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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.

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The Medium Hurt

For the first time in seven years, I’m finding myself more than moderately bothered by the result of a Mets game lost on this late a date on the calendar…an indicator of progress for the franchise, if not for myself.

We must be stepping up in class. Get to July 22 of previous seasons — or the 95th game — and there was little on the Met line except for whatever we chose to read into it. Here, in the present, we were presented a legitimate showdown series, pitting our team in second place against Washington’s in first place. Only a sweep at the hands of the Nationals would have been semi-fatal (nothing’s necessarily a killer when there are 67 games to go). A sweep by the Mets would have been cause for euphoria. Splitting the first two games is what we got. It made the final game this Wednesday relatively enormous. A win would have left us a single game from the top of the division.

The loss that materialized leaves us three out. It feels like more, but it’s not. A team capable of being this close this late should be able to edge in a little closer a little later, maybe even when Washington comes to Flushing for a three-game series the night of July 31, by which time we’ll know just how serious the Mets take themselves.

That’s when the trading deadline will be over, but that will be another story, told by next week. For tonight, three games out when it could have been one is the story. It gnaws and nags at the fan who very much wants to believe (let alone Believe) proximity to first place isn’t a temporary condition.

Noah Syndergaard toughed out five innings of not being great yet yielding only one run. Jordan Zimmermann was better longer, but gave up more runs, three. Yes, the Mets led the mighty yet mightily vulnerable Nats and one of their impressive arms by two entire tallies. The Mets put runners on base in the fourth and scored them. The fourth has been their lucky inning since April. With Kirk Nieuwenhuis driving in two and Kevin Plawecki driving in Kirk, it appeared charmed today.

When the Mets lead the Nationals, 3-1, and continue to lead the Nationals, 3-1, it seems so real. It seems like whatever we’ve got is all we need. Why call up prospective phenoms? Why list as disabled the halting and the lame? Why make or take phone calls from other teams looking to upset our perfectly formed apple cart? The Mets won one night and they’re winning the next afternoon. Don’t disturb this group and don’t disturb this groove!

Still, I kept hoping a little more offense would unfold. The longer this game was being won, the more it absolutely had to be won. That was my thought, anyway. I hadn’t thought this much about the absolute need to win a game since 2008. It was a nice thing to think about.

Zimmermann surrendered nothing else and Syndergaard relayed the lead to Hansel Robles, who took it through the sixth. Robles passed it along to Jenrry Mejia, who cleared the seventh. In the eighth, Bobby Parnell came out of the blocks.

And boy did he stumble.

Mejia to Parnell to Jeurys Familia reminds me of Richard Nixon (Dan Aykroyd) plotting his political rehabilitation in cahoots with his secret advisor (Walter Matthau) in 1979 on SNL. The conceit was former president Gerald Ford — who had been Nixon’s veep — was going to run for the Republican nomination in 1980 and would thus block Nixon’s return. Matthau as the mastermind came up with a brainstorm: we’ll just get Jerry to serve under Dick again. The slogan: “The President and the President for President and Vice President”.

This is to say we have the closer from 2014 and the closer from 2013 and the closer from 2015 working not three ninth innings, but operating as bridge, setup man and closer. It’s all semantics if it works. It’s a disaster if it doesn’t. Wednesday it was a disaster, as Parnell had less of his best stuff than Syndergaard had had of his, along with four fewer innings to straighten out his act. In March, you might recall, veteran Bobby was part of the two-man enforcement crew that tried to teach rookie Noah a lesson about Spring Training comportment. Noah was in the clubhouse during an intrasquad game grabbing a quick bite. David Wright — the captain of the Mets, in case you’ve forgotten — and Parnell teamed to take away his lunch.

Today, Bobby did it again. He swatted the win straight off of Noah’s tray. It was as if he was saying, you don’t pitch your heart out and expect to be rewarded for it on this team, rook, ya just don’t.

