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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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November Comes Early

To start off on a rather obvious note, game recaps are supposed to say something about the game you just watched, or missed, or fell asleep during, or were going to watch and didn't and now feel guilty about it. Let's dispense with tonight's game in relatively brisk fashion, then:

1. Mike Pelfrey was bad. Again.

2. Daniel Murphy had a miserable night against a tough lefthander, then it got worse. He wasn't even in your picture when Anderson Hernandez confidently fired the ball to first base in an attempt to complete a double play. The play would have been funny if it had happened to the other guys.

3. The totality of the Met highlights was Fernando Tatis cracking a triple off the center-field fence.

4. The wreckage of the 2009 Mets are easy prey for even an average major-league baseball team on most nights.

Earlier today a friend of mine inquired — with polite hesitation — what I thought the Mets' offseason considerations should be. It's a subject I warmed to almost instantly, in this year that can't end soon enough.

Such questions generally come down to positions that need filling; in deference to the form, I'll try my answer that way, while warning up-front that in my view these questions are not the ones that should be uppermost in the minds of Mets executives when they gather in conference rooms overlooking an empty Citi Field.

Corner Outfielders: Jeff Francoeur is overrated and an adequate player at best, which makes him essentially the inverse of Ryan Church, for whom he was traded — Church was underrated, but also an adequate player at best. Either way, this leaves the Mets in much the same situation in 2010 as they were in 2009: expecting big things from a right fielder whom you doubt can deliver. And as with 2009, that puts more pressure on left field.

The Mets' response to this question last winter was to assume there was an answer from some combination of an old player coming off a very good year (Fernando Tatis), a young player out of position (Daniel Murphy) and an older player who'd become a DH (Gary Sheffield). Tatis has been merely OK, Murphy was a disaster, and Sheffield has been far better than expected (and a model teammate, contrary to the bleatings of Wally Matthews and others) but still fragile and defensively challenged.

So what happens in 2010? Presumably the Mets realize neither Tatis nor Sheffield is an answer — though that's a dangerous thing to say about a team that thought another round of Gerald Williams and a mummified Moises Alou was a good idea. An obvious answer is to chase Jason Bay or Jermaine Dye, but the Mets resisted obvious answers (Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn) a year ago. Looking internally, it's hard to imagine Fernando Martinez being ready, or Angel Pagan's bat being sufficient. My question: How is this not the time to give Nick Evans an extended audition?

Daniel in the Lions' Den: As was just amply proven, Murphy has some lessons to learn at first base. But mental lapses aside, he's shown soft hands and confidence there — certainly he's looked far better than he did in left field. But even if Murphy evolves into a .290 hitter and a high OBA guy (by no means a sure thing), can he put up sufficient offense to play first? Second would make more sense based on his numbers, but that brings to mind horrible visions of Gregg Jefferies stumbling from position to position, trailed by errors and vindictive teammates. I like Murphy, but one gets the feeling he makes the most sense as a DH.

Thanks Luis, But…: Luis Castillo has had a much better year than I'd expected, and shown admirable toughness after the wreck of 2008 and again after his dropped pop-up became the lowlight of the season (so far) and a dreadful memory that will be seared into our memories forever. Hats off to him. That said, he's still essentially useless in the modern game, with no power, poor range and a dreadful contract. His value will never be higher, which is to say he might fetch a AA prospect turned suspect if the Mets paid a good chunk of his salary. Do it. The idea of watching Luis trying to hit a sac fly in September 2011 makes me want to break stuff.

Soft in the Middle: Even assuming John Maine returns from injuries to be effective again, the middle of the Mets' rotation is suspect at best. Barring a startling reversal (and, perhaps, a brain transplant), Oliver Perez will be front and center in discussions of bad free-agent signings for years to come. And Mike Pelfrey has been simply terrible: 2009 has been the season we expected him to have in 2008. Given that the season is what it is, losing the chance to get a good long look at Jonathan Niese is another misfortune in a season that hasn't lacked for them. Here's hoping nothing jaw-droppingly awful happens to Bobby Parnell. At least then we might learn something, and have some hope besides a season in which Johan Santana is repeatedly followed by four rainouts.

So that's the positional questions as I see them. But as I said above, I hope the Mets turn to those after asking some more fundamental questions this winter. (Which is to say, starting right now.)

