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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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Even the Losers (Get Lucky Sometimes)

A pal asked me the other day how I felt about the Mets’ offseason, and I said I was happy. “But of course,” I added, “there’s accepting the fact that nothing much is going to happen.”

Fiscal responsibility is a laudable thing after a run of stupidity: It isn’t just Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez that piss me off, but thinking about K-Rod’s absurd vesting option, and Alex Cora’s absurd one, until finally even hearing the words “vesting option” makes me want to sneak over to Omar Minaya’s house and key his car. It’s a relief not to have to contend with any of that foolishness, even when it comes tinged with regrettable farewells. Seriously: Given that middle relievers are essentially spaghetti against a wall, would you have given Pedro Feliciano $8 million over two years?

But fiscal responsibility also isn’t any fun. It generates no entertaining stories, no funny Facebook pictures, nothing to whoop it up about. Raul Chavez? Taylor Tankersley? Willie Harris? Umm…yay?

Which brings us to Chris Capuano and Chris Young, the latter pending a not entirely pro forma physical. Both seem like smart moves: The risk is fairly low, the potential reward relatively high. Injuries put both of them on the side of the road for quite a while, but they did pitch with relative success in September. Neither’s getting a deal for more than a year, or a … (grits teeth) … vesting option. They’re there for back-of-the-rotation depth. The Mets won’t be putting everything on Dillon Gee or, God forbid, the Arsonist of Culiacan. Contrast this to, say, expecting everything to work out because of the presence of Ollie and John Maine.

(Excuse me while I sneak back to let the air out of Omar’s tires.)

Still, fiscal responsibility won’t be much comfort when the Phillies are beating the tar out of us — to say nothing of the Braves and Marlins. Nor can I imagine either Greg or me beginning a post with “It’s a shame Chris Young’s velocity doesn’t look like it will ever return — but that smart contract makes me feel like we’re winners anyway.” Can there anything much to enjoy from a year of refilling the piggybank and staying out of bars and boutiques?

Well, yes. There’s baseball itself of course, which is not to be overlooked given that it’s January and a particularly miserable January at that. If you told me Jerry Manuel had been rehired for a day and was sending the Luis Hernandez All-Stars out for an encore against the Nationals, I’d clear my calendar and watch avidly. It’s true that I’d be disgusted and booing everyone in sight by the third inning, but the point stands.

But maybe there’s more than that. Can’t we get lucky for once? Can’t we find a jewel in the scrap heap? Show up at the baseball version of Antiques Roadshow and be told that “this vintage Capuano is a rare find — there’s a little damage on the upper left, but it’s been expertly repaired. And you’re saying you bought this at a garage sale?”

Looking back at 20-odd years of Met dumpster-diving, most of the names depress me. Remember Pete Smith? Mel Rojas? John Hudek? Rick Wilkins? Allen Watson? Mike Bordick? Pedro Astacio? Jeff D’Amico? James Baldwin? Scott Erickson? Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer? Danny Graves? Kaz Ishii? Jose Lima? Ben Johnson? Chan Ho Fucking Park? Scott Schoeneweis? Ricardo Rincon? Matt Wise? Livan Hernandez? Jeremy Reed? J.J. “No Physical” Putz? Mike Jacobs II? It’s a sad parade, one mostly notable for its ability to revive long-dormant complaining.

Yet looking back isn’t universally tragic. There was Brian Bohanon. Rick Reed. Darren Oliver. Jose Valentin. Nelson Figueroa. Heck, there was R.A. Dickey. Even Kenny Rogers was pretty good until finally he wasn’t. Some of those pickups even go on the Minaya ledger — sorry about the key marks and the flat tires, O. (Eh. Not really.) Is it a measure of my faith in Sandy Alderson that I can’t help thinking we might get lucky? That Capuano and Young might be good for more than giving Dickey someone to discuss the merits of higher education vs. autodidactism with between starts? (Somehow I don’t think Mike Pelfrey’s up for that kind of thing.) That we might be praising Scott Hairston as our invaluable fourth outfielder come September? Saying “that sure was an awesome Willie Harris catch” without throwing things across the room?

We could get lucky, right? Right?

26 comments to Even the Losers (Get Lucky Sometimes)

  • I like your thinking, Mr. Fry.

