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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 First Night of Something

So the Jay Bruce era — you must’ve known I wasn’t going to call it Jon Niese 2.0 — is off to a roaring start.

No thanks to Bruce himself, but that’s OK — Yoenis Cespedes needed a couple of days to acclimate too. Most of us, if suddenly transferred across the country to work for a different company effective immediately, would be out of sorts for a couple of weeks. And we don’t do our jobs with 40,000 people baying at us and drawing conclusions from each little segment of our day.

“This Fry guy can’t do anything! Haw, he misspelled ‘conclusions’ and had to go back. And then he misspelled ‘misspelled.’ No, he really did. You can’t make this stuff up. Ha, lemme tweet that. Bet it’ll get a lot of RTs. BOO!!!! LEARN TO TYPE, FRY!!!!”

So yeah, let’s not schedule Bruce’s hanging quite yet.

Still, I’ll go on record as saying I’m not a fan of this trade, for a couple of reasons:

First off, I hate trading away Dilson Herrera, who came up from Double-A as a 20-year-old, held his own in the bigs, and then never got a real chance after that. Herrera’s still just 22, and I like his instincts and his bat. And who’s your 2017 second baseman now? Are we resigning Neil Walker? Shifting Wilmer Flores over because we’re once more fantasizing about a healthy David Wright? Pushing an aging Jose Reyes over there and hoping that doesn’t make Kaz Matsui reappear?

Second, the Mets have utterly bungled Michael Conforto‘s development, essentially wasting a year for the best hitting prospect they’ve had in years. This malpractice began with Terry Collins‘s baffling insistence that Conforto couldn’t hit lefties, despite a minor-league track record that said otherwise. Yanked in and out of the lineup, Conforto got anxious and then got in his own way. Now he has to compete for the playing time he needs and is being asked to play center field, which he can’t really do. The Mets have managed to hurt Conforto by not allowing him to succeed and by setting him up to fail, which is a pretty versatile display of negligence. And what happens next year? Even with Cespedes presumably gone, you still have Conforto, Bruce and Curtis Granderson and only two corner spots. Is Lucas Duda getting traded? Is there a plan at all?

One thing I’ve always liked about Sandy Alderson is he strikes me as coolly — heck, coldly — focused on the big picture, regardless of fan outrage and columnist chatter and sports-talk carny barking. I hate seeing Niese back in a Mets uniform, a point I won’t belabor, but I get that his return is a neat bit of salary legerdemain, a smaller-scale version of the Padres and Braves working together to purge mistakes. But Bruce? That strikes me as doing something to do something, which doesn’t feel very Aldersonian.

But you know one of the many great things about baseball? Unlike the rest of life, you actually hope you’re wrong. You’re ecstatic if you wind up printing out your bloggy prediction of doom and eating it. Crow can be the most delicious of banquets.

I hope that’s the case with Jay Bruce. And hey, perhaps Tuesday night’s game was an appetizer, crow-wise. The Mets got on the board thanks to a home run from Alejandro De Aza, whom most any Mets fan would have gladly driven to the airport not too long ago. They extended their lead because of a homer from Travis d’Arnaud, whom many a Mets fan wanted to trade to Milwaukee or Cleveland or the Ross Ice Shelf. Bruce didn’t get it done with runners in scoring position, but perhaps he was just being polite to his new teammates. Heck, Jon Niese did a very un-Niesean thing in his pregame press conference by passing up the chance to hurl a few ex-teammates under the bus, telling the scribes that the problem in Pittsburgh was that he didn’t pitch well.

It was only one night, but a night beating the Yankees behind seven runs is a pretty good night. Here’s to some more like it.

52 comments to The First Night of Something

  • eric1973

    I like the Bruce deal. Most/many of these ‘position’ players on this team are a bunch of square pegs put in round holes. Just some players are more square than others. Bruce may be a similar version of what we already have, just better.

    So maybe we improved in some incremental fashion. If more than incremental, than all the better. After all, nobody except Ces can put up stats like Bruce.

  • kdbart

    Ces will opt out and the Mets won’t pursue a long term deal at $25M+ a season. He’ll by 31 & 1/2 when 2017 begins and the nagging injuries are a hint of the future. Bruce is a hedge against that for 2017 at half the cost.

    They’ll have to eat a chunk of salary but I think the Mets will look to trade Grandy with a season remaining on his contract.

    They’re looking for a 2017 outfield of Conforto in left, Lagares in center and Bruce in right. With Nimmo as the 4th outfielder.

