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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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We'll Always Have Papelbon

Jordany, we hardly knew ye. Actually, we knew ye surprisingly well for someone who played relatively little — though I guess for all the exhibitionist Instagrams and clubhouse clucking, we didn’t know everything relevant there was to know. Now we know for certain we won’t be seeing you in September at Citi Field…though we could’ve figured that out on our own.

Las Vegas 51s infielder/outfielder Jordany Valdespin was one of a dozen players suspended for 50 games as part of Major League Baseball’s Biogenesis PED investigation. Valdespin’s legalistic statement issued upon his suspension allowed only that “I made certain errors in judgment during the 2012 season and I accept full responsibility for those errors. I look forward to regaining the trust and respect of the Mets’ organization, Mets’ fans and my family, and look forward to contributing to the Mets in 2014.”

Really sounds like something a human being would utter, doesn’t it?

There are rules against ingesting performance-enhancing drugs. There is testing for it. There are dangers to your well-being from taking them. If you still use PEDs in this environment, you proceed at your own risk on multiple fronts. If you get caught, you brought it on yourself. It doesn’t make you evil, but it does indicate you were pretty reckless in going down that road. Even accounting for whatever edge Jordany Valdespin was seeking to obtain so he could be a better baseball player and make more money, there’s no good defense for those “errors in judgment” from a player few have ever felt much need to defend.

Yet I always instinctively defended Valdespin based partly out of a sense that everybody deserves somebody sticking up for him, and partly because I really loved that home run he hit off of Jonathan Papelbon last year. I was also quite fond of that grand slam with which he beat the Dodgers this year. And I liked the occasional pinch-hit home runs in between. I hoped a few more similarly dramatic extra-base hits would jump off of his bat and thus wished he had been given more chances to start. Since there weren’t too many other Mets blasting dramatic home runs to win games, I probably gave him every benefit of every possible doubt floating around his admittedly unusual persona. Granted, I assumed all the anonymous eye-rolling from those who’d spent time in his company didn’t materialize totally without provocation, but I also had the feeling he was being overly piled on.

Translation: He hit some really big home runs that made me very happy. How bad a kid could he be?

I’ve come to realize lately how results-driven I’ve become as a fan. There are players on the Mets’ 40-man roster with whom I profess to have fallen in baseball love over the last few seasons. Then they slumped and failed to come out of it. Y’know what? I stopped being in baseball love with them. Fine fellows, I’m sure, but I guess I’m pretty superficial. Hit for me, Ike. Field for me, Ruben. Then I’ll wear the t-shirts I bought with your respective names on them with pride.

Never found a VALDESPIN 1 shirt in the team store, but I would’ve snapped one up. I seem to have a soft spot for wayward knucklehead types who produce. I used to wear a RODRIGUEZ 75, at least until he was escorted out of the ballpark in handcuffs. I removed K-Rod from my active t-shirt rotation shortly thereafter. I’d like to think I’d remove hypothetical VALDESPIN 1 in the wake of his suspension. I couldn’t prove I would.

If there were a BYRD 6 for sale and it wasn’t too expensive, I’d grab one of those, too. Marlon Byrd’s been nothing but a model citizen and cleanup hitter this season. Before this season, he was suspended 50 games for the same kinds of errors in judgment to which Valdespin copped when confronted. When Marlon made those errors (unlike the one he made in right on Sunday), he wasn’t on the Mets and I didn’t care when he was found out. Then he came to the Mets and has been as good as any Met this year not named Matt Harvey. Marlon did PEDs? Yeah, I think I heard something about that. Great guy! Great leader! Great Met! What was that again about his previous indiscretions?

Jordany Valdespin wasn’t the biggest story to come out of the Biogenesis case Monday. Nor was Cesar Puello nor Fernando Martinez nor anybody who agreed to not contest a suspension. The big name in all of this, of course, was Alex Rodriguez, America’s most notorious PED villain. A-Rod isn’t going along with his suspension for now. A-Rod has too much money on the table. We mock A-Rod because he’s so…A-Rod. The fans of his team have generally expressed disgust with him. Should Rodriguez get an injection from the fountain of youth over these final two months and lead his team out of its funk and into the playoffs, watch for him to be hailed for overcoming adversity and showing the heart of a true champion.

