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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 Hitless Wonders of 2016

The Chicago White Sox were the sore thumb of my Logging for twenty seasons, ever since it was decided National League teams should play American League teams for something less than all the marbles. Whoever the junior circuit sent to Shea Stadium, I dutifully saw at least once, entering the encounter in the steno book that preserves all my essential information. For five seasons, this unsought subtask encompassed only members of the American League East, reflecting an antsy era when regionalism ruled Bud Selig’s misguided realignment visions. Eventually, scattered combatants from the West and Central were dispatched in our direction and I made it my business to witness their various cameo appearances and jot down those essential details. My long-term plan to capture all A.L. opponents encountered a glitch in 2008 when the Texas Rangers passed through town the same night as a biblical thunderstorm and left “Texas (A)” Logless even as the premises grew waterlogged. Rangers at Mets at Shea on the evening I alighted to fulfill my obsessive obligation was rained out, thus it took until 2014 and the construction of a whole other ballpark (something the Texas Rangers can appreciate) to accomplish their vital notation in my recordkeeping.

With the Rangers officially observed and added to my life list, the White Sox, like the proverbial cheese, stood alone. I’d seen them in Chicago, in Boston, in Anaheim and on television, but not in Flushing. They never visited Shea for Interleague purposes. They didn’t visit Citi Field until 2013, when a) I had a ticket to see them and b) I couldn’t use it. I missed Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell one-hitting them over ten innings, as it happened, grumble grumble.

At last, the White Sox returned in 2016 and, in their final performance in our midst until maybe 2019, perhaps 2022, I got to see them up close and in person. Now I know what a White Sox at Mets game looks like.

Yippee.

My curiosity is forever sated. I don’t need to see the White Sox play the Mets again. After thirteen innings of the slowest-motion live action I could have ever imagined, leading to the wispiest of 2-1 losses, I don’t much need to see the Mets play again, but I suppose I’ll be back again soon. With any luck, the Mets as we thought we knew them will be, too.

Those defending National League champions — the ones who brought the “good times” back to Flushing, per Howie Rose’s preamble to the 1986 celebration (after which the Mets lost four of five) — are no longer with us. They’re not dead, I don’t think, but they’ve sure gone missing.

The Mets scored nine runs from Saturday through Wednesday versus the Dodgers and White Sox, the bulk of a homestand apparently devoted to proving the Mets wouldn’t have competed very well in the 1959 World Series. It feels as if we’ll find Cuppy before we come across any kind of offense. Only so much of the malaise can be attributed to Chase Utley, Clayton Kershaw, Eric Campbell and their own bullpen, to identify four recently cited culprits. The PhiL.A. thug, the second coming of Koufax and the coldest Soup since gazpacho were nowhere in evidence in the NYM-CHW finale, and the perennially untrustworthy relief corps can’t really be blamed for how the Mets went under, despite it having been a Met reliever, Logan Verrett, who gave up the key hit in the 13th, a double to White Sox reliever Matt Albers, a fellow who last reached base on May 23, 2007. That, incidentally, happened against the Giants, who still had a player named Barry Bonds, who was still ten homers behind Hank Aaron all-time when Albers most recently produced as much as a single. That’s a span of more than nine years, or approximately as long as it took the Mets and White Sox to get to the 13th inning Wednesday.

I exaggerate only slightly, though, in experiential terms, not at all. Snails snorted at the pace these two barely acquainted combatants played. The time of game was four hours and forty-one minutes, none of which any of us in attendance will ever get back. Granted, a beautiful afternoon at the ballpark spent in the company of a good friend — the ever gracious Garry Spector, who knew enough to exit after twelve, just ahead of Albers’s low-level Colon impression — is by no means something to regret. It’s just that the baseball was godawful and then kept getting worse.

