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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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Not That Cute Anymore

Hmm. Who do we blame for that slow-motion train wreck, a one-run loss that felt like the home team was down five?

Jacob deGrom? That would be both cruel and inaccurate. DeGrom’s started all of two games in the big leagues and pitched well enough to win each time. He threw too many balls and got squared up by the Dodgers once they got a look at him, but I was impressed nonetheless. DeGrom’s got a good complement of fastball and breaking stuff and doesn’t scare — I liked that after Adrian Gonzalez somehow tomahawked a high fastball into the Pepsi Porch, deGrom went back to the same pitch and used it to get Carl Crawford. And he was particularly impressive working around Matt Kemp‘s leadoff double in the fifth. Oh, and he can actually hit, which no other Met pitcher can say.

Nope, not pinning this one on deGrom.

The hitters in general? Well, it’s true that they didn’t get the hit when they needed it, but I think that’s more attributable to bad luck than Just So stories about heart and grit. If I’d told you the Mets would collect 13 hits to LA’s five and deGrom would allow three runs over six innings, you probably would have taken it.

Let’s see. How about some combination of Jeurys Familia and Wilmer Flores? Familia got the ground ball he wanted from the loathsome Hanley Ramirez in the eighth with the Mets trying to stay within one. He fielded the comebacker on the mound, whirled, and saw Flores and Daniel Murphy both waiting eagerly at second base. Familia hesitated, Murph shooed Flores away, and the Mets only got one out, surrendering a run. That run would matter as the Mets fell a run short in the ninth.

Definitely a bad play — Familia should have thrown it and trusted his fielders and Flores shouldn’t have been in the way. And they’d had a conference at the mound to discuss this literally seconds before, for Pete’s sake. (Take a second to fume. It’s OK — I’ll do it too.) But Familia’s a kid. His reaction was the same one I had and that you probably had too: What the …? Ohmygod, I’m gonna throw it, they’re gonna look at each other, and the ball’s gonna go into center. (Translate that into Spanish, but anyway.) Mistake, but a young player’s mistake that you can certainly understand.

Ditto for Flores — yes, he was in the wrong place. But perspective: Weren’t we all warned that Flores was somewhere between raw and inept at shortstop? So far (WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! SMALL SAMPLE SIZE WARNING!!!!) he’s been better than we’d feared. A lot better, in fact. And it was only a couple of days ago that we were all rushing to the barricades to decry Terry for not playing him. It’s silly and self-defeating to hang him for a mental mistake born of overexuberance.

As for Murph, well, he’s not getting off the hook that easily. In the seventh, with two out, he was jogging when David Wright smacked a ball that fell in and got behind Yasiel Puig for a double. He only got as far as third. Would he have scored if he’d broken hard from first? You can’t swear that he would have, but the odds were a lot better than banking on Chris Young collecting a two-out hit. Bad, bad play. But if this is the first time you’ve realized Murph can be a hot mess on the basepaths, well, you’re not going to like it here.

But the math is still pitiless. Murph running hard is probably an extra run on the Mets’ ledger. And if Familia and Flores don’t divide up a mental mistake, that’s definitely a run off the Dodgers’ ledger. Which means it’s a time game going to the ninth and … yeah. It’s tempting to shrug it off as a little thing here and a little thing there, but that’s what bad teams do: They screw up the little things and lose games they should win.

Honestly, we need to look higher to find someone to blame. Give deGrom and Familia a break — it’s time for them to learn at the big-league level, and that means taking some lumps. And give Flores a break too. Instead, ask yourself how it came to pass that Flores was learning to play shortstop with the varsity. This is what critics mean by a lack of depth: If Plan A for shortstop is Ruben Tejada coming back to life, Plan B can’t be Omar Quintanilla and Plan C can’t be Wilmer Flores learning under live fire. That doesn’t mean endorsing overpaying for Stephen Drew (I never did) or acquiring Ryan Franklin or Didi Gregorius on sellers’ terms — it means not getting backed into that corner in the first place. Same thing with the outfield: The Mets spent money to add Curtis Granderson, and economics dictate he’ll play full-time for better or worse. But if Chris Young continues to fail the audition, what’s Plan B? It better not be Eric Young Jr. or sending poor Lucas Duda out for more punishment or rolling what’s left of Bobby Abreu out there on a hand truck and hoping balls are hit right at him. But that seems to be what it is.

