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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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A Grand Shame

The Giants certainly know how to slot their promotions, scheduling their annual Jerry Garcia Tribute Night for when the Mets came to town Thursday. A friend of mine, not much of a Grateful Dead fan, liked to tell the joke, “What did the Deadhead say once the drugs wore off — ‘man, this music sucks.’”

I like the music of the Dead (the official band of the 2016 New York Mets’ playoff hopes) just fine, but the entirety of whatever trip the Mets were on last night must have looked a lot better through a hallucinogenic prism. Not that the part where I imagined Justin Ruggiano hit a grand slam off Madison Bumgarner wasn’t, well, far out, but Jacob deGrom and I kind of crashed when Bumgarner came up in the bottom of the very same inning, the fourth, and hit his own two-run homer to completely erase what was left of the lead Ruggiano built with a single four-run swing.

Trippy, right?

The eventual 10-7 defeat negates a core tenet of my baseball philosophy: you should never, ever lose a game in which one of your batters hits a grand slam. Yet it’s happened to the Mets an unlucky 13 times in their 55-year history. Most recent before last night, it was Chris Schwinden & Co. undoing Jason Bay’s slamdiwork at Citi Field in 2011 in what became a 6-5 loss to the Braves. Most horrifying was Carlos Delgado’s salami being cut down to size by Oliver Perez and the oily rags who followed him onto the mound during the last week of Shea Stadium’s existence in 2008. This was the infamous tie score, Murphy triples to lead off, Wright coming up, bottom of the ninth, all we need is a sacrifice fly game that did not result in Daniel coming home. Luis Ayala burned the place to the ground in the tenth, 9-6, and we soldiered on to Shea Goodbye, knowing damn well we’d blown our best chance to extend the ballpark’s life.

Saddest? Sadder than Ruggiano’s beautiful night (3-for-5 and a sweet, running catch) being sabotaged by deGrom enduring the worst outing of his and almost everybody’s career? I’d have to go with Jack Hamilton, Mets starting pitcher on May 20, 1967, blasting a four-bagger versus ex-Met Al Jackson, by then of the Cardinals, in the second inning at Shea. Hamilton proceeded to return to his hurling and promptly threw the lead back up; he was out of the game in the fourth and the Mets went on to lose, 11-9.

“Hey, Jack, how was your game today?”
“Oh, great, yeah, I hit a grand slam.”
“Wonderful! What did you and the guys do to celebrate afterwards?”
“SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP!”

The rest of the fellas whose productive bats proved no more than ornaments to futility: Frank Thomas, 1962; Eddie Bressoud, 1966; Tommie Agee, 1971; Rusty Staub, 1973; Gary Carter, 1985; Joe Orsulak, 1995; Cliff Floyd, 2005; and Fernando Tatis, 2009. In a cruel twist of fate, Tatis was starting at first base a few days after Delgado had played his final game as a Met, though we didn’t know it was Delgado’s final game. He’ll probably just need a little rest, some rehab and he’ll be back as good as new before we know it. That was that year’s baseball equivalent of one of those marathon jams that made the Dead famous. Carlos’s injury turned out to be the canary in the walking boot in the coal mine from which the 2009 Met campaign could not be rescued. Everybody (just about) got hurt, every game (more or less) was lost.

What was wrong with Delgado again? I’m going to say it was a broken heart never properly healed from how the Mets lost to the Cubs the previous September.

No Dead tribute slated for tonight at Phone Company Park, but Seth Lugo will be filling in for Steven Matz, who reported shoulder soreness and was therefore scratched. Just a precaution, they say.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on us. But not often.

51 comments to A Grand Shame

  • Steve J

    [This is a question for Matt in Richmond from yesterday’s blog]

    Matt, you said, “it is simply a fact that they have had far more both in number and severity than an average team. And it is simply common sense that injuries of this scope and magnitude would have a deleterious effect on any team.” Can you please provide details on what is the average number and general severity of injuries per team?

    As far as the Mets key players to start the season, the Mets have lost their 1B (not expected) for an extended period, their SS for a short stint (not expected), their 3B (expected) for the season, their C (not unexpected) for an extended period and their LF (not expected) for the past few weeks officially and an extended period unofficially. They lost one starter to injury and other starters have had issues and/or skipped starts (not expected as pitchers break down, it’s what they do). And the bullpen lost Henderson (not expected).

