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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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The Gang's All Here

The first week of the season is hard because you’re either transported by ecstasy or mired in despair: We know on an intellectual level that you can’t extrapolate from a small sample size, but after an empty winter the heart is in charge and the head is sidelined. After the Nats’ series I knew we wouldn’t actually go 0-162, but it sure felt that way. After the first two games of the Reds’ series I understood that 159-3 wasn’t realistic either, but every viewing of Ike’s romp around the bases made me wonder if it wasn’t possible. This is the time when you can rattle off the score of every game and you’ve got a list of Mets you’re ready to send on to Cooperstown and another list you’d send either to the instructional league — or home.

Pretty soon this part of the season is over — the ABs blur and then the games and the series and finally even the months. For me, the day that process really begins is when the last player from the initial roster makes his season debut. Which happened today, when Jonathon Niese took the mound on a gorgeous spring day at Citi Field.

That initial roster has already seen its share of audibles. Bobby Parnell‘s 2014 will consist of a single inning — he’s having Tommy John surgery. Chris Young was barely around longer than Parnell when his quad started barking at him, removing him from his first game and then from the roster. Wilmer Flores has come and gone, sent away from the bright lights to try positions he may or may not be able to play. Nobody particularly wanted Kyle Farnsworth to arrive, but he’s done so anyway and (so far) committed nary a misdeed.

This won’t be the roster in September, of course, or even in June. Some of the relievers won’t last — the prototypical early-season reliever I always think of, for whatever reason, is Mike Matthews, whose Mets career ended in late April 2005 after six outings and a 10.80 ERA. Matthews lasted another couple of weeks at Norfolk, somehow managing to do even worse, before his career ended, leaving nothing in my memory but a Cardinals card in The Holy Books. Some current unlucky Met — Farnsworth? Scott Rice? Carlos Torres? — will suffer a similar fate in relatively short order.

The bench will be shaken up, too — backup shortstops and fifth outfielders are advised to rent, not buy. Guys will get hurt. Other guys will get traded. And there will be new arrivals, including guys who might already be here if not for contract considerations around arbitration and free agency. We’re still getting used to this aspect of roster management, but we’re familiar enough with it to realize that it’s actually the most cynical teams who burn promising young players’ service time early. The Marlins, for instance, promoted Jose Fernandez early not because they care about their fans but because they so obviously don’t — Fernandez’s service time is a theoretical concern, because he’ll be packed off to some other franchise before it matters. Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard will be here a little later than we want them but soon enough, with ripple effects up and down the roster.

As for Niese, he pitched the kind of game that can be honestly described as a moral victory — yes, the Mets lost thanks to some combination of Alfredo Simon‘s good pitching and their own anemic offense, but Niese looked reasonably sharp and best of all healthy. That would be tepid praise in September, but in April it matters. He’ll take the ball in another five days, which counts as progress. So does the fact that the gang’s all here — well, the first iteration of the gang, at least. Now it’s time to see where they take us.

17 comments to The Gang’s All Here

  • Lenny65

    Is it just far too soon to worry about TdA’s bat? I mean he hit a few balls hard today, which is usually baseball slang for “he can’t buy a hit right now”. He looks like a real asset behind the plate but I’m just yearning to see a flash of something AT the plate. A couple of hard-hit doubles, a timely solo shot, just something to remind me to be patient. They NEED some production out of that C spot, badly.

    Sad news re: Parnell, another guy we were always pulling for who never quite got there. Hopefully he makes it back and lives up to some of that promise, you hate to see a guy go down anytime but especially so suddenly and early in the year like that. That has to be just so demoralizing for a ballplayer and the team in general as well.

    • open the gates

      Re: Parnell. Guy was just on the D.L. for the last month-an-a-half of the previous season. Was reasonably well replaced by LaTroy Hawkins, who was considered expendable and packed off after the season (and thanks awfully much for that one, Sandy). Back to Parnell, who spends the entire winter rehabbing. Spring training – Parnell is back, look out, world. One game. One blown save. Out for Tommy John surgery.

      What gives?

      One of these days, someone in Wilponland will wake up and realize that their medical/fitness/training/rehab staff has not done well by them for at least 15 years or so. To me, the final tipoff that this was not a crazy idea of mind came a few years ago during the Ryan Church debacle. C’mon, anyone with an M.D. after their name should know how to treat a concussion, no? Apparently, not the world-class Mets medical staff. And things haven’t improved since then.

      Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Fred Wilpon is right, and the team is just snakebit, baby. Or maybe we have a medical staff that can’t deal with snakebites.

      • On this one I think they are just snakebit. I mean, look at the Braves — they’ve had an avalanche of TJ operations this spring, and I don’t know anyone who’s proposed there’s something wrong with their approach. Pitching’s inherently dangerous; a lot of guys’ elbow ligaments snap.

        The Mets are a lot more careful with concussions now — the Church thing was shameful, but they do seem to have learned from it. Highly relevant question is if the culture still exists of front office not wanting to hear about injuries, but that’s a hopeful sign at least.

        • nestornajwa

          I agree that the team is snakebit, but I’m not at all sure they’ve learned anything about player health since Air Church. The Church concussion happened in 2008. In 2010, the Mets had their bizarre showdown with Beltran over his knee surgery, with the Mets publicly criticizing the player for listening to non-Mets doctors who advised him to get his knee repaired. In hindsight, I think we can safely say that Carlos and his doctors were correct. Lots of teams downplay player injuries, but EVERY time a Mets player gets hurt, the initial report from the team is optimistic. Did anyone doubt that Harvey was going to need TJ surgery? But the Mets delayed it as long as they could, from August until late October. Teams typically push season-ticket holders to re-up immediately after the season. You do the math. Even last month, they had some strange battle with Matt over where he would rehab. What was THAT all about? Just another episode of “Theodoric of York — Mets Team Physician”.

