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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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I Am Tired of Jon Niese and Want Him to Go Away

Jon Niese is recovered from his shoulder woes. His arm feels good. He’s revised his mechanics to correct the bad habits that led to shoulder irritation in the first place. But those revised mechanics are causing him to miss his location, leading to innings that blow up on him, as happened twice against the Nationals Wednesday night.

That’s the official narrative: mechanics, repetition, patience.

I’m waiting for the explanation of what mechanical flaw causes Niese to forget to cover first base. Or how tinkering with his motion dictated that he throw a changeup to a guy who hadn’t been able to do anything with his fastball.

Before we go any further, let’s review: This is Niese’s seventh year in the big leagues. He’ll turn 28 while some other team plays in the World Series. He’s making $7 million a year.

And yet every year we read stories that seem to be more about his focus and preparation than his pitching.

Recall two years ago, when Niese was battered by the Toronto Blue Jays and wound up watching his catcher pitch the end of the game. After that debacle, Dan Warthen summoned Niese to a meeting with Ricky Bones, Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey. You can read about that here, as it was recounted after Niese’s next, far more effective start against the Pirates. But read about it with your ear attuned to what was said in the meeting, and the reason it was called in the first place. Basically, Niese got called out for being lazy. He hadn’t studied the Blue Jays’ hitters, assuming his arsenal of pitches would be enough to see him through. And judging from Warthen’s comments, this wasn’t the first time that had happened. Santana and Dickey weren’t there to talk pitch grips or arm angles, but to preach the importance of doing your frigging homework.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the mental aspect of pitching. Dillon Gee doesn’t have anything close to what the gods of genetics gave Niese, but he’s studied what he does for a living and worked diligently so that his brain gives his arm every possible chance to succeed. Decades of watching baseball have made me admire pitchers like that more and more — your Gees and Rick Reeds and Greg Madduxes. And it’s left me even more in awe of guys who were born with thunderbolts for arms and worked their butts off to outmaneuver batters before ever throwing a pitch — Tom Seaver and Pedro Martinez and Santana come to mind. Conversely, it’s made me more impatient with guys whose arms seem far superior to their heads: Victor Zambrano. Or Mike Pelfrey. Or Niese.

If you ever run across a clip of Seaver or Santana or Al Leiter talking pitching, stop and watch, because it’s riveting stuff. Watch Niese discuss pitching and you’ll thank God that your heart and lungs are part of the autonomic nervous system. That’s punishing a guy for not being outgoing with the press, which is admittedly unfair — Niese’s job is to throw a baseball, not to make conversation. But for Pedro’s sake, this is his craft and his calling, and he talks about it like he’s describing the graveyard shift at a factory pressing corrugated cardboard. (If you dare, watch this video of poor Matt Cerrone gamely trying to make conversation while riding to Citi Field with a narcoleptic Niese.)

So what’s Niese learned since he was hauled off to his meeting by Warthen? Well, you had to scratch your head a couple of weeks back when Niese clearly thought Chris Young had let him down by not making a catch against Milwaukee, then sagged through a terrible inning. Was that mechanical, or mental?

Last night he twice was slow covering first, and Ron Darling rightly roasted him for lousy pitch selection. Was that about the arm, or the brain?

Niese has terrific stuff. He’s left-handed. He’s owed $7 million in 2015, $9 million in 2016, $10 million option in 2017, $10.5 million in 2018. That’s a smart, team-friendly contract, one that keeps Niese’s peak years cost controlled. It should work well for the Mets. But I think it would work even better for some other team. Niese is a terrific trade candidate on a team with a surplus of starting pitchers. I’d argue that contract makes him the best trade candidate on the staff once you subtract the guys the Mets would be obviously insane to move. (Why on earth would you trade Zack Wheeler, who has a higher ceiling and seems a lot more motivated to learn and improve?)

If you made me GM for a day, Niese is the pitcher I’d ship out of town for that additional bat the Mets so desperately need. Maybe some other staff ace can convince him of the importance of doing his homework. Maybe some other pitching coach can get him to think about what to throw. Maybe some other manager can teach him to cover first base all the time instead of sometimes.

Hell, I’ll even volunteer to drive him to the airport.

30 comments to I Am Tired of Jon Niese and Want Him to Go Away

  • Dave

    I’m with you. I bet there are several teams who would be interested in a 20-something lefty under contract for a few more years, and with any luck, one of them has a shortstop or a corner OF’er they’re willing to part with. Yeah, it leaves an all-righthanded rotation until Matz is ready perhaps, but so what. I’m tired of watching his boneheaded pitch selection and that “this sucks” look on his face. Yeah Jon, this does suck, but it’s your fault it sucks.

  • Pat O'Hern

    My exact reaction too after last nights game. Don’t care if he is the only lefty; ship him and his poorly reconstructed still huge nose.

    • Rudin

      My grandfather might have called him
      “Niese-keit”. A little nasty, maybe, but that nose certainly doesn’t help.

  • The second homer last night was one of the most aggravating moments of the season. Taking to Twitter before the ball reached the seats, and it seems clear that most Mets fans would be happy to see him go, sooner rather than later.

