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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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I Blame Ninjas

The game the Mets just lost is the kind of game I’ve come to associate with the post-humidor Coors Field: a quiet succumbing, like getting hugged by a python that squeezes a tiny bit more each time you exhale, so that little by little everything goes black. The game starts too late, ends too late, and features the Mets doing a whole lot of nothing before giving up a flukey hit or making a fatal mistake. At least when the Rockies played arena baseball you could huffily declare the whole thing a farce.

Chris Capuano was good, entertaining to watch not just for his masterful mixing of speeds and locations but also for his obvious annoyance at mistakes and misfortune. Capuano is a heart-on-the-sleeve pitcher who must drive umpires crazy, though those who have strike zones like Mike Winters’ rather elastic trapezoidal creation deserve a certain amount of provocation. Capuano, alas, was about all that was praiseworthy: The few Met hits were little chip shots, with the hardest-hit ball of the night — Jason Bay’s long fly to center that backed Dexter Fowler almost to the fence — clearly headed for the wrong part of the yard.

Even as we get nice stories about some 2011 Mets — the resurgence of Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, Daniel Murphy playing and learning at second, Ike Davis’s so-far superb sophomore season — we have to overlook some worrisome steps backwards. Josh Thole, for one, looks utterly lost at the plate: Keith Hernandez sounded like he was about to run down to the field and throttle him, channeling an urge felt by most every fan. With Jhoulys Chacin having lost the plate and desperately needing strike one with the bases loaded and two out in the fourth, Thole let a get-me-over fastball go right down the heart of the plate, eventually grounding out. Two innings later, with two on and two out, he compounded the error, ignoring a halfhearted slider on 3-1 and then working the walk, bringing up Capuano to strike out feebly. Thole looks like he can’t figure out which way is up right now, which is neither unexpected nor something he should be pilloried for, but is horribly painful to watch nonetheless.

And as 2011 goes on, I’m more and more worried about David Wright. I know he’s still a hugely valuable player, but remember when we were amazed at how a player so young could be saddled with an 0-2 count and feel like he had the pitcher right where he wanted him? Wright was constantly battling back to 3-2 and getting hits or at least pushing the pitcher’s tank closer to E, and it was wonderful to watch — a precocious young hitter who backed pitchers into a corner and forced them to meet him on his terms. Wright isn’t that player anymore — he racks up gobs and gobs of strikeouts, can’t seem to climb out of pitchers’ counts, and seems desperate at the plate a frightening amount of the time.

On the subject of smaller but still nettlesome problems, can someone send Willie Harris to the Boyer-Emaus Remedial Academy for Underachieving Youth already? Harris finally got a hit on a sheepish check swing past Troy Tulowitzki, then tried to steal second, in whose general vicinity he was spotted after Jonathan Herrera caught Chris Iannetta’s throw, read and annotated a chapter of Moby Dick, shaved and loosened back up with a round of vigorous calisthenics. I’d suggest hiring ninjas for the Harris operation, but honestly these days all it takes to eliminate him is a pitcher with modest ability.

Speaking of ninjas, the 2011 Mets are showing a knack for being done in by initially undetectable injuries. Jason Bay feels something pull on the second-to-the-last day of spring training and is marooned in St. Lucie for weeks. Angel Pagan feels something in his side, is pinch-hit for, winds up in Florida and now won’t be doing much of anything until God knows when. Worst of all, Chris Young — who’s looked very capable when actually pitching — can’t get loose in the bullpen and goes for a just-in-case MRI. Boom, anterior capsule tear, and there (in all likelihood) goes both Young’s season and his Mets career. No cringeworthy collisions, no teammates and trainers carrying grimacing guys off fields — just Mets exiting with some apparently minor ailment that proves major.

But then again, it’s a theme that fit tonight: Your 2011 New York Mets, Quietly Succumbing.

14 comments to I Blame Ninjas

  • Jason I could’nt agree more with those David Wright concernes.It looks pretty obivious to me that last years problems at the plate have followed him..Bay and Thole are lost at the plate and tough to watch..All too predictable results.
    Rich P

  • March'62

    The Mets only seem to have heart and guts when Bin Laden is involved. And he’s dead. This doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season.

  • BlackCountryMet

    Wright is proving annoying in the extreme. Lately he’s next to useless. I query why there is talk of Reyes being traded when he’s producing plenty and none of Wright, who’s producing NADA!!??

  • Ken

    Wright is starting to remind me of Scott Rollen, who was one of the people Wright said he admired 6 or 7 years ago. Rollen was the best 3rd basemen for a while, and from time to time pops up doing something good. But he is at best a useful player, rather than someone to build a team around. I look forward to Wright spending many more years as a Met, hiting .270, with 15 home runs and playing average defense. He’ll still be the best Met third-baseman ever. But he’d better be batting 6th or 7th, because whoever we draft in the next few years will be our superstars.

