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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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Wilderness Trails

The season is lost. The Mets are lost. We as Mets fans are lost. A dark forest surrounds us. It is wilderness out there.

Who’s going to lead us somewhere worth going? Judging by Wednesday afternoon’s thuddingly morose loss to Texas, probably not Rafael Montero. Judging by Wednesday night’s trade, definitely not Jay Bruce. Montero has been a Met starting pitcher longer than anybody could have imagined or would reason to suggest. Bruce has stopped being a Met outfielder and slugger at about the August 2017 juncture we might have guessed. Montero has accomplished little in a Mets uniform and will continue to be invited to do so for the foreseeable future (not that we who are lost can foresee much). Bruce was having a surprisingly good year, the “surprise” part stemming from how Monteroish he became shortly after he got here in August of 2016. Before he was a Met, he wasn’t bad. Once he stayed a Met, he was pretty good. Very good, at times.

That Bruce confounded the general expectations for him was in line with how he went about being a Met in 2017. I called him the Contrarian. He wouldn’t give reporters the answers they seemed ready to jot down, whether it was about having surely been uncomfortable playing in New York initially, or arriving in St. Lucie haunted by the knowledge that he wasn’t truly wanted there, or if he was surprised that he was hitting or fielding or coping as well as he was. He was fine being a New York Met was his story, and he stuck to it. Played like he meant it, too.

But we don’t know where we’re going, so holding on to someone of Bruce’s ilk — experienced lefthanded right fielder with an expiring contract of some heft — is itself contrary to the sense of wherever it is we’re eventually going. Twenty-nine home runs and seventy-five runs batted in became thickets that needed clearing so we could get a better picture of what lies ahead. We’re so lost that we no longer have practical use for Jay’s brand of production.

Bruce numbers aren’t worth much to a solidly out-of-contention fourth-place enterprise. They were worth something to the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians, though. You’d figure more than a Single-A relief pitcher who was drafted low and has yet to be rated high, but this August’s trade market is another place where we get lost. Jay Bruce for Ryder Ryan? That doesn’t quite look right, but it got dark early here, so it’s tough to see clearly. The Tribe took on the remainder of Bruce’s salary, letting the Mets off the hook for several million dollars.

Ah, I can see clearly now.

Having not been in on the negotiations among the Mets and their various suitors — only the Indians and the Yankees have been identified as interested — I don’t know for sure there was a better all-around deal to be had for Bruce. “All-around” implies the Mets not having to eat any of Bruce’s contract. That’s probably important in the uppermost echelons of Mets decisionmaking, and you can probably read “probably” there the same way you read “probably” above regarding Montero’s ability to lead the Mets anywhere worth going. No, the Mets definitely wanted someone else to pay Bruce all he was due. Any prospect-level minor leaguers who got bundled in from there were presumably considered a bonus.

We’re still lost. What remains to be found in this season’s final fifty-one games is compelling evidence of who can do what for 2018. No matter how many home runs, no matter how many RBIs, thirty-year-old Bruce wasn’t likely to be a part of that. Others whose names will circle the rumorsphere won’t, either. You know who you’ll be looking to show us at least a little of the way between now and Game 162. You hope that along the wilderness trail we won’t trail too often or too much. The short-term journey to nowhere in particular is more enjoyable when we win now and then.

23 comments to Wilderness Trails

  • Bluenatic

    How on earth did we go from the World Series to the Wilderness in 21 months?

  • Eric

    This iteration of the Mets is all or nothing depending on the starting pitchers and Familia. The rest of it, including young hopefuls like Conforto, Rosario, and Smith, is details in that context.

    I don’t worry much about the state of the team because the pitching’s decimated. If the pitching restores, the Mets will be contenders. If the pitching doesn’t bounce back, this iteration of the team is finished, anyway, no matter what else.

    That said, yeah, Bruce for Ryan seems like a lopsided trade. I guess it signals that the Mets are willing to sell low on the likes of Cabrera, Walker, and Granderson, too.

  • Pete In Iowa

    I’ll openly admit, I was one of those who was very, very harsh on Bruce after he came over last year. However, given his performance on the field and his character off of it, I have become a very big Jay Bruce fan.
    It is sad on so many levels to see him go. More than anything, it is an indication of how far this team has fallen. We had a golden opportunity in 2015 and, in fine Mets fashion, we let it slip away in the ugliest of manners. THAT was OUR year and we BLEW it!
    I wish all the best to Jay Bruce. He is certainly in a better place than we are right now.

  • Jack

    The myth is that the Mets are a legitimate basaball organization; the reality is that the rock has completely rolled back to the bottom of the hill.
    I’m a patient man, but after 55 years, this club is really getting on my nerves.

  • Gil

    Too bad ownership can’t be traded at the deadline.