    • Greg Mitchell

      I think you are right.

      People forget that one of the most exciting things about Ced last year was his SPEED. Which is nowhere this year due to injuries and–I would say–a little weight gain. And due to injuries, he hasn’t dove for a ball in the OF all year. I’d say leg injuries will be problem for him going forward as well.

  • eric1973

    All this makes a lot of sense.

    Perhaps age and nagging injuries will prevent any team from making Ces the blockbuster offer, and he will return.

    Like Keith’s suggestion of trying Conforto at 1B next year, but Loney has certainly been very impressive —- steady bat and steady glove, compared to what we had.

    More square pegs in round holes, however.

  • BlondiesJake

    You should write a whole column titled Terry Collins’ Baffling Insistence. Heck, maybe I’ll create a blog with that name.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    What was it, 1979, when the four best hitting Mets were all First Basemen? That’s what this reminds me of, only this time with corner outfielders.

  • BlondiesJake

    If I may come back to the discussion on Monday…

    Matt in Richmond, Rob E and others, I’m confused. If Option A is to do what has worked all year long in that very same scenario, why is there a need to wonder about and take a chance on Option B? Especially when Option A is better at the same scenario that Option B is used to handle at times. And super especially when because of a trade you are short on Options should anything go wrong.

    I fail to see how that can be looked at as anything other than overmanaging. And while the final result is not all the manager’s fault, it set in motion the chain of events that led to defeat unnecessarily. Where I come from, that deserves blame.

  • Jacobs27

    I’m with you, Jason. Bruce is a fine player, but not really one that fits. Would live to see Conforto get achance to just play. That goes for a Flores and even Reynolds, too.

    Terry Collins’ baffling insistence is awesome. But what do we call his frustrating malleability? E.g., Harvey game 5, etc.

  • Jake Stevens

    Sorry Jason. Merely wanted to address specifics and since from yesterday was trying to avoid confusion. Wasn’t intended as a personal attack (no name calling, etc.), merely a strong disagreement targeted at their specific analysis. Will let it go.

  • Jake Stevens

    Merely wanted to address specifics and since from yesterday was trying to avoid confusion as to which and whose points I was addressing. Wasn’t a personal attack (no name calling, etc.), merely a strong, fact-based disagreement targeted at their specific analysis.

    This next statement is sure to cause me trouble and possibly banning from FAFIF but why is that not allowed? Clearly it’s ok to specifically address somebody when we agree with their specific comments, why not when we disagree as long as it’s in a civil manner?

    • Jason Fry

      Whoa, sorry. I didn’t mean you’d done anything — not at all. Was just an anticipatory note reminding folks to please play nice once the conversation got intense.

      Apologies that that wasn’t clear.

      By all means, please carry on.

  • BlondiesJake

    (As it turns out I was unable to let it go. Am preparing for banishment from FAFIF)

  • BlondiesJake

    Got it. Thanks for clarification. Will keep it nice and civil.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Sigh. Blevins IS the late inning lefty specialist. Has been all year & has done a great job. You are acting like this was something new TC was trying, when in fact it was the same role he’s had all year, (and in seasons past).

    An additional point I’ll make that’s sure to go over like a lead balloon, is this. The manager is privy to more information than the casual fan is. Numbers vs. specific match ups, how a player is feeling on a specific day, etc. Casual fans tend to treat these players like highly predictable robots, but they’re not.

    • Dennis

      “The manager is privy to more information than the casual fan is. Numbers vs. specific match ups, how a player is feeling on a specific day, etc. Casual fans tend to treat these players like highly predictable robots, but they’re not.”

      Thank you Matt. It’s kind of ridiculous that it needs to be explained, but some fans have a hard time grasping this obvious fact.

  • open the gates

    I wasn’t too broken up about Niese leaving. But he’s a definite upgrade over Bastardo. And one thing I seem to recall about Jay Bruce is that he always seemed to cream the Mets whenever he faced him. (Not basing this on stats, just recollection.) That and his success with RISP was a pretty good reason to trade for him. Just hoping that Dilson Herrera doesn’t come back to haunt us.

  • JohnP FArrell

    I’,ve never seen the Dilson prowess that many others do so I’m not sorry to see him go. What does concern me Is the emerging consensus that Cespedes won’t re-sign next year. If that’s the case it’s time to think of a big bat deal for next year, involving, perhaps a Duda- Conforto package.’

