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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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Honest to Duda

Here are two scenes from two Florida locales at the outset of Spring Training.

1) Lucas Duda is asked about the throw that got away and, with it, the World Series. He replies:

“That’s a throw I can make nine out of ten times, and that happened to be the one I didn’t […] I’ve watched it a few times. He was dead to rights. I wish I would have got him. No excuses. I threw the ball away.”

2) Jon Niese discusses pitching on the night his son was born:

“That’s when it all went downhill […] If I wouldn’t have pitched that game, I probably would have stayed the course, stayed in a rhythm, but that just kind of knocked me off.”

Duda is still a Met and quite a mensch. Niese is a Pirate with an alibi.

The play which Duda was asked about in Port St. Lucie on Thursday is already legendary from a Kansas City perspective. If there are still sports bars, photographs and frames a century from now, a framed photograph of Eric Hosmer scoring on Duda’s terrible ninth-inning throw — thus tying the score of the fifth game of the 2015 World Series — will likely hang in every sports bar in western Missouri and eastern Kansas.

It was a happy episode for Hosmer and Royals fans. It’s haunting for us and Duda. Duda said so. No practiced amnesia for him. Also, no alibis. The light didn’t get in his eyes. The noise didn’t get in his ears. The angle wasn’t troubling. Some bump in the road from several months before didn’t rise up to swallow his ability. He just didn’t make a play he could’ve/should’ve made. He owns up to it in honest, forthright fashion and has folded it into his experiential portfolio, planning to “learn from it, grow from it and kind of fuel me”.

Absorbing the Quotes of Spring from the defending National League champions, it seems the bulk of the Mets are revved up for another go at postseason fulfillment. Nobody wants to evince overconfidence (let alone cockiness), but the sense of purpose is palpable. It’s not only different from every spring thing we’re used to lately, it’s a step up from those warmup periods most historically comparable to this one.

The last pair of springs during which the Mets were technically defending a National League flag indicated the Mets didn’t want to be reminded of their recent successes. There was, as Ira Berkow noted, a lot of “putting that behind them” for the 1987 Mets, as if somebody wouldn’t want to mistakenly stumble into 108 wins two years in a row. Fourteen Februarys later, as the inimitable Lisa Olson put it, “the ‘what ifs?’ turned into ‘what nows?’” The vibe out of the East Coast of Florida in 2001 — unlike the buzz that permeates the first baseball days of 2016 — didn’t resonate with determination regarding completion of unfinished business.

Back in the present, on the other side of the Sunshine State, Niese, who now receives his springtime mail in Bradenton, recounted where his 2015 went awry. He told a Pittsburgh reporter on Wednesday that he chose the wrong night to pitch on one occasion…an enormous occasion in his and his family’s life. Nobody begrudges him his inability to multitask last July 24. Nobody with an iota of humanity begrudged him then. The birth of a child is no fleeting distraction.

Whether it derailed the remainder of his season is questionable. Only Niese, since traded for Neil Walker, knows what worked for him and what conspired to betray him. In the same interview with the Post-Gazette, he added that the occasional forays into a six-man rotation bugged him as well. He’s not alone among Met pitchers who chafed at not throwing as often as he preferred, but he is the only one pointing to it as a cause for his personally falling short in the aftermath of a team triumph.

He’s also the only one among those who were regular starters for the 2015 Mets to be on another team and therefore not answering questions about what it will be like trying to get back to the World Series.

One Met performs badly at a crucial moment, takes responsibility for it and is ready to try to win another pennant. One Met performs inconsistently in general, offers a couple of possible explanations — neither of which was as simple as “no excuses” — and we have a pretty solid second baseman to show for it.


We join the rest of the baseball world in mourning the sudden passing of Tony Phillips, dead of a heart attack at the ridiculously young age of 56. Phillips competed fiercely in the majors for parts of eighteen seasons, stopping off at Shea for two months in 1998 to lend a veteran hand to a playoff push that came up a game or so shy of a Wild Card. He gave the Mets one particularly memorable home run in early September and me a thrill that feels wonderful to remember to this day.

