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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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Oh Very Young

Twelve different pitchers have started games for the New York Mets this season. Chris Young has been neither the best nor the worst of the lot, nor, within a universe that briefly included Chris Schwinden, the most obscure among them.

But he is he one I keep forgetting.

I’ve all but forgotten Chris Young is in the Mets’ starting rotation 18 different times, which may say something about me, yet probably says at least a little about him. Physically, at 6’ 10”, he’s a hard guy to miss. Substantively, he’s difficult to pick out in a crowd. His ERA has floated mostly in the fours during the second half of 2012. The Mets have lost 13 of his 18 starts overall. He throws pitches that are hit for mostly anonymous fly balls, with the painful exception of a few that keep flying beyond the reach of his mostly anonymous outfielders. One assumes his sandwich-board of a back is a familiar sight on stadium video screens across the National League in those montages that feature home runs by the home team. You don’t see his face, just YOUNG 55 and…WOW, WHERE DID THAT BALL LAND?

His Sunday in Milwaukee encapsulated the Chris Young experience in 2012. He pitched well enough to win for a club capable of clobbering the opposing pitcher. The Mets, however, aren’t that club. Ryan Braun extended his BrewerVision highlight reel by two long home runs off Young, and Aramis Ramirez added a spiffy clip on his own behalf. Each was a solo blast, which indicates Young was pretty much doing his job except for the moments he didn’t do it that great. It added up to three runs until there were two out in the seventh, which is when Terry Collins came and took the ball. The score was three-nothing. The score would stay three-nothing. The Mets and Young were the ones who would wind up with the nothing.

The phrase that leaps to mind is “serviceable outing”. When Chris Young is on, he’s all right. In baseball, that’s not uncommon. The major league season commences with approximately 150 starting pitchers slotted to take regular turns in 30 starting rotations. Almost immediately, 30 sets of plans change. Outings aren’t serviceable. Pitchers aren’t indestructible. Rehabilitations proceed out of view. Depth is tested. The Mets’ projected starting five of Santana, Dickey, Niese, Gee and Pelfrey ceased to exist in late April. Together, those five guys have started 98 games, leaving roughly a third of the team’s schedule to date to arms that weren’t necessarily counted on to play a leading role in any Mets game in 2012.

More than Schwinden (two starts), Miguel Batista (five) or any of the youngsters who have spanned the hope spectrum from Matt Harvey (nine) to Jeremy Hefner (who?), Chris Young represented the Mets’ depth chart, specifically the segment of it directly beneath the horizontal line that separated PELFREY from utter uncertainty. Young was Sandy Alderson’s provisionally formulated Plan “B” when he signed him coming off anterior capsule surgery during Spring Training. They didn’t need him when April began. They could’ve used somebody like him by May. They got him back in June.

Young went out and proved himself…serviceable. That is to say he pitched regularly, he stayed healthy and sometimes all his fly balls remained in the park, though occasionally their journeys met fewer obstacles than had a pitcher who’s been battling injuries and their aftereffects for several years. Chris Young is unusually tall, but, from the vantage point of the stands and TV, hasn’t seemed particularly imposing. He’s a 4-8 pitcher on a 66-80 team. He’s not the reason the Mets’ season has been in the shop since July. He’s not the part your mechanic has been waiting on. He’s been installed to get the job done. The job is to finish a 162-game season, whatever the results. Young has done that. It’s admirable from a distance (as is the testimony of rookie pitchers like Collin McHugh regarding the veteran counsel Chris has offered without being asked) and it may be encouraging for Young personally, but it’s not particularly exciting.

It’s eight hits over six-and-two-third innings. It’s three home runs. It’s two strikeouts with no walks. It’s 101 pitches. It’s a 3-0 loss. It’s nothing to get excited about at this stage of the season. It’s nothing to get excited about when considering next season. It’s the Mets not at their best; not at their worst; not remotely, as they provide sustenance to yet another September contender, at their most exciting.

It’s Chris Young. Now I remember.

20 comments to Oh Very Young

  • 9th string

    It’s amazing to me that with the incredible glut of horrific, unwatchable and indescribably boring games that you guys keep coming up with interesting posts. Seriously, you guys are having a Dickey-like experience. You keep winning despite this terrible team. Kudos!

    My post for this game would have been much more concise:

    “Shit Sandwich”.

  • Patrick O'Hern

    Can this team go 8-8 and get me to my 74 wins? Can R.A. pitch on 0 day’s rest?

    • 9th string

      My number was 75. Not looking very promising.

    • I placed no wager, but when asked about it in the preseason, I predicted 74-88. For quite a while I was ashamed of my faithlessness. Now it appears I was optimistic.

