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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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Not the Tonic We Were Looking For

Some games are burn-the-tape affairs. Brooding about them won’t help — you’d be better served casting them aside and taking yourself somewhere else as fast as possible.

We do have historical obligations, so I’ll make this speedy: Zack Wheeler was pretty good but inefficient and still rebuilding his arm strength, so the Mets were forced to frog-march their exhausted bullpen through another campaign — and they had little room to maneuver, with the hitters having scored two runs off a shaky-looking Zach Eflin in the first but then substituting wild haymakers for the knockout blow the team needed. The game slowed into an ugly slog and then degenerated into a wretched farce.

With two outs in the eighth, Fernando Salas had thown 21 pitches with steadily diminishing effectiveness, pausing between each one to verify that his arm had not, in fact, fallen off and begun shriveling into a sad, mummified husk on the mound. (Give it time, Fernando — give it time.) Freddy Galvis helpfully lofted the 22nd pitch into the neighborhood of the third-base line, near home plate. Jose Reyes camped under it, drifted near an anxious-looking Travis d’Arnaud, then used his glove as a cesta to heave the ball over TdA’s head and send it rolling across the first-base line. That bit of slapstick kept the Phillies alive and moved the tying run to third.

Jerry Blevins came in and gave up a long double down the left-field line to Andres Blanco, a hit that would have scored Galvis but for his own sloth on Reyes’s misplay. (Quite the showcase for the national pastime tonight!) The game was tied and went into extra innings, the one place besides Soilmaster Stadium the Mets would rather not be right now. Mercifully, they at least imploded quickly, giving us a dizzying sequence of misplays and balls not quite fielded before slinking off on the wrong side of a wretched 6-2 loss.

Analysis? Must we? Early-season gag jobs like this are Rorschach blots — everyone will have his or her own interpretation, united only by being equally depressing. The relievers are exhausted in general and a couple are being ridden onto the DL, which is one of Terry Collins‘s less-amusing tricks … yet a manager has few alternatives when starters don’t supply length and offensive ineptitude removes all margin for error.

Jeurys Familia will be back soon, which should help. Reyes’s career body of work and recent performance suggest that he only looks like he’s completely forgotten to play baseball, though the act has been pretty goddamn convincing. Should he play the role too well for too long it will be time for Amed Rosario or a combination of Wilmer Flores and [I Dunno, Insert Someone Here] to report for duty instead.

But it’s too early for that. It’s too early for much of anything.

The season doesn’t have a story arc yet … which never stops us from playing fortune teller and writing our own. We stare into our cups and turn a few soggy tea leaves into a vast and woeful plantation when we’d be better off gritting our teeth and simply waiting. Every team has stretches where injuries, deficiencies and buzzards’ luck make you wonder if they’ll ever win again. From May through August we moan and groan but beneath all the noise we know it’s nothing personal, just the baseball gods telling us it’s our turn.

April and September aren’t like that, though. In those months we think we see destiny in a crummy week and go on a search-and-destroy mission for meaning. Most of the time we find nothing and only exhaust ourselves in the hunt. Soon enough it turns out it was just baseball, being wonderful and cruel and ridiculous without caring what we think of it.

This delightful game was my lone cameo between trips to Florida and California. Awesome! See you in a few days. Until then, be good to my blog partner, who’s taking on more than his share at a time when watching baseball’s not much fun.

44 comments to Not the Tonic We Were Looking For

  • LeClerc

    A truly terrible game.

    No rhythm to it, no energy, no will to win detected at any point in the “contest”.

    Credit Wheeler for getting through five innings while allowing only one run – but that’s it for positives.

    When Familia returns, Montero can mercifully depart.

    Better give Salas some extra rest – his arm may be compromised by irresponsibly forced over-work.

    Time for a Reyes intervention?

