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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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Walk On By

Steven Matz looked all right for a change for four innings Saturday night; looked a little too much like Jonathon Niese in the fifth inning; and never made it out of the sixth. Unlike Niese, the Mets’ latest vexingly underperforming lefty stalwart didn’t blame anybody but himself for his shortfall. He never does. Yoenis Cespedes hit a monstrous home run in his club’s best at-bat, versus the otherwise masterful Aaron Nola in the fourth, yet struck out with two on and two out to dash his club’s best hope, versus Ricardo Pinto in the eighth. By then, the Mets were down to the Phillies, 2-1. Chasen Bradford (1.1 IP, 0 R) had kept the Mets within a run after Matz’s departure. Erik Goeddel (1 IP, 1 R) pushed them back by two runs, which is where the game ended, at 3-1, the actual home team of Citizens Bank Park finally topping the home away from home team from New York. Somewhere in all of this, Amed Rosario showed off his backhand, his throwing arm and his bat — the first two to rob Ryan Hoskins of his potential first major league hit, the last to land himself on second with his own first double. His feet, however, did him no favor as he got himself thrown out at home on the back end of a delayed double-steal attempt in the second.

That was the game. It was a loss flecked with moments of encouragement and frustration. There figures to be ample amounts of both as the Mets continue to break in youngsters and shed veterans. Rosario is now a fixture. Dom (or Dominic) Smith started again at first. Brandon Nimmo was elevated from extended in-game interview duty to lead off and play right. And perpetually youthful if not exactly fresh-faced Jose Reyes was the late-announced starter at second, taking over for Neil Walker. Walker joined the exodus of experienced players who are no longer of use to a team out of a race but, in one of those cognitively dissonant realities of the sport, is judged useful by a team in a race.

The destination for Walker is Milwaukee, where Neil is headed in exchange for a player who already has a name, but it will be learned by us later. The Mets are also sending the Brewers cash, which seems at odds with their way of executing trades, but every deal is different in detail if not tone. The tone here, as it was in the respective dispatchings of Lucas Duda, Addison Reed and Jay Bruce, was we need to figure out who we are for next year, and whoever we will be almost certainly won’t include you and your salary, so if you don’t mind clearing out your locker a little early to make our decisionmaking process a wee bit less complicated…yeah, thanks.

Neil Walker, who is from Pittsburgh, was pretty much who we thought he’d be when he came over from Pittsburgh in exchange for the unlamented Niese (who also came over or at least back from Pittsburgh, come to think of it). He hit pretty well. He fielded decently. He was, by all accounts, a heckuva guy. He just didn’t avoid injury and he forgot to morph into Rogers Hornsby, which is what his Met second base predecessor did the second he left New York. By not keeping offensive pace with Daniel Murphy, Neil Walker’s Met legacy became not having been Daniel Murphy.

This is where I’d love to interject, “But being Neil Walker was good enough.” Well, they did get to the playoffs in 2016 without Daniel Murphy, but also without Neil Walker when it mattered most. Neil certainly helped keep the Mets aloft amidst their fallow period last summer, but just as they were revving up, he went down with a bad back and never played after late August, thus excusing himself from direct Wild Card association. He sat out more time this year, though his partially torn left hamstring was hardly the difference between another run to postseason and wherever the current campaign winds up. By moving on to Milwaukee, Neil will miss another September in New York, leaving him what I’m going to assume is a club record. Neil hit 33 home runs as a Met, the 61st-most in franchise history (tied with Ramon Castro and Jay Payton) and likely the most by any Met who never hit one in September. Was he that unclutch? No, just that absent. Neil never had a Met at-bat in September, which thoroughly explains his complete lack of power down the stretch.

Not quite the right man in the right place at the right time. But a heckuva guy. And did we mention he’s from Pittsburgh?

11 comments to Walk On By

  • Eric

    It was good to see Smith, Rosario, Nimmo, and Conforto – the young Mets – starting. d’Arnaud still has a toe in that group, too.

    Unfortunately, after a nice start to his Mets tenure, Walker was hurt too much to leave more than a shallow impression.

    Hopefully, Walker’s departure means regular playing time for Flores. I assume Cabrera and Reyes are still playing regularly for the sake of contenders’ window shopping. Plus, I heard there’s a chance TJ Rivera may be able to play again this season despite the partially torn UCL.

    We can’t predict these things of course, but I wonder if the Mets had held onto Bruce, what the Nationals might trade for him with Harper’s injury. I wonder what the Nationals might trade now for Granderson. That said, I hope Harper’s injury isn’t serious.

