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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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Half a Future Is Better Than No Future at All

All in all, we can agree, Super Tuesday went pretty well.

Matt Harvey, facing the odd circumstance of his start being the undercard, reminded us who’s the ace around here, absolutely dismantling the Braves with everything in his arsenal. And if you didn’t see it coming, you weren’t paying attention — just ask Jason Heyward, who heard a 100 MPH fastball go by in the first inning and no doubt knew he and his teammates were in for a tough day. Harvey made his monthly run at a no-hitter, which came unraveled on a flukey play in the seventh that was part Harvey’s fault, part Lucas Duda’s and part just bad luck. He then tired in the tropical heat, and some bad defense and relief left him with a pitching line — 3 ER over 7 IP — that in no way reflected how ridiculously dominant he was.

The nightcap was the debut of Zack Wheeler, our first ’90s-born Met, and he looked pretty much like a young power pitcher making his first big-league start typically looks — he was impressive and he was also wild, struggling to control his breaking stuff. But we can chalk some of that up to inexperience and some of it to nerves — Wheeler grew up just a short trip from Atlanta, where he was a Braves fan until remaking that part of his biography with a bit of fan-ambassador sleight of hand.

Emily said Wheeler reminded her a bit of Dennis Cook, the half-deaf, all-irascible reliever of a previous era, and I see that — Wheeler could easily play the younger Cook in some kind of origin story, down to the silly chin hair. His final line — 6 IP, 0 ER, 4 H — looked better than Harvey’s but wasn’t, but I mean that by way of observation, not dismissal. Though Wheeler’s complementary pitches weren’t much in evidence, his fastball sure was — it sat between 96 and 98, which is a helluva place to sit, and had befuddling natural movement on top of that. Furthermore, Wheeler’s long, lanky delivery looks efficient, repeatable and mechanically sound. Wheeler got away with a few sliders that didn’t do what they were supposed to, but that’s a privilege that comes with being a power pitcher with a thunderbolt fastball.

Wheeler looked like he was getting a typical Mets baptism, receiving handshakes in the dugout with the score still knotted at zero. But before Scott Atchison could provisionally take over (he did something bad to his groin during warmups and yielded to Brandon Lyon), Josh Satin singled and Anthony Recker bashed a Paul Maholm pitch over the center-field fence. Suddenly Wheeler was up 2-0 and in line for the win, which became all but assured when the Braves started walking people and kicking the ball around the stadium, highlighted by one farcical sequence in which they all but carried Marlon Byrd around the bases. Wheeler walked off a 6-1 winner, receiving a beer shower by way of initiation, and a very successful day had come to an end.

(Plus David Wright collected his 1,500th career hit. He’s 30 years old. We should all do the math, think about Cooperstown — and appreciate him more.)

Given this season’s rather sparse delights, it would be a kindness to stop right here. The Mets swept the Braves for the first time in Atlanta since ’87, and Wheeler won despite the worrisome presence of Chipper Jones himself next to his parents in the stands. No really, they did and he did. And it was awesome.

But I can’t help remembering that the Mets played not two games against the Braves over the course of 24 hours, but three. And in that first game Dillon Gee was as dominant, in his own way, as the prodigies celebrated hours later. Only Gee missed his location on a slider to Freddie Freeman with one on and one out in the ninth and the Mets up 1-0. It was Gee’s 101st pitch and his last — he was last seen trudging across the third-base line as Freeman prepared to vanish into the mob of happy Braves awaiting him in Walk-Off Land.

If Gee had been up 3-0 or 4-0, Freeman’s blast would have been an oh-well sign that Bobby Parnell needed to finish up instead of a disastrous bolt from the blue. But 1-0 leads are more along the lines of what the Mets typically provide their starters. Harvey won today to run his record to 6-1, but on April 19 — two months ago — he was 4-0. Between then and today, here’s how many runs the Mets had scored for Harvey when he was taken out of his starts: 2, 2, 1, 2, 3, 2, 0, 6, 1, 0. Somehow, starved of support, Harvey was 1-1 in those starts and the Mets were 4-6. Jonathon Niese, Shaun Marcum and Jeremy Hefner can all tell similar stories of woe.

The Mets’ starting pitching is pretty good — it’s easy to envision Harvey, Wheeler, Niese and Gee maturing into a truly formidable starting quartet, with arms such as Rafael Montero, Hansel Robles, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia and Noah Syndergaard possible fifth starters. (And don’t forget the unassuming but effective Hefner.)

But pitching’s only half the battle, and the other half’s gone pretty dreadfully: The Mets’ offense consists of Wright, Daniel Murphy, a short-term answer in Byrd, and little else.