    Now I have looked up each team’s injuries and I dont think that’s an outrageous run of injuries, especially considering the injuries to Wright, d’Arnaud and a starter were all to be expected. Furthermore, Loney has been a great replacement at 1B playing better defense and hitting for better average while having less pop in his bat. But if Matt has facts that show otherwise I’m open to reading them.

    The bigger problem imo has been the lineup outside of Cespedes has been streaky or just plain terrible.
    -Granderson has been putrid most of the year
    -Cabrera has been dreadful with RISP
    -Conforto has been terrible since April
    -d’Arnaud has been lousy when healthy and Plawecki was lost this season
    -Walker has had great stretches and awful stretches
    -Flores hit well for a while but is wildly inconsistent against RHPs

    Matt, can you provide us with something more substantial in terms of number of injuries and severity, especially in re: expected starting lineup and top rotation and bullpen pitchers?

    • I had to wade into yesterday’s comments, so an aimed-at-no-one-in-particular reminder to please keep things friendly (or at least neutral) while debating vigorously.

    • Matt in Richmond

      I’m not even sure where to begin responding to that Steve J. I’m not being sarcastic, just honest. I guess first of all we need to correct a few things. d’Arnaud being injured was not an expected thing. This is a misunderstanding by many people not just you. He has had a lot of injuries, but they have all been of the fluke variety and all different. It’s not as if he has anything chronic that keeps reoccurring. It’s also a pretty gross overstatement to say that he has been lousy. He’s batting .257 which is pretty solid for a catcher, and it’s reasonable to think that if he’d been playing all year his numbers would be significantly better. If you’ve noticed, he’s been on a hot streak lately as he finds his groove.

      Then to Duda/Loney. I join many Mets fans in being pleasantly surprised by what Loney has done, but many have drastically overrated his performance. Essentially what he has done is not kill us, while providing very little impact. I know Duda can be a frustrating player at times with his penchant for striking out too much and going cold for extended periods, but the bottom line is he wins games. For evidence, Duda’s average WAR the last two years is 3.3. Loney’s in 2016 is negative 0.2.

      Certainly nobody but the most doe eyed optimist expected Wright to play 150 games and get 600 plate appearances, but at the same time it wasn’t unreasonable to expect more than 30 games out of him.

      In addition to the injuries you mentioned there is also Lagares (our best defensive outfielder and rare right handed bat), Ruggiano getting hurt the day they pick him up, Reyes missing 2 weeks just as he was getting going, and Walker having to go in and out of the lineup with back trouble, particularly killer recently when he was our hottest bat.

      I agree with most of your assessments at the bottom. Curtis has had a bad year, Cabrera’s performance with RISP defies all logic (and he’s not alone in that), Wilmer had one great streak but overall has shown no ability to hit righties and continues to be iffy defensively, and Conforto had a severe sophomore slump.

      There are many factors that go into the season the Mets have had. I would never say it’s all injuries and nothing else. Some of it is bad luck. Some of it is guys having bad years. But I take issue with the notion that injuries can’t be mentioned because all teams have injuries and it’s just an excuse. If anyone can find me a team that has had more injury woes than the Mets and still has a better record, then I will be astonished. The closest parallel I can find is KC…the team that won the WS last year and entered this season with high expectations. They have actually not had as many injury problems as we have, but they have had more than their share. And their record is worse than ours.

      • Steve J

        That’s all good and well but you stated, “it is simply a fact that they have had far more both in number and severity than an average team. And it is simply common sense that injuries of this scope and magnitude would have a deleterious effect on any team.”

        I will ask again for the information that provides the basis for that FACT and not anecdotal evudence please.

        • Matt in Richmond

          Steve, I’m not sure what you want. A spreadsheet with all 30 teams and every single one of their injuries? I don’t think Greg and Jason would appreciate that. You have access to the same information I do. I can’t find another team that has suffered injuries to the degree the Mets have.

          • A MATTer of FACT

            Matt,

            You state unequivocally something is a fact, then when asked to provide basis for the assertion, say you don’t know how and that I have the same access. I didn’t make the claim, you did. It’s incumbent upon you to back it up. That’s how the process works. Thankfully because you either didn’t know and were guessing or didn’t want to know, Rob E. provided info about the NL East.

        • Rob E.

          Steve, I posted a response to your question regarding Mets injuries on yesterday’s board (as Greg asked). The Mets HAVE had more injuries (at least compared to the rest of the NL East), and the facts and supporting link are there if you are interested.

