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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.

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Oh Hell / It's Miguel

From The Lesser-Known Haikus and Other Poetry of Miguel Batista, Vol. 4:

I throw a baseball
Then it flies the other way
But now much faster

Like Jon Niese the night before, Chris Young was good — one bad pitch in six innings, and he even contributed a double. Yes, that third time through the opposing order was problematic again, but what did you want Terry Collins to do?  He had a starter who was cruising, albeit under a small-sample statistical red flag. He could hope Young dodged his own recent trend, or he could turn it over to the bullpen, whose members are nothing but larger-sample statistical red flags. If the Mets hadn’t supported Young with a big goose egg to that point, Adam LaRoche’s two-run homer might have been a blemish, instead of the mistake that ruined the ledger.

With Young having departed and the Mets having cut the Nats’ lead to 2-1, Collins went to the bullpen to bring in … Miguel Batista. Saturday’s starter was as consistent and reliable as he’s been all year, giving up two runs to turn the Mets’ upward struggle into a near vertical face. The Mets fought back in the ninth, with David Wright and Jason Bay (!) smacking home runs, but this time Tyler Clippard struck out Jordany Valdespin, and this once-happy souffle of a season has deflated all the way to one measly game over .500.

Miguel Batista, Jesus. I’ll freely admit he’s become my 2012 Mets scapegoat — that guy who isn’t actually all that important to the fate of the team, but whose presence on the roster leaves me sputtering in fury, beyond the reach of logic or rationality. As with Alex Cora a few years back, Batista seems to be here because he’s a good clubhouse guy, because he has the fabled intangibles that have left rosters clotted with creaky, crappy players for decades.

I don’t doubt that Batista is indeed a mentor and a teacher and all that — I’ve heard it enough times from enough sources. But my goodness — Batista’s intangibles have to be pretty much off the charts to come anywhere near the metronome of suck that are his tangibles. I’d send him packing in a heartbeat for a reliever who was an enormous asshole with nothing to teach anybody and whom nobody liked, provided he could actually pitch.

Oh, and then after the game Batista told the beat reporters he thought the Mets were better than the Nats — best team in baseball, in fact. Is being delusional a useful intangible?

Look, the season’s not over — the Nats will have their own ebb, to use Sandy Alderson’s language from yesterday. (Though boy does Bryce Harper look good. Is this what it was like watching Mickey Mantle before he stepped in that drain?) There’s a second wild card out there. The long-term plan still looks on track. And hey, even if the Mets once again are felled by a second-half swoon, even if they finish under .500, this was the year we got a no-hitter. In March, if you’d offered me 78 or so wins, encouraging years by a number of young players, a resurgence for David Wright, a likeable team, the feeling that better days are ahead and a no-no, I’d have signed on the spot. In blood.

Could I be happier? Well, of course I could be. It’s the nature of being a sports fan to get nice things and then want more. The Mets could go to the playoffs, for instance. But since that dream seems to have once again died in post-All-Star dust, how about the Mets get wherever it is they’re going without broken-down retreads who can’t pitch and say risible things in the clubhouse?

23 comments to Oh Hell / It’s Miguel

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    The season seems to be going down the tubes quickly. I hope not, but I sense this is the beginning of the end once again, but for different reasons than the past.

    I would like to ask those who support Sandy’s way of running a ball club if they are still having a fun time watching us get off to decent starts under Sandy the past two years only to falter because of no help from the front office other than discarding key players and replacing them with bargain basement one. Instead of helping Terry and the kids we get the promise of a “new vision” for the future.

    I am sure there are a lot of Met fans out there who are not happy with this front office – especially because a team which started off so well twice in a row does not seem to be one with a need to go so “long-term” with a vision which included re-building from scratch.

    They are a team that is young and in need of some help. Help does not mean creating a hole in center, doing without a qualified closer or acquiring relief pitchers that so many were shaking their heads about when the announcements came out.

