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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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Life Stages in Los Angeles

Zack Wheeler, 27; first major league appearance, June 18, 2013
His Monday night numbers of note: 2 IP, 7 ER, 8 H
What it means at this stage of his career: Nothing good, though “this stage of his career” doesn’t sync with the arithmetic that his major league debut was just over five years ago. We know Wheeler missed what should have been his third and fourth seasons and is only in his third season now. Perhaps a batting practice line or two was to be expected in his comeback campaign. He’s had two in a row after pitching for several starts like there’d never been anything wrong with him except a propensity to run up pitch counts. The saying that you have to get to some pitchers early if you want to get them at all seems to apply to Wheeler, but not for the usual complimentary reasons, for there has been no later for Zack of late. This might be an optimal time to pause him, except the Mets don’t have an optimal time in their rotation. Let’s hope Zack’s OK and that the Dodgers were simply hotter than hot when his pitches ran into their bats.

Rafael Montero, 26; first major league appearance, May 14, 2014
His Monday night numbers of note: 3.2 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 SO
What it means at this stage of his career: Ah, who the hell knows? Rafael pitched a second consecutive competent long-relief stint inside of a week in his…I’m gonna say eighty-fourth trial with the Mets. His timing was keen in the short term, keeping the Mets sort of viable, and terrible in the slightly longer term, likely eliminating himself from a chance to start on Wednesday night. I’d say his back-to-back solid outings are encouraging, but I’ve probably said stuff like that before and I’m not prone to believe it based on the myriad mushy outings Montero has turned in during his other eighty-three trials. But he did earn the Bigelow Tease award for his role in getting our hopes up ever so marginally. We were down 7-0 and even the sleepy among us wouldn’t so quickly submit to the demands of our eyelids because we weren’t down more. (God, we’re dullards that way.)

Jose Reyes, 34; first major league appearance, June 11, 2003
His Monday night numbers of note: 2 HR, 3 RBI
What it means at this stage of his career: Some life remains detectable in the Mets’ temporary starting shortstop, previously the Mets’ default starting third baseman, theoretically the superutilityman of Spring Training chatter. Jose’s .198 average doesn’t speak very loudly, and I certainly expected to hear it say nothing versus Clayton Kershaw. Once it was 7-0, L.A., I expected a serious flirtation with a perfect game. The Dodger Stadium mound…the comps to Sandy Koufax…the Mets being the Mets…yet Jose broke it up to lead off the third by homering, and he pushed the Mets into nipping at the ace’s impenetrable advantage when he homered again in the seventh to close the gap to 8-6. Not that it did the Mets any good in the end, an end that would be spelled 10-6, Dodgers, but with Asdrubal Cabrera several days away and Amed Rosario’s ETA TBD, I was happy to see Reyes add to the numbers he’s been compiling since 2003, save for a gap between 2012 and 2015. He passed Keith Hernandez for sole possession of ninth place on the Mets career RBI chart (471) and he edged to within four of Ed Kranepool for second place on the Mets career hit list (1,414). I don’t know how much Mets baseball Jose has left, but I’d like him to do as much as he can with however much he can get his bat on.

Jay Bruce, 30; first major league appearance, May 27, 2008
His Monday night numbers of note: 1 HR, 1 RBI
What it means at this stage of his career: We as a people entered 2017 dismissing Jay as superfluous, yet who’s the only Met who has been power-hitting on their behalf regularly since this season started? Bruce has 19 home runs, five more than any other Met and 48 runs batted in, ten ahead of his nearest teammate. Tell me home runs are flying everywhere these days and school me about how RBIs don’t indicate as much as we grew up assuming they did, but home runs and runs batted in sure are helpful in the course of a game. Bruce, like Reyes, seems to have a talent for eliciting gophers out of Kershaw (as a Red he’d taken Clayton deep twice). That alone is impressive. So is his 131 OPS+, second on the team to Michael Conforto. For all the squeezing in of outfielders it was thought Terry Collins was going to have to do, Jay hasn’t surrendered right field nor a spot in the batting order.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. He’s been hitting balls out of ballparks since Shea Stadium stood. Our first exposure to him was directly following the 2008 All-Star Game. The Mets were in Cincinnati for a four-game set. Billy Joel was in Flushing, presenting The Last Play at Shea. On the night Paul McCartney jetted in to musically close the old place down at Billy’s behest, Bruce was letting it be against John Maine, hitting the seventh home run of his rookie season in his second game ever versus the Mets. The visiting New Yorkers lost, 5-2, snapping their contention-reviving ten-game winning streak and dropping them one game behind the fearsome Phillies for first place. A couple of handfuls of players from that box score of July 18, 2008, still roam the MLB earth or at least sit tight on its disabled lists: Reyes, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Joe Smith, Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Edwin Encarnacion, Bronson Arroyo. Ken Griffey, Jr., is in the Hall of Fame. Carlos Delgado fell off the Hall ballot after one vote. We haven’t heard much lately from the likes of Maine, Fernando Tatis, Damion Easley or Met reserve turned Red shortstop Jeff Keppinger. Jay we know has walloped 253 more home runs since Billy and Paul said good night. If we do math, we know he’s on pace to pass Beltran and Todd Hundley for the Mets’ single-season home run mark of 41. “On pace” is tricky calculation — fairly easy to discern, not necessarily simple to maintain. Ten-year veteran Jay Bruce maintains a starting job based on consistent production. The Mets are in fourth with him, might be much closer to the no longer fearsome Phillies in fifth without him. Bruce is probably gone before 2018 comes around. Until further notice, let him be, let him be.