I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but Bobby gave away the lead. I’m sure Terry Collins didn’t mean to allow Bobby’s miserable three-run eighth to get that far out of hand, but he did. Would have Familia been a better bet? Anybody would have been, but Terry managed an important midseason game like Matt Williams managed a crucial October game: according to robotic formula, not in response to what was going on in front of him. The difference in 2014 was Williams — who I think I like even less than Fredi Gonzalez, as N.L. East gym teachers go — at least had his team in October.

That’s not going to happen for Terry unless almost everything that can go well does go well. It didn’t go well on July 22. Later, once Parnell got done delivering his worst outing since returning from Tommy John and Nieuwenhuis took borderline strike three and Plawecki failed to check a swing on ball four, the manager took (in contrast to David Frye’s version of Nixon) both the responsibility and the blame for all that went awry. It was his call to ride Parnell into the ground, so yeah, sure, fall on that sword, toss yourself on that that grenade, own that unfortunate decision, but I honestly felt bad for Terry at that moment.

This man, 66 years old; never winning anything anywhere in a big league managerial career that dates back more than two tumultuous decades; pushing and pushing and pushing this boulder of a team uphill for five years; gets them within six outs of one of game from first place; ready to take two of three from their de facto blood rival….and here comes the boulder rolling briskly downhill, flattening him, flattening his team, flattening the bejeesus out of whatever hopes, dreams and good mood we’d gathered together on the heels of making up crucial ground on July 21.

Parnell threw. Nieuwenhuis took. Plawecki swung. The Mets lost. But Collins had to make like it was all his fault.

The afternoon was edging toward something special, one of those day games you get to caress through the evening, go to sleep with smiling and wake up thinking about giddy that another game will follow tonight. There’s no big win quite like a big matinee win against the team you need to beat. It’s straight out of 1969, for Gil’s sake. Personally, I was dying to trot out the Durocherisms. Hey, Matt, were those the real Nationals we saw out there today? Williams would have given us his big, blank stare and tell us he approached today like every day, every day is equally important, we can’t get too up or too down, now choose sides for dodgeball. Collins, had the Mets won, might have shown a few teeth and emitted a little less melancholy.

Of course we’ll all get over it if we so choose. Baseball is made of far too much resilience to leave us flat. Thursday Terry will don a baseball cap, which is the only thing he looks right in. He’ll seem tortured but speak in platitudes tomorrow afternoon before skedaddling spiritedly to the home dugout to watch his players stretch. They’re stretching all right. Their feet are hammered into the ground yet the stars twinkle almost within their grasp. Almost. Somebody in the counting house needs to spring for a stepladder. We’ll see if somebody does. We, the fans, will repeatedly bounce back, unless we’re determined to show how immune we are to the charms of a decided underdog that is slated to throw itself to lions named Kershaw and Greinke.

We’re as more-than-moderately bothered as can be. But we lead with our heart, our chin and as little of our brain as we can spare. No, we don’t seek devastation, but to be in a position to be disappointed is far better than where we usually are on the eve of July 23, wholly unbothered because the Mets have already mostly gone away for the rest of the summer. I’m pretty sure the Mets, somewhere between 2009 and 2014 pioneered the concept of well-heeled New Yorkers basically taking August off.

But this year they’re still here, damn it. And so are we.

38 comments to The Medium Hurt

  • Eric

    Painful loss. Syndergaard did well to only give up 1 run despite not having his usual command. Robles wobbled again, but held on in the 6th. Mejia was solid in the 7th. Parnell spit the bit in the 8th.

    On one hand, I don’t fault Collins for giving Parnell the opportunity to clean up his mess. If Parnell is to be the 8th inning set-up man, like Familia was before Mejia’s injury and suspension, then he has responsibility to escape tough jams and close when Familia is on the shelf.

    On the other hand, Parnell is coming back from TJ surgery, and we’ve seen how erratic Harvey has been in his TJ recovery. Like Harvey setting aside his ace mantle for now, perhaps it’s not a good idea to trust Parnell with too much as the 8th inning set-up man until next season. Post-TJ unpredictability and thin margin of error in late inning situations with a poor scoring team are not an ideal mix. Before today, it looked like maybe Parnell was the exception with his TJ recovery, but maybe not.

