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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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Bump in the Road

Let it be chronicled that on their way back to the postseason, renewed relevance, New York supremacy or wherever it was we thought they were going, the 2015 New York Mets hit an obstacle.

Themselves.

Sunday night’s rubber game against that other New York team started well enough, with Curtis Granderson blasting a home run off Nathan Eovaldi. And everything the Mets hit in the first two innings was struck ferociously hard, making you think Eovaldi wasn’t long for occupancy of the mound.

But Eovaldi stuck it out, finding sanctuary in a pretty good slider, and my favorite Met Jon Niese showed he was more than capable of competing with Eovaldi to get the least out of his stuff. Niese surrendered a home run to Alex Rodriguez in the first (No. 659, but don’t tell the Yankees) and then started handing out doubles like party favors in the second, turning a 2-0 Met lead into a 5-2 deficit in no time.

Niese was lousy, but he had company. Daniel Murphy made a physical error instead of a mental one, which for the 2015 edition of Murph counts as progress; Wilmer Flores had an error of his own and a number of erratic throws; Michael Cuddyer gave the Yanks an extra run when he made an error in left, where he didn’t need to be given the existence of a DH; and Eric Campbell made an error at third and forgot how many outs there were, bringing an inning to a premature end.

In other words, everything was fine until, to quote Casey Stengel, the Mets commenced to play stupid.

Bumps in the road happen, and if you want to look for silver linings you can observe that a) Lucas Duda continues to mash everything in sight and b) Erik Goeddel and Alex Torres turned in very capable bullpen work. If you prefer your linings un-silver, the Mets are probably landing in Miami as I type this and tomorrow night tangle with a Marlins team that seems to have righted itself, with Giancarlo Stanton back to his usual hobby of murderizing baseballs. (Look at this clip from Philadelphia — Stanton’s home-run ball could have killed a fan in left field.)

Turn in the kind of flat, we-flew-all-night performance that’s happened all too often in recent Met years and our 11-game streak of bliss will have turned into dumping three of four. Which wouldn’t be fun at all.

Sleep well, boys. There’s work to do.

29 comments to Bump in the Road

  • Dave

    I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I think the Mets’ all-time winning percentage in 1st games of road trips is about .096 (although not nearly that good for west coast trips). Add the red eye flight schedule and a winless starter…yeah, run for cover when Stanton is up if you’re within about 2 miles of the snow globe the Marlins play in. We’re probably looking at a few bumps in the road coming up. City ownership claims have likely been staked somewhat prematurely, as we’ll be reminded by every Yankee fan we know.

    In these post-Shea dark years, there have been a number of “part of the problem” types on this team. Most (Perez, Bay, Davis, Castillo) have been dispatched. Niese (and Tejada, maybe another) remain.

    • Dennis

      Not sure how Niese is considered “part of the problem”. He’s a solid 4th starter who has a career winning record on some bad Mets teams. That’s OK in my book. Not a good start last night but that happens from time to time….even with aces. The dislike of this guy seems a bit irrational to me, as if some fans want him to fail.

      • Dave

        I definitely don’t want him to fail, and yes, the back of his baseball card doesn’t look bad. But he has a really bad record when it comes to dusting himself off and climbing back into the saddle when something goes wrong. He’s too easily rattled, I question his mental toughness.

  • Adam

    Indeed. The beating I took from Yankee fans at work was brutal. For a second, I thought my last name was Wilpon. 14-5 is nothing to sneeze at, but I won’t be fooled by all this early season revelry. The defense has got to improve or all the hitting in the world will just mean we lose more 10-8 games.

  • Steady Eddie

    The Yanks did the Mets a favor by involving a very suspect team defense in a variety of plays. The results were not pretty and a painful reminder of just how bad it can still be — usually at the worst times, like on national TV.
    To be fair, Flores has made the routine plays recently and appears to be settling into the SS position, BUT his throwing ability from various throwing positions is sadly lacking. Campbell, too, has played a commendable 3B. His brain-cramp on the basepaths notwithstanding, he’s been a revelation. Murph is, well, Murph, and improved defense from him is imperceptible. He’s a hitter despite his slow start and destined for the AL at some point this year as they prepare for the arrival of Herrera and/or Reynolds.
    Now, it’s off to Miami on a sour note with Gee, Colon and supposedly Montero on deck. Mets boo-birds lurking in the shadows, lungs at the ready. Need to look and play like a 14-5 team.