  • Lenny65

    While he’s certainly not the only problem, Reyes looks totally hapless right now. His at-bats are practically easy automatic outs, the way he just flails away at the first pitch he sees isn’t really indicative of a guy who’s “fighting” out of a slump. Nor are the dumb blunders, like butchering that pop-up or how he was nearly picked off after almost hitting into a killer DP. IMO he needs to go, I’m reading that Collins thinks he’s “earned” the right to stick around but I think that’s wishful thinking, there’s nothing to suggest that he’s going to be anything but terrible in 2017.

    Every year Uncle Terry seems to pick a reliever or two to absolutely flog, I guess this year it’s Salas. The bullpen follies are a little easier to disguise when you have someone like Colon giving you seven innings as opposed to getting five from Wheeler/Gsellman. And you bet that Familia will be under the microscope when he finally returns, as at least some of this is on him too.

  • Matt in Richmond

    While the bullpen (Montero) ultimately coughed it up, this game is on the offense. They scratched out 2 in the first, but honestly nobody but Reyes of all people did anything after that. Against a pitcher who appeared middling at best it was a fairly ugly display. I still think this team is due for a hot streak. Warmer weather will help and when Familia returns and we stop playing one run games every night the bullpen issues will settle down.

  • Dave

    Playing just a partial season last year, Reyes was out of gas in September; this is the 6th year of the 6 year contract that Alderson wanted no part of. I know, it’s early, but I still think that if the Mets continue to treat him as though he’s capable of being an everyday player, we’ve got a problem. Meanwhile a young guy like Wilmer sits on the bench…and I know, his splits are bad against RH pitching. What’s Reyes hitting against righties so far? Flores is also about the only contact hitter on a team full of 100+ strikeout guys.

    Familia’s return will help, but so would the ability to hit godawful pitching, which they couldn’t even do last night.

    • Dennis

      Great point about what would have been the last year of a 6 year deal that he wanted from the Mets. He gave us a bit of a jolt last year, and as you said its still early, but I have to agree…..maybe he’s not capable of doing it everyday anymore. It really would be nice to see Flores get his chance on a more regular basis.

  • Daniel Hall

    Hey, who put on the 2016 rerun? Flick it back to the 2017 Mets, they’re 7-3 and fun to watch for cryin’ out loud, will ya!?

  • eric1973

    They let yet another shaky piitcher off the hook. Walker’s at-bat was a killer. He has hit a few balls hard, but teamwide nothing every night. Nice to see Conforto getting his at-bats. Resuming his career after that horror show last year. Let’s see him continue this in May.

  • Harvey Poris

    Team BA now .216, lead-off batters .081.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Team getting killed early on by two wife abusers. And one of them a deadbeat dad with a “second life.” Unfortunately his “second life” with a Mets a bust since last September.

    As I said two weeks ago: Montero is a) not a reliever 2) not a major league pitcher 3) allegedly a head case 4) supposed to be starting in minors as only starter-in-waiting. A farce that he has been in pen at all. At least Edgin is actually a RP. Sandy’s refusal to add an arm out there growing more and more embarrassing. He knew Terry would be insisting on severe pitch limits early–in fact, he has talked about doing that ALL YEAR–and that most SPs with good chance of going down (see: Matz) yet did not pick up a decent major league RP.

    Finally: amusing to see Terry let Wheeler (after two years off ) stay in for 100 pitches but yank Jake after 95.

    • Dennis

      “Finally: amusing to see Terry let Wheeler (after two years off ) stay in for 100 pitches but yank Jake after 95.”

      I usually don’t nitpick Terry’s decisions, but I agree that was a bit odd, especially when deGrom seemed to be cruising at that point against the Marlins.

  • Matt in Richmond

    DeGrom/Wheeler entirely different scenarios. While I would have enjoyed seeing Jake continue they just weren’t going to send him out to START the 8th inning at that pitch count this early in the year. And if it pays off with him being able to go deeper in September/October then it was worth it. Meanwhile Zack needed one out to finish 5 and qualify for the win. Would have been a real slap in the face to him to not give him the chance. It was the classic “one more hitter” scenario.

