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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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There's Something Happening Here...

And like the song said, what it is ain’t exactly clear. But whatever it is, I know I don’t like it.

I’m not referring to the Mets stumbling around the field, approaching at-bats like puppies lunging for a chew toy, and otherwise making the Astros look like world-beaters in every way possible. Though I didn’t like that either.

Rather, I’m referring to a disturbing potential trend in how this club is being run — one that’s baffling, and that leaves you choosing between potential scenarios that are both awful.

Brad Emaus got DFA’ed and now heads for waivers — assuming he clears, he’ll be offered back to the Jays for $25,000 or the Mets can try to work out a trade for him, which folks closer to the team than I am say they don’t appear inclined to do. In other words, Emaus got pink-slipped and will now be stuffed down the memory hole. Discussing the move, Terry Collins said this was a tough league to learn how to play the game, while Sandy Alderson talked of an evolving situation at second.

Me, I just kind of gaped.

Emaus got exactly 42 plate appearances before he was declared a washout. Emaus who was a Rule 5 guy, meaning everyone knew he’d start off playing a bit above his head, and whose spring-training time was fitful because Luis Castillo was given the chance for a graceful descent into inevitable and merciful unemployment.

Did Emaus do well in those 42 plate appearances? No — he hit .162. But if that’s the criterion, he’s not lacking for company on the Mets. I’m no scout, but he looked like he knew how to work a count and was OK at second base. He looked like he might be worth hanging on to — or, more accurately, I didn’t see enough to conclude he wasn’t. Because, to emphasize, 42 plate appearances aren’t enough to tell much of anything about anything.

The saving grace of this season, I’ve told person after person after person, is that the Mets are being intelligently run, ensuring that while this may be a year of financial and roster retrenchment, the future should be brighter. I’d like to think that’s still true. But for smart guys, the new braintrust sure seems awfully impatient.

Why is that? I don’t like any of the answers I can think of.

Let’s boil this down to the central, awful question that inevitably comes up with the Mets: Are Alderson & Co. operating with full autonomy?

If they do have full autonomy, then they’re doing a bang-up job of undermining whatever confidence we’ve placed in them. If Emaus was obviously so hopeless that 42 plate appearances were sufficient to pass judgment on him, shouldn’t that have been equally obvious in December or March? I could ask the same question about Blaine Boyer. For smart baseball guys, Alderson & Co. sure look like they lack the courage of their own convictions and are panicking with 90% of the season still in front of them.

If they don’t have full autonomy, well, then the winter was a mirage and the Mets are right back to resuming their dismal transformation into the Baltimore Orioles. In this case, our best hope is that the Madoff disaster proves fatal to the Wilpons as owners. I don’t want to be a fan who thinks that way, for reasons that begin with common decency, but it’s preferable to being Angelos North. I was a fan when the Mets were the North Korea of baseball, and it was pathetic and awful. I never want to live through that again.

If there’s a third alternative, I’d love to hear what it is. I’m not being snarky in the least — someone please make the case. Tell me why these itchy trigger fingers are a good thing, are part of a coherent overall plan, and are leading us somewhere better. Because that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Back in spring training, I made the case that Alderson & Co. had done right in not placating the fans by speedily excising Castillo and Oliver Perez. I noted that by giving those two players every chance to succeed, they’d dealt with the fans like adults, covered for ownership and perhaps most importantly they’d sent a message to the rest of the clubhouse that guys would be treated with respect and given real opportunities. Except now guys haven’t been. You think Bobby Parnell sleeps easier knowing that Boyer got all of 119 pitches with which to prove himself? You think Scott Hairston is relaxing at the plate thinking that at least he’ll get the 10 or so more PA that the braintrust needed to make a decision on Emaus?

Maybe Parnell would be better off in the minors — he’s certainly been terrible. Maybe Hairston would be better off as someone else’s property — he’s swinging at everything and playing the outfield like a blind man. But maybe the braintrust hasn’t seen enough of either guy — or any guy — to make that kind of judgment. Maybe they ought to be patient. Because they have full autonomy, right?

Right?

24 comments to There’s Something Happening Here…

  • Waltera99

    Brad Eamus was the second coming of Kelvin Chapman.

  • Jim

    i agree don’t see what everyone’s getting crazy about he was awful & i saw that yes after 42 ab!