  • Matt in Woodside

    Ryan sounds like a bit of a lottery ticket. Former infielder/catcher converted to a reliever. But apparently he’s been impressing scouts for the past couple of months. Who knows? Between a single A guy who looks like he’s starting to click and the post-second round draft pick that we would have gotten under the new CBA if Bruce rejected a qualifying offer, it’s kind of a tossup, IMO. (Correction: apparently he looked really impressive in the first half of the season, with an ERA below 1.00, and has regressed during the past couple of months).

    I had hoped for a bigger haul for Bruce, considering the season he’s having, but I have trouble imagining that the Yankees presented some monster alternative offer that Alderson rejected exclusively to save a couple of million. The buyer always has more to lose in that scenario–the local tabloids would let them have it for years if a top 20 prospect traded for a rental turned into a really good player. They’ve been in talks for weeks (for both Duda and Bruce), and Alderson apparently has not liked their proposals.

  • Dave

    We could easily be a presidential election away from knowing if Ryan Ryan will ever reach the major leagues, so there’s not much to do with him but sit back and be patient. The Wilpons, on the other hand…no need to complete the sentence.

    Of course, the Mets are filling Bruce’s roster spot by activating Lagares because a) you don’t want Nimmo playing, ever, and b) you can’t call up Smith, because of the logjam at his position, he’s stuck behind exactly zero 1Bmen.

  • Jan Allen

    The Yankees wanted the Mets to send along with Bruce the sum of $2.5 Million but the Mets spit the bit on that scenario.
    As long as the Wilpons pony up all these recouped Millions and SPEND every penny over the winter…fine. If not, here we go again? Sell. The. Team.

  • Lenny65

    The really bothersome thing is that aside from (sigh) saving the Wilpons some money (sigh) there doesn’t seem to really be any sort of “plan” here, at least not one that I’m aware of. I remember thinking that 2015 would be something to build upon but instead it just looks like a fluke in hindsight. Granted, there are lots of reasons for that and some of those reasons are out of anyone’s control but still…what IS the “goal” here? To get younger? Faster? Improve the defense? Because if the goal really is to simply save the owners money, why am I supposed to keep caring? At what point do the Wilpons climb out from under their (self-induced) “money woes” and start building a winning franchise? Five years? Ten years? When? It’d be nice to know this so I can keep my hopes in perspective.

    I ended up liking Jay Bruce and I thought they’d get SOMETHING of substance for him, not just a middling prospect. It kind of makes it seem like bringing him here in the first place was useless and again, it can’t help but make one wonder what the plan here is.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Mets.com indicates Smith will be promoted tomorrow. I wonder what the corresponding roster move will be. Maybe there’s a deal in place to send Walker or Cabrera to a contender that needs a futility infielder.

  • Brad

    As goes Céspedes, so go the Mets and Céspedes hasn’t been going. I can’t read what’s in a player’s mind so I won’t try.

    If they’ve given up on the manager and I don’t know if they have, then time for a change.

    Getting back to basics, you just can’t win when Montero is one of your pitchers and you have no one who could replace him. At least the guy from AA is better than Montero but he shouldn’t be here either.

    • Matt in Woodside

      I agree with Eric. If deGrom and Syndergaard stay healthy next season, and some combination of Matz, Wheeler, Harvey, Lugo, Gsellman, Montero, Flexen, and whoever else manage to turn or return to form as respectable 3-5 starters, then the team has a good chance to be a real contender. As expectations go, that would be quite a regression from 2015. But after watching this season, it feels like expecting a miracle. I mean, an opening day batting order of (ss)Rosario, (3b)Cabrera, (lf)Cespedes, (rf)Conforto, (1b)Smith, (2b)Flores, (cf)Lagares/Nimmo, (c)d’Arnaud, (p)deGrom doesn’t look that bad. But there’s a lot of untested potential. The pitching (other than deGrom) has to return or the team is going to suck.

  • Brad

    Can someone explain to me why Nimmo gets no respect? All he does is get on base. I understand why they’re playing Granderson. Let’s hope they can trade him to get Nimmo some at bats.

  • BlackCountryMet

    1) This appears a crap trade, major penny pinching!
    2) Why is Montero still here, it’s just an automatic loss whenever he pitches and if think that, so must the players?
    3) FINALLY, Salas is DFA’d and Dom Smith is up ;-)

  • eric1973

    I have to give kudos to Sandy and Wilpon, who built a potential dynasty here. The sole reason we dropped so fast from 2015, is that you just cannot have 80 per cent of your starting pitchers on the DL for large chunks of the year, and expect to win anything.

    The hitting was fine this year, even with Ces taking the year off due to injury. That, actually, could have been overcome, if we were ever in it.