    Regarding Reyes, he sure has been a disappointment at the dish so far, but it’s illogical to think he’s fallen THIS far since the jolt he gave us down the stretch last year. I agree with wanting to see plenty of Flores (against lefties), but Jose is a huge upgrade defensively and athletically even when he’s not hitting. If he continues on the interstate he will of course lose more playing time, but as with all matters really it’s too early to be hitting panic buttons.

    Ditto with the relievers. Greg Mitchell I certainly won’t argue with you about Montero. He’s been given ample chances and we’ve all seen enough at this point. But I see no need to be desperately seeking outside help. If a great deal was available then Sandy would make it. He’s proven time and again these past couple years that prudence is the name of the game when it comes to mid season acquisitions. When JF returns and we stop playing one run games every single night then the bullpen will settle.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Jose’s “jolt down the stretch”–he hit .234 in Sept. And his athleticism sure helped on that pop up. Well, he got to it!

      I certainly understand the difference contexts for the Wheeler and deGromm starts. However, they only point to the ridiculous reliance on “rules”: letting a pitcher go five to “get the win” (how did that work out?) even if it might wreck his arm–and not sending a starter who is cruising to start the next inning and get maybe one or two outs in six pitches because “prefer to give relievers chance to start an inning” (which of course they often don’t get a chance to do given that they are, you know, relievers). You can always take a starter out instantly–you can’t put him back in.

  • Pete In Iowa

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say again right here: with the exception of less than a handful of months since the beginning of the 2015 season, this is a .500 club. You can look it up. The main reason? Hitting. We don’t have any consistent hitters, therefore we play a ton of close games only because our starters are so good other teams generally hit as poorly against us as we do against the league.
    Hopefully this will be finally be the year we see some CONSISTENT hitting, but from what I’ve seen thus far, the bats look to be exactly the same as they have been for the majority of the last two seasons. Hopefully, a hot month or two, just like in ’15 & ’16 will put us in the post season again.

  • Gil


    Thanks. I needed that.

    Its only April.

  • Bob

    “Gag job”–perfect…..seeing old friend, the now dazed & confused # 7, pull a Luis Cast…(Never to be mentioned) on that pop-up reminded me of the line in “Major League” when lazy 3rd baseman boots grounder–“Well, at least he didn’t spike himself!”
    It’s a long season–I tell myself….
    Met Fan since Polo Grounds-1963

  • Lenny65

    IMO people are seeing Reyes through rose-colored lenses. If the guy was at least working counts and scrapping I could see the optimism a little, but he isn’t. He gets up there, flails away and quite frankly makes the opposing pitcher’s job a lot easier. As I said above, he’s hardly the only offender right now but at the moment he’s an Ordonez-like black hole in the lineup, an easy quick out who’s downright hazardous with men on base. He isn’t a raw youngster anymore, if he can’t adjust his approach to ABs then what good is he? Let him ride the bench for a while, maybe he comes through eventually, maybe he doesn’t. But in the meantime let’s see what someone else has instead of committing ABs to this human out-making machine.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Wilmer hitting righties better this year and in spring but of course need to be wary of not hitting them in past…then there’s TJ Rivera who had horrid 4-inning sojourn at 3rd, and sent down–but may always hit. Some may say that Reyes is better fielder than either (despite, uh, last night) but last year he made a bunch of errors AND his range factor well below league average.

      • Lenny65

        If there was ANYTHING encouraging going on with him perhaps I wouldn’t be so negative about Reyes, but those ABs are just hideous. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe he’ll wake the hell up and start being useful again, but right now a guy who taps the first pitch he sees directly to the second baseman is exactly what that lineup does not need. When you see he’s hitting third in an inning you know it’s an almost guaranteed DP ball, like last night. Then he gets lucky and beats it out, only to almost get himself picked off. I’m just not seeing any signs of life there at all.

  • If Jose Reyes is in the lineup tonight, Terry Collins should be no doubt discharged.