  • sturock

    There are going to be bumps in the road and if we had lost two of three to anyone else but the Yankees, no one would be that bent out of shape. My question remains: Is Daniel Murphy a middle infielder on a championship team? Mental errors, physical errors, errors that don’t show up in the box score. The ball finds him at the worst time. The bat notwithstanding, he needs to be included on that “part of the problem” list– especially if Alderson plans to stick with the merely-adequate-at-best-on-defense Flores at SS.

    Otherwise, I’ll take 14-5. And, Adam, just don’t talk to Yankee fans. They– and their team– are irrelevant now!

    • Daniel Hall

      Last time I checked, their irrelevant team was in first place, too.

      • Rob E.

        Yes, they are in first place, but the difference between these two teams is illustrated in the difference between deGrom’s and CC’s performances this past weekend. deGrom is a young ace, Friday’s game was an anomaly…the expectation is for him to bounce back and go back to being the deGrom he was up until last Thursday. For Sabathia, he’s old and worn and on the other side of the hill…which CC will show up next time? How much can they count on? And for how long? deGrom & Sabathia…similar performances, COMPLETELY different outlooks.

        The whole Yankee team is made up of “CCs.” They’re in first place, but can McCann, Teixeira, A-Rod, Beltran, and Tanaka fend off the question marks for 143 more games?

        These Mets are mostly built in the image of deGrom, and these Yankees are mostly built in the image of CC. It’s true the Yankees are NOT irrelevant (and likely won’t be in the AL East this year…they’re paying all those guys $20 million each for that privilege). But even with the Yankees taking 2 out of 3, it was still evident that these are two teams heading in opposite directions.

    • Dave

      sturock – Murph was in fact the unnamed “maybe another” in my “part of the problem” list, just wasn’t sure I wanted to get that riled up that early in the morning when I posted that. He has skills, but as a great philosopher once said, 90 percent of the game is half mental. Being a good defensive player is more than just catching and throwing the ball, you need to be able to make the right decision very quickly. That’s just not in Murph’s toolbox. No, I don’t think he’s a middle infielder on a championship caliber team…a supersub utility guy/pinch hitter, a DH, but not part of the everyday DP combo (especially when the other guy isn’t exactly Rey Ordonez either). The Mets had a long stretch when guys with noticeable flaws were good enough if they did something else well, but they’ve got to set the bar higher now if they’re a legit contender. To me, the Dilson Herrera watch is on.

    • nestornajwa

      Is Daniel Murphy a middle infielder on a championship team? Well, that would depend on whether the Mets win the championship and Murphy remains in the lineup. Was Rafael Santana a middle infielder on a championship team? Yes. Yes he was. He was also a Mendoza Line hitter with zero power and well below-average baserunning (1 HR, 0 SB in ’86) and an almost- respectable .973 fielding percentage (which would rank him around #50 among shortstops in 2015). He also had an unorthodox throwing motion which resulted in batted baseballs ALWAYS winding up in Keith’s glove. Raffi EARNED that ring. He wasn’t Ozzie and he wasn’t Cal, but he was a fixture; a steady presence who got the other guys out. He struck me as the kind of guy who spent a lot of time honing his craft — honestly, I don’t know if that’s true or not. But if he didn’t always make the spectacular look routine, he ALWAYS made the routine look routine. Sometimes that’s all it takes. So we’ll see about Murph, but I’m fine with him as long as he doesn’t become part of the problem (see: Foster, George; Coleman, Vince; Alomar, Roberto; Bay, Jason).

      I am quitting sports. The team of my youth, winners of 19 straight playoff series, with the perfect mix of the most skilled, spectacular and tough-as-nails players in any team in history — that team died tonight. Even with a potential R@%&;*#s series tantalizingly dangling ahead, the new Brooklyn Hipsters (Brooklyn Snobs? Brooklyn Scum?) casually, purposelessly floated around the ice and meekly surrendered to a team they had dominated for decades, “Disappointed not Devastated”. Now they can devote their time to finding the best places for foraged dumpster cuisine, artisanal beet juice and that staple of Americana, ballpark sushi. I would have gladly given a leg or an arm or an eye rather than lose this team. MY team — the team I rode my bike to see in the 70s. The team with no distant upper deck. The team of Dr. G’s and Giulio y Cesare after games. Just blow up the fucking place now, and leave the rubble forever, like some ancient ruin. I hate sports. And I will teach my children to hate sports. For every good thing that can happen, hundreds of awful, humiliating and enraging things WILL happen instead. Goodbye. Here’s hoping that Wang ends up sharing a cell with Madoff, and Tavares never plays another NHL game (Valley Fever, maybe?).

