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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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Last Man Not Standing

Well now. The Mets, baseball’s worst second-place, currently-qualified-for-postseason-play team, won a game that was alternately exasperating, entertaining, frightening, amusing, and mostly befuddling.

If you missed it, Steven Matz cruised through four innings, facing the minimum and watching as the Mets put up an eight-spot against punching bag Aaron Blair. At which point everything — no really, everything — went wrong. The Braves, that irritating pack of feral Tiny Ashes, went after the Mets’ Big Ash with forks, brooms, hot stoves, soap buckets, discarded nails and everything else they could find: the butcher’s bill was double, double (lost in the lights), double, single, fielder’s choice for an out, three-run homer, single, infield single (out reversed on review), single. That was it for Matz, who slunk off the mound and sought refuge beneath a towel in the dugout.

Enter Hansel Robles, alias the Mets’ latest Plan B. Once again Robles proved a superb rescuer, coolly retiring Jeff Francoeur and Nick Markakis to bring the nightmarish fifth inning to a close. It was 8-6 Mets somehow, though it felt like it was 80-6 Braves; eventually Robles would wind up with the right-guy-in-right-place-at-right-time official scorer’s win. It was thoroughly deserved — as it was when he followed Bartolo Colon to the hill.

But that was a few perils later. The ninth was theater-of-the-absurd stuff: Jeurys Familia allowed a leadoff single to Tyler Flowers and hit Erick Aybar, then faced Chase d’Arnaud with disaster not just lurking but leaping up and down. Which was when the Braves reminded us that we do not, in fact, have a monopoly on buzzard’s luck: d’Arnaud lined a bunt in the direction of Wilmer Flores‘s feet which Wilmer fell on top of, trapping it beneath his body. He scrambled to his feet, pursued by Familia and Travis d’Arnaud, AKA the batter’s brother, who hollered for him to stomp on third to force Flowers and throw to second to force Aybar.

Familia then struck out Jace Peterson, except the ball squirted past the Met-affiliated d’Arnaud, who scampered after it and made a desperate heave towards the infield side of first, a ball seemingly destined to be corralled along the right-field foul line by Curtis Granderson as the Brave-affiliated d’Arnaud took third and Peterson took second. Except James Loney somehow speared it, scooting his feet backwards like a wide receiver on the edge of the sidelines to stay on the base as he fell and sprawled in the dirt. The umpires huddled, but Loney knew his feet had done their duty and the Mets lined up for unofficial handshakes.

And whew.

Well, whew except for whatever happened to Matz. In the top of the fifth, with a laugher seemingly in progress, SNY’s cameras caught Matz sitting in the dugout palpitating his left elbow and/or forearm; when he came back out, his velocity had dipped and his location had disappeared. On the postgame, Nelson Figueroa insisted the only real oddity was that Matz had unwisely tended to his pitching arm where Mets Twitter could see it, instead of in the tunnel or the trainer’s room. Maybe, but Matz has acknowledged his elbow has been tight, he’s junked his slider because it hurts to throw it, and something sure as heck looked wrong just after all that massaging. Terry Collins said as far as he knows there’s nothing wrong with Matz’s elbow, but recent events have said plenty about Terry’s attitude towards revealing pitchers’ ailments. I’m skeptical, to say the least.

Speaking of skeptical, we’ll see if the Mets have a new old teammate back in their employ come Saturday. By now it’s baseball’s worst-kept secret that the Mets intend to sign Jose Reyes for a pittance, with the Rockies paying the rest of Jeffrey Loria’s gargantuan megadeal.

If I close my eyes, I can see the Jose Reyes I loved to watch play baseball and hated to see decamp for Loria’s gauche Miami clip joint. I can see his churning legs and lashing bat, his bouncing Predator dreads, and his dragging one hand to grasp third base as he plowed into it, a move that always reminded me of a fighter jet’s hook grabbing the cable of an aircraft carrier.

But those scenes were quite a while ago. When I open my eyes, unfortunately, I can see other things. I can see Jose Reyes displaying minimal baseball interest or competence for the Rockies last year. His legs were slow, his mind was elsewhere and it was painful to see him so dour and diminished.

And I can remember the events of the offseason. On Halloween, police in Hawaii responded to a 911 call from a Four Seasons security guard. Reyes’s wife received medical attention for injuries to her face, neck and left leg, injuries that were reportedly the result of Reyes grabbing her by the throat and shoving her into a sliding glass door.

The case was dropped in March, but only because Reyes’s wife — like all too many domestic-violence victims — refused to cooperate with prosecutors. Major League Baseball suspended Reyes anyway, sidelining him for 51 games and costing him more than $7 million in salary. (That money, of course, was also taken away from Reyes’s wife; I’ll give MLB credit for good intentions while noting that the shared financial consequences make an already wrenching choice even rougher.)

