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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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Danger, Sandy Alderson

As I wrote yesterday, the Mets do nothing and then they do bad things and then they do dumb things. That was true again tonight, except it was far worse. Yesterday’s game was depressing and discouraging. Tonight’s was infuriating — a bone-headed, brain-dead disaster that was sickening to witness.

The Mets are utterly horrible and completely unwatchable. This is the worst stretch I can remember since the Mo Vaughn days of winless months at Shea, in terms of a team plummeting through apparent rock bottom after apparent rock bottom. It’s true that bad teams — and by now it’s clear that’s what the Mets are — have stretches like this. But there’s a danger to this 11-27 disaster beyond what it does to the club in the standings and to our blood pressure in the stands.

This isn’t the last two weeks of the season — the Mets have 39 games left, which will be played over the next 43 days. That’s a long time — longer than God made it rain to wash everything off the Earth that wasn’t on an ark, to invoke a disaster that right now seems only slightly larger.  If you average out speedy games on getaway days and extra-inning slogs, it’s a good 117 hours of baseball yet to play.

One hundred and seventeen hours is a lot. At a comfortable pace you could use that time to walk from Manhattan to Pittsburgh, or see the entire run of “The Sopranos,” start over and get halfway through it again. If the Mets are going to play 117 more hours of lethargic, horrendous baseball — which right now seems all too likely — those 117 hours are going to have a corrosive effect on a fan base that is already battered and cynical. It will obscure the message that there is a long-term plan aimed at restoring the Mets to respectability and contention. The effect will be measurable in tickets not renewed and fans who wait to come out to see Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler and other names we don’t know yet, or who never turn out at all. It will make things that are hard enough even harder.

Yes, this was fundamentally a year about stepping away from the old, bad Mets of Omarpalooza contracts, and not yet a year about putting finishing touches on a winning team. The horror of the second half doesn’t invalidate that plan — though the fundamentally disappointing or derailed campaigns for Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Josh Thole and Dillon Gee sure don’t help. But it makes it a lot harder to sell the future to free agents and fans and everybody else. Waiting for the future demands patience, yes — but there’s patience, and there’s enduring a disaster of these proportions. The latter makes it a lot harder to ask for the former when you need to.

I don’t know what the hell the Mets ought to do, but they need to do something — even if it’s just for the sake of doing something. Maybe it’s firing coaches, or putting dirt on the corpse of Jason Bay seven months early, or dispatching players who can’t seem to pay attention to baseball for three hours to Buffalo or the unemployment line. Would any of that fundamentally change the product on the field? I doubt it. But as Terry Collins noted in a different context tonight, in denying/admitting/waxing philosophical about whether his team had quit or not, sometimes perception is reality. The perception around the Mets right now is rotten to the point of dangerous. That can’t be allowed to become reality any more than it already has.

31 comments to Danger, Sandy Alderson

  • JohnnyL.

    Frustrating is an understatement. At this point the only players that I would care to see in orange and blue in 2013 are Wright, Dickey, Niese, Harvey, Tejada and Edgin. The remaining 25-30that we have seen this year can simply go

    • Jacobs27

      C’mon, Murph’s come around, even if the lack of pop is frustrating. His fielding is much improved. I’m not ready to give up on Ike. Hairston’s been pretty good for what he is. So has Baxter, although the sample is still small.

      But in general, yeah, I share the sentiment.

      • Johnny L.

        Jacobs27. I think we are generally on the same page. I’d like Murph coming off the bench or if the Nl had a dh. Can you honestly see any team, unless they were totally star-studded win a championship with Murphy at second. Baxter and Hairston are both bench players, have generally played well,but both are a dime a dozen.

  • Andee

    People say they want the organization rebuilt from the bottom up. But with rare exceptions, most fans don’t really want that. Because that’s what they’re doing now, and this is what happens when the previous GM regime (aided and abetted not a little by an owner who thought he was a GM, plus some genuinely lousy luck with top prospect injuries) leaves the kind of holes that take years to fix.

