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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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Happy Birthday, Jake!

Marv Throneberry, legend has it, was once crestfallen to discover that his birthday cake had been devoured by his Mets teammates before he got a piece — to which Casey Stengel cracked that “we wuz gonna give you a piece, Marv, but we wuz afraid you would drop it.”

I don’t know if the Mets got Jacob deGrom a cake for his birthday last night in Atlanta, but if so here’s hoping his infielders were kept away from it.

Don’t blame deGrom, who scattered four hits over 7 1/3 terrific innings. Blame his feckless teammates, who didn’t hit all night and then undid the birthday boy’s work in a gag job of an eighth inning.

After Andrelton Simmons crushed a hanging curve for a leadoff double (OK, that one’s on Jake), Eury Perez bunted to the left of the mound. DeGrom grabbed the ball and had a play at third, but Ruben Tejada had broke in and the base was unguarded. DeGrom looked helplessly at Simmons for a moment and took the out at first. Afterwards, Terry Collins said Tejada made the right play and deGrom praised the bunt, which was good organizational omerta on both their parts and also bullshit: Tejada didn’t think about deGrom’s fielding ability and failed to react to the play as it developed, because he’s a lunkhead.

The next batter was Pedro Ciriaco, a punchless hitter who doesn’t know how to walk and looked overmatched against deGrom. He grounded weakly to short. Wilmer Flores looked Simmons back, but took too long while Ciriaco was doing the only thing he can do, which is run fast. He beat the play to first.

Collins removed deGrom, who’d thrown 97 pitches, in favor of Sean Gilmartin. Gilmartin, to nobody’s particular surprise, promptly gave up a double to Jace Peterson, and the Mets had turned their 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit and a loss. Overmanaging, I’d say — give me a tired deGrom over a perky Gilmartin any day — but the kind of overmanaging every manager does, and not worth losing your mind about.

(If you’re a glutton for punishment, here’s a further breakdown of the breakdowns penned by Adam Rubin. I don’t agree that there’s any blame to lay at Juan Lagares‘s feet, but it’s a damning read anyway.)

Afterwards, the amount of alibi-ing and teeth-gritting before the cameras was remarkable, and the Mets’ stories weren’t exactly straight. Poor deGrom’s interview was particularly painful to watch; our favorite Ford pitchman is a good teammate but a bad liar, repeatedly offering SNY a frozen smile and an all-too-quick look anywhere else as he was asked how frustrating it was to play in front of these clowns. (That’s a slight paraphrase.) I just laughed when Terry said Jeurys Familia cramped up and it was nothing serious, followed by the closer talking about a tight groin. God only knows what that means, but it was the perfect end to the evening.

What is there to say that hasn’t been said innumerable times already during this strange season? The only thing I can think of is to note that this season feels so off-kilter primarily because the Mets are simultaneously horrible and in first place.

Maybe that’s what we need to think about more. The key to understanding 2015 isn’t to conclude that the Mets are better than we think they are, because they’re not. It’s not to argue that the little black cloud of Met pessimism has made us unreliable chroniclers, though that’s probably true.

The key to understanding 2015 is that the Nationals suck. They should be in first place by a healthy margin and complaining about having to share a division with two horrible teams and two medicore ones. If that were happening, we wouldn’t be confused about what kind of year this is — we’d be arguing tepidly about whether the Mets are good mediocre or bad mediocre. Instead, the Nats are part of the tire fire that is the National League East — in fact, they’re its most disappointing and underwhelming club.

That’s the gift we’ve been given, whatever our birthday is. After we drop it and it breaks, we should remember that it was kind of a crappy gift anyway.

45 comments to Happy Birthday, Jake!

  • ny1978

    What a shame, Degrom pitched his heart out, Collins blundered by bringing in the lefties and the game was over. Alderson needs to bring some cheap defensive additions to this roster.

  • LA Jake

    At what point will the Mets actually admit Flores isn’t a SS and move him to 3B and figure out another option?

    At what point will they bench Granderson who has started to whiff with the glove as well as the bat?

    At what point will TC and his lousy managing and idiotic excuses be removed from the dugout?

    This year has been a constant struggle between enjoying the fun parts and remembering what organization I root for and feeling miserable.

  • Mark

    Well put. I feel terrible for deGrom and ALL the starting pitchers – the offense is so unreliable, you give up 2 runs, you shrug, oh well, we’ve lost. And it was deGrom’s game to lose and he has shown to have guts & heart & no way should TC have taken him out. The Wilpons won’t fire Sandy & Sandy won’t fire Collins. We loyal stupid fans are like the poor kids – trapped in a loveless household & yet the parents refuse to divorce! That’s one ugly ugly loss.