    On the third hand, when Taylor tied up the game, and then got himself into scoring position with plenty enough speed to score on a single, that was enough trust for the ex-closer for one day and probably the sign to bring in Familia.

    This team has been resilient. Kershaw and Greinke next. That’s hard. But the Nationals have a hard opponent, too, with the Pirates next. It’s conceiveable that the Mets will have sliced off a game or two from the Nationals’ lead by Monday.

  • Lenny65

    The 2015 Mets are one of the weirdest Mets squads ever. I know they’re somewhat like the early 70s teams in some ways but no Mets team in recent memory has been this maddening. And it’s not like it’s some big mystery or enigma or anything either. We all know why it’s so frustrating and annoying, there’s no need to spell out the stats and metrics and specifics here. They’re this close to contending for a playoff (!) spot and they’re always finding ways to screw it up, mainly because they couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. If batting average = body weight half the roster would be anorexic.

    But it’s true: they’re just a few games out as July winds down and we don’t get to see that a real lot (and in Citi Field never). Weird. It’s like I’m waiting for them to win me over again, like it was during the (sigh) winning streak. I want to believe, but then Mayberry Jr. bats and, well…I just can’t quite yet. But I really want to.

  • BornAMet

    When Duda failed to deliver, again (not sure how many agains that is at this point), with Lagares on 3rd base, I thought to myself, I think it’s time he gets sent down to Triple A to work on hitting the curve. It’s literally like watching Pedro Cerano, with all that power, flailing helplessly at the off-speed stuff cause ‘Jobu no help with the curve ball.’ Everything from that point was living on borrowed time. Because you can’t realistically expect to be a contender if the heart of your batting order can’t be bothered to deliver you more than 3 runs per game. So when Parnell walked Ian Desmond, I thought to myself, I really wouldn’t mind picking him up as our shortstop next year. And when Parnell gave up a hit to our old outfielder Den Dekker who pretty much single-handedly beat us today with all his walks, I thought to myself, maybe it’s time to lift Parnell. But I understand the decision to leave him in, and aside from that brutal ball in the dirt against Taylor, we could’ve escaped that jam. But when the dust cleared, and the scoreboard read 4-3, I felt, this is fitting of the 2015 Mets. We are oh so close, but not yet ready to contend. Because if our pitching staff is not Perfect, we haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell of advancing anywhere. But next year, I could imagine the scoreboard reading 4-3 in favor of the Mets with a little help from the offense…

  • eric1973

    Look, Parnell has been lights out, and it would have been almost fine with me if TC left him in, and then he blew it — IF Familia was glued to the bench!

    The BIG problem here is TC’s squishiness and indeciveness. The reason Familia was not brought in for the four out save, is that TC needlessly used him the night before, in a 7-2 game, with a DAY GAME looming the next day —– and therefore he only really wanted to use him for the 3 out save, and no more!

    That is why this is an unforgiveavble managing error, and TC KNEW IT!!!

    • 9th string catcher

      I think Eric may be right here. I understand that game 2 was a must win, and thus bringing in Familia makes sense on some level, but it did leave the Mets exposed yesterday. I really don’t agree with the Totally Clueless assertion that Terry gets – I think he plays to win and stands behind his guys, but the Familia move seems like desperation. I also think a call to the mound to slow things down was in order. Parnell was panicking and needed a breath there. Two outs and man on 1st devolved quickly. I think he’s made the best of the patchwork bullpen and bench that any manager could – I certainly wouldn’t prefer Fredi or Matt or anyone Miami ever comes up with.

      • otb

        Yes, bringing Familia in the night before with a five run lead seemed wasteful to me. But, as has been pointed out several times lately, even Familia has not been bullet proof lately. Besides the blown save in the 18 inning game in St. Louis, his successful saves have been much more stressful than they were earlier in the season. So whether a well rested Familia would have been able to secure the win yesterday is questionable, even if Parnell had made it through the 8th unscathed. Also, Familia threw a lot of pitches in nailing down the win the night before. But yes, he is the closer, and Collins didn’t need to use him the night before, at least not as long as whoever he might have used didn’t let things get out of hand. But what’s done is done. On to Kershaw and Greinke et al. LGM!