    Amazingly enough, subtract out Santana and his sudden penchant for serving up meatballs, and the starting rotation actually looks halfway decent. Dickey-Niese-Harvey is a perfectly respectable 1-2-3, and with the final two slots next year filled by some combination of Gee, Wheeler, Mejia, and maybe Santana if he’s healthy and figures it out, that’s not bad at all.

    But it reminds me of some guide book back in the mid-70s said about the Mets, “If pitching is 75% of the game, why don’t the Mets win 75% of theirs? They’re all pitching.” They’re simply not going to win much if they’re scoring one or two runs a game off a staff like the Rockies’, and even worse against everyone else. That’s some 1970s shit right there, and that’s not even going into what’s been a bugbear for the last five years, relief pitching.

    What happened? Well, I can’t fail to notice that Bay’s return coincided almost exactly with their run-scoring deep freeze. Even when he’s not in the lineup, he’s sucking the life out of them. Wright is now hacking at pitches he used to lay off of, to try to cover for all these sudden automatic outs in the lineup. There never used to be any; now at least half the lineup is out-machines. But Bay’s entire contract, and the back end of Santana’s, should remind people that the team can’t splurge on free agents to get out of this, even if they could afford it. Sandy is going to have to get creative (and lucky) on the trade market. I’d expect him to be extremely active over the winter.

    • Andee – great post. I totally agree. If I had the stomach for it, I would tally every game the Mets played with at least two sub .200 hitters in the lineup. The relief pitching has been terrible, but let’s face it – there’s no defense and a predominantly left handed hitting offense that does not score runs. They’re an easy team to strategize against – throw as many lefties as possible and score a couple of runs. Chalk up a win.

      I think the starting pitching is in good shape. I think that Parnell and Edgin are decent building blocks in the pen. Focus on the outfield. Baxter should probably be the centerfielder. Release Bay – no one can handle another year of him. Seriously. Go get a power hitting right fielder and see if you can get a left fielder with speed and high OBP. And, no, it’s not Valdespin. Send him to the AL for a couple high level prospects – he’ll hit a lot of HRs as a DH.

      • Joe. D.

        This might be an example of how a team gives up following the cue of the front office. The front office showed no faith in them two years running, first by dismantling then followed by doing nothing to help them. Both times they were in the thick of the wild card races and who knows how long it might be until the club gets a shot at post-season once more.

        Was either team good enough to have sustained itself without the dismantling or the obtaining of some different players – that cannot be said. I don’t think this year’s team had the heart in it like the 2011 edition. Perhaps some of the after-effect from what R.A. Dickey called hard to swallow with the front office showing no faith in it. In the back of their head they knew no help was coming.

        Yes, Sandy might be looking to the minors to build around the young kids he has right now and ridding us of the veterans, which is sound thought, but that did not mean taking the courses of action he did these past two summers – this could be done gradually allowing us to rebuild yet have a chance at something with the vet we still had and could have acquired – unless ownership gave him no choice (and that is giving Sandy the benefit of the doubt).

  • Stefanie B

    As awful as I have been feeling it’s good to come to this site to vent frustration and have reasonable people to talk it out with. You both make great points. I do think Bay is sucking the life out of everyone. What’s it like for young kids to sit on the bench and watch him play instead of them? We’ve seen Valdespin before. Remember Alex Escobar? F Mart? I think they should trade him while he’s still got value. I believe the core is sound – Davis, Murphy Tejada,Wright. I believe the starting pitching is mostly ok – Dickey, Niese, Gee, Harvey. I would give Santana every benefit of the doubt (he’s earned it). Other than that, we’ve got some good fourth outfielders (Baxter, Niewenhuis) and a couple of relievers (Parnell and Edgin) that are ok.

    I do think they have given up. As have I. My only hope now is that we manage to finish above the Marlins and the Phillies (and that’s looking iffy). I still watch the games, but only till they go bad, which inevitably happens by like the fifth or sixth inning.

