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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 Walk of Life

The good news: Nobody had to mention walking to describe Noah Syndergaard’s problems in San Diego Wednesday.

The less good news: David Wright had to mention walking to describe his own problems before the same game that quickly became the worst of Syndergaard’s career.

“Syndergaard’s career” is, to date, a five-start proposition, so except for denying us extreme wish-fulfillment (a steady diet of shutouts backed by constant 400-foot homers), Thor getting his hammer handed to him is only an issue if you were breathlessly waiting for the Mets to retake first from the Nats on June 2. Would’ve been nice, but it’s only June 3 and Noah is only up to five starts.

Complimenting Syndergaard after lasting only four innings and allowing seven runs on ten hits — but striking out ten and walking nobody — would probably leave him as baffled as young Henry Hill was when he was congratulated in Goodfellas for absorbing his first arrest like a pro. “Everybody gets pinched,” Robert DeNiro as Jimmy Conway told him. It’s true. He might even get pinched again. As Noah was sent to the proverbial showers early for the first time as a major leaguer, Ron Darling remembered his initial brutal whacking at the hands of a crew of opposing batters. Such a happenstance befell Dwight Gooden and Matt Harvey and, eventually, everybody.

We still don’t know if Syndergaard is on track to be one of the instant greats or will have to work toward a state of very good (which isn’t a bad floor to aim for). A callow pitcher, no matter how destined for potential glory, will encounter speed bumps — several of them. When I watched Zack Wheeler hit his share in 2013 and 2014, I found it helpful to recall Darling expanding the proportion of good starts to bad starts three decades earlier. First there’d be something promising, then something of a clunker, then more promise. Soon the encouraging starts outnumbered the discouraging efforts three to two. Then two-to-one. Then three-to-one. Then you stopped worrying about the kid pitcher because maturity was taking hold.

Since the Mets are in San Diego, Noah’s amazingly Cashnerian outing brought me back to the rookie campaign of Octavio Dotel. Dotel couldn’t have been more Jekyll and Hyde during his first go-around. On August 16, 1999, Octavio was Super Jekyll, flirting hard with a no-hitter at Jack Murphy Stadium. Two starts earlier he outdueled Chan Ho Park and propelled the Mets into first place. Two starts later, he rather easily dispatched the Diamondbacks. It was the starts in between that reminded you Dotel was a rookie. Before beating Park and the Dodgers, the Cubs lit him up. Before mowing down the Padres on the coast, the same team chased him off the mound at Shea. Prior to the Arizona masterpiece, the Cardinals smacked him around.

Octavio Dotel wound up pitching a very solid fourteen seasons, albeit in thirteen different uniforms and mostly in relief. The point is, to borrow from Jimmy the Gent, he took he first pinches “like a man” and he got better.

Getting better is all we can hope for where Wright is concerned. His Q&A session with the media at Petco Park indicates there has to be hope, because at the moment there’s nothing else. David can say he looks forward to playing again this year. Sandy Alderson can say he looks forward to David playing again this year. But when the man whose back is front and center explains, “We’re talking about walking and standing and being pain-free,” can you really envision O Captain! Our Captain! leading the charge onto the infield at any future point in 2015?

Maybe. Given that warmup-clad Wright was surrounded by a mob of reporters (group interviews with players wearing jackets or hoodies are so depressing, because you know there’s an injury somewhere under there), let’s stay with the mob motif and take vague comfort in what Paulie Walnuts had to say to Tony Soprano when nobody could quite nail down what was allegedly wrong with Big Pussy:

“When it comes to backs, nobody knows anything, really.”

Really. Dr. Wright agrees, noting the lack of a “timeline” that could tell him he’s on the road to recovery, or at least one of those hypothetical Mets recoveries, like the one Carlos Delgado is presumably still en route to, according to the recurring updates the Mets issued throughout 2009. He’s going to work hard and try his best, which are very David Wright things to do, and he’ll be here when he gets here. Let’s be optimistic in that regard. As someone who’s spent the past couple of weeks attempting to detect nuggets of good news in a pile of Benny Bell-style shaving cream, a little optimism when it comes to someone’s condition eventually improving immensely never hurts.

Even if David Wright’s back continues to.

In the interim, we’ve got our best-credentialed third base alternative stationed at second, our top defensive shortstop anchoring third and the guy who’s reasonably qualified to take second still feeling his way around short. Maybe somebody will shuffle those fellows into their optimal positions shortly. Or maybe, with things going marginally well in Wright’s absence, leaving well enough alone should be the goal. Daniel Murphy at second and Wilmer Flores at short continue to rake, while starting third baseman Ruben Tejada remains startlingly hot. Ride that painted pony as far as he will take you before letting the spinning wheel spin. What goes up must come down, but where Ruben’s recent hitting prowess is concerned, I’m trying not to hear that noise.

