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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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Such a Lousy Ballclub

What sufficed for succor in 2012 evidently lacks efficacy in 2017, which is an R.A. Dickeyish way of saying that even when the Mets were routinely bad, Mets fans could take solace that R.A. Dickey was almost always good. Yet five years have passed. Tastes have transitioned. Roget’s Thesaurus is no longer the de rigueur reference book in Flushing. The Mets fan who wants to be in step with the times requires a comprehensive medical dictionary — and could probably use a thick self-help manual.

Some things, however, seem the same as they ever were. The Mets, such a lousy ballclub when Dickey was such a wonderful story, are such a lousy ballclub all over again. They’ve been growing worse and worse on a daily basis. Buddy Holly would be confounded by how much everyday it’s not getting better.

On Thursday, Dickey rematerialized and the Mets evaporated, 7-5. The result encompassed a sixth consecutive loss; a tenth defeat in eleven games; and a thousandth debilitating injury in approximately a week. This season’s sample size is no longer so small that you can’t take it to the lab and have it test positive for suck. The Mets are in last place, five under .500 and 7½ out of first. And that’s the relatively benign news.

Noah Syndergaard was scratched from his prospective showdown versus the pitcher for whose past his future was traded. Thor’s nemesis on Thursday wasn’t the literary lion Dickey but a comic book villain named Biceps Tendinitis. The painful bastard kept Noah from raising his right arm above his shoulder on Wednesday. No, that doesn’t sound serious at all. Depending on who or what you wish to believe, Noah could be back in action as early as Sunday or disappear down the tunnel with Ray Ramirez until Odin knows when. You’re familiar with how Met injuries go. Or don’t go.

Matt Harvey, an earlier model of mythic fireballing acedom, served as emergency starter his second start in a row. He used to be the Dark Knight. Now he’s Sean Gilmartin Deluxe. Matt wasn’t tipped off that Noah wasn’t feeling tip-top, so he went ahead with his regularly scheduled exhaustive workout. As a result, the thoracic outlet syndrome recoveree didn’t quite have enough gas in the tank to vigorously compete with a 42-year-old knuckleballer. Ad hoc Harvey Day was over in the fifth.

Yoenis Cespedes doubled in the fourth inning, and if that’s all we said about it, you’d think, hey, great. No, not great. Cespedes and his high-strung hamstring came up limping well short of second, which sent Cespedes where all Met hopes must eventually go, directly down Trainer Ray’s Tunnel. We’ll see Yoenis in our dreams, but not in our lineup.

R.A. Dickey, now an Atlanta Brave, is no longer capable of lifting our spirits, but he had a better Thursday than all who have succeeded him at the top of the Met marquee. He wasn’t Cy Young superb, but all he needed to be was quotidian because he was facing the lousy Mets. He got through five innings, two of them with a spasming left quadriceps, which is exactly the sort of thing R.A. Dickey would a) have and b) ignore. Really, how calm does a pitcher’s quad need to be when the opponents are the Mets?

The quad acted up when R.A. was running to first in the fourth. He ran to first in the second as well, on a play that foretold what kind of day it was going to be. With one out and the bases loaded after Harvey gave up two walks and a single, Dickey squibbed a ball to Jose Reyes at third. Reyes, not a third baseman, could have…no, should have thrown home to force Kurt Suzuki. Instead, he threw to Jay Bruce at first. Bruce, not a first baseman, made the putout on Dickey while Suzuki was scoring. Later, Suzuki blasted a three-run homer off Harvey. That also encapsulated what kind of day it was. As did ramblin’, gamblin’ third base coach Glenn Sherlock waving Bruce — as much a sprinter as he is a first baseman — to his watery doom at the plate. Jay was running from second. Ender Inciarte was firing from center. Sherlock liked those odds. The laws of physics didn’t.