When Reyes donned a Rockies uniform for extended spring training in May, he acknowledged that “I made a mistake. … I’m going to try to be a better guy, a better man, better husband.” As part of his suspension, he agreed to donate $100,000 to organizations focusing on preventing and treating survivors of domestic violence and to undergo counseling. He never played for the Rockies again, was released and now apparently will return to us.

So where does this leave us? I’m not going to tell you what I’m about to write is what I’ll believe until the end of time or even as long as Monday. I’m struggling with this, and one thing we’ve lost in the Twitter age is being willing to say that we need to think about something more, or that we just don’t know.

It’s true that we all make mistakes. But most of those mistakes don’t involve hands around women’s throats and slamming them into things. That’s a hell of a blunder — and one that’s been minimized for far too long in pro sports and society as a whole. A donation to charity, counseling and an apology strikes me as the first step to maybe, not the last word before the matter is dropped.

If I were in charge, Reyes wouldn’t return at all. Since I’m not and it seems that he will be back, I hope the Mets have a frank conversation with him about what has to happen if he’s to wear blue and orange again. I hope he’s forthright about what happened and what he’s learned, and I hope both team and player make a real, sustained effort — involving money and time — to ensure Reyes’s mistake helps younger players and fans understand the toll of domestic violence and how to make damn sure they never become victimizers themselves.

I have happy Met memories of second chances — of Rusty Staub as elder statesman of the mid-80s clubs, of Lee Mazzilli as the final piece of the World Series team, of Jason Isringhausen as wise veteran reliever. But those were baseball second chances, involving nothing more serious than the wearing of other uniforms and the outcome of other games. What happened in Hawaii last Halloween was the farthest thing from a game. If we’re going to make progress, it has to be treated accordingly. If it’s a subject for a day before we get back to baseball, we’ll have failed before we started, and ensured that we’ll keep failing.

(If you missed it, here are my blog partner’s thoughts on the matter.)

30 comments to Last Man Not Standing

  • Matt in Richmond

    Jose Reyes was my favorite player for several years. Watching him leg out triples, score from first on singles or second on ground outs was about as exciting as baseball gets. The joy and exuberance he played with suggested a likable guy off the field. Watching his joy and skill for playing diminish was hard, hearing about this incredibly disturbing off field incident has been harder still.

    I’m seriously conflicted about bringing him back as well. On the strictly financial/baseball side of things it doesn’t seem to carry much downside. On an emotional level it’s much more complicated.

    I will say that I believe in second chances. Not to get too far off subject, but a major problem in society is the way we treat former prison inmates. We strip them of many rights and brand them as criminals, make it nearly impossible for them to obtain solid work and rejoin society, then wonder why our recidivism rates are so high. I will certainly grant you that Jose likely didn’t receive the punishment he deserved, although his financial loss has been tremendous. I hope he has genuinely learned and changed. If he joins us, I will probably cheer if he does something good, but it probably won’t be as full throated as it once would have been.

    • Dennis

      Great post Matt. If it were up to me, I would not bring him back for the domestic violence incident, diminishing ability, and poor attitude recently. When he left for Miami, some treated it as the end of the world, when in reality it was smart not to give him that big payday and all of those years considering how he has played since 2011.

      On the other hand, I’m all for giving anyone a 2nd chance, and it looks like this is going to happen. If he has a bad attitude, off the field problems, and doesn’t play well, then he’s gone. Ultimately, I root for the uniform, so if he plays well and contributes to the Mets winning the division, that would be great. But I’ll have a difficult time rooting hard for him.

  • Daniel Hall

    I hate it when Matzie gets blown up. I like Matzie. I’d also hate it if Matzie’s arm were to fall off…

    Are there any Mets left without medium-to-bad health concerns right now? I haven’t heard of issues for Rivera recently, and that’s probably it.

  • Luis

    No Jose!! Of course since little Jeffie has surfaced now like a former scorned lover and wants a re do, I am sure we will see it…and those seldom seem to work…

  • Dave

    We all make mistakes. A few days ago I realized that I left a number out of a spreadsheet. Then my wife asked me to get chips while I was at the supermarket and I forgot. Those are mistakes. What Reyes did does not fit into the same category by any stretch of the imagination. And until society stops forgiving this behavior simply because the perpetrator is a famous athlete, or a talented musician, or a rich white guy, we’ll keep seeing cases like this little twerp swimmer at Stanford, who’s getting a slap on the wrist for a brutal rape while Daddy complains that he’s not being treated like the privileged rich kid he is.

    Oh, and on top of that, one of the few consistent players on the 2016 Mets has been Asdrubal Cabrera. So while the Mets need more speed, they are good at the one position Reyes really plays. He is also a shell of his former self.

