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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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The Continuing Education of Lucas Duda

OK, first of all: Ouch.

We had the bastards …  or so it seemed.

Going into the game, I was nervous about Chris Young’s fly-ball tendencies given where fly balls hit by the Yankees tend to land, as last night’s Cano/A-Rod/Andruw barrage demonstrated. I didn’t have to be: Young was great, stifling the Yankees through six innings before moving to the seventh. In that frame Young started by walking Mark Teixeira on a close pitch, but then went back to work, getting Nick Swisher to lift a fly ball to right … only Lucas Duda broke back instead of in, and the ball dropped and got past him for what the official scorer nonsensically ruled a double. With Frank Francisco unavailable because his left oblique stiffened up on him (uh-oh), Terry Collins opted to stay with Young against Raul Ibanez instead of calling on Tim Byrdak. Young then made the only pitch of the night he wanted back, one Ibanez hit on a line just over the wall in what’s been rechristened Swisherville.

Bang, just like that it was 3-3. An out later, Jon Rauch had pinch-hitter Eric Chavez in an 0-2 hole and threw a shoulder-high fastball Chavez was meant to chase. It wasn’t a bad pitch at all, and Chavez chased it — somehow depositing it just inside the left-field foul pole for the lead. The Mets then were stymied in the final three innings. First, with Jordany Valdespin on third and one out in the seventh, Boone Logan erased Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy (sporting a horrific pool-guy mustache) on a flurry of evil breaking pitches. In the eighth, David Robertson’s eventful inning took place entirely at home plate: He struck out Scott Hairston, walked Omar Quintanilla and Josh Thole, then struck out Justin Turner and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. In the ninth, David Wright singled with one out, but Duda looked overeager and struck out against Rafael Soriano, and then Murph got under a pitch just enough to bring it down in Swisher’s glove on the warning track instead of in the hands of a jubilant Mets fan or a bitter Yankee drone.

Ballgame, cue trying not to throw stuff across the room and mar a beautiful New York night with screamed obscenities.

Poor Duda is wearing the goat horns, and not undeservedly so. And after watching his latest misadventures in the outfield, I’m determined that the Mets need to … leave him right where he is.

Tim Marchman wrote a terrific article this morning in The Wall Street Journal, one of the best appraisals of the 2012 Mets I’ve read. In wondering whether the Mets are the National League’s worst good team or its best bad one, Marchman has this to say: “Third baseman Daniel Murphy is playing second and first baseman Lucas Duda is playing right, and this is admirable, not a good idea and better than any alternative, all at once.”

All true. Both Murph and Lucas look better on defense nearly three full months into the season, which is not at all the same thing as saying they look good out there, because they don’t. But there are no real alternatives. Murphy is blocked at third by Wright, as we hope he will continue to be, blocked at first by Ike Davis (ditto) and it would be unfair to send him back out to left without a long spell in winter ball at the very least. The Mets’ only real option is to be patient with Murph at second, and hope he can grow into a Dan Uggla type. (Though if Murph doesn’t start driving the ball with more authority, he’s going to be a supersub.)

The Mets are in the same trap with Duda — he’s blocked at first, even without considering that Ike probably has a lot to do with Wright’s marked improvement across the diamond at third. The Mets would arguably be better off with Duda in left and Hairston in right, but Jason Bay’s contract means he’ll continue to play left when he’s able for the next season and a half, and it’s unfair to jerk Duda between two positions he’s not particularly adept at.

Unless Sandy Alderson has some trade in mind that will reshuffle the deck, the Mets are stuck with the fact that Duda’s medium-term future, at least, is in right. To make the best of that medium-term future, he has to stay there and learn and improve as best he can. And we have to accept that sometimes those lessons will be measured in plays not made and games lost.

Anyway, the Mets will play something we haven’t seen in a while: a rubber game. And it promises to be a fascinating one, with R.A. Dickey and his recently magical knuckler against CC Sabathia, his missing periods and his live fastball.

But then this series has been quietly fascinating. Game 1 turned on a misplay by one right fielder on a ball hit just over the fence. Game 2 turned on a misplay by the other right fielder, setting the stage for a ball hit just over that same fence in approximately the same spot. The Mets jumped out to a Game 2 lead on a home run off a pretty good pitch that curled around the left-field pole. The Yankees took a Game 2 lead for good on a home run off a pretty good pitch that landed in more or less the same place.

Stranger than fiction, but then baseball often is.

18 comments to The Continuing Education of Lucas Duda

  • Jerry Z

    Definitely ouch but also I’m steamed. We get so close and yet find ways to give up leads, and we couldn’t capitalize enough when they let the door open. I wanted this victory real bad. Just goes to show the margin of error when facing this type of opposition can be so slight, there’s isn’t much room for error at all, they’re too good. I love this team but still think that a killers touch needs to develop, maybe this will come in time as they mature. I’m not giving up, I like and dislike what I see at times, just hoping that the like edges out the dislike even by the slimmest of margins.