  • You take it on FAITH (get it?), you take it to the heart — the waiting is the hardest part.

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by You Gotta Believe!, Jason Fry. Jason Fry said: Is there any joy to be found in Sandy Alderson's austerity plan for the #Mets? Faith and Fear in Flushing. http://bit.ly/hPNUJD [...]

  • Inside Pitcher

    As of now the Mets are tied for the lead of the NL East.

  • tim

    I’m Freeeeee!!!….Free Fallin!

    Ok, but only for a while. You have let the new sabermetrically-inclined wizards weave their magic, and that takes time. Time to dump the bad contracts, time to rebuild the farm system, and time to acquire the makings of a solid team for years to come. I believe in Sandy, JP, and DePo. These guys are good, and they’ll get it back in the right direction. The Phillies will dominate until one or more of the Big 4 leave for free agency or lose effectiveness anyway, so this is a great time to patiently put together a dynasty. We aren’t the Pirates, for crying out loud.

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    “It aint over until Spring Training ends and then we have to play for real”

    If you think this off season was long, what are you going to think about the regular season when we are 24 games out!

    We need about 2 or 3 of these dumpster divers to come through!

    Ask yourself How lucky do I feel?

    We are the Pirates of the NL East!…You forget to mention that the Nats even improved!

    2011slogan Basement or bust!

  • Joe D.

    Jason, we could get lucky, but if that’s Alderson’s current strategy, ferget it!

    I’ve many a time voiced the Mets would need less luck if they retained John Maine and Chris Carter plus tried to re-sign Pedro Feliciano. Along with the newly signed disabled list veterans they’ve added to their own list of disabled list veterans, keeping the trio they discarded would have helped to shore up a bit a very thinned out pitching staff and bench instead of depleting it even more by depending just upon “luck”. With some breaks, having all together MIGHT have enabled us to possibly be contenders in 2011.

    Simply substituting players who are at least healthy for a trio recupperating from serious injuries for fiscal responsibility purposes? Those moves will have miniscule effects on the payroll problem and even if 2011 does become a transition year, would not a Maine and Feliciano still not be valuable if we do come back stronger in 2012

    Fiscal responsibility? Then expect mostly empty seats this year, simply due to fiscal responsibilities on the part of fans like me!

  • Well-Meaning Phils Troll

    Regarding K-Rod’s “V” Word:

    The Mets would do well to win or lose all 162 of 2011 by at least five runs by the 7th inning. That’s pretty much the only way to prevent that absurd option from vesting without inviting the unholy wrath of the Players Union.

    With regard to the “Pirates of the East” comments, that’s not even close. If anything, the Mets are the Anti-Buck-O’s. The Pirates aren’t just “The Pirates” because they suck. It’s because they don’t HAVE to suck… In fact, they pretty much have to put forth significant effort to actively suck as bad & as consistently as they do. They’re not saddled with bad contracts; they’re sabotaged by having NO contracts.

    They have an ownership which has made a conscious decision to make its money by way of a diabolical combination of abusing luxury tax revenue & fielding the cheapest team possible. They PROFIT from fielding a losing team. It’s like the baseball equivalent of “The Producers” (Now in it’s 19th year with it’s 19th different cast!), only the joke’s on Pittsburgh fans (the added insult of that magnificent ballpark going to waste only compounds the travesty).

    Say what you will about the Mets (and I could say a lot…), but their budgetary issues & lack of success has been a product of management/owhership (& some would say training staff) ineptitude/ poor financial decision-making at every level, not an intentional philosophy of profit 1st, cost 2nd & success – WINNING – coming in a very, very distant 3rd.

    And while 2011 does not project to be a huge amount of fun for the fans in Blue & Orange, there is a comically-large amount of money coming of the books at the end of this season- ESPECIALLY if Alderson & Collins can thread the needle and keep K-Rod from sleep-walking his way to Omar’s-Unnecessary-Overrated-Acquisition-Jackpot.

    While it certainly won’t happen for New York (or any team not currently based in St. Louis), just stop and think about how crazy it is that after an off-season in which your team has been discussed by the baseball world in a “man, it’s humorously sad how hamstrung they are” tone, those same experts and “smart baseball people” accurately put New York high on the hypothetical short list of teams that have will the financial ability to make a serious run at Pujols at the end of THIS season should the Cardinals not re-sign him (which they will…).