  • Steve D

    To answer your rhetorical questions, the Mets need a rare combination of smart owners with resources who want to win and a GM with a great baseball mind. The only times they had that in the free agent era is Doubleday & Fred with Cashen and again with Steve Phillips. Fred, Jeff and Katz of course don’t qualify, so any right thinking Met fan wishes for new ownership. Can’t tell if Sandy is the right guy yet, but it doesn’t matter unless the team is sold. The way to build a team is to stock the farm system with reasonable prospects and trade the ones that won’t live up to billing and keep the good ones. You could acquire a Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter or Mike Piazza if you were smart. Then top off with a few good free agents. You cannot win strictly from a farm system. Fifty years have proven the only star hitters the Mets ever developed from within were Cleon, Amos Otis, Ken Singleton, Mazzilli, Mookie, Darryl, Dykstra, Kevin Mitchell, Fonzie, Reyes and Wright. Did I miss any? That is really pathetic.

    What we will be forced to live with now is a small market mentality in the biggest market there is…get used to being the KC Royals, but with NY prices for everything.

  • JohnnyL.

    If most of the players in our starting lineup were instead bench players(Baxter, Murphy), I think I,d be alot more excited. As for Parnell, I dont think I have ever seen a guy with 100mph fastball have such a deer in the headlights approach. And as stated above the club is starting to take that 1970′s look. Sadly its without Seaver, Koosman, Matlack and Tug.

  • Eric Wayte

    To quote Homer Simpson,”Yeah, Moe, that team sure did suck last night. They just plain sucked! I’ve seen teams suck before, but they were the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked.”

  • Joe. D.

    Hi Jason,

    I could understand a stretch of lethargic play after falling so quickly from being the wild card leader to out of it. But there has been time enough for the players to get out of their depressive state – just as it was for us fans – and to start once more playing as hard as they could.

    Guess this happens when even a 21 year old rookie makes $480,000. Back in 1976, the year before free agency started, that was the equivalent of almost $120,000 a year – more than the highest paid player up to that time except for Catfish Hunter, who was a free agent two years before the rest.

    That’s unfortunately the way it is today with player salaries and ownership profits getting so much out of hand. Simplistic as it sounds, a little less financial security often brings out the best of all of us due it causing us to appreciate things more and not taking things for granted. Perhaps if some of these players recalled when that wasn’t the case for them, we might see a different attitude inside the dugout right now.

  • LORDV8R

    Didn’t I hear this exact same thing last year from “Terry Manuel”? He is like a broken record! When is anyone going to hold his feet to the fire? Or the worst pitching coach in the majors Dan Worthless? Ever since he has been pitching coach we have had the worst bullpen and are among the leaders in walks EVERY YEAR! And when you hear young pitchers talk about what Dan Warthen tells them it is “throw the changeup more”. No mention of how to pitch, pitching to contact, pitching form, conditioning, startegy…etc
    And how the heck do we have a bench coach who used to be a catcher in the majors and our catchers are among the worse in execution in fielding and in calling games? And while everyone dumped on Kirk and Lucas we at least were winning and had energy while they were here. Andres Torres is like a drug induced zombie on the bases. What is the difference between this team and Jerry “Ummmmm” Manuel’s team in 2010.

    • Guy Kipp

      I’ve never understood what Warthen’s qualifications were to be a major league pitching coach.
      I understand that many (most) pitching coaches were not successful major league pitchers, for various and sundry reasons. But you’d think if nothing else they were pitchers who put a premium on throwing strikes.
      In 307 career innings, Warthen walked 198 batters.

  • Terrific job, Jason. You encapsulated the Mets fan mindset better than anyone…including me. (Check Mets360.com for proof.)

  • Guy Kipp

    This is as good a reason as any why Zack Wheeler should not be promoted in 2012.
    Harvey is up because he is older and because he is ready. But Wheeler should be shielded from exposure to the toxic atmosphere of a demoralized club playing out the string before tiny, disinterested crowds in a stadium where the home team cannot win.

