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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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Second's The New Third

It went unremarked upon as far as I could tell that when David Wright had to sit out a game in Florida, Jose Valentin filled in at third and became the Mets' 132nd third baseman. With The David firmly ensconced there, it seems likely (barring everything) that the hot corner will be warm and snuggly for a good, long while.

But second base is a mess. Second base is usually a mess. Nobody counts all the second basemen we've gone through (it's 113). Nobody's written a song, as far as I know, to acknowledge that second base can't be satisfactory filled. One was written about the then-79 third basemen in Mets history. It showed up on An Amazin' Era, the 25th anniversary videocassette celebration. Third base was a lingering Mets joke then. Mr. Wright has at last made it the feelgood finale to an overlong romantic comedy.

But second base gets no love when it comes to earning angst. Second base has almost always been a problem child among Met positions. Well, a problem child whose misbehavior is more “maybe we should get him some help” rather than “YOU GO TO YOUR ROOM NOW!” After all, we won two world championships with four second basemen. Boswell and Weis platooned. Backman and Teufel platooned. Gregg Jefferies manhandled the position for a little while. Jeff Kent stood there for a time. Both would hit a ton, but not for us. We imported some very credentialed talent to play second. Roberto Alomar couldn't be bothered. Carlos Baerga was going through a phase. Second base has never been easily tamed.

There were a few individual success stories. Fonzie, of course, though only after he was yanked off third for Ventura. Ron Hunt early. Doug Flynn primarily with the glove. Felix the Cat could spray hits around and turn the pivot. But while second base hasn't exactly been the sack of shame, it hasn't been the sack of honor either.

Now it's a sack of…

The Mets are proving 50 games into the season that you can build and maintain a first-place lead without a regular second baseman. Conclusion: It's just not that important a position.

My logic professor warned against such inductive reasoning. But honestly, who's on second? And does it really matter?

2006 in brief has brought us this:

• Anderson Hernandez wins the job by default. Everybody's thrilled because he sure can field. Everybody gets a little less thrilled when it becomes apparent he sure can't hit. Then he gets hurt. Everybody takes a deep breath because…

• Kaz Matsui wins the job by default. Everybody's thrilled because he sure did hit an inside-the-park homer his first at-bat (that first AB bit proving most charming once again) and he gets to balls and hangs in on double plays like he never did before, like Willie was working with him behind Petco Park as soon as he returned. He got a few timely hits and the folks got off his back but then he stopped getting timely hits and the equation that worked pretty well for Hernandez — good glove, little bat — began to work against Matsui in popular and practical terms. He's benched and nobody minds because…

• Jose Valentin wins the job by default. He's part of a mix & match, actually, but we haven't seen Kaz anywhere near second and Chris Woodward continues to anchor the bench. Jose Valentin, it will be recalled, was perhaps the most reviled Met since Gerald Williams. But that was all the way back in April. The 99.9% of Mets fans who assumed he was utterly worthless (I'll count myself among the vocal majority) were delightfully surprised by his offensive surge in his outfield cameos and decided they couldn't get enough of him. What's that? He can play second, TOO? Who knew? Put him in! Put him in! He doesn't look particularly comfortable out there and we're bound to pay for it, but he is hitting, so no complaints.

Until the ball that goes under his glove leads to the run that dooms Pedro when Brandonmania kicks into high gear, if in fact Valentin is starting tonight, and I'll assume he is. Pedro deserves every hot Met bat he can get.

None of these fellows is the 2006 answer. Randolph has already ruled out the return of Anderson Hernandez any time soon (though rules are made to be broken). Kaz seems lost. He's seemed lost before only to surge to the brink of being found, so maybe there's a tiny bit of hope there. Jose Valentin has proved himself the moral equivalent of Chase Utley for May; we'll see about June. I think Chris Woodward's still on the team.

Yes, it's a stew. But so were Backman and Teufel. So were Boswell and Weis. Those stews weren't as ingredient-heavy as these, but maybe we can get by. Maybe Jeff Keppinger will eventually be judged to have paid his debt to society and be released from a Virginia prison. Maybe, as suggested somewhere downblog, Mark Grudzielanek, a name-brand second baseman and the assumed December answer to our second base spelling test, will finally get his geography straight and head to New York. Maybe Edgardo Alfonzo, released by the Angels, will come home and…damn, he's already signed with Toronto. And he's batting .089.

Maybe Keith Miller's not busy.

I don't have a solution. I don't have a strong preference, other than for routine competence on both sides of the ball. It's second base on the Mets — I don't think I can expect much more.

8 comments to Second's The New Third

  • Anonymous

    Excellent!
    I wonder if there isn't a second base malaise throughout the game. Really, after Chase Utley — who we would get just because he kills us — who would you want? Kent? Todd Walker? Grudz? Vidro, for sure. But not Soriano. Seems like a good secondbaseman is about as rare as a good bagel store in Michgian. There's just not a lot out there — or here, as you point out.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Valentin will do for now.

  • Anonymous

    His bat certainly is hot, and he did make a nice diving stop to make up for his error yesterday (and Milledge's today, for that matter).
    But Milledge, oh Milledge, that throw tonight! I was sitting down the right field line and I had a perfect view and, my god, it was beautiful, almost as beautiful as Pedro's 8 shut out innings.
    Valentin did have a chance to give Pedro a win and popped up…but he did score the winning run, 1,000 innings later, so it's forgiven. He also seemed like he started off 0-2 like every at-bat…but he certainly wasn't alone with that all across our line up tonight…
    Anyway, I'm sure there'll be a post about tonight's game, so I'll save more commentary for that eventuality. So glad we won…Pedro, I'm so very sorry…

  • Anonymous

    God, that throw was a beauty, and when you think about it, you could say it saved the game – had Counsell been safe at third, he probably would have tagged up and scored on the fly ball Gonzalez hit.
    I just realized that I've attended 3 Pedro starts in May, and all 3 games went into extra innings (although this one didn't really feel like an extra-inning game – I've been to 9-inning games that took more time to complete). Interesting.
    Speaking of interesting, great post as usual, Greg. It's something I've thought about quite a bit, being a younger fan – sure, I'm aware of the franchise's history of struggles at third base, but in the decade or so I've been following the Mets we've had Fonzie and Robin and now Wright, while second base has clearly been the problem child of the infield positions. But for now, Valentin is hitting the damn ball and turning in acceptable defensive work (he and Reyes looked pretty impressive on that play in the 10th), thankfully.

  • Anonymous

    Myths take time to dissolve, Jessica. Some people still think Robbie Alomar is a Hall of Famer. We know better here.
    Do me a favor J86: Since we don't have contact info for you, plaese e-mail me at
    faithandfear@gmail.com
    There's a Mets matter that I'd like to bring to your attention. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe Keith Miller's not busy.
    He's very busy right now, trying to hammer out a new 10 year contract extension (I HOPE!) for his client, one David Wright…

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, that's important, too. I just hope they don't send Keith back to Tidewater before he's done negotiating and leave it in the hands of Tommie Herr.

  • Anonymous

    No, Who's on first.
    What's on second.
    :-)