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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
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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A Pair of WWs

WW, of course, being scorecard shorthand for “wasn't watching.”

Last night went down as a rare WW on multiple fronts. I did catch an inning or two during dinner at 2 Toms, the justifiably legendary old-school Italian place in Gowanus, seeing enough on their old black-and-white set to grasp that we were tenuously ahead and the Padres were wearing those camouflage disasters. But then they changed the set over to basketball. I protested, but fairly quietly, despite the fact that at that point I was already drunker than a monkey: 2 Toms is a bastion of Yankee loyalty, and my being a Met fan had already earned me an only-half-kidding growl of “You're on thin ice.” If you've ever been to 2 Toms, you know that you don't mess around there, and I've already used up about eight of my nine lives where it's concerned: During the 2001 World Series Emily and I ate there with friends and in rapid succession our friend Pete (who has an amusing, maddening attraction to what you're not supposed to do) asked for the dinner options to be repeated (a no-no), then asked for something off the menu (a bigger no-no). And then we got caught cheering for the Diamondbacks.

Anyway, the rest of the night turned into a fairly taxing misadventure: There was the ill-advised bar after dinner, the subway may as well have been a tesseract given my tattered ability to navigate it, and I don't even want to talk about some of the other things that went awry. End result: For the first time in a very long time, I woke up this morning with no idea if we'd won or lost. Happily, my blog brother provided. Sounds like a great game, I thought, before staggering back to bed. (And when Keith noted that he was familiar with the wrong side of 4:30 and these days the recovery time is 72 hours, I nodded and moaned.)

The second WW, for today's game, could stand for “wasn't watchable.”

Is there anyone among us who still thinks Victor Zambrano is salvageable? Here are the counts Victor ran leading up to pitches put in play, against a team whose hitters didn't exactly show themselves to be selective this series: 2-1, 0-2 (a home run), 3-1, 2-1, 3-1, 3-1, 0-2, 0-1, 0-0, 0-0, 0-1, 3-1, 3-2, 3-1, 3-1, 1-0, 0-0, 1-1, 3-2, 1-0, 3-2, 0-1. End result: 81 pitches, 44 for strikes, and a tired pen. A typically awful Victor outing, and don't tell me it's just that his location was horrible. He kept mucking around with predominantly change-ups and sliders when it was obvious he had no command of them, got into bad counts, then had to throw fastballs — which, predictably, got hammered.

It's yet more evidence supporting an unhappy but inescapable conclusion: Victor Zambrano doesn't know how to pitch.

The arm is a gift from the gods, but the brain doesn't know what to do with it. Witness last week, when he followed Willie's curt scouting report that “he made bad pitches” by lamely arguing that the pitches were good but the location wasn't. Huh? Wha? That was reminiscent of Warren Spahn's famous quote that “for the first 60 feet that was a helluva pitch,” but Spahnie was kidding. Victor approaches hitters backwards, is scared of his own superb stuff, is easily rattled, and shows no ability to bear down when he has to.

And he's going to be 31 this summer — at this point, he ain't gonna learn. The fans loathe him, and I no longer feel sorry for him when they let him have both barrels. Yes, Victor's trying his best, and my philosophy is that you shouldn't boo anybody who's trying their best, saving the leather lungs for malingerers, the immoral or amoral, spectacularly negligent mental mistakes (which shouldn't have carryover) or repeated moments of incompetence in the same game that doom the team. (This also shouldn't have carryover.) But I do think there's something else that's boo-worthy: repeated evidence that a player isn't mentally prepared to perform at the necessary level. Armando Benitez is the obvious example, with his eggshell ego and his endless off-field disasters that he let follow him onto the mound. But Zambrano has reached that point too: He's taken the L in his own head before he ever throws a pitch.

And it's not survivable. Beyond the fans, the writers smell blood: When the beat guys start criticizing your clubhouse demeanor, you've entered a death spiral that's almost impossible to pull out of. Tom Glavine managed it last year, but Victor Zambrano ain't Tom Glavine.

Forget Scott Kazmir. This has nothing to do with Scott Kazmir. This is about 2006, and the dead spot in our starting rotation, and what's to be done about it before it costs us too many games. As for Rick Peterson's infamous prediction that he could fix Victor in about 10 minutes? I think there must have been an exponent missing.