    • Will in Central NJ

      “Unwatchable” is an accurate adjective to use for these 2012 second-half Mets. A winning percentage of .297 since the ASG break is putrid.

      I was in Pawtucket with family the to see Buffalo Bisons, this past Sunday. We had high expectations with Jeurys Familia on the mound for the future Mets. However, the Paw Sox won, 4-1, in part due to Familia heaving an attempted sac bunt into RF….following the execution formula of the Flushing varsity (looking at you, Chris Young).

      Zack Wheeler is on the Bisons, as many know. With Duda, Nieuwenhuis, Olsen, Loewen, Satin and other former big leaguers on the Bisons’ roster, I’m not so sure Buffalo is such a nurturing place either. Just sayin’. Sigh.

  • Lou

    Could not agree more. For a team to be this bad for so many years in a row, actually so many years of its existence is inexcusable. The problem with this team is ownership. While the Wilpons may be nice people and love the city they call home, the reality is they never had any business owning a baseball team. I go back to 2000 when Alex Rodriguez wanted to come to the Mets. Ownership walked away from the table like puppies with their tails between their legs, never even attempting a negotiation. Steve Phillips took the fall but it was ownership that had no guts. We could argue that A-Rod not coming was a good thing only in hindsight. But had he been signed, with the Mets coming off a World Series appearance would have likely changed the fortunes of this franchise for years to come. Instead, back down to obscurity the Mets went. That one incident was all you needed to see between how the Mets did business vs. the Yankees who have owned the city for two decades now. I like Alderson and believe building the farm is the way to go. But a mistake the Mets are making is to not admit to their plan. Don’t give me this jive that they are trying to be competitive at the Major League level. If that were true they would have signed some established players to make that happen or to least show the fan base they were trying. Just be honest, admit this is a rebuild and that better times are two to three years away. We all know it. Don’t insult our intelligence by proclaiming the product in Flushing can compete. They can’t.

  • Jacobs27

    Would you believe that while the Mets were busy being a generally “bone-headed and brain-dead disaster”, our old resident bone-head Angel Pagan made two heads-up base-running plays (sliding into first to correctly avoid a tag, hustling a double on a ground ball through the hole) and threw out a runner at the plate with a perfect throw?

    I wouldn’t, but there’s video evidence: http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=24115967&c_id=mlb

  • kjs

    Everyone says, “I like Alderson.” Some even call him “Sandy,” as though he were a pal. (“Omar” used to be a pal who could be “trusted,” but now he’s just a “Minaya.”) Well, I sorta dislike Alderson and consider him to be a (diplomatic) liar and a tool for ensuring that the only NL MLB franchise remains hostages to the inept and financially challenged Wilpons. Is there a Mets Reeducation Camp I can go to so that I, too, can like “Sandy?”

  • Lenny65

    The second half of this season has been one of the most demoralizing and depressing episodes in Mets history. And that’s really saying something. It’s hard to believe it’s the same bunch that was charming us a few months ago with their gutty come-from-behind rock-solid starting pitching everyone-chips-in ways, isn’t it? Sigh.

    • Rob D.

      Lenny: couldn’t agree more. Most nights I’m yelling at the TV (when I bother to watch) asking “How did this happen?”

  • Fancesa is going insane on the radio today. Last time he did that, the Mets ended up with Piazza, so there’s that…

  • Alderson is a lot like the Knicks’ Donnie Walsh. Given a lot of support and admiration for turning the franchise around. Well, uh, okay, I think I could also handle the job of not signing anyone and losing more games than I won. Not really that tough. Bring up the kids. Sign some stiffs on the cheap. Not doing so well? Send the kids back down. Trade some stiffs for some more stiffs. Still losing? Yeah, but the payroll is down. Soon it’ll be all right.

    Joe D has always been consistent by saying Sandy threw in the towel by getting rid of big contracts when he could. Hey, we ended up with a top rated pitcher. We cut payroll. Got rid of K-Rod’s ugly contract. Is this a stock we’re following or a baseball team? Why not try to win if you can? Why keep Reyes then?