      When one is picking numbers out of proverbial hats, it doesn’t occur to one how miserable the process of getting to the projected number of losses will be. And it certainly doesn’t occur to one that sometimes most of the defeats will be compiled on the back end. Mets have played less than .333 ball for two months. Ouch.

      • Just_Da_Damaja

        ….and ironically..the bullpen has been lights out…and the offense has evaporated….

        Ruben Tejada has hit .203 in the past 30 games..
        David Wright has hit .263 in the past 60 games..
        Josh Thole has hit .179 in the past 30 games..

        Ironically…the fall guys appear to be Ike Davis…who in the past 71 games has hit .271 with 20 HR…and Daniel Murphy who has hit .300 in the past 26 games..

        Murphy is also stat-wise among the league leaders ( at least top 5 ) at 2B in more than a few offensive categories…

        For me, this is the last year we see Wright play 3B for the Mets…

        they either resign him and move him to the OF and either have Flores play 3B or Murph…

        or they trade him to another team and try to acquire a top SS prospect…move Tejada to 2B…move Murph to 3B…or include Murph in that package and have Flores play 3B…

        I want Machado or Profur…

        • 9th string

          Might be right about Wright. He has done nothing in the 2nd half and has gotten back into those infuriating habits of uppercutting at everything and not working the pitch count. Still, unless you can replace .300 / 20 / 100 at 2nd base, you have to re-sign the guy, especially the face of the franchise that he happens to be. I’d be happy with Murphy at 3rd, as he is money with 2 outs and is a true team player. You need guys like that. Wright – well, I could be wrong, but it seems like he always gets his HRs in 8-2 blowouts.

          • Just_Da_Damaja

            with the Wilpons…Image is everything…

            dont believe me?

            here is a vid from 1980…this is Fred Wilpon kindly explaining to the Met fanbase how he expects to inject new life into the ballclub…

            https://plus.google.com/photos/112206184788769679724/albums/5656072820853221377/5656072827023033202?banner=pwa&authkey=CNn2_9brxfL_MA

            this is why someone like David Wright has a better chance of being resigned…

            it has little to do with winning games…and more to do with selling merchandise…

            the mets are literally running a circus show here…except the clowns are in the front office..

          • Patrick O'Hern

            you are not wrong abour Wright.

          • Just_Da_Damaja

            LOL

            Funny thing is I’ve met David Wright twice…I’ve met Reyes…Beltran…Pedro…Endy…just about all of my favorite Mets

            and they are all awesome players…and awesome people…

            what this team is missing has always been a practically invisible ownership that gets out of the way…hires someone for their ability to run a club…and hold that person accountable for the results…

            If you look at that video i posted…its pretty scary that a owner with only 5% stake in the team is getting more facetime than the one who owns 95% of the team…

            Fred’s dream was to be a kindler gentler version of George Steinbrenner..

            both the Yankees and Mets were essentially owned and operated by a single family…

            the only difference..is that everyone KNEW where George was coming from AT ALL TIMES…

            He was too arrogant to lie to his fans and hide behind a GM…

            Fred is too much of a chicken to admit his role ( and his son’s ) in the team’s failures

            if he did…we would know that it was his call to trade Billy Wagner for Chris Carter…even when the Sox were offering a BETTER PROSPECT in exchange for the mets paying Wagner’s 1 mil remaining salary…

            what did Freddy do?

            He kept his mouth shut as Omar took the heat for making such a bad trade…

            when the mets needed an OF in 2008 and Manny Ramirez was available…The wilpons publicly said that Omar Minaya never once mentioned Manny’s name among his target acquisitions in the 4 years he was GM at that point…

            then when they can Omar, they say they never once had anything to do with any personnel decisions…

            the next day they said all personnel decisions are reviewed, discussed and agreed upon with him and Katz

            Fred Wilpon makes Mitt Romney look like George Washington

            Until Fred and his son leave…we are doomed to failure…

          • Just_Da_Damaja

            and since “image is everything”

            “Trading Ike would not be my preferred move. But, he can be a bit aloof, and I understand the argument from people who see him as a platoon player ”

            ..it is unreal how our organization trashes their own players…

            then again these are the same folks who bashed valdespin last year…early this year…

            the same org that insinuated that Ruben Tejada injured his hamstring diving into 1st base..( he fell b/c his hammy popped )

            the same org that leaked a story out to Adam Rubin that Lil Jeffy was mad at Beltran and his amigos ( but not dillon gee ) for missing out on the Walter Reed hospital visit…

            I swear the wilpons must have money invested in how many page clicks are generated by the stories they feed Adam Rubin and/or their child website

  • Metsfaninparadise

    Did Pelfrey actually last until the end of April? I had forgotten that.

