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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 Nice Was, a Nicer Might Have Been

The best thing to do — the sane thing, the kind thing, the self-preserving thing — would be to focus solely on what happened in Sunday night’s Mets-Giants game.

It was taut, tight and well-played, but ultimately a tale of two pitchers: Jeff Samardzija and Noah Syndergaard. Samardzija rode his plus-plus fastball, a resurrected curve and a splitter to keep the Mets hitless into the seventh; Syndergaard rode his plus-plus-plus fastball, ungodly slider and a change-up that mortals would call a fastball to keep the Giants scoreless for as long as he needed to. It was a nifty showcase of pitching on both sides, one of those games you knew early was going to come down to someone’s mistake.

The mistake was Samardzija’s: he gave Yoenis Cespedes something to hit.

Samardzija had flirted with this particular disaster before: in the first he left a curveball in the middle of the plate to Cespedes, who all but rubbed his hands together with glee … and got the bat slightly under the optimum contact point, resulting in a harmless fly ball. (Hey, it happens.)

But come the seventh, Samardzija wasn’t so lucky. The much-lamented Curtis Granderson rifled a low fastball over the head of Gregor Blanco, whose choice of routes possibly prevented Samardzija’s no-hit bid from continuing. A batter later, Cespedes made that academic, blasting a splitter into the left-field stands for a 2-0 Met lead that would hold up.

For Syndergaard, it’s been an odd, sometimes worrisome summer: despite his arsenal looking as intimidating as ever, he’s has struggled to put hitters away and been bedeviled by runners on base. Maybe his struggles have been a product of the bone spur in his elbow; maybe they indicate Noah needs to foil hitters by making another adjustment to his pitching patterns; most likely it’s a little of both.

Assuming continued health, though (we’ll pause here to rap madly on all available wood), Syndergaard certainly has the brains and drive to learn and learn quickly, as he did at the end of a similarly iffy summer in his rookie season. And credit Rene Rivera for making the running game a non-issue: Rivera cut down both Giants who tried to run on Noah, and was his usual wise self behind the plate. In the eighth, Syndergaard walked Brandon Belt with one out; Rivera immediately made his way to the mound, there to check on his pitcher’s fuel level, talk pitch selection and make sure focus didn’t wander. Six pitches later, Brandon Crawford and his execrable hairdo had grounded into a double play.

(For those who didn’t keep track of the postgame, Terry Collins planned to let Syndergaard start the ninth; it was Noah who said he was done. So cancel the day’s controversy, and points to Syndergaard for not letting bravado risk both a fine outing and a Mets win. Though if you must aim at dart at Terry, having Syndergaard bunt in the eighth should give you an easy target — and I’d say so even if Noah hadn’t bunted into a double play.)

A neat, tidy Mets win — we ought to leave it at that and enjoy it for what it was. But, well, we’re Mets fans. And so there’s this: Cespedes hurt his quadriceps on July 8. There’s never a perfect time to put a player of Cespedes’ caliber on the DL, but the All-Star break is pretty darn close.

Rather than DL Cespedes, the Mets let him keep trying to play. The result: He went nine for 44 with one home run and wound up on the DL anyway, nearly a month after the original injury. The Mets turned two weeks without Cespedes into six seven, and mismanaging that injury quite possibly killed their season.

(That’s bad; what’s worse is that as with whispering campaigns about departed players, this is a Met malady that’s bedeviled the team since long before Collins or Sandy Alderson: recall Jerry Manuel‘s quip about “they’re calling it a cramp … surgery on Thursday.” I’ll let you review the cast of characters, their tenures and form your own suspicions about where the problem might lie.)

If the Mets make a 2001-style sprint at a wild-card berth, try just to enjoy it. Try not to think about what might have been if they’d had an additional month of Yoenis Cespedes doing what Yoenis Cespedes can do.

Oh, and good luck with that.

44 comments to A Nice Was, a Nicer Might Have Been

  • Dennis

    No need to take aim at anyone after a nice win and dominating performance by Syndergaard.

    As far as DL/no DL for Cespedes, what’s done is done and time to move on…….to St. Louis. Taking 2 of 3 is mandatory this week. I still feel there is a run in this team. Whether that translates into a WC berth remains to be seen. LGM!!!!

  • Rob D.

    Here’s your money line : “The Mets turned two weeks without Cespedes into seven, and mismanaging that injury quite possibly killed their season.”

  • Left Coast Jerry

    The At Bat App’s take on Blanco’s choice of routes:

    “Granderson lined a fastball to left field for a double past Gregor Blanco — Statcast showed Blanco registered a lackluster 79.4 route efficiency on the play…”

    Excuse me, he didn’t catch the ball. His route efficiency was 0. If he had caught it, his route efficiency would have been 100. I have eyes. I don’t need Statcast to tell me that Blanco played that ball poorly.

    • Pete In Iowa

      Yep Jer. I’m still waiting for someone to hit a homer with an “exit velocity” of 42 MPH and/or a launch angle of 2.78 degrees.
      Sports TV today – if some stat or graphic is useless, use it! And if it’s really, really useless, use it some more!