Acquiring outside talent might also help, but that’s not an easy task in-season. The period between 2014 and 2015 might have been an ideal interlude to ramp up Met depth, but that’s not how our GM rolls. Still, there have to be options. For example, Delgado’s rehab must be proceeding apace. Last I heard, he was due back in July 2009.

Also still not back from injury: Johan Santana. Phil Taylor of Sports Illustrated recently caught up with Johan and revisited that magical night of June 1, 2012. He also found out what his old manager thinks after three years, 134 pitches and the long stretch of inactivity that has followed. Required reading for Mets fans.

11 comments to The Walk of Life

  • open the gates

    Hey, worst case scenario, Bobby Bonilla’s still on the payroll. Of course, that’s worst, worst, worst, worst case.

  • Wright Said Fred

    Today is a day filled with dread. Like knowing that you have to take a beloved pet to the vet to be “put down,” I will be dropping David Wright from my fantasy team. It’s just so hard to press the button!

  • Left Coast Jerry

    I’m not going to dwell on the negatives of last night. I will touch on the two positives. The margarita was good, AND I got to meet Black Country Met, a fine fellow if ever there was one. We disagreed about TC leaving deGrom in for 8 innings the previous night, and my thought was that it was the right move to save the bullpen. Who knew we’d need the pen last night for mopup work. So it’s probably my fault the team lost.

    Black Country, enjoy the rest of your trip on this side of the pond.

    • BlackCountryMet

      LCJ, loved meeting you. Am in your section tonight so may see you again. Last night went as we feared eh, looked favourable Metsian odds, so of course went the other way. Wasn’t all bad, got some good pics of Ron and Gary and met Steve Gelbs.

  • Made in the Shea-de

    Listened to Joe and Evan this morning on WFAN. (N.B. – Are FnF readers allowed to admit they listen to sports-talk radio?) They are convinced David Wright is Done with a capital “D.” Of course, in reality, they know virtually nothing more than we do. Still, just hearing that immediately induced a very familiar, Metsian feeling: Heartbreak. Hard to believe that, at my age, a single player can cause that feeling. But I’ve loved watching him for the longest time, the first player I really got interested in since Edgardo Alfonzo succumbed… to back trouble. Ugh.

    Maybe it is the sense of squandered potential. I remember watching David belt longballs at the ASG in Pittsburgh, with Jose Reyes sitting on the field watching, awestruck. “Get him some apple juice, some apple juice!” said Reyes with big eyes as he laughed on camera. They were two little leaguers having the time of their lives. We were supposed to be watching them in the World Series over and over in those years to follow.

    Somebody say something positive.

  • Dave

    Waiting for John Stearns to come back, would be a good backup catcher, and I bet Tyler Yates’ arm will be fresh down the stretch.

    My grandmother used to frequently exclaim, in the most stereotypical old NY Jewish lady accent you could imagine, “It’s no good getting old.” To think that’s what we’d be thinking about Our Captain at the ripe old age of 32. I was at least chronologically an adult when he was born and am no one’s idea of an athlete, yet my back is pretty good. Go figure.

  • BlondiesJake

    I’ll give positivity a shot…if the season ended today, the Mets would be the 2nd Wild Card. And they have a great rotation and a very good bullpen. And are fun to watch most nights. And if Wright doesn’t come back, all is not lost, especially because many of us wondered if he would be able to come back anyway.
    (I’m not sure I convinced myself or anybody else, but I tried)

  • Round Rock Mets

    You think Wright might be an FBI informant? Sort of adds up.

  • open the gates

    So here’s the thing about David Wright. It’s very sad, but maybe he wasn’t meant to be the one to ride this horse to the finish line.

    I mean, look across town. Don Mattingly was going to be the one to bring back the Yankee glory years. Except he wasn’t, and then all of a sudden his career was prematurely over due to a (wait for it) bad back. Except before Yankee fans had a chance to properly mourn, whoops, there was Jeter and his supporting cast of various O’Neills and Posadas and Marianos, and you know the rest. The king is dead, long live the king. Sad for Mattingly, but not for everyone else.

    Maybe that’s how it will be for the Mets. Maybe the Mets’ Jeter will be the pitcher with a day named after him. (Or their Seaver, if that sounds better.) Maybe Lucas Duda becomes the strong but silent leader of the pack. Maybe Familia becomes their Mariano. Maybe the guy will be someone who isn’t here yet, like a Matz or a Conforto. In any case, it looks like Wright may well be the Mets’ Mattingly, or their Dale Murphy. The guy who serves honorably in a lesser era, only to just miss out on the good times. Which would be sad for Wright, but good for the rest of us.

    Anyway, here’s hoping Wright makes it back and leads us back to the promised land. But I’m not holding my breath.

  • Tom heT.

    Dillon Gee announced on Twitter that he opposes gun control. He may want to rethink that.