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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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Just Another Panic Monday

It’s hard enough being a Mets fan these days without inventing apoplexies. Thus, when I read John Harper in the Daily News go tabloid-dramatic and declare December 14 was Black Monday, I rolled my eyes and shrugged at the insipidness of it all.

Tuesday, when Harper’s piece ran, was a worse day for sports journalism than Monday was for the Mets.

Too bad the Phillies have Roy Halladay (though not so bad that they’re stripped of Cliff Lee). And newly Red Socked John Lackey no doubt could have poured us a nice, tall glass of Johan-Aid, which is a drink our notoriously short rotation is thirsting for. But under no realistic scenario were we going to get Roy Halladay, while overextending ourselves for John Lackey would have been a long-term folly. The transactions that landed them in Philadelphia and Boston, respectively, were discrete events. They had nothing to do with the Mets. It was not a Met failing that neither is a Met. Not everybody is potentially a Met.

I suppose it’s progress that our expectations have been raised so high in the last few years that we consider ourselves automatic players for almost every big name, many of whom have successfully draped Mets jerseys over designer suits in front of blue and orange logo walls. There was a time not so long ago when an aggressive Met offseason consisted of lowballing Vladimir Guerrero and scooping up in his stead Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer, a.k.a. the Glimmer Twins.

Not trading for Halladay and not signing Lackey wasn’t that. It just wasn’t. Halladay would have taken a load of prospects (Phillies had to give up a few) as well as a truckful of cash. It didn’t hurt that his new team could come at him from a position of strength. The word on ol’ Roy was he wanted to be near his Suncoast home for Spring Training and not so far from a World Series. The Mets happened to be on the other side of Florida and the wrong end of the recent competitive divide. Geography, standings and finances notwithstanding, who exactly were we going to trade to gain another Cy Young winner? The Phillies could part with Lee and not feel it. We did our prospects ‘n’ paychecks deal two years ago with Johan. It would have been fantastic to have lured another ace since, but I don’t see it as an organizational sin that Halladay didn’t happen for us. It’s Met-opic to believe it was.

Lackey? A real solid No. 2 framed as a No. 1 because he’s the cream of a feeble crop. Did you see what he got from Boston? The $85 million is insane enough, but the five years may be crazier. How many long-term contracts have the Mets given out in which somebody didn’t miss time or noticeably decline? The rationale has been that the Mets needed the help immediately, thus the front-loaded upside was worth the unwanted years at the end. Lackey is 31, not old. Fourth year, fifth year, we’re talking way more mileage and limited tradability based on what he’d be owed.

Perhaps it wouldn’t matter if Lackey was setting the world on fire in the first year or three, but a five-year commitment? At $17 million a year? That’s $17 million every year for five years, an albatross waiting to happen every winter when we’re drooling after other, better, more desirable saviors to fill needs that will loom as equally urgent if not more so.

So Omar didn’t make a Red Sox-sized pitch for Lackey. Y’know what? Good for him. At best he would have driven up Lackey’s asking price and wound up paying it.

It wasn’t Black Monday. It was just another Monday, no matter the perceptions fed by hacks like Harper who toss every dry twig they can gather into the Mets R Dopes narrative machine. Read his article and note the cheap shot he takes toward the end regarding the Mets possibly inviting Kelvim Escobar to Spring Training. Harper the Hack packages this non-development with not getting Halladay and Lackey to form a neat Bad Things Happen To The Dumb Mets In Threes package.

We’re not shy about criticizing the Mets here, either, you may have noticed, but not every good thing that doesn’t happen for them equals a bad thing that they caused. It’s rare that I say this regarding Minaya, Wilpon and the rest of management, but get off their backs.

The Mets are still in need of pitching and a lot of everything else. I thought somebody was talking out the side of a mouth when Jason Bay’s name came up as a Met target last week, but maybe this is a self-fulfilling prophecy coming to fruition. The Red Sox have kissed him goodbye, other suitors are falling by the wayside and the Mets…well, they have to sign somebody. They could do worse than Bay. I suppose they could do better, but in this free agent market, not much. Judging by the offer the Cardinals have reportedly made Matt Holliday — eight years, $128 million — Bay is the most reasonable big bat available. He ain’t perfect, but he’s an upgrade over the incumbent leftfielder who, at present, is nobody.