  • Gil

    But what if the long stint on the DL was just what the big Cuban needed to be able to put the team on his back for 40 odd games and gallop to a Wild Card? What if what if what if what if.

    Thor / Family Man a mean 1-2 punch from the hill.

    Come on now boys its time to get all pistons firing at once!

    LETS GO METS!!!!!!

  • Greg Mitchell

    Gee, and I was about to hail Terry for “learning his lesson” and pulling Noah after 8 and now we see that Terry (despite history) planning to let him pitch the 9th but Noah talking him out of it.

    And for those who blame D’arnaud’s throwing problems on the pitchers–no problem for Rivera last night with worst holder-of-runners on mound.

    • Seth

      The Mets need to think long and hard about the catching situation.

      • Pete In Iowa

        Hopefully, their deadline interest in Lucroy confirms that, but we’ll have to wait and see. Too bad they didn’t get him. How much better off would they be with him instead of Jayson Bayruce? Not only hitting-wise, but the whole what-do-we-do-with-all-these-outfielders logjam.

    • Rob E.

      What lesson was that, exactly? Never to let a guy throw 100 pitches? Never let a guy pitch nine innings? What is the lesson we can take forward?

      If Syndergaard was gassed and he came out willingly, then kudos to him for being honest and not jeopardizing himself or his team. Collins would have no way of knowing that. Letting a guy who was not struggling in any way go out for the ninth when he was at 98 pitches through eight hardly qualifies as abusive. They won 2-0, they got great pitching and a clutch hit…is there really a reason to take a shot at Terry Collins?

      You (the collective “you,” not you personally) wouldn’t “hail” Terry Collins if he pulled a busload of schoolchildren out of a burning bus….you’d just blame him for the damage to the bus. That’s the way it works…go back and read the comments for the past two years.

    • Matt in Richmond

      Since Rob E successfully and completely rebutted your utterly erroneous on TC re Noah, I’ll pick up with the nonsense about Rivera/d’Arnaud. Going into last nights game I believe base stealers had been successful 40-44 times with Noah on the mound….that’s mostly with Rivera doing the catching. I don’t believe anyone on this blog has tried to say both catchers are equally adept at throwing guys out, but the numbers ARE greatly exaggerated due to the pitchers failure to keep runners close. Noah did a better job last night which gave Rivera the opportunity to show off his arm. Kudos to both of them. By the way, I think Travis has nailed 3 of the last 4 guys to run…if the pitchers give him a chance and his arm is healthy he is capable. Not great, but capable.

  • mookie4ever

    Noah said he toned down his leg kick to get faster to plate, that could have helped Rivera out. Also that he was able to relax & have fun for first time in 6 wks. He is still so young & taking too much on himself. But he’s growing right before our eyes, let’s hope he continues & that Jake rights himself too.

    I also feel they have a run in them & we all know what is possible when Yo gets hot. We’ll see if it’s too little, too late, but I sure hope it isn’t. Ya Gotta Believe!

  • LeClerc

    Let DeGrom start the St. Louis series on normal rest. Skip Niese. Cardinals lead NL in home runs. Why put Niese in harms way? Skipping Niese will mean he won’t pitch until the second game of the Phillies series at Citi Field: a better chance for a non-destructive outcome.

    Want to make the play-offs? A Terry Collins intervention is required. Don’t fire him – just save him from himself (Thor bunting to send the unfleet Rene to second? Sending Thor out in the ninth to induce a Posey/Span led rally?) 38 games to go. The idea is to win as many as possible.

    • Left Coast Jerry

      So, let me get this straight. If Thor had hit away and grounded into a double play, you would have criticized Terry for not having him bunt in that situation, right?

  • Rob E.

    You guys need to do something so we can at least differentiate the Terry Collins criticism after a WIN from the Terry Collins criticism after a loss.

    It’s exactly the same ALL the time. It’s practically a “mad-lib”: “He sucks because (pick any move from the night before). (name any other living organism) would be a better manager. If we had someone else we would have (not lost/won by more/iced the game earlier). And why did he (bring in/not bring in) (Familia/Robles/Reed/Blevins/anybody else) in the (fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, any other) inning.”

    It’s just “push-button” criticism, there’s nothing innovative. You guys criticize the way you say Terry Collins manages. Do you realize that? YOU (the collective “you,” not anyone personally) are the Terry Collinses of blog commenters!

    • Gil

      There are times I feel that Phil Mushnick has 15 unique log-in’s here (and one that he likes to play around with).

    • All right. Everybody take it down a little, please. At a certain point a collectively shaken fist is as corrosive to the conversation as a specifically pointed finger.

      • Gil

        Yikes! I wandered into jurisdiction that was not mine to police. Mea Culpa, Jason and Greg – nothing but admiration and respect.

        Lets get on those Cardinals early. As much as I like Matheny, I hope we hang 3 in a row on his club.

        LGM!

  • LeClerc

    Matz now diagnosed with a rotator cuff problem. No manager (neither MLB nor arm-chair savants) will pitch him in St. Louis – he might be headed for the DL or a season-ending shutdown.