  • Andee

    It’s just as well. We trade Duda because of defensive bungling, he turns into Melvin Mora or even Jeff Kent on us, guaranfrickinteed.

    As for Murphy, Spins is the only real alternative, and Spins makes Jose Reyes look like Rickey Henderson in terms of plate discipline. Murph at least knows how to take a walk. But yeah, the sudden power outage on him is a real head-scratcher.

    What I want to know is: how do the Yankees ever lose? Seriously. They’ve been beaten 28 times this year including once by the Mets last night, and that was by the skin of their frigging fangs. It just seems like they make you pay for every mistake, and get every frigging break in the world, and their roster is like a freshly stocked lake, even after a rash of key injuries. It’s just not fair. I hope Dickey knows exactly what he’s in for tomorrow, it’s his one rabbit foot against 25 of them.

  • Andee

    Oh, and agreed, that pornstache of Murphy’s needs to go. It looks like he drank milk a week ago and hasn’t wiped his mouth off since.

  • 9th string catcher

    While I think Terry is a terrific manager I do think he has ladles when it comes to the bullpen. After dudas blunder he needed to bring in Byrdak. It had been a long game for cy and he had to be frustrated by the error. Girardi is one of the most annoying managers ever, but outdid Collins last night. Also, where was Ike? Was he hurt last night? If not, he should have pinch hit at least.

  • 9th string catcher

    Lapses not ladies. Stupid spell check.

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    I didn’t see any of the post game stuff, but I would have to imagine that TC had to admit that he blew that one.

    He wad a perfect match up warming up in the pen and he just waited to long.

    All is forgotten if we win today!

  • Dave

    And what was with Swisher going into 2nd base after Duda’s misplay actually laughing? This on the team that is supposedly all business all the time, all so professional? He’s my candidate for player I’d most like to see with a fastball in his ear.

    And Murphy’s stache…yikes. My 17 year old daughter, who normally considers Murph to be, along with Davis and Wright, one of the cute Mets, took one look and said “shut it down.” But regarding his baseall skills instead of grooming, I am starting to foresee a near future in which Spins takes over at 2nd and Murph is a utility guy or perhaps even trade bait to an AL team where he can play his natural position, DH.

  • Patrick O'Hern

    Is Jon Rauch ok? Did he get any nasty tweets that upset him after he gave up anothe bomb? Do we need to send him some texts to “keep your head up and do your best is all that matters?” Do we need to get lectured that he is a person too with feelings? I am longing for the days of Doug Sisk.

  • Jack

    Re: Bay–his contract is up after this season, not next. Thankfully.

    • Afraid not: Bay’s contract is guaranteed next year. There’s a vesting option for 2014 at $17 million if he gets 500 PA this season and next, or 600 PA in 2013 — the last Omarpalooza vesting disaster stuck on Sandy’s books.

      Bay is unlikely to hit 500 PA this year, so that one’s gone; he’s never had 600 PA as a Met. If neither option vests, the Mets can buy out his 2014 option for $3 million.

    • metman499

      According to Wikiepedia, Bay signed a four year contract on Dec. 29, 2009. There is a fifth year vesting option as well. We’re stuck with him until the end of next season, at least.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    What about the continuing education of either David Wright or Terry Collins?

    Why would our number three hitter advance the tying run already in scoring position to third with nobody out in the seventh trailing 4-3? Either it was Terry’s decision not to have David hit away, Wright misreading the sign or he went against his manager’s orders.

    Don’t believe it was just a poor at bat because David took a full but not powerful cut with his soft swing appearing it was his intention to poke the ball to the opposite side of the infield.

    I think that play cost us the game by handing Girardi an out and not having to face our top hitter at the same time.

    One would also think David’s job is to drive in runners, not to move them over.

    So, was it a bad call by Collins or a dumb move by David?

  • […] bothers me. It’s not Lucas Duda’s Your Son Is In Danger Of Failing Right Field notice from his Continuing Education class that bothers me, even though I’m now reflexively cringing when Met defenders habitually […]

  • […] That first  o ger run came on a Juan Rivera  ouble over Lucas  u a’s hea  – a ball that most right fiel ers woul  catch, but  u a was frozen for a fatal secon  an  then lumbere  after it to no avail, with the ball plopping  own on the e ge of the warning track. Unfortunate, but as his own manager will attest,  u a isn’t a right fiel er. Unless they  eci e to shift him permanently to left (which woul n’t be a terrible i ea provi e  it’s a one-way trip), the Mets will just have to live with such things. […]

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