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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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Same Quit, Different Day

In five years’ time, we’ve gone from being officially eliminated behind a starting pitcher who gallingly showed no emotion when his historically miserable first inning sealed our doom, to being officially eliminated behind a starting pitcher whose emotional brittleness over his historically miserable first inning was uncomfortably apparent.

Either way, the Mets were dead then and they’re dead now. There hasn’t been much that’s been alive and well about them in between.

They died on September 20, 2012, albeit to much less consternation and before approximately a zillion fewer witnesses than was the case when they died on September 30, 2007. The stakes were higher a half-decade ago and the element of surprise inherent in the way their self-inflicted wounds festered much fresher. We’re used to the losing these days. We accept being summarily deleted from mathematical contention as an autumnal inevitability. Quite obviously, so do the Mets.

Jeremy Hefner will never be remembered as any kind of internal villain on the order of T#m Gl@v!ne, the Hall of Fame-bound pitcher whose baseball immortality went on hiatus when it mattered most. Gl@v!ne, it has not been and will never be forgotten, presided over the third of an inning that altered the existence of a franchise as we knew it. He gave up seven runs in his third consecutive putrid outing and made sure that a team that had been reeling for two weeks collapsed with a resounding thud on that season’s final day. He then compounded his competitive sins by answering questions about his performance by displaying all the situational awareness of dry, white toast.

He wasn’t devastated, he said. At worst, he was disappointed. Devastation would imply that the Mets’ fate meant something to him. Disappointment you brush off before calling to confirm dinner reservations.

Hefner, on the other hand, could not have sounded a whole lot more devastated when reporters found him after his Thursday nightmare in which he faced Phillie after Phillie after Phillie and recorded nary an out. Seven batters clad in gray and red came up, not a one of them sat down, unless you count the four who had already scored. Hefner’s brief stay on the mound inadvertently imbued what shaped up as a prototypical meaningless game in September with gobs of meaning. No Mets team had ever taken the field at home and allowed its visitors to grab a quick 8-0 lead. But this one had. All kinds of records related to massive Met ineptitude were en route to being invoked.

And for that, Jeremy sounded very, very sorry…even sorrier than he pitched. Hell, maybe he didn’t pitch all that pitifully considering the Phillies bobbed along like a singles sewing machine and stitched together their eight runs on basically no hard hit balls. But to let Hefner off the hook because, gosh darn it, they fell in and found holes — no. I’m not falling for that. Eight runs in the first inning is eight runs in the first inning. I cringed in empathy for a 26-year-old rookie from Oklahoma whose voice I heard cracking and who was clearly trying to rein in his tear ducts when SNY’s cameras arrived at his stall. I thought about how joyful he sounded less than a month ago when he pitched so effectively against the Astros, not just because he had a good game but because his daughter had just been born. Jeremy Hefner’s a person and I don’t like to hear a person in pain.

But as a Mets fan who has watched Met after Met after Met wander aimlessly across six soul-crushing Septembers — and seen these Mets hide in plain sight since the middle of July — I’m not feeling remotely so generous of spirit. They can cry, they can smash stuff, they can bite each other’s heads off for all I care…and maybe they can fucking run to first base. Maybe they can remember professional baseball implies a touch of professionalism be proffered nightly. Maybe they can stop acting so absolutely helpless for months on end, stop wallowing in their “oh well” culture of acceptance and stop seeming so satisfied that they’re in the big leagues, most of them ignoring any impulse to believe they as a unit are required to attempt to succeed in the big leagues.

I guess they’re not. I guess it’s enough that they demonstrated a capacity for recording successive two-out hits on occasion in May and June and they thus deserve perpetual pats on the head for provisionally exceeding our generally low expectations on their behalf. I guess they want to be congratulated for putting on their pinstriped pants one leg at a time and bothering to physically stay on the field after the Phillies scored eight runs in the top of the first. They did, by gum. They hung around long enough to stand by and observe the Phillies score another seven runs in the goddamn top of the ninth, too. It was over in the top of the first when it was 8-0, yet it wasn’t technically over until it ended 16-1.

