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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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And That's Why You Don't Use a Seven-Armed Pen to Scare People

Counting on things, particularly Mets things, is a fan's folly. Does anybody project lingering suspensions and sudden reinjuries and slow recoveries gumming up the works? And if nobody can, why do we pretend that they can't?
The bullpen is supposed to be this team's strength…right? It was so good last year, it will be so good this year…right? I'll give you last year, for it is indeed mine to give. This year I'd love to give you my word that it will be just as good. But my word is only as good as my hope.
I hope it's all good. But the veritable two-right-armed monster that amounted to Duamo Santa won't be here in any segment until at least May 27, the 51st game of the season. By then, Guillermo Mota will have served his suspension, but I don't expect he'll be back right away. I don't expect anything anymore. I expected Duaner Sanchez would be settling back into the eighth inning right about now and he isn't. Instead he's heading for more surgery, the shoulder from the cab accident worse than we'd dreamed.
So there's no Sanchez. No Mota, on whom we weren't counting right away but who appears remorseful enough for those of us who may have made a mistake or two in our lives to get off our high horse about (if that is indeed a sentence). No Juan Padilla — whose return to late 2005 pleasant surprise form from an '06 spent getting to know Tommy John was probably a pipe dream — either. That's a helluva half of a bullpen's workload that isn't available to us.
The big four, led by Shaky and Gloomy and backed up by Lefty and New Lefty, will have to carry that weight with no proven relief commodities behind them. Their support group is comprised of Chan Ho Park, Aaron Sele and Joe Smith.
Despite my logical instincts to see how it all goes, gulp.
I can't believe I don't have a Commandment for this, but one shouldn't overreact to the composition of the bullpen as it shapes up before Opening Day, for it almost invariably takes many twists and turns in the ensuing weeks. One only has to peek back two springs to a Met relief corps that included Felix Heredia, Mike Matthews, Mike DeJean, Dae-Sung Koo, Manny Aybar, Roberto Hernandez and Battlin' Braden Looper to understand the Yikes! of March are not necessarily an enduring phenomenon.
Was the April 2005 bullpen horrendous? Pretty much, but not for the reasons we foresaw. DeJean and Hernandez switched places mighty fast. Felix, Manny and the other Mike were here-and-goners (I hear they went into the auto parts business). Mister Koo…well, before I cheer us all down, the point is April blowers often bring May throwers. Thus, getting worked up over the impending presence of Park and Sele and Smith probably isn't wise.
But still.
There seems to be a school of thought that Chan Ho Park can succeed as a set-up man because it would be really great if he would. Watched him look very sharp against the Dodgers last night. And hang one of the droopiest curveballs I've ever seen to Matt Kemp. Thinking Park will succeed in a role for which he is by experience and desire unsuited is awfully wishful. On the other hand, Heilman will at least have company in his dungeon of resentment.
Aaron Sele? I assume he's been hot stuff against somebody in his career, but the only times I've paid any attention to him, he's been dreadful, either miserably (6-11, 4.50 ERA in 162 IP versus the Skanks) or happily (0-1, 9.64 ERA in 4.2 IP versus us). With Burgos exposing his unreadiness and Sosa exposing his Sosaness and Adkins having only one option left (namely getting rid of Adkins), Sele has stepped front and center to be a poster boy for the employment opportunities engendered by seven-man bullpens.
Joe Smith? The whole world's in love with this kid. I'd like to be, too. Sidearmers make me nervous, though, which I admit isn't much of an analysis. The good news is the ones who prove themselves remain effective for a long time. The bad news is Smith hasn't proven anything. But with three different set-up men who did prove themselves at various extended junctures during the past two seasons all nowhere near the sound of Guy Conti's phone, the Mets bullpen has indeed morphed into a proving ground. You feel less vexed by that sort of thing coming off 91 losses and just hoping to be pretty good than you do succeeding a division title and craving more.
Smith may prove himself a great find. Park may pick up where he left off in the World Baseball Classic and prove himself an electrifying reliever. Sele may be the first fringe starter to make the Mets and prove himself an invaluable long man since way the hell back in 2006 when Darren Oliver did exactly that. May, however, is an iffy proposition when you start April against the Cardinals, the Braves and the Phillies. It would be far more comforting to have one-third or more of Sanchez, Mota and Padilla. But we don't.
And that's why you never count on anything.

1 comment to And That's Why You Don't Use a Seven-Armed Pen to Scare People

  • Anonymous

    I am shaking in my shoes. I can't believe the season starts in a few days and the cupboard is still so bare… how could Omar let it come to THIS?? I looked at the bullpen on the SNY yesterday and nearly cried. Not to mention the “starters.” (Yeah, Bannister for Burgos is lookin' real good, isn't it?)
    I'm still on my high horse re: Mota, but not the steroid horse. And Cecil F'ing Wiggins had better first run and second pray if he ever sees me coming. So much of this mess–from Duaner to Shawn Green–can be laid squarely in his drunken lap. F**kface.