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Help me out here guys:

    Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain..

    Bartolo and Matt and pray for, what, 3 open dates?? Or maybe an open date a rainout and an all righty lineup for Jake.

    BTW, by the 5th inning I was listening to Howie and Josh on the radio instead of everyman (god forbid) Kruk, and his TV Buddies. Not only didn’t they seem to notice Cuddyer’s 15 bounce peg to 2nd base, but also Murph’s non-slide into 2nd. Howie was all over all of it.

  • argman

    There’s a short story by WP Kinsella (author of Shoeless Joe, the novel on which Field of Dreams is based), called The Last Pennant Before Armageddon. In it the owner in his wisdom has signed three free agent third-basemen. So the manager has to put one at 2B, one at SS, and the other at 3B. And now we have life imitating art on our New York Mets.
    (BTW, the team in the short story is the Cubs.)

  • mikeL

    yes indeed, after talking up the mets among the it’s-only-april coworkers (including my prediction that on a month or so, everyone will be self-proclaimed mets fans), they lay a big turd on national tv.

    at least on friday our guys were beaten by a sharp and nasty pitcher. last nite felt like the clock had struck midnite and visions of ticker tape floats revealed themselves to be garbage trucks.

    agreed: with flores at short there NEEDS to be a quick thinking, sure-footed presense at 2B. i’m all for giving tejada a good look there while herrerra gets more ABs ahead of a here-for-good call-up.

    …and if neise is going to start for the matz…
    oops, that was clearly a slip ;0]

    the mets will have to do something special after looking so bad for all to see…a call-up or two would be a start for me.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    I fervently believe that the weekend series was simply a bump in the road. Time will tell whether I’m right or wrong. However, if Terry is going to put Muno in the lineup, wouldn’t it have made more sense to install him and second base, and make Murphy the designated hitter?

  • Pat O'Hern

    ” my favorite met John Niese..” Cantstanza him either, goes back further than last night too.

  • open the gates

    It’s the old saying – teams are never as good as they look when they’re winning, and never as bad as they look when they’re losing. We got a good dose of both in the past couple of weeks. Forget about the trash talk of the Mets taking over New York, and let’s just enjoy the fact that they are better than expected this year – so far. And as for the Yankees, hopefully we’ll get them at Citi in September – and hopefully we’ll still be playing for something other than bragging rights.

  • open the gates

    As for Jon Neise, in a way he reminds me of guys like Ed Lynch and Aaron Heilman – good enough to be one of the top pitchers on a bad team, barely (or not) able to crack the rotation on a good team. Something tells me that we’ll be seeing some combination of Syndegaard, Matz, &/or Montero in the rotation sooner than later.

  • Rob E.

    Whatever his flaws, I think Niese has been unfairly over-criticized. He’s a #4 starter, and he’s a decent one. Here are the #4 pitchers for six teams that were in the playoffs last year (including the two World Series teams): Bud Norris, Jason Vargas, Hector Santiago, Jake Peavy, Brett Anderson, and Jeff Locke. Granted, more developed teams like the Cardinals & Nationals have much better #4s, but surely Niese can hang with that previous group, no?

    The problem with the perception of Niese is that 1) in the past we needed him to be a #1-3, and he’s clearly not up to that task, and 2) in the present he pales in comparison to deGrom and Harvey. #4 starters are #4s for a reason…they have flaws. On this Mets team Niese is a perfectly fine pitcher for the role he needs to fill until the higher ceiling guys are ready and he gets pushed out. After which Jon Niese will have a job somewhere in the major leagues for many years to come.

    • Agree Niese is quantitatively just fine as a No. 4. My annoyance with him is qualitative and therefore impossible to prove or disprove. I think that Niese gets very little out of his potential, which I blame on poor work habits and attitude. I’d contrast him with Gee, who I think has less innate ability but has maximized it by working his ass off, which I admire more and more the older I get.

      You can’t prove that or disprove that. Some smart Mets fans think I’m nuts, and they may be right. It may be totally unfair, and it lends itself to confirmation bias whenever either one pitches.

      But hey, being a fan doesn’t mean you always have to be fully rational. I don’t like Niese and I don’t think that’s going to change. And so there we are.

      • Rob E.