Who the fuck loses 16-1 in September? The same outfit that lost 13-0 in August, 11-5 in July, 9-1 in June, 8-0 in May and 18-9 in April; this team whose delusional manager still had the nerve as of last week to talk glowingly about how high they’d “set the bar” for themselves by rising a handful of games over .500 during the season’s first third. According to Terry Collins after the 16-1 exhibition, “This team has played their hearts out for two years against tremendous different odds and things that have happened.”

I have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.

They’re professional baseball players. They’re supposed to play their hearts out. They are compensated lavishly to play their hearts out. We ask for results, but we settle for honest effort or at least honest interest. Have the Mets, as an entity, looked interested in playing professional baseball since early July? At best, they’ve appeared overmatched and incapable. During their most discouraging stretches, they’ve given little sign they want to do anything but get their obligations over with.

This appears to be a failure on every level. We see bad habits go uncorrected, damaging ruts widen and cluelessness enshroud their every collective move. Where’s the coaching? Where’s the managing? Where’s the preparedness Collins is constantly congratulating himself over? Are the bulk of these players so lacking in talent and/or intelligence that instruction can’t be properly processed by them? Or are the instructors simply lacking in the necessary skill sets?

And, by the way, where the hell is that genius general manager lately? Is his health an issue? Because if it is, I wish him a speedy recovery. But if he’s all right, how come we haven’t seen Sandy Alderson address this mess publicly? Where are his lieutenants? I’d ask about the owners, but, honestly, who in their right mind wants to hear from them?

The players don’t execute, the leaders don’t guide, nobody’s in the ballpark, nobody’s taking responsibility, and on nights like this one, all we’re left with is a nominal superstar mouthing his usual boilerplate, a manger who doesn’t deal in reality, the lingering residue of whispers about one player’s work habits (instead of a legitimate full-throated throttling of all of them) and this poor schnook pitcher who shouldn’t be in anybody’s rotation but is wedged within ours for the time being and whose best moment Thursday came in summoning the poise to admit what nobody else had the good grace or guts to come close to saying out loud.

“I’m embarrassed for myself,” Jeremy Hefner declared in his steadiest voice possible, not having been around the Mets long enough to learn to be properly nonchalant about constant and corrosive losing. “I don’t want to not get an out. I don’t want to sit through a whole nine-inning game that I started. Words can’t even describe how embarrassing that is.”

Words can’t even describe how embarrassing any of this is.

43 comments to Same Quit, Different Day

  • GaryG

    The saddest part of the continuing saga of mediocrity is that otherwise bright folks like us still invest our time and energy in supporting this team.

  • Steve D

    Greg,

    Did you listen to Collin’s whole conference? The line you took from it does not represent his actual synopsis…quite the opposite…when asked if his team quit, he said “you have to ask them.” That is as far from congratulating himself as he can get…it is implying that something was wrong with the effort and furthermore he was blaming the team and separating himself from it. The press took him up on it and Ike and Wright were asked after the game and they had to both say they don’t think the team had quit. He also implied he ripped them behind closed doors and said he didn’t like some of the things he saw in the dugout. I imagine today, he will have to backtrack and spin what he said last night…but it’s out there already. I used to hope that he would be the manager when the Mets finally become competitive again, but I think last night he ended that possibility.

    • I watched and listened to the whole thing. The “you have to ask them” line after weeks of deflecting reality in favor of reliving highlights from June was too little, too late for me and too leavened by the continued nods to “we played our hearts out”. I appreciated the Terry of last September who publicly ripped into his club for a disgusting loss to the Nationals. He shamed them into playing full-out the subsequent series in Atlanta (contributing to the Braves’ downfall, for that matter).

      “You have to ask them” may have been intended to speak volumes but it only reminded me he hasn’t said the right things where we can hear them and makes me believe he hasn’t said anything worth hearing where we can’t (whatever he said to his players last night notwithstanding).

      Wright and Ike with their bland “no we didn’t quit” defense was also unconvincing. At least Hefner spoke in the first-person about how bad this was. Wright may have seen this movie too many times and Davis…well, he has a movie to get home to, baseball sources say.

