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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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Stream of 5-17 Consciousness

I’ve seen Mets teams in free fall. What’s going on these days isn’t that. They’re not falling. They fell and are incapable of getting up. I can’t even say this is the worst I’ve seen them play in years, and not just because I can go back two years and say I saw much worse.

It’s not the playing and failing to generate positive results that’s distressing. It’s that it doesn’t feel like the Mets are playing at all. It doesn’t feel like the Mets are participating in the games where ancillary evidence suggests they represent half of the participants. They are almost literally not in any game they play lately. It’s as if the Mets, to borrow from Sheryl Crow, are strangers in their own lives. Watching their games and reading their reactions night after night this August brings on a sad, helpless feeling — or would if I could summon any feeling at all for what’s become of the 2011 Mets.

As the Mets proved incapable of pushing across any of their myriad baserunners in the first two innings at Philadelphia Tuesday night…and then receded into their offensive shell…and then stepped helpfully out of the Phillies’ way so they could rack up yet another high score on the Citizens Bank pinball machine…as they were doing that, they almost ceased to exist. They got tinier and tinier until there was nobody on the field in the bottoms of innings, certainly nobody at bat in the top of them. There was no Mets catcher, no Mets first baseman, no Mets right fielder — there was nothing and nobody holding down their portion of the game.

Thus, it was tough to get upset with nobody. Howie Rose for a while — somewhere between 5-0 and 9-0 — spoke with great concern about the Mets not losing what they had when they were pretty good during this season. Terry Collins had their heads in the game and their tails busting down the line and their fans — us — trusting them again. Howie was really worried all that heartening progress would evaporate over the final month and Collins’s hard-won cultural changes would be for naught if current trends persisted.

I wasn’t. Everything that was good about 2011 has already disappeared. I feel no connection to whatever it was that kindled my affection for the Mets for swaths of the schedule. When I listen and when I watch, I don’t see the Mets who exceeded my meager expectations. I mean I literally don’t see the Mets who were at the forefront of their moments of revival: no Beltran, no Reyes, no Murphy (no Rodriguez, even). Beyond naming names, though, I saw no team. I saw no cohesiveness. I saw no ability. I saw no talent. I won’t say I saw no heart because that’s a damning indictment of anybody, but I didn’t see any of that, either. Yet I can’t say I was looking for it.

The Mets have heart? Good for them. Most of them show such limited ability or talent at this juncture that heart isn’t going to do them much good.

Listen, you can come at me with individual cases of young players who are showing a little something here or there and bullet-point how this one or that one might fit into a developing big picture down the road once you stir in those prospects whom you haven’t seen but count on nonetheless, and I won’t argue. But I also can’t see any of it materializing in the present, and the present is what we have 34 more games of. The present is the summer, and the summer is the quarter of the year it’s all about. The summer is the only quarter of the year where baseball shows up every day. I hate to see it go, even when it’s this bad. But I also hate to see it so bad that it feels like it’s not there.

The summer’s slipping away as summers tend to do. There’s only fall and winter ahead. Fall and winter and their detestable baseball-less void. There’s nothingness. It happens every year at this time, though in some years at this time I don’t notice because the Mets engage me with the reasonable hope that they will keep playing, keep competing, keep winning, keep the fall vibrant and keep the winter away as long as they can.

The Mets don’t engage these days. None of them They are not vital. They are pulseless. On paper, it’s sad. In substance, it’s empty. Their Augusts have been stunning white canvasses of nothingness three years in a row. We’ve been told or choose to convince ourselves that the blankness is wonderful right now because we have a front office of Picassos and Rembrandts who, given the opportunity, will begin to fill in our blank canvas with vibrant color and texture and won’t 2013 or 2014 be something?

Maybe. I’m still here in 2011. The canvas just stares back at me. Angel Pagan just overthrows everybody. Jason Bay just pops out. David Wright requests meetings. Johan Santana never returns. Jon Niese never progresses, and then goes on the DL. The bases remain loaded and then the bases never come close to being filled.

And Nick Evans just kind of wanders by from time to time, year after year.

During one of the Phillies’ many rallies Tuesday night I tried to spark some righteous anger within my soul, but couldn’t. I wanted to say “blow the whole thing up,” but there’s nothing left to blow up. What are you going to blow up? Justin Turner? Josh Thole? Umpteen relievers, none of whom you trust to get you out of a paper bag let alone a tense situation of second and third and nobody out? This thing can’t be blown up. This thing is hollow. Blow it up and there’ll be air.

