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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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That Outfield

Byrderers Row lives. Was it worth the call from the governor?

The energized, fun-size Mets…the ones with an honest-to-god top of the order…the ones whose outfield is no longer a punch line but is arguably a strength…they remain as they’ve been for the past six or so weeks. These are the Mets on which Marlon Byrd anchors right field and the cleanup spot, the Mets who win slightly more often than they lose, the Mets who aren’t automatically fighting Sominex for market share.

They’re ours from now ’til year’s end, whether we want them as such or not.

The competent Mets of Marlon Byrd’s unforeseen heyday aren’t Byrd’s alone. On defense he flanks super rook Juan Lagares — maybe not super like Yasel Puig this year or Bryce Harper last year, but as scintillating as any frosh Met outfielder has been since, geez, Strawberry in 1983? Dykstra 1985? Ochoa 1996? Agbayani 1999? Maybe Jay Payton. Jay came in third for Rookie of the Year in 2000, but it was a light year in the National League; Rick Ankiel came in second. The point is it’s been a long while since the Mets have had anybody come up from the minors and show more than the briefest of Nieuwenhuisian flashes out there, even if it’s been only a short while since Lagares laid claim to center field. He could be Pat Howell or Jeff Duncan for all we know. For now, he’s close enough to Tommie Agee.

Lagares, in turn, flanks Eric Young, Jr., who almost homered in Miami (weird fence for a weird park) and has definitely transformed the leadoff spot and left field into assets, or things other than liabilities. Even when slumping, he seems a threat to do something besides slump deeper. We’ve gotten too used to guys who succeed for a moment but can’t convince us they’re worth a damn.

But we come back to Byrd because unlike Young or Lagares or any other Met, he was the one we thought might have some trade value for a team that’s inching rather than racing its way out of Mudville as the final third of 2013 approaches. Get something substantial for Byrd and maybe it bodes well for 2014. Get something of a “something — anything” nature for Byrd, and at least we’re not moaning a year from now, “Can you believe we just let him walk?” Or do what was done, which was stay put, stand pat and stick it out. The 2013 Mets with Marlon Byrd figure to be a better bet than the 2013 Mets sans Marlon Byrd. But a better bet to do what, exactly?

Most of my constructions end with question marks because I don’t know. The Mets didn’t kick Byrd out of the nest. I’m not unhappy about that. I’m going to assume the presence of his name amid the prevailing swap chatter didn’t elicit a stampede to Sandy Alderson’s hold button. I’m not thinking this is the start of a beautiful long-term relationship with the 35-year-old Byrd or anything like that. I doubt it should be. The Byrd-led Mets have played about as well as one can imagine them having played since June 16, yet for all that they are 24-18, hardly the stuff of Rays on a roll. The Phillies and Nationals have gone largely catatonic yet we have somehow failed to pass either of them. Perhaps finishing a hyperdistant second to Atlanta isn’t much of a goal, but as long as we’re nearby, it would be nice to get there.

Alderson suggested Young-Lagares-Byrd has been, over the last month, “maybe the most productive outfield in baseball,” which, on the surface, sounds camera-ready to join “skill set” “meaningful games in September,” “lobby” and, most recently, “what outfield?” in the Mets Executive Hall of WTF? Yet there is a touch of evidence to back up Alderson’s assertion, as long as one accepts the terms of productivity as chronologically limited. Whether the Mets’ outfield is crushing it at a more consistent rate than its 29 peer groups is irrelevant. It’s better than what was expected out of left, center and right from the Mets, and the overall Mets experience has improved in accordance with the ascendance of our flycatching trio.

Doesn’t mean we’re set, and nobody said we are. This season has had a real “just go with it” quality from the start. There is no coherent executional philosophy in evidence, which is about par for an organization that doesn’t have enough pieces to set in place for such luxuries. Twelve pitchers? Thirteen pitchers? Four-man bench? Six-man rotation? No backup shortstop? This one sits for a week? That one plays for a week? “Momentum” is paramount? Just go with it. It’s only the 2013 Mets.

Yet it’s been kind of working. It didn’t work great in Miami Wednesday night, but did you really believe we could sweep the Marlins in the Loriatorium? Taking two of three there with one to go (guess what day it is…Guess What DAY IT IS!) may be a sign that the antiapocalypse is finally upon us, that the Mets aren’t Chad Quallsing their way to the end of the season. They may not totally fall on their faces as they have through August and September these past several anni. Shoot, they practically skated across July. Maybe they’ll finish second. Maybe they won’t. Maybe Terry Collins will be worth retaining. Maybe he won’t. Maybe all the Harvey Days and Wheeler Days and Días de Mejia will begin to pile up into whole weeks, then months of anticipation once the maturing starting staff is surrounded by position players we wouldn’t dare dream of desiring to trade just because it’s July 31.

