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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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Keep That Ol' Horse Before the Cart

Santana — we haven't got!

Dan Haren — we haven't got!

The D-Train — we haven't got!

What've we got?

Good question. If we eliminate heart — and based on the events of September 14-30, you'd kind of have to until further notice — we've got OK starting pitching, maybe even more than adequate starting pitching. We've got Pedro, more formidable and less of a question mark than we could have envisioned during his layoff; John Maine and Oliver Perez, who entered 2007 as maybes and go to 2008 as definitelys if not perfects; El Mysterioso Duque, who will likely have a fine two-thirds of a season; the Pelfrey-Humber Experience…or inexperience, if you will. One of them is bound to be pretty good if draft position and scouting reports ever mean or meant anything.

There's Mulvey down there somewhere until we are told that, oh no, he isn't actually much of a pitcher. There's Heilman, who could probably give it a go if asked — and by give it a go, I'm thinking run over his grandmother and grab the ball if told he gets to throw it in the first inning. There's some Japanese expatriate the organization is high on, isn't there? Or am I thinking of Yusaku Iriki, the guy who was suspended (and deported for all I know)? And yes, there's Livan Hernandez, destined to be a Met starter eventually, given his wear, his tear and his stubborn mediocrity, though the dude can hit.

Could be worse. Could be better. What else is new?

As of now, we don't have whoever it is we were supposed to be spending our Citi bonus on. Fearless forecaster that I am, I'll go out on a limb and predict either we will or we will not have that guy by Opening Day. We'll trade for one of those aces or acelike pitchers or get by with what we've got and the likes of Livan. Give me maybe three extra outs per start from Maine and Perez, something resembling staying power from Pelfrey/Humber and enough innings from one Hernandez to make up for the presumed partial absence of the other, plus a full season of Pedro, and I'm not going to sweat the rotation in advance of it actually decomposing.

Call me a wildly wide-eyed optimist, but I don't think our starting pitching is so horrendous that it requires the undignified lengths to which we've collectively been willing to throw prospects and stars at the feet of those who hold the contracts of other pitchers. The process reeks of desperation, as if the Mets are post-divorce Kirk Van Houten trying to score a phone number.

Let's trade Carlos Gomez.

Let's trade Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez.

Let's trade Gomez and Martinez and Pelfrey.

Let's trade Gomez and Martinez and Pelfrey and Humber.

Let's trade Gomez and Martinez and Pelfrey and Humber and Mulvey.

And we'll throw in Aaron Heilman!

And Carlos Beltran!

And Jose Reyes!

I've never been all that protective of prospects. Shoot, I didn't think Kazmir for Zambrano was the end of the world at the time. I had seen way too many Mets prospects not pan out for about thirty years to automatically throw myself on that kind of trade proposal like it was a live grenade. But the rush this winter to hypothetically include in trade talks everybody we've ever heard of…well, forget for a moment that almost every package that has been pitched for pitchers like Santana, Haren and Bedard has been returned to sender. It's the general willingness to just give up so quickly on anybody who might grow into the job, who might rise to the occasion, who might mature as a Met and not cost a zillion dollars and half the farm system that's added yet another dispiriting overtone to this offseason.

Whatever happened to patience? To reserving judgment? To that word at the top of the page, faith? I don't think it's Pollyannaish to hope the Mets will try to improve from without while not automatically throwing in the towel on what they've got within. They've already done it once this winter by sending Lastings Milledge down I-95. Do they have to do it again and again? Do we have to be nothing more than an agglomeration of wealthy rented strangers?

And that's just the prospects. What has also poisoned the atmosphere by my reckoning is the willingness, stated by many, to trade away just about anybody who isn't David Wright (and just wait a couple of weeks). Heilman? OK, not untouchable, but you better have a dependable replacement in mind for his innings. Beltran? I can't believe how often I've heard his name floated. Does anyone remember that one of the 119 million reasons he left Houston was the Astros' refusal to give him a full no-trade? And that the Mets gave him just that? Why exactly would Beltran waive it, other than to not hear himself come up in absurd rumors?

As for Reyes as a possible chip, even for Santana…that Jose would even be mentioned shows mental illness runs rampant in our streets. What is it about the Mets that inspires those who are theoretically looking out for their best interests to suggest trading their starting shortstop, leadoff hitter and, unless you've got Hanley Ramirez in your back pocket, immediately irreplaceable cog? Did you notice that when the Twins were entertaining offers from top American League teams that those clubs' fans (as far as I heard) weren't offering up their marquee starting position players?

Why the hell should we? What is wrong with us? What's in the water that makes anybody think it's a good idea to give up 24-year-old extraordinarily recent franchise pillar Jose Reyes, lousy September notwithstanding, for a pitcher who will pitch once every five days? Why do Mets fans (some; not all; enough) race to the edge of the cliff without being pushed?

Then there was the alleged Dontrelle & Pudge deal that was allegedly kiboshed because the Tigers insisted Rodriguez would have to go with Willis, and Rodriguez would, in turn, insist on an extension on his already lucrative contract. I heard Joe Benigno rail at the Mets for not grabbing at this alleged straw. Granted, Benigno's a weather vane with three hours to fill, but I've found his “JUST DO IT!” philosophy fairly common among Mets fans of late. Thus, let's say the Mets gave up whatever it was that would get them Willis and Rodriguez, thereby acceding to the catcher's demands for more years and presumably way more money. The Mets would be into Pudge for more than $30 million into the 2010s, I'm guessing. He's been a wonderful player, but he's 36 and he's a catcher. Even if he's an exceptional catcher, he'd be an albatross waiting to happen. Think that would go over big ten minutes after his inevitable decline kicked in?