And that was with encouraging pitching. Jacob deGrom closed in on brilliant, going seven and striking out ten — including pinch-hitter Jerry Sands, worth mentioning here only because I’m convinced every pack of baseball cards I bought in 1975 contained eight of him, never mind that he was born in 1987. The only damage he absorbed occurred via a disturbingly deep fly ball to Todd Frazier. The combination of deGrom and Rene Rivera seemed to click as well as Syndergaard-Rivera, Matz-Rivera and Harvey-Rivera. The staff ERA with Rene behind the plate is 1.91; it’s 3.20 for the team overall.

Can somebody be everybody’s personal catcher?

Rivera chipped in two singles and drove in the only Met run of the day. The Mets recorded one fewer extra-base hit than Albers. They did display a “GOOD EYE!” (as the leatherlung behind me never, ever tired of barking) on thirteen separate occasions for thirteen mostly useless walks. One of them, to mystery guest James Loney, set up a run. The other dozen amounted to a subliminal advertising campaign for naught (Naught — For When You’ve Decided Scoring is Overrated.). The Mets struck out twelve times and grounded into five double plays while leaving fourteen men on base. Rivera ended the futile day batting .188, which puts him in the upper echelon of the Met attack at the moment. Four Riveras and five Alberses would constitute a significant improvement over the kinds of alignments we’ve seen deployed of late.

I couldn’t tell if by not hitting whatsoever the Mets were paying tribute to the fourth anniversary of their only no-hitter or tipping their caps to the 110th anniversary of the first world champion White Sox, a.k.a. the Hitless Wonders of 1906. Or, with the centennial of the Black Sox scandal practically around the corner, it’s possible the Mets were purposely throwing the game. By the time we were in double-digit innings with still single-digit hits, Garry was remembering staying up all night and listening to Jerry Cram steer the Mets from the 17th to the 24th inning on September 11, 1974. That was the game they lost in 25, 4-3. Also wandering onto our conversational stage for a bow was another 1974 Met, the great Jonathan Trumpbour Matlack. Somewhere between BBs and GIDPs, we considered how dominant Matlack was that year and how it was to little avail. For example, during that same final month of ’74 when Cram kept the nocturnal Mets afloat with zero support, Jon lost decisions by scores of 2-1, 3-2, 2-1 and 3-2, the last of them in a ten-inning complete game effort. Matlack led the National League in all kinds of peripheral metrics that were unknown 42 years ago, yet finished 13-15 because too many of the defending National League champions for whom he pitched his heart out were always hurt and never hit.

If you could hear Garry and me over the leatherlung and his repeated, not altogether acccurate taunting of Alex Avila (“WHAT TEAM ARE YOU ON? YOUR FATHER TRADED YOU!”), you would have discerned the underlying theme of the day and our anxieties pretty clearly.

Yoenis Cespedes chose a game started by Miguel Gonzalez, a guy he scalds (6-for-13), to request a day off. He probably needed one, but the timing was unfortunate. Cespedes struck out as a pinch-hitter versus Nate Jones in the ninth. He had a hit on Monday and two the Tuesday before that but otherwise zilch over the last week. Michael Conforto played all thirteen innings, but his bat remained on hiatus, going 0-for-6 to extend his current dark period to 1-for-22. You know Cespedes will get hot. You figure Conforto will get hot. Afflicted by similar teamwide impotence in 2015, we traded for one and promoted the other and they provided quite the boost, you know.

Hard to argue, however, that riding the likes or Rivera, Loney and Ty Kelly (the world’s oldest raw rookie, judging by his CitiVision head shot) will be the Mets’ ticket out of the slumps. Curtis Granderson has yet to spark up, either. There were three or four really well-struck balls by the Mets Wednesday but, quite seriously, every one of them went foul. There’s no Duda, there’s not yet d’Arnaud, and who knows from David? Wednesday one through nine for the Mets resembled less a major league lineup than a death spiral. I really hope their attempts at reclamation projects don’t stop with Loney.

Not to lean too hard on precedent, but Ruben Tejada is at liberty, Kelly Johnson is surely as available as anybody on Atlanta’s fluctuating roster and I hear Marlon Byrd isn’t doing anything this summer.