  • Flip D.

    Did anyone hear Ralph Kiner the other day (I think it was Sunday’s game) talk about what he thought Wright, Bay, and one or two others were doing wrong at the plate? I’ll admit, his lucidity, God Bless him, was waxing and waning that day, but BOY was he dead on about Wright and Bay’s troubles, going right back to last year! He made it sound so obvious and pointed out that baseball is all about making adjustments, especially hitting, and that those two guys hadn’t really made ANY since last year. He even explained why Wright is striking out so much and why Bay’s not hitting homers anymore. Keith and Gary didn’t really say much and soon the subject was changed. By the way, the best thing about watching the Mets these last few years, including 2011, has been Ron, Gary, Keith and Ralph. Thank God for them, because I don’t think I could even watch the games if they had different announcers. Let’s say like, Joe Morgan and Jon Miller, for example. But that day I was a little disappointed in them for not emphasizing what Ralph was saying. Or was he wrong? Was he oversimplifying? Was anybody listening, i.e. Dave Hudgens or Terry Collins? Did anyone else catch that the other day, or am I way off base here?

    • March'62

      I didn’t hear Ralph’s comment, and I totally respect his opinions, but it doesn’t make sense regarding Wright. What adjustments? Pitchers are just blowing heat past him. If anyone can get it up to even the low 90s, they don’t even bother trying to fool him anymore. And that’s what most late inning relief pitchers throw, and that’s why he keeps failing at the end of games in clutch situations. Has he lost the bat speed? Is he thinking too much? They have a new manager and new hitting coach, Beltran is hitting well behind him again,and yet the struggles continue. I think they need to hire Sidney Freedman as team psychologist and send Wright and Bay and Pelfrey, of course K-Rod, and now Thole to him on a 24/7 basis. Maybe whenever the crowd roars during clutch situations, they have flashbacks to a Korean bombing raid. I think that’s closer to the truth than the failure to make adjustments.

  • kd bart

    The Mets are one of the few teams I’ve ever seen capable of turning prized hitting situations into an advantage for the pitcher. Situations like bases loaded or first and second none out are advantageous for the hitter and he should be in control. Remember, the pitcher has to pitch to you. He can’t afford to walk you. Until there are two strikes, he should be relaxed and contracting his strike zone and looking for that perfect pitch he can drive. Unfortunately, Met hitter look like they’re in a panic and feel the pressure of the need to get a hit. Instead of contracting their hit zone, they expand it and begin to guess at pitches. How many times do we have to see a Met flailing at 1 -0 curve that isn’t even a strike. Before you know either a weak out has occurred early in the count or the batter is in defensive position because he’s turned what would’ve been balls into strikes. Is it any wonder they’ve been out grand slammed 19-0 in the past two years.

  • eric b

    I’d like to think this is simply a slump for Wright…but his “hot” streaks seem to be shorter and shorter…and the slumps longer and longer…

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    If you want David Wright to start hitting again, let him put on a different team uniform, via a trade!

    I don’t blame these guys. Would you want to play for this team? If you think it is bad now just wait!

    This season was over before it started. I can wait for it to officially end on July 31, and we trade for some youth!

    This team is “A hard team to love”! and harder to watch!

    It would be a miracle if we could just make it out of the basement and not be the worst team in the NL.

    Bring on the Astros! I can’t wait to watch that!

  • open the gates

    To change the subject for a second – re Chris Young – in the words of Iago the Parrot – “Why am I not surprised?!!!” After years of Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez, Billy Wagner, etc, etc, etc, whose version of a good idea was it to sign yet another (admittedly great) pitcher of suspect durability? Welcome to the New York Medics, Mr. Alderson. And if the “salary inflexibility” he talks about is anything resembling a permanent situation, the Wilpons should do the right thing and sell the team, or at least controlling interest in the team. Another ten years of Ellis Valentines, Pete Falcones, and Doug Flynns is something I can definitely do without.

    • Joe D.

      I think I would welcome Valentine, Falcone and Flynn at this point.

      • open the gates

        Ya know, Joe D., you may have a point. Falcone’s gotta be, what? 58? 59? Can he pitch five innings a game with an ERA under 10.00 and without developing blood clots in his pitching pinkie? Yeah, what the heck, bring him on.

  • […] Or at least have a moment. Pressed into service at third with David Wright the latest Met felled by invisible ninjas, Harris looked like the Nationals’ version of himself, going airborne to make a terrific […]