  • Pete In Iowa

    Agree with all of your points Jason with the possible exception of Herrera. While he seemed to be a steal when we got him from the Pirates and his subsequent minor league performance, he never really did it for me in his brief major league stints. I could be wrong and he could pan out, but to me he seems on the path of a serviceable ML second baseman. This brings re-signing Walker for three years into play, which I think would be a good thing. I like the way he plays and he seems to be a great leader/clubhouse presence.
    You are spot on in your analysis of the Conforto situation. I believe he can be a real star for years to come. It’s up to him now to show how good he can be, just like he did from last August through this April. Admittedly, it’ll be really tough for him since he’s constantly in and out of the lineup and now doesn’t really have a spot to play. Versatile AND negligent indeed.
    As far how Bruce fits in, it’s pretty clear they’re going to have to move someone (or two) from the OF next year, whether via a trade, not picking up Bruce’s option, and/or Cespedes opting out.
    As I said in this space yesterday, it’s really too bad they couldn’t land Lucroy. Living in Iowa and having FoxSports Wisconsin on DISH, I’ve seen a lot of him — a legitimate All-Star on both sides of the ball. He would have been a HUGE upgrade behind the plate, in the lineup and in the clubhouse. And, he’s unbelievably affordable for next year to boot.

  • Eric

    Cohen described Bruce’s RISP prowess, then Bruce promptly struck out looking with runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out. Welcome to the Mets.

    I understand that Bruce’s stand-out skill – BA with RISP – is the biggest hole on the Mets, but trading the seemingly ready-and-waiting 2B for whom the Mets let Daniel Murphy go is tough to accept. Tough call, but I would have let the season ride on the veterans on the roster and young players in the system.

    For all the injuries jumbling the roster, historically bad offense, and recent spate of gut-punch losses, somehow the Mets are only 1.5 games out of the 2nd WC. I’m comfortable with the WC game on the road as long as deGrom is starting.

  • eric1973

    Would have loved to gotten Lucroy. I know TDA is our guy, but that guy appears to be the goods.

    Blevins has not been used in that role in a while, since Reed established himself as the WHOLE 8th inning guy. Use him in the 6th or 7th if you want.

    And as for TC knowing things we don’t, that guy has verbal diarrhea, and what’s on his lung is on his tongue. If he had any additional knowledge, he would have told the world.

    And he is DAMN lucky Ces didn’t pull up lame in that 5-0 game, or there really would have been hell to pay.

  • eric1973

    No Earl Weaver, and I wouldn’t be retiring his number any time soon, but he’s very ok.

    He is as hamstrung as some of his players are,, and playing injured guys and going away from what has worked really rankles.

    If Ces likes playing for him, that’s good enough for me.

    • Dennis

      But if the players are able to play, are they really injured? He can only use what’s available to him.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Re: Cespedes and future. People forget that one of the most exciting things about Ced last year was his SPEED. Which is nowhere this year due to injuries and–I would say–a little weight gain. And due to injuries, he hasn’t dove for a ball in the OF all year. I’d say leg injuries will be problem for him going forward as well. Also: He should only play LF–and see Conforto issues raised above. So I doubt they re-sign him.

    Secondly, as I noted in off-season: It’s odd for the Mets to construct (say, vs. the Cubs’ approach) a future based on pitching–and yet go out of their way to put together a weak fielding team. No one has ever said that Duda, Walker, Cabrera, and Wright (and now Flores and Reyes) were anything above average at best–in fact, below average in range. D’Arnaud is below average fielder and terrible thrower. Lagares is great again in CF–but never pegged as starter. Instead they projected out-of-position Ces out there. Conforto might (might) be average in left and Grady can’t throw in the key throwing position of right. Bruce is said to be below average. It’s an odd approach for a “pitch-first” team.

    • Dennis

      So in constructing the team, what Gold Glove caliber infielders (who can also hit…because of course their would have been no complaints with a great fielding player who couldn’t hit)should the Mets have obtained in the offseason without trading away the strength of their team….starting pitching?

  • Matt in Richmond

    If YC is healthy enough to DH the next 5 days he was healthy enough to pinch hit last night.

    The role of the late inning lefty specialist is to get the key out(s) whenever needed against the big lefty(ies). That could come in the 6th, 7th or 8th….or even on rare occasions in the 9th. I find it bizarre that you guys are so eager to blame TC and let Reed off the hook here. If anything Reed’s job was made easier. He came in with one guy on base but one out already recorded. Just needed to get 2 outs and not only did he let the runner on base score he gave up an additional run as well. But in your mind if he starts the inning clean needing 3 outs that doesn’t happen. And you know this….how? Through witchcraft? Now, I’m not here to jump on Reed..he has been PHEONOMENAL as has virtually our whole bullpen. But the logic of blaming TC for this is batty. Where is the credit for TC for managing this bullpen that has vastly exceeded expectations?