      • Just_Da_Damaja

        …and just in case u thought ownership was going anywhere…

        Starting in 2014…Each club in MLB will see $50M annually, or an additional $26.28M each year over the $23.72 million they now see in national TV money

        the mets make almost 100 million in revenue BEFORE they sell one ticket…hotdog…parking spot….

        and yet in 2009, they traded Wagner and his 1 mil salary for Chris Carter…even when the Sox were offering a BETTER prospect in exchange for money…

      • Richie

        I don’t blame Terry..what can he say? I don’t think he should have to answer that question every day. We know enough about this team already. I don’t need Terry to tell me why David Wright is 4hr and 17 rbi’s his last 55 games. I’ve seen this before from him. The same question and the same answer…every day? Should he erupt every day? This has become Groundhog day. Nothing will change. We need beef for the lineup, another ace for the staff, and we need a closer!

  • Dave

    Mother, make it stop. For those of you who get the movie line reference, that’s my assessment of what this team needs now. Excorsize the demons, the fewer 2012 Mets we see in 2013 the better.

    And while I was reading this article, I get a Mets.com email informing me that 2 Mets HR’s in one game could entitle me to $2 off some Tide laundry detergent product. Guess I’ll be paying full price.

  • 9th string

    Busy day yesterday. Work, then off to Guitar Center, then straight to back to school night, then a quick trip to the supermarket. Came home, couldn’t find the remote. Found another remote, but the batteries were dead. Looked for batteries, put them in the remote. Ahh, time to see how the Mets are doing. 16-1. SIXTEEN TO ONE? Wow. I mean. Wow. Looking forward to Ojeda’s comments and TC’s meltdown. Follow up tomorrow with Faith and Fear.

    Has any Mets team ever been 4-24 at home? Has any baseball team of any kind been 4-24?

    Wow. Just. Wow.

  • joenunz

    My brother: “You want to go to the Met game on Saturday?”
    Me: “1pm?”
    My brother: “yeah”
    Me: “I can’t, kid’s soccer at noon. Ask the Mets if they can switch it to 4.”
    My brother: “I be they would if we told them we could bring 10 more people.”

  • joenunz

    “I BET they would” is actually what he said…

  • Just_Da_Damaja

    well to be fair to the players…

    the front office QUIT on them last year by selling off on Beltran/K-Rod…and letting Reyes go…

    the front office AGAIN quit on them this year by forcing Terry to play Jason Bay..

    the front office AGAIN quit on them this year by not getting them the bullpen help they sorely needed…

    so yeah…u cant be surprised that the players get a lil demoralized….and they dont play with reckless abandon anymore…

    just sayin

    • Joe D.

      Hi Just,

      Exactly what I have been saying for two years now.

      I posed a question to a close-knit group of Met friends last night and I will pose the question to those out here who feel Sandy did have a vision and that two years might be too early to judge him.

      If Sandy gets credit being the architect of that great run of Oakland teams, does he also deserve credit being the architect of that terrible run of Oakland teams that followed?

      Keep in mind he was not facing a different set of circumstances with Oakland entering the nineties that prevented him from continuing what he is credited to have done in the eighties (I personally think it was Bill Rigney who reported directly to the owner, not Sandy, and who was in charge of baseball matters). Also, it cannot be argued that he didn’t have the financial resources to work with for that problem did not occur until after the 1995. Before that, Oakland was no worse than the middle of the pack as far as team payrolls were concerned.

      Nor was it that other general managers caught up with his methodology. At the time he was still ahead of the curve thinking “outside the box”. Again, I question this too due to the Rigney factor, but for argument’s sake, lets go with the notion that by educating himself through the writing of Bill James he simply came in from the “cold” (his own word) and began using that knowledge to determine which draft picks to select, placed a major focus keeping the minor league stocked with good, raw talent year after year, being able to ascertain the hidden things that made teams successful and under-appreciated by the baseball establishment and to pick out players overlooked by other teams due to them not recognizing their underlying value in lieu of traditional lines of thinking.

      If so, then when Oakland was making it’s great run, according to his resume, he would have still been looking years ahead and not lose sight of the importance of a well stocked minor league system, using his analytical studies not yet adopted by other general managers to slowly replace established stars getting on in years with either these younger players or those already in the majors undervalued by other teams. So he would not have let a team get old all at once (by 1990 the pitching staff was starting to show it’s age – three starters were already 33, his closer was 35 and another key reliever was 37 so their productive years were getting limited).