I’ve tried to piece together a 2012 from here. I can’t do it yet. There’s a well-meaning, capable third baseman, a dynamite shortstop whose open-market value overrides everything (even his hamstrings), a left fielder who should be Fortune magazine’s man of the decade and a bunch of guys in whom I have no particular faith. A few might turn into something. A bunch more probably won’t. Ike Davis still isn’t running, so I can’t even pencil him onto my imaginary lineup card. The prospects I haven’t seen are exactly that. Call me when they’re close.

So, no, Howie, I’m not worried about these guys not building on whatever foundation Terry convinced them to construct in May and June and July. These guys probably won’t be the ones charged with the responsibility of laying in a first floor. For the Mets to provide the kinds of Augusts that excite us about Septembers and Octobers and the Aprils that follow, we’ll need mostly new Mets. Mets that don’t fade into 5-17 oblivion. Mets that don’t take four of seven from the Padres and lose 14 of 15 to everybody else.

These Mets are a holding action. And they’ve lost their grip completely.

16 comments to Stream of 5-17 Consciousness

  • [...] and Fear in Flushing also has a post today, as probably many Mets bloggers do, about free falling and not being able to get up.  Great [...]

  • Rob D.

    Once again, you’ve managed to write what I’ve been thinking since Jose and Murph went down. I find myself NOT turning on SNY right when I get home anymore, because I’ve got better things to do. Then I settle in after the Evil Empire loving faction of my family has watched 2 or 3 innings and I flip on SNY just to see what GKR are saying that will hold my attention.

    This sucks.

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    Might I suggest you get a hobby or starting drinking heavily, because you aint seen nothing yet. I believe its going to get worse if it can. I think we need to get a pool going to see when TC blows up like a Volcano!

    This team is past dead! We need to make it “Extended Spring Training” on Sept 1. Sit down the regulars and make it a “Futures Team” at least we can then have an excuse for being crappy!

    The most exciting part of the season is yet to come! After we get destroyed this week We have 10 games with the Marlins and the Nats to for the “Battle of the Basement”

  • kd bart

    What you are witnessing is what happens to a team when its, mediocre to begin with, pitching staff utterly collapses and the offense,left cripple by injuries and a trade, can’t do enough to overcome its’ own pitching staff. The team’s ERA for August is close to 6 runs a game. It was under 4 for the 3 previous months. The Mets are at the point where no matter what they do offensively, you have no confidence in the pitching staff’s ability to hold any lead or get anyone out for matter. It’s not like we haven’t seen this before. This was what the late season collapses of 2007 and 2008 were all about. Things won’t truly get better, until the overall pitching staff gets better.

  • Schneck

    Well said.

    Past successful teams have always shared an amazing team chemistry. Having said that, I don’t think a better chemistry would have saved this team but we may have ended up a bit closer to .500 if it was there. Or not. Either way, I hope that Alderson and friends will aggressively rebuild this team with a long term outlook while also, and I know it is much easier said than done, ending up with a team that is cohesive and shares that team chemistry that we’ve seen with the successful Met teams of the (distant) past. While I had always leaned toward the keep Reyes and build around him camp, I don’t know if I feel as strongly anymore. Here’s hoping for a somewhat exciting off-season.

  • Guy Kipp

    Like I said the day after Reyes and Murphy both got hurt, it’s 1980 redux. Three months of overachieving grittiness vaporized in a desultory August.

    Incidentally, is there some kind of a news blackout on Johan Santana now? One rehab start, another “pushed back,” and now, for several weeks, not even a hushed word about his status.

  • 9th string catcher

    Hold on a second. The Mets are playing the best team in baseball with about 3 healthy players and Jason Bay. They just played Milwaukee, who are the hottest team in baseball. Give these guys a break – yes, they’re not playing well, but let’s try to remember who they’re going up against. The Phils trot out Cole Hamels as a number 4 pitcher – the Mets put out a number 5 pitcher every night. The Phils have Ryan Howard in the 4 hole, Mets have Lucas Duda. Seriously – Lucas Duda. What do you really expect here?