The Mets eventually scored five runs, none of them remotely threatening to Dickey’s determination to garner a decision. R.A. was followed to the mound by Eric O’Flaherty, whom we dared mock in the wake of Opening Day, when we fancied the Mets a rock-solid contender. O’Flaherty was a disaster against the Mets on April 3, just as he was a disaster for the Mets in the otherwise sunny year of 2015. On April 27, O’Flaherty retired all four Mets he faced.

Reyes did slightly redeem his earlier miscue by throwing home from third twice on two other obvious throw-home-from-third situations and by hitting a solo home run at some inconsequential juncture of the contest. Neil Walker had three hits. Curtis Granderson had one, which is the Curtis Granderson April equivalent of three. Josh Smoker set down all eight post-Harvey hitters he encountered. Mostly Syndergaard couldn’t go and Cespedes couldn’t stay, but I figured I’d mention the handful of nominal positives in case you’re planning on not giving up the ghost with 141 games to play.

That’s assuming the ghost hasn’t already gone on the 10-day DL.

37 comments to Such a Lousy Ballclub

  • Eric

    How close is Nimmo to coming back?

  • Curt

    Well, working for a living meant I didn’t get to watch though I did listen to RA SO two Mets in the 1st driving back from lunch. Yay.

    There’s a formula though. .500 by the ASG, trade for Kelly Johnson, make the postseason. It’s our thing. Our thing is still alive.

    Five runs is a minor miracle. So are 2 hits from Reyes. The way I’ve seen him swinging his HR is a major one.

    Bye Yoenis, see you in June. Maybe.

    Remember the formula, .500 in July.

    I can’t type a fully coherent thought this early which fits because I’ve forgotten when the Mets played a fully coherent game.

  • Dave

    As I have a preference for day baseball, I considered rearranging my day so I could go to the game yesterday. Then my boss’s boss scheduled a 3pm meeting that would’ve made no sense without me there. I owe him bigtime.

    Baseball is a simple game. You throw the ball, you suck, you lose.

  • BlackCountryMet

    Fire Glen Sherlock. NOW

    • Pete In Iowa

      Then what about ALL THAT PROGRESS TdA has made under his tutelage?? May well be a worse catching instructor than 3B coach! We hit the Daly Double with him!

  • LeClerc

    Bicep tendonitis.
    Stiff neck.
    TOS survivor (?)
    Flexor tendon rehab patients (2).
    I’m good after the first inning-pesky mechanics.
    I couldn’t get my sinker up.
    No problem if Noah goes down – we’ve got Montero.
    Zack is our best pinch hitter (?)

    Kelly Johnson – where are you ?

  • Ken K. in NJ

    There isn’t really any way to objectively research this, but I’ve been wondering if there’s ever been a “contending” team that won a hard-fought tense long extra inning game in April and it became a turning point of the season…for the worse.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Yoenis will always be a leg-injury-waiting-to-happen. Get used to it (and plenty of limping) for how many more years?

  • Gil

    It might be time for baseball as a whole to realize that chicken and beer is better for baseball players than squatting a billion pounds and throwing a 40 pound medicine ball three days before a start. I cant help but think of Mets hotstove with Gary Apple this winter hearing Noah say “I want to throw harder” and seeing Yo in the gym leg pressing a billion pounds. Maybe its time for light lifting, yoga, and running. Seriously. Lean and loose.
    Stan Musial was listed as 6 foot but was probably an inch shorter and the guy weighed 175 pounds. One of the best hitters the world has ever seen. He didn’t inject hgh and he didn’t have a personal trainer. God just made him a hitter. Weight lifting is ruining baseball.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Chris Sale disappears when he turns sideways. Throws 98 mph.

    Willie Mays almost never missed a game for 15 years. World stopped turning for a day when he passed out from exhaustion and missed a day or two.

    Fun fact: after that epic 16 inning 1-0 CG loss to Marichal in 1962, Spahnie (not exactly a physical specimen) went out 5 days later–and pitched a CG–shutout. At age 42.

  • K. Lastima

    No worries about Yoenis . . . while the Mets are in DC he can rehab his hammy with a few rounds at Congressional CC . . . all good, right Sandy?