Gavin Cecchini, 23; first major league appearance, September 11, 2016
His Monday night numbers of note: 1 HR, 2 RBI
What it means at this stage of his career: Cecchini has started one game in the big leagues, and in it he homered off Clayton Bleeping Kershaw. That would be enough of a career for most of us. Cecchini probably would like more. He probably also projected more games and more starts by now when the Mets made him their first draft choice of 2013. He was eager and ready to go, I can say from personal observation, having been at the kid’s introductory press conference four years ago. The Mets were giddy with All-Star Game preparation fever and invited some bloggers into their lair (something they got out of the habit of doing by 2015). We met Cecchini and Kevin Plawecki, also chosen in that year’s first round. They seemed like fine young men, except for Cecchini revealing he liked wearing No. 2 out of appreciation for a certain shortstop who played in a nearby borough. Even Sandy Alderson groaned at that revelation.

The Mets sought attention for another youngster that night, 2011 first pick Brandon Nimmo. With enough online votes, Nimmo could join the Futures game that would be played ahead of the Midsummer Classic that Matt Harvey was a near-lock to start. They put Brandon on a conference call with us and he sounded like a young (younger) David Wright. Nimmo made that game — along with Montero and Noah Syndergaard — but not the majors until 2016. Nimmo had a pinch-hit last night, his first hit of this year. He had one homer all of last year. Plawecki’s been up and down across three years. Dom Smith was the club’s No. 1 pick in 2012 and he’s generally the second name we mention when we mention Met prospects most of us have barely seen. It’s 2017. These things can take a while and they carry no guarantees. Cecchini was a shortstop when he was drafted, was a second baseman in Terry’s lineup Monday night, will be something for somebody eventually, you’d figure. The Mets’ infield, despite its chronic aches, seems crowded. We’ll see if there’s space available for this still fine young man for whom I constructed the private nickname Gavin MacClout once he slaughtered a pitch from Kershaw. A guy who can say he homered off Clayton Kershaw practically the first chance he got shouldn’t have to ask too loudly for another opportunity.

23 comments to Life Stages in Los Angeles

  • Pete In Iowa

    We score six runs off of Kershaw….. and we still lose! If that doesn’t sum up our 2017 campaign, I don’t know what would.
    And, we’re watching one of the better offensive teams we’ve had in our 56 years of existence… and we’re losing way more than winning! If that doesn’t sum up our decades of Met-dom, I don’t know what would.
    But I still love them.

    • Eric

      That was my reaction, too. The Mets scored 6 off Kershaw and knocked him out of the game yet still lost going away. That’s right up there with the frustrating losses this season.

  • Curt

    I’ll make a confession. I was dozing off before the game even started. Turned it off with one out in the bottom of the first. Does that make me a bad person?

    I know it makes me a more efficient employee (or less crabby boss, technically).

  • Gil

    To borrow a hot mic phrase from Keith, Zack has his tits lit last night. Not even sure what that means, but it sounds like you had a bad night.

    • Unless you’re into that sort of thing. No judgments.

    • Seth

      I haven’t kept abreast of those comments.

    • Curt

      Would’ve been worse if I’d stayed up past 1 to watch us lose with a fairly important conference call at 9 a.m. this morning.

      It’s coming back to me though. The Mets and the Knicks have taught me the value of hoping for the best and expecting the worst. The Mets have gotten me away from that the last 2 years. Now? Every win is starting to be a pleasant surprise again. I figure I’ll have at least 30 more surprises between now and October.