    That said, I think a lot of the pieces are in place, and if it’s part of Alderson’s plan, he may be onto something. Next year we’ll know. If it’s more of the same, we know Alderson can’t build a winner. He can only cut costs.

  • eric b

    Truth is, the infield is fine. Ike had a terrible start but has been fine since then. Murphy is not as big a disaster in the field as people thought…and he can still hit. Tejada and Wright have been great. Starting pitching is reasonably good…It varies, but it’s not the problem. Catcher is the weak spot, but Kelly Shoppach looks like something of an upgrade.

    The outfield is a black hole…not a single good thing to be seen out there other than Scott Hairston vs. lefties…and the bullpen is worse. THis means 4-5 spots in the order that basically do nothing (including pitcher and maybe catcher)… and a bullpen that blows any marginal lead we manage to scratch out.

    We need at least one power-hitting outfielder, preferably two…and a third that can at least get a hit periodically. We basically have nothing out there…I’m praying for a successful return of Niewenhuis and/or Duda…but it’s pretty depressing that that’s what we’re left wishing for.

  • mikeL

    sheesh! never thought i’d actually look back on the collapses of 07 and 08 with a bit of nostalgia.
    relevant til (the very bitter) closing day.
    as my luck had it i was on on a mountain and at a concert, respectively for both seasons’ game 161 – and missed maine’s and santana’s gutty, belief-inspiring wins – just in time to watch 162.

    yes everything past the infield dirt is a vacuum.

    with shoppach on board i hope the thole experiment can be put to rest. so really, all the mets need is 4 outfielders, 1 man short of an entire bullpen…and new ownership.

    sigh…

  • Dave

    Just start the purge, if nothing else it sends the message to players and fans that there are standards to be met, and if you don’t meet them, then we will not employ you. Goodbye Bay, Acosta, R.Ramirez, Torres, Young…you’re not good enough, it might take a while, but we’re going to find someone else who is. After the season, non-tender Thole (you need a catcher, otherwise you’re going to have a lot of…oh, never mind, might as well send him packing now too).

  • jimmy

    I remember walking in the outfield grass at age 12 when Shea was being built, so I’ve suffered with this team for a long time. I can’t remember feeling so hopeless about the Mets. I agree with kjs about Alderson. What has he done to earn anyone’s trust? True, he hasn’t negotiated any stupid contracts, as Minaya did. But he hasn’t shown any skill in spotting talent, something Minaya had in spades. I agree with several comments about the coaching staff. Why do so few young Mets ever improve? Why don’t most of our pitchers or batters learn anything from their unfortunate experiences? I agree with comments about the Wilpons. We only got Piazza because of Doubleday; the Wilpon’s regime has been a mess. I used to joke with my sons about whether or not the Mets would win another World Series before I die. Now it doesn’t seem much like a joke.

  • Lenny65

    Jason Bay is currently batting .148, that’s a number that’d make Rey Ordonez himself cringe with embarrassment. A major league outfielder batting .148 on the year isn’t really a “major league outfielder” at all. It seems difficult-if not entirely impossible-to believe that there isn’t anyone anywhere in the system that could do the same or better if given the chance. Please, for the love of God, just eat the damned money and get that guy OUT OF HERE ALREADY!

    When it comes to Johan I can’t be quite so harsh, but it’s very clear that he cannot be relied upon to ever really “come back”. They need to move forward with the expectation that he is finished. If he still has something left for next season, terrific. Too many pitchers is a great problem to have. But all indications are that he’s done. I certainly hope they aren’t going to enter 2013 seriously believing that Bay and Santana are going to contribute.

    OF…bullpen…OF…bullpen…OF…bullpen. These are the priorities. Period. Address them and suddenly things aren’t quite so awful anymore. Fail to address them or address them poorly and expect 2013 to be no different than 2012.

