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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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Yet Another Brave New World

A few weeks ago I came across an article previewing brand spanking new SunTrust Park. It said that Braves fans were certain to enjoy some fantastic feature or another, which caused me to chuckle internally, because nobody really has an inkling of what a ballpark is going to turn into until experience replaces expectation. After the Mets gave beat writers a tour of as yet unopened Citi Field in 2009, one of them — somebody who would not be sitting in a ticketed seat nor wandering around over the course of nine or more innings — suggested there was a great spot where Mets fans would gather to drink beer and watch planes take off from LaGuardia. Perhaps that has happened in the ensuing nine seasons, but I’ve never once heard of anybody making it a part of their gamegoing routine. (Apologies to baseball-loving aviation enthusiasts if I’m inadvertently devaluing your passion.)

Ballparks are like ballgames and the seasons that encompass them in that respect. You can chart all your probabilities, but you just don’t know what’s coming until it arrives, and even 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 leaving the basepaths and a sixth consecutive defeat was inflicted on our heretofore presumed airworthy enterprise. Then the Mets traveled to Washington and captured a couple of exciting contests that surely could have gone the other way but didn’t. Plus the reports on Yoenis’s hamstring didn’t indicate his demise was imminent and Noah was pronounced fit to start on Sunday with a sweep in sight. Maybe the season wasn’t over.

Or surely it was, because Syndergaard didn’t make it out of the second without grabbing a crucial portion of his imposing anatomy. Another sudden exit, another wave of doom. Next thing you know, Anthony Rendon is raining down on every reliever in sight and Kevin Plawecki is one of those relievers. It was one of those days when losing 23-5 to your ostensible archrivals wasn’t nearly the worst thing that could happen to your team.

Monday the Mets played anyway. Without Cespedes. Without Syndergaard, whose MRI results became the week’s most anticipated release this side of the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel. Without Plawecki available in the bullpen after throwing two innings the day before. With each of us having spent 24 hours as unaccredited experts in sports psychology, sports medicine, sports management and the future. With Julio Teheran prepping his own grisly guided tour of things to do in Cobb County when you’re dead.

What chances would have you assigned to a prospective Mets victory going into a setting like that?

Me, I’d have gone 50-50, my default odds before every game. Because you might win or you might lose, but you never, ever know. You didn’t know that Josh Edgin would ride a ninth-inning steed to Jeurys Familia’s rescue on Friday. You didn’t know that Zack Wheeler would get out of so many jams on Saturday that he’d merit an endorsement deal from Smucker’s. You didn’t know Plawecki would pitch on Sunday (the ninth time a Mets position player has done so) or that Sean Gilmartin would double (the thirty-first time a Met reliever has done that). You didn’t know how relevant recollections of the infamous 26-7 loss at Veterans Stadium from 1985 were going to become or that Rendon would be evoking apt comparisons to Sunny Jim Bottomley and Hard-Hittin’ Mark Whiten.

You probably could have guessed something like what happened to Syndergaard would happen to Syndergaard, but you wouldn’t have necessarily taken lat tear over biceps tendinitis in the magnetic resonance imaging pool. Sandy Alderson swears what the MRI found on Monday wasn’t what had been bugging Noah a few days earlier (for which the pitcher forewent an MRI and the club pitched him anyway). However one chose to decipher the results, Thor was disabled for an undetermined period and the Mets could be judged good as dead.

Except for beating the Braves Monday night. And having 137 more one-game seasons ahead of them. At some point Syndergaard may be back as good as new or better than ever or not quite what he was or how many days until Pitchers & Catchers 2018? We don’t know how soon we’ll be giving up on the current campaign, but May Day wasn’t the date to send up an irrevocable distress signal, not when the Mets extracted five homerless runs from the previously miserly Teheran in the fourth en route to a 7-5 Met gala. The Mets had won games by that exact score sixty-one times between 1962 and 2016 and have now done so twice in a span of four days.

See? You never know. You only think you do.

You knew the surfeit of veteran outfielders would bar deserving Michael Conforto from his opportunity, but he was playing yet again Monday, as he does every day. He’s topping the order on a daily basis and he’s quite good at it. Michael knocked in three runs from his perch, including a home run the very first time any Met ever batted at SunTrust Park. Sadly, Ender Inciarte would return the favor to begin the bottom of the first, but since we won, we can enjoy knowing we saw something else that didn’t lend itself to prediction or precedent. Elias says the dual leadoff dingers marked the first Mets game in which each leadoff man went deep immediately…and the first such Braves game in 67 years.