It’s not crazy to imagine things having gone differently. In some better parallel universe, Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada and Duda all made strides this year, while Travis d’Arnaud stayed on the field and showed himself ready to make his own major-league debut. That Mets lineup would have six respectable bats, a nice Hairstonesque find in Byrd, and we’d be writing passionate posts about center field, debating the merits of Juan Lagares or Jordany Valdespin or Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

But we don’t live in that universe. In this one Duda is an enigma, Davis and Tejada have flopped, and d’Arnaud only just got cleared to start running again. Wheeler will soon find that the Mets aren’t given to six-run outbursts. And there will be too many no-decisions and teeny margins for error and too much disappointment. Harvey is a treasure, and things went very well for Wheeler the first time out. But until there’s a lineup worthy of their talents, there will be too many nights that end like Gee’s — with a trudge to the showers and an appointment in front of one’s locker, answering the same questions everyone’s tired of asking and answering.

15 comments to Half a Future Is Better Than No Future at All

  • That was the best day of watching Mets baseball all year. Super Tuesday wasn’t perfect but it was pretty darn good. It can only get better from here, right? Well worth the call to my boss and taking a sick day.

  • BlackCountryMet

    The last paragraph is spot on. On the one hand, I feel really good about where our pitching is heading, on the other other,all the pitching in the world isn’t gonna help if we continue with such an anaemic offense

  • Steve D

    Wheeler’s full wind-up looks a bit herky-jerky…it affects his command. Out of the stretch, he is more compact, still throws high 90′s and is unhittable. Yes, the Mets now have two starters with the potential to be the best pitchers in baseball, surely our best one-two tandem since Seaver-Koosman. Two problems – we have no offense for the foreseeable future and unless we get new owners, one day in the future we may not be able to afford to re-sign both.

  • Dave

    Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is what we have been waiting for, and it lived up to the hype…Cowgill, Recker, Lagares and Satin all in the same lineup. No wonder the fanbase is so pumped.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    We see eye to eye on this – without the hitting, pitching will be wasted.

    As far as Zack’s first outing goes, we can see that he has the stuff – that is obvious. But putting aside the nerves factor, we can see where he can be wild with many of his pitches missing tremendously and getting himself into long counts. I think Ron mentioned that being so wild would make it more difficult for the Braves hitters to get around him – considering they were also facing him for the first time.

    Also, prior to the game Ron said – not wanting to reveal names – that he was told by Vegas that Zack wasn’t yet still ready for the majors. But at this point, I think he can learn his trade while pitching on the Mets staff for unless he is really wacked around hard, or walks everyone in sight, he can take his lumps up here as well since this is officially a “rebuilding” year.

    But as we both agree, that “rebuilding” has to include hitting.

  • azulnaranja

    While they obviously need a tremendous improvement in the hitting, I would rather have that problem than the opposite one, which would be an awful pitching staff with little help in sight. It “should” be easier to build up the lineup, but what worries me is do the actual depth of the owners’ pockets. That and the general bad karma that has surrounded this ownership group, especially since October 2006.

  • Joe D.

    FROM SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.COM

    “Mets acquire OF Eric Young, Jr. from #Rockies for RHP Collin McHugh; DFA OF Collin Cowgill, option RHP Zack Wheeler to Triple-A Las Vegas.”

    WHO EXPECTED THAT?

    And great, what we also need is another .245 outfielder with no power!

    • Joe D.

      HOLD BACK THE PANIC.

      Was told there is a rule that lets teams expand to 26 players and shuttle guys for double headers with no penalty to their options or making the team wait another 10 days. This was not mentioned by SI.COM and I was told it was brought up last night somewhere in the broadcast.

      • Yeah, Wheeler move is just a procedural thing to protect his service time. He’ll make his next start.

        Re Young, he’s a better bet as a reclamation project than Ankiel, so low-risk, medium-reward. I still wish they’d either play Lagares up here or send him to AAA. Having him on the bench solves no problems.

        • Joe D.

          Hi Jason,

          To me, Young Jr. is just filling a roster space and you are right, play Lagares. Valdy’s experiment at center been put on hold?

  • patrick

    Watching the 2 games,one of the treats was listening to Leo Mazzone .Not known to blow smoke, Mazzone was effusive in his praise of Harvey.Why Oh Why can’t the Mets get a coach like him?Collins did everything possible to make sure that harvey lost that game in the 8th.Where do the mets FIND these coaches/managers?Warthan is a punch line for future[if any] Met fans,Collins,what the hell is he?He almost ruined that game for me yesterday, one of the sweeter days in memory.I am not anointing Wheeler as of yet.Harvey, hell,been a quarter century since anyone looked like this in a home uniform in Flushing.He is Seaver redux

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