    I still think Sandy is there because Bud Selig urged him to take a job in which Sandy freely admitted he wasn’t interested in. His vision is to downsize the club and cut costs as much as possible to enable the Wilpons to retain ownership during until the financial problems that effect all their holdings under Sterling Equities becomes more manageable.

    This is not a knock on Sandy but recognition of what he was really hired to do. He is a baseball executive with expertise in legal and financial matters. That’s what the Wilpons needed more at the moment. The rest is all spin and lip service. With only nine percent of all minor league players ever making it to the big leagues at all, to count only on building from within shortchanges the efforts of those who do make it.

    Ask Thole, Davis, Murphy, Tejada, Duda, Gee, Neise, Turner, even the slumping Kirk if they felt shortchanged both last season and this.

    • I still trust Sandy, I don’t agree with your theory about his true mission, and I’m not inclined to mortgage the future to help an overachieving club a year early.

      Do you really think he can acquire enough pieces to make the Mets a legitimate contender this year? At what cost? And if you’ve got a team that’s a fringe contender at best, why wouldn’t you move an expiring contract for a legitimate prospect?

      Do you regret trading Carlos Beltran — who was never going to return to the Mets — for Zack Wheeler, whom numerous scouts think is the best or second-best starting-pitching prospect in baseball?

      As for Sandy being only a legal/financial guy, why is it that under his watch the Mets have completely revamped their approach to how hitters work counts and “hunt” pitches? See Andee’s point below. Yes, this year’s bullpen has been historically bad. But the hitting and the starting pitching have been far better than anyone expected. Does Sandy get any credit for that?

      I don’t mean to pile on, Joe, but I really think the depth of your hatred for the Wilpons has made you determined to see things only one way….

      • Joe D.

        Hi Jason,

        Whatever personal feelings I have toward the Wilpons I am aware of my shortcomings and do try to be objective despite this.

        We must look at the overall picture regarding Sandy – and this is not meant to knock him but rather to see what his purpose is with the Mets. He has stated that he didn’t even want the job after Omar was fired and was happy doing what he was. He admits he was then urged by Bud Selig to apply. Then the Mets hire him – an individual who had to be pushed to apply for it?

        I truly don’t believe Jason that the Commissioner of Baseball would involve himself with the internal hiring structure of any team unless it was in serious financial problem – which he has done in the past. Otherwise, it would imply giving the Mets an advantage over other teams as far as vision for player personnel is concerned by pushing him on the New York franchise.

        I also feel that if money is as tight as told, then Sandy went against his own principles by spending $9.5 million on two pitchers – Francisco and Rauch. There were fifty free agent relievers available this past winter and Francisco got the fourth highest contract among them. I truly can’t believe that there weren’t three or four out there with maybe less talent than Francisco but as a group (using the money also not spent on Rauch) those maybe little less talented (on paper) together would have been more effective than the two we got.

        Also consider how this bullpen that was dismanted and then re-built has cost the team. The Mets hitting this year has actually been good and the SP has been very good. The Mets offense has scored the 11th most runs in the MLB, and 4th in the NL. The starters have the 6th best ERA in the MLB. They also have the 6th most K’s in the MLB, and the 5th best BAA. The hitting has been above average, and the starters have been one of the best in the MLB – So, they haven’t been the issue. We are 4th in the league in Save opportunites (38)…14th in Saves (22). Thats a 57% conversion rate.

        The team has lost six straight. I am not upset about Josh Egan on Friday night but the Mets were only trailing by one run when the bullpen increased that to three. The Mets scored one run but had the pen kept the game closer, we know it’s different playing for one run than it is two or three. Saturday the Mets rallied to take the lead in the eighth only to have the pen blow it. Tuesday the Mets twice took last inning leads to which the bullpen blew it. Last night the Mets found got themselves back to a one run deficit in a very tight game only to have the bullpen then give up two more right back, putting them behind by three and enough for Washington to withstand the two runs we scored in the ninth.

        That is four out of six games that we could have realisticly won if the bullpen just did it’s part like the batters did in some cases and the starting pitchers did like the past two nights. Instead of a six game losing streak we could have been at 4-2 and nine games over .500 instead of one. Or if we just went 3 and 3, we would still be seven games over as it was before the streak.

