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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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Last Met Standing?

Shortly after the Mets wrapped up their third straight win over the Marlins Wednesday night, I had an odd vision: Alejandro De Aza hits the home run that proves to be the difference in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. He’s mobbed by 24 Mets, all of them emergency call-ups from the minors. Shortly after accepting the award as World Series MVP, De Aza steps on a land mine.

Hey, it’s not much odder than what’s currently happening in Met Land, where the team seems to win a big game every night and announce the loss of another player who’s key to the team’s hopes. After Wednesday night’s game Terry Collins pulled another of his press-conference bombshells, adding in an oh-by-the-way tone that Neil Walker would be available the next day to explain his decision to have season-ending surgery for a herniated disc.

So if you’re keeping track at home, the lone survivor of the Mets’ Opening Day infield is Asdrubal Cabrera, currently playing on one leg. Travis d’Arnaud is still behind the plate, though he missed a good chunk of the year and that faint crack I just heard down here in Jersey was probably related to an important TdA body part. In the outfield the original cast is down to some percentage of Yoenis Cespedes; the hale but not always reliably hearty Curtis Granderson; and De Aza, whose dizzying year has seen him gone from expected full-time outfielder to guy without a position to fans’ whipping boy to anointed savior to who knows what. Your guys missing until 2017: David Wright, Lucas Duda, Walker, Juan Lagares, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, Oh, and Justin Ruggiano and Jonathon Niese, guys who weren’t part of the plan until they suddenly were, only now they’re history too.

And yet the Mets are still hanging around, making it impossible to rule out an October return. They’ve now passed not only the Marlins but also the Pirates in the hunt for that second wild card, and stand just 1.5 games behind the Cardinals. On Wednesday night, they did it behind the arm of wily, portly Bartolo Colon, the bat of Wilmer Flores (off a right-hander, no less, even though Wilmer’s not supposed to hit them yet at this early stage of his evolution into a Proven Veteran™ who gets to play against everybody) and the bat of Kelly Johnson.

It was Johnson — a castoff turned callback — whose two-out, bases-loaded double brought home three runs and turned a 2-2 tie into a chance for Jeurys Familia to set a new Mets single-season saves mark, pushing Armando Benitez out of the record books without the added effort needed to push him out of our hearts, since he never resided there in the first place. Johnson worked A.J. Ramos to a 3-2 count, got a slider that didn’t slide and rifled it down the right-field line.

Wednesday was Johnson’s night; Tuesday was a group effort led by late-to-the-party Granderson; Monday belonged to Cespedes. It’s good that there’s a different hero every night, because there’s no guarantee that tonight’s valedictorian will be able to limp into tomorrow’s classroom.

And yet here we are. The Mets may be a bizarre agglomeration that’s added the likes of Johnson, James Loney, Jose Reyes, Jay Bruce and now Fernando Salas in addition to a decent-sized chunk of Las Vegas’s starting rotation, but they’re facing a September schedule that’s two-thirds tomato cans.

Those moved to overconfidence by a slate filled with Reds, Braves, Twins and Phillies should, of course, remember the Mets making the Diamondbacks and Padres look like world-beaters. But those were the Mets before the latest bolt-on aftermarket part, the most recent frantic software patch, yesterday’s roll of duct tape and snarl of baling wire and blob of spit. Pick your metaphor, but ditch your crystal ball — they’ve been useless all year with this bunch.

September’s here; all we can do is hold on and see where the ride takes us. And, OK, hope it doesn’t break down and collapse before we get somewhere good.

36 comments to Last Met Standing?

  • James Woods

    I absolutely love when these posts are up the night of the game, I especially love when these posts follow a win. We’ve made it to Setember and we’re still alive, and that’s saying something considering all we’ve been through. I’m extremely excited for the next month of baseball, no matter what happens, this season has been one to remember, and this team is fighting and slowly winning over the hearts of Mets fans all around. Let’s Go Mets!!

  • open the gates

    Well, I would have said 23 callups plus Bartolo Colon, who isn’t due to miss another start before his 73rd birthday. But yeah, I hear you. If this Survivors cast of a team makes any kind of run at all in the next few weeks, they will have won our hearts for good. (And by the way, thank you Kelly Johnson for winning probably the only ballgame my son will get to go to this year. You just made yourself a forever fan.)

  • Greg Mitchell

    Great win but too bad on Walker.

    You didn’t note that Bruce was bailed out by Kelly after his key AB as a Met ended with weak pop up with runner on third.