  • Daniel Hall

    Five or nine years from now, this post will be very amusing to read. I know that for a fact, because whenever I have really nothing else to do, I dive into the archives of crummy seasons of this lovely page.

  • Jacobs27

    Over at Metsblog, Matt Cerrone has this to say, and I agree:

    “If a guy has a stiff neck, fine, give him a day or two to rest. If a guy has a hang nail, sit him a day. He’ll almost certainly be fine tomorrow. But when it comes to obliques, biceps, muscle strains, hamstrings and other connective tissue and ligaments that could eventually lead to deeper injury, for the love of Mr. Met, just put the guy on the disabled list.

    In years past, maybe it made sense to handle this more liberally. However, had the Mets instantly put Cespedes on the newly-created 10-day DL, he’d have been resting and ready to return on Tuesday. The Mets could not have known they would lose six games in a row, but the fact is that they were losing with Cespedes on the roster, not in games, so they could have lost those games without him too. At least they’d get him back healthy and ready for action, at 100 percent, starting May 2, instead of now having to play without him again until May 9.

    The Mets need to stop screwing around with their best hitter. It should be obvious.”

    There’s a lot else wrong with this lousy ballclub and how it’s run, but at least that should be fixable… Also, we all know that there’s no way Cespedes comes back May 9th. June 9th would be optimistic. Oy ve.

  • Will in Central NJ

    ‘Such a Lousy Ballclub’….yes, but it’s OUR Lousy Ballclub.

    (Attention Bandwagoners: please check under your Field and Excelsior seats for your personal belongings and keep to the right as you exit.)

  • 9th string catcher

    April, guys. Still April. Yes, things look bleak. They always do…

    From ESPN:

    My own personal ranking of fans who take losing the hardest:

    1. Mets fans

    2. Dodgers fans when they lose to the Giants

    3. Everyone else

    30. Padres fans

  • Matt in Richmond

    Great comments about the perils of overdoing the weight lifting. I think a certain amount of strength training is probably beneficial, but flexibility is almost certainly more important. I’ve had his conversation numerous times and the example I always use is Hank Aaron…6′ 180lbs pretty much his whole career and arguably the greatest power hitter ever. From 1955-1970 he never played in fewer than 145 games, most years in the 155 range. How much heavy lifting you think he was doing?

    • Pete In Iowa

      And his playing in 145 per year was no exception — that was the norm for just about EVERYONE. And, that was with numerous doubleheaders throughout the season. All those games in fewer days.
      I miss those days…..

  • Pete In Iowa

    Syndergaard’s “dead arm”.
    Harvey’s workout.
    Familia can’t throw strikes.
    Salas deciding to become the batting practice hurler.
    Granderson’s and Reyes’ ohs-for-April.
    Duda’s elbow.
    Flores’ knee.
    Cabrera’s leg.
    Wright’s neck, back and shoulder.
    Cespedes’ hamstring.
    D’Arnaud’s 200 BA and statue posing after he rises out of his crouch as he throws to second.
    Gsellman’s first innings.
    Lagares’ flailing swings.
    Can’t we JUST LOSE WITH DIGNITY!!

  • Lenny65

    Anyone who’s ever watched sports (or suffered a hamstring injury) knows that hamstring injuries take time to heal. You DL Cespedes AND treat him with kid gloves when he returns. It’s not the do-or-die throes of a late-season pennant chase here.

    The endless angst over the starting pitchers is possibly the most aggravating long-term thing I’ve ever experienced in my forty-plus years of die-hard Mets fandom. Here we have this wealth of young starting pitching and we haven’t been able to really enjoy a second of it as there’s constantly a giant piano hanging over them all the time. Oh no, his velocity is down/mechanics are askew/looks unprepared/finger/wrist/elbow/shoulder/back hurts and it’s all the time, every day, every start. I’ve never seen anything like it, is it this way with other teams or is it just another Mets thing? I don’t have any pithy “answers” for it but I do know it’s not much fun to watch or follow.