  • Daniel Hall

    I can more or less totally agree with every single point in today’s article, although I have to read up on what a lunkhead is before I erase the “more or less” part. Why Flores and Tejada aren’t switched into positions they could – … nah, it is … it is beyond the border to which you can, if not accept, at least understand things…

    And this: Baseball! – The only opportunity for a man to openly talk about his groin on daytime TV.

  • eric1978

    TC has once again proven why he’s earned the ‘Totally Clueless’ moniker (please raise your hand if you made that up). I’d rather have a crippled Jake, with chicken pox and a fever, in the game than anyone else. He deserved to stay in there, of course.

    TC strips all the pride away from the starters. He’s so dumb, does he not realize he most likely is going to be let go if he does not win this year, and that he’s preserving his starting pitcher’s arms for the next guy?

    • Wally Backman would be louder. That’s all. He’d bunt a lot and burn out a different cast of relievers.

      Managers are easy targets, but they don’t construct rosters and they don’t play.

      • Mark

        I totally disagree with these people who also respond managers “don’t play” so in effect, they AREN’T responsible. They make a HUGE difference and we as fans are so numb to TC’s mediocrity, we just shrug like battered spouses (“what can we do??”). But managers, GOOD managers make a HUGE difference & I’m tired of some ignoring the facts. There are numerous examples where an underperforming roster gets a new manager to shake things up and they do turn things around. Completely. Jack McKeon with the Marlins in the 90s, Buck Showalter taking over for Juan Samuel, etc. TC has messed up wherever he’s manage – Houston & Anaheim ran him out of town and deservedly so. He loses. And he’s lost every single season here. He so deserves to be fired. And if managers TRULY don’t matter (as some suggest here) then why have them at all?

        • I think managers matter very little. And yes, I actually would love to see some front office dispense with having a field manager in favor of a bench coach with less authority.

          The front office already handles roster construction; most front offices now dictate who plays. In-game managing strikes me mostly as overmanaging, so relay that stuff from the GM’s box to the bench coach.

          What duties does that leave the bench coach with? Instructing young players, policing the clubhouse and saying meaningless shit to bored reporters. OK, done.

  • Dennis

    Yeah, Terry’s so dumb he has them in first place. I never realized there are so many here who actually know what it’s like to manage in MLB. You really think he doesn’t understand his job is on the line if he doesn’t win this year? Tough loss, but those happen. If he left deGrom in and he gave up the hit to Peterson, everyone would have whined that he should have been removed. For what it’s worth, Keith Hernandez said Collins has managed the bullpen great this season.

  • Steve D

    Sandy has done a fantastic job acquiring minor league talent and building up the farm system. We have the core of a great young pitching staff. Unfortunately, due to his owners’ financial misfeasance and his own blunders, he has not brought in any major league veterans to complete a contending team. Frank Cashen brought in Carter and Hernandez…in retrospect he should have a statue at Shea. Sandy brought in Granderson and Cuddyer and has totally botched shortstop. If we had a strong infield defense and a couple of more major league bats, this would be a real contender.

    • Flores is on course for .240 AVG 25 HR 80 RBI, Cuddyer for .264 15 HR 70 RBI. Are those failures? Whom did you want instead?

      • Steve D

        Flores’ defense at SS makes him a failure in my estimation. He is not a major league shortstop…if he got his average up, he might be able to grow into a solid 3B. You have to have solid defense up the middle. Cuddyer is not a failure on the Jason Bay level, but it’s amazing the mediocrity Met fans are now willing to accept…if you want to be a winner, yes it is a failure.

        • Whom did you want instead that the club could afford?

          • Steve D

            1) Who knows what the club can is willing to spend? The whole point of my argument is a NY team should not have a Milwaukee type payroll.

            2) Who knows what players are on the market? I could tell you I like A.J. Pollock on Arizona…is he available? There are 90 starting outfielders in MLB and Cuddyer is in the bottom third for sure, so I could name about 60 better players.

            3) Sign Justin Upton as a free agent…oh I forgot…the New York Freaking Mets can’t bid on a player like that.

  • mikeL

    as i was on the phone with the GF last nite (she gets pretty engaged with games jake starts) i tried to give a good reason for TC taking degrom out of the game.
    i had tepid hopes he’d bring someone in other than alex (can’t find strike zone) torres.
    but really couldn’t – and when it all blew up seconds later it was clear my attempts were misplaces.
    yes i would take degrom on fumes, nauseaous, with high fever over any guy in the pen not named familia.

    great summation of the mets at this point jason.

    it’s a crappy gift.

    here’s hoping we haven’t lost familia for any length of time – or this thing turns into a rotting pumpkin fast.

