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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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Fly Marlon Fly

As a former 35-year-old myself — I held the position for twelve months in the late 1990s — I am cheered by Marlon Byrd’s two home runs Wednesday night and the role they played in the Mets’ drubbing of the Nationals. Byrd is considered ancient, washed up, capable of playing for no better than a desperate dweller of the second division that was doing somebody a favor when they signed him. Plus he’s 35. Talk about a relic…the guy has been in the majors since September 2002! Why, that’s a whole 22 months before David Wright arrived!

It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. Nobody was amending their “what outfield?” cracks when Byrd landed amid the Mets’ pasture of uncertainty in Port St. Lucie. There was no sense of we’re only dealing with two-thirds of a mess because this Marlon Byrd, he who had suffered beanings and bannings in the previous two years, was gonna clear everything up.

He hasn’t. Yet on a team in which Razzies could be awarded to many, Byrd’s not close to being in the bottom five, which is like being one of the best players on a good team. Or, put another way, Byrd has actually been one of the best players on this bad team.

You know who leads Mets qualifiers in slugging percentage? Marlon Byrd (.489).

You know who’s second among qualifying Mets in OPS? Marlon Byrd (.799).

You know who has as many homers (8) and doubles (7) as perennial All-Star backup David Wright and only four fewer RBIs (28 vs. 32) in eighty fewer plate appearances? Why, yes, that would be Marlon Byrd.

Your up-to-the-minute Mets WAR offense/defense (not counting pitching) leaders, according to Baseball Reference: Wright, 2.9; Murphy, 1.3; Byrd, 1.3. Then comes Omar Quintanilla at 0.3 — “Quintanilla,” if you’re not sure, is Spanish for “been here a week”. Then there are two guys at 0.2: Andrew Brown, about whom you’ve forgotten; and Jonathon Niese, and this is for hitting and fielding only, mind you.

These may be somewhat narrowly selected criteria and they may reflect as much on the company Byrd is keeping as anything (hey, we said it’s a bad team), but, y’know…it’s pretty decent in context. Marlon Byrd has risen ever so slightly above the morass and shown himself over the season’s first third — give or take a menacing fly ball here or there — as a shade beyond the prevailing sub-mediocrity that has defined our year thus far.

So, yeah, while I’m philosophically aligned with the argument against reflexively leaning on decrepit veterans when we could be learning just how, uh, crepit our youngsters are, not all dogma hunts all the time. Byrd, for example, is hitting .556 lifetime against Dan Haren after last night. Prior to Wednesday, in 16 at-bats, he was hitting .500. It would have been irresponsible to not deploy him last night of all nights.

Rick Ankiel’s extended audition suggests he can sit down, maybe even pack up. Marlon Byrd, however, isn’t the same guy, whatever temptation exists to clump every limited-future outfielder into one large Hefty Bag. I don’t grant him 30 straight starts based on last night, but I don’t dismiss him altogether based on 35 years of age. Plus, it’s the first week of June. It’s waaaay too early to commit to every flawed Triple-A outfielder on the basis of our not yet knowing just how flawed they are and what it will take to fix them. If Nieuwenhuis is sizzling, sure, bring him back. If Cowgill isn’t, then, no, don’t. There has to be some balance struck between “we’ve given up” and “we’re trying to compete nine innings at a time.” Ankiel doesn’t really help you compete. Byrd kind of does.

Of course it’s not too early for showcasing veterans. The best-case scenario for Byrd is he’s splashing around in the fountain of youth and leading the Mets, at 37 or 38, to grand things. The next-best? That he continues to hit occasionally competently for another six weeks and nets you something promising by July 31. Now that Shaun Marcum has regained major league credibility, I’d consider him in the same realm. Some contender might have a use for a “proven” right arm and you benefit accordingly. So let’s run Byrd out there semi-regularly and Marcum every fifth or so day. And then, come August 1, when the Mets’ season is only technically still going, you play every kid you have.

Until then, enjoy Marlon Byrd when he’s homering twice and succeeding intermittently. He’s more or less your third-best everyday player. If that’s what’s facing you every day, sometimes you have to relish what the day presents.

14 comments to Fly Marlon Fly

  • March'62

    While Byrd is no dog, the bar is set pretty low if we think there’s any value there. Think Elliot Maddox. Even if a contender is looking to add a bat off the bench at the deadline, the most anyone would give up for him is a couple of cases of disinfectant for the Citi Field bathrooms. And then, only because of Alderson’s shrewdness.

    Back to Joe D’s post from yesterday – maybe the Mets should follow the Royal’s strategy and bring back a legendary team figure as batting coach: Ron Hunt. At least he can give Ike Davis a new idea on how to reach base.

    The Mets win 10-1? What are the odds?

    • Taking you literally theater: Maddox had 7 HR in not quite 1,200 PAs as a Met. Byrd makes Maddox look like washed-up Jose Cardenal. (I liked Maddox as a 3B and nothing against him as a person until he said something a few years back to the effect of “I played for the Mets but I WAS a Yankee.” Never much cared for Cardenal, based solely on Mets uselessness.)

      • March'62

        Okay granted, I just threw out the Maddox name as a 1st thing that came to mind kind of thing. I should have known better than to try that on this blog.

        I remember being kind of excited when the Mets first picked up Cardenal. And if I remember correctly, he started off fairly well. Maybe if he stayed healthy, the ’79 Mets might have done something. Or maybe I just thought that because I was “being a dopey kid”.

        • Cardenal wound up on a World Series team the same season Mets let him go, so he definitely had the winning touch (yes, it was Jose Cardenal who got the Royals to October, not George Brett).

          Byrd reminds me of a superannuated Benny Agbayani. A little more baseball sense, a better arm, not nearly as much fun of a backstory. And no chant that I know of.

  • Matt Allen

    Byrd seems like he should get an everyday spot….Why not move Spin to second, Murphy to First and let Ike find his stroke in Vegas….I can’t stand watching Ike waste his spot in the order night after night. It makes sense to me and no one is talking about it. Especially, when you consider that Flores could be ready to come up if Spin can’t hack it.

    • 9th string catcher

      I like what you’re saying, but scared to move Murphy who has become almost competant at 2nd base. How about we move Duda to 1st and put Valdespin in left?

      • If we’re moving pieces around, I like Duda at first, Valdy somewhere in the outfield, Davis in a 51s uniform but Murphy staying put. Never thought Daniel was much of a first baseman but he’s become super competent at second. Duda isn’t much of a left fielder but decent, I thought, at first. Valdespin has enough speed to cover some ground in the outfield. Though if Ike hits two home runs in the next two weeks, he’s probably not going anywhere because all of his problems will be judged solved.

        Who said a fourth-place team can’t be intriguing?

  • open the gates

    ” “Quintanilla,” if you’re not sure, is Spanish for “been here a week”. ”

    :)

    And the best part is that it always fits. Every time Omar Q. is up on the Mets, it seems like he’s only been here a week. Then he’s back down again.

  • [...] remaining, for crissake). But Daniel Murphy is the second-best everyday player the Mets have. As established the other day, Marlon Byrd is the third-best, and he’s Marlon [...]

  • [...] with a couple more extra-base hits, while Marlon Byrd, who I thought might need a breather, showed staying active keeps you vital when you’re pushing 35. There were plenty of contributions from plenty of Mets, because everybody on your team looks like [...]