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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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Noah Way (Way)

Noah Syndergaard had a perfect game going. I wasn’t particularly nervous about it. I figured he was going to get it. When the perfect game was broken up by Will Venable’s leadoff single in the seventh inning, I wasn’t particularly upset about it. I figured he’d just keep going for the win and maybe pitch a no-hitter or better somewhere down the road.

That’s when you know you have pitching.

June 1, 2012, pretty much took care of the churning stomach acid where zeroes under the scoreboard’s ‘H’ are concerned, though you’re never going to turn down another one, let alone a perfect one. It would have been sweet to add July 28, 2015, to the pantheon of Met dates, but residing in that golden zone where an outing like Syndergaard’s against the Padres feels more like the norm than the aberration is reward enough. So the rookie (hard to believe, given his poise) goes eight, gives up three hits, strikes out nine, walks nobody and the Mets win, 4-0. That, as Tom Seaver advised Nancy long ago on the heels of a similarly imperfect shutout, is hardly reason to shed a tear.

Lucas Duda ensured there’d be enough runs when he launched, blasted and rocketed — the more verbs the better — a baseball deep into the Big Apple or Apple Reserved or Apple Orchard section, whatever it’s called these days, to stake Noah to an early 2-0 lead. Curtis Granderson removed any ancillary offensive worries with a two-run shot of his own late. Tyler Clippard made us think of him as a helpful Met pushing us along rather than an old nemesis waiting to explode in our faces by keeping the ninth as tidy as it needed to be. James Shields was by no means bad, but Syndergaard was out of this world.

End of story, except for what occurred right before it began, which was the second suspension of Jenrry Mejia after Mejia tested positive yet again for banned substances. These were PEDs, though it reminded me of the night 21 years ago when Dwight Gooden was found to be back on cocaine. The reaction in 1994 versus 1987 for Doc was striking. The first time it had been mostly he’d make a mistake, he’d get his head on straight, he’d come back and we’d welcome him to the mound to pitch for us. The second time it was WTF, goodbye. Although it appeared he’d been keeping his nose clean during the intervening seven years, the second suspension, which ended his Met tenure, seemed inevitable in retrospect. Also in retrospect, it seemed inevitable it would be mostly forgotten in the long run because Doc was Doc — the Thor of his time — and we wanted to embrace him more than shun him.

Mejia isn’t an outsize character in Mets history as Gooden remains, so there isn’t quite the emotional tug here. He made what is generally agreed to have been a dopey error in judgment by taking PEDs (and then getting caught) the first time, but everybody makes mistakes, and once the season got rolling and bullpen depth became an issue, it was sure going to be nice to get Jenrry going again. As recently as Sunday it was very nice.

Then came Tuesday and the announcement that he’d be ineligible for the next 162 games after having been found to have ingested in some form the anabolic steroids Stanozolol and Boldenone. MLB had already gotten him on the former, so the league was testing him a little extra, meaning the chances of Mejia getting caught seemed pretty good.

For the most part we process addiction to a drug like cocaine as a disease and if we are patient and forgiving and haven’t been directly wronged by someone under its pull, we encourage the addict to seek treatment and perhaps salvation. On paper it all looks pretty easy. We look at what we know about PEDs — they can enhance an athlete’s performance and thus enrich his lifestyle but have deleterious side effects that have led to their prohibition within the game — and slap our heads that somebody would keep taking them when the profession they have chosen explicitly forbids it. I can almost hear Norm MacDonald deliver the news: “Mejia was suspended for taking PEDs after the pitcher was told by Major League Baseball to do one thing: ‘Don’t take PEDs.’”

So the sympathy level is understandably low from all concerned, though maybe a little empathy is in order. We all do dumb things. We occasionally do them twice, though probably not so soon after we do them once and were caught for them and were issued a warning that we’d be watched very closely to make sure we didn’t do them again.