  • Rochester John

    Just a thought…with Duda, Bruce, and Walker gone, and Granderson sure to be next, if not this season, what the heck are the Mets going to do for homeruns next year? Conforto should be good for 25-30. Cespedes, anywhere from 15-40, depending on his health and attitude. But after them, what? With the lack of team speed, the long ball has been absolutely vital to the Mets offense. I don’t think the addition of Rosario increases team speed enough to lessen our need for power.

    • Seth

      Well, they had a pretty disappointing year *with* all the home runs, so maybe a new strategy is needed.

      • Eric

        The strategy next season is the same since 2015: elite starting pitchers every night plus an elite closer. Obviously, the HRs would have been more productive if the Mets pitching wasn’t among the worst in MLB.

  • eric1973

    Heckuva guy for sure, but very ill-advised to bring him back this year. Lazy decision by Sandy, made because he was already here. Bad back, neck, and all, for 17 mil.

  • Curt

    Flores could hit 20 with a full season, TDA 15-20. Smith is supposed to have power. Rosario has that rangy, “might have some pop” look. Think we’ll be ok there, though not leading the league. Hopefully some folks can get on base.

    Could use a cf and Flores will need to really hit to make up for his glove, whether at 2nd or 3rd.

    Had a slight man crush moment last night when Rosario made that play. That was nice. I’d already given the hit.

  • UpstateNYMetfan

    In regards to Walker: spot on tribute/assessment. So happy the only pinstripes he might be wearing post-Mets in 2017 is perhaps on a throw-back night for Milwaukee. If he went to the Bronx, there might have been another degree of connection to Murph that I would have been loath to digest; going to a repulsive rival and then sticking it to the Mets.

    • Eric

      The only reason I’m bitter about Murphy’s explosive rise to MVP-level hitting immediately upon leaving the Mets is he’s doing it for a division rival. I’d still be chagrined, like I am about Turner’s rise with the Dodgers, but I’d be a happy fan of Murphy if he was the same productive for any team outside the Mets’ division, or at least any team not blocking the Mets’ path to or in the post-season. That includes the Yankees. In fact, I prefer for Murphy to have gone crosstown, instead, so I could follow his play closely in the NY sports media while he stayed out of the way of the Mets.

      • UpstateNYMetfan

        I hear what you’re saying, but perhaps I feel the inferiority complex of “little brother” more acutely than you. Murphy on the Yankees, despite not being a division rival, would still hurt. A LOT. For me, anyways. I am the type who gets annoyed when I see Yankee highlights on SNY (I know it’s not officially “only Mets,” and covers ALL NY area sports but still, you certainly don’t see any Mets stuff on the YES network). But again, I hear what you’re saying, and I respect that greatly. To me however, the Yankees are the Evil Empire; always will be. The Nats are the GNats. Annoying now, but not forever.

        • Eric

          Yankees are just another team to me that as a NY sports fan, I happen to hear more about than, say, the Orioles. Which is to say, if NY sports media talked more about the Orioles for some reason, my reaction would be the same: note the gist then tune out until the Mets are the topic again.

          Besides losing the subway World Series, the only time I was annoyed was when the Yankees replaced the Mets on WFAN. Since then, the WOR production has grown on me, so that grudge went away. And as World Series losses go, the 2015 loss to the Royals hurt more (part of me is still fired up about deGrom game 6, Syndergaard game 7 in KC).

          • UpstateNYMetfan

            It used to be something like that for me too. I remember the late 80’s and early 90’s, when I would collect baseball cards, the Yankee cards were my second most desired cards, after the Mets, because they too were “New York.” I even pulled for the Yankees in 1996, because I was surrounded by so many Yankee fans at the time, and because frankly, I remembered them being a not particularly great team for a long time. I was born the day after Reggie hit his three home runs in ’77 and was still too young in ’78 or even ’81 to remember them being any good. So I didn’t always despise the Yankees. Even today, I appreciate and admire certain former Yankees (mostly “old-timers,” though, to be honest). But when I “came of age” in my college years, and it became a matter of course for the Yankees to go to the World Series (and win) every year, and for the Yankees to always seem to get their man, no matter the cost, and put together colossal juggernauts every year… Well, lets just say their fellow New York “charm” started to wear off on me by then. It’s been twenty-plus solid years of Yankee winning, with seven WS appearances and five wins, whereas the Mets have interludes of ‘sort-of winning’ intertwined with longer spells of mediocrity. I guess that’s where I part company from more detached views of the Yanks, and I become “jealous little brother.” It’s not rational, but being a “FANatic” never really is, is it? Quick Post Script: I was devastated by the loss to the Royals too, and the Yankees were the furthest thing from my mind at the time. And I have to say, the Orioles are most decidedly NOT the Yankees or anything like them. So I too wouldn’t care a bit about what the SNY report was on them either.