  • meticated

    Ya shoulda looked after me a little bit…Charlie. ..I coulda been a contenda! …it was my night…he gets da belt…whadda I get ..A one way ticket to Pallokaville. ..it was my night!

  • Michael G.

    How do you take out Jake after a bunt and a squib to shortstop — both of which were misplayed by the infield? And bring in a vastly inferior pitcher? What could go wrong?
    That being said, a 1-0 lead is a flimsy and precarious thing; it doesn’t take much to unravel.

    • This, as the kids say. If the Mets score, say three runs against a guy with pedestrian stuff making his major-league debut, the 8th inning’s just an embarrassing “yeah but” when talking about a win.

  • Dave

    This was one of those games where if it took place when my daughter was little, I would have had to have told her to leave the TV room, because Daddy had to curse like a motherfucker at the TV. The recent little stretch of come from behinds and walk offs and perfect bullpen work showed us that the team has made progress. Games like last night show us that there’s still a ways to go. Aye aye aye. Don’t tell me about how the heat was making deGrom wilt. First of all, he’s from Florida. Second, he plays baseball, which is played in the heat. Seems to me he’s pretty used to heat and was pitching just fine…had just induced a weak ground ball. Third, aside from Familia, there is right now no one in this pen who can be thrown in the deep end of the pool. Taking him out last night was ridiculous. I’m not normally a Fire TC type, but last night that bandwagon looked pretty inviting and had plenty of room on it.

    And it’s high time TC abandon this absurd notion that Curtis Granderson is a leadoff hitter. Even on a team with this little offense, he should be hitting 6th or 7th. And remind me again, what exactly does a hitting coach do, and how can you tell if he’s good at his job? Not to mention that they actually have an assistant hitting coach? So two guys who make zero difference and get paid to do it? They have blackmail photos of someone or something?

  • Old Geezer

    Why do we have our best shortstop playing third, our second baseman playing shortstop, and one of our strike out leaders batting leadoff? Oh yeah, the Mets have done this for years. Let’s put Duda in left, because Todd Hundley worked so well there.(NOT) How about we move Piazza to first. Lets put the guy with no arm in right field. You can’t make this stuff up. If you are supposedly going to win with pitching and defense, get some defense. Last night was a horrible exhibition or you could say a wonderful exhibition of ineptness.

  • sturock

    TC is no genius, but last night’s game is really not on him, deGrom mismanagement or no. It’s on Alderson really. Wilmer Flores has a nice power bat– albeit an atrocious .275 OBP– but he’s not good enough in the field to play SS for a winning team. That’s just the bottom line. (Murphy, when he returns, is not good enough to play 2B either, but that’s another discussion. At least he gets on base.) Sandy seems to be locked into the steroid days when gloves didn’t matter.

    A team built around great starting pitching needs defensive support. Aside from Lagares, there are no elite fielders out there, and Juan’s stats in that department are down this year too. They constantly give up runs and prolong innings.

    The offense is weak. We knew that going in, especially when the injuries began rolling in. But there’s just no excuse for bad fielding and mental errors. Alderson needs to get Collins a good glove or two to support the pitchers.

    • I’d go up a level: Sandy can’t afford answers like the ones everyone wants. It’s the Wilpons who are to answer, but the only one who can make them answer is MLB, and MLB has demonstrated over and over again that it doesn’t care.

    • Steve D

      Well said Stu.

  • Rob E

    I get a kick out of how the same guys (Collins, Flores, the middle relievers) become lightning rods every time they lose a game. The defense has definitely been shaky at times (and played a big role in costing the game last night), but it’s getting overcriticized now. Case in point, during the Blue Jays series at Citi, the announcers kept harping on every double play that WASN’T turned, even ones that weren’t routine. No mention about the Colon game against Atlanta when they turned DPs in three consecutive innings to preserve the win, or the many GOOD plays that Flores and Herrera have made (like the diving stop and glove toss). Whoever is at third is out of position, and your middle infield is a work in progress (their COMBINED age is 44). There are going to more be games like this until they get it together. And Gilmartin has been fine, too. The debate on whether he should have pulled deGrom after 97 itches is an old one at this point, and goes across all of baseball. It’s a fair debate, but it’s not a Terry Collins creation.

