoring percentage with a man on 2nd and no out from innings 1-9 vs. Innings 10 and on.
    Why should it differ?

    I would secure scoring the 1 run in the top of the 10th and hope that is enough, as I believe it probably is.

  • Orange and blue through and through

    Eric, I agree wholeheartedly with your uniform assessment; they get uglier every day. But the Manfred man is an atrocity. As is limiting pickoff throws to first. I can deal with the pitch clock, but not to decide a game.
    Enjoy your holiday weekend?

  • Seth

    May the Manfred People fade into a distant memory as soon as possible! However, had it not been for the Manfredians, we might be much more sleep deprived this week.

  • mikeL

    yes, agreed that scoring just run in the top of the 10th feels like a recipe for disaster, barring having a lights-out closer still available – or at least a guy who can pound the strike zone with heat.

    it is nice though not having a game go an extra 3, 4…7 innings as much as i enjoy getting more game. with starters (especially ours) hardly going 5 most nights, these extras cost pitches the arms can ill afford.

    all of that aside, an offensive outburst like last night’s negates the manfred man. great hittings trumps time-saving tinkering.

    as for the ugly unis, mlb will stop putting them on the field when people stop wearing them in the seats.

    imagine if the catholic church sold priest attire to mass goers!

    i’ve recovered from the two game losing streak and look forward to seeing where the mets are sitting when they meet the braves.

    LOMG mets ;0]