Thank goodness for our starting pitching, unless it encounters that one bad inning as Steven Matz had Tuesday (or is pre-emptively removed by logic-deficient officials as Noah Syndergaard was Saturday). And though one resists handing them anything, you have to hand it to the Met relief corps for withstanding most every White Sock hitter not named Matt Albers. We sense Addison Reed is the kind of biological warfare timebomb that makes the espionage on The Americans tick, but so far he hasn’t exploded. Jeurys Familia is, for now, back from the cringe-inducing. Though the first sign of trouble for Antonio Bastardo provoked a mound visit that emitted the air of an intervention, the lefty survived. Jim Henderson’s right arm did not visibly dangle from his right shoulder after he replaced Bastardo. Hansel Robles had some trouble with a spike on the rubber and he couldn’t stick around very long, but if “a mild right ankle sprain” is worst thing that happens when he’s pitching, it’s a win. Jerry Blevins didn’t participate but seemed to assume he was being asked to, trotting in from the pen despite nobody asking him to; it was nice that he wanted to help.

Only Verrett, continually inserted into situations that would confound MacGyver, fell victim to attrition on Wednesday, and really, that was my fault. A.L. pitchers love to create offense in my presence. My Interleague fetish had me at Shea on the night in 2005 when Bartolo Colon, then of the Angels, conjured his first hit since 2002 and his last hit until 2014. It was why I had a perfectly good/awful view of Felix Hernandez’s grand slam off pre-Nohan Johan Santana in 2008. It was the reason I can say I saw Mariano Rivera drive in a run with a bases-loaded walk at Citi Field in 2009 (which, in turn, explains why I’ve refused to attend a Subway Series game ever since). The need to see the White Sox naturally put me in proximity to Albers’s bludgeoned double, which I have to admit was somewhat charming to take in later on replay — as always, eff the DH — but in real time represented misery heaped upon molasses.

Despite the accumulation of inertia and indignities, the Mets still had a chance to win the game or, if they were more sinister-minded, extend it in the bottom of the thirteenth. With two outs, Rivera walked. It was the twelfth of thirteen innings in which they placed a runner on base, an exercise clearly averting fruition, but it was something. It was a chance. Kevin Plawecki, the last New York Met position player available and a Las Vegas 51 the second Travis d’Isabled briefly masquerades as healthy, was then asked to pinch-hit. I would’ve asked Thor, but whatever. Earlier, Garry and I were fondly recalling the climax of that memorable series in Houston in 1998, the one that culminated in Mike Piazza homering off Billy Wagner in the ninth and Todd Hundley doing the same to Sean Bergman in the eleventh. Those were two catchers extricating victory from defeat’s jaws at the absolute most desperate moment. It was a pretty desperate day all around at Citi Field eighteen years later, and here were two catchers who could conceivably team up to craft their own portion of Met magic, something a pair of diehard fans…maybe even us…might be talking about in these stands circa 2034.

Instead, Plawecki grounded to third and I went home to ink “Chicago (A)” into my Log. The White Sox and I parted ways secure in the knowledge that we each got what we came for, albeit they more than me.

26 comments to The Hitless Wonders of 2016

  • kdbart

    Currently, 13 position players on the Mets 25 man roster. Seven of them, Rivera, Plaw, Flores, De Aza, Kelly, Loney and an injured Wright are just warm bodies occupying a roster spot. Sub replacement at this point. They’re offense is quite limited and is even further hampered by a slumping, 2 for their last 45 combined, Cespedes and Conforto. Might be time to recall some new blood like Herrera.

    • Eric

      Hitting, yeah, but Rivera’s defense at ‘2’ has been a revelation. Perhaps not at the same level of buzz, but like our willingness to trade some offense for Lagares and Ordonez’s glove work, up the middle defense starts behind the plate.