    Coupled with his comments about fans earlier a few weeks back, and I have to wonder out loud if he might want to get traded.

  • BlackCountryMet

    100% agree Jason. We know that we will need to trade an arm in order to get a bat. Niese has shown little indication that he understands the game enough to become the pitcher justifiying the faith shown by the contract. It would be INSANE to trade Wheeler rather than Niese

  • Les

    Ever notice that, much like 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, the second half of the year the only days you want to watch the Mets are when one of their young pitchers is on the mound? Seems like we’re down to Wheeler and deGrom starts in this year’s version. On that logic, why not bring up both Syndegaard and Montero to at least entertain the fans and perhaps be able to better justify off-season trade of Niese and/or Gee and/or/especially our waiver trade candidate Colon?

  • Jason, you know I love ya,but I had to laugh at the “get off my lawn” summary you have of Jonathon Niese. You represent a Fan base that has supported rushing prospects before their time, only to chase them out of town as full fledged major leaguers when they didn’t live up to their hype.

    Look at Scott kazmir. Do you honestly think Mets fans would have waited TEN YEARS for him to have his career year? No, they’d have wanted him out of town, much like they are “not impressed” with Wheeler. You also bring up Pedro Martinez who GAVE UP ON HIS TEAM in 2005. Because you liked him. But I digress.

    What kills me is that the bloggers “with access” tell me that Niese is boring and has no personality, but at the same time jump all over him when he states matter of factly, “fans don’t come to games.” Wow, butter my butt and call me a biscuit. Niese is a country bumpkin. A simple guy. And lest we forget, we fans revere Tom Seaver, and by most accounts, he’s an insincere douche.

    I digress again. The character assassination I see on Niese in some forums is nauseating. The guy when he’s been healthy (as a self proclaimed Niese apologist, my gripe with him is that he always seems less-than-conditioned for the season) is the most solid pitcher in the rotation. But that could’ve been a host of things: not wanting to be treated by “Dr Death” Ramirez or being young and rushed. Because Jon Niese has been consistent and one of the strongest starters in the vein of Seaver, Koosman, Matlack. That’s how powerful he is. Is he Matt Harvey? No. But only Harvey can be Harvey. Let Niese be Niese.

    Look, I’m just as concerned about his health and his poor outings since he was DL’d for his shoulder, a Dr Death diagnosis after being hit in the ribs! I think we can all agree that these starts are uncharacteristic of Jonathon Joseph. But to suggest you’d ship him out of town as one of most undervalued Mets and the only lefty we have…Jason, go home, you’re drunk. (But I still love ya)

    And PS I hope you have a similar post upcoming about David Wright’s horrific season.

    • I freely admit that my distaste for Niese is far from rational.

      • Dave

        Jason, your distaste for him might not be entirely rational, but your thoughts about him as trade bait are. Mentioning him in the same sentence as Seaver, Koosman and Matlack borders on sacrilege. You want a comparison for Niese to former Mets pitchers, I think he’s way closer to an Aaron Heilman, or maybe Bobby Jones at best.

    • Lenny65

      Seaver, Koosman and Matlack? Jon Niese? Nope, can’t see that at all. Maybe Craig Swan….maybe.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Wouldn’t it be something if Niese was just like us and got more and more apathetic the more the team didn’t win? Personally, if we were 3 games ahead of the Nats right now, I’d have studied their roster through and through before this series started; but as it is, I couldn’t tell you what pitcher is opposing deGrom today unless I looked it up. Maybe with Niese, studying comes with winning. Probably not, but that’d be something.

  • Rob

    Niese is a frustrating pitcher for sure, but I’m not ready to bail on him. For all his flaws he’s been a career .500 pitcher on a team that has been a good bit under .500, and even this year his peripherals put him in the general vicinity of guys like Jered Weaver, John Lackey, and James Shields. That’s not something you just throw away. There’s something here that deserves more time & effort (on both the Mets’ and Niese’s part) than giving a 27-year-old lefty a one-way sell-low ticket out of Flushing.

    • Jacob deGrom is beloved by Mets fans, is having a ROY caliber season and started his season losing FOUR STRAIGHT.
      Seaver, Gooden, Dickey all lost four straight at some point. They also won CYs with the team.

      Is this “I’m genuinely concerned about Niese’s health” or “he’s boring and I just don’t care for him.”

      You’re absolutely right Rob – a knee jerk reaction is not what this team or Niese needs right now. Tanaka was a CY candidate then had some horrible starts and then he’s out for the season. I think Niese is hurt. One thing I will say – the dude is stubborn.

    • I wouldn’t throw him away at all — I’d make him the centerpiece of a deal for an impact bat.

      If such a deal’s made, someone’s gonna go. Here’s the crop of starters to choose from:

      * Harvey
      * Wheeler
      * Colon
      * Gee
      * Niese
      * deGrom
      * Syndergaard
      * Montero
      * Familia
      * Mejia
      * Matz

      Harvey and Wheeler would be insane. Colon probably goes on a smaller-scale deal. Mejia and Familia have solidified the bullpen, so let’s not do that. Now you’ve got:

      * Gee
      * Niese
      * deGrom
      * Syndergaard
      * Montero
      * Matz

      Of that list, Niese (if healthy) would probably command the most value: He’s got a big-league track record, he’s left-handed, he’s got a terrific contract.