I admit I'm wading onto hypothetical shores here, complaining about a trade that didn't and probably isn't going to happen, but I believe this kind of talk is just one more indicator over how screwed up our thinking has become. We're not worthy! We're not worthy! Take everybody we have and give us whoever you deem necessary! There's one Johan Santana. He merits intense consideration in terms of barter. Everybody else…be very, very careful, because whatever the benefits of getting a Dan Haren (whom I have to admit I confuse with Rich Harden) or Erik Bedard or Dontrelle Willis, somebody's gotta play short this year and left and right next year and pitch on all the other days every year. I think this radical brand of strategizing is called building and maintaining a ballclub.

10 comments to Keep That Ol' Horse Before the Cart

  • Anonymous

    Thank you! I'd really like to root for the same bunch of guys for more than a year in a row, but the “fans” seem to have decided than short-term panicking is more important.

  • Anonymous

    Y'know, if it's high-priced rentals and a bunch of strangers you're looking for, there's another outfit around these parts that might suit your needs quite nicely.
    Then again, they still have some of their WS core players for 10 years later. We couldn't dismantle our 86 team fast enough..

  • Anonymous

    Funny how that works.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Greg. Are these guys really aces, anyway? (I'm talking about Haren & Bedard)…. I checked out their stats a bit & here's what I found. First Haren- In 121 Games started, he's 49-44, 3.82 ERA, a .258 BAA (most wins in a season is 15)..,. Next Bedard- In 114 Games started, he's 40-34 , 3.83 ERA, a .249 BAA (also most wins in a season is 15) . Basically , they've each had 1 more good year each than J. Maine . Not exactly what I think of when I think of an ace (ie. Seaver, Gibson, Carlton, Pedro – in his prime)………………..

  • Anonymous

    Not to mention Dontrelle. At this point his downside is MUCH steeper than his upside. If we were to land him, do I even have to ask which Willis (the 22-10, 2.63 ace; or 46-44, 4.13 outside of 2005) would be pitching for the Mets? C'mon now. The amount of guys we'd have to give up for someone who's progressively over the last 2 years walked more, struck out less, and seen his era rise a little over a run each season is absurd. If the 2007 Dontrelle pitched on the 2007 Mets, we would have been clamoring for Chan Ho Park to get another look.
    Last month the MTA, in conjunction with straphangers everywhere, released it's grade of the D train: C-.
    Sounds about right. And if the Mets picked him up, couldn't you just hear the joke now? “The D train at Yankee Stadium is more reliable than the D-Train at Shea! Haw haw hawww!!!”
    Unless Omar figures out a way to trade Ryan Church for Dontrelle straight up, keep Willis away from Shea.

  • Anonymous

    The only caveat to Bedard's numbers is the awful run support he's been given by the Zer-O's. His K's are impressive, and his ERA, in the AL, is above par.
    Not an ace by any means, but at least a King. Adding Bedard, without giving up more than one proven player, might be the only deal worth doing. You're right, Jack. There's lots of mediocrity getting major stupid money out there this off-season.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    I agree Perez and Maine getting those three extra outs will allow us to rely less on our middle relief but don't think it's a matter of either improving their game as it is Willie giving them more of an opportunity by not going to the pen so quickly, a big reason why our relief corps were burnt out by season's end.
    Doubt Joe Beningo takes what he says seriously because he sounds more like his callers than a host. Steve Sommers put it into pespective, reminding fans not to judge the Mets based on their self destruction those last two weeks but rather the entire season itself which saw them lead the division until that last Friday. That itself was a remarkable feat considering all year they played with injury compounded with a lackluster desire that finally caught up with them.
    While any team can look for improvement I think the squad is quite formable as is. Willie's a great manager but
    must allow starters to go into the seventh. He also must get his playes to hustle like they did in 2006.

  • Anonymous

    Bravo, Greg.
    It took me a couple of days before I could shake off the cobwebs and realize that I'd fallen into the sports talk radio trap of wishing our club to be Yankified…

  • Anonymous

    I was an advocate for dealing Reyes for Santana IF and only IF we replaced him with ARod when he was theoretically on the market. I wondered if the presumable $450-500M investment (wow, how easy it is to type LARGE numbers) would be prudent, but it was the way to get the ace, and maintain our on-field power/presence. Use the money.
    Sans the replacement in tow, Reyes is untouchable.
    BUT I would definitely empty the farm, and rob your house to get Santana. You guys have wives? Send them to Minnesota, cause Johan is special.
    Haren I'm meh on. If I'm paying premium I definitely want me some K's. And Bedard I like, but there just seems to be something wrong in principle with giving the Orioles even fair value for a player let alone overpaying.
    Sigh, where Jim Duquette when you need him.
    We collapsed, but before that couple weeks I was convinced we had the best team in the NL, and end-season horror notwithstanding I don't think we've fallen far from that mark if at all.
    I also like Ryan Church. Y'know. he was Lastings MIlledge for Montreal/Washington a couple years ago. Lastings had the mythology around him, and it's hard to detach from that … but I think while there hasn't been much volume Omar has made some moves that make sense.

  • Anonymous

    This off-season the Tigers have added Renteria, Jacque Jones, Cabrera and Willis, while re-signing Pudge and Kenny Rogers. As currently constructed, their payroll will likely go from about $95 million to about $120 — which is a huge jump, especially considering their market size.
    They're going to have to dump salary, and Willis — who stands to slot in, at best, as a third starter behind Verlander and Bonderman — could very well be the odd man out.