    I’m not saying you guys have no cause to complain, even though most of it is gallows humor. I’m just saying it could be so painfully, hopelessly worse. Methinks those baseball fans in black & yellow are going to have to wait a hell of lot longer than a hundred-sixty-two games before the dawn begins to break, the purse strings open & their team starts making downpayments on a commitment to winning.

  • Flip D.

    Tim makes a really good point here. The Phillies should dominate this year, no matter what the Mets front office does, so why not do the austerity thing now and get it over with. This is what Manaya has reduced us to, BTW…. a franchise similar to a shattered, debt-ridden, European sovereign in need of an austerity plan. (OK, well Manaya and a Ponzi scheme, I guess. Having your impact on a franchise lumped in with that of a Ponzi scheme is never a good sign, Omar.) Jason, I hear that you’re torn and kvetching about having to suffer this summer. And suffer we shall. But the whole NL East got even stronger and given the state of the Phillies, we would have suffered anyway. Like Rich said, even the Nationals improved! No, I think Alderson knows what he’s doing and I’m resigned to being entertained by watching another Dickey-style scrapheap acquisition turn to gold… or even bronze, if that happens. At this point, I too would clear my schedule for that same game you proposed, so bring on the Chris Young’s of the world and bring on pitchers-and-catchers. Just don’t expect to see me at Citi too much…. well um, maybe if R.A. is pitching…. and Reyes is healthy…. and Wright’s on a pace for 45…. and Carlos comes back and Pagan get even BETTER, etc., etc., etc.

  • 9th String Catcher

    I am not getting on this pity party bandwagon. Not yet. We have some deficits in relief pitching, but not everyone fields hall of famers throughout the rotation like the Phillies. We still have some offense. The potential we have at 1st, short and 3rd, center, and RF are considerable. A return to form by Jason Bay along with solid on base hitting behind the plate could give us a really good offensive team. While I already miss Takahashi, I’m not crying over Feliciano. Pelfrey, Dickey and Niese won’t remind anyone of Koufax and Drysdale, but will help to anchor the staff and keep us in games, at least until we get our ace back. And I believe a fiery manager will get more aggressiveness out of this lineup and not make the kind of hideous mistakes that Manuel made. I an not sold on Philly running away with anything just because of their pitching. It’s a team game, and if Collins can manage this team to its potential, we will be in the thick of things come late summer. Rah!

  • Lenny65

    Oh yes, I do remember Mike moth******ing Bordick, way too well. Cost us Mel Mora. Made us yearn for the golden bat of Rey Ordonez. Home run in first Met at bat and…..well, that was it.

    The continued (and baffling) presence of Oliver Perez on the roster makes it very difficult to truly “believe in” the new regime. What does Ollie have to do to finally have the team give up on him, get that career ERA up into the twenties? Also, I just read how Pelfrey has been declared the Opening Day starter already…huh? How about giving that little honor to, you know, the best pitcher in camp this spring?

    • Dak442

      Mike Bordick is the stealth entry in the Worst Met Trades ledger. A brutal, panic move. He was wooden in the field and so utterly useless at bat we resorted to using the immortal Kurt Abbott in the postseason. All Bordick cost us was a young, exciting future All-Star. Mora at SS wouldn’t have been much worse in the field, and he could actually hit!

      • Andee

        Mora was pretty much run out of town for making some crucial errors. And he wasn’t hitting enough then to make up for it. Sure, in retrospect, it looks like a bonehead deal, especially with Bordick leaving and going back to Baltimore (!) after the season. But at the time, Mets fans weren’t shedding a single tear over Mora’s depature. At least I didn’t know any who were.

  • Joe D.

    I still can’t believe the second most lucrative franchise in the majors finds itself in the midst of a budgetary crisis.

    We’ve been given so much cock and bull stories by the image-conscious ownership to cover up ineptitude and deceptiveness so often in the past (the latest being the big drop in ticket prices which applies mostly to seats the majority of us cannot still afford anyway) that why should we trust anything they tell us now?

    As our Phillie comrade pointed out, we better hope to be ahead by five runs going into the seventh with the bullpen we have at this time. Would we have not had such a concern had we tried going after a Soriano and retain Feliciano? Obviously, that scenario would not have made us front runners for the post-season but at least it would have given us a fighting chance and even if not, with the youngsters given another year of MLB experience under their belt, a real good shot for 2012.