    I still think these are minor problems in the long term, but if you want to worry about the short term, these long periods of dismal offense and inexplicable futility on the road are what you should be worried about. I think the road game think is a statistical glitch, and the offense is a two-pronged thing: your lineup is a combination of young hitters still learning bat skills (Flores, Lagares), and older hitters who are underperforming (Cuddyer and Granderson). On top of that, your best hitter, Duda, is maddeningly streaky, and you are missing Wright. And losing Familia for any length of time now would be a killer.

    I totally understand how fans get upset at games like last night. But the guys that you all blame here NEVER get credit when they win! Which they have done more often than they have lost. WHY do you do that?!?!? And they are in first place. Yeah, the Nationals have sucked, and that probably won’t last all season. But the Mets have played pretty respectably and resiliently through 69 games while dealing with a lot of adversity. That MEANS something.

    • sturock

      No doubt, and we’re all just venting over an especially frustrating loss. But this team *doesn’t* hit with an regularity, so they have to make the plays in the field. For them to win, Flores just can’t make any mental mistakes out there– period. There is no room for error. We’re not expecting him to be Andrelton Simmons. Just make the plays he’s supposed to make, which he didn’t make at a crucial time last night.

      As for your final point, I agree thoroughly. I’d much rather be frustrated over a good team that could be better than a mediocre team that could be a little less mediocre. The great start combined with the Nationals’ floundering has given the Mets an opportunity no one really expected. So when the team loses games it should win it’s especially hard to swallow.

      • Rob E

        Point taken, but you can’t blame the defense when you are losing games 3-2 or 2-1. You can blame them last night, because you’re in the eighth inning, and the game is there for the taking, and I agree, you can’t make mistakes like that. But the REAL problem last night, and for almost all of the valleys this season, has been the offense. You need to score runs so that the pitchers (including Niese and the relievers) aren’t throwing every single pitch as if it might cost them the game. The same goes for the defense. If you’re making three errors a game or your bullpen is melting down repeatedly, that’s another story. These Mets have done neither of those things.

        The Mets problem is not that they need to PREVENT more runs, it’s that they need to SCORE more runs. Blame the offense.

    • Dennis

      Great point Rob…..Terry gets no credit for the wins, but is responsible for the losses. Unbelievable!

  • LA Jake

    eric1978, I’m raising my hand. I coined BIC (Baseball Intellectually Challenged) Willie for Randolph, JTJ (Jerry The Jenius) for Manuel and Totally Clueless for Collins.

    I agree that management has hamstrung Clueless. But to say he’s the reason they are in first is laughable, and to discount the number of games a poor manager like him costs a team is naive.

    And for those who say fans can’t question the manager, why? I worked in sports for 15-20 years including as an announcer for minor league baseball teams where I worked closely with the team and manager day in and day out. I can assure you, most are not brain surgeons and don’t analyze situations the way we do. While sometimes there are special circumstances we don’t know about that affect who can pitch or play, most of the time it’s just a regular situation.

    And for those who say Wally Backman wouldn’t be better, just louder, having worked with him with the Bend Bandits in Oregon, I can say that is flat wrong. While he may bunt too often for my taste, he knows how to handle pitchers and is an exceptional motivator. He has a track record of winning and improving players, who praise him for his help getting them to the majors. Lots of teams have great talent but do nothing with it. Wally has made great talent winners and also taken teams where all the talent is being moved up and still won.

    • When Wally arrives — as I expect he will next year — I’ll be glad to see him of course. That said, a lot of what you say about him is said about Terry as well: good teacher of young players, excellent motivator, remembered and thanked.

      The new thing there for me is Wally’s reputation for handling pitchers. Would love to hear more about that — what’s your scouting report on him there?

    • Rob E

      LA Jake…
      1) What exactly has Terry Collins done to cost us all these games?
      2) Are you saying that Terry Collins hasn’t contributed AT ALL to what they’ve done?

      Because if a manager has enough influence to affect games they lose, he also has enough influence to affect games they win. I won’t call them a “first place team” because that doesn’t seem to mean anything here, but they INARGUABLY are a 36-33 team that has withstood a SLEW of injuries. So:

      3) How much better would another manager be doing with this same group and all the injuries they’ve had?

  • Penacious H (Shea Mezz 21)

    Agreed and despite our dangerous propensity to revert to cynicism, the Mets have been lucky to a large degree with more than our (their) share of timely hits, and with playing teams during their cold spots… but there is no more hiding, I fear, from the Orange and Blue’s current limitations: weakening bullpen, weak up the middle D, and when it evens out luck-wise, poor timely hitting.

    Assuming Murph stays healthy awhile when he comes back, his presence may make Cuddyer better; Torres and d’arnaud should not have to be anywhere near the clean up spot… and if David comes back for real, the runs earned would go up.

