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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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Forgotten Men

Lucas Duda spent the spring trudging around left field until an intercostal strain and a dose of reality dictated that he stop. He then spent the summer in Las Vegas. When he returned, he went from left field to left out, with first base occupied by fellow reclamation project Ike Davis.

Then Ike strained something (the Mets are rich in young pitching and body parts that can be hurt, though I’m not sure in what order) and suddenly first base was essentially granted to Lucas by default, with the Mets all but pleading with him to do something with it. Which, for much of September, he hadn’t done.

Well, until Mister Hand, less formally known as Brad, hung a curveball in the sixth to which Duda said aloha. (I’m the first to make that joke, right? Maybe the thousandth-and-first?) Giancarlo Stanton, he of not one but two home-run balls that might have killed an outfielder unlucky enough to be in their way, actually caught Duda’s drive on the bounce, but the bounce had come off the netting atop the Mo Zone, which doesn’t count as anything except a home run unless Angel Hernandez is an attendance, which mercifully he was not.

It’s wrong to say Duda hasn’t evolved in his Mets career — he’s gone from riddle to conundrum, with a fine eye for the strike zone offset by a certain passivity at the plate. Think of him as the anti-Francoeur — a player who sometimes seems like he’s forgotten you can hit your way on base, too. More nights like tonight’s would certainly help him, though one gets the feeling that a trade to a team where he could DH would be the kindest thing of all.

Speaking of forgotten men, Duda got his chance in the sixth because Hand tiptoed around Andrew Brown, understandably spooked by a second-inning blast Brown had delivered into the second deck. (If you’re keeping score that’s two completely unoriginal jokes, sorry.) Brown’s had an odd year, too — the Mets called him up in May and he looked like he deserved a shot, particularly given the state of the outfield then, but he was shipped out in favor of Rick Ankiel, which is the kind of thing that can make you think “I’m too old for this shit” even if you’re just 28. When the Mets determined the large fork in Ankiel’s back was negatively affecting his ability to play, Brown got back to the big leagues and played well when finally given some time, only to fall on his face in September — today’s game raised his average for the month to .056.

At least he’s got plenty of company in that.

In the end, the Mets’ forgotten men were the keys to a relatively tidy, unobjectionable win, with LaTroy Hawkins striking out Stanton to lead off the ninth and avert another unwanted marathon. Then again, the lead the Mets took on Duda’s homer was their first since Sunday against the Indians — they never led for so much as a nano-second while being eviscerated by the Nats.

Which is the kind of thing you wish you could forget.

9 comments to Forgotten Men

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    I’m kind of hoping that forgotten man can somehow find a home at first base (where he is no Ike Davis but is no Lucas Duda the left fielder, either) and remember how he was the hitter we saw him as back in 2011. If that is possible – or if Ike somehow remembers how he was back in 2010 and the beginning of 2011 before he was hurt or the second half of last season (boy, that’s a lot to remember), then we have one hole – first base – which was not to be a hole – resolved.

    But that would leave us with only two other viable proven bats in the line-up, Wright and Murphy. Travis has to prove himself, even though he has the potential. The shortstop we had is in Toronto. And our outfield right now consists of many a good fourth outfielders – and if we had two good corner ones then that would be more than enough to carry Juan with his great glove.

    I don’t know. A team looking toward the future is supposed to make some sort of progress year to year. At the end of last season we were very happy with how our starting rotation was taking shape and the young arms on the horizon. That hasn’t changed.

    However, we were stuck with no outfield. That hasn’t changed, either. In fact, it had gotten better with us striking lightning out of a bottle with Byrd – but he is now gone that was only a temporary respite.

    We thought we had a set infield. OK, as mentioned, Davis has been a flop and the front office cannot be held responsible for that. But we learned that Tejada was never considered part of the future core while Reyes was never going to be re-signed. So now we have a shortstop problem that we as fans were unaware of that the front office was anticipating last season.

    It is unfair to judge Travis at this point – he could simply be taking his knocks as a rookie which is common.

    But are we showing signs of being closer to the promised land the end of this season as we were the last one? I don’t think so.

    Now, the question has to be why. My own feeling is that one cannot bank solely on their triple-A position players all turning into major league starters.

    • Dave

      Joe – I’m with you. This is now 5 years with nothing to show for it, certainly not in the W column, and virtually no position prospects ready to claim their spot…d’Arnaud will be the catcher pretty much by default, but nothing else on the horizon. I’m already feeling as though we’ve seen the last of Flores, and while Lagares has been a nice surprise, he’s probably a #8 hitter and they can only go with him if they upgrade on the corners with some RBI guys.