        The Reds bullpen has be criticized for having accounted for 35 percent of their losses but when looking at the number of losses the Reds, or any team’s bullpen accounted for, one must also look for the number of wins that they contributed to as well. Right now with bullpen problems of their own, the Reds are eleven games over .500 when we are just one. Their bullpen must have had some positive impact on that as well.

        I also believe that when a team is surprising the baseball world as the Mets were doing last season, going something like 50-37 after that horrible start and being within six of the loss column with a third of the season to go, one does not rid itself of impact players, even if they are going to walk or being overpaid. That is unfair to the players (as expressed by R.A. Dickey who said the front office showing it had no faith in them was hard to swallow)and the fans. Sacrificing the season to get a pitching prospect – even one with the potental of Wheeler – is not worth it and I don’t recall any franchise every dumping salary when in a playoff hunt. Those are measures a team makes when the owners are desperate for cash – which they are.

        I never implied pulling a Duquette and mortgaging the future on a chance one can pull an upset. All I said was to leave the team as was and give it it’s fair shot to win or stumble on it’s own. A 162 game effort is all that is asked and the front office took that away from them. Not having an impact closer like KRod has had an impact on all the other pitchers trying to be too careful in fear of giving up a run. Same with the hitters trying for a five run homer by pushing themselves more. We were a stronger team last season than we are now because of that loss.

        Also, that approach to hitting began in the minors under Terry in 2010 – he mentioned he wanted to change the mindset of the minor league hitters at that time and begn doing so. Thus, the new hitting approach we see with kids like Duda, Davis, Murphy, Thole, Turner, Tejada, Kirk, etc. started before Sandy was here.

        And as far as his past, Sandy Alderson, though the general manager at Oakland, was not involved in personnel moves until 1991. Before that time, the special assistant to the team president, Bill Rigney, was the one who made all the player decisions and did not report to Sandy at all but instead directly to the President. And when asked about what was wrong with Ike Davis when Ike was struggling, Sandy even said to Gary Cohen that he wasn’t a player and could only talk about as an observer. That’s not the reaction of one with the astute baseball knowledge required for player development. That is why I contend he is not the baseball man as many perceive but the legal and business man – and, IMHO, a very good executive in that capacity.

        So you see, I’m basing my conclusions on research. Sandy is the business man, not the one with professional insight to put together a team or build up a minor league system. Yes, he can hire the right people but even with that, the moves made under DePodesta have proved disasterous.

        Can you see where I am coming from?

        • I see where you’re coming from, yes. Just don’t agree.

          When the Mets traded Beltran they were 53-51. In a situation like that I’ll trade an impact player every time, and prioritize the long-range needs of the team over short-team hopes everything breaks right. Of course players aren’t happy about that — it’s their job to battle every day, and their makeup demands that they think the impossible can happen. It’s a GM’s job to be more realistic and think about the bigger picture.

          • Joe D.

            Hi Jason,

            But many clubs had started off slow and didn’t reach the .500 mark till June or early July and kept on going. It’s happened quite often. That the Mets were playing 13 games over after that horrible start there was much reason to believe they could have continued playing at that level.

            That’s why I emphasize the financial situation as being the decisive factor in what went on last season. We know the Wilpons needed another bridge loan of $40 million just to meet operating expenses toward the end of last year so the need for cash and drastic cost cutting throughout the season was necessary and immediate.

            I’ve always asked if these same moves would have been made had the financial barrier not been an issue. My hunch is, knowing how badly the Wilpons – like all of us – want the Mets to win that they would have been buyers instead of sellers. That doesn’t mean to be irresponsible and bankrupt the farm system or tie-down the roster with multi-year commitments to aging players.

            But I also wonder how much those bad decisions made over the years has affected our psyche and has made us kind of paranoid about making big moves in general.