I liked watching Jenrry pitch. I liked that his jams were never too tight and he usually wriggled out of them with a flourish. I liked that a kid who grew up shining shoes in Santo Domingo could grow up to polish off the final outs of baseball games in New York City. I liked watching him play Santa for the kids at the Mets holiday party last December. I liked thinking he’d “learned his lesson” and was back to contribute to the Mets’ chase of the Nationals, which finds them only one game out of first at the moment. Jenrry wouldn’t be eligible for a potential postseason appearance, but he could give us a hand in getting there and he’d prove essential to the team he’d been pitching for through injuries and multiple role changes since 2010.

You never can tell, but we probably won’t see him pitch for the Mets again. Nevertheless, I’d like him to simply stop doing that dumb thing that got him suspended a second time, even if “simply” stopping probably isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. It won’t matter in the course of our team’s fortunes. This is just human empathy speaking.

33 comments to Noah Way (Way)

  • While I had a different take on Mejia, I do appreciate your more measured response to his suspension vis-a-vis his background.

  • cleon jones

    Mejia is a dumb azz. Only one game out. Were in a pennant race ladies and gents! Lets go mets!!!

  • Dave

    And what does it say about MLB that after Thanksgiving Parade balloon-sized players hit 70+ HR’s a season at ages when even the most athletic superstars are shells of their former selves, and did so with complete impunity, that the first guy to get a full season suspension as the result of a positive test is a somewhat scrawny setup reliever?

    • Dennis

      Testing wasn’t in place back then. MLB and the players union both were complicit during that time. That doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that Mejia got caught now in 2015. Bad mistake by him….especially since he was busted already. You think he would have been more careful to think that MLB would be keeping an eye on him.

    • I disagree that Mejia is scrawny. And he wasn’t a setup man until the first suspension kicked in. He was a closer.

      He certainly isn’t the first player to get a full-season suspension.

      • Dave

        I realize that testing wasn’t in place back then, and I put that squarely on MLB. They knew what was going on, but they saw what was happening at the turnstiles while these steroid cases were hitting 600-foot HR’s, so they gladly turned a blind eye.

        And as far as I can recall, the only other player who has received a full season suspension was Rodriguez, and that wasn’t the result of a failed test, it was the result of pulling a Brady/Nixon and impeding the investigation. There have been 100-game bans, but unless I’m wrong, Mejia is only the 2nd one to get 162.

        • Dennis

          MLB front office, owners, coaches and players all had a hand in it. As much as the owners and MLB benefitted from the rise in attendance, so did the players with huge contracts and the ability to extend their careers with the inflated numbers due to PEDs. I understand it was ridiculous that players like Bonds & McGuire weren’t penalized at the time and now Mejia is, but that’s the way it goes. If they had testing back then, that wouldn’t have been the case. Rules are in place now……play by them or get suspended. Hard for me to feel real bad for him.

  • Michael G.

    I don’t know if this applies to Jenrry, but some people can become addicted to anabolic steroids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/anabolic-steroid-abuse/are-anabolic-steroids-addictive
    I’ve always admired Meija’s replacement, Clippard, who has some gaudy credentials, including a .184 batting average against since the start of 2010, which SNY said last night is the best in the majors during that period.

    • otb

      Clippard started out a Yankee, so I’ve never been able to “admire” him, although now he’s a Met, all is forgiven, and I will root for him passionately. Besides, I’m always mildly positively disposed towards a player who wears glasses. But he was traded for as an addition to the bullpen, not as Mejia’s replacement. We thought we’d have them both. I liked Jenrry and I always thought the Mets mishandled him, shunting him between starter and reliever, but he seemed to come into his own last season as the closer. It’s a shame to waste so much talent.

      • joenunz

        “….But he was traded for as an addition to the bullpen, not as Mejia’s replacement.”

        Yes, I TOTALLY believe Sandy when he says that they made the Clippard trade completely unaware that they wouldn’t have to pay Mejia for the rest of the season.

        My heart says: “Let’s Go Mets! Yay Clippard! One game out! Huge weekend approaching! AWESOME! Hope we win the World Series!”

        My head has not forgotten that ownership has ZERO credibility.

        • 9th string catcher

          Completely agree.