    So the normal rest rotation would be DeGrom, Lugo, Colon.
    The extra-rest rotation is Niese, DeGrom, Lugo.

    The argument for extra rest must be that DeGrom and Colon are arm weary – thus Niese-risk is necessary.

    Sweeping St. Louis is not too much to ask for a playoff team. Taking two out of three is necessary. One out of three is cold comfort. Getting swept is Sayonara.

    While the Walkers are celebrating their new arrival, let’s hope we can celebrate Niese, Bruce, and Granderson coming up big against the Cardinals.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Matz to DL with new shoulder problem–one game after allowed to throw record (for him) 120 pitches, already with elbow issues. Of course, if you want to believe that the fact he threw 7 no-hit innings in his (one and only) start after that proves that the 120 was a swell idea… and that injuries must show up immediately…then go right ahead.

      Oh, I forgot, any criticism of Terry not welcomed here any longer.

      • Matt in Richmond

        There are currently over 120 pitchers on major league rosters on the disabled list. Over 85 with elbow, shoulder or other arm related injuries. Many of them are young, but many of them are veterans of the “workhorse” type description. Pitching is by definition a hazardous undertaking, and NOBODY knows how to prevent injuries.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    I read this blog because Greg and Jason are not only Mets fans, but clever, witty, literate and knowledgeable Mets fans. They manage to put their personal take on what’s going on, and often relate it to things going on in their own lives that are not necessarily Mets or baseball related. If I want to read game recaps, I can look at newspapers or websites such as MLB or ESPN.

    The comments on this site should be in relation to what is written in the post. Quite often it is, but lately, many of the comments become a referendum on the team’s management. Folks, it’s tiresome, and it detracts from the beauty of this site. I suggest that the Terry Collins bashers gravitate to the Mets.com site, where many of the commenters simply refer to him as the Nitwit. I’m sure they will welcome you there with open arms.

    • Thanks Jerry.

      TC criticism isn’t out of bounds — heck, I took a shot at the man myself in that post — but it does feel like folks are waiting for any excuse to pounce, and I’m not sure that there’s anything new to be said there.

      More than that, though, I’m tired of the invective between posters. We’ve banned one poster already, and in this thread — which followed a nice win, for Pete’s sake — I’ve felt the need to step in multiple times. That’s not going to continue.

  • Bob

    Re–Thor–Once again–Odin is Pleased!
    Bonus–a Met catcher who can throw runners out!-Amazing!
    It made up for having to watch game on ESPN!

    Met Fan since Polo Grounds–1963

    Let’s Go Mets!

  • eric1973

    Wish Niese’s wife would get pregnant every 5 days…

    And we’ll all do what we can to help.

    (I thought the mad-libs thing was funny.)

    • Matt in Richmond

      That’s pretty funny! Anyone have a nomination for who the last Met to be as universally disliked as Niese would be?

      Bobby Bo? That’s so long ago. Someone more recent?

    • Matt in Richmond

      Those are some good examples. The typical way a player generates hostility is by being a highly regarded free agent with a huge contract that comes in and stinks it up. The unique thing about Niese is that he was drafted by us, and played his whole career with us (until the offseason trade). He’s been well paid of course, but never gotten a massive contract that comes with massive expectations. He’s just kind of done himself in with his crappy personality and uninspiring performance.

      • NostraDennis

        Surprised no one brought up Steve Trachsel’s name here. My personal least favorite Mets was Kevin McReynolds, after learning he’d much rather be huntin’ in the woods than hunting down fly balls in the outfield.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I apologize for any part I’ve played in lowering the level of discussion. I totally agree with Jerry regarding what attracted me to this blog. A healthy, vigorous discussion of ideas is fun. A repetitive flogging of a long deceased horse it tiresome at best, and corrosive at worst. I will choose my words and topics more carefully in the future.

  • eric1973

    Maybe we will, Jace, if Ces stays healthy. If he’d only not…. ah, never mind.

    Trade Proposal: Maybe Detroit is so desperate to make the playoffs, we can trade Ces for a guy named Fullmer.

    Let’s face it, we now need pitching.

  • eric1973

    Talk about funny, true, and sad, all at the same time, as Jace mentions above:

    Recall Jerry Manuel‘s quip about “they’re calling it a cramp … surgery on Thursday.”

  • eric1973

    How about Gregg Jefferies?

    Not sure he was hated by the fans, but McDowell and his teammates did, as I recall.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I was a little too young to really have a good feel for Jeffries, but I do recall there being something off with how he got along with people.

  • Matt in Woodside

    Someone must warn Brandon Crawford that the slogan for Brylcreem is “a little dab will do ya.”

  • eric1973

    Backman was popular with his teammates, and he was traded in 1989 to make room for Jefferies, who was highly touted, and around 20 years old.

    Jefferies acted immature sometimes, he wrote a letter to the newspapers, he wouldn’t listen to his coaches, only his dad. His teammates posted by his locker, “Are we having fun yet?” —- Might be called ‘bullying’ today.

  • eric1973

    Easily the most hated Met of all time…..
    Jesse Gonder.

    Just kidding.

    By a mile, it’s gotta be Doug Sisk. Every count started 3-0.