18 comments to Honest to Duda

  • Dave

    As you say, Duda is a mensch. Niese was always, and one has to assume always will be, because these things often don’t change, an anti-mensch. Or if someone has a word that means the opposite of a mensch, insert there. I mean, good luck to him I guess, he’s not the worst guy who’s ever worn a Mets uniform and probably not even in the bottom 25 or so, but is he ever going to man up?

    Horrible news about Tony Phillips. Was that type of very professional versatile veteran guy who helped down the stretch a la the 2nd coming of Lee Mazilli, Shawon Dunston, or most recently, Juan Uribe. RIP.

  • Well…what son won’t thrill to grow up and learn his dad characterized his birth as the moment it all went downhill. Stay classy, Jon.

    While none of them (save Colon) cottoned to the idea of a 6-man rotation, Jon Niese’s record is worth noting.

    4 days rest – 10 starts, 6.96 ERA, 1.66 WHIP
    5 days rest – 13 starts, 3.24 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
    6 days +: 6 starts, 2.13 ERA, 1.24 WHIP

    Jon Niese is not very good at knowing what’s best for Jon Niese.

  • Daniel Hall

    I barely remember Duda’s throw. I remember Game 5 in L.A. through Game 4 in Chicago like it was yesterday, but my selective memory tries to protect my sanity and I barely remember anything of that World Series after that bloop that Yoenis Cespedes kicked into a home run…

  • Frank

    I don’t remember too much about WS even though I attended 2 games. Don’t really blame Duda. That was only 1play and I think he is going to have a real good year hitting in this line up. Phillips was a class guy and yes he passed way too young. 2015 was a great year to be a Mets fan and looking forward to more fun in 2016.

  • Mikey

    RIP Tony Phillips…very very sad and hits home especially for those of us in our 50s…yikes

    For me that duda throw is the thing playing over and over in my head when i think about the pain of losing that series. And i have never wanted to punch joe buck more than when he called “unbelievable baserunning by hosmer!” Dont try to hide your glee or anything Joe. The other play i cant shake is alex gordon’s homer off familia. Im looking forward to avenging all that

    • Rochester John

      ” And i have never wanted to punch joe buck more than when he called “unbelievable baserunning by hosmer!”

      That’s really saying something, because, well, don’t you really want to punch Buck 24/7? But you’re right, Mikey. All it would have taken was an average throw by Duda for us to hear from Buck, “What a colossal baserunning blunder by Hosmer!”

    • DAK442

      The Gordon HR is the one that sticks with me, the one that will sneak into my consciousness during restless nights for many years. (It’ll keep Benitez walking O’Neill company.) That changed the entire complexion of the series.

  • Mike

    While other Mets-related blogs have spent all off-season saying Matt Harvey blew the World Series for us (of course, we were already down 3-1 by Game Five anyway, so I’m not really sure you can say anything that happened that game “blew” the WS for us), truth be told the Duda throw was what I kept replaying. I was at the game, saw it happen, but felt the need to, when I got home, watch the replays over and over. Hosmer was indeed dead to rights. A good throw nails him, and an “unbelievable baserunning!” moment becomes a “what was he thinking?” one. Duda’s a class act all the way, and this owning up to the throw proves it.

  • argonbunnies

    Duda made a physical execution error. It happens. The 3 or 4 or 7 mental errors by other Mets which preceded it bugged me a lot more.

    1. Harvey refuses to come out of the game despite obvious signs of fatigue in the 8th, with all his pitches missing up and away from the target and Zobrist just missing a HR.

    2. Collins backs down, unwilling to fight Harvey in the dugout in order to do the right thing for the team.

    3. Harvey picks a slider and D’Arnaud sets up on the corner for it, with a 3-ball count to the leadoff man in the 9th inning with a 2-run lead. This is a fine in friggin’ rookie ball.