        • Matt in Woodside

          I don’t think team finances are involved at all. Mejia becoming only the second player ever to receive a 162 game suspension for PEDs is pretty significant news. If Alderson had somehow managed to keep that under wraps with a dozen New York beat reporters hanging around the facilities every day while he was engaged in negotiations for Clippard, then kudos to him for only giving up one single A prospect, I guess. If that’s the case then that dude has icewater running through his veins.

          Seems more likely to me that the timing was just fortunate (well, the whole situation is unfortunate, but having the Clippard trade finalized made it not as terrible) I think Alderson had viewed a set-up man as a priority for a couple of weeks, because if the Mets make it to the post season, Parnell is still on the mend from Tommy John surgery and will likely have ups and downs, and Mejia wasn’t going to be eligible even before news broke about this second suspension.

  • Nick D'Arienzo

    Another great fair and balanced piece by the Prince of METS bloggers for sure. And Norm MacDonald! Bravo as always, Greg…

  • Chip Armonaitis

    Since we can all assume (can’t we) that Jenry has successfully passed tests in between his suspension and reinstatement, (ruling out the argument that this is still in his system.) I have to wonder is he really that dumb, or is he getting bad medical advice. Although, that defense might actually work, as I heard a story about an athlete (can’t remember who) who took a tainted supplement, and it took several years for it to work its way out of his system, so he kept failing tests and getting additional suspensions. (Doctors ruled he had some condition that prohibited his body from completely cleansing itself of the drugs.)

    Glad the Mets were able to keep it quiet until the got Clippard, or it would have cost them more.

  • 9th string catcher

    Addiction is a bitch, and in Jenrry’s case, pretty hardcore. Guy has a serious medical problem, and I can only hope he gets help. Otherwise, he’s heading for Alzado territory.

  • dmg

    i do have a slightly more personal take on mejia: during spring training, my son, ash, and i sat next to the mets bullpen one game, and spoke with a few of the pitchers, mejia among them. at one point, ash gets up and announces “i’m going to get some food, you want anything, jenrry?” everyone, including jenry, laughed. a good moment.

    i figure mejia either was told by someone not too sharp or thought up all on his own that, since he’d just been nailed, he probably wouldn’t be nailed a second time any time soon. as i say, not too sharp. and, as noted above, a sad waste of talent.

  • mikeL

    disappointing indeed about jenrry; hope he can hang onto his baseball career wherever he ends up.

    and damn studly outing by noah!
    when that first hit went through i was bummed (thought GF was gonna witness history and add noah’s starts to jake’s as must-see)
    after the disappointment i talked to my tv…don’t worry noah, you’ll have plenty more chances for a perfect game…let’s shut these guys down!
    yes, that’s when you know the pitching has arrived.
    and nice to see matz and wright in the dugout. travis is playing pro-ball. clippard giving familia a night off. it feels like really great days could be right around the corner. it’s too bad jenrry won’t be a part of it.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    What I don’t get is how Mejia was able to pull this off without anyone watching. I realize they can’t baby sit for the guy 24/7 but you’d think SOMEBODY at the Mets would be keeping an eye on him. How much could it possibly cost for a PI to follow him for a couple of weeks when there’s a multi million dollar commodity at stake.

    Plus, Mejia never really seemed very contrite about the whole thing the first time around. Shouldn’t that have been a warning flag?

  • Matt

    What a bullpen it woulda been.

  • Lenny65

    It’s depressing, as I’ve always liked Mejia and thought he had the potential to be quite a pitcher for us. However, that said, we have to keep this train moving forward and if he can’t get with the program, better to cut ties now and find other options as opposed to waiting around forever. The future is now for us, as IMO this team is a few solid bats away from possibly being something memorable. For the right reasons, I mean.

  • Eric

    In the loss column, the Mets are 2 behind the Nationals for the division, and 1 behind the Cubs and 3 behind the Giants/Dodgers for the 2nd wild card berth. 62 games to chase them down. A pennant race – it’s been a while.

    On Sunday, deGrom outdueled Greinke, the hottest pitcher in the game and front-runner for the Cy Young award. Then last night, Syndergaard topped deGrom’s ace performance. Pitching like that seems normal now. It’s spoiling. With this staff, fine games like Colon’s 1 run in 8 innings and Harvey’s 2 runs in 7 innings against the Dodgers seem generic.