  • nestornajwa

    I’ve always believed that Bud Selig was the driving force behind the Mets’ hiring Alderson. Bud cares about nothing except the profitability of the franchises. Reducing salaries is one way to achieve that and Alderson is famous for building teams on the cheap. So Sandy is there to preside over the transition of the Mets from a team that spends to one that doesn’t. Mission accomplished. After Wright, then eventually Bay and Santana are off the roster, the Mets payroll will be around $40 million, and that’s where it will stay. With Sandy in place, Selig will never torpedo the Wilpons the way he did the Dodgers’ former owners. MLB and Selig win because the Mets, recently among baseball’s biggest spenders, are no longer driving the market upward. The Wilpons win because they get to keep the Mets. Guess who loses? Got a mirror?

    So how are we fans going to react when the Wilpons decline to pick up Wright’s option for 2013? Will attendance will regress to mid-70′s levels? Prolly. And what is Sandy’s culpability when, seeing this coming, Wright wasn’t made available to the trade market? By the time the non-waiver trade deadline rolled around, the Mets were under .500 and deep into their annual death spiral. Trading David would have been cold, but not as cold as letting him walk when the team could keep him for at least one more season. Moreover, this was a seller’s market, since just about everyone else is in contention for the new gimmicky one-and-done playoff travesty. Wright would have been the best player on the market and should have brought back at least 2 Wheeler-caliber prospects, plus an average bullpen arm. Am I wrong?

    We loved Jose Reyes. We wanted to believe the Wilpons were prepared to try to keep him in a Mets uniform. They said so (when they weren’t publicly badmouthing him). We love David Wright, and we want to believe again. But that’s not going to make it so, and there is zero chance the Wilpons will pay $18 million next year to any player if they have the choice to just walk away. So why didn’t they trade David and get something back? 2d-half ticket sales?

    This is what it’s like to root for a franchise without hope.

  • Joe. D.

    Though I wish I had been proven wrong, with the team sinking so low with no attempt to help it sail, I notice more beginning to see Sandy Alderson not as the baseball genius with a vision but as just a businessman brought in to cut costs as much as possible so the financially strapped Wilpons can hang onto ownership There is no vision other than that.

    9th String brought up my contention that Sandy threw in the towel last season to save money and nothing more. Sandy even admitted on his interview with Francesa this afternoon that last year’s team fell apart due to the moves that were made. It’s become more obvious his view of the future is all economics – he eliminated the St. Lucie rookie club (which at most costs a total million dollars to operate), spent less on draft picks this season than Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Seattle, signed only one of his bottom 20 draft picks, didn’t sign his number two draft pick over an $80,000 difference and eliminated the pacific rim scout. Those are not moves one makes with a vision about building for the future.

    As far as Zach Wheeler, the future hall of famer as the Mets have been trying to promote him as, has been struggling his last 13 starts despite some great performances sandwiched in-between. My addition might be slightly off but I count him allowing something in the area of 78 hits, 32 walks, 7 hit batters, 42 earned runs and 69 strikeouts in 77 innings – an approximate ERA of 4.91 during that stretch with a 1.52 WHIP. And this includes his complete game shutout.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/statsd.aspx?playerid=sa500722&position=P

    Quite different from what he did his first ten starts through June 7th.

    http://www.amazinavenue.com/2012/6/7/3040895/prospect-spotlight-zack-wheeler

    His overall ERA is a fine 3.48 but how telling is that when on June 7th it was 1.81.

    I actually feel sorry for him. He is going to eventually be brought up in a situation consisting of empty seats, lethargic players and a fan base expecting him to be the next Tom Seaver (hence my earlier sarcastic remark about him already being a hall of famer). I’m just wondering how much hearing all about “Zach Wheeler” from the organization, the media and the fans is either weighing on his shoulders or going to his head.

  • [...] is for); were directed to a complimentary pregame buffet; and watched our favorite team look typically horrible in losing to the Rockies. ‘Spin takes a shot at getting the Mets going before all turned [...]