Evaluate the Architects: The Mets' freakish run of injuries had given Omar Minaya a pass until he lost his mind and decided to attack Adam Rubin for revealing that Tony Bernazard was basically a psychopath. The Mets should take a hard look at their GM and ask if he truly deserves a pass. The front office can't manage a roster, is rumored not to listen to team doctors, has a fetish for hobbled, faded veterans peddling the suspect tonic of “leadership,” and can't even handle a simple, richly deserved firing. I don't know if the problem is Omar himself, his lieutenants, interference by ownership or something else, but it's something to be tackled head-on.

Doctor's Orders: You could fold this one into the question above, but let's go over it anyway. The Mets either have incompetent doctors or competent doctors whose recommendations are ignored by incompetent baseball executives. It's one or the other, and neither answer is acceptable. The question isn't why there have been so many injuries, but why so many injuries seem to have been misdiagnosed and/or mishandled, leaving guys sliding with excruciating slowness from Day-to-Day to We Don't Know to Being Re-evaluated to Finally on the DL to Still on the DL to Out for the Year. The Mets have consistently taken the field with 22 or 23 guys available, which is a dereliction of someone's duty. Fix. This. Now.

The Curse of Next Year: Let's assume Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and John Maine all return healthy next spring. Those guys plus David Wright, Johan Santana and Frankie Rodriguez are a formidable core, no doubt. But is that team really one free agent or trade away from beating the Phillies and holding off the resurgent Marlins and Braves? I'm not so sure. If the Mets aren't sure either, stop trying to plug holes with pieces made of sawdust. Think about 2011, and figure out how 2010 positions us best for that year.

New York baseball fans have a reputation for treating such advice like it's cowardice, but that's talk-radio yip-yap. I'd like some confidence that there's a plan beyond hoping players are magically healed, veterans slurp from the Fountain of Youth and Prozac can be slipped into all the reporters' coffee. Give me that, and I will be patient. No, constructing a realistic blueprint and trying to make it work isn't shameful. What we've put up with for the last four months, on the other hand, fits the definition perfectly.

A key part of 2010: Enjoying Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.

23 comments to November Comes Early

  • Anonymous

    Why do I have a feeling that Omar or the new GM's desire to make a big splash this offseason will result in overpaying for Holliday? If anything, the Mets should make a serious run at someone like Lackey. He's a bit injury-prone but would make for a great 1-2 with Santana.

  • Anonymous

    “Let's assume Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and John Maine all return healthy next spring”.
    Seems I'm one of the few who thinks the return of a healthy Putz would have a favorable, major impact on the team next season. And who knows about Martinez.
    Have you guys noticed that half the posts for the last three days have come from me? Doesn't mean less people are clicking onto FAFIF, just means more people have less to say about the Mets. Sad, isn't it?

  • Anonymous

    That's presuming Minaya or the new GM have the cash to spend on Holliday. With the Mets missing the playoffs, the failure to sell out Citi Field, and the Madoff mess, I'm not so confident that the $30 million coming off the books at season's end will come right back in 2010.

  • Anonymous

    I didn't include Putz because I figure the Mets will decline his $10 million option and he'll wind up elsewhere.
    It's interesting: We do better traffic-wise when the Mets are bad and a circus. Happy families are all alike and all that, I suppose….

  • Anonymous

    Overused the word “suspect”, but otherwise not a bad first stab at the Mets off-season work, which will certainly spill into 2010. I think I'd rather have the Mets declare war on their farm system and rebuild it, than attempt to go free-agent-wild this winter. Give me an average team with upside any day.

  • Anonymous

    With respect to the doctors, Jason, I have a cousin who's a very prominent physician (and a big Mets fan) and who knows the members of the Mets' medical team very well professionally. In his opinion, these are some of the best doctors in the world. The problem isn't the doctors themselves. It's somewhere else.

  • Anonymous

    That's Adam Rubin's take as well, and I trust Adam. What can a doctor do, if his/her diagnosis and advice takes a back seat to wishful thinking and PR?

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I did overuse that one, didn't I? Perils of being your own editor.

  • Anonymous

    I'm just wondering if the medical staff had emphasized the need for surgeries but when pressed by management, did give them the option of waiting to see if the individuals could deal with the pain and put off the operations to the fall.