That’s not to indict the morality of the fans of Rodriguez’s team. We hail Byrd without thinking twice. If Valdespin somehow returned to the Mets in 2014, got clubhouse religion and regained (or gained for the first time) all that trust and respect his statement mentioned, and then went out and hit .350 for the first two weeks of April, he too likely would be judged to have overcome adversity in our eyes. And if he was still batting up a storm by the beginning of May, VALDESPIN 1 might be for sale at Citi Field and I’d probably snap it up still.

We fans are a very transactional people. I am, anyway.

7 comments to We’ll Always Have Papelbon

  • open the gates

    I remember one year at summer camp, there was a kid in our bunk that everyone picked on. I felt bad for him and made it my business to befriend him. After about a week, I realized why everyone else was picking on him: he was a schmuck. I was doubly annoyed: at the kid for being a schmuck, and at myself for wasting my perfectly good sympathy on one so undeserving.

    Kinda sums up my feelings about Jordany at about this moment.

    And I wouldn’t hold my breath about him coming back and hitting more dramatic home runs against the world’s Papelbons. I think his homers had less in common with Darryl Strawberry and more with Sammy Sosa. If you get my drift.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    You know what is really upsetting? That most of those who did not appeal their suspensions never failed their urine tests – it was documented non-medical evidence that caught them instead.

    This indicates there are still many ways one can cover up the use of PED’s. And why as much as I like him, I have my reservations about Marlon Byrd, especially because his excuse was it was taken for a re-occurrence of sides effects from an un-disclosed surgery. Back in 2009, Marlon had knee surgery. Now, there is a certain usage of tomosifen when applied to the bone – “bone loss in premenopausal women who continue to menstruate after adjuvant chemotherapy.” – and I sincerely hope that was not the case for Marlon.

    Regarding the team’s future, Baseball America ranked Puello our number five prospect going into 2012. After two disappointing seasons hitting no better than .260 he was dropped to 17th within the organization. That was sure to change since this season he was hitting over .320 with 16 home runs in double-A.

    Now the Mets have to do a total re-evaluation of him

    That, with the chances of Valdespin being given another shot just about over, who knows how serious the additional and unexpected repercussions of this is going to cause due to our holes in the outfield and the limited outfield talent we have in the minors.

  • azulnaranja

    Greg, I have taken to getting customized tee shirts from mlb.com’s shopping site – Swoboda 4, Jones 21, to start with. Already own a Seaver bought in a store, and a Carter, and Hodges and Wilson 1 jerseys.
    BTW, I am also suspicious of Byrd, although I do really like that he seems to catch everything with two hands (except when he absolutely has to reach with one, like the other day with the diving catch).

  • Les

    Joe D. has it right. A-Roid appeal notwithstanding, the idea that ‘this is the end of it,’ that the suspensions put to rest the issue of steroid/substance in the game are ludicrous. Anyone who believes that players aren’t getting around the rules by beating the tests, using newer substances or compounds not detectable, or some other means, well, I have a bridge I’d like to sell to you. There is simply no way right now to judge who is using something vs. who isn’t.

  • Dave

    I wouldn’t spend too much time wondering about whether or not we’ll be able to buy Valdespin jerseys next year. Santa’s going to be bringing him a great big lump of non-tendered for Christmas this year, would be my guess. Before his name got thrown into this, his teammates already couldn’t stand him and his manager all but painted a target on him after that slo-mo HR trot escapade. And look at his stats and that’s what he did while cheating? Without the performance enhancers I doubt he’d be the best player in a company softball league that has a keg behind 3rd base at every game.

    Thought he had raw skill and could maybe contribute if he grew up and pulled his head out of his rectum. But by now I’d sooner give someone else a chance.

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