You knew as recently as a little more than a week ago that erstwhile top-of-the-order hitter Jose Reyes was absolutely done as a professional baseball player, but he homered, drove in two and extended his hitting streak to seven. Jose’s batting all of .178, but the Interstate’s a pretty good ride considering how much of April Reyes spent stuck on state roads.

You knew Curtis Granderson as an old man trapped in the depths of uselessness, but not only did Grandy draw an essential walk in the definitive fourth, he made a diving catch with two on and two out in the sixth to protect a one-run lead. Curtis is an excellent baseball player even when he’s not playing anything close to excellent.

You knew a bullpen that surrendered fourteen runs before Plawecki’s desperation contribution on Sunday loomed as a leaky proposition on Monday, but after adequate Robert Gsellman’s ledger was filled (5+ IP, 5 ER, the last two scoring on outs recorded by relievers), the rested core of the relief corps — Edgin, Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins, Addison Reed and Familia — tightened the Mets’ ship. Blevins was especially crisp, sandwiching swinging strikeouts of lefty nemeses Inciarte and Freddie Freeman around a flyout of righty Brandon Phillips. Familia was awarded the save for preserving a two-run lead in the ninth, but Blevins rightly earned the clubhouse crown for keeping the score 6-5 in the seventh.

It was just one game, but so are all of them. Whether it goes down as an anomaly or a part of an emerging trend (the Mets have won three of four and crawled out of last place) is unknown at the moment. Whether amenity-laden SunTrust Park will always play as it did last night, with balls jumping and the outfield expansive, is also part of the remains-to-be-scenery. Its predecessor facility seemed like a friendly spot to drop our bags upon the Mets’ first visit in 1997. The Mets took three of four at Turner Field and you couldn’t have known what horrors awaited them at 755 Hank Aaron Drive SE.

Weathervane rooting — “yay we’re winning!”; “boo we’re losing!” — proves only that you watched the very last thing that occurred and responded accordingly, but maybe it’s not the worst way to process baseball. Maybe the lack of Syndergaard, which will truly come into focus Friday night when his place if not role in the rotation is assumed by the umpteenth coming of Rafael Montero, does doom us in the near and long term. Maybe the Mets’ training staff shouldn’t be trusted with anything stronger than a box of Band-Aids and a tube of Neosporin (and even then, call your congressional representatives and demand they preserve your and your team’s access to health insurance). Maybe we can obsess on the musculoskeletal systems of strapping young men and make accurate diagnoses regarding their ability to heal without ever having examined them or a medical text.

Whatever the prevailing conditions, the Mets won last night and maybe they’ll win again tonight. Yay.

25 comments to Yet Another Brave New World

  • Pete In Iowa

    Based on the comments the past couple of days,I think everyone needs to take a deep breath. OK guys got hurt and things were mismanaged. I get that.
    Reality check – we’ve just won 3 of 4, have 3 left with ATL and three coming up against a slumping MIA. Conforto has found a home at the top of the order (let’s hope he stays there) and other hitters are showing signs of life. In two weeks, if we keep playing (hitting) the way we have since Friday, we will be right back in it.
    And if we can’t catch or keep pace with the Gnats, look at the rest of the NL. Does anyone really think the Rockies, D’Backs and Brewers are going to be anywhere by the All-Star break? Bottom line – getting at least a Wild Card looks even easier this season with a bunch of middling (at BEST) teams in the league. 84 or 85 wins looks like it will be plenty good enough.

  • Gil

    Lots of heart from the Mets last night. Time for Harvey to bring it. Its time for everyone to step up.

    I’m not a doctor but I did stay in a holiday inn last night so I’m sticking with my diagnosis of Noah not throwing in the off-season and getting too beef-cake as the reason his lat tore. His message last night via twitter gave me a warm-fuzzy, though.

    One at a time. Lets Go Mets!

  • LeClerc

    In the last four days the Mets have defeated Scherzer, Strasburg, and Tehran.

    For some reason, I’m reminded of an anecdote from the history of World War 2:

    At the outset of the war – after the Germans had inflicted heavy losses on the British – Hitler promised “Germany will wring England’s neck like a chicken”.