  • Matt in Richmond

    Now to address Greg Mitchell on the issue of fielding. Duda, Walker and Cabrera are all actually very good…not quite elite, but certainly above average. One of the real joys of this season has been watching professional middle infielders turn routine double plays with ease and sometimes convert the high degree of difficulty double play…things that were sorely lacking during the Flores/Murphy middle infield days. Bruce has a cannon for an arm in right and good enough range. Conforto has proven to be much better than advertised in left, and for all the griping about TDA’s throwing, his plate blocking skills are perfectly sufficient and when healthy I still believe he can throw well enough to get the job done. Much of the base stealing this year is totally on the pitchers not the catchers.

    • Greg Mitchell

      You may search in vain for anyone in baseball (on field or who cover it widely) who has said in past year that Duda, Walker and Cabrera are “above average.” You know, range counts also, and Cabrera especially is way below average. He makes the plays he gets too and can turn a DP–but that’s it. Which means to most people he is — average overall. Same for Walker. Comparing them to hapless Flores-Murphy does them no favors. Bruce is rated as below average by nearly everyone and his defensive WAR this year is in the minus zone. D’arnaud actually is weak at blocking pitches, especially late in games–as Mets announcers seem happy to point out almost every week. For his career he has thrown out 20% of runners–one of worst marks for any starting catcher. And most of it not attributed to Thor on mound…

      • Rob E.

        The search took about five seconds. These passages are from the 2016 Baseball Prospectus:

        1) On Duda: “Defensively, he gets a bad rap. He’s big and slow, but he’s got great hands and, yes, a good arm.”

        2) On Cabrera: “The reported demise of Cabrera As Shortstop was either exaggerated or just premature. Signed by the Rays to replace Ben Zobrist, Cabrera held his own at the six spot for Tampa Bay, re-establishing himself as a viable option up the middle. He beat out younger, more athletic players with solid, maybe even boring, play at the position. Everyone loves flash, but it’s important to have someone who can make most plays. Cabrera can still do that.”

        3) On Walker: “You can nitpick his defense, but that misses the point.”

        You are right, they stop short of calling them “above average,” but the spirit of what Matt is saying is spot on.

  • Matt in Richmond

    With all the injuries and guys having to play out of position the Mets are still 14th in MLB in fielding. How one could twist that into going out of their way to field a below average defensive team somewhat boggles the mind.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Fielding involves more than having a high error rate? Jeter made relatively few errors in his final years as a Yank yet was judged as among worst SS in the field because he got to nothing. If you’re going to judge by errors–you probably feel Loney has been great in field for Mets but he has a horrific error rate. So you have to judge both.

  • Jacobs27

    Re: Matt’s point about base-stealers. The Mets also seem to do an extraordinarily poor job holding runners as evidenced by the frequent steals of third because no one is anywhere near the base at second. I find this both puzzling and frustrating.

  • Jacobs27

    Re: the defense. Turning the double play has been a revelation this year compared to last. However, defensive metrics do not really back up the idea that Cabrera and Walker are above averag, especially Cabrera. I’m not sure what the gripe is except limited range. There are definitely some balls they don’t get to. But I’d say they’ve been solid.
    Alderson said the Mets have reason to believe Bruce is a better defender than his metrics suggest as well. But I think it remains to be seen how good his range really is. The arm is certainly an upgrade over Granderson.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Bruce was a good pickup, and I’d rather have Niese than Bastardo. That said, right now the only right-handed hitting outfielder on the roster is Cespedes, and we don’t know that after his 5 days as a DH, where he will likely have to run the bases at times, that he will be able to return to the outfield. The only player close to being a bona fide centerfielder at this point is De Aza. Going forward, assuming Bruce and Cespedes play the corners every day, do we have Granderson and Conforto and maybe De Aza alternating in center field? Who knows?

    The team is also going forward with Matt Reynolds as the starting shortstop until Cabrera or Reyes returns. Sandy made some nice moves, but I just don’t think it’s enough to get the team over the hump.

    On a positive note, deGrom was in deGroove last night. Wasn’t he?