  • Eric

    I wonder if Wheeler is tipping his pitches.

    If it’s finally clicking in for Montero, that’s good.

    The Mets are far enough out now, I want to see the kids play. If not full time, at least in a rotation with the vets.

  • Bob

    Greg/Jason-
    So Mets manage to hit 4 HRs off Kershaw @ Dodger Stadium & STILL lose!
    Just Amazin’!–well actually with team era of about 5.00-OY!

    Bob in LA.

  • Harvey Poris

    Last couple of series very frustrating watching Met cast-offs Murphy and Turner pound them as they are doing to the rest of the league. And maybe Dom Smith is good, but he is probably no Judge, who the Mets passed on for Smith. This organization never was to good on evaluating hitters, going back to Steve Chilcott instead of Reggie Jackson Oh and hw many HOF votes did Shawn Abner and Fernando Martinez get?

    • Eric

      If the Mets had traded Flores for Gomez in 2015, he’d probably be hitting right up there with Turner and Murphy by now.

      It is mysterious that Turner and Murphy played for the Mets for years and then in relatively short order turned into MVP-caliber hitters on other teams.

      • Seth

        Very different situations. Turner was a light hitting utility infielder with the Mets, and of course we had David Wright so didn’t need his 3rd basemanship. Murphy was the Mets’ best and most consistent hitter for years. No one could have predicted Turner’s rise, but even the “old” Murphy should have been retained at all costs.

  • LeClerc

    If the Mets don’t make a “magical” run by the all-star break, we will be looking at Duda, Walker, Cabrera and Reyes standing in the way of Smith, Cecchini, Rosario and TJ Rivera.

    If “we” are not going to the play-offs – then let youth be served.

    PS: Check for vital signs in Wheeler’s pitching arm.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Leading up to Wheeler’s last two disastrous starts his pitch count was rising each game–to 108. We’ll see what develops but Terry wrecked him first time around–letting him lead the league in pitches thrown per game–as a 23/24 year old.

  • eric1973

    Guaran-damn-tee you that if LA only scored 5 runs, no way we would have gotten 6 off Kershaw.

    Murphy and Turner were let go because of personal reasons, as I recall Turner was pretty good back then, and showed some potential.

    Edited by moderator.

  • eric1973

    I think the Mets thought that Turner liked to party too much, and they did not appreciate Murphy’s comments promoting a ‘traditional’ lifestyle.

  • Dave

    Cecchini should be given a new uni number effective immediately. 16, or 36 or 62 or something. Maybe 28. Mets players should fail a Jeter Idolation Test in order to wear 2.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    After two terrible starts in a row by Wheeler, I knew I’d see the same complaints I saw after deGrom had two awful starts. Terry let him throw too many pitches, blah, blah, blah. The pitcher is scarred for life, blah, blah, blah. Seems deGrom rebounded quite nicely since his two terrible starts. Maybe we’ll see the same from Wheeler. Or maybe Wheeler will fall victim to the demon trainer of Roosevelt Avenue. Either way, we can’t be sure of the cause and effect.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Spot on Jerry. And again, Murphy was not “let go”. He received a reasonable 1 year offer and declined it. The interesting thing is, if he was all that confident that he would put up the numbers he did last year, the smart thing for him to do would have been to accept the Mets offer. Then he would have been able to cash in big time rather than accept the relatively modest 3 year deal from the Nats. And for whatever it’s worth, his terrible defense cost the Nats another game last night.

  • Lenny65

    Great post, I especially love reading about the Mets in a historical-type context like this.

    Re: Murphy. Yes, he went off on the single greatest playoff HR binge we will likely ever see (before he turned back into a pumpkin at the worst possible time). The Mets made him an offer and he declined that offer as was his right. It’s funny, as admirable a player he often times was for us, for most of his Mets tenure he was the subject of all sorts of trade speculation and let’s be honest with ourselves here: if they had dealt him away at some point for a halfway decent haul it might have been a little wistful to see him go but it would have hardly been earthshaking. I hate seeing him as a Gnat and I sincerely wish he was still playing for us but we all know if that had happened he’d be on the DL right now along with his .225 average.

    • Eric

      The angst for me with Murphy leaving is mostly from he’s a National in particular and on a division rival generally. If he was mashing for any team out of the NL East, even the Yankees, I’d be pleased for a favorite ex-Met.

  • eric1973

    And let’s remember that when Murphy was let go, that the Mets knew he was not going accept the 1-year qualifying offer. He took the 3-year security, which was more than the Mets were willing to pay.

    He certainly got the last laugh, as his replacement is always injured and not as good.