    Syndergaard impressed most when he lost his perfect game in the 7th. (Tip of the hat to Venable. He hit a good pitch: a 97 MPH 2-seamer at the knees, inside corner.)

    It would have been understandable for Syndergaard’s bearing to slip when he lost the perfect game and no-hitter and rapidly faced 1st and 3rd, no one out, with Kemp and Upton up. Instead, he bore down and cleaned up the inning. He started the 7th with a 2-run lead and finished the inning with a 2-run lead.

    That’s 2 starts in a row that Syndergaard has shown exceptional focus. In his last start in DC, where Parnell spit the bit, Syndergaard managed to limit the Nationals to 1 run despite giving up 5 hits and 5 walks over 5 innings.

    The possibility is becoming realistic that next season, year-2 Syndergaard will be better than year-2 Harvey in 2013 and year-2 deGrom this season.

    deGrom’s next-level dominance in the all-star game? deGrom pulled out the stops to show off for an inning. Syndergaard looks like he can pitch whole games like that someday soon.

    Conforto has only hit in 1 out of 4 games. It’s clear he still needs development. If the Mets acquire an outfielder, I don’t mind if Conforto is sent down for a month before September call-ups. Nevertheless, he’s looked comfortable at the plate.

    As long as he’s here, why not try out Conforto and his plate discipline at the top of the line-up? Shift Granderson down to a more appropriate role in the batting order. The added protection batting in front of Murphy and Granderson would help Conforto, too.

    Clippard was Clippard. He’s a welcome addition. There’s no drop-off exchanging Mejia for Clippard, but Clippard plus Mejia (for the remainder of the regular season) would have been elite. Oh well.

    Losing Mejia also means TJ-recovering Parnell’s role stays higher than is comfortable. Then again, Parnell’s role would have been bumped up for the post-season regardless, so a bigger role in the regular season might work out in the long run to better prepare Parnell for the play-offs.

    It’s not the end of the road for Mejia. He’s still young enough and talented with a promising major-league track record. His risk/reward balance favors a team giving him another chance. I wouldn’t be surprised if that team was the Mets.

  • open the gates

    I don’t know. Flunking back-to-back steroid tests, knowing he was going to be under the microscope, knowing his team actually made it into an honest-to-God pennant race, and still screwing up like that…really doesn’t speak well for Mejia’s judgment. To say the least.

    The funny thing is, I thought of Gooden second. The first guy I thought about was Jordany Valdespin. He had one steroid suspension, and the Mets dropped him like a hot potato. Of course, Jordany didn’t have as much of an upside as Mejia, and he was an uncoachable, unlikable punk as well, so it was easier to pull the plug on him. Also easier to call him a selfish jerk. Mejia is inherently more likable and more talented than Valdespin, and he worked through a lot of adversity to get through his injuries and back to the majors. But that doesn’t make what he did any less stupid and selfish.

    After the first time, okay, he’s still young, he made a mistake. Twice in a row? Back to back? With his team in a pennant race? Time to let him go. Let someone else take a chance on him.

  • Dennis

    Reports are Carlos Gomez for Wheeler and Flores.

  • eric1973

    Strange night, indeed.

    Glad the trade did not happen. There is a baseball season next year, no?
    We’ll need Flores at 2B next year when Murphy leaves as a FA. And Wheeler is a potential superstar. Sandy said he would overpay, but, please, not for Gomez. He is hitting .262, and we already have one overweight CF.

  • eric1973

    And happily so, eric.

    Can’t fathom all the weeping nellies who want Reyes back. We already have an albatross contract (D. Wright, to be clear) around our necks, and now they want to double down and take on another big contract for another guy who will only play one or two months a year. Makes no sense.

    • Matt

      I too am glad this deal fell through. Gomez could probably help, but that was too steep a price. Also glad to see Duda going on the tear I predicted a week ago.

      • Eric

        On the other hand, Conforto’s tough night maybe means he’s soon on his way back to Binghamton until he’s called up for September.