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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 in the Smudge

The Mets don’t actually travel the earth with a black cloud over their heads, but it sure does seem that way sometimes.

From Zack Wheeler to Hansel Robles to Yoenis Cespedes, Monday night’s game was one stomach punch after the other, almost as if baseball was trying to point out the folly of continuing to subject ourselves to unpleasantness.

Wheeler, a perennial work in progress, looked good early, but his collapse in the sixth had been preceded by a fifth inning that was all warning lights: with two out he walked three, made two horrendous pitches (in terms of selection and location) to Jedd Gyorko and only escaped when Gyorko slammed a low line drive that Asdrubral Cabrera caught at his shoetops.

That seemed to use up all of Wheeler’s luck — in the sixth Yadier Molina was the beneficiary of an infield single that Jose Reyes probably didn’t need to turn into a do-or-die play, new tormenter Paul DeJong homered for a Cardinals lead, and three batters later Adam Wainwright drove Wheeler from the game with a run-scoring double. I could write a bunch of stuff about Wheeler still being young, coming back from injury, etc. It would all be true and be nothing you haven’t read before, so let’s not.

You’re also probably aware that Hansel Robles gives up way too many home runs, which is what got him dispatched to Las Vegas a while back. Robles returned to replace Chasen Bradford, and let the record show that he did manage to throw one pitch without a disastrous outcome.

Then Robles threw a second pitch to Tommy Pham, and that was effectively the end of the ballgame. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but the pitch Robles offered up in Flushing came down in Whitestone.

The funniest part, if you can force yourself to laugh: after Pham connected, Robles pointed skyward, as if he’d induced a pop-up. Considering the trajectory, who was he alerting? The customers in the 400 level? Airline pilots? Cherubim and seraphim who might be rudely interrupted while thronging the air? It was remarkable, in a way.

The Mets fought back, sort of, via a Lucas Duda homer and a farcical Reyes trip around the bases in which newcomer Magneuris Sierra seemed in real danger of inflicting permanent harm on himself with a baseball, which isn’t how one should field it. But they were turned aside when Michael Conforto’s RBI single intersected the glove of Tyler Lyons at the approximate speed of a cruise missile. Conforto had about the unhappiest day one could imagine that included a homer and a nice catch in center — if not for some buzzard’s luck he might have been 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a possible postgame crown.

That a postgame crown was possible had more to do with the Cardinals than the Mets — like us, the 2017 Cards are plodding through the wreckage of a season undone by injuries, porous defense and crap relief. So let the record state that the Mets had a chance in the ninth, with two onthe bases loaded, one out and Cespedes up as the tyingwinning run … and with a 3-0 count.

If there’s a scenario above that one on the wish list, I’d sure like to know what it is. Cespedes, instead of zeroing in on a ball he could drive, tried to pull a high fastball, which was doing the pitcher’s work for him. He rolled it to the shortstop for a game-ending double play.

Once again, I suppose I could go on about injuries and pressure to be The Man (in this case, The Man fled the clubhouse to avoid The Media), or how that’s the kind of thing that happens when you’re slumping. But it’s reached the point where it doesn’t particularly matter. The season is lost and this fizzled incarnation of the Mets will soon be broken up for parts. Memory will smear these games into a vague, faintly distasteful blur, the smudge between Noah Syndergaard grabbing his lat and Amed Rosario being called up, or whatever event signals the next incarnation of the Mets has come into focus.

18 comments to Life in the Smudge

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Damn. With one swing Cespedes could have put himself on the plus side of a new statistic I’ve made up just for him: RBIPM.

    RBI’s per million of salary.

    Currently (thru last night’s results):

    RBI: 20
    Salary: $22.5M

    I propose a ratio below 1:1 should be heretofore be known as the Cespedes Line

    • Jacobs27

      Rene Rivera’s RBIPM: 20/1.75 (=11.43) in 31 fewer PAs than Cespedes.

      Part of the reason: Cespedes is somehow only hitting .222 with RISP. In “late and close” situations, he’s at .250 with just 4 RBI…

  • LeClerc

    I still feel fairly confident that the Mets will finish in front of the Phillies in the NL East.

  • Jacobs27

    This incarnation of the Mets, at least offensively, was supposed to be defined by Cespedes continuing to do awesome things with the game on the line. Well, that’s gone about as well as the Mets rotation plans.

    I think they should put la Potencia back on the DL, not for any of his many recurring physical ailments, but for a mental one. Call it a brain cramp, possibly strain. Not sure what the recovery time is, but man, it’s painful. Hard to think of a more frustrating and foolish way to simultaneously kill a rally and end a ballgame.

    I could sort of take the cosmic absurdity of Robles coming in and picking up exactly where he left off, but the 3-0 gaming-ending DP from The Man (of the tying run, if not the hour) makes it so much worse.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Lost in the failures of Wheeler, Robles and Cespedes is the utter uselessness of Josh Edgin. He is a lowgy (lefty one walk guy). How many times is he brought in to pitch to a lefty, only to throw 4 pitches out of the strike zone as he did last night? The sequence last night was even more frustrating than usual, as he initially got ahead of Carpenter 0-2.