    Sometime afterwards, after the Brits had turned the tide on the Nazis, Churchill said: “Some chicken…, some neck!”

    The Mets have quite a ways to go before their goose (or chicken) is cooked.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Still conflicted on having MC hitting leadoff. Last night notwithstanding typically it’s going to cost him RBI opportunities. Ditto having Jose down in the order is going to limit his chances to run. Love how they’re swinging it though. With any luck at all Jose would have had 3 extra base hits last night. Solid job by the pen and TC doing his typically stellar job of keeping everyone focused on what’s important. The game not the drama.

    LGM

    • Pete In Iowa

      In my mind, Conforto is clearly the best choice to leadoff. There are many reasons. He can run quite capably. He has good plate discipline. He can hit. He has power. As far as driving in runs, with just the 7th most AB’s on the club, he’s tied for the team lead in RBI. Given the hitters (or lack thereof) the Mets have, I don’t think there is much difference where anyone bats in this lineup correlating to driving in runs. Absolutely not the case on most every other team, many of which have dependable OBP guys to set the table, which we just don’t have. He obviously seems comfortable in that spot. I wouldn’t fix what’s not broken. If Reyes can keep hitting, he can bat second and Cabrera can slide down the order.

  • Greg Mitchell

    The claim that the biceps was cured and the LAT was new and not connected rather undermined by fact Thor had his worst inning ever in the first (5 runs) BEFORE the LAT apparently surfaced.

    The estimable Tom Verducci on WFAN this morning endorsed two points I have made here: 1) the Mets could and probably should have simply told Thor, fine, don’t take the MRI but you are not pitching unless you do. Even if we can’t know that it would have raised a massive red flag (even bigger than the one already obvious) it would have at least made a point and shown the lunatics they were not running asylum, and 2) starting pitchers now losing value because of constant injuries, or threat of, and growing reliance on bullpen, so GMs really focusing now on position players to build team around since starters always going to be very risky investments, increasingly so.

    It would be interesting if we had a poll here a month from now: If Conforto is hitting .300 still and on pace for 30 or more HRs, would you rather have him or deGrom under contract the next four years if you could choose only one? Or even a (temporarily) healthy Thor?

    • Dennis

      That’s an interesting situation on who to sign long term. I understand great starting pitching is very tough to find, but with (as it seems in this current era of baseball) pitchers arms almost like ticking time bombs, the safer bet might be signing a position player, whose career could be more productive over a longer period of time.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Maybe so Greg, but like Sandy said, at best that might make some people feel better and perhaps alleviate some of the unnecessary finger pointing, but the outcome would likely be the same. As to your hypothetical I would go DeGrom in a heartbeat. Yes pitchers are risky, but they’re usually how you win the big ones. Ask SF fans how they feel about MadBum.

  • 9th string catcher

    Having Conforto leading off is secretly brilliant. This team can’t play small ball anyway, so the best person at the top is the one who gets on base the most (since they get the most at-bats). More to the point, we need an RBI guy who can drive in the TDAs, Reyes’s and Dudas at the bottom of the order. Having Granderson at the top means you basically have two pitchers in RBI situations.

    Would I rather have a big on-base guy who can steal bases and help manufacture runs with a strong #2 high contact/take a pitch type behind him; most definitely. But I prefer Conforto to Reyes who gets swing happy and Granderson who strikes out constantly.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Ask Giants fans how they feel about Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain flame outs. They went on to win another Series with one good pitcher. Ask Dodgers fans how they feel about the 6 expensive starting pitchers who all went down last year. And even Giants’ fans may have a few unkind words for MadBum right now after unnecessary three-month road crash injury….

  • Matt in Richmond

    Greg, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum were key components of multiple World Series victories while Madison Bumgarner essentially won them one single handedly. It would be a bizarre SF fan that didn’t have good thoughts for those 3. I’m not debating that pitchers are bigger injury risks. I’m taking the position that there is greater upside in a top shelf pitcher. It is incredibly rare if not unheard of for a team to slug its way to a WS title. Pitching is what gets it done in October.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Even if your claim that pitching wins Series–which is at least debatable–it ignores the question of how you get to the Series first. And GMs increasingly recognize that they have to roll the dice on pitching and hope an Arieta–or a Colon–surprises rather than count on young pitchers putting together 2 or 3 good (full) years in a row. That’s why I would bet that any GMs top 15 players they would start a franchise with–and have tied up for say 7 years–would almost all be positions players, and they would also dominate the top of the list. Yes Kershaw and MadBum would be up there but all we have to do here–and please, everyone, take this challenge–pick the players you’d take and pay for today for a 5 or 7 year run. For me: Trout, Harper, Lindor, Arenado, Betts, Machado, Correa, Freeman, Bryant, Seager, Altuve and the list goes on and on. Who knows, maybe Conforto–or Rosado–make that list in another year.