      Oakland bounced back from a sub-par 1991 in which they fell to fourth to win the division once more the following season. But then the team tanked and there was no back up contingencies already in place to assure the transition would be brief. There were few young players on the horizon good enough to replace the aging players. There was no undervalued talent obtained via trades or free agency. They went from finishing first to finishing last and there began a seven year stretch of sub .500 ball (including after he left) which included many a last place finish. Though injuries account for 1993, what about all the years that followed? It didn’t mean bringing championship clubs back but at least keeping the team competitive.

      Again, if Sandy was the architect of those great Oakland clubs then must he also be seen as the architect of those dismal ones as well? With his long term “vision” and the resources both financial and being ahead of others as far as sabermetrics goes, the job of “rebuilding” had to begin when Oakland was on top, not when it was on the bottom.

      Unless, while studying Bill James he really didn’t take control of player personnel until Bill Rigney semi-retired in 1991. If that is the case, he still had seven years to work with and we know the history of the team from then on.

      I personally believe he is the architect of neither and more like the one depicted somewhat in this article from the New York Times.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/sports/baseball/30alderson.html?_r=0

  • Just_Da_Damaja

    FYI –

    If I, as a fan, already know that the mets make:

    1 – at LEAST 35 mil a year in mlb.com revenue sharing..

    2 – at least 20 mil a year from citigroup for naming rights..

    3 – at least another 20 mil from mlb for rev sharing with merchandise…

    4 – and we havent gotten to the SNY money…which avg around 80 mil a year..

    I am sure the met players via their agents…know even MORE about the cash flow coming through that team..

    so when the team is crying broke…and Jeff Wilpon shows up in a new Rolls Royce…dont think for a second that the team doesnt notice…

    dont think for a second the team doesnt notice how much money the MOST EXPENSIVE FRONT OFFICE IN BASEBALL IS GETTING…

    JP
    Paul Depo
    Sandy

    are among the 3 HIGHEST PAID execs in all of baseball…

    and yet this team is nickle and diming all over the place…only the PIRATES signed FEWER draft picks than us…

    for the past 10 years…we have ranked 3rd to last in Draft spending…and almost DEAD LAST in IFA spending…

    DESPITE having 3 consecutive years with RECORD BREAKING REVENUES !!!!

    thats right…

    even when we BROKE RECORDS FOR REVENUE 3 YEARS IN A ROW…we still had Omar searching for gold in a garbage can…

    this team will not and CAN NOT change until we as the fans drain the wilpons and STOP SUPPORTING THEIR PRODUCT…

  • Lou

    This entire team is a mess. Frankly, I think Alderson should fire Collins (but he won’t). I think Wally Backman should get the job because a) he played in this town and knows what it takes to win and b) players at all levels seem to want to run through a wall for him. But again, don’t think it will happen. Greg, I think your piece is spot on.

    • Just_Da_Damaja

      we need a consistent model of success from the top down…and bottom up…

      changing the manager in this org is like changing a mid-level manager at Enron…

      the change needs to come from the TOP

  • Schneck

    Art Howe told anyone who would listen, in his living room, that at least they scored a run against major league pitching. Not everyone can do that. Also, if you disregard the first and last innings, it was a darn close game.

  • Guy Kipp

    <>

    I’d be surprised at this point to see Collins return. Alderson may not fire him, but Collins could certainly walk away, and who could blame him?

  • mikeL

    at this point i’d be up for contracting *these* mets out of existence and letting the wilpon/katz ownership fend for themselves without the finances of a baseball team to hide behind…and then bring NL baseball back to NYC after a pre-determined few years, so long as the team would again be the NY Mets. this is a zombie organization. it may need to die to have a future.

  • 9th string

    I can’t say changing managers is the answer, unless it’s a change to someone with a real track record of winning. Look at Washington. Look at Baltimore. Look at the (yuck) Yankees. Even look at Philly (double yuck) who are making a run despite crippling injuries in the 1st half, poor pitching performances a huge deficit in the standings. They made adjustments, got their players back and have made themselves relevant while the Mets play in front of 12 people.