    I take no pleasure in saying that, because Reyes is one of my all-time favorite Mets, but geeze…he’s definitely suffering from a virulent strain of rectal-cranial inversion at the moment.

    On another note, maybe they’re getting all the crap out of their system early and will commence to bulldoze MLB from May to November.

    • Matt in Woodside

      Maybe I’m imagining it, but didn’t Reyes used to always get off to annoyingly slow starts in April? Nothing like this, of course. This is abysmal. I’m starting to feel bad for Flores. I’m sure he’d at least average better than .100 against right handers.

  • GroteFan

    matt, while I agree with most of your assessment, to say that not letting him get through the 5th would be a slap in the face, is way overstated man.
    I like Zach Wheeler, but he is running into the same problems that he had before he got hurt.
    He throws too many dang pitches. I think I heard this morning that he is averaging 18 pitches per inning and had 99 in 5 last night. If he can’t get his pitch count down, he’s going to out, end of story.
    This is not personal it’s business.

  • Lenny65

    Maybe I’m crazy, maybe I’m over-simplifying it, but would it help if perhaps they didn’t pitch Wheeler and Gsellman back-to-back? At the moment they’re both five inning guys, so you’re always in a cycle where the BP gets tortured when they start. Just a thought.

    Of course it might not be a worry at all if they’d string together a few hits and runs every once in a while. Everyone is Cy Koufax when the Mets step into the box.

  • Usually, six excellent innings from the starters are wasted. And seven relievers in a 2-2 game burns out the pen without improving the odds, given the streaky hitters. My unorthodox proposal can’t be worse. Give it a test run for a month. Start your most rested reliever. Treat the first two innings like the last two. Then bring in Thor and the rest of the aces in the 3rd inning so they pitch the 7th, 8th & even the 9th! If the pen gives up a couple in the 1st or 2nd, you have the rest of the game to catch up, not just one at bat or so. Very radical, but I want the best guys in there at the end. Like the shift, watch how everyone copies it, if it works. A manager without fear would consider it. Tell the agents tough if they whine about the W/L record. A Met fan since game 1 in the Polo Grounds.

    • Bob

      To Henry Lenz:
      Fan since the start–OY–what kind of medication are you on?
      For me, watching the Mets–slightly sedated is ok!
      First Mets game June, 1963 was DH sweep @ Polo Grounds VS filthies–Jimmy Piersal hit his 100th career HR and ran around bases backwards–right order–just backwards.
      Been Met fan since–too dumb to know any better.
      Let’s Go Mets!

      • My highlight: Working on the broadcast of WS Game 6 & 7 in ’86. In the dugout when the ball went thru Buckners legs & in the locker room after game 7. Really!

        • Bob

          WOW! Lifetime Happy Memories!
          Several highlights in 51 years-
          Met, spoke with & got Mookies autograph @ Jack Murphy (brother of Bob)Stadium in 1997–he was coach for Mets.
          I said, “Mookie, I saw your 1st game in LA…” He said “I wasn’t very good…”
          I said–Mookie, you were good all the time for me!”

          Saw Mookie’s first MLB game–@ Dodger Stadium–about 1983–ish.
          Flew back ($1,200) to NY from LA for Game #3 of 2000 World Series. Best & happiest 18 hours of my life.
          Got my own page after publisher contacted me…Book is “Subway Series, Yankees VS Mets” CheckerBee Publishing–I have page 36.
          Let’s Go Mets!

          • Great memories! I remember Piersall too!
            Will check out your book. Have not washed my right hand since Gil Hodges shook it at camera day in ’63! And went to Dream week 16 years ago with Hojo and the Glider. A great experience.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Look folks, Reyes has absolutely sucked so far. He did have the hardest hit ball of anyone last night, but most of his ABs have been horror shows. If he doesn’t improve he will lose more and more playing time and eventually be done. However, you don’t make a decision like that based on a couple of weeks. This is baseball people. Freddie Freeman was a strikeout machine with sub replacement numbers for half of last season and ended up near the top of the MVP voting. You have to look at long trends and forecast probabilities. The probability is that Reyes is on the downside of his career, but considering what he was capable of just a few months ago it is illogical to assume that he has nothing left, and should be our best option most nights at 3rd base. If he doesn’t prove this true in due order then his role will change.