      Triple-A players don’t become major leaguers the way this year’s juniors are next year’s seniors. Mets seem to be hanging on to hope that that’s the way it works. I’ve been pretty patient, but if there isn’t significant improvement in 2014 now that payroll money is being freed up, I think it’s time to conclude that Alderson’s plan isn’t working. Other teams don’t take this long to rebuild, and they don’t have the advantage of playing in the largest market in the sport.

      • Joe D.

        Hi Dave,

        As many might remember, I do not believe Sandy came aboard with any plan whatsoever other than to downsize the organization as much as possible so it could have a cash flow that could keep the Wilpons from having to declare bankruptcy.

        I do not for a minute want to suggest that he did not care about the team on the field but I do believe any concern about that was secondary behind bringing back a fiscal stability for the club.

        That’s why he threw the team under the bus in 2011 – three times the team faced default by being unable to meet it’s monthly operating expenses (those two loans and the Wilpons using $37 million of their own personal fortune) so the money that would have gone to KRod and the $2 million saved with Beltran (the Giants taking over the remaining $4) had to be used for other reasons – otherwise, Fred would have needed to lend the Mets even more than just that $37 million.

        At this point the Mets are operating on a shoestring budget and if not losing money then just breaking even. That is why I am hesitant to believe the money coming off the payroll this winter will be re-invested for other players for if the Mets are only breaking even this year, what can the then use to pay off the re-financed loans – an expense they did not have to contend with this year – without going back to losing money?

        It’s just like it was with the Pirates up to a few years ago. Confidential financial statements were leaked to the press that revealed they made money by not retaining their good players or investing in new ones. As the financial experts in the attached suggest, the only way Pittsburgh could make a profit was not to spend money on free agents and salary dump their good players prior to free agency or entering arbitration. To be fair, they did invest a lot in their farm system but that did mean dumping those successful prospects if they proved themselves once they too became arbitration or free agent eligible. It was a choice between making money with a losing team or losing money with a winning team.

        This is because baseball today is a big corporate business and Sandy is indeed a corporate business person. The bottom line is not winning but winning as long as it does not cause the corporation to continue losing money.

        That was Sandy’s primary vision and he left it to his baseball people to figure out what to do with the little money he decided he could leave them with. Knowing what we do now about the financial mess the Mets suddenly found themselves in, there is no reason to have dismantled the team rather than to have added some more pieces to the puzzle after the 2010 season considering the talent already on the roster. And it wasn’t the payroll that was the stumbling block. Perez and Castillo were released so positions were being clogged due to contractual obligations other than Bay. Under normal conditions, even if the payroll rose beyond the luxury tax threshold, Fred, Jeff and Saul would have been crying all the way to the bank.

        • Dave

          Joe – Yeah, I probably should have put quotes around the word “plan”…Alderson has been serving more as a CFO or financial advisor than a traditional GM, seems to me, appointed by MLB more than hired by the Wilpons, with no real plan or goal other than to prevent an inescapable total disaster. With people as filthy rich as the Wilpons, there are 1001 ways to simultaneously look poor and rich, make the team look like it’s losing or making money, depending on what circumstances call for. Of course as a privately owned entity, it’s pointless to accuse the Mets of operating with zero transparency…except for the fact that they get their money from $80 tickets and $20 parking spaces and $9 beers and $50 licensed t-shirts.

          If only it was all about baseball and wins and losses.

          • Joe D.

            Hi Dave,

            Now if only you and I could convince others that this was the sum total of Sandy’s “plan” from the very beginning rather than him having a “vision” and we just needing to be more patient to see the fruits of his wisdom.

        • Yeah, it sure is disappointing having Zack Wheeler. Sure would have been better watching a meaningless two months of Beltran followed by his departure.

          • Dave

            Hey, even a hitter on the interstate gets a few hits. Agreed that trading Beltran and Dickey have been good moves, but for every trade that will improve the team, there have been who knows how many dumpster-diving signings, attractive only as low price tags, and very predictably unproductive.

          • Dennis

            A couple days late but once again Jason, a great observation. Keeping Beltran around would have been meaningless even if we had competed for the final playoff spot in 2011, which I don’t believe we would have. I think people forget they had to get past Bay & Johan’s contracts after this season in order to do something in the upcoming off season. Now if no action is taken this winter, then everyone has a right to dump on Sandy.

  • RoundRockzmets

    Thank you for your admirable non-use of the word “abides” in describing Lucas’ exploits.