    They are trying, but have significant limitations. Angel Pagan makes a great baserunning move in the 1st only to make an idiotic blunder on the very next play. That’s what you get with Angel – talent, flashes of brilliance, and incompetance, sometimes all at the same time.

    Like it or not, until the idiot owners of this team determine their financial position and what kind of investment they can or intend to make, no one will have anything to look forward to. Are the Mets in full rebuild mode or in position to add players? We don’t actually know. The fact that the Mets don’t have San Diego’s or LA’s record speaks volumes about what management has done with a terrible starting staff, an average but overworked bullpen and the worst left fielder in Major League Baseball.

    There is potential on this team – management needs to know what they’re supposed to do with it. Hang tough!

  • Pat O"Hern

    9th string cather, give me a pair of those sun glasses you are looking thru. Greg, nailed it as usual.Although when I do flip to the game during a commercial of “Who the bleep did I Marry?”, I find myself looking for Duda to be up.

  • sturock

    9th string catcher makes a good point about ownership. This billion-dollar-lawsuit is going to hang over the Mets until March 2012. How that affects off-season investment I don’t know but it can’t be good. But I’m tired of this year after year, this black cloud that’s been hanging over the club since Called Strike Three. When does it all end?

  • Jimmy

    Izzy’s blown save against the Brewers made me stop watching the games religiously inning by inning. I made the right choice not to watch a single inning of the trip to Philly.

    How does an ankle bruise become and end of season injury? How many times does Reyes have to rehab his hamstring? How’s our ace Henrry Mejia? Why did Beltran and Santana not have their surgeries in October rather than a time frame that puts them on the DL at all?

    Maybe I don’t know a whole lot about medicine and conditioning, but seriously, something is really wrong with this team’s training, conditioning and medical staff. This just isn’t normal bad luck, the amount of injuries sustained and lingering over the last 3 years here.

  • Joe D.

    The point has been raised over and over again that Sandy Alderson was successful in building championship teams in Oakland through his philosophy of combining both sabremetrics and heavy fiscal restraint to obtain undervalued players and thus what he did for the A’s he will also do for the Mets.

    The reality is completely the opposite in both what he did for Oakland and what he has done for the Mets.

    Sandy’s real success came when given money to spend, trade and compete with others. That was when he was able to use his eye for spotting good talent to build three-straight Oakland championship teams. The philosophy he has been quoted as bringing to the Mets came later, was not of his decision and was not successful. From Wikepedia:

    “In 1995, team owner Walter A. Haas, Jr. died and new owners Stephen Schott and Ken Hofmann ordered Alderson to slash payroll. As a result, Alderson began focusing on sabermetric principles toward obtaining relatively undervalued players.”

    These are the results of Sandy’s last five years as G.M. in Oakland under the same specific circumstances he now faces with the Mets:

    1994 AL West 2nd 51 63 .447
    1995 AL West 4th 67 77 .465
    1996 AL West 3rd 78 84 .481
    1997 AL West 4th 65 97 .401
    1998 AL West 4th 74 88 .457

    By 1994 the A’s were a shadow of their last champion team. The next season ownership forced Sandy to slash payroll – the exact job he has been hired to do by the Wilpons – and was unable to turn the team around. Instead, his team continued to nosedive, finishing no better than six games below .500 and in his last two seasons the A’s failed to muster even 75 wins.

    Sandy was handcuffed and unable to continue obtaining good talent working under Schott and Hofman. Sandy is again handcuffed and unable to obtain good talent working under Fred and Jeff Wilpon. That’s why we got mediocre and/or damaged pitchers like Capuano, Carasco, Young, Boyer and Bucholz and tried to save pennies by not attempting to re-sign those who found success with the Mets like Takahashi or Feliciano (last winter nobody knew he would get injured). The best thing about Willie Harris was said the other night by R.A. Dickey after he was pinch hit for: “he’s a better hitter than I am”

    Sabremetrics applied to bargain basement players did not work for Sandy then, has not worked for him now and won’t work in the future. And it is not his fault. Except for 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, most nobody serving as G.M. under the harsh financial restrictions set forth by the Wilpons could be expected to accomplish anything better – just ask those in Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Florida.

    Fred and Jeff, all I am saying is give Sandy a chance (my apologies to John Lennon). If you can’t, then plesae sell the team.

  • Rob D.

    I’m still more confident in this team’s baseball management than at any time since 2007.

    • Joe D.