  • Dave

    You’d have thought that acquiring and then somehow keeping Cespedes would have prevented a carbon copy of early 2015. Instead we have Whoever Ty Kelly Is in the role of John Mayberry Jr, ie, someone who will never help you win a game, with Alejandro De Aza – and remember, original plan for him was to be an almost everyday player – as a strong understudy. Add to that catchers who can’t hit, the occasional stay in NY by Eric Campbell, David Wright starting to look like an Old Timers Day participant, and the 1B solution being a guy who couldn’t make the Padres’ roster – mull that one over – and once again we’re being treated to one of the weakest offenses imaginable, only this time it’s how the Mets somehow expect to defend a National League title. We joke about wanting to see Thor as a pinch hitter, until we realize we’re not joking. Can he play 1B or 3B? Hit 3rd?

  • Rob E.

    Like last year, this isn’t all the Mets doing. A big part of this current futility is the struggles of Cespedes and Conforto at the same time. Both of those guys have been mostly good, as have Cabrera and Walker. So that’s half a lineup that has been pretty good, and they did NOT have that in the first half last year. As for the rest of the team, they had no reason to think Duda would get injured. d’Arnaud has a long history of injury, but I think they thought Plawecki would take a step forward and he hasn’t. Wright also has a long injury history, but they had Flores behind him — who was more than competent last year — and he has struggled and gotten injured himself.

    So we’re kind of digging up the ghost of 2015 here where multiple guys get injured and then backups get injured on top of that, but the Mets had the bases reasonably covered coming into the season. The biggest flaw of this team is that they are not built to “manufacture” a run, which is a killer in a close game. The lack of clutch hitting, I don’t think anyone really knows what to make of that. It’s likely an unfortunate statistical glitch as much as their crazy run last year was a GOOD statistical glitch.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Exactly Rob E. No team is prepared to lose that many guys AND have 2 middle of the order hitters go ice cold at exactly the same time. And yet, they’ve still managed to win enough games to stay well above .500 & remain in sight of D.C. No need to leap off any bridges folks. d’Arnaud will return. YC & MC will hit again. And Loney, will not a very exciting player, plays above average defense and is a decent contact hitter. He won’t kill us while we wait for Little Luke to come back.

  • Stephen Kairys

    Greg,

    One thing I love about this blog is that I never know when you’ll provide a link to an old post that will draw me in and captivate me. In this case, it was your account of the rained-out Mets/Rangers contest during Shea’s last year.

    I attended that “game” as well. Somehow, it took me until that mid-June evening to make it out to Shea for the first time. The next day, I wrote (slightly edited):

    In the two hours or so that I spent at Shea last night, I did not see a single pitch thrown, unless you count the 1986 highlights they were showing. The persistent thunderstorms took care of that matter. Yet, I had a good time while I was there, and feel glad I went. Indeed, it was a night that rekindled my fondness for that old ball yard, and, perhaps, represented the first step in saying goodbye to the stadium where I have been attending games since 36 years ago.

    I’ll also add that after they called the game, some fans remained in their seats; perhaps, they wanted to hang on to Shea for as long as they could.

    Final note: in what had to be a first, I picked up my hot dog on the way OUT of Shea! :)

    Hopefully, the above served to divert FAFIF's audience from the current Mets struggles… :) Greg, thank you for providing that link!

  • Daniel Hall

    Worst game I saw in a long, long time. By the late innings (of regulation…) I grew slightly annoyed, which turned into hostility in extras. I know I yelled at a point or two. 13 walks in 13 innings! How do you even … – …!!?!?? Grrrrrr!!!!

    Conforto looks so completely lost at the plate right now (notice how all the All Star and Hall of Fame talk has died completely). But when I watched him engorge in futility yesterday, I was reminded about the first bitter post I read on this blog that made me feel at home and made me think, yep, I like it here: http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com/2010/07/22/mets-go-bay-for-arizona/

    So I had a few giggles on that again. Which is a few giggles more than anybody can get with the 2016 Mets right now. Whom are they going to trade for this year? Cespedes is already here, and Barry Bonds is employed elsewhere.