    Glad to get Salas–only if his recent work indicates he is better than his awful work the rest of the year. But Sandy really needed to get an infielder in wake of Walker going down. Yes, we can platoon Wilmer and Johnson at 2B–but that means Flores a) can no longer platoon at 1B with sliding Loney and b) Johnson has to play against lefties if Flores is needed to play 3B when Reyes plays SS. And that would be everyday if Cabrera goes down, which seems inevitable. He has already said that if Mets hadn’t edged into Wild Card race he would have, like Walker, shut himself down. Ponder that for a moment.

    Does Sandy think team can survive with Matt Reynolds or Rivera–or Cicchini–getting every day ABs? Apparently. They are one major league body short now. Oh, right, there’s the experienced Eric Campbell waiting in wings.

    • Matt in Richmond

      Every team has holes chief. Sandy has done yeoman’s work this year. Just the acquisition of Jose, (a move panned by many) earns him major kudos, but picking up Loney and KJ has paid major dividends as well. Ruggiano was doing a great job before he got hurt. Now that we get to fill out our roster with callups just as the team is starting to click, we are in a great position to make a run at this. And honestly, even if we come up short, the fact that we are in this position after all that has gone wrong this year speaks to what a great job the players AND management have done. Now is no time to be negative.

      And for whatever it’s worth, Bruce had 2 hits and a sparkling defensive play today. It’d be nice if he came through in that one particular moment, but there’s a reason the best hitters fail 7 out of 10 times. KJ didn’t “bail him out”. He had a great game, and there’s every reason to expect more from him in September than we’ve gotten so far. You don’t accidentally lead the league in RBIs and XBH for 3/5 of a season. Dude has some game.

    • Dennis

      Who is out there that Sandy should have obtained to replace Walker, especially when it was just announced that he was to be shut down?

    • Rob E.

      Alderson did get Kelly Johnson early and took a chance on Reyes, and those guys have certainly been contributors here. Also, and I know you don’t like Bruce, but he brought the guy who was leading the league in RBIs here also. There is not an endless supply of starter-caliber players ready to just step in. To add a little “other team” perspective, last night was pretty important for the Marlins and they started a minor leaguer who is not highly touted, making his major league debut. The Cardinals also started a guy with 15 career IP, by the way. Other teams deal with this same stuff too.

      They are now without their opening day 1B, 2B, 3B, and starter for the rest of the year (having lost three of them for most of the year), and they will play meaningful games in September. It’s time to at least throw a crumb Alderson’s and/or Collins’ way.

      • Dennis

        Rob…….you and Matt couldn’t have summed it up better!

      • Dave

        Bingo, Rob. Teams have folded under less adversity than this. Whatever happens by the end of the season, everyone on this team and in the organization are leaving nothing on the field. They’re 100% all in, and considering that Collins and Alderson were brought in to baby sit and clean up ownership’s mess respectively, they’ve worked near-miracles if you ask me.

    • Pete In Iowa

      I prefer to think Johnson picked up Bruce (and Flores for that matter), as teammates are expected to do.

  • Art

    Why do I think that Conforto will carry the team in September?

    • Matt in Richmond

      Well, he was huge for us down the stretch last year. Of course, to start with, he probably won’t get that many ABs, but when he does he can help himself out with some big hits. As TC has said, if you hit, you play. The really good thing for the Mets as a whole right now though is that I don’t think they need a player to carry them. They can beat you from almost anywhere in the lineup.

      • The only thing I’d quibble with is that young players have to play everyday to hit, and if you’ve got a young player who’s a bona fide talent, you have to put him in there every day and let him relax and develop. The Mets’ mismanagement of Conforto makes me crazy.

        Conforto’s hit lefties in the minors consistently and in far more than a small sample size; there’s no reason other than Terry’s intuition to say he can’t do the same in the majors. Conforto’s woes began when he started playing irregularly; without regular playing time he got anxious and fell into bad habits. The Mets then inverted cause and effect and banished him. Conforto’s not destroying Triple-A because it’s Triple-A but because he’s playing every day instead of worrying that tomorrow he’ll be sitting because of some Just So story that his manager thinks is one of baseball’s Ten Commandments.

        The Mets have thoroughly botched Conforto’s 2016 and wasted a year of his development. It’s the biggest complaint I have with Terry by far.

        • Matt in Richmond

          I completely respect your opinion Jason, but we have to agree to disagree on this one. Michael was essentially anointed a starring role on this team after his hot start early in the year. He was put in the 3rd slot in the lineup, and while he didn’t typically start against lefties, we faced so few in that part of the schedule he was for all intents and purposes an every day player. He did accumulate ABs vs lefties and typically failed to do much when he got those opportunities. After getting a chance to start against Kershaw, who made him look really bad (not that there’s any shame in that) he went into a deep slump. He was given ample time to pull out of it and just never did.