Blame the front office if you want — so far, Young and Granderson and Bartolo Colon aren’t earning them any Executive of the Year honors. If you want to be more logical, blame ownership for forcing the front office to invent a plan while having to guess at the budget. Or you can just throw up your hands, and say that whatever the source of the trouble, the outcome isn’t that cute anymore.

22 comments to Not That Cute Anymore

  • Thatadamsmith

    Right on, right on, right on.

    I’m trying to figure out just how many AB’s Alderson promised to CY, and if there was a rider in the agreement to let them sit the guy if he’s under the Mendoza line on Memorial Day. Probably more like Labor Day though. Right now, I’d be more than happy to see Andrew Brown come up and take those AB’s, though I know he’s like 6th in line, behind a bunch of guys we already know won’t contribute much. It seems like a lot of decisions are made around here based on criteria other than winning baseball games. And I don’t just mean payroll decisions.

    Is it a sign of abused fan syndrome that I’m totally good with watching Flores learn to play SS on the job, as long as he can hit a little? I guess it’s just that I can’t stomach watching plan A anymore.

  • Scott M.

    I’m resigned to throwing my hands up in the air…It’s like when Granderson strikes out, I think – that’s what we knew we were getting – high strikeouts – so why get angry?

  • Dave

    Not even Memorial Day and this team already has that all too familiar “it’s all falling apart” feeling to it. When they pitch well the offense sputters, if they hit it’s either when one or more pitchers are being lit up like a pinball machine or no hits happen when runners are on base, you get these baserunning and fielding gaffes (two lost runs thanks to Murph on the basepaths this week). Then there are the reminders that once hot prospects not named Harvey get here, they face learning curves that, perhaps unfairly to them, test our patience.

    Keep feeling like something major is about to break, and unfortunately it doesn’t involve a change in ownership.

  • Lou from Georgia

    I really hope this team can turn it around in 2015. I’m not writing off this season yet mind you, because there’s still a lot of time and I do think this team is scrappy enough to get to .500 by the end of the season- a little offense and healthy pitchers should do it. But I am amazed that the Wilpons can get up in the morning, look in the mirror and continue this farce. This team does not have a lot of major league talent. The vets (with the exception of Murphy, whom I hope ownership can scrape enough funds together to re-sign) all look like they are on a rapid decline. I don’t understand how Alderson thinks he can replicate what the A’s have done the last few years. I watch that team a couple times a week and they have a bunch of no-name guys that play out of this world. We just have the no-name part.

  • Tom from Queens

    I don’t see why we don’t bring up SS Matt Reynolds and C Kevin Plawecki from AA and Brandon Nimmo up from A+. Could they be worse?

  • sturock

    1. If there’s a defensive screw-up with this team, chances are Daniel Murphy is right in the middle of it. He’s just never been a good fielder at all, but he sorta makes up for it with his bat. But the Mets have dismal defensive stats (check this ESPN piece for more), especially when it comes to the middle infield and their work on ground-ball DP’s.
    http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/mets/post/_/id/87183/botched-double-play-the-difference-in-defeat

    2. While I remain a Sandy Alderson believer, I must say that he has been running this team for four years now, and there doesn’t seem to be any real improvement. He’s especially out of touch when it comes to the offense. Granderson is a disaster. Young is no better. These sort of all-or-nothing, three-true-outcomes hitters don’t get it done anymore, especially at Citi Field. Sandy has done a lousy job at finding hitters who make contact and can rifle those extra-base hits into the gaps. That said, the Mets are also in desperate need of the type of transcendent power hitter that succeeded at Shea Stadium: Mike Piazza, Darryl Strawberry, Carlos Delgado, et al. Lucas Duda is not that guy. David Wright is not that guy. David is a line-drive, doubles-hitting, get-on-base type of all-around bat who will never carry a team on his back the way he has been forced to do for years now. He is being ruined by this front office. And I’m sick of hearing about Citi Field’s dimensions. Other teams have no problem launching moon shots there.

    3. The signing of Curtis Granderson now looks like one of those feel-good back-page-of-the-Post moves that will do little for the team but tie up dollars and a lineup spot for years to come. You think it would have taken four years and $60 million to sign, say, David Murphy? Murphy is doing just fine for the Indians at .294/.360/.483…but I guess he’s not a famous, “good clubhouse guy,” former Yankee. I’m sure Granderson is a great guy and teammate and all that, but he just doesn’t make any contact, so any time there’s a man on base you can be sure he’s staying on base because Curtis– along with Chris Young, Lucas Duda, Eric Young, David Wright, and Juan Lagares– is good to strike out at least 20% of the time. The team has the 5th highest K% in MLB. (David Murphy K’s 11.2% of the time, btw.)