    Then, in looking at the box score, since there was a runner on base when Edgin came in who was still on base when Edgin left, he got credited for an inherited runner stranded. This tells me you can’t trust the inherited runners stranded percentage. It’s a fake stat put out by SABR. Covfefe!

  • Gil

    You {expletive redacted} take on {expletive redacted} 3-0. End of {expletive redacted} story.

    AAAAARRRRRGGHHHHHHHHHHH

    Terry protected him in the post game. I wonder if Terry gave him a sign at all, or if he just lets Cespedes do what he wants.

    I can remember Keith saying in one of the first games of the season that 52 had his eye on 40 Home Runs. The team needs him on base in that spot with a pitcher failing to come close to finding the plate and red hot Bruce in the on-deck circle. But what does he care? He just wants to hit a home run. They don’t pay you the big bucks and you don’t get included in the highlights when you draw a key walk. You just help your team win the game. But hey, swing away big man. You’ll run into one soon enough. And then we can all watch the highlights and do some fancy high fives.

    • LeClerc

      I feel somewhat confident that Cespedes will hit at least 12 home runs this season (don’t hold me to it).

  • Greg Mitchell

    Well, some did warn that signing Cespedes for that much money–for that long a period (isn’t it $28 million, not $22 million)–and at his age (always uncertain with Cuban players)–and with his proven physical maladies–and decline in his overall game, beyond slugging–and sometimes less than hustling play–was foolish. It is starting to look like Johan Santana syndrome, with large chunk of budget tied up in one risky contract. In case you think Yo still has speed and great in field note that he is usually limping around the bases, and his range factor this year is under water. And now, with the juiced ball or juiced bat, sluggers are a dime a dozen.

    I have to laugh when people say “now we must sign Bruce.” Really? With what money, with all that dough tied up in Yo. I have to admit I figured Bruce for his average just okay .240 with 30 HR year but now how many would rather have him for 4 years vs. Yo for 4? Because you sure can’t, in Mets World, have both.

  • sturock

    Jason, I think it’s more accurate to say that the pitch Robles offered came down in College Point, Malba, or Whitestone, not Woodside, which is west of Citi Field and therefore in foul territory.

    Cogent analysis as always, and the metaphor of the smudge is quite apt. Call it a smudge or a blur or a full-on erasure, this is perhaps the most non-eventful season in recent Mets history.

    Yes, bring on Rosario– and Dom Smith too. Let’s turn the page already!

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Jeez, lots of Yo hating going on here. I, for one, was hoping he’d swing 3-0. Get a cookie, tie the game. Unfortunately there are no automatics in baseball, despite our best wishes. Sometimes the best strategy doesn’t work. I felt like this was the case last night.

    2 things though Jace: 1. it was 1st & 3rd with Cespy up, not bases loaded. 2. The Robles sky-point HR is sadly not restricted to last night’s performance. It’s a very annoying habit of his. Normally I’d suggest you take a peek at some of the walkoff homers he’s given up, but why torture yourself any further?

    • Jacobs27

      Kevin, I can totally relate to the hoping Cespedes crushes a 3-0 cookie like only he can, but I think it’s important to make some distinctions here.

      You could make the case that a green-light 3-0 was the best strategy. But as you put it, there are no automatics in baseball. A 3-0 count doesn’t guarantee a cookie, it just makes it more likely. So swinging 3-0 only makes sense if you actually *do* get a cookie, and you can recognize it. That wasn’t the case here. Cespedes swung at what might well have been ball four. If you do that, it negates whatever sense that strategy makes.

      If Cespedes *had* gotten a pitch right in his wheelhouse and had just missed it, or, if, like Conforto, he stung the ball right at a fielder, you say, OK, fine. Right move, bad outcome. It sucks, but that’s baseball. Better luck next time. But this wasn’t just baseball, this was poor judgment.

      Would a game-tying home run on 3-0 have been awesome? Of course. But that’s precisely what makes the whole thing so frustrating. Cespedes beat himself instead of saving the team. It was like he decided to swing because he’s Cespedes, and not because he got his pitch.

  • Pete In Iowa

    “The customers in the 400 level.” Just beautiful Jason!
    Two points on last night’s game:
    1) The game was lost when the boys didn’t capitalize after Fowler out-and-out dropped D’Arnothing’s liner. Man on second, two runs already home in the frame, one out. What better chance to grab control? Not our boys. Not this year.
    2) Wheeler is 3-7. Mid-July and he has all of 3 wins. Nothing more needs to be said.

  • Bob

    Jason:
    Another great article on an ugly game.

    Well, it could be worse–we could still Antonio Bastardo!

  • […] to the real story, which you just realized isn’t being written this year. You’re in the Smudge, skimming the agate type, watching the stuff folks want to fast-forward through to get to the point […]