    Kelly and Campbell are the biggest eyesores right now, but I actually want them to keep Rene Rivera, who actually has a defensive skill set and helps keep the pitching staff in shape. Who cares if the catcher is hitting .188? I heard that was the norm back in the day. Plawecki and d’Arnaud are hitting .188 as well, and they can’t throw out a stealing runner – ever – and all that talk about d’Arnaud’s pitch framing is unsubstantiated at best. All catchers waggle with the glove all the time, and umpires call balls and strikes seemingly at random (or worse, at will) anyway. If they ever manage to piece d’Arnaud back together, fine, but until then Rivera should start the majority of the games, and I honestly don’t give a dime about who gets shafted between Plawecki and d’Arnaud.

    Why is David Wright not on the DL yet? He’s been aching for multiple days now and is unavailable. Why shorten a pathetic bench even further? They could at least get a warm body from AAA. Any warm body will do for this team right now.

    Ruben Tejada is available? Sign him, put him on third. It CAN’T get ANY WORSE than it is now.

    Yelling again. Sorry.

    OT: saw the Giants-Braves game today, and Mad Bum wonked a 2-piece off Aaron Blair, so yeah, eff the DH!

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Americans Season 4 reference — noted

  • Harvey

    I was at the game yesterday and my highlight was meeting Greg on the escalator before the game. All downhill after that. With that lineup, I thought the Mets would get shut out.

  • Stephen Kairys

    @Daniel Hall-
    >>Why is David Wright not on the DL yet? He’s been aching for multiple days now and is unavailable. Why shorten a pathetic bench even further? They could at least get a warm body from AAA. Any warm body will do for this team right now.<<

    Thank you. My thoughts exactly. He last played Friday, I think. So, if you DL him now, he'd come off a week from Sunday, which is not that far away. Considering his recent injury history, not the worst thing for him to sit a bit longer, even though he had been swinging the bat better.

    I sometimes wonder how this team made it to the World Series with the decisions they make…

  • Greg Mitchell

    Yes, sign Tejada–just what we need another slow .180 hitter…

    Why the delay on Dilson? They act like he is raw rookie. Actually has already had many big league ABs. Two years ago he wasn’t “too young.”

  • Matt in Richmond

    It was precisely because of the shrewdness of Alderson and Collins that this team made the WS last year. Rather than make panic moves the way the average fan wanted them to do, they made patient and smart moves. And yet, the average fans apparently learned nothing and are once again prematurely panicking. Have some ugly games been played lately? Sure. But considering all the injuries and early season slumps, we’re in pretty good shape. Hopefully as the season goes along our injury luck improves. Certainly some of our hitters will improve. No need to set our hair on fire right now.

  • eric1973

    Regarding the Captain, only 4 more injury-plagued seasons to go, and then we can talk about the HOF. By the end of this contract, that would make about 10 bad years in a row. Quite the resume, don’t you think? When do we begin to erect the statue outside Citi? And no need to hold a David Wright Day —- that appears to be every day around here.

    One guy who escapes all scrutiny and culpability is Granderson. Couldn’t find a more likeable guy. But couldn’t he at least spend a couple of weeks on the DL like everyone else, so we can perhaps see more of Legares, the only Met position player lately who appears to have a pulse?

    This valley almost makes me pine for Duda’s return. Better his AAA bat in the lineup than the AA bats currently in occupation.

    Media slowly but surely catching on to TC:
    Boomer said he talks too much, and the guy on ESPN Radio called him ‘TMI Terry.’ TC actually said that Robles hurt his ankle because he ‘was nervous.’ Huh?? Lots of Casey in TC, except Casey was funny and smart.

    Dusty’s no brain surgeon either, so can never really count us out. That and our pitching is enough to keep this agonizing slog toward obscurity from becoming a reality.

    BTW, ‘Travis d’Isabled’ and soup colder than Gazpacho are 2 of many classics in this brilliant piece.