      I am too, Rob. It’s the ownership that gives me the shakes.

      As mentioned, I don’t doubt Sandy’s ability to get things going, I just doubt that he would be able do anything right now under such financial restraint. And if that is the case, then we have to wait until the prospects come around to complement the young ones we already see developing on the major league level.

      One doesn’t have to mortgage the house like Omar did (and was allowed to do with the Wilpon’s blessing) to acquire the missing pieces to build a good ball club. All that’s required is fiscal prudence to go along with baseball prudence. Mr.Minaya, if Sandy was in your place back then, can you imagine who he might have acquired with the money you gave to get Castillo and Perez?

  • eric b

    No doubt the Mets stink as of this moment (despite winning today in Philadelphia)…but where would they be with just Reyes and Murphy (no mention of Santana or Davis, or a full season of David Wright). They’d be where they were all season with Reyes and Murphy…right around .500. With more of Wright and more of Davis, they might be a couple of games over. Without trading Beltran and Krod (which they maybe wouldn’t have done if they were really in the playoff chase), they would probably be a couple of games better than that. With a healthy Santana, we’d be talking contender…

    Of course, we may never see a healthy Santana again…and Beltran and Krod (for good or ill) are gone for good. Hopefully Ike Davis, Reyes, and Murphy will all be back (although Reyes’ status is obviously uncertain). They are not really in too bad of a position with position players (Jason Bay notwithstanding). Their bullpen is impossibly bad even with the most optimistic projections for the future of these players. They need to get more and different relievers (I’d be inclined to keep only Byrdak and Parnell…and they haven’t really been good either)…and they need at least one top-of-the-rotation starter AND a decent return by Santana (if he looks like a number 2 or 3 starter next year, that would be enough). Essentially, a very good starter and much better relief pitching would make the Mets look pretty damn competitive next year if most of the walking wounded return healthy.

    I don’t know what the financial situation dictates…but I’m hoping the Mets will spend on some pitching…and on Reyes…with the money off the books now from Krod and Beltran.

    I understand Greg’s despair/apathy at this point in the season. I’m definitely not hanging on every pitch anymore…and the wasted comeback vs. Milwaukee combined with 19 consecutive runs scored by the Phils against our Mets was enough to tip the disgust-o-meter to previously unseen levels… However, looking at who is actually on the field and who is not, it’s hardly surprising at this stage.

    Let’s play Nick Evans, though, and see what he can do for goodness’ sake.

  • Andee

    Team ERA over 6 in August. ERA may be somewhat overrated, but no team on earth can survive one THAT bad. The good news is, it’s probably unsustainably terrible. This team, with this ballpark, MUST be built around pitching, and it takes a few years to build a staff that good.

    Another thing pretty much no team can survive: Losing both of your top-5-in-batting hitters simultaneously, one of them for the year. The lineup reminds me of what some writer said about the Mets 30 years ago: “The Mets have a good bench; unfortunately, it’s starting.” That’s what we have here. David Wright is better than a benchhand, but Jason Bay is worse, so it’s a wash. Otherwise, we have Pagan, who as it turns out is playing with a rather debilitating chronic illness, so who knows what kind of Forrest Gump chocolate assortment you’re gonna get from him on any given day.

    Similarly, we basically have bullpen arms — Capuano, Dickey, probably even Gee — starting most of the games. Plus Pelfrey, who’s Pelfrey, which means his singular value to the team is that he’s the one guy who never gets injured. And Niese, who probably has the stuff to join the southpaw pantheon, but even the southpaw pantheon is riddled with late bloomers (Unit, Moyer, Lee, even Sabathia), so it might take him another year or two to figure it out.

    There’s already been big time roster turnover in the last 2 years; the only currently active (not DL) players who were active 2 years ago at this time were Pagan, Pelfrey, and Parnell. Yes, that’s right, THREE players, that’s it. (Wright was out 2 years ago with his concussion.) I couldn’t believe it either until I looked. So unless we want to blame the team’s misfortunes on them (I don’t, although with Pelf it’s tempting), that tells you something: Just getting rid of crap doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding the acquisition of other crap. At least the crap we have now might have some utility if it’s not asked to start every day.

  • [...] FAFIF reader Guy Kipp has suggested on a couple of occasions (and I’ve found myself thinking), the current Mets squad is riding a [...]