    No one player is ever bigger than the team…I lived through Vince Coleman, for crying out loud. My allegiance won’t change, but my fellow fans will have to excuse me if I sit out the “Jose, Jose Jose Jose…” chants.

    • otb

      As Jason has pointed out, many domestic violence victims eventually refuse to cooperate and the abuser can’t be brought to trial. It’s also true that many domestic violence victims, out of misplaced shame, never report the incidents in the first place. So we don’t know that this was a one-time incident. The various justifications for treating domestic abusers lightly go back to the bad old days when a wife was considered a husband’s “property” and he could do just about anything he wanted to, and it would be winked at and forgotten. Your example of the Stanford rape case is another instance of the attitude toward women that still pervades certain segments of society. I loved Jose Reyes when he was a Met and in his prime. But even if he were still that player now, I wouldn’t want him back. Sorry, no “Jose, Jose, Jose” chant from me either.

  • Mikey

    Yeah i wish it didnt bother me but it does. I would rather they dont bother but i also know i will cheer if jose does something good.

    Or maybe sandy backpeddles like with the flores trade and winds up signing the cuban instead.

    • Eric

      The Mets can do both. If the Mets change their mind, Reyes might sign, play at Las Vegas, and just not be called up to the majors. There hasn’t been mention of calling up Roger Bernadina despite his MLB experience and the Mets need in the outfield.

  • Mikey

    Im out of town at a wedding in literally the middle of nowhere nebraska but i read the recap late last night. I saved a few tums i think by not watching a near complete implosion.

    Matz just needs more seasoning.

    Loney is now batting .305 and plays good defense. That move looks genius right now.

    And we are only 3 back now! With games against the gnats coming up. We can still do this guys. Just like last year

    • Eric

      Agreed. Loney is more or less hitting like 2015 regular-season Daniel Murphy while playing a better 1B than Murphy, which matters with a 3B (and C) who’s just as likely as not to rush a wild throw to 1B. The chief argument for re-signing Murphy wasn’t for 2B but rather his ability to slide over to 1B or 3B with both those starters missing much time with injuries last season. If re-signed, Murphy likely would be playing 1B right now; Loney is filling that role well enough to satisfy.

      Loney isn’t Juan Uribe old, either. He’s 32. Murphy is 31. Duda is (an injured) 30.

  • Noreen swart

    As always, a well thought out and beautifully written article. I agree with about 98% I do not have the same animosity toward signing Reyes. We all know we are not going to see the Reyes of 2006, but, we might catch some lightening in a bottle. If not, just cut him and be done with it. On the issue of his DV, I think the Mets can use him to further awareness and understanding of the issue that plagues so many. If one DV incident can be prevented than his signing will be a success and worth the minimal money being paid to him.

  • Mike Damrath

    Great post, Jason, as usual. I thought the Army of Darkness images were quite fitting, indeed. It bothers me how much trouble my beloved team seems to have with the gnats of the baseball world. The teams that other teams crush. The just-up-from-AAA pitchers that most other teams would seemingly chew up and spit out and therefore the Metsies can barely muster a hit against. I was happy to see the boys manhandle Blair. He being one of those ilk we might otherwise struggle against. Then, of course, the forces of darkness unleashed the horde of Tiny Ashes on our hero.

    No mention of the Cespedes ankle? Was I the only one who’s heart leapt to my throat and stayed there, despite his return to the field in the bottom half of that inning? I’m still scared to death about it. I fully expect to hear Yo is on a plane today headed to NY for tests and whatnot. This is what it is to be a Mets fan…

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I’ve been thinking this for a couple of weeks now, but after last night’s events, I’m ready to commit it to screen print:

    I’m not missing Lucas Duda at all.

  • eric1973

    Nobody is missing Lucas Duda.

    Got a dose of culture shock seeing two d’Arnauds on the field, when we’re not used to seeing any.

    Travis was really on the ball during that Flores play in the 9th, telling him exactly what to do.

    Could have been chaotic otherwise.

    • Jason Fry

      “Got a dose of culture shock seeing two d’Arnauds on the field, when we’re not used to seeing any.”

      That’s hilarious. Wish I’d thought of that.

    • Dennis

      “Got a dose of culture shock seeing two d’Arnauds on the field, when we’re not used to seeing any.”

      LOL……might be the best line of the season!

  • Daniel Hall

    And reports that the Mets have signed a certain Jose R. to a minor league deal and are assigning him to low-A ball.

    Plus, Conforto seems to get dumped into the desert (about time) and replaced by Brandon Nimmo.