        I remember a game in 2010 when Niese faced Barry Zito and lost 1-0 in a beautifully pitched clinic on curveballs (both pitchers). After that game I thought he could be the next Barry Zito (the GOOD Barry Zito), or at least some combination of Zito and Mark Buerhle. And it just never panned out. So I grant you that he has amounted to less than we hoped, and less than the sum of the parts we see SHOULD amount to. And, of course, you have a perfect right as a fan to not like him for whatever reason.

        But even though he’s less than we hoped, he’s MORE than he gets credit for (that’s not aimed at you, a LOT of Met fans and ALL the sports talk guys are anti-Niese). I don’t think that’s fair. If you look at Baseball Reference’s list of similar pitchers, it’s mostly decent mid-rotation guys, and Niese’s career stats support that. Eventually (and sooner rather than later) his flaws will make him an ex-Met, and we WILL be better when that finally happens. But if Jon Niese and his sub-4.00 ERA is your #4 in this day and age, you’re doing alright.

  • APV

    Well that was an interesting weekend for Mr. Niese. Gets thrown out Friday for yelling at the umpire in the dugout, then when bad plays are made behind him last night, he pulls a Patsy Cline and falls to pieces. To be fair, he wasn’t pitching poorly heading into that game. But again, when things don’t go his way, his mental midget-ness appears. Heaven help us if he’s standing on the mound in a meaningful game in September.

    Yeah, it was a bad weekend overall, but sometimes a good team needs a reality check (assuming the 11-game win streak wasn’t a mirage and that they are for real). Last night’s four error game was exactly that. Mayberry’s plate approach vs. Miller after getting ahead 2-0 in the 9th was awful too. But the one win was oh so sweet. I was at the Coliseum Saturday but saw the highlights of Harvey’s mastery and the hit parade led by Duda, Lagares, and Plawecki that night. Let the Yankee fans crow about this weekend; it might be all they can hang on to by the time the scene shifts to Citi.

    Anyway, hope the Mets bounce back tonight but I’ll be watching Game 7 of Islanders-Capitals. No back and forth between games with the remote for this one.

  • 9th string catcher

    Jesus, what’s with all the negativity? This team is doing great – it’s 14-5 and had a bad couple of nights. Big deal! Niese has been doing well and was betrayed by horrendous defense. At worst, the game should have been 4-4. It happens – it’s baseball.

    I’ll take my chances with Colon, deGrom, Harvey, Niese and Gee all year, and if it’s Montero or Syndergaard, so be it. Would I have DHed Murphy last night (and Friday and Saturday)? Surely. Do I think he’s about done as a Met? Probably, but I would try putting him back in the 2 hole where he has always thrived in. Other than that, go team!

  • BlondiesJake

    I’m firmly in the anti-Niese camp for the aforementioned reasons. And if you look closer stat wise, he wasn’t pitching well this year, he was getting out of a bunch of messes mostly self-made. 37 baserunners in 23 innings is a recipe for disaster for any pitcher, no less one with less velocity than previously.

    The guy is mediocre and it’s fine for a #4 or #5 but it’s the way he is mediocre that is so infuriating.

    As for Murphy, he was perfect for the Mets when they had no bats so his physical and mental errors were forgiven. Now, not so much. Talk about a guy with no clue about situational defense or hitting.

    I said preseason this team would win 90 and I’m sticking with it. Playing well against the Marlins in Florida and then against the Nats at Shea 2 will dispel any panic creeping in.

  • mikeL

    APV: yup, after getting ejected friday nite – and amidst the talk of the umps holding a grudge – neise absolutely needed to perform at the top of his game. in my opinion his mouthing off to the ump was akin to a catcher showing up the ump during his at bat. selfish and stupid.
    after leaving his pitch in arod’s wheelhouse, it was hard not to expect neise to wilt. and perhaps a wilting/sulking pitcher’s body language rubs off on the fielders behind him – making them doubt they’ll all get out of trouble.
    sort of the opposite of harvey.
    on a mediocre team, that vibe can be tolerated.
    this year, with ample talent in the wings, i certainly hope it isn’t.

  • Lenny65

    IMO Niese needs to work on his composure. You can visibly see him becoming flustered and harried when things start going wrong and honestly he really ought to be able to keep it together at this stage of his career. I really wouldn’t mind seeing him shipped off somewhere, depending on what’s in it for us, of course.

  • JK

    This game was the moment the Met’s carriage turned back to being a pumpkin.