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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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Sluggers, Twirlers and Flyers

Apologies to anyone who wanted a late-night recitation of Metly things — your correspondent fell asleep somewhere between the conclusion of the game and the beginning of the chronicling.

Honestly, it was the proper reaction to the one of the longer, more pedestrian, less elegant baseball games you’ll see: terrible pitching, bad baserunning, lousy fielding. Particularly in right field, where Norichika Aoki was oddly insistent on playing right field practically in the corner by the foul pole — the same approximate point where you kept seeing VALDESPIN 1 as our right fielder chased yet another ball exploring the limits of Miller Park. I sometimes muse that come January I’d pay a good chunk of money to watch any baseball game, but I think I’d pass that one up even with three feet of snow outside. My word, to quote Keith Hernandez.

Keith and Gary had fun at least — they generally do — though depressingly little of it was related to baseball. At one point Keith was chattering merrily along about a bunch of books he’d just bought, and I really thought the broadcast was about to turn into an earnest discussion of the Marshall Plan and scholarship about it. It would have been preferable.

If you want bright spots for the Mets, I suppose you could count an Ike Davis homer, more solid hitting from Daniel Murphy, and signs of life from Lucas Duda. Though, really, I suspect the Ike homer is the only thing actually of note. Bobby Ojeda discussed it in the postgame (it’s one of my final evening memories before the “nap” that ate the night), but a lot of what’s ailed Ike during a very strange season could just be rust — the rust of a season that was lost and then followed by a less-than-full spring training. As we get to know Ike, it’s becoming apparent that we’ll always have to live with his flailing at off-speed pitches on the outer half and his self-defeating Grote-esque insurgency against the wickedness of umpires. He can make up for that if he’s reasonably productive otherwise and returns to his early consistency at first base, where his soft hands, long reach and calm demeanor have done wonders for all his infielders but most particularly David Wright. Every game gets Ike closer to shaking off the cobwebs of a lost year, so so much the better.

Murphy and Duda? I find it hard to believe their evolution as players has that much further to run. Murph has worked enormously hard to make himself into an adequate second baseman, which here isn’t meant as a disparaging term — he’s come a long way despite no natural knack for the position, full-bore media and fan pressure and the memory of two seasons ruined by knee injuries. A lot of people didn’t think he could do it; he did. But for all that, his defense probably tops out at so-so, and his moderate power of a few years back has disappeared. He’s a few degrees shy of Dan Uggla at a position where you want defensively challenged players to at least be Dan Uggla. Still, with this franchise needing a Marshall Plan of its own (and a treasury to fund it), Murph is the least of our worries. Good teams figure out how to solve Daniel Murphy’s shortcomings; bad teams are glad they have his strengths.

Lucas Duda, on the other hand, is a mess. He can’t play any outfield position, he’s blocked at first base, and as I’ve discussed before, he doesn’t seem to be one of those players who can blithely keep adding runs with his bat while not worrying about subtracting them with his glove, as Dick Stuart and Pedro Guerrero could. When he’s right, Duda has both tremendous power and a discerning eye for the strike zone — but I don’t think he’s going to be right until he’s a first baseman or a designated hitter. I suspect he’ll be traded over the winter in an underwhelming package, then thrive in another uniform. We’ll carp and complain, without remembering that a) his defensive worries had hurt his offense, diminishing his trade value and b) he wasn’t going to do any of that good stuff for us, unfortunately.

Finally, there’s Jenrry Mejia. His outing was a disaster — too many walks, too few missed bats — but the victory was simply being on the field. Garbage time is pretty useless for assessments, but it was made for players such as Mejia — zero-pressure settings in which they can get innings and experience with an eye toward reducing the learning curve when it will matter. Mejia ia still awfully young and has talent. Let him pitch, leave him alone and never, ever say the name “Jerry Manuel” or “Omar Minaya” if he’s within earshot.

Oh, and the game was briefly interrupted by a giant, masterfully folded paper airplane that soared over the field and came to rest near a bemused Murphy. You shouldn’t ever throw things on the field, but once in a very great a grudging exception to the rule — we’ll call it the Michael Sergio Exemption — can be allowed. Murph removed the airplane with a certain careful appreciation for its craft, handing it to a Brewers employee who took it away rather gently.