  • Lenny65

    The good vibes I felt on Opening Day seem like a distant memory already and it’s not even Easter yet. The “North Korea of baseball”…awesome analogy, so far this season feels like another 1979-80 black hole of awfulness. I was a bit confused by the Emaus move too. Granted, he didn’t exactly look like Felix Millan (or even Doug Flynn) out there, but you have to wonder what they thought they saw there in the first place, given the circumstances.

  • Andee

    I think they’d DFA the entire team if they could. They could bring up the entire Buffalo roster and they wouldn’t be any worse. But they can’t do that, so they’re starting with the lowest-hanging fruit. When was the last time the Mets kept a Rule V player all year?

  • Andee

    Also, I’m not convinced this move has Jeff Wilpon’s grubby fingerprints all over it. Ricciardi is very familiar with Emaus and has scouted him for a long time. It could well be that he knows something we don’t. It did seem as if Emaus’ AAA batting numbers were somewhat Vegas-inflated.

  • Eric B.

    …but if they knew Emaus was bad from the beginning, why did they keep him at all?

  • Kevin

    Thanks for writing this Jason. I’ve been thinking the same thing. I watched Emaus and was less than impressed myself, but I’ve seen players look god-awful for a lot longer than 42 PAs who then turn out pretty good. The whole “looking long-term” philosophy that we believed would occur this year lasted about as long as Blaine Boyer’s Met career.

  • boldib

    You don’t have to be Keith Hernandez to see Emaus cannot hit a major league curveball. That’s even tougher when you’re hitting 8th – you aint seeing too many fat fastballs.

    Right move, right time if you ask me.
    The bigger question is whether Turner’s any better.

  • Turner is likely no better than Emaus, whose batting average (albeit in a very small sample size) speaks for itself and whose play at 2B was extremely shaky. That is why I feel Murphy should be playing EVERYDAY at second. There is little upside with Turner; let’s find out if Murph can be an everyday major league player.

  • dak442

    I try to look at the glass being partially full. They hoped to catch lightning (or maybe a used D-cell) in a bottle with Emaus, and when it didn’t work out they gave up quickly rather than string it along the way previous regimes would have. Very little ventured, nothing lost. Guys like Emaus (and Boyer) are a dime a dozen. If Turner and/or Murph don’t cut it, maybe Reese Havens or Ruben Tejada or someone else will. These aren’t touted prospects we’re giving up on, they’re other teams’ detritus.

  • 9th string catcher

    Maybe we can get Castillo back. I’m sure he’s available…

    Not crying a river over Emaus. Can’t hit or field. Otherwise, terrific choice for 2B. Let’s face it – if he could be demoted, he would be. I’d rather cut ties now and not waste the roster spot.

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    It might have been a bit to soon, but at least we are giving a young guy a chance.It almost seems like he was brought in as a ‘Plant”, to make getting rid of Castillo easier.

    We Suck! Lets admit it!Look its a lost year! We are “Out of it” already!

    Lets keep on bringing up the youngsters, get rid of the dead wood (Salary dump) and get younger.

    The only reason they won’t due this is because they still wnat to try to keep people in the stands.

    I am shocked 27,000 people actually came out to see the Mets and the Astros! Could there be a worse match up in basball? Tickets were going for $3.00 on broker sites!

    • Will in Central NJ

      Well, there’ll be around 27,000 people each night this series because folks who donated coats in December, or blood in January, had choices of free tickets for both the Colorado and Houston series. That’s why my son and I will be sitting in the chilly mist tonight. I’m not saying 27,000 seats will be filled. I’m sure some of those coat/blood donors posted their tickets on StubHub, et. al., for $3.00 or so.

      Also, my philosophy is, you never know when the night of the Mets’ first no-hitter will be thrown. Because when you least expect it, these things happen. So, we’re going.

  • Will E.

    Jason,

    There’s a third, more hopeful, view of the situation which is to imagine that the front office was treating Emaus 42 PA as an extension of the Spring Training competition that Emaus was already losing. On this view, the real choice for the roster spot was between Turner and Emaus, with Turner leading the competition at the end of the spring, but with an option available. The front office decides to keep taking a look at Emaus, but the 42 PA in the majors confirmed what they thought during the spring so they cut bait. Basically, we are all assuming that the decision to put Emaus on the roster means he won the competition, when he may have been losing it… and that’s why the front office’s decision to cut Emaus looks erratic when it may not have been.