    • Eric

      We remember the unfulfilled promise of Generation K. This group gave us the 2015 WS but has also missed a lot of time from injuries.

    • Jacobs27

      I hear what you’re saying Lenny. It’s so frustrating to have this much agita associated with the what ought to be our team’s greatest strength. If you can’t count on your young aces to stay on the field and be consistent, it takes a lot of the fun out of watching them, even when they are exciting… You’re just waiting for the complication, the bad news, the TBA status… it’s a shame.

  • Greg Mitchell

    On the pitchers–just proves the point I’ve made over and over and for years–very, very hard to build a team on young pitching these days. At least half of them have serious or off and on pitching ailments, from TJ surgery on down. It was all fairly predictable. The Cubs did it right, drafting young position players and trading or signing experienced pitchers with relative track record of health.
    They are stacked with them. Would the Red Sox even think of trading Betts, Bogaerts and Benitendi for Noah-Harvey-deGromm? I could go on. That’s why the real future of the Mets rests with Rosario, Smith and maybe Conforto, and maybe someone in A ball now…

  • Matt in Richmond

    Meh. You can bludgeon your way to the playoffs sometimes, but historically it’s pitching that wins in October. Very very rare for the top offensive team(s) to take home the trophy. For all their young every day talent, there’s a legit argument that Arietta, Lester, Hammel and Hendricks were equally important to them last year. And if memory serves, we beat them in 2015…….

    • Greg Mitchell

      You are totally missing the point. Whose roster would you rather have for next 4 years, Cubs or Mets (and assume Lester, Arrieta, Hendricks all gone by then)? And you also forget we lost to Royals who had vastly inferior starting pitching.

  • K. Lastima

    Am I being a crabby old “get off my lawn” guy to think that Jose’s “war paint” look is not befitting for a guy looking quite a ways up just to attain the “Mendoza Line”?

  • Matt in Richmond

    I’m not missing your point I just don’t agree with it. You’re claiming that it’s better to build with position players than pitchers. I’m not convinced that’s true. Clearly with where the two franchises sit at this exact moment, anyone would rather be in the Cubs’ shoes, but that doesn’t prove or disprove anything. If you’d asked anyone the same question in 2015, when our young pitching had shut them down, it would be a tossup at best.

    The bigger issue is that this is a fascile comparison, to put the Cubs and Mets against each other in a vacuum. It’s to assume that there are no other factors (available resources, draft picks
    etc). It’s an oversimplification. Let’s put it this way. If you and I each had 10,000 dollars and you invested in blue chip stocks and lost 3k and I bought 10,000 dollars worth of lottery tickets and won 1 million dollars, that certainly wouldn’t prove that lottery tickets were a better investment. It would be anecdotal.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Bogus analogy. The crippling trend of arm injuries to young pitchers, widely recognized by nearly all (though apparently not everyone), is hardly “anecdotal.’

  • Matt in Richmond

    I feel like we’re kind of talking past each other here a bit. Of course I’m aware of how injury prone pitchers are. In fact we have had discussions where I’ve been beating the drum about how inherently dangerous pitching is, while you’ve been blaming TC for someone’s injury. I can only infer from your comments now that we are in agreement on that point.

    The discussion though wasn’t are pitchers prone to injury but rather is it automatically smarter to draft position players. My opinion is that it’s an oversimplification to just automatically say yes and to use the Cubs as “proof” as to why it’s so. History is rife with teams riding a hot pitcher or 2 to a WS crown. It’s also replete with position players putting up monster stats during the regular season and doing little to nothing in October. There is no simple right or wrong, but for my money, I’d always rather rely on pitching when everything’s on the line. And I’m far from throwing in the towel on Noah, Zack, Jake, Matt or even Steven.

  • […] then you don’t know where it’s leading. The Mets’ 2017 was effectively down the tubes as of last Thursday when Noah Syndergaard was scratched from his scheduled start, Yoenis Cespedes required assistance […]