The Closer

SNY tweeted out a video today of Jeurys Familia reuniting with Terry Collins in Port St. Lucie. “Good to see you, how you doing?” asks Familia in the video, and at the same time, Terry says, “good to see you…welcome back, big boy!” Familia says, “Thank you man…you doing good?” and Terry responds, “Always! Always! How are you?”

“I’m great,” says Familia, and when Terry asks, “still sinking?” Familia responds “yeah,” and Terry says, “ok, good.” Terry walks away and the camera turns to Familia laughing to himself. There is some unintelligible chatter in the background and then the 16-second video ends, and that, presumably, is our last sight of Jeurys Familia until tomorrow.

Coincidentally, this very morning, I studied in some detail the camera movement in a few famous scenes in The Maltese Falcon, which takes place in San Francisco in the early 1940s and features newspaper references to the San Francisco Seals, but that’s not what most people remember about it. In one pivotal scene, we see the protagonist, Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade, talking to Sydney Greenstreet’s Kasper Gutman, as close to a villain as the story has. They talk, and the camera focuses on their faces for a few seconds at a time, and then we cut back to a wide-angle shot, and the camerawork resumes as normal.

What we don’t realize until much later, however, is that during this unremarkable exchange, all the action of the story has come full circle. The dialogue doesn’t mean much, but the camerawork tells us that in these few seconds, as he looks around the room, Sam Spade has solved the mystery. Just from the way the camera moves, we can see that in seconds, Spade has gone from wondering to thinking to understanding. Which brings us back to Jeurys Familia.

It strikes me that Familia hasn’t even been separated — if that’s the right word to use — from Terry Collins for all that long. We sent Familia to the A’s mid-2018 for Bobby Wahl, someone named “Will Toffey,” and prized international slot money. Familia broke camp with the Mets last Spring; really, he and Terry haven’t even missed a Spring Training together.

None of this is to say that Jeurys Familia and Terry Collins aren’t ecstatic to be reunited. I’m certain they are, not least because it’s no longer Terry’s job to to be berated for mismanaging Familia, and it’s no longer Familia’s job to contain the damages wrought by Terry’s bullpen management. But I think there’s more to it than that. You can see it in the chest-slapping hug that Familia and Terry share as they meet for the first time in a long time: there’s so much happiness, so much excitement between the two of them, that it seeps out of the computer screen and has me laughing to myself as I sit on a couch, bundled in a winter jacket with 34-degree Rhode Island winter outside the living room window. Familia, it’s clear, wondered where he would be when Spring 2019 came around…then he thought about it…and now, he understands.

Yes, it is cold here, and there are still 44 days until Opening Day, but pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. Jeurys Familia is hugging Terry Collins in Florida, and that means that baseball is on its way back. You can tell by the calendar, and you can tell because I’m telling you, but you can also tell because hugs like the one Familia gave to Terry this morning aren’t for every day. They come out for the best occasions. Clinchers. Pennants. And Spring Training.

Jeurys Familia is just as excited as we are, and Terry Collins is too. Never mind how excited we are that we’ve got Familia back in the first place: that’s just a bonus. I distinctly remember my excitement as we entered the 2012 season, even armed as I was with the undeniable knowledge that Frank Francisco was our closer. It’s Spring Training: the players are almost immaterial, so long as they’re there (ahem, Ruben Tejada). Winning comes later. It was Jeurys Familia hugging Terry Collins: it could have been Tyler Bashlor or Chris Schwinden or Jeremy Hefner. They’re all Mets. Familia is one too. And now baseball’s winter is over and they — which, given retirements and the like, at this point just means Familia — can resume being Mets in the most important sense: playing baseball. And judging by the smiles and laughter and backslapping in the 16-seconds we’ve seen of Familia in camp so far, he’s just as excited as we are.

Or maybe I’m just projecting. Hell, I never could figure out The Maltese Falcon anyway. I prefer nonfiction, or even journalism. Especially tomorrow, when the pictures from Port St. Lucie start filtering in. That’s baseball at its finest. And look out for Jeurys Familia, smiling even wider on the first day of Spring than he was the day before.

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