    Yes Greg Mitchell, he absolutely provided a tremendous jolt down the stretch last year and anyone who denies it is revising history. The offense was absolutely moribund before he came. He gave us speed and energ that we did not have. He went first to third on singles. He scored with ease from first on doubles when others would have been thrown out or not tried. And he made clutch play after clutch play in the field, several to win ballhames as I recall. Want numbers? He scored 45 runs in 60 games….that’s a pace for over 120 in a full season. He stole 9 bases and hit 8 homers 13 doubles and 4 triples. He did cool off at the very end but his final OPS of .769 was actually 3 points above his career average. Bottom line, the 2016 Mets do not make the playoffs without his contribution.

    • Greg Mitchell

      You are wrong–“down the stretch” means Sept. when he hit .234 with a ludicrous .310 on base from leadoff spot. And 0-4 in wild card game.

      On his fielding: facts can be wonderful things. You recall a few nice plays–well, I would hope so, over 60 games. Of course you don’t notice the balls he doesn’t get to, what I’ll call “the Jeter syndrome.” As I said–he had a range factor well below league average, and above average errors any way. Not a great combo. Announcers all year complained about him playing too deep, and he still didn’t get to enough balls.

      vs. Freeman: Unlike Freddy, Reyes did not a) have a great season the year before b) is not a top fielder to balance slumps c) was suspended for abusing wife and now has other legal/moral issues.

      • Lenny65

        I also remember during the WC game when it seemed that maybe Bumgarner was beginning to wear down just a tad and Jose graciously swung at (sigh) the first pitch for (sigh) another easy out. This is my main problem with him. I just don’t see how he’ll work his way out of this by wildly hacking at whatever he sees first. And he does it ALL THE TIME. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe he’ll erupt tonight (yes, starting and batting 7th again) and go 3-4 with a dinger and two doubles and that would be swell. If Jose goes off on a tear I will merrily eat my words, with pleasure. I would LOVE to be 100% wrong about him. But right now he isn’t even having competitive ABs, you could go find Rey Ordonez, suit him up and get the same results.

      • Jason Fry

        This is for Greg above — this would have better if not made quite so personal. Let’s please all work on this. Thanks.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Henry Lenz, your proposal made me laugh, but I’m going to extend you the courtesy of assuming it is made tongue in cheek. When would you use closers? How could you determine which days to use front line relievers and which days to give them off. What in the hell would you do if the game went to extra innings? How about the psychological issues for starters who have never been on the mound in the ninth inning? It would be a horror show. Funny stuff though.

    • The idea started out of frustration, but I could see it work. Ever think the crappy DH, endless reviews of bang bang plays, automatic intentional walks, overshifts, etc, were crazy ideas? Now some scribes suggest extra innings start with a man on 2nd base! To answer your questions, I would leave just Reed & Familia for the end of the game. Everyone else gets a shot to start the 1st two innings. Most rested first. I saw Seaver, Koufax, Gibson, Spahn, Marichal, etc regularly pitch complete games. No lefty righty swaps needed now if your ace is only at 80 pitches in the 8th or 9th inning. There might be unexpected pluses like far less pressure on the middle relievers in the 1st inning instead of the 10th.
      I grant that its very radical, probably not perfect in extra innings. But it could be tried a few times thru the rotation. Could not be worse than the last 4 games. And for those who care (I don’t), it might speed the game up!