            And don’t forget, Sandy’s vision regarding our long term goal is also not without it’s many risks. Building from within begins with drafting players but how can one foresee who the team is going to be taking in the following year’s draft when one does not know where they will pick and who will be picked before by other teams? And nobody knows what one is going to get in the long term for less than one out of ten draftees even ever make it to the big show.

            Having a “vision” might be the wrong word to use for one can only truly see what they have based on those already in the organization and deciding what to do from there. For example, the draft picks that came under Paul DePodesta when in San Diego overall have not worked out for the Padres. Come to think of it, neither did most of ours for quite a number of years as well.LOL

            If the Mets were a franchise with mostly aging players on the roster and a thin farm system, starting over all over again would probably be the only choice available. But as we can see, we are not in such dire straits. Hence, why we differ on the issue and why I suspect the re-building has more to do with being broke financially than being broke as far as talent is concerned.

            I hope that even though we might differ on these things that my observations and judgments are now no longer seen as being the product of whatever my feelings might be of the owners

            But of course – LETS GO METS!

  • Andee

    If Warthen is breaking every bullpen arm the GM gives him, and I’m starting to suspect that he does, it doesn’t matter who Sandy acquires. Batista is a great clubhouse guy? Great. Make him the bullpen coach, then. Heck, let him replace Warthen, even. I don’t care if Warthen is Fred Wilpon’s BFF. Sandy needs to say, “Okay, if you won’t let me fire his ass, I’m going to go to the media and tell them you’re not letting me fire him, and it’s going to be a giant PR shitstorm for you, as if you need another.”

    Batista is Terry’s pet. When the manager has a pet, and that pet keeps costing the team games, it’s up to the GM to say, “Sorry, we gave you this pet because you said you’d clean up after him, but his poop is all over the yard and there’s more of it every day. Either the poop goes (i.e. you agree to use him only in low leverage situations or spot starts) or he goes.”

    Like I said yesterday, this FO has worked miracles when it comes to increasing run production. Last year and this year, the Mets have been one of the top run-scoring teams in the NL despite being near the bottom in home runs. That is no small feat. It’s why we’re not, like, 20 games under .500 with this hideous bullpen. But really, based on track record and prior peripherals, there’s no reason on earth they should be this awful. Except Batista! And who is allowed to keep putting close games out of reach? Batista. Someone needs to find the MagnetMobile and drive it past Batista’s laptop and wipe out all the incriminating photos he has of Terry, Dan, and Sandy.

    • How do you rate Warthen’s work with the starters?

      • Andee

        Tougher to figure. I mean, Johan is Johan, a guy with two Cy Youngs is probably his own pitching coach. Dickey is probably happy if you just leave him alone to perfect his floater. Gee made real progress this year, and so has Niese. Young has been fine as a fifth starter. But even if you could credit Warthen with that, at the very least he seems completely lost with the relievers. Maybe they lavish so much attention on the starters that the relievers get the bum’s rush, and Warthen has them scrap secondary pitches instead of refining them. I don’t know.

        • Jacobs27

          I don’t know how to judge or measure a pitching coach’s impact. But I think it’s safe to say that Warthen doesn’t seem to be having much positive impact on them. Simply because they’re so bad in the same ways.

          Ron Darling and apparently Terry Collins after the first game were the first people to mention something concretely wrong with the relievers’ approach–not coming inside. Now, maybe, Warthen’s already tried to address this–who knows, but when you’ve got a whole group of pitchers struggling so bad, it’d be nice to see the pitching coach try to shake things up methodologically or something.

        • The bullpen’s failure is his fault; the starters didn’t need him anyway. Seems a bit unfair, ma’am.

          • Andee

            Actually, I only said Dickey and Santana didn’t need him. Which is probably true. But it’s definitely possible to neglect your bullpen in favor of your starters; see 1990s Atlanta Braves. That team lucked out and had some closers who were effective for a year or two, but their middle relief was almost always garbage.

    • Joe D.

      Hi Guys,

      Just caught Ojeda on the pre-game show where he pointed out that the Met run production is up the past month or so because they are not taking as many pitches, not getting as many walks, are instead swinging more early in the count, that they are not working the count and being more aggressive instead.