    • Eric

      It was the right time to send down Conforto. Nimmo, if he doesn’t hit, should at least provide speed and defense. I hope Lagares’s thumb miraculously heals.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Nobody is missing Duda right now, but that will likely change. Many commenters on here were highly dubious of the Loney pickup wondering how useful he could really be if he couldn’t even crack a big league roster. I supported the move and thought he would be a solid placeholder, make a lot of contact and play solid defense. He has done that and then some, but at the same time it’s probably not realistic to expect him to continue to hit over .300 and blast 3 run homers on a regular basis. For now, he’s sufficient, but Duda still carries far more upside and has that unique ability to carry a team for a week or 2 when hot. Just as many of you kind of wrote of d’Arnaud prematurely don’t make the same mistake with Little Luke.

  • sturock

    If Duda returns while Loney is still doing well, it’s a nice problem to have. I am not crazy about the Reyes signing, though perhaps he can help as a utility player. He’ll need time in the minors to work at 3B and the outfield. I am not holding my breath that he’ll ever be back in a Mets uniform.

    It’s about time they sent the completely discombobulated Michael Conforto to the minors. He needs a couple of weeks away, some time to correct some of his bad habits where the games don’t count. I want to see him return to that gap-to-gap doubles machine he was late last season instead of the pull-happy wanna-be slugger he’s become. I hope they have a good hitting coach in Vegas…

  • eric1973

    IMO, having the AAA team in Vegas is not a true barometer of anything, as all the hitting stats appear to be skewed.

    I remember Nick Evans as being the next Babe Ruth.

  • Lenny65

    These hare-brained “let’s make a guy play a new position” schemes of theirs always fail. I personally want to keep the Jose Reyes era nicely buried, as I have more than enough current Mets angst to go around without adding THAT mess to the mix. Even in the best case most incredibly unlikely scenario you know he’s one bad step away from having it all go up in a puff of hamstring smoke. Meh, no thanks.

    • Eric

      I disagree. Multi-position players are normal. Not all players can play different positions, but quite a few can and do, including stars who made the transition while in the big leagues. The variables are the player’s athletic tools for the different position (reflexes, speed, arm, etc) and, of course, putting in the time and effort to pick up the mental nuances and muscle memory.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Lenny while I’m conflicted on a human level, from a baseball standpoint I’m not sure what you are so worried about. This is pretty much the definition of a low risk “take a flier” kind of move. If it works out at all it’s pure upside with little to no downside risk. If not, we cut bait and Jose got to call NY home for a little while longer.

    And simmer down on the “current Mets angst” too. Unless you are talking about the bizarre and ridiculously bad injury luck we’ve had. The team is playing their hearts out and doing a magnificent job of staying in contention despite the adversity. Just think how high the ceiling could be with a little better luck. There’s tons to be confident and optimistic about right now.

  • open the gates

    A thought on Michael Conforto – the guy never played a game at AAA, and was considered a couple of years away before he was brought up last year. He played brilliantly, especially in the World Series, but maybe the folks who were concerned about him coming up too soon had a point. Let’s see what happens. We’ve been waiting a long time to see what Brandon Nimmo’s got. I’m sure we’ll see Michael again, but maybe don’t rush him this time.

    • Eric

      To his credit, Conforto delivered last season through April of this season and earned his place with the Mets, including the opportunity to fight through his slump at the major league level – but a 1st-year player opportunity, not a veteran opportunity. A 2-month slump was long enough, and it became apparent, most importantly to Collins, that Conforto was stuck.

      Hopefully, all it will take is 3 weeks of hitting rehab in Las Vegas to unstick Conforto and he’ll be back after the all-star break.

  • Eric

    I enjoyed the win and the lucky BABIP for deGrom – those were shots in the 4th? and 6th innings to Flores at 3B – but the de Aza bunt play in the 10th inning was ugly.

    Only 2 games out now, 1 game back in the loss column, when the Nationals should have been running away with the division with injuries mounting, the Mets offense stuck in mud, and the vaunted starting pitching under-performing over-all. It’s like we’ve somehow returned to mid-season 2015.

  • Matt in Richmond

    We were probably lucky the Braves didn’t plate a couple, but they did their share of dancing through raindrops too. Walker missed a 2 run shot in the first by a couple feet (that ball was gone in 25+ stadiums) Cabrera missed an rbi double by an eyelash and of course we helped with more baserunning SNAFUs.

    • Eric

      The de Aza gaffe isn’t tolerated in Little League let alone in the Major Leagues. Kelly Johnson bailed him out.

      I’m surprised there weren’t more reporter questions about Cespedes’s gaffe. Not running hard out of the box was the 1st mistake, but I’m more concerned that Cespedes feels the need to slow down running into a base because he apparently can’t/won’t slide, which forces him to slow down in order not to run past the base and be tagged out. Pulling up to make sure he could stick his foot on 2nd base made the difference on being tagged out in the Mets’ best scoring opportunity of the game. I’d like to know, when can Cespedes slide again?