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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Beast of Burden

How good is Noah Syndergaard? They’ve got ways old-fangled and newfangled for measuring that — such as an 0.69 ERA in his first 13 innings and a FIP of 0.53 to indicate that ERA should be even more microscopic. Here’s a less-quantitative but thoroughly heartfelt measure: when things go wrong, Syndergaard’s the guy we’re sure will make everything better.

The big blond beast, as dubbed by Rene Rivera, was certainly in beast mode Sunday night against the Marlins, striking out nine and allowed two runs over seven innings. Only one of those runs should have scored, as the other came courtesy of miscommunication between Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto. (Once again: it’s the outfield defense that will kill us.) At least on this night the Mets’ defense gaveth as well as takething away (that literary flight of fancy crashed and burned so spectacularly that I’m just going to leave it in) with Rivera throwing out a pair of overly frisky Marlins to avert further harm.

Syndergaard was amazing in the ways we’ve come to take for granted, mixing that ungodly fastball with the somehow more-ungodly slider and flashing the pretty deadly curve and change-up to keep the Marlins on their knees in helpless supplication for most of the game. Go back and review Marcell Ozuna‘s second-inning at-bat to see an amazing bit of baseball cruelty: Noah gets him zeroed in on the fastball, tosses him an unhittable slider to make him doubt everything and then coldly dispatches him with a change-up.

But the later innings were even more impressive for being less flashy. With his pitch count rising, Syndergaard made a subtle alteration and started pitching to contact — a nervy thing considering his defensive complement was basically himself, Rivera and seven guys running around with paper bags over their heads. That got him through seven, giving the Mets time to add a Jay Bruce home run and an absolute bomb from Conforto and then to turn things over to Fernando Salas and Addison Reed.

Salas arrived late last year as blessed relief and has provided the same this year, though that may soon prove too much of a good thing: he’s become this year’s Jim Henderson, the reliever Terry Collins seems hell-bent on breaking by Memorial Day. Today he’s Terry’s shiny new toy; tomorrow he’ll be a non-roster invitee with a arm full of broken bits and a “no comment” when asked about his former manager.

Speaking of broken parts … I don’t normally complain about national broadcasts, because what’s the point? But the ESPN crew of Karl RavechChris Myers, Dallas Braden and Eduardo Perez gave us one of the worst broadcasts I’ve seen in years. To steal a line from one Twitter wag, they should have let Mr. Met stay to call the rest of the game.

Ravech was bland but tolerable, and Braden and Perez occasionally reminded you that they know stuff — Braden, for example, was good in one segment where he broke down the movement on Syndergaard’s pitches and explained how it made him different from a mere mortal. But the two color guys were constantly stepping on each other, and Ravech was half-hearted about pulling baseball expertise out of them. Most of the time he let them run wild with unfunny shtick. Braden in particular desperately needs a producer to rein him in — pronouncing “hashtag” is bad enough before smashing that non-joke to a pulp for a solid minute. The whole broadcast had a distracted, desperate air about it: Bruce’s home run unfolded in split-screen because the crew was trying to conjure yuks (cue Braden yammering that they’re now lulz) out of Cespedes removing various pieces of armor.

This is an unwelcome baseball trend — national broadcasts that seem to have been put together by committees of people who don’t like baseball and think they need to spend three hours showing other stuff. To bring up ESPN’s varsity announcing team, I like Jessica Mendoza as an analyst but would gladly strangle whoever decided to cut away from actual baseball to show her interviewing a player. Still, Mendoza’s in-game chats are a bad idea but at least they’re competently executed; last night showed you what it’s like to endure bad ideas incompetently executed.

This is ESPN’s business — someone there has to know that Braden and Perez aren’t ready to do this job at this level. In the meantime, well, next time I’m stuck with Aaron Boone I’ll hold my tongue.

17 comments to Beast of Burden

  • LeClerc

    Noah and Rene to the rescue!

    Very nice bunt for a single by Asdrubal – followed by a hit and run with Cespedes.

    Yes – let Salas catch a breath.

    Give Conforto another shot tonight. Let Grandy come off the bench if needed (he did well in that role last season).

    “Conversing” (in a locked room) with Dallas Braden, Harold Reynolds, and Mike Mayock fits the definition of enhanced interrogation. Such a scenario is surely outlawed by The Geneva Convention.

  • Inside Pitcher

    I watched the game on ESPN Deportes. I don’t understand Spanish, but I can watch the game without all of the annoyances of the regular broadcast.

