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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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Above Average Tuesday

It was supposed to be one of the seminal moments in the revival of a franchise that was taking its sweet time returning to life. Tuesday, June 18, 2013, a day-night doubleheader in Atlanta. The afternoon portion would be pitched by baseball’s hottest star, the evening’s focused on the premiere of potentially its next one. The hyperbolic among us cottoned to the billing Super Tuesday.

And it was super. Matt Harvey flirted seriously with a no-hitter for the third time in ’13, struck out 13 and raised his record to 6-1. Business as usual, in other words. Then the Mets unveiled their next ace, Zack Wheeler. The highly touted prospect making his major league debut wasn’t as sharp, but he was essentially as successful. Wheeler gave the Mets enough to win, sweep and look ahead excitedly.

Four years later, the projected dynamic duo of this decade threw in succession on another Tuesday. How Super it was is in the eye of the beholder.

Matt again went first, except he did his pitching from a podium, going before the press — and, by extension, the fans — to explain away and apologize for what became New York’s most infamous lost weekend since Ray Milland couldn’t hock his typewriter. Harvey’s target was no longer John Buck’s mitt. It was contrition. Yes, he said, he was out late Friday night “past curfew”. Yes, he added, he was golfing Saturday morning. He didn’t mention a migraine splitting his head or a supermodel breaking his heart. The reasons he allowed himself to get to a place where he couldn’t get to his place of employment he kept to himself.

“I put myself in a bad place to be ready for showing up to a ballgame,” the pitcher admitted publicly, proceeding to take “responsibility” and “full blame” for not appearing at Citi Field Saturday, which led to his three-game suspension and a journey-weary journeyman taking and losing what was supposed to have been his start Sunday. “I’ve apologized to my teammates, I’ve apologized to the coaches, and I’m doing everything in my power so that never happens again.”

How much he meant what he said about being sorry and not repeating his detrimental course of action was beyond the measurement of Statcast. We don’t need to be sincerity monitors. We just want a heretofore imposing righthander to stand in the center of the diamond and impose his will upon opposition hitters…or at the very least take the ball as scheduled. We as fans require his availability and clearheadedness in that pursuit. We shall see what happens this Friday night when Matt gets his next chance in Milwaukee. The rest is about being human beings and wishing the best for another member of our species. The way Terry Collins dropped phrases like “support group” and “he’s got people in his corner,” it’s reasonable to sense something’s more than a little awry in Matt’s world beyond an outsize taste for good times and a recurring disregard for team rules. We don’t really want to think in those terms. We want to think, “Harvey’s going today,” and let his actual pitching say the rest.

Wheeler’s turn came a few hours later, from the Citi Field mound. It was a more conventional outing and it went swimmingly. Zack’s path from 2013 to 2017 was disrupted by surgery and physical rehabilitation. So was Harvey’s, it’s worth noting, but there was never a discernible level of drama attached to Wheeler’s struggle. It just took him a while longer than he and we would have liked for him to make it back to us. But he’s back, and he’s doing all right. Tuesday he did very well for all concerned, save for the organization that traded him to us. Zack pitched six innings against the Giants and gave up only two hits and one run, facilitating a 6-1 victory, the same score by which the Mets won his big-league debut at Turner Field. He walked five then, four now. It would be great if he could cut down on those — more efficient outings would presumably lead to less reliance on a perpetually cranking bullpen — but in a rotation that between last Friday night and this Wednesday afternoon has encompassed Rafael Montero, Adam Wilk and Tommy Milone, you’re willing to accept a little work in progress.

The Mets are themselves again a work in progress, as they were in 2013, as they inevitably always are. Even fully revived and picked to go far in 2017, we found ourselves looking up at .500 after thirty-one games. It’s taken winning eight of eleven just to reach 16-16. There have been injuries. There has been pathos. Improvisation has been necessary. Michael Conforto is our leadoff hitter. T.J. Rivera is the starting first baseman, batting second. René Rivera is behind the plate nightly. Michael’s batting .330, T.J. .309, René .333. They combined for seven hits against San Francisco, or five more than Zack gave up. It all led to another win on a Tuesday when one Met was maybe doing better and none of the rest of the Mets seemed to be doing worse.

Call it Superb Tuesday if you like. Or just another day at the ballpark for this bunch.

21 comments to Above Average Tuesday

  • eric1973

    Come on, Harvey, man up.

    With that personality, you would be lucky to be going out with a hand model, let alone a supermodel.

    Now that he’s apologized, time to move on and stick it to Milwaukee Friday night.

    Hopefully, Cabrera gets a day off today. It just feels right, with an off day tomorrow.

    • Eric

      I agree – rest and recovery helped Cabrera last season, and I wouldn’t mind extra ABs for Flores against righties in the meantime.

  • Dennis

    Apology accepted Matt….now go out there and replicate 2013 & 2015.

    16-16… .500 and ready to move up. Just win baby.

  • Gil

    8 of 11 since Terry told them to man up. This team loves adversity. And the Nats bullpen drops one. I’m going to go with “Above average Tuesday.”

    Keep grinding, boys. LGM!

    • Eric

      4.5 games back. Almost close enough for the Nationals to start hearing footsteps, like 2015.

      The Orioles were blowing enough scoring chances that I was getting worried, but they came through for the Mets. When the Mets win and every other team in the division loses, that’s a good night.

      5 teams are still in front of the Mets for the 2 WC berths, but it’s a close cluster – 2.5 games separate the Mets from the Dodgers.

  • “…I gave my word.”