  • Anonymous

    I _don't_ trust Adam, but I've been worried that there is something fundamentally wrong inside the Mets organization for years. They just never seem to all be on the same page. The problem is that the people that can fix the problem _are_ the problem. Likely anyway.
    Okay, I _do_ think the Mets are good enough, healthy next year, to be serious contenders, even favorites. The Phillies really aren't as good as the media likes to make them out to be. I see the Marlins as middling and the Braves improving, but maybe not by that much. The Nationals will probably be better too, but just enough to be taken seriously when you face them, not to contend.
    The problem is those other small pieces. We don't need a _ton_, we just need solid guys. Reliable guys. Guys that play good defense (i.e. No Dunn) hustle, make the right plays, good instincts. Guys that stay healthy.
    The stars we have are enough, but the problem has been that the replacements/others the last couple of years have actually taken away from them. Bring in these solid guys that won't inhibit what they bring, and can save an error here with good defense, make a great heads up play there. No Tatis' grounding into rally killing double plays, or Sheffield misplaying ball after ball in the outfield for extra bases for the opposition while only hitting squib singles and a bomb every other week or so.
    Get in real management. We might not be able to fix the front office disaster, but we can at least get coaches that can keep Perez focused (as Peterson was pretty good at doing, the problem with Peterson is he was too rigid in what he would allow you to throw and how. Was more regiment than sage. ) We need a guy that knows how to pitch and can help Pelfrey grow and identify his growing pains and help fix them. And a manager that doesn't give away free outs constantly with bunting in stupid spots. (never mind playing with 23 guys, we often play with 25 outs!) Cut down on the intentional walks to nobodies and giving the opposition free runners.
    Castillo is not the problem. I know everyone likes to harp on him. But he's not the problem. He's above average, and the Mets should be focused on a power bat, LF, RF, and Catcher, (maybe 1B but i'm good with Murphy there) not looking for what would at best be a slight upgrade at second base, unless you're talking fleecing the Phillies for Utley or the Red Sox for Pedroia.
    there is ZERO reason that Evans is not up here. It's just stupid. I like Sullivan and all, but it's been pointed out that Reed and Sullivan are basically the same guy. swap one of them for Evans and lets see if he can play.
    I don't want Lackey. I don't want Sheets. I want a solid Livan type guy (younger) who is going to throw 200 innings and get outs. win 12-15 games. Relievers are basically crap shoots anyway. sign a handful, release the failures. This depends on Parnell I guess too, but if he cna be a starter, I say go for it. If you sign someone, and Niese really comes out firing, and Maine is healthy, fine, put him back in the bullpen.

  • Anonymous

    It's not saying much, but Acta's a better manager than Manuel.

  • Anonymous

    NG / VALENTINE in 2010!

  • Anonymous

    If you don't think Murphy can put up sufficient offensive numbers to be a viable 1B, how can he possibly put up sufficient numbers to be a viable DH?

  • Anonymous

    My point was if he's a DH, he's someone else's project.

  • Anonymous

    You don't trust Adam Rubin? Are you Omar Minaya in disguise?
    Care to elaborate?

  • Anonymous

    I see. Not Omar. Perhaps Tony B.

  • Anonymous

    Dear god in heaven, thank you for being the first person I have seen to agree that Jeff Francoeur is not the savior of the 2009 Mets and should not be on anyone's fantasy list for 2010.
    I argued last night with someone about Gary Sheffield, who proceeded to lecture me about “right hand power off the bench,” and then when i pointed out how his limping around the outfield had cost us defensively to the point that I actively prefer Cory Sullivan, then turned around and said “i want a young core for next year” – where Gary Sheffield fit in this 'young core' I am uncertain, but perhaps they have a pill for that these days.
    Sorry. Rant over.

  • Anonymous

    Why should I trust him? He's trying to sell papers, a story, the same as most sports writers. He'll spin whatever he can, and he certainly lost a lot of credit when it came out that he was 'asking' about jobs in baseball. I'm not saying he's making stuff up, but I'm sure he's focusing on the facts that will tell his story, and exaggerating it where he can.