    Eno Sarris has a piece at Amazin’ Avenue that proceeds from this premise. http://sbn.to/i2G6rM

    I’m not sure if this scenario matches reality, but at least it is a) plausible and b) more hopeful than the two you presented.

    -Will

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    16 games is not enough time to decide to give up on a rule five player, especially if 2011 is supposed to be a “transition” year allowing the young to slowly take over. If it was true that wins were going to be sacrificed this year for development instead, then there is no reason not to allow the young second baseman more time to see if he has what it takes to be a major leaguer.

    Are they going to base Turner on his atrocious play in the field last night, when he couldn’t even make a decent 15 foot toss to Reyes? Of course not. Again, in a “transition” year the best scenario would have been to allow Emaus further time as an everyday player to see if he is major league caliber with Turner, waiting in the wings.

    Which leads me to a more important point.
    Let’s not forget, Emaus was one of those unknown, bargain basement finds that Sandy Alderson had been praised for having the talent to discover, unknown gems others could not. We were also told he has the unique ability to recognize something in players considered washed up by other teams. He rebuilt a bullpen on old, injured or mediocre players discarded by other teams and we were all going to be surprised by the talent he had assembled with his keen insight that other GM’s lacked.

    Our BP is more like the BP that caused the gulf tragedy a year ago and the words the GM said about all the new players being the cornerstone for 2012 and beyond seem as hollow as those uttered by the BP Chairman who said he wanted to get his life back together.

    Getting back to Emaus if anything, they should have released Hu instead for despite his talent with the glove, all he is capable of doing at the plate is bunting for a sacrifice. Emaus brings a lot more potential talent to the team than Hu. These are the steps usually taken in a transition or rebuilding plan.

    Hu also makes $6,000 more than Emaus so even if the Mets would still be responsible for most of the contract, imagine how much of that $6,000 the Wilpons would have saved? Yes, that sounds ridiculous however that’s unfortunately the way operating this ballclub has become with every penny saved being a penny earned.

    That is indeed, the Wilpon’s only plan. And so perhaps Alderson is taking the public fall for his hands are indeed mostly tied. Part of the backlash, however, he deserves. Last November he was partially honest by telling us 2011 would be hindered by contractual obligations which would free up money in 2012 (we now know any money saved by expiring contracts will go to pay off debt, not for re-investment in the team). But when training camp opened he then changed his tune, saying the financial situation of the Wilpons had not affect upon his dealings as general manager and that he was only being more prudent instead of throwing money away like his predecessor.

    If that is so, then is this the best Sandy could have done?

  • nails

    “If there’s a third alternative, I’d love to hear what it is.”

    I’ll give these guys the benefit of the doubt. A theory: Sandy wants offense out of this position. With not much available and not much to spend, they gave Emaus a shot in the chance he pulls a Dan Uggla (supposedly he profiled similarly to Uggla). Since it’s become obvious this won’t happen, they simply cut bait. There’s no point in keeping him here: his ceiling isn’t high enough to warrant a spot on the 25 man roster and live through the developmental pain.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    I’m as surprised as you. Thanks for putting these questions out there.

  • tim

    Here’s my take on Emaus: Rule 5’s are a cheap crapshoot. If they work out, fine, you’re a genius. If not, big deal, you’re out a few thousand and you move on. 42 AB is not a great sample size, but maybe that was a compromise between Collins and DePo, with Collins of the opinion that the guy sucked from the get-go, and DePo saying give him some time. Either way, he produced not much worse than Castillo at a far cheaper price, and you have to pay Castillo anyway, so why not try it?

    The real problem is the bullpen. Jeez louise are they bad.

  • Gary Nusbaum

    One thing that has become apparent over the first 10% of the season is that Daniel Murphy is not nearly the defensive liability that many feared he would be–and that Emaus is not the slickest fielder ever.

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    I agree with the others that this just amounted to an extended audition for Emaus, and now someone else is getting the part. How many chances does the guy need? 40-some ABs is a small sample, but combine that with the time he spent with his previous team plus Spring camp with your own, and he’s had plenty of chances to prove himself. Continuing to hang on to an unproductive Rule 5 would be like bringing back your manager the next season after you blew a 7-game lead with 17 to pl–oh, wait….

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