13 comments to A Pair of WWs

  • Anonymous

    Something ain't getting through to Victor. Time for Willie to send the chump to the bullpen for a while.
    Aaron Heilman deserves a spot in the rotation more than Zambrano does at this point, and can do the team a lot more good starting in Victor's place than pitching scoreless eighths twice a week. Even if only half Aaron's starts are quality, he'd be an improvement on VZ, and it's not hard to project Aaron turning in 60 or 70 percent quality starts at least.
    Let Zambrano try to master his “game management” the Jorge Julio way — by wielding his “amazing stuff” in the late innings of blowouts until he figures out what strikes are and when to throw them. If that doesn't work, next stop Norfolk — or dare I say it, Chiba Lotte.

  • Anonymous

    God, when Giles was up, I KNEW he was going to hit a grand slam, there wasn't even a second when I thought he wasn't going to crush the ball. That's about how much confidence I have in Victor.
    And when KazMat was up with the bases loaded in two outs I was saying to myself: “C'mon Kaz build some faith by getting a hit or at least putting the ball in play (especiall with how Wright and Floyd got on), but for the love of God don't meekly strikeout.” And of course he struck out on a weak swing.

  • Anonymous

    this goes to a post a few days ago, comparing zambrano and bannister — i have to say, the rotation is scary with both of them in it.. bannister has just as massive issues with control as zambrano has, and has merely had slightly better luck in wriggling out of the messes he puts the team into.
    i agree that when zambrano couldn't close the door on that inning, when first the pitcher got a hit, and he walked the next batter…well, i knew it wasn't going to end well. i liked how the mets came back in the sixth. the problem was letting the pods get those late inning runs.

  • Anonymous

    As soon as Brian Giles reached the Jury Box, the verdict was in. A court order must be issued to restrain Willie and Rick from sending Victor out there for his next start. Whether it's Heilman or Oliver or Lima or Pelfrey or Joe Crawford, somebody else has to take that turn in Atlanta. Zambrano needs to get better somewhere else. On the mound, for us, he's only getting worse.
    And I knew Matsui would strike out on that 3-2 pitch. He did the exact same thing in a very similar spot last year in L.A. That inside the park homer came a long time ago.

  • Anonymous

    I am a patient man and I am over the fact that this will be one of the worst trades in Mets history. However, I hope there is a Plan B. Zambrano aint cutting it and after 1 1/2 years, he never will.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe Peterson was talking ten nautical minutes? That's how far his pitches have been going, anyway. Just a thought.

  • Anonymous

    How many times did Zambrano throw that same worthless pitch – that high fastball that tails away from lefties? The one that serves absolutely no purpose at all. The one that is clearly not going to be anywhere near the strike zone as soon as it leaves his hand. The one even Kaz wouldn't swing at.
    Julio looks to be back on track – maybe he and Dirty Sanchez can be our set-up men, freeing up Heileman for the rotation. Can Victor be sent to the minors?

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like I missed a good time. . .

  • Anonymous

    i didnt watch the game, but if zambrano is having such a hard time calling a game… why isnt loduca doing it?

  • Anonymous

    lo duca tried but was often shaken off. the broadcasters commented on this.
    honestly, zambrano looked absolutely uncomfortable out there, as if he were being forced to pitch when he didn't want to. if it's that bad for him, he should seriously consider leaving the game, even Leaving The Game.

  • Anonymous

    Too good. It's still a little touch and go. Christ am I old….

  • Anonymous

    Victor Z is beyond words…it's almost like watching Danny Graves at this point…just lost.
    In Kaz's defense though–Embree looked pretty good in his outing yesterday, was throwing hard, and it's not like Matsui's really in a grove right now, he really hasn't that many at-bats. I was really pulling for him to put the ball in play as well…unfortunately I think Kaz was too. Can you imagine how he'd have been crucified for getting caught looking with the bases loaded? Our endless unnecessary booing has done a lot of damage to Kaz's psyche, I fear.
    I maintain irrational hope for Kaz–I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it's because Anderson Hernandez looks like he's about as good a hitter as Zambrano is a pitcher. At least until Hernandez gets back we've gotta give Kaz a chance here. There's a lot of talent (and money) that could still be put to use…at least, I don't think Kaz is as hopeless as Zambrano is.

  • Anonymous

    But what are the odds? Inside-the-parkers in back-to-back years, pretty rare, isn't it? And it did serve as a reminder–Kaz can really fly, can't he? Now if only he could get on base…