The Mets’ offer is four years, $65 million. It’ll probably have to be hiked up to five years, which I don’t like either, but I’d rather see five years go to a hitter of Bay’s caliber than a pitcher of Lackey’s. That’s not a knock on Lackey. It’s a knock on pitcher durability. Jason Marquis for three, no more than four years strikes me as a safer investment. Hell, he actually wants to pitch here. I try not to fall for the New Yorker Wants To Come Home storyline, but we could really use his bat.

We’re also still after Bengie Molina. I would give him one year and ask him to change his last name, but I understand it will take at least two and that he’ll still be related to Yadier. Shiver.

The Mets aren’t close to complete for 2010, not anywhere near close. Thankfully, the next Monday that counts is Monday, April 5 — and that’s still sixteen Mondays away.

18 comments to Just Another Panic Monday

  • Anonymous

    You know them trading Lee for Halladay seems like a wash for me. And come on aren't the Phillies overdue for a transaction to blow up in their face? So here's to a Halliday arm blow out in 2010!

  • Anonymous

    Excellent post and excellent points made! a) there is still a long way to go before the season starts. b) we're getting back a healthy Jose Reyes, a healthy Carlos Beltran, a healthy John Maine, and hopefully the pressure of handling Citi Field without any offensive support has worn off of David Wright. I think people are panicking way too soon, and I think Omar knows he has to come up big since his job is on the line.

  • Anonymous

    Thank You for the same commentary. The knee-jerk panic and whining of the sports 'journalists' is embarrassing.

  • Anonymous

    Sanity. This post illustrates perfectly the problem with radio and newspapers as sources of baseball news (not to mention news of most other kinds). Clear analytical thinking and calm emotion don't sell whatever it is on WFAN that they're taking up 30 minutes out of each hour to sell. People have to be worked up into a frenzy of stupidity in order for drivers to be entertained in traffic jams. These are the times I feel sorriest for Mets management. 17 million a year for Lackey is a joke. I do hope we get Bay, though, because if you remove Delgado's production from what the Mets have been for the last few years, you are left in each year with a mediocre offense. It has to be replaced. Yes, we need pitching more, but there is no superb pitching to be had. We are going to have to settle for what's available and hope, once again, that one or two of our zany trio fulfills something of his potential.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jason,
    I agree with you that signing Lackey would have put us in a financial hole and that Halliday didn't want to pitch in Flushing. The media is playing it up big but it might not be because we lost out on these two players but more because these two examples are represenative of the real problem facing the Mets:.
    We need a left-fielder, so what happens?
    Bobby Abreau re-signs with Angels for two years
    Juan Pierre traded to White Sox for two minor leaguers..
    Placido Polanco signs three year contract with Philly
    Jason Bay still not a Met or flying in for a physical.
    We need a starting pitcher, so what happens?
    Roy Halladay traded by Blue Jays for essentially two minor leaguers.
    Rich Harden signs one year deal with Texas.
    John Lackey to sign with Red Sox.
    Randy Wolf signs with Brewers.
    Obviously, our farm system is as dry as the rumors have it. I also have a feeling the free agents don't want to sign with the Mets, if the quote frrom Wolf is any indication….
    “To tell you the truth, going into this offseason I wanted to be on a team that wanted to win and I wanted to be on a team that was dedicated to me and having that feeling be mutual,” Wolf said. “I went into this offseason with a very open mind”.
    Hey, we did get 37 year old Chris Coste and Henry Blanco who will be 39 by mid-season. Youth movement? Or maybe it's like Casey said, if we don't have a catcher there are going to be lots of balls going to the backstop.