    Is there enough talent on this team? There is good starting pitching and a few decent arms in the bullpen. There is a decent infield. There is no outfield offense. There does not appear to be one decent catcher in the organzation. There is no speed on the team and little power. The Mets can’t manufacture runs or get big base clearing hits. It appears that they can only score runs by accident.

    How are you supposed to win with that? Is substituting Jordany Valdespin for Lucas Duda for Mike Baxter for the late Jason Bay supposed to make any difference? Can you really expect to win games when half the lineup hits under .200?

    Ultimately, the manager is the last piece of the management puzzle. You start with a team identity: are you a power team, a speed team, a pitching team, a defense team? Put together the players that fit the mold of your vision. Make sure your organization follows these principals when developing players. Bring a manager in that fits with your philosophy and execute.And have lots of plan B’s ready to go.

    The Mets identity seems to be one of waiting around for contracts to expire while amassing an impressive array of left handed hitting DHs who bat .245 and hard throwing pitchers who give up tape measure homeruns.

  • Dave

    Nearly 45 years of watching, I’m hard pressed to think of a Mets team (or any team, any sport for that matter) that is sleepwalking more than this bunch. And while we have no shortage of red flags to pick from, the one I keep coming back to is that this team can’t do anything in their own ballpark…they need to travel to wake up, even if it’s only very temporary. Problems hitting in this ballpark aside (although that doesn’t seem to bother Phillies 1Bman Mo Vaughn Jr), it makes me wonder how much these guys want to be Mets. I wonder if these guys come up to bat thinking “I come up to bat and hear crickets, a warning track out is a homerun anywhere else…but someday I’ll only have to play here a few times a year after I sign with the Diamondbacks or the Rockies or whoever.” And yes, who can blame them, except I think most people, if they were in a line of work where the minimum starting salary was nearly half a million and were employed by an organization that paying customers were so passionate about, they’d bust their butts and disregard the fact that the boss is an a-hole.

    This is obviously too much of a mess to blame any one person not named Wilpon. It’s time for a purge. As Greg said recently, if a team is this unwatchable, very few of their players can be untouchable. I don’t want to hear about prospects, because outside of about 3 pitchers, there’s very little there that will be of any use before about 2016; most of their farm teams have losing records every year. The organization can’t meet the excitement standards required to field a AAA team in Buffalo.

    Tonight starts the final crash, last place here we come.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Dave,

    Excellent point, following up on the ones I make about the importance of spirit.

  • Stan

    Whose naked pictures does Dan Warthen own? Is there any pitcher that hasn’t ruined during his tenure? Why is he still employed?

    • Dave

      Last night’s fiasco aside (and much of last night’s problem was a quadruple-A guy and a September callup, some guys actually came in and did their jobs), I have no major problem with Warthen…heck, we have a guy who we’ll argue should win the Cy Young. IMO, problem with some of the pitching is just lack of talent, there’s not much there to work with. It’s Hudgens that I’d throw under the bus. He’s made this a team full of hitters who think “working the count” means to passively stand there while very hittable pitches go right down the middle of the plate. And said Cy Young candidate will not win 20 games (nor the award) thanks to the persistent rule in baseball that dictates that in order to win the game, you have to score more runs than your opponent. RA would have about 22-23 wins by now if the offense could at least put some crooked numbers on the scoreboard now and then.

      Casey Stengle supposedly used to have a little song that went something like “Oh you can’t get a hit with the bat on your shoulder…”

  • 9th string

    I agree on Warthen, but not necessarily Hudgens. When Wright was working the count and not golf swinging at everything, his Ks were down and his batting average was in the stratosphere. The one thing the Mets were able to do was wear down the starters and get into team’s bullpens.

    • Yep. That approach worked pretty well in the first half of the year.

      To me this whole mess really comes down to two things:

      1) The players aren’t very good
      2) No one has any idea how much money will be available to get better players

      The rest of the whole debacle is frustrating, sure, but it’s deck chairs on the Titanic unless the Mets decide to steer around the fucking iceberg.