      I dislike Niese. I’ve never made any secret of that. But even if you like him, he’s probably the one to trade.

      • The Jestaplero!

        I agree, I think Niese and Gee are the ones to shop, although I assume all the other GM’s are going to want the kids. Gee, like R.A. last winter, is probably at the zenith of his trade value.

        Of course, if we dealt them both, that would leave us with a rotation of kids: Harvey, Wheeler, deGrom, and who? Syndergaard? Montero? Promising, exciting, but callow. And the last two will get shut down before the season is over.

        This makes me think keeping Bart around isn’t such a bad idea.

        One other thing: I am convinced Niese is hurt and not telling anyone. He was having a career year before he went on the DL.

  • Jon Niese is a 27 y/o lefty who is 18 wins away from being in the top 10 winning pitchers in Mets history. Is this more towards his character or the fact that The Mets have been prone to tossing pitchers (or players) away before their prime? Perhaps – same franchise that tossed Nolan Ryan away for beans, Kazmir away for trash and rushed Pelfrey/Milledge/Heilman before they were ready surely would…

    And Kazmir is 32 and finally pitching at the level he was projected to – Mets would’ve been shamed into trading him for peanuts had he stayed anyway. Not that it’s justified Black Friday. But still…

    You f**kin keep Niese!

    • Dave

      By the time Niese gets 18 more wins as a Met, the double play combo will be Dilson Herrera and Amed Rosario, with Michael Conforto in LF batting 3rd. Let’s avoid talk of all-time Mets top 10 lists…#10 in club history in saves is Braden Looper.

    • APV

      Ryan had four full years and Heilman was garbage save for one year.

      I’ll grant you Kazmir, but how exactly are Pelfrey and Milledge doing these days? Last I checked, one of them was struggling with the Twins and the other is out of MLB.

      Look I get it, you are a Jonathan Niese fan and plan to defend him to the death. You can throw all those numbers at us until the cows home. The bottom line is the team is on the upswing and he currently (not just due to that start last night) stands in the way of further progress, along with Terry Collins. This organization made a major mistake giving Niese that contract, and we know damn well that POS in the owners’ box won’t eat sunk costs. Remember this contract when we can’t get Tulowitzki or another key bat in the offseason. I will.

      • Rob

        How exactly is Niese standing in the way of progress? If you take his record out of the equation, all his other numbers are not far off from anyone else on the Mets. Granted, his durability is a red flag, but he has been decent his whole career, and at 27 there is still plenty of room left to develop more. You don’t like him, fine, whatever your reason is you are entitled. I disagree, but I get it. But teams can’t just get rid of guys like this because they have a couple of bad starts and you don’t like him. You don’t get better by selling low.

        • I detest Niese and would trade him — I think I made that abundantly clear. But that contract for a young lefty who’s had success is a GREAT one. It makes him MORE tradeable.

          I’d trade him in part because yes, I don’t like him. But also because I think he has a lot of talent and is a valuable enough piece to bring back a solid bat that we need more than a SP who’s good but has some warts.

  • Lenny65

    I’d like to see the team do its due diligence and find out if there’s some medical issue with Niese because he hasn’t looked right lately. If he’s OK, you throw him out there every five for the rest of the year and treat it like an “audition” of sorts. If he’s good health-wise and there’s no sign of improvement, I’d trade him before I’d deal one of the younger arms who’d no doubt come back to haunt us. If this is his ceiling then why keep him in the rotation at the expense of someone else? He’s beginning to remind me a bit of Pelfrey, you can’t wait on the guy forever in the hope he’ll emerge as something he isn’t.

  • Paul from Brooklyn

    Amen brother! Gil would have yanked him out of the game for his sub par coverage at first. I remember Niese throwing his first game as a Met and the great coverage of his family watching the game from the stands.It seems like yesterday………El Barto and Niese could have been the start of a worthwhile trade this year.
    Maybe they can land a certain shortstop this winter. I was pulling to keep Ike but the Mets were right staying on the Duda train. They are still in the hunt and still interesting to say the least. Glad the Murph and the whole team is still on board where they belong.LET”S GO METS!
    Mr. Gil Hodges belongs in the Hall of Fame.

  • BlondiesJake

    I dislike Niese, just ask The Coop. But putting aside my personal distaste for him and his idiotic comments about fans, he would likely be able to fetch a premium bat. It would be insane NOT to deal Niese for a power hitting OF or Tulowitzki since the team desperately needs that more than it needs another quality arm.

    • vertigone

      Niese for Tulowitzki? You mean Niese + Syndergaard + Montero + Plawecki + Nimmo etc. etc…for Tulowitzki.

      The Rays got Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin and a 19yr old SS (in other words, not much) for David Price, who’s at least 10X better than Niese.

      I’m also very much in favor of dealing him, but he’s probably not bringing back a “premium” anything on his own.

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