    • Dennis

      Why do you dislike David Wright so much? Did he fail to sign a baseball for you? Wife has a crush on him? Didn’t acknowledge or smile at you when you called his name out at a game? Just curious for the irrational hatred for him.

  • eric1973

    No truth to the rumor that TC had Familia out there today to throw 100 pitches because he needed the work.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Here we go again. I’m not sure which of your statements is more insane. Let’s just go with Captain and Duda for now. You said in 4 years that would be 10 bad years in a row. So we go back to 2010. Cap’s OPS in each year, .856, .771, .883, .904, .698, .814. I would maybe count one bad year (the .698) he only hit 8hrs. But even then he hit .269 with 31 doubles which isn’t horrible. I would challenge you to find 5 third basemen who can match those numbers. You can’t. And those are AFTER his prime years when he was a perennial MVP candidate.

    Duda meanwhile has a career OPS of .800, which certainly isn’t elite for a first baseman, but calling that AAA is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

    And yawn regarding TC. He’s one of the best managers we’ve ever had, but I get it. Beating up on the manager is just what bored uninformed fans do.

  • sturock

    Now that Wright is going to be on the shelf “for an extended period,” it’s time to see what Flores can do as an everyday player. At least give him enough starts to break the slump he’s in. Mets are going to miss David’s tough at bats; he was swinging well before the (inevitable) injury.

    Also, has there be any talk of moving Walker to 3B and bringing up Dilson Herrera? Reading rumors of this on ESPN.

    Definitely no need to panic. Our SP’s are going to keep us in every game.

  • 9th string catcher

    Injuries happen. It’s unfortunate, but comes with the territory. Say what you want about the FO – they re-signed Cespedes, they re-signed Bartolo (a very overlooked move, I might add), they re-signed Reed, they DIDN’T re-sign Tyler Clippard. After looking at the catching depth, they didn’t settle for no hit, no defend Recker or Monell and brought in no hit, can defend Rene Rivera. They didn’t throw crazy money at Daniel Murphy, who I predict will stop hitting like Rod Carew pretty soon. I was a big proponent for signing Chris Davis as I have never been a Duda fan, but other than that, that’s a really good off-season in my opinion. And they’re right behind DC. They will be fine.

    • Eric

      I’m pining for Murphy’s bat and versatility to play 1B and 3B, but if Herrera can come up and spark the team, I’ll miss him less.

      As far as questioning management, I wonder why Herrera hasn’t been called up already.

      Walker plays a nice 2B and has been a refreshingly solid DP combo with Cabrera, but not so nice that he can’t shift over to 3B with Wright out if Herrera can provide a spark.

  • Stan

    The Mariano Rivera game. I only get to one or two home games a year and I had to be at the Rivera game.

    Is there another steno pad with entries like “twist and pulled and hurt my neck?” :)

  • eric1973

    All the kudos in the world to Sandy for pulling 2 rabbits out of the hat, in Walker and Cabrera.

    IMO, if they signed Murphy (or Zobrist – got lucky again there, Sandy, like last year’s Gomez), they would have not signed Cespedes.

    Sad (highly probable) truth is that Murphy appears to be pro-life, and a ‘traditionalist,’ when it comes to the gay lifestyle, and the Mets historically have been a ‘family friendly’ organization, so you have to to believe in a certain way that is ‘acceptable’ to them. Some of his comments last year received just a bit too much publicity.

  • Dennis

    No Familia tonight and a Mets win…..what will everyone complain about for the next 24 hours?

  • Matt in Richmond

    They’ll find something Dennis. But great win tonight. Loved seeing Loney come up with #100 in such a big spot.

  • There’s something meta about complaining after a win about potentially complaining after a win.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Ha! Can’t really argue with that Greg.

  • […] different from any of the Mets’ one- or two-run losses of late. It reminded me a bit as well of the thirteen innings spent shaking my head at the Mets and White Sox at the beginning of June, mainly because my companion at that game departed an inning before the whole thing went into the […]