  • Ken

    Oh, for the days of Seaver, Ryan, Koosman and Matlack and complete ball games!

  • Harvey Poris

    Re Conforto: Reminds me of Tommie Agee with with the 1969 Mets. Had 26 HR and 76 RBI hitting mostly leadoff.

  • Dave

    Regarding whether Conforto should lead off, classic leadoff hitters are a rare species these days, so even though he’s not likely to draw 100 walks and definitely isn’t stealing 50 bases, and that he may be a classic #3 hitter, I have no problem with him hitting there. If Reyes can show sustained production, revisit.

  • Matt in Richmond

    For anyone who has despaired that all is lost and hopeless, we are only 2 games in back of the supposedly flawless Cubs.

  • eric1973

    I like Conforto where he is at the moment. Don’t want to risk giving him another nervous breakdown, like last year.

    I would rather sign Conforto than deGrom. Good hitters are really hard to find, especially for this organization. And our great pitching did lose to the Royals, in that small, yet ‘Exhibit A’ sample.

    Let’s see Harvey, deGrom, and Wheeler throw some gems and sweep these guys!

  • eric1973

    As Colombo says, just one more thing:

    Saw Sandy Doublespeak saying thiis Noah injury is “not just days, but weeks.”

    More phony baloney. It’s going to be months, at least two, maybe three, so I’m wise to you.

  • Jack Strawb

    This isn’t a great team or even a good team, but it’s a team that might squeak into the wild card before losing that or the first round of the playoffs, so there’s hope!!

    Walker, Droopy, Duda, Conforto, and Granderson are all capable of having good seasons. Bruce isn’t (and hasn’t, since 2013), but the illusion for now is welcome. Flores, Rivera, Reyes, and D’Arnaud are all second-stringers but can put a fairly respectable floor under production at their positions.

    Cespedes might return and give 120 games at a terrific clip. Or 90 games. Or 60. All in all, then, a modest lineup with little star power (and its one star injured) but with some consistency to it. The ones who haven’t hit yet are likely to come around.

    The rotation for now is DeGrom, Harvey, Wheeler, Gsellmann, and Montrero. Okay, that’s frightening. That’s a rotation the “stud” of which won 7 games last year. And Gsellmann seems bent on giving back the entirety of his accomplishments in 2016. But Montrero won a game! In… 2014.

    The pen has four guys who are pitching well. That’s something, right?

    Kind of an interesting team, in any case. A great deal has gone wrong. Even more will go wrong. But it’s only three games below .500.

    On the other hand, there are only 2-1/2 guys currently in the lineup who are hitting well, and one will revert to his post-2013 form while the other is barely not a rookie with no track record of sustained success.

    Yeah. Never mind. 78 wins definitely feels right for this club, with 70 a lot more likely than 85. Sorry. I started this comment with more optimism than I ended it with. Cheers.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Nothing much to add, only that as the Braves started picking away, I thought, “god, not here too.”

    LGM!

  • Greg Mitchell

    Re: Conforto. He’s healthy. Is anyone else? So be happy. Cabrera looks like he’s aged ten years and Walker not much behind. Imagine people here a year ago were actually happy we had him instead of Murph. Cabrera (nice guy, steady) makes Jeter look like Ozzie Smith.

  • Lenny65

    If the Mets still had them both, Murphy and his .211 average would be heading back to the DL with a persistent quad injury and a 1-7 6.71 Colon would be announcing his retirement after breaking his shoulder trying to steal home. If they’d never traded for Cespedes, Fulmer would be sidelined until 2019 and Cespedes would have 15 HRs already. That magical Mets mojo disappeared between the NLCS and WS and hasn’t been seen much since.

    Rafael Montero…sigh. What, was Jenrry Mejia busy or something? How did it come to this?