    • open the gates

      And re: TdA – we really do need to be patient. If memory serves, Darryl Strawberry didn’t have such a great first few weeks in the majors either. For now, just let D’Arnaud catch the ball and call the games, and the hits will come. Hard to believe that so many scouts would be wrong about the kid.

      • dmg

        bias alert: i have never been for the dickie trade, particularly for d’arnaud as its supposed jewel. the guy is an injury magnet and a blank bat. (i’ll commend him for his gun to second to catch brandon phillips stealing.)
        i’m okay with trading him for whatever value you can get back for him, probably in the form of some decent bullpen help. recker to me is at least d’arnaud’s equal, and i’m sure there’s some backup catching available in the minors.

        • Penacious H

          Respectfully, I suggest that Syndegard will end up being the jewel from the unfortunately Dickey trade.

          • dmg

            i don’t doubt that, and i’m rooting for it to happen. and it still wouldn’t be enough to satisfy me because you’re hoping to get a good, maybe even great pitcher for years down the road, when you had a cy young winner who was offering his services at a discount.
            it’s okay, i know my position is a (very) minority view — it doesn’t need to be debated. but the mentality that supported the trade says rebuilding is forever two to three years away. meanwhile, fans have to be happy with scraps and flashes of performance, and simply Wait Till Next Year. my son has seen his favorite player leave the team four years in a row: beltran, reyes, dickey, harvey (yes, by injury, but still). by the time the team is ready, there may not be as big a fan base to support it.

      • Lenny65

        I know, I know, it’s early, but I’d just love to see TdA break out even in a small way and deliver a three hit two double game or something. This lineup is in dire need of another bat, the bottom third is a giant void of automatic outs right now. If he can eventually get it going it’d be a massive help, it’s exactly what they need right now.

        Lagares sure looks good though, what a relief it’d be if he keeps it up and nails down CF for good. Then we can focus on LF (the new third base) and hopefully FINALLY find someone of some use to man that position.

        • open the gates

          Left field is “the new third base”? Isn’t that the position we paid Chris Young oodles of bucks to man?

          We’ll have to see what Chris can do when he gets off the DL. Meanwhile, as tempting as it is to say the wrong Young is in LF, let’s see. One of the reasons we wound up with EY Jr. in the first place was that he had a terrible start to last season, and he wound up doing OK for us. Maybe he’ll warm up. But yeah, he’s making it very hard to win ballgames with him leading off these days. In the end, he’s probably a fourth or fifth outfielder.

  • Harvey

    After the first week, the Mets have the lowest team batting average (.178) in the majors. My guess is they will stay in that position all year. Pitching not much better, 24th out of 30 in team ERA.

  • SL

    The first pitcher to go has to be Lannan, who should never had made the roster. I think a good option would be to bring up Dice K and put Dillon Gee in the pen.
    Since the Yankee game, Gee has had tremendous control, the key to relief pitching, but he just cannot last past 90 pitches and 2x through a lineup, which, if folks remember, is the reason Rick Aguilera was eventually made a reliever, and became a good one.
    Gee is tough, and pressure doesn’t get to him which is why he’d be a natural.

    • dak442

      Best idea I’ve heard in a while. We’re gonna need to make even more room in the rotation in a few months so why not do this now?

    • open the gates

      I could see Gee in the pen, but not as the closer. His stuff is too borderline, and he needs to be a “crafty righthander” to be successful. Which doesn’t stop him from making a successful transition to the pen, but it’s less Aguilera and more Ed Lynch, IMO.

      What I’m wondering is, if Vic Black can’t rediscover his major-league stuff, maybe one of the young starter studs in the minors could be nudged into the closer’s role. Not Syndergaard, obviously, but perhaps one of the others. I like what I’ve seen from Valverde so far, but I can’t imagine him closing the entire season – although I guess stranger things have happened.

  • Penacious H

    But going back to the post about Justin Turner’s insights into the Mets ‘unattributed’ leaks about players…how counter productive is that? I want to like and trust Sandy and crew, and like the approach, but the lowest BA (and I assume, OBP and OPS?) in the MLB after a week? And trouble scoring unless they get a HR? And no real leadoff hitter? And inconsistent attention to player makeup as much as #s?
    Would love to have JT back (though I don’t suggest he’s a difference maker) and Hawkins and Dickey and Byrd. But none are long term solutions. They have to make, imho, a creative trade for offense (a Zobrist or Cuddyer-like player comes to mind)…and while he’s popular now, I don’t think Duda is an answer. And if the young guns are staying in LV, while it will be difficult, they have to work with them on being able to go 7…minimum.

    • My bet: In July the Mets swap Colon and 2-3 of the young guns for hitting prospects. Then we’ll have to see how they develop.

      I hope TdA can hang in there while the bat comes around — his minor-league numbers have been solid and in line with skills that tend to play in the majors too. I’m hoping most of the woes we’re seeing now are a combination of self-inflicted pressure and rust. The defense is already pretty good, particularly the eye-opening stuff on how good he is as a pitch framer.

      Gonna be an interesting year. Not a particularly successful one in the W-L column, I fear, and not one we’ll immediately be able to call a success or failure. But an interesting year.