      Their walk ratio is down but their team batting average is way up. Specifically cited David Wright who was getting more walks earlier in the season and was instead now driving in runs more, getting those extra base hits.

      Attributed that to David realizing he is getting paid to drive in runs, not get walks.

      Bobby also asked why, earlier in the year, opposing pitchers were accommodating the Mets by giving them those walks. Good question. But shows that walks are also part of the defensive strategy as they are the offensive one.

  • joenunz

    Last night, in the 6th inning, my son and I decided to watch The Bad News Bears.

    Yes, the ACTUAL Bad News Bears with Walter Matthau. Not OUR Bad News Bears.

  • Dave

    I’m with Jason, I would have signed up for this in an instant, considering my best case scenario projection in March was that they’d be the best last place team in the majors. Alderson spent last winter with no realistic trade bait and marching orders to cut the payroll budget by what’s probably more than Pittsburgh or KC’s entire payrolls. The fact that we can even be having conversations about being in the playoff hunt might mean Alderson is a genius. If it doesn’t work out by 2014 or so, then we can talk about him failing, but for now I’m willing to be patient. Hell, we’ve had to wait a lot longer than this before.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    (I’d send him packing in a heartbeat for a reliever who was an enormous asshole with nothing to teach anybody and whom nobody liked, provided he could actually pitch.

    Hmmm, who could you possibly be referring to?????

  • No matter the era, one thing remains consistent – terrible late inning relief pitching. I would say that until the Mets have starters that can regularly go 7 and 8 innings (most notable exception being Dickey for the most part), these relief guys don’t have a prayer. Guys like Rauch, Francisco, Byrdak and Batista have to pitch EVERY DAY. Get starting depth and your relief will do much better.

    As for FO – I like the kid movement and other than the Francisco move, I think they’ve made a lot of good choices. Once the arms in the minors ripen, this team will turn the corner. I picked these guys to win 75 – I think they could end up at .500 if they don’t lose any more starters.

  • Rob D.

    I never thought I would be pining for ANY Francisco to return to the Mets (Frank or Rodriguez)

  • boldib

    I’m starting to really appreciate haiku. That’s beautiful.

  • growler

    I went into this season expecting nothing, and now humbly admit I was wrong. Things I’d add to your list of “Why I’ll be perfectly happy with their season even if they fall apart now”: The ever-inspiring Dickey and his back-to-back one-hitters, and seeing Tejada make a play that had me asking “Jose who?”

  • Joe D.

    Actually, Mike Francesa was again being two-faced with the callers just to create some juice for the listening audience.

    A Met fan called up and said he wasn’t unhappy at all about the team if it now falters because nobody expected anything from them. I was agreeing with Mike about no matter what was originally thought of the Mets chances, how fans can’t be happy seeing their team then in the thick of hunt see the front office not going after more help. He cited that there is no happy summer for most baseball fans when their team is out of it by August.

    But what lost me was when the caller said he was happy with the kids and Francesa said “what kids?”, citing Santana and Dickey. In May Francesa said this was a young team with talent even though nobody knew what the future would hold for them, that the credit had to go to Omar.

    Not getting into Omar/Sandy but how could a young team suddenly get old in two months? Again, the problem with talk radio in general.

    • Will in Central NJ

      As I’m sure you know, Joe D., turmoil and rancor is the formula for sports talk radio ratings. The Sports Pope (great nickname) was trying to whip up NYM fan emotions, which is easy enough to do. Big irony is that Francessa was bellowing repeatedly, “WHAT KIDS?” to the Met fan when he and we all know that Duda, Tejada, Thole, Nieuwenhuis, Niese, Gee and even Davis qualify as young, arbitration-ineligible ‘kids’ with 3 years service time or less. The irony is that the Sports Pope refers to about half of all athletes “Kid”.

      Not to defend Francessa or sports radio in general, but I once had a college sports talk radio show on. Both young student hosts were knowledgeable, eager and in agreement with each other in almost everything, and likewise with their occasional callers. I realized it was boring and I turned it off.