    That’s building for the future. Yes, Omar proved to be fiscally irresponsible but that doesn’t mean the same sort of financial ammunition shouldn’t be given to Sandy as well. Other businesses would love to have the Wilpon’s fiscal problems. Fiscal responsibility my eye!

  • WalterA98

    Jason: great article. The Mets are a big market franchise, charging top prices for tickets/food, etc yet are spending less than the Royals. The new GM is more about deception (he is a former Marine officer so he knows about this stuff) as he wants us to believe that the team he is assembling (still 90% Minaya’s collection) is capable of winning. The acquisitions of Capuano and Young remind me of the circa 1979 acquisitions of Nelson Briles and Wayne Twitchell. Low cost alternatives that did not work out.

    This is like the late 1970s except that Fred Wilpon is the new Linda DeRoulet and Jeff is the new Bebe DeRoulet. An organization that is worth almost a billion dollars is scraping every nickel and dime.

    It is ownership that establishes the organization’s vision, it is ownership that sets the goals and it is ownership that creates the organizational culture. Until the Wilpons sell the franchise, the Mets will remain a big market club inculcated in small market principles resulting in modest aspirations and feeble results.

    • Joe D.

      Walter,

      Couldn’t have said it better.

      Although his remarks on fiscal shortcomings insults my intelligence I can’t really fault Alderson for touting the company line since we all do in one form or another. He’s only allowed to deal with the cards he’s given.

      As I’ve already stated, he hasn’t impressed me with those signings and releases made so far – you are right to point out how those reflect the late seventies. And as I’ve also said, even from a fiscal standpoint the change in personnel didn’t save the organization anything substantial and only hurt the club more than helped it.

    • Andee

      The acquisitions of Capuano and Young remind me of the circa 1979 acquisitions of Nelson Briles and Wayne Twitchell.

      Mets fans in 1979 would have kvelled to have one player as talented as Carlos Beltran or Jose Reyes or David Wright or even Jason Bay. Let alone all of them. And the deRoulets would have fainted if they’d had to give a scrub pitcher $2 million for one year. Or had no less than seven players making eight figures a year.

      The ’79 Mets were playing in a whole different world. They didn’t have a whole bunch of huge, unmovable contracts to deal with, and they were basically the Pirates of their day. Right now the Mets have maybe 7 players who they could get substantial value for in trade — Wright, Pagan, Davis, Thole, Niese, Dickey, and Pelfrey — and trading any of them them just leaves a big hole where they used to be. The rest of the big-ticket players have physical and/or mental health issues that prevent them from being traded for anything close to their potential value.

      At the same time, though, many if not most of those big-ticket players have a substantial chance of being very productive this year. So it’s smart of Sandy to not freak out and light a cigar with a $1000 bill just to look badass, when by mid season, he might either be looking at a much better team than anyone ever expected (in which case, the Mets are in a much better position to be buyers than, say, the Phillies), or at least, that a couple of those players will have been productive enough that he could get something decent in return for them.

  • Gotta say I respectfully disagree with this, Joe. I don’t think the club was close enough to contend in 2011 anyway — though what inspired the post was that, hey, we could get lucky — and so taking a year to clear out the financial wreckage of the Omar regime is a good move. And if you’re going to do that, do it with iron discipline.

    If the Mets look like they have a genuine shot at postseason play in late July and stick to the austerity plan rather than pick someone up who fits into their medium-term plans and has a reasonable contract, then I’ll march side by side with you. But for now I’m agreeing with Sandy’s approach.

    • Joe D.

      Why Jason,

      You actually did blog during hours usually reserved by Greg. Hope thinking of the Mets in 2011 didn’t keep you awake.

      Don’t forget I have taken into account 2011 being a transition year for better times in 2012 and keeping that in mind, trying to get a Soriano, keeping a Maine and trying to re-sign a Felicano along with taking a chance with those newly acquired veterans of the 60 day disabled list wouldn’t have been a bad step in that direction. Agree completely that the payroll needs to be straighened out but not by these type penny-pinching moves which have accomplished nothing in reaching that goal in 2012.