    4. Collins again manages to Harvey’s ego rather than to win the game, later telling reporters, “If I pull him after one batter, then I shouldn’t send him back out there.” He leaves him in to face Hosmer.

    5. Harvey tries to front-door a fastball to the lefty. Remember where his pitches are running? Up and away. So the pitch winds up right down the middle. Hosmer lines it to left.

    6. Michael Conforto’s looked pretty good in LF, but with a multi-run lead in the final inning, don’t you want all your best defenders in there? Depending on the camera angle you watch the replay from, Hosmer’s liner looks like Nieuwenhuis might have caught it.

    With none out and Hosmer on second and Harvey walking off the mound as a human testament to hubris, I was 100% sure the Royals would tie the game. I would have bet money on it.

    I figured Familia would get several grounders and one of them would find a hole (just as in Game 4, with Moustakas’s medium chopper taking advantage of Mets infielders’ oblivious positioning and lack of range). And who knows, perhaps that’s exactly what would have happened if Hosmer had held at third on that one-out grounder. But regardless, the Royals had all the momentum, the Mets were back on their heels, and I knew Hosmer would score somehow.

    7. Wright cuts in front of Flores. The ball was right at Wilmer. If Wright instead retreats toward third, Hosmer has to hold, plus a man with a healthy back gets to throw the ball to first. Instead, Wright looks at Hosmer (which Hosmer can ignore since no one’s near him and the bag), and slings his weak sidearm toss to first, giving Hosmer the opportunity to force the Mets to make a non-routine play.

    In my mind, if Duda makes a perfect throw, and d’Arnaud manages to spin and get the tag down in a way that Hosmer can’t avoid, then Duda and d’Arnaud and Familia are the great heroes who snatch victory from the jaws of defeat where Harvey and Collins have placed them.

    So, yeah, Duda failed to be a hero. Nice of him to admit the failure. He’s hardly the one who owes anyone the biggest apology, though. I still haven’t seen any admission of fault from Harvey.

    • I agree with much of your assessment — still, Harvey has accepted his part here. From 2/15, via Kernan of the Post on Game 5.

      “If I went back I’d throw a different pitch,’’ Harvey said. “Everybody wishes they could go back at some point and change things.”

    • Dave R.

      I don’t know what “Harvey refuses to come out of the game” means. He could’ve refused all he wanted, but if Collins refused to send him back out, he doesn’t go back out. This is like blaming Pedro for not coming out of the eighth inning in 2003. I haven’t heard anyone blame anyone but Grady Little for that.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I still think it was more Wright’s fault than Duda’s fault. Hosmer has said he had been watching Wright’s loopy throws all series. He ran on Wright not Duda.

  • Did you allude to the birth of Jon Niese’s son as “some bump in the road from several months ago”? What in the world is wrong with you?

  • I don’t blame Duda for his throw. It wasn’t an expected play and it’s something to have to rush (credit to the runner for making it the case). Wright should have pocketed the ball with the tying run on 3rd in the 9th in the World Series.

  • open the gates

    At the end of the day, I find it hard to blame Duda, or Harvey, or Collins, or any one Met in particular. In the end, the Royals beat the Mets, plain and simple. The Royals were relentless, and took advantage of every single Mets mistake. Duda’s attitude goes a long way toward preventing that sort of thing next year. Owning up, learning from mistakes, and moving forward. That’s what the Royals did last year coming off an awful WS loss to the Giants. That’s what the Mets need to do this year as well. No excuses needed. Colon may be much older than Niese, but the Mets kept the right man.

  • dmg

    as argonbunnies notes, there is ample blame to go around in game five top of the ninth.

    because of the freakish scheduling, which pits the mets at kc for the first two games of the new season, i’m regarding them as game 6 and 7 in the alternate universe where the mets won game 5.

    i’m betting that the mets themselves are looking at them that way, at least i hope they are. i’m reminded of the opening-week series in 2007 against the cardinals, where the mets were forced to watch the cards hoist the series banner that should’ve/could’ve been theirs: iirc, the mets swept the cards 4 straight.