    • Eric

      Parnell had good stuff yesterday: velocity on the fastball, break on the curve. He just had trouble controlling his pitches, which reminded me of fellow TJ recoverer Harvey’s erratic control this season.

      I think Collins was willing to use Familia in the 8th. Familia was warming up. But Collins delayed the hook because he wanted to trust Parnell, his veteran ex-closer and 8th inning set-up man with the 0.7-something ERA, to escape the jam with 1 more out to go.

      In hindsight, Moore’s hard liner for the 2nd out was probably the time to switch out Parnell. If not, then the wild pitch. If not, then Taylor’s hit to tie the game. That should have been the hook, but Syndergaard and Robles had escaped jams earlier, and Collins kept hoping Parnell would pull it out, too.

      Next time Parnell struggles, I doubt Collins delays the hook.

  • LA Jake

    And so we arrive at the game where Totally Clueless’ shortcomings show up in glaring fashion and crush our souls. Yes, the team needs more hitters. Yes, Parnell needs to make better pitches. But YES, these moments are when a manager earns his money. Not surprisingly, TC not only didn’t have his closer ready, but then failed to kill time to ensure his closer would be ready. TOTALLY CLUELESS!

    • Steve D

      Well, Gil Hodges he ain’t.

    • Dorff

      This is not to sound ageist, but it’s apparent that a day game after a night game (especially on a getaway day) has an impairing effect on a 66 year-old manager. And tonight’s matchup of Colon vs. Kershaw could have been seen as playing with house money. Was their any expectation whatsoever that Familia would be needed in such a game?

  • Daniel Hall

    To be honest, I thought Noah looked horrible yesterday. When he walked the bags full early on with Zimmermann coming to bat with two out in the inning, I fully expected the game to get out of hand right there. Then later Robles came in, and Robles looks horrible even on a good day.

    Right then an approaching thunderstorm temporarily knocked out my internet/phone/cable (basically everything but the will to live), but when I got back online a few hours later and saw –

    NYM 3
    WSH 4

    … I knew I hadn’t missed anything I’d have been dying to witness anyway…

  • Lou from Brazil

    To be honest, it’s hard for me to put the loss on Collins or Parnell. Terry has handled the bullpen reasonably well this year, since they’ve had to come in and hold the thinnest of margins the overwhelming majority of times and managed to succeed. Terry stands up for his guys, never throws them under the bus in the media, and voices the right amount of frustration when big losses like this happen. It must be a challenge to be positive or even calm considering he doesn’t have a major league bench or a complete lineup and that many of his most important players have been missing in action for most of the year. The M.I.A. list unfortunately includes guys who actually ‘participated’ on the field yesterday.

    It was a tough loss, but I’ve acknowledged and moved on. Let’s hope the front office isn’t blowing smoke and we’ll see a new Met or two before August.

  • Michael G.

    Watching this team is like watching a movie where you think the hero is doomed but he keeps surviving. Not sure how much longer that script can continue unless some reinforcements are introduced.

  • Dennis

    Tough loss and Collins admitted he screwed up. So you dust yourself off and move on. Hate to break it to the experts out there, but Terry isn’t the first manager to make a mistake during a game.

  • Steve D

    Although I said I would not be paying for any MLB games this summer, I have been invited to go tonight as a gift and I have accepted. Sadly, none of our great young pitchers will be starting and I have to say I am most interested in seeing how many hits they can drip out against Kerhshaw. That in itself is some kind of indictment of this franchise. It would be easy for them to roll over for him…let’s see what they are made of.

  • dmg

    to me this was far more than medium hurt; this was the worst loss of the season so far. (“so far” presumes the mets will break our hearts much more completely when it matters most.)

    it also reminds me of a game i attended 5 years ago at nationals park, when dickey outpitched strasburg but k-rod gave up 3 in the ninth and the nats won 6-5. jerry manuel was in charge then — so i guess the lesson is the mets can blow these games regardless of who’s managing. surprisingly, that doesn’t ease the pain.