So it really is true that if you watch baseball faithfully, on a given night you might see something you’ve never seen before. My word.

5 comments to Sluggers, Twirlers and Flyers

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    So many fans like to use Murphy as a scapegoat for the season – citing his limited range at second and lack of power and that he probably would not be a starting second baseman for most other teams.

    Absurd, isn’t it? Marvelous Murph (as I love to call him) is one of our few bright spots, is a solid hitter who rises to the occasion and has turned into a smart thinking second baseman. I remember a bonehead play in the field it was pointed out that only Murph was in his proper position when the others involved were not covering their’s.

    Another reason I hear to trade Murphy is because the Mets have Flores or other prospects waiting in the wing. Again, the misconception that all highly rated minor league players are can’t miss. Second is one hole we don’t have and so one wants to take the chance of creating yet another one? Murph is not an aging veteran like Castillo keeping another down.

    As far as Duda, this new breeder remembers Ron Swoboda his first year or so. Believe me, Ron made Duda appear like Carlos Beltran (you might remember I quoted Dick Young after Swoboda dropped the final out which allowed three runners to score and tie the game: “Ron Swoboda, who hits homers with his bat and triples with his gloves” LOL). So if I saw it improve with Rocky, there is hope it can be accomplished with Duda as well.

    • I like Murph — he works hard and is a pure hitter — but the fact that he’s one of our bright spots says more about us than it does about him.

      I love Ron Swoboda too — I think the piece I wrote about him on F&F might be my favorite — but if you take away one spectacular (and, honestly, ill-advised) catch, he’s a platoon outfielder whose defense improved from “terrifying” to “worrisome.” Having Duda in the OF next year would be a disservice to the Mets and to Duda himself, and I think the Mets know this.

      • Joe D.

        Hi Jason,

        With Swoboda, it came to the point that his glove was no longer an embarrassment so that is why I have hope for Duda. Like Murph at second, I just hope that Duda can in addition to improving his glove develop into a thinking man’s outfielder as well, which Swoboda never was (remember he jumped too soon not realizing he still had a few feet to get to the fence that could have prevented it from at least going over?).

        That play in game four of course was not reflective of his real limited fielding skills, however, had he not dived the ball most likely would have split the outfielders and by doing so it at least presented a chance of preventing an extra base hit and saving another run by keeping the ball in front of him. Of course it was a stupid play and even preventing that ball from going to the wall was 100 to one shot; his diving prevented him from chasing it down had it gone by him and could have resulted in at least a triple if not an inside the park home run with Agee being too far away to keep it to a double and holding the slow footed Boog Powell at third. Of course, that would have been the result in any year other than 1969.

        You are right about Murph being one our bright spots says a lot of how dark things are. Not taking anything away from Murph, but he would be one of those steady players that usually doesn’t get the spotlight on other teams and fans tend not to appreciate and overlook.

  • Dave

    Murph’s limitations are only partially of his own making, and we’re in an era where 2B is not a glamor position…I don’t see a lot of other guys out there who make me drool to think of as Mets. I agree he’s not our biggest problem, even if he’s kind of become a Magadan no power/no speed type of offensive weapon (maybe faster than Magadan, who was about as fleet afoot as a veteran backup catcher). But in a good NL lineup, he’d be hitting 7th, 8th in a good AL lineup.

    Best comment I read about Duda’s outfield play, just don’t remember where it came from (maybe FAFIF?) – he looks like he’s playing pin the tail on the donkey. If he becomes another Swoboda, I’ll take it, because I’ve been afraid he’s closer to another Butch Huskey or Victor Diaz.

  • Lenny65

    Prediction: David Wright is going to make a serious run at NOT breaking Kranepool’s hallowed Mets hit mark this year. That and Dickey’s run at 20 wins is all that’s left, really. Like I mentioned in another post, if David doesn’t get the record NO ONE ever will. I’m pulling for him hard, after all the crappy baseball he’s endured he deserves that mark.

    I like Murph, he’s be a terrific role player on, you know, a good ball club. And I think Ike will be fine in the long run. As far as Duda is concerned, eh, I don’t know. He’s an easy guy to root for but thus far he’s just a maddeningly incomplete player. Too bad he can’t really play OF because the Mets desperately need OF’s who have the possibility of hitting their weight over the course of a season.