    I just wonder how much that means at this point.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Sanctimony is not appealing in anyone, least of all sports fans. I hope Matt takes care of himself off the field and keeps striving to do his best on it. Beyond that, it’s none of my business or concern.

    4 straight series wins, with contributions coming from everybody, and reinforcements on the way! LGM

  • LeClerc

    A salute to Wheeler for the best performance by a Mets starter so far this season.

    Accolades for Conforto and The Riveras.

    TJ and Rene going back to the bench any time soon? Not if they continue to produce so admirably.

    It’s healthy for both Duda and d’Arnaud to experience some Wally Pipp anxiety. It just might concentrate their minds and inspire them to up their games.

  • Pete In Iowa

    I don’t care who comes back or when they come back. Conforto and TJ must be given regular spots in the lineup. These guys can hit. Period. Just what this lineup needs. If I was TdA, I’d be looking over my shoulder big time. He may be the next to be a regular — on the bench.
    Going to be in Milwaukee this weekend for all three games. Been looking forward to it since the schedule came out. Friday nite should be interesting….

    • Matt in Woodside

      I normally prefer to see guys get a chance to earn their spot back after injury, but yeah what a tough call. How do you sit TJ Rivera when Duda comes back? With Conforto, I could see Collins juggling days off for the veterans to keep him in the outfield. Granderson still needs to heat up, and the team needs to have a plan to keep Cespedes rested/healthy that doesn’t involve another trip to the DL.

  • Chad Ochoseis

    About a month ago, I looked at this team, with Cespedes being Cespedes, Bruce, Conforto, and D’Arnaud finally hitting as advertised, Syndergaard, DeGrom, and Harvey leading the rotation, and Familia on his way back, and I thought, “How the hell can this team possibly lose?” And they lost 10 of 11.

    Now I look at a team with a singles hitting middle infielder at first base, an old backup playing every day at catcher, a couple of shortstops who were great about eight years ago, an overused bullpen, no Syndergaard, and effectively no Harvey, and I think, “How the hell can this team possibly win?” And they’ve won 8 of 11.

    I love the Mets.

    • 9th string catcher

      Right? Lose series to Marlins and Braves at home, then go to Washington and take 2 out of 3. That’s baseball. It’s not always about the best players on the team – it’s the team playing well together. Think about it – it’s gone from being a HR based offense to a pesky walks, singles and doubles that run up pitch counts and keep the pressure on, rather than HRs, Ks and short innings for the opposing pitcher. If they can combine the two – high OBP with just enough pop, this team will score a lot of runs.

  • Curt

    Re Harvey, The part of me that’s a Mets fan wants him to win buckets of games with an ERA in the 2’s.

    The other part of me that’s a Mets fan wants him to be a pretty decent pitcher with an ERA in the 3’s who, once Matz and Lugo are back, we can trade this summer and get something good back rather than losing him as a FA after next season for nothing.

    The part of me that works for a living and would lose his job if he decided to just not show up for work without telling anyone (I could probably get away with it – once – but a lot of my friends couldn’t) because I partied and played golf wants the Mets to follow Buster Olney’s suggestion and send him to Vegas long enough that he won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season. If he wants to party so badly, where better?

    Great game last night. Nice to see Wheeler improving. Lot of things to talk about re what to do when players start to return such as, are we really better off with Duda than with Rivera at first? (can change that to Reyes/Rivera at third).

  • Lenny65

    IMO the encouraging thing about Wheeler is how he appears to have picked up right where he left off, which means there’s that much more of a chance he’ll evolve and start cutting back on the walks and high pitch counts as he continues to find his game. He hasn’t appeared to need any time to get back to where he was before his injury woes, which ideally means he’s feeling well and has the opportunity to grow into a more capable starter as things progress. I’m really happy to see it and really glad to see him back too.

    • Eric

      Has an innings limit been announced for Wheeler?

      • Curt

        They won’t announce it. They’ve seen clubs do that before and everyone in the press corps decides they know how to manage the team. I’d think around 180 would be the top end. Since at best he’ll start 30 and 6 innings seems to be as long as he goes, I think he’s safe. Plus they’ll probably skip a start here and there later in the year. Don’t forget he has an extra 3 & 2/3 innings that won’t show up in his stats.

  • Greg Mitchell

    I’ll raise my usual red flag (often proven justified in the past) about Terry pitching Familia with a big lead after pitching the night before and quite likely needed the next day (an afternoon game no less). We’ll see how that works out.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Well, see my prediction just above and sadly proven warranted (as usually the case when Terry puts Familia in with big lead after pitching night before and then needed the next). To anyone who says–if Wilmer makes that play cleanly he might have ended it with double play–consider that even that was a hot shot. If you call that unlucky than you have say Familia was lucky Panik had just missed home run by 5 feet. Then Familia unable to put Nunez away foul after foul and unable to find plate with most hitters, and then shelled. If you can’t see immediately the difference between Familia on the mound when overworked and not overworked–get some new glasses. And the announcers, usually reticent to criticize pitching moves, were all over the pitching-with-big-lead the night before. Shall we also mention Blevins on pace for over 100 games and Robles, Reed and Salas all for 90?

  • Gil

    I’m glad I’m a salesman and not a big league manager. Immediate reaction – whoever that new guy on the mound is, he did a nice job. And he got a hit!
    Day off and then we get to see everyone’s favorite Met take the mound against the crew.

    These gritty Mets of ours down go down without a fight. Liked that bottom of 9 action. Too bad we can’t combine Lagares and Grandy into one player. LaGrandy would be really good.

  • You can discuss — respectfully — in tonight’s recapper. For now, fin.