We probably could’ve gotten a bag of balls for Marlon Byrd. But y’know what? This isn’t quite a bag of balls season anymore. I can respect that.

9 comments to That Outfield


  • sturock

    Well put. It’s all a lot more fun when the Mets are playing (mostly) good ball.

  • vin

    There was nothing to be had for Byrd that exceeds his present value. he is having a rejuvenating season at 35 and for how long? given his past issues…enjoy the ride but continue to strive for improvement! GMs may not always think things thru but no one was desparate to give up a real prospect or player for Byrd at this point of his career and Mets for once acknowledged taht a strong finish builds more equity with followeres, clients, media and future free agent signees that “we have a good farm system” as the old saying goes and it fits nicely “a Byrd in the hand is worth 2 in the bushes”

  • kd bart

    I read that Sandy said that they were only offered organizational fillers, 4Aers or low level guys for Byrd and that they were only going to trade him if they were offered someone who can help them in 2014.

  • Gianni Privacio

    Thoughtful piece. Too bad management didn’t make other moves earlier (bullpen), because this team actually could have been in playoff consideration. Given that they are now pretty much mathematically eliminated anything emanating publicly from Alderson is really just a pump to sell tickets.

    On the other hand, I am quite happy that they didn’t waste any prospects on the dreck available on the trade front. And similarly approve of not trading Byrd. I think their plan is pretty obvious, they’re bringing him back next year. And why not? He doesn’t seem anywhere close to being out of gas, in fact is stepping it up in the heat of summer. And has been a solid citizen. spokesman and teammate. Feel free to snicker re the suspension, I’m buying his act. And if he does walk after all the “love” he’s showing the organization then, you know.

    And no I don’t think they’re bringing him back with the expectation of having him bat cleanup and play 150 games in RF. Since all of their current OF options are suspect regardless of recent performances they’ll probably pony up for a high priced FA and let Byrd, Lagares, Young, and the rest fight for / platoon for the other two spots. This guy in right 110 – 120 times batting seventh works for me, anything more at the 1.5 – 2M they’ll pay him next year is gravy.

    I like where they’re headed and think they’re going to be a very troublesome opponent for the rest of this year. Take a look at how the roster is shaping up for September; D’Arnaud, Tejada, Valdespin, maybe Flores and Montero, plus a few other exchangeable guys they’ve been shuttling up and down all year. If they can refrain from blowing games where their starters are pitching no hitters into the seventh they might finish above .500.

    More bad luck aside (let’s not forget this year they lost Santana, Niese, Marcum and Francisco) it’s pretty clear they’re going to be in the hunt next year. Well done, add a few key guys, let’s go Mets.

    • Joe D.

      Hi Gianni,

      Been saying that too – imagine where we might be if the front office made serious moves this offseason – just like 2012 and 2011.

      As far as 2014, Byrd is masking one of two potential big problems. As we know, he has been a big part of our offense and winning of those close games. He has a rifle arm in right. He is a big reason for the “momentum” being built for next season. If we do not attempt to re-sign him due to either the money issue or reservations that this might be his last hurrah (or the drug possibility), then we are back to having a major problem with the outfield. Young and Legaras are fine with a bat like Byrd but without that bat, their limited offensive talent (with Young having trouble against right handed pitching and not knowing how Lagaras will hold out when he and the league become acquainted) and we are back to not “what outfield?” as we would be “weak outfield”.

      Our other problem that is masked is that our two most successful middle inning relievers happen to be Hawkins and Aardsma. Hawkins is 40. Based on his return to form after a few injury plagued seasons Aardsma can find himself in the position of getting many offers to return as one’s closer when he was getting $4.5 million from the Mariners.

      To a lesser degree about of offensive problems being masked, we are going to lose the bat of Buck. Yes, he has been a hot and cold hitter for long stretches, however, he has also come through in the clutch with hitting back through the box. Travis will pick up some of that slack but would he be the dangerous hitter in those important situations like Buck has been?

      And then there is the unexpected problem with Ike Davis. He adds another unexpected hole we did not need.

      So going into next season, that great young starting rotation can very well be sabotaged by a return to our poor offensive run scoring. We need to take some “risks” and not fear being “burned” and re-sign Byrd, get more outfield help, a better shortstop and quality middle relievers – besides not knowing what Ike’s future will be.

      Too many holes that this year have been filled by three not expected to be on the team next year.

    • open the gates

      I wouldn’t classify losing Frank Francisco as “bad luck”. A, it gave Bobby Parnell the chance to become a real closer, and B, it turns out that Frank is a bit of a slacker, if we believe the story about his conversations with young Jenrry Mejia.

      Santana? Incredibly bad luck. Niese? Moderately bad luck. Marcum? He turned into Mejia, so maybe not so much. Francisco? That I call pure addition by subtraction.

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