      • Matt in Richmond

        Does every newspaper column or online article contain detailed graphs and charts to prove every statistical claim that they make? I didn’t know what format to portray such a dense amount of information in a way that would satisfy you. It isn’t my fault if you aren’t able to discover the same easily accessible information that I am. At any rate, thanks to Rob E for proving my assertions correct.

        • A MATTer of FACT

          All you had to do was figure out how many major injuries teams have had to their major key players and then how many games they have missed. With that info you could then figure out league averages. With that you then provide to us the league average and where the Mets are compared to the league average. For somebody who speaks so condescendingly and tries to sound impressive using words like deleterious, you sure aren’t too bright. Or you just didn’t want to waste the time cuz you figured nobody would call you on it. Either way I have no use for you.

          [For Pete’s sake. We just talked about this. Banned. — Management]

          • Matt in Richmond

            Wow! For someone who accused ME of crossing the line that’s a mighty personal comment. All I was saying is that I don’t know why it’s incumbent on me to prove to you what I already know to be true. I would think it would be incumbent on you to prove I was full of it. But, since I knew what I was talking about, you couldn’t. I’m sorry if that frustrates you or causes you to “have no use for me”. I’ve never said anything that hostile to you, but no sweat. I’m thick skinned.

  • Pete In Iowa

    The only hope we have now is that this season morphs into 2001, we make a late run and have the wherewithal to finish the job this time. An extreme longshot to be sure, but a shot nonetheless (the Moneyball A’s and 2007 Rockies come to mind). It would seem with punching bag after punching bag lined up for late September, the schedule would be in our favor, but after losing 6 of 9 to the Dbacks and Padres, I’m not too sure about that anymore.
    Personally, I’m tired hearing about injuries. Anymore, it’s normal for teams to lose several key players (AND NOT JUST PITCHERS) for extended periods of time. It’s not like it used to be when I grew up with the game decades ago, i.e. MOST guys played 150 games or more year in, year out. Back then injuries were the exception, not the rule they are today. For whatever reason(s) – and we can theorize as to why all we want – those days are LONG GONE.

  • Dave

    This morning the Mets felt it necessary to tweet about Ruggiano’s grand slam. Uh, fat load of good it did. But I guess the social media staff can’t sit around and do nothing just because the team is.

    Please just shut Matz down and hope that he’s good and healthy in 2017. I’m starting to look at him and think “yeah, Tim Leary and Paul Wilson looked like they were going to be aces too.” Matz can’t save this season, they can at least try to save him.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    I thought I remembered Beltran hitting a grand slam against the Phillies to tie it at Shea as the season started falling apart in 2007. Quick check at baseball reference showed me it was a 3-run bomb, and–ah yes, Greg F Dobbs had the followup slam before we had recorded another out in our favor.

    What a season!

  • Gil

    Other times I can barely see! (like when the games is on past midnight EST)

    The fat lady has moved from make-up to wardrobe and the only thing that could potentially keep her off stage is if Yo pulls the fire alarm for 40 games and puts this entire rag tag bunch on his broad shoulders.

    What a brawl of a game that was last night. I remember a passage from ‘a river runs through it’ where Maclean writes of the preacher going to the doctor after hearing his son had died in a fight and the doctor tells him “all the bones in his right hand were broken” which drew a look of satisfaction from the old man. His boy had gone down swinging. The Mets are a tough luck ball club this year, but there is no quit in them. They play hard.

    It still aint over.

    • Matt in Richmond

      Nice reference Gil. That’s one of those movies that I can never decide if it’s beautiful and poignant or overly sentimental and schmaltzy. Either way I’ve probably seen it 4-5 times.

  • LeClerc

    If Ty and TJ are headed back to Vegas: Well done lads! You showed up to play while others flailed. See you and Conforto on September 1.

    And thanks to Justin Ruggiano. He did all he could to win while the big boys folded.

  • Harvey

    Ruggiano joins a line of recent Met non-entities who have grand slams during their usually brief tenure. These include Taylor Teagarden in 2014, Colin Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin in 2013, Mike Nickeas in 2012 and Omir Santos in 2009. The first Met grand-slam was hit by the immortal Hot Rod Kanehl in 1962 and the next year pitcher Carl Willey became the 1st Met hurler to hit one.