  • Eric

    This may have been a factor in Collins leaving in Parnell to finish the bottom of the 8th inning once the game was tied by Taylor: The pitcher’s spot, 8th in the order, was 4th up in the top of the 9th inning.

    Given the Mets’ station-to-station way of scoring runs, if they get 1 man on in the top of the 9th, there’s a good chance that means pinch-hitting for your closer in trade for 1 out with the game tied in the 8th (critical out, though) – leaving it up to the underbelly of the bullpen to take on the heart of the Nationals line-up with the game tied or ahead in the bottom of the 9th.

    Of course, that’s the dilemma with the game tied. If Familia comes in for the 4-out save and keeps the 2-run lead intact in the bottom of the 8th, he can bat for himself in the top of the 9th if it comes to that and rest the bat on his shoulder if he wants.

  • Les

    I was at work and ‘watching’ the game on Gamecast. As the bottom of the 8th dragged on, I kept thinking the slowness of the system surely meant Collins was about to bring in Familia. It was clear to me–through a computer–that Parnell didn’t have it.

    And like it or not, these games, in July, are HUGE for a team that’s been so bad for so long. You need your manager’s head in the game, with the ability to recognize the significance of the bigger picture on occasion. The fact is Collins is and has been a robotic manager. He is who he is, which is kind of why he was brought in to manage this team. Except this is NOT the same team any longer.

    I don’t dislike Collins, but the fact is he’s not a great game manager; he was brought in more or less as a placeholder and good clubhouse guy. But the Mets are at a point in their development where the manager who runs a good clubhouse and keeps everyone’s spirits up is NOT what they need. They need someone who’s going to help them because he understands not just about the next level, but how to get there. TC is simply not it.

    • sturock

      Finally some sense about TC. Isn’t this the last year of his deal? I think he is gone after this season no matter what happens. As has been said numerous times, this team needs an offense. Terry Collins doesn’t assemble the roster, so our fingers need to be pointed at the man who does. What is Sandy Alderson doing to make this team better at a time when it really needs him? Isn’t there a way to incrementally improve the lineup in left field? At 1B and RF against lefty pitching? Maybe at 1B altogether? On the bench? There’s got to be someone out there who’s not going to cost us some of our core of young pitching. I though this management team was so smart and sabermetric and stuff. Where are the out-of-the-box solutions?

  • LA Jake

    I’m not sure what is more predictable…the Mets blowing a huge game in heartbreaking fashion, me calling out TC or the people rushing to his defense.

  • eric1973

    Sounds like a tie, LA Jake.

    So we all understand how it goes, whenever Familia gets a save, TC’s defenders here give TC all the credit, like he actually made some brilliant decision. You know what, maybe it is brilliant to them.

  • LA Jake

    Sounds right eric1973. By the way, I will give credit to TC for having Campbell hit for deGrom on Tuesday. He felt a position player would have better chance than converted position player to get hit and Campbell delivered.

    But imo the instances where he gets it right are few and far between. And what made me so annoyed about yesterday’s decision wasn’t that he left Parnell in (which I was ok with thru Taylor’s hit…Parnell has been really good and had two outs and was ahead of Taylor until he melted on the 2-2 and 3-2 pitches) but that he didn’t have Familia ready or at least trying to get ready and then didn’t take the appropriate steps to get him ready when he admitted he wanted to and should have been able to bring him in.

    How can you be a ML manager and make that kind of mistake in your “biggest game of the year so far”? If Familia fails, that’s on Familia but he’s your horse. I can’t and won’t fault him for bringing in his best pitcher at the biggest moments of the game. But not having the option because you failed to think about it? TOTALLY CLUELESS!

    • Dennis

      While Terry did screw up big time, I’m sure if you went through this season, or any for that matter, you can find instances where some of the best managers made similar errors in judgement to lose big games. Totally Clueless? Kind of childish. He can’t be that clueless if he has one of only 30 jobs managing in MLB. We get it LA Jake….you think he’s the worst manager in the history of baseball and if not for him the Mets would have a 15 game lead in the division by now. If he’s as bad as you say, and I’m sure with your experience of managing baseball at it’s highest level, you should lobby Sandy for his job and no mistakes would ever be made in the dugout.