  • Anonymous

    Not only Nick Evans, how about Ruben Tejada or Josh Thole or Ike Davis? Tejada has been a lot better of late, even if he is Luis Castillo light, and Thole and Davis have been hitting hard all year. Davis got better after the promotion to AA including more power, which makes since because the sally league is supposedly tough on hitters. I think John Lackey would be a smart pickup to help us next year and beyond. After that, there is just too much improvement needed to be made, especially at 1B, LF and RF. A healthy Pagan could play one of those outfield spots. Why not make a trade with Francouer and Murphy for one of those and get some people from the group of Figgins/DeRosa/Holliday, or just someone who is a useful two way player. After that, use kids and what we have to fill out the bullpen.

  • Anonymous

    The injuries to Reyes, Beltran, and (to a lesser degree because of age) Delgado pose some interesting questions. I honestly don't believe the team doctors fucked up in a way that most team doctors wouldn't have, but I do think there's something they might not have taken into consideration: That all three of those players, being total gamers — who also know that it's a racist world out there and that nonwhite players are quicker to be accused of malingering than white players — would have greatly minimized how much they were hurting, to the point where they wouldn't even admit it to themselves.
    Players play hurt routinely, and are expected to; if a player insists he is not on the verge of crossing the line from “routine” pain to disability, and has shown no outward signs of doing so, and no evidence turns up on routine exam, then what is the process for a team making the determination that the player is not telling the whole truth, without outwardly accusing them of lying?
    It's a huge political minefield, with agents getting involved, reporters second-guessing them, and fans bearing down on them for asking out of the lineup “just when we really need them.” Even now there are people saying Beltran and Reyes are “soft,” after hardly missing a game for three or four years. I mean, what the hell? That's the sort of thing that has to be looked at. These guys aren't machines, where you put a certain amount of money in and expect a guaranteed output. But a lot of people expect that of them, and they aim to please.

  • Anonymous

    And three things I ask of whoever is in charge of personnel decisions next year:
    1) Don't expect players older than 35 to keep producing at the same level the following year. Anything you get out of them from here on out is a bonus.
    2) Don't expect retread players to repeat a fluke success the following year. Anything you get out of them from here on out is a bonus.
    3) I know these guys mostly have their own personal trainers and what advice they actually take from the team's training staff is thus probably limited…but really, you've got to get everyone on the same page with the conditioning stuff.
    4) If a guy is probably out for the year, say so, and if anyone accuses that player of being “soft,” drill them a brand new sphincter.
    5) When 90% of the talent of your team is packed into five or six stud players, don't be surprised if the team goes into the crapper when almost all of them are either laid up or not their “usual” selves for extended periods of time. (IOW, it might be time to trade one of them for a bunch of useful spare parts, if the right deal can be made. But ONLY if it's the right deal; this “trade the core, they suck” stuff is BS.) OTOH, I don't know of anyone who thought this team wouldn't win going into the season; the most virulent of Yankees trolls couldn't have dreamed this shit up. Live 'n' learn.
    6) Remember that the New York media wants you to lose. They have a narrative they have a vested interest in keeping going: Yankees good, Mets bad. They will do whatever they can to maintain that status quo, and if that means seizing on whatever is necessary by creating a poisonous atmosphere around the team that is replicated by no other sports franchise on earth, so be it. (Trust me, there are plenty of sports franchises with just as many problems, that don't get turned into Wagnerian soap operas like this team constantly experiences.)
    7. Never forget that almost every GM or field manager who has ever had success with this team has ultimately been derided as an idiot and ridden out of town on a rail (except for Gil Hodges and Johnny Murphy, who died in office before it could happen to them), and anyone who has come to town with a good reputation has left with that reputation in shreds. Bobby Valentine, who everyone is clamoring to get back, left the country in disgrace because no other MLB team would touch him. It will happen to the next people in charge, whoever they are; expect it, and you won't be caught off guard when it happens.

  • Anonymous

    Geez, editing skills need editing. Obviously, that's seven things I ask.

  • Anonymous

    Who did he lose credit with besides you? He's still covering the team. His paper backed him 100%, and Omar admitted that he WASN'T asking about jobs with the Mets.
    If Adam Rubin was actually guilty of misconduct, why did neither the Wilpons, Omar Minaya, nor Jay Horwitz take this matter up with Adam Rubin's editor posthaste? Because he didn't do anything ethically or otherwise objectionable to the Mets.
    You've gotta come up with something better than that. Accusing him of spin means that you essentially don't trust any journalist covering any story whether in sports, finance, or anything else.