    4. With no support from the offense or the defense, it’s no wonder the young pitchers are struggling and it’s no surprise that this team finds embarrassing ways to lose night after night. WHEN DOES THIS END?

  • argman

    I don’t want to totally bash Daniel Murphy, but this isn’t the first time this season we’ve seen this confusion at 2nd base on a comebacker to the pitcher. I have limited actual playing experience, but shouldn’t that usually be the shortstop’s job, since he doesn’t have to make the pivot and will have his momentum going the correct way, towards first to complete the DP? Unless the SS is playing way in the hole, it would seem to me it is his responsibility. Or at least, as Jason says, they should have nailed this down before the at bat started.
    Before we go crazy about re-signing Daniel Murphy, let’s take a cold analytical look at what exactly he is. A decent hitter for a 2nd-baseman, but a poor defender at that position. A better defender at 1st or 3rd, but not really what you’re looking for in a hitter at those positions (although probably more effective than what the Mets have at 1st now). And he is an erratic baserunner too, inclined to give back what he gets.
    And I’ll agree that the basic problem here is ownership – if they had resources, they would have a better team, plain and simple.

  • Lou

    “…but that’s what bad teams do: They screw up the little things and lose games they should win.” Exactly and when they pitch well they don’t score and when they score they don’t pitch well. The Mets are a losing team. The problem is we were promised big things in 2014. But the money wasn’t there to do big things and in fairness, the free agent market was not that good either. The problem is ownership. You look at the minor league system, Alderson has done a fantastic job there. Three of four affiliates are in first place, all with very good pitching. The other (AA) club is doing well too. But ownership lacks the money and will to do inspiring things on the major league level. I do believe the future is bright because of the farm system but it is still a few years away. The Mets need an ownership that has the funds to do the necessary things to inspire the fans. And it is not just around acquiring players. First put up a statue of Seaver and Piazza out on the plaza. Fix that stupid right field wall so that your star player whose power is to right field can feel potent again. Why in the world would they create an outfield wall like that to begin with. Because they were more interested in cute than what would help their team, especially their all star third baseman. Ownership (led by Jeff) is disconnected and until that changes we may never see the likes of the 80s again. If you have tons of money and are a passionate Mets fan all I can say is Better Call Saul (Katz that is).

  • The Jestaplero!

    Why not overpay for Drew? It’s not like we can’t afford it with an $89M payroll. Last year, he had a better offensive season than any Mets SS in history not named Jose, JoseJoseJose.

  • Ken

    This team is built to succeed if 100% of things go right all the time. Harvey, Syndergard, Wheeler have to be Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, while David Wright morphs into Chipper Jones. It’s not impossible, but it’s certainly not probable. As you say, there is no plan B.

    What if we assumed David Wright was a very good player, as he was in 2006 – but to win you need to surround him with at least three other good players on the Beltran, Delgado, Reyes level. Maybe Lagares becomes an all-star, but no other position player here or at AA or AAA an be expected to do that. Cecinni and that kid from Wyoming are the saviors? Good luck with that.
    Pitching good enough to win might come from the minors, and with Montero and DeGrom, we could have a full complement of Gee-Neise level pitchers. That’s fine.

    But the hitters aren’t there. We will need another two or three $150m contracts to bring in quality players, and Choo should have been the first of them. And/Or we need to take a risk on a trade – like Wheeler for Will Meyers as was asked for 15 months ago – not just do the sure-winner ones that Sandy likes. We have to pay market rates for pitchers like Hawkins, not let them go because they are no longer a good value.

    This management is not doing what it would take to win. Maybe it’s financial constraints. But a plan based on everything going perfectly is a dream, not a plan.

  • Penacious H

    I forlornly agree with everyone; to me tho, Murph’s key weakness is his base running. Overrunning 3rd the other day is just the latest example.

    And sadly, when you look at the budget being about the same as last yr, subbing Curtis and CY for Bay and Johan, and you realize that even the Royals have a higher payroll (just to name one) and that the Mets’ payroll is 22nd in MLB, it’s just pathetic. Clearly, the Wilpons’ resources are still quite limited; and Sandy et al’s approach is NOT paying off…showing me, at least, that he was NOT the brains behind Moneyball (Oakland’s budget of $83 million this year is less AND Better spent).