  • Steve J

    Greg, love but saddened by title of blog today. I’m sure you know but wonder if all your readers know what famous ending in baseball history provided the capper for a team rallying to beat another that had hit a Grand Slam earlier in the game.

  • Greg Mitchell

    What, shut down Matz? Hey, they let him throw 120 pitches one start ago–must be nothing to worry about right? And before you say, “but he threw 7 no-hit innings the following start”–you are aware, aren’t you, that arm/shoulder injuries don’t happen in one game or one inning right? It’s like the argument that surely, truly, Johan throwing 134 pitches in his no-hitter likely had no effect on the end of his career, a few weeks later, because, hey he pitched a couple good games, amid the outright disasters, in the course of his march to doom…

    • Dennis

      If arm problems don’t happen in one inning or overnight, then maybe you can go back to the previous season? Or the minors? Maybe in college or high school? While we’re at it…..go back to little league.

    • Left Coast Jerry

      So let me see if I got this right. Johan Santana throws 134 pitches in one game, pitches 3 more good games, then he injures his leg covering first base and immediately after the injury his game goes south. But it’s not due to the leg injury, it’s due to his throwing so many pitches a couple of weeks earlier.

      I’m no doctor, but if a man breaks his leg in a motorcycle accident, it’s not because he spent too much time on the treadmill last month.

    • SheaStadiumPitchingRubber

      Imagine the outcry had Matz not given up that hit in the 8th inning vs. SD, and went on to throw, say, 115 pitches and completed the no-hitter. Everyone would say that the no-no caused the injury.

      And would have been entirely wrong. Sometimes, you’re darned if you do, darned if you don’t…

  • rich porricelli

    Oh the woof woof days of a long hot summer…My mind drifts to the grandstand at Shea me and my Dellwood tickets and no expectations..

  • Matt in Richmond

    Oh for Pete’s sake! He has had elbow spurs, but this is the first I’ve heard of any shoulder issues. Pitchers have soreness and get injured. It just happens. If anyone knew how to prevent it that would be wonderful, but nobody does. Freaking Kershaw has missed half the season.

    • Greg Mitchell

      That’s funny, Kershaw has a BACK injury. Not exactly relevant to discussion of arm troubles.

      • Matt in Richmond

        I apologize. I thought the nature of the discussion was the culpability of managers in pitching related injuries which can include abdominals, backs, calves, hamstrings, lats, and numerous other areas as well as arms, elbows, shoulders. In that case, in a very cursory look I count about 85 pitchers currently on the disabled list with arm related injuries. Among them are guys considered workhorse types like John Lackey, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Tyson Ross, and Alex Wood.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Old wounds, I know, but Wright’s failure to even hit a sac fly in that at bat has clouded my opinion of him ever since. I’ve tried, but, no. Sorry to all.

    • Dennis

      I can see you being disappointed with Wright, but he wasn’t the 1st big-time player to not come through in the postseason…..won’t be the last.

  • eric1973

    Ken K, That DW at-bat in the closing days of Shea soured me on him for the rest of his (and my) days.

    From my perch near the top row of the Upper Deck, off First Base, I could see those pitches were at least a foot outside. Why couldn’t he?

    We could have closed down Shea with one final playoff berth, and, after that, who knows?

    The moment was too big for him, as old grudges die hard. This one never will.

    And I do not apologize.

    Thanks, Greg, for pulling the bandage off the scab and re-opening old, festering wounds.

    • Dennis

      “From my perch near the top row of the Upper Deck, off First Base, I could see those pitches were at least a foot outside. Why couldn’t he?”

      Yeah……everyone knows that the fans in the upper deck can see exactly what a batter facing a major league pitching can see. You clearly missed your calling.

    • Thanks, Greg, for pulling the bandage off the scab and re-opening old, festering wounds.

      Anytime.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Do I need to state how insane it is to judge someone off of one AB? I mean, by that rationale, every player who ever played major league baseball is a bum. Every player, superstar or regular Joe has failed in key moments.

    • Dennis

      Man…..I agree. I guess everyone expects perfection. Ted Williams hit .200 in his only World Series appearance……what a no clutch loser he turned out to be.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Bingo. He’s a great example, and there’s an abundance of other all time greats who struggled in brief postseason moments. Further, Wright has a nice passel of clutch moments. But let’s pick one where he didn’t come through and label him a loser for all eternity. Sounds reasonable right?

  • eric1973

    If there was one time in his injury-riddled career that he HAD to come through, it was then. Making the playoffs was on the line. There was no at-bat more crucial than that one, in his entire career.