  • Matt in Richmond

    Call me a dinosaur, but I’m not sold on defensive metrics. I prefer the eye test which tells me Walker & Cabrera have been well above average. I’m on board with Keith (who knows a few things about infield defense) and raves about both particularly Cabrera. Ditto on Bruce who nearly everyone I’ve heard from has said is underrated defensively. I’m not even sure what you’re talking about with Duda because he was getting nothing but rave reviews all last year. Travis….I’m less inclined to leap to his defense as he has had troubling moments of sloppiness combined with moments that suggest there’s more talent there. Anyway, add it all up and you’ve got at minimum an average defensive team and statistically actually a fair amount above average.

    Lastly, who decided that if pitching is your strength then by default you need a strong defensive team? Obviously you’d love to have it all, but if you’re going to cut corners somewhere isn’t defense more important to a team with weak pitching? More balls in play, more well struck balls etc? I’ve heard this line repeatedly and never understood the logic behind it.

  • Mikey

    I think I kind of warmed to the Jay Bruce trade the past 24 hours. I read somewhere about what a class act he is, team player, and just a good ballplayer–offensively and defensively.

    and as several mentioned above, Niese is a solid upgrade over Bastardo, and he can spot start if needed.

    let’s get some momentum going now….we need it!

  • Dave

    My distaste for Niese does not quite match Jason’s, but my feeling is yeah, he’s better than Bastardo has been, but so are other pitchers that maybe they could have gone after. But maybe Sandy tried and it just didn’t work, we don’t know. Is what it is, maybe Niese works out. And let’s not forget that post-deadline moves happen too.

  • eric1973

    LOVE Sandy’s moves. He just acquired the NL RBI Leader, for Pete’s sake. Nice to see a Met in boldface as RBI leader. (Take that, Murph!)

    Actually, that Baseball Prospectus says kinda what both Matt and Greg M. were saying. No great shakes either way.

    • Eric

      Odd place for the team as far as the trade for Bruce.

      In a vacuum, the Mets are breaking down and aren’t playing well enough to be buyers at the trade deadline.

      Yet their competition isn’t running away with the WC slots and they’re close enough to take a shot.

  • eric1973

    Jason’s post could have been titled:
    “The Second Night of Something”
    if it wasn’t for that blasted Blevins move.

  • Mart in Richmond

    The move where Blevins got one out and allowed one runner to reach and then Reed gave up 2 hits including the go ahead rbi? Hmmmmm….ok

  • eric1973

    Yup, that’s the one.

    Don’t get me wrong, I adore Blevins, but even if the Mets had that robot pitcher from the Twilight Zone sitting in that bullpen, you still had to go with Reed.

  • Steve K

    OK, regarding tonight’s (Wednesday) vs. the Yankees:

    The 7th inning summed up what ails them. Down 6-3, they place runners on 1st and 2nd with none out. And, their 3-4-5-6 hitters were coming up.

    What happens: NONE of them could hit the ball out of the infield. If not for NYY’s 3Bman botching a DP ball, they’d not have scored at all. As it turned out, the only run scored on an infield grounder. And, don’t get me started on not scoring any more runs in the 1st inning after loading the bases with none out. Just another example of this systemic inability to get the clutch hit.

    And, then, another baffling move by the manager. Matz is on a roll, at only 91 pitches. Had thrown four shutout innings after giving up 6. So, defying logic, TC takes him out. Yankees score three runs. Game over.

    You can make all the trades you want, but until someone can teach these players the proper hitting approach with RISP, and until TC improves his game management, this team will continue to struggle.

    It’s getting painful to watch…

    • Jacobs27

      There’s a lot of bad to choose from, but the worst part for me is how back on their heels this line up looks in bases loaded and nobody out situations. Hello, guys? The PITCHER is the one with his back against the wall. Remember?

      Unreal.

  • Jacobs27

    I love this team, but they are so, so frustrating. Tonight’s game was just unwatchable. Ugh.

  • Matt in Richmond

    The nonstop questioning of TC is really getting hilarious. If he pushes a starter to go an extra inning people freak out and ask why is he taking unnecessary chances. If he plays it conservative and sits them down he gets equally criticized.

    Bottom line, he has taken a team with modest expectations to a WS berth and now within a few games of earning a wild card while dealing with more injuries and outside drama in that year and a half than most managers deal with in 5 years. Monday morning quarterbacks are the worst.

  • eric1973

    Even more hilarious is how some TC defenders believe he has not made a single bad managerial decision… ever.