    And then there’s the configuration of Citi Field–or more precisely, Sandy et al’s inability to tailor their player roster to play to Citi’s dimensions.

    It is very discouraging, ESPECIALLY knowing that if we are ahead late in a game, the bullpen will likely cough it up at the end. Very discouraged…

  • sd

    whats with this ten words per line shit you got going here? i would have read more if i didnt get a headache and have to bail

  • sturock

    It’s not the money. But, as Penacious points out, it’s mgmt’s inability to find the right players.

    The players are out there, but Alderson and his minions seem to be more about these cutesy, “I know more than you do” signings. Chris Young is not gonna get it done. Granderson is another Jason Bay. The A’s don’t have money either, yet they find players every year. So does Tampa Bay (well, this year may be the end of that run). St. Louis is not a top spender. Yet these teams find players– and they have a Plan B.

    If you are going to build your team around a pitching staff, you need the support of an airtight defense. And you need an offense that can score a run or two outside of Yankee Stadium. I understand the offense part can be tough, but there is no excuse for bad fielding and the mental lapses these guys engage in game after game.

    P.S. I hate watching Bartolo Colon…

  • The Jestaplero!

    Ken, your three other quality players should have been Granderson, Choo, and Drew. THe team promised us they would spend THIS year (not 2015) when all the big contracts came off the books, but instead they kept the payroll at the same KC Royals level, which is an embarassment for a #1-market team.

    They should never have bothered with Colon: Dice-K could have filled that vetern starter role nicely, and moved over to the ‘pen when when Noah/deGrom/Montero was ready. And they wouldn’t have needed Young if they had Choo.

    That sounds like a potential 90-win team.

  • Tristram Shandy

    I am heartsick about this team this year, and my faith in Sandy has eroded. We have a world-class minor league system! Hurray! Let’s go to Binghamton and take in a doubleheader.

    Whether the problem is a limit on the payroll or poor major-league scouting or a GM who won’t pull the trigger until all the stars have aligned or great scouting but lousy development or the manager or the outfield walls or just plain bad luck, I don’t care. I’m sick of suffering through disappointing seasons with some nebulous prize dangling in the hazy future.

    I want a winning baseball team. I want a team that’s fun to watch, not one that makes me throw things against the wall in rage and despair. I’ve been patient. I’m losing my patience. Can I please have a baseball team that I’m proud of? Can I please have an organization I have faith in? Can I please call myself a Mets fan and not feel ashamed? Apparently, that’s too much to ask for.

    I’m done ranting. But all of the above is true.

  • Rob D.

    I was hoping for the meaningful games to last until after Memorial Day. The only meaningful games I will be watching are my two sons’ Summer travel games.

  • 9th string catcher

    It’s hard to believe that a team would rely so much on hoping for the best when building it. I hope Ike or Duda can be big power hitters. I hope Granderson can come back from injury. I hope Young can hit over .200 and bring back his production from 6 years ago. I hope Daniel Murphy can learn how to run bases and field his position. I hope that D’Arnaud can hit his weight. I hope Legares can play major league baseball. I hope our closer can come back from injury. I hope that 40 year old Colon has another year or two in him. I hope these unproven twentysomething pitchers are as good as the press releases we’re putting out say they are. Seriously, what are you sure about? It’s no way to build a team.

    See, it’s not like rebuilding. I really don’t know what this is. Let’s put a bunch of people on the field and see what happens. And in 10 days if it isn’t working we’ll try something else. Starters become relievers. Closers become long men. DH caliber fielders become outfielders, shortstops and second basemen. It’s almost as if the architects of the team say “okay guys, surprise me”.

    I guess the point is, the FO really has no idea what will happen. So, there’s that – Eric Campbell is fun to watch. So is Lagares and DeGrom. Mejia might be a pretty good reliever. And it’s hard to root against Murphy. I just can’t imagine how this mosh of players becomes a team. Must be hard to play for – it certainly is hard to watch.

  • Dave

    On one hand, you see the farm teams doing very well and you feel some encouragement. But then you remember that even good prospects have learning curves (witness Wheeler), and as position player prospects are still a few years away from their MLB debuts, someone like Nimmo or Cecinni or Dilson Herrera might not be solid major league contributors until the end of the decade (and even that’s a crap shoot).

    The New Dark Ages.

  • paul

    has anyone confirmed who was supposed to take the throw at second.

  • JerseyJack

    Oakland is 30-17 ?? How do they do it ??

  • open the gates

    It never was cute.