      • Richie

        What kind of window do the Wilpons deserve to allow them to straighten out their financial problems? I know they have been big spenders in the past, but do you think it’s fair to demand that they sell the team if they still have financial problems this off season?

        • They have a ton of debt commitments coming due in June 2014. I imagine that not being able to meet those commitments could force them to sell, or demonstrate that their position is really untenable. (Google Howard Megdal’s articles on the subject.) Can’t imagine MLB doing anything until at least then, though.

  • Richie

    I don’t think the current state of The Mets is Sandy’s fault. Or Terry’s fault. What frustrates me the most as a Met’s fan is that when we have had a team good enough to win (1999-2000)(2006-2008, the Mets have fallen just short of aggressively plugging all their obvious holes. The Piazza teams didn’t have a Championship caliber outfielder, while the 2006-2007 team lacked proven in-your-prime pitching. I think now we would all agree we need some beef in the lineup and some bullpen help. We have not had a 30 plus HR guy since Delgado left and you need at least 4 big bats out of your 8 regulars. Right now we have Wright and Davis. What kind of difference would two BIG sticks have made in this years won-loss ledger? Would 7 wins for each stick be crazy? That is only 2.5 wins a month. Can you remember 3 games in any given month when a big blast would have changed our fortunes? I just hope we have some cash to spend.

  • Inside Pitcher

    You think this is bad for you? I live among Phillies Phans.

    I’m going to need to lie low for a while….

    • Dave

      My sympathy, but it’s not like they’ve had a season to remember (and don’t forget, most of us live among Yankee fans). The Phils’ recent quasi-climb back in is a dictionary definition of too little too late, and it would be very hard to look at their payroll and the roster’s years of birth and be particularly optimistic about their chances in the coming years. One more year of what the Mets are paying Santana and Bay is nothing compared to what they have tied up.

      But a friend of mine from South Jersey emailed me no fewer than 4 times during last night’s game.

  • sturock

    Someone asked earlier that the Mets need to decide what kind of team they want to be. Isn’t that Alderson’s job? Can’t they try and become a pitching/defense/power hitting team in the mold of the ’86 era? They are developing some pitching. They need to cast about — as someone else said– for some real bats and get decent gloves at 2B and CF. Why is this so hard? Why do other teams come up with a Josh Willingham on the free agent market or trade for a Josh Reddick and we can’t? What exactly is Alderson doing?

    • Dave

      Loved the 86 team, who wouldn’t, but defense? Not one of the building blocks. Keith was Keith, Dykstra pretty good, but aside from that, no one you would call a defensive whiz among position players (Darling and McDowell both great fielding pitchers).

  • Terry now says he shouldn’t have been so hard on them last night. Per Burkhardt, “Terry Collins apologized to the team about ‘quit’ statement last night. Damage is done though- it didnt sit well in that clubhouse.” Oh brother. Team should apologize to him.

    • Steve D

      Backtracked, as I predicted earlier. Agreed…damage done.

      You can’t blame this poor guy…he manages a team with the budget of the KC Royals (once Bay, Santana and Wright are paid)…yet has to deal with the media pressure of New York. He deserves a medal…blame the Wilponz.

  • Just the damage hit it perfect in his post.

    Really do any of you care about which player gets traded? Do you STILL think David Wright is “the face of the franchise.” Exactly what franchise in professional sports is this pathetic?

    I can’t watch, I don’t want to go! I’m sick of this same cycle over and over. They are good once every ten years but NEVER good enough to win a championship.
    I’m sick of the whole 86 and 69 bullsh1t! Seriously you won 2 championships in 50 years, WOW I guess it will be another 50 years before they win the next one.
    Just stop watching, stop caring, even stop watching SNY, for the sake of your own psyche. Just let this team die.

  • [...] Recount! by Greg Prince on 23 September 2012 7:32 pm Despite being eliminated from mathematical or any other kind of contention Thursday night, the New York Mets remained on the ballot for this past weekend’s series against the Miami [...]

  • [...] been pasted, sure, but it was one game in a lost season – and as Greg noted, Hefner sounded devastated, not disappointed. Frankly, I was worried about him — worried then and worried tonight as he toed the rubber [...]