    And there’s nothing like a home run call in Spanish!

  • To his credit, Ravech did try to redirect the focus to the field while the Mr. Met nonsense was going on. It didn’t work, but he at least tried…

  • Kate Avallone-Serra

    Let’s face it: We Mets fans have been ruined for other broadcasters by our stellar SNY team. Gary, Keith, and Ron are the best in the business. That said, last night’s ESPN team was a new low. I muted it after about the fifth.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Some years ago I was wondering why SportsCenter had devolved from showing highlights to non-stop talking heads. I came to the conclusion that ESPN’s target audience is now gamblers. That they threw up a “chance of winning” graphic in the Bottom of the 1st inning, had Ravech discuss it, and brought it up again and again during the game makes me believe my theory a little more.

    Man though, that bottom of the first was a sight for sore eyes. Hopefully the warm weather and the hitter friendly CBP will give us more to smile about.

  • Pete In Iowa

    I was amazed that nothing was said or shown on the play where Rivera “held on to” a foul tipped third strike with the ball nearly ending up inside his chest protector. How many times have you seen that?? I certainly never had!! But ESPN somehow felt obligated to show the piece and chit-chat about Stanton and his upper deck BP homer for the THIRD time (in addition to its pre-game run) while a full fledged umpire huddle and semi-argument from Mattingly were taking place (which we barely saw any of!!) Good thing they finally got around to showing a replay (over all the meaningless blather which was still going on!) while the whole episode had just about wrapped up. Nice coverage. What a joke…
    Syndergaard is the ONE pitcher we should lock up long term. The more I see him, the more he reminds me of Nolan Ryan, i.e. a hard thrower who doesn’t get hurt. The way he mixes up his pitches and commands all of them, I’d be surprised if he DIDN’T win the Cy Young this year. He’s just that good.

  • Matt in Richmond

    The way I see it the depth we have is a good thing, not a problem. It makes TC’s job of filling out the lineup card a little tougher day to day, but over 162, having some older guys with experience and some younger guys with arguable more offensive upside should be a benefit to the club. TC needs to get them all some playing time and I think he will.

    Just to piggyback on what others have said, whenever I’m forced to deal with any “foreign” announcing team I am just IMMEDIATELY reminded of how lucky we are to have the SNY crew.

    • Dennis

      Agree 100% Matt about the depth. It surely can pay off down the road.

      As far as ESPN, with MLB, NFL and NHL each having their own networks (and all of them doing a great job), other than the Mets on Sunday night baseball occasionally, I really have no use for them anymore.

  • Matt in Richmond

    A bit surprised there haven’t been any mea culpas yet from the Bruce is worthless crowd.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Well, there must have been quite a few teams who thought he was at least somewhat worthless–as the Mets couldn’t give him away all of the off season, and into the spring.

    Also, no one ever said he was “worthless”–just overrated by some fans, especially when constantly told he would soon “return” to form without noting that his form of recent years is .240 hitter at best.

    And, come to think of it, he was literally worthless–his first six weeks as a Met, when they really needed him. Still, I am obviously rooting for the guy.

    Check back in June in any case.

  • Lenny65

    Reyes, man. He’s bringing absolutely zero to the table right now. IMO it’s going to blossom into a real problem very, very soon, unless you consider his hitlessness a problem right now as I do. I wanted this to work out, I hoped it’d work out but as of tonight it clearly isn’t. He’s gotta take a seat.

  • Eric

    Reminder: When the SNY team isn’t calling the game on TV, the also excellent WOR team is still calling the game on the radio.

  • Bob

    Thor was outstanding–again–Odin is pleased
    Old friend Jose Reyes is dazed & confused-OY!
    ESPN Broadcast–muted sound after a few innings–good idea to listen to Spanish-ESPN broadcast–I played ball with Cuban guys in LA for 17 years–I picked up enough..
    Being without Gary, Keith & Ron for a night is nothing compared to The Dodgers broadcast without Scully. As a Met fan who moved here in 1976, Vin Scully was like going to Shea with my Father & Uncles in 1964-69…
    Now instead of Vin, Dodgers have shills Orel,and others I can’t stand.
    So it goes
    Let’s Go Mets!

  • Daniel Hall

    ‘Syndergaard made a subtle alteration and started pitching to contact — a nervy thing considering his defensive complement was basically himself, Rivera and seven guys running around with paper bags over their heads.’ – Sir, this both gave me a chuckle and made me groan at the same time. Thank you for this gem, really. I mean it.