  • eric1973

    TC used him in a 7-2 night game, and that is why he did not want to use him in the 8th inning of next day’s day game. Simple as that, and pretty dumb to use him in the 7-2 game.

    TC Defenders:
    Did TC admit to THAT??

  • eric1973

    That’s just it. We need a manager who doesn’t screw up ‘like everybody else.’ This team has severe shortcomings, so EVERYONE needs to contribute more than their talent. The best thing about him, and I have given him credit previously, was the 4 or 5 out save.

    BTW, TC never admitted he screwed up by pitching Familia in the 7-2 nite game before a day game. That is what we need to hear. Any other admission is shrouded garbage.

  • LA Jake

    Nope, Dennis, there are unfortunately of bad managers like TC. But to stick with just him…he loves the sac bunt. Yet tonight, down 1-0 and finally with a baserunner after 6 perfect innings by Kershaw, he DOESN’T have Tejada sac bunt him over. Who knows if Flores delivers the single the same way, but why wouldn’t he move Granderson into scoring position considering the likelihood of the Mets getting 2 more hits in the inning was slim. He went away from his preferred strategy AT THE BEST TIME TO EMPLOY THE STRATEGY.

  • eric1973

    If Jerry Blevins was going to be out this long, they might as well have just gone ahead and threw in a TJ surgery while they were at it.

  • LA Jake

    Bottom 8th, Duda singles to lead off the inning. Perfect time for a pinch runner. Nope, TC leaves him in and ge gets picked off. Sure, pickoff is on Duda, but why is he out on the basepaths in that situation when you need a single run to tie?

  • LA Jake

    Top of the 9th still a one run game. Closer didn’t pitch yesterday because Manager is a fool. Bring him in and keep the game as close as possible? Nope because it’s not a save situation so let’s bring in somebody else to bury it completely. Mission accomplished

    • Eric

      Weak explanation by Collins for why Colon was removed with only 88 pitches and still pitching well. He didn’t mention that Colon was tiring, only that lefties were coming up.

  • eric1973

    LA Jake, you ought to know better. If the Mets had a 10 run lead in the 9th, he would have been in there!

  • Left Coast Jerry

    The Mets are currently 49-47. The optimists who post here will say that projects to an 83 win season, better than the 79 they won last year, so why complain. Of course, these Mets are not the same team that started the season 14-3. They’ve been 35-44 since then. If they continue at that pace, they will win 29 of the remaining 66 games, and end up with 78 wins.

    Since Time Warner Cable doesn’t have a deal with DirecTV on showing Dodger games in Southern California, I listened to the WOR broadcast on MLB.tv. I actually heard Howie Rose segue into a promotion for COBA by saying that Eric Campbell is in the lineup providing protection for John Mayberry Jr. I wonder if Howie barfed after having to say that on the air? I know it turned my stomach just hearing it.

    • Eric

      In tonight’s starting line-up, 3 position players (ie, not including Colon) with BA under .200 and 5 with OBP under .300 with the 4 and 5 hitters under both.

      Neat experiment: what happens when the weakest line-up in baseball faces the best pitcher in baseball at the top of his game.

      • Steve D

        As I said earlier, I was at the game. You may not believe this story, because it is basically everything I have said, but it is totally true.

        I was eating my helmet sundae in the 8th inning and was tapped on the shoulder. An older gentlemen with his grandkids pointed to the Met batting averages on the scoreboard and asked me if that was the regular Met lineup…he said he was from Milwaukee and took his grandkids to the Yankee game earlier and to the Met game and never saw such a lineup this bad. I pointed out that his team had a higher payroll than us and for the most part this was our regular lineup and other regulars were not much better. He was incredulous and started offering players for trades. True story!

  • cleon jones

    What a joke in last nights lineup: john mayberry batting cleanup!!!! What a joke!! Come on Sandy DO SOMETHING!!!!!!!!!