          I don’t have the answer for what happened to him, other than to say it’s not unusual for a player to have a sophomore slump. Some people think it happened because of facing Kershaw. Others think he should have played against lefties from the get go. I don’t think it’s as simple as either of those. It will be interesting to see how much he can contribute in the stretch run here, but no matter what, I believe he will be ready to go in 2017. Hopefully against lefties too.

  • MetFanMac

    Here’s a fun challenge o do a year from today: pull up a list of everybody who played for the Mets in 2016 and see if you can remember a single thing that they did, even that they existed. There probably have been enough of ’em to start their own country… Mets-opotamia.

  • Dave

    The disabled list exists kind of at a virtual level. If it were actually an ink-on-paper list, you know when you have a form to fill out and it says use an extra sheet of paper if necessary? The Mets would be on about their 10th extra sheet of paper. If you look at the teams stats, they’re up to about 230 players appearing in games this year. Only one – Antonio Bastardo – is no longer with the organization. Rest who aren’t on the active roster are either on the DL or riding the LaGuardia-Vegas shuttle.

    If this group gets into October…wow. But even if they don’t, valuable experience being tucked away under their belts. This could make the 2017 team that much stronger. Well, among those who won’t have body parts amputated or step on land mines.

  • 9th string catcher

    The de aza open to this post made me almost pass coffee through my nose. Hilarious! Hey – here we are, Meaningful Games in September. Bring em on!

    a real shame about walker, but by now the blueprint is whoever is here has to do their best and try to win as a team. If 3/5s if their rotation does what they’re capable of and the other two guys can help (and who knows, maybe we’ll get matz back), we have a chance. With strong pitching, cespedes, Cabrera, Reyes, Flores and Bruce might just be enough offense to get to October.

    LGM!

  • mikeL

    yes a funny opening line indeed!

    well, if you can’t have the team you wanted/expected on the filed in any recognizable manner, why not this rube goldburg machine of excellence?

    i had already resigned myself to losing walker and matz (there’s already much clamoring to shut down the latter as well), so i’m disappointed but not surprised.

    the team has tapped into something special. maybe a sort of variation on the theme of ’99 – when that team took the narrowest of paths possible to the post-season.

    here’s to an exciting september, come what may!

    LGM

  • Mikey

    such an incredible finish…..especially after stranding a small village earlier in the game. I really thought that would come back to haunt us, but alas it didn’t. kudos to this team for never giving up.

    did any of you catch when they were talking about Kelly Johnson a couple nights ago, and KJ had gone to Kevin Long asking if he could help turn him into the kind of hitter Murph turned into. small sample size but maybe it sparked something….maybe the KJ of a month ago pops up to the shortstop with the bases loaded instead of working the count full and ripping a hanger down the line.

    I agree with all of you regarding September….like holy crap, we made it here and still have meaningful baseball for a month, but hopefully more than a month. LGM!

    • Eric

      Agreed. The game started with bad signs, errors by the usually defensively solid Colon and Reyes and runners left on base against a mediocre pitcher, followed by weak contact against the Marlins’ middle relievers. Colon was pitching well, but when Yelich homered, it looked like the game was headed towards a typical wasted strong start.

      Ramos didn’t have his control, and it looked like Bruce mostly got himself out due to an over-eagerness with 1 out to plate Cespedes. Credit to d’Arnaud for staying disciplined and taking the walk from Ramos to load the bases in front of Johnson. Bottom of the order got it done.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    The At Bat of the year. For once I just knew something good was going to happen.

    I actually think Walker will be missed more for his steady glove than his bat. In my own 7th Game scenario, a slightly difficult ground ball is hit to Flores at second (who at that point is hitting .385 for the Series with 4 home runs and 7 RBIs), and he either boots it, fails to reach it, catches it but throws to the wrong base, or catches it but throws wide to first base. Game over, Red Sox Win.

  • John M

    This blog always sums it up perfectly. The team is barely recognizable yet somehow alive.

    However when you step back and look at the roster, its not half bad. It seems to me that with Reyes, Cabrera, and Cespedes in the lineup there will be enough offense most nights. If Bruce or Granderson gets hot then you really have something going.

    In the end I think it comes down to pitching just like it always does. If Thor, DeGrom, and Matz are healthy and at the top of their games, the sky is the limit.

  • Gil

    Who are these Mets and how do they keep winning games?

  • Eric

    Comments mentioned him, but I notice your post was so overflowing with wounded and playing wounded Mets, you left out Matz who seems headed to his own season-ending shutdown.