  • Anonymous

    Nice job with the voice of reason there. Understandably, people are worked up – we're coming off three disappointing season in a row (4 if you count losing to an inferior Cards squad) – but have some perspective, folks. Lackey is a #2 with arm issues, hardly worth $85M. The Phillies improved marginally with Halladay over Lee, and who knows how Doc responds to a pennant race? The Yanks got themselves a nice player in Granderson, not Joe Dimaggio.
    I would have liked to see us move on Cameron. Good guy, he's developed some power, he can still run and field. So let's sign Bay, Marquis (Woo! Staten Island!!!), take a flier on Wang/Sheets/Nady, and get on with it.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you. This is what I've been trying to express all week. I keep telling people, “whats the worst that can happen, we don't make the playoffs? That's what we're used to, we'll live.” And when Yankee fans get on my case I remind them how a year ago all we heard from them was “this is why we did nothing last offseason, we knew we'd be able to sign all these guys!” Perhaps passing on Lackey allows us the opportunity to snag both Webb and Lee next year. Maybe not doling out tons of extra cash for a Bay or a Holliday lets us secure Carl Crawford for 2011. Maybe all of those guys sign with the MFY instead and we win the World Series anyway. Who knows?
    And how about Harper's back page bullshit today? What did we ever do to this guy? The nerve of the Mets organization to give presents to children!!!
    Baseball doesn't end in 2010. Omar isn't wasting away our last chance for a World Series. 1969 and 1986 each required patience, which everyone needs a big dose of right now. The Yankees success freaks everyone out, but please remember the beginning of the decade when we encountered the same problem: Steve Phillips and Jim Duquette each got fired for making foolish, knee-jerk, win-now decisions based on delusional hopes that the Mets were ready to make a run at the playoffs. There will be baseball in 2011, 2012, and so on. Thankfully, it appears Omar has recognized this despite the media.

  • Anonymous

    Greg,
    Sorry I called you Jason.

  • Anonymous

    Joe,
    I've been called worse and, frankly, few things better.

  • Anonymous

    Greg,
    I'll go through your book to find them….

  • Anonymous

    Face it, Greg: you're a trend setter…

  • Anonymous

    I doubt I was the first, Charlie, but logic is never lonely for long. At least it doesn't have to be.

  • Anonymous

    Even MIKE FRIKKEN VACCARO has jumped on the bandwagon…
    And cited your alltime fave player, to boot.

  • Anonymous

    The Mets and Omar Minaya are absolutely terrible at making deals. They always overpay for underdelivery. Heck, even I was able to get the better of them in a deal this week.
    I was cleaning out my closet and had a few clothing items to donate to charity. I thought I'd drop them off in the local coat drive bin. Instead I read the Mets are offering two free tickets to a Mets game for donating a coat. So I scored two tickets for what I would have done for free. Mets deal making at it's best!
    Tom in Sunnyside
    (In case anyone didn't notice, that was completely tongue in cheek. It's great the Mets partnered with New York Cares to do this for the less fortunate. And no, in this context “less fortunate” does not mean Mets fans.)

  • Anonymous

    Good deal all around.
    Though if the Mets were involved, I'm surprised magic beans weren't exchanged.

  • Anonymous

    Totally agreed. The Red Sox overpaid and the Phillies should get Halladay.
    The Mets don't need to trade prospects, if anything they need to trade for prospects. Adding a Halladay or a Lackey wouldn't guarantee a playoff appearance much like it probably has for each of those players' new teams.

  • Anonymous

    I could not believe the piling on that took place when the Halladay deal was first leaked. These…these…SCHMENDRICKS painted it like the Phillies were going to have Halladay AND Lee, when anyone who had done even cursory digging knew that it was going to be Halladay instead of Lee, plus they'd have to give up prospects. If the Mets had traded Santana and Ike Davis to get Halladay, I cannot imagine the tooth-gnashing that would have taken place. They can't win.
    This kind of BS is why no sane person would ever take the job of Mets GM. Why bother? To get killed by the media (and the stupid, stupid fans who listen to them) for NOT making panic moves? He (or she, Kim Ng?) would just be asking to stick his (her) hand in a meat grinder and smile for three years. Is any amount of money worth that kind of stress?

  • Anonymous

    I've been pining for Kim Ng for at least a year now…would be sweet revenge on Bill Singer, don't you think?