      • Except that we knew him better, I don’t see how a rehabbing John Maine would represent an upgrade over either of the bargain Chrises. The U.S.S. Maine sailed and it’s not to the Wilpons’ discredit that they waved it “bon voyage!” from their yacht club.

        • Joe D.

          Greg,

          If we’re taking chances with those bargain Chrises, why not also take a chance that Maine could possibly return from injury and show some of the form he also had in prior seasons? This was a guy who up to last year had no worse than a 1.35 whips in any season with the Mets. What’s the difference – economics? Again, that’s being penny pinching from the Mets perspective – unless the team’s financial value is offset by critical losses in other businesses and investments made by the Wilpons so things are so bad for them personally that it’s effecting the club. If the situation is that serious, then with it’s expected decrease in revenue this coming season don’t expect it to be any brighter in 2012.

          But if that is not the case, with only three starters we can count on come opening day (Dickey, Pelfrey and Neise) would not giving Maine the same opportunity represent at least a bonafide attempt to shore up the back of the rotation? And if he fizzles out, the Mets wouldn’t have to retain him for 2012, just like the other retreads Sandy has signed.

          Again, neither retaining Maine or Feliciano would be key moves towards respectability, however, they would be small ones at relatevely small costs baseball wise.

          • I’d had it with Maine — I doubt he’ll ever be productive again. It was time to move on.

            And I think Feliciano was eminently replaceable. He pitched well enough to get a decent-sized middle-reliever deal, and more power to him, but better to look for a cheaper alternative.

          • Joe D.

            Hi Jason,

            If it’s a matter of simply who could be more productive, those we let go or those we they replaced, then it’s purely a subjective at this point and only the future will tell.

            My point is what would we have had to lose if we retained Feliciano and Maine along with the new signings? If 2011 is to be a transition year for experimentation, what would be more representative of that by seeing how all those involved perform along the way? It’s not that our pitching staff is log jammed, even if we are one roster spot less with Oliver Perez sittng on the bench.

            That’s the way a ballclub should be run – letting go of those who don’t live up to their expectations and retaining those who do. Since we were told not to expect much in 2011 again, how would we be hurting ourselves by seeing what each could do? And if it is a question of money, again, these moves will hardly make a dent in the Mets financial situation.

    • The Mets should be able to invest in a dependable middle reliever without clipping coupons. If they were signing on for two or three years of the 2009 Feliciano, it would have been a reasonable investment; while relievers are replaceable, Pedro was very good at a specific task (lefty specialist-plus), and it’s worth rewarding. Still, I’m not convinced that that Feliciano (who wasn’t as much of a given in 2010 as he attempted to expand his utility) would reappear in 2011. Though his outings were generally short, they were indisputably plentiful.

      After what we’ve been saddled with in terms of contracts, I can’t blame this regime for not wanting to tie itself to anybody right now. But I’d like to believe they thought long and hard about Feliciano before letting him go and didn’t simply decide everybody who wanted more than one year was radioactive.

  • waltera98

    Jason,

    A team that has Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Bay and Pagan should be in contention, albeit if they all remain healthy and have productive seasons. The issue we have with Alderson is that he is a clear second order effect of the Bernie Madoff scandal. The money that the Wilpon’s invested with Madoff provided the franchise with a yearly cash flow that was used to finance the business side of the baseball operations. With that money lost or at least no longer available, the Mets business (that’s the Wilpons see it as a business) does not have the financial flexibility to improve the baseball product (the team) through free agency.

    Sandy Alderson was hired for his proven ability to run baseball clubs (Oakland, San Diego) on tight budgets. He was hired for his fiscal philosophies more than for his skills in evaluating talent and building franchises that can succeed over a long-term. Thus the issue: if he really believes in what he wants us to believe that this club has the potential to win in 2011 then he should invest in pitching, proven starters as opposed to the has beens that he signed. But of course, the Wilpons gave him 5 million to spend and Alderson is their financial safeguard.

    Alderson’s approach that we’ll see how the season goes and that if the Mets are in contention by July they will go out and spend the money is insulting to me. As an Army officer and a veteran of the Afghanistan War, we don’t go to battle with the idea that we’ll see how we fare against the enemy and if we are doing well we will call on reinforcements. We go to war ready for the fight from the beginning.

    Again, if the Wilpons are not committed to spending money and running the franchise as major market club, they have an obligation to all Mets fans to sell the team.