    He had a horrible at-bat where he totally embarrassed himself. It’s not that he did not come through, but how it happened, each pitch further out of the strike zone than the next, the player flailing 3 times at nothing.

    Pathetic, as I recall.

  • Steve D

    When I think of failing in one AB, how can you forget Beltran looking a called strike 3 with the bases loaded to end the NLCS? Someone will now claim that Beltran was a great Met, underrated and is a borderline Hall of Famer. To that, I will point out that he signed a seven year contract with the Mets and had only 3 excellent, complete seasons out of the 7. The other 4 were poor and injury filled/incomplete. He was injured a lot and that may not have been his fault, but I can’t give him positive acclaim for that…3 out of 7 is not getting your money’s worth, but if he had come through in that spot and we go on to win the series, I would be the first to put him in the Mets pantheon. One freaking AB would change my whole view of him for sure.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Beltran isn’t a borderline Hall of Famer. He is a Hall of Famer. His tenure with the Mets is largely underrated, for various reasons. And that was a hellacious AB he put up in that spot, battling to the bitter end. Sure he probably regrets taking strike 3, but he got fooled by an incredibly gutsy pitch by a certain Mr Wainwright that in coming years would prove to be one of the best in the biz.

    Just for reference, his OPS in 7 years with the Mets was .869

    • Steve D

      When I sign a guy for that money, I need him to drive in runs. He drove in 78, 116, 112, 112, 48, 27, 66 for the Mets (84 total). Maybe my standards are too high, but we paid the guy a huge contract and he had 3 very good years out of 7. He won’t be one of my favorite Mets.

      As I finish this comment, the Mets appear finished as well…in this game and for the season.

  • Lenny65

    Safe to say that this year’s model has done a terrific job of angering everyone and rubbing salt into the aforementioned old wounds we’ll apparently always be sporting. I blame everyone and no one, I mean the endless parade of injuries and anxiety over young arms and outright disappointment on so many levels in the shadow of flying so high last year…they really outdid themselves this year. You look back at the times when you said to yourself, “well, there’s no way they can disappoint me more than this” and again they prove you wrong. Take away Bartolo’s homer and this has been one hell of a joyless season, just a slog. Sure, we’ve had lots of seasons where we’d have been ecstatic to be fluttering around .500 in late August but this ain’t one of them. At this point I just want them to wrap things up, maybe the low expectations we’ll have next season will bode well in that perverse Metsian way.

    • Steve D

      There’s always next year. They have to sign Walker and Cespedes has to stay. Conforto has to live up to his potential. All five young starters have to stay healthy…this already sounds like too much to ask.

  • Matt in Richmond

    It’s perfectly fine for him not to be your cup of tea. I’ve got a buddy who I have had vehement arguments with on the merits of Beltran. Those rbi totals are obviously influenced by games missed and the quality of the teams he played on, but nevertheless, I get some people were just disappointed in him. Huge expectations I guess. Because honestly, .869 OPS is pretty much HOF caliber, and that’s before even factoring in his gold glove defense and that he is one of the greatest base runners of all time. We haven’t had many guys with credentials like that. To each their own.

  • Jacobs27

    A grand shame is right, Greg. This reminds me of something I first realized about shame in baseball when I was teaching English in France a few years ago.

    As you might expect, French high school students don’t know much about baseball. They really struggle to grasp the seemingly bizarre and overly complex rules and esoteric vocabulary for which they have no context or point of reference. But I would try to communicate the joy of the sport to them all the same, and if they were game, I would teach them “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”.

    Now, when we got to the line “If they don’t win, it’s a shame” a number of students would very naturally translate it in French as “S’ils ne gagnent pas, c’est une honte” (If they don’t win, it’s a shame–as in *something to be ashamed of*) rather than “c’est dommage” (it’s *too bad*). They were like, man, these Americans are a bit harsh on their home team!

    Of course, that’s not what the expression normally means or how fans normally feel. Most of the time, “if they don’t win”, it’s just regrettable…

    But this ain’t one of those times. The way this team loses is plenty shameful and that’s why it’s so painful. The only quasi-bright side is that I think we’re past tragedy at this point and well into farce. At least that’s something we Mets fans know how to relate to.

  • Steve3179

    Was that Tatis grand slam to dead center near the Apple, during a day game? What a terrible loss that was…