    Well, ya gotta believe. September 1st and the Mets, season dying in mid-August, are in the thick of a play-off hunt.

    Pirates got beat up by the superior Cubs, but the Pirates are a solid club and their schedule is relatively easy the rest of the way. The Mets and Pirates are even in the loss column. I think they’ll be the team to watch out for. 1st WC slot is in play, too.

    Strong start by Colon. Maybe so many Mets are going down because Colon is vampirically sucking the life essence from his teammates. How else to explain the 43-year-old being the most reliable starter on the staff and pitching one of his best games of the season at the end of summer, weeks after he was supposed to have been shifted to the bullpen (due to Wheeler’s return)? Colon has pitched significantly better this season than he did last season. Even his velocity has improved. (Okay, given his history, there is a possible reason for Colon’s improvement that I won’t say.)

    Speaking of Colon’s unexpected reliability, big start for deGrom tonight. He has extra days off, but not as many extra days off as first planned when he was skipped because of Matz missing his turn. I hope deGrom has had enough extra time off to cure his whatever because I don’t know that the Mets can afford for him to skip another start. I hope deGrom is/was only tired. His last 2 starts were not just bad but historically bad. deGrom is still the Mets ace I want starting the WC game, but not, of course, if he’s throwing batting practice.

    It’s disturbing that the Mets doctors said Walker could play through a back injury causing numbness and weakness but then a 2nd opinion said he needed surgery ASAP. That’s a big difference.

    • Yeah, I forgot Matz. Probably some other walking wounded I neglected too.

      And yes, not the first time the second opinion has turned out to be very different than what the Mets’ doctors said. If I were a player — or a player’s agent — there’s no way I’d trust that first take.

      • Jimbo

        So then maybe when Dr Andrews tells Matt Harvey to stop pitching at 180 innings last year it would have been better if he did. He shouldn’t have cared what was said and written about him.

        We as well should know better.

        He’ll be missed now more than if he didn’t start a post season game last year. Beating the Cubs in 5 before losing to KC would have been the only difference.

        It takes years for a pitcher to return to form…like not red-lining a repaired engine until many limited miles have been driven.

        We have to accept that the dark night in 3 years is better than any player he could be traded for.

        • Jacobs27

          The Harvey issue is not whether he should or should’ve have pitched–which is extremely dicey to determine–, it’s what he was thinking the whole season until all of a sudden there was supposedly this 180-inning cap.
          It was as if this concern suddenly dawned on him, Boris and Dr. Andrews towards the end of the year. If any of those three had been up-front in the beginning of the year about limiting Harvey’s innings to such a relatively low number, the Mets would have pitched him very differently throughout the year. That was, I think, the source of much of the vitriol. The sudden-and-unilateral-cold-feet-when-your-team-needs-you angle.

          The point about the Mets doctors remains, though. They almost invariably seem to say something to the effect of, “it’s a really mild X, he can totally play through it!” until they (or someone else) finally recommend season-ending surgery. Whose fault is that? Damn good question. But there’s definitely a problem.

  • Jacobs27

    You echo my thoughts exactly, Eric.

  • sturock

    I like the Wilmer/KJ platoon at 2B. I also like Wilmer free to help out elsewhere vs RHP. I also gotta believe Loney will eventually snap out of his slump as will Grandy and maybe even Bruce. Good things are happening despite all the injuries. It’s amazing what a few wins have done for the Mets and for our collective mood.

    • Eric

      A few losses by their WC rivals have made the few wins meaningful wins.

      The infield needs help, but I don’t count out the September call-ups doing enough to augment the veterans. Kelly, Reynolds, Campbell, and Rivera have had their moments. I’d like to see more from Reynolds. He has a smoothness to his game that looks promising.

      The outfield seems set, especially if Granderson is coming around (better late than never). I’m curious to see how Conforto will be used since Bruce who took his place has struggled.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Jason, the ideas that you and Greg come up with day after day, win or lose, are always witty, creative and thought provoking. I want to thank you both for preserving my sanity during this roller coaster season.

    Today, you have me envisioning Colon winning the wild card game, followed by Lugo, Gsellman and Montero in the NLDS. I hope there’s still a deGrom and Syndergaard in there somewhere, but the way this season has gone you just never know.

  • Steve K

    This team is totally growing on me. I love how hard they are playing and how they refuse to let the daily injury report discourage them from winning the next day. They are now a pleasure to watch!

  • eric1973

    I trust the Mets doctors almost as much as I trust Tim Teufel.

  • eric1973

    Thought TC should have hit for C onforto while the iron was hot. I know you cannot expect to win 32 in a row, so the base ball gods must have made this decision.