  • Daniel Hall

    Just saw Matt Bowman pitch in relief for the Cardinals. Now there’s a good-lookin’ right-hander we could damn sure use in the pen right now. Quick and efficient, cleaned up Wacha’s mess. He was even ours, lost in the rule 5 draft a few years ago. He had that one very good spring training showcase, and then a very bad spring training the next year, then got shunted to the side. I’d rather not go out to find out which bloke we protected instead… probably Mon-tear-o.

  • eric1973

    And if Jose can’t steal a base when you really need it, what is the point anymore? He better shape up soon.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I’d really like to leave this subject. I don’t have a problem with you not liking Reyes or what he’s done. That’s a perfectly valid position. I do have a problem with twisting facts and denying evidence. Anyone with a decent memory will easily recall the vast improvement to our offense AND defense when Reyes came last year. We’re not comparing Reyes to Nolan Arenado here. We’re comparing him to Wilmer Flores and TJ Riviera. I watched nearly every pitch of every game “down the stretch”, and Gary Keith and Ron were effusively and repeatedly praising his defense, particularly considering it was a new position for him. They were particularly impressed with how strong his arm still was. And again, those wonderful, unarguable numbers. 60 games. 45 runs. 9 steals. 25 extra base hits. And we made the playoffs.

    • Pete In Iowa

      Yeah, but THAT was LAST year. Now it’s this year and old, old Jose was 0-3 last night (again)!! And bounced out in a key spot. He looks old and undisciplined to me. Hopefully he turns it around, but I’m taking a wait and see approach and not cutting him any slack for last year – which doesn’t matter in the least right now.

  • eric1973

    Henry, I’m with you there on the fringes. Since these tomato cans have to pitch anyway, might as well be in the less pressurized first two innings rather than in the 6th and 7th.

    We could even call it ‘Creeping Collins-ism.’

    • I would love to see it happen! I think the results could only be better, not worse. Unlikely nowadays of course, but I keep thinking Billy Martin would be crazy enough to try it!

  • Eric

    “But it’s too early for that.”

    That’s the worrisome part. The Mets have a structural problem that won’t foreseeably resolve, and 14 games into the season, the bullpen is already breaking from over-use because of that problem. If Familia hadn’t been suspended, he’d help some of course, but he’d be over-used by now, too.

    The patch for the structural problem is for the offense to consistently provide big enough leads for Collins to rotate his lesser relievers for mop-up duty and save his top relievers for close games. Second, Syndergaard and Gsellman need to consistently go deeper into games to make up for the loss of Colon’s innings eating.

    Before pitch one, the Mets bullpen management is already challenged because Collins has no choice but to be careful with the multiply, recently surgically repaired deGrom, Harvey, Wheeler, and if/when they return, Matz and Lugo.

  • Curt

    Almost every swing Reyes takes looks to me like what most people do when they have two strikes and are trying to stay alive. He got a hit last night against someone who throws 90, hasn’t looked good.

    Flores is not as bad agsinst RH pitchers as Terry Collins would have you believe. Career BA around .250, much lower power numbers though.

    Real problem is that last night was the nothing of an all-or-nothing team. When we hit zero HRS 2 runs seems about right for an over/under.

    Hope Granderson starts hitting sometime. Each year when he starts this way I wonder if it’s age catching up with him. One of these years it will be.

  • Matt in Richmond

    But that’s just it Eric. Those things WILL happen. Familia will return and the roles will settle down. It’s not plausible that we continue to play one run game after one run game in perpetuity. Also, the starters (maybe not Wheeler) will begin going deeper into games as the season continues. There is too much hysteria over the bullpen right now. In the long run it will likely actually be a strength.

    • Lenny65

      This is so true. It’s easy to get carried away early. Remember how 2015 played out? A scorching April that was long forgotten by June when they were already trudging around like a typical Citi season used to be. It’s more fun to follow a “good” team yet everything becomes sort of amplified much more than it’d be in some crappy “hope they break .500 this year” season.

  • K. Lastima

    And if Jose can’t steal a base when you really need it, what is the point anymore? He better shape up soon.

    A+++ for the above post