    BUT the team’s lack of interest or $ to get a bat and make the tough choices in the IF, and shore up the bullpen (I know about the others, but is Buddy Carlyle EVER coming back???). They need to package Montero and some others for a bat and as someone else posted, get some IF defense help… We will look back on this year as a wasted chance due to the Nats’ problems, and that’ll be a shame.

    And it comes back, to me, to us fans backing away and finding a way, with not spending or something else, to let the owners know that we are happy to this point, but failure to push to excel is not acceptable–in memory of Nelson Doubleday!

    HM

  • Steve2916

    Quoting Adam Rubin’s excellent piece..
    Link for those who missed it:
    http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/mets/post/_/id/105305/breaking-down-the-mets-eighth-inning-meltdown

    “Collins said he would have left deGrom in had Flores made the preceding play at first base for the second out.”
    I don’t get it. If you are willing to leave deGrom in at 97 pitches with two outs, why not with one out, when you need a shutdown pitcher even more. Which leads me to…

    “If he’d have got Ciriaco out, he would have stayed in to face the next guy. One out, I was looking for a strikeout.”

    …if TC wanted a strikeout, deGrom is the better bet. He’s striking out a batter-per-inning (92.1 IP, 93 Ks).
    Gilmartin’s ratio is lower: (22.1 IP only 17 Ks). Makes absolutely no sense to me. Anyone agree?

    • Rob E

      You can make a case for leaving deGrom at 97 pitches, but Peterson (who has become quite the pain in the ass) did draw a walk and single against deGrom, and is a lefty hitter. So I can see why Collins would want the lefty matchup there.

      As for leaving him in if Flores made the play, at that point it would have taken a HR to lose the lead, and I guess Collins was confident that at least deGrom wouldn’t give up a bomb. But with first and third and one out, any contact ties the game (and deGrom only had 3 ks last night), and a single ties it and probably puts the winning run on third.

      Didn’t work out, but that is a defendable move, IMO.

  • Lenny65

    Everyone is tired of Uncle Terry’s constant insistence on using every relief pitcher every day. OK, maybe that’s a stretch but it sure seems that way, doesn’t it? Sure, our skinflint ownership isn’t on him, but I just don’t remember another Mets manager who’s been given this much leeway before the “must go” chants begin. Would it really make a difference? Probably not, but nonetheless.

  • LA Jake

    Jason,

    How does Totally Clueless have the reputation of improving players when they keep making the same mental mistakes in the field, on the bases and they can’t bunt and don’t understand situational hitting, fielding and running?

    Wally didn’t coddle pitchers but he didn’t blow them out either. He generally spreads around the workload.

    Rob E,

    1) If you really want me to dissect all the times I have disagreed with Totally Clueless’ choice of lineup/batting order or when/who to pinch hit or when/who to bring out of the pen, we will be here quite a while. Last night’s deGrom decision made no sense and likely cost the team the game at that juncture. And since he already knows what the offensive situation is, he can’t mangle these moments.

    2) He deserves some credit for the team not being an abysmal disaster? Um, sure. Not much of a bar for a manager with the starting staff he has and the awful teams in the NL East.

    3) I believe this team should be 4-5 games better in standings… so instead of 36-33 I think 40-29. It sounds crazy but it shouldn’t. A sound fundamental team doesn’t give games away and the Mets have done that 5-10 times this year.

  • eric1973

    Sorry about my typo, LA Jake, it’s actually eric1973…. My bad on that.

    How can anyone give any credence to what Keith Hernandez says about managing a bullpen? Hernandez was a player his whole life who paid no attention to managing a game. He was only concerned with what he needed to do at first base, as all players are. We the fans have been doing this our entire lives.

    BTW, kudos to TC for allowing Familia to get those 5 out saves. Challenge these Prima Donnas. They can handle it. How’s Strasburg’s arm doing since they held him out of the playoffs and messed up a possible World Series run. Didn’t help, Sir.

    • Dennis

      Are you really serious in saying that all Keith paid attention to was 1st base? Have you ever read any of his books or listen to him do games?

  • LA Jake

    Jason, one way or another, when people get on base, a decision is made on whether or not to bunt or hit away, whether or not to change pitchers, how to align the defense, etc. Are you suggesting everybody just swings away, fielders play wherever they want, pitchers decide when they want to leave the game, other pitchers decide who will go in the game to replace the one who decided to come out, etc?

  • eric1973

    Truly radical and outside-the-box thinking from Jason, to the point of being from another planet.

    Is Sidd Finch starting today?

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