  • Unfortunately, I think our roster for the next three or four years will be a mix of raw rookies, young players flipping labels between “prospect” and “suspect,” and a whole lot of Chris Youngs. The Mets aren’t going to have money to spend to fill holes and there are no bats of note in the system. If they do make impact trades, I think it will be because they’re shipping out Wright and Dickey for whatever they can get.

    Limited time offer: Every time you read one of my posts or comments, you get a free cup of hemlock!

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    This same team that so many now say has no talent was tied for the wild card lead heading into the all-star break. They were playing with tremendous spirit and confidence. That spirit was finally knocked out of them – as it was for all of us – in Atlanta and Washington when three late and extra inning comebacks were again blown by the bullpen.

    It wasn’t just that small stretch of games. The pen undermined many a comeback or great starting pitching performance way before those three crucial heartbreaking losses in Atlanta and Washington. The team knew even better than the fans and the media that they could not continue the two-out hitting and starting pitching performances that carried them through the first half and needed help in the pen and the outfield. But it was apparent nothing had or was going to be done by the front office.

    No moves were made. No help was on the horizon other than the promise of rookie call ups. The previous year instead of no moves being made, the team was stripped of it’s top hitter and closer despite challenging for the wild card spot.

    That can easily break a team’s spirit. That can easily do away with the winning attitude and the confidence that breeds. Players are not robots.

    Back in 1968, for example, the Mets won only 73 games, only seven more than their previous team high. They finished a half game out of last place. At one point, Gil Hodges’ young kids had a record of 41-44 more than half way through the schedule – just three games below .500, which had all us new breeders going dizzy. After that, they finished at 32-45 (playing 13 games under .500).

    Yet, they did not let that second half discourage them and have them fall back into a losing attitude. As fans, we saw it in every game. Ron Swoboda talked about it in a between game interview after the Mets dropped the first one. He said “we lost the first one but we know we’re going to win the second”. Gil Hodges instilled in it a winning attitude. Tom Seaver always cites that.

    I think that is lost today with the front office’s focus on sabermetrics and money ball and I only bring 1968 up because it relates to 2011. Last year the team was building something, a confidence, a winning attitude and a team chemistry. We saw it the way they played and the way they approached the game. We lost something more than Beltran and KRod last season.

    Yet it’s something this front office is unaware of and it’s lack of understanding of this set the team backwards by not allowing it to learn how to win. An intellectual analysis of mathematical theorisms has no spirit.

    • Or perhaps, to display an unfortunate lack of spirit, they just regressed to the mean.

      • 9th string

        In football, they talk a lot about adjustments. Joe brings up a point that was commonly discussed here before the break that the bullpen was not good, and ideally there would be help. The laws of averages caught up with the team in terms of clutch hitting, and frankly, Collins was not great with the bullpen in the first half a good deal of the time. The Mets could have contended with another bat and another arm in the bullpen. Let’s face it – .500 gets you four games out of the WC and meaningful games in September (see Philadelphia). What we’ve learned since 2007 is that this team does poorly in the 2nd half, mostly because they stretch their resources beyond their talent and have no depth. You could make a case that if you brought up Harvey earlier, benched Bay after 5 games and brought up Familia for middle relief that they could have won a few games more. Until the organization, not just ownership, but this vaunted front office they have learn how to make 2nd half adjustments, this will not change.

        • Eh, I’ll give them a pass on Harvey and Familia — neither had AAA numbers that screamed “call us up.” Though if you’re saying Harvey should have been up instead of Miguel Batista’s farcical last stand, totally agree.

          I like Terry as a preparation/clubhouse manager, not so much at handling a bullpen. And the bunting, Jesus.

          • Joe D.

            I think the players didn’t expect any help to begin with. And it’s tough playing for an ownership whose immediate concern is only with it’s own self (aka, remaining owners).

            Again, we can’t fault the Wilpons for wanting to retain ownership but in their desire to do so, during the years it will take for them to get back their economic stability they are meanwhile shortchanging the players on the field and the fans.

            Perhaps we could have forgiven them for this, taking into account how much they tried to bring us a perennial winner in those earlier years.

            But the damage was already set in place. Shortchanging the needs of the many for the needs of the few (thank you Mr. Spock) combined with how they had already shortchanged the average fan by out pricing them, segregating and treating them like second class citizens (as Greg put coined it in his great article back in 2009), blocked views in the third base upper promenade with escalators that don’t even go up that high makes it impossible.

            There is no spirit on the team and certainly no spirit with the fan base. There is no hope, either for at even those who originally saw steps being made as part of a “vision” understand now the past two seasons, along with the next two or three, were simply thrown to the lions….., and the lines being given was just lying.

  • Well done…again. Two things I like about the post, one it is straight forward and two it does not attempt to promote anyone’s position particularly. I appreciate you sharing this with the rest of us Greg.