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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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Losing the Way It Oughta Be

The Mets lost, and it was annoying — after a drought in the clutch, they came back to tie the game against the Diamondbacks and their dreadful uniforms, forcing the business of determining a winner to extra innings.

Then Erik Goeddel came on as the latest reliever, and it was immediately clear that he didn’t have it. He spiked balls below the strike zone, sent them sailing wide of it, and looked like a man who’d backed himself into a corner. The sarcastic cheers for strikes were inevitable — and so, it seemed, was the outcome.

A.J. Pollock, whose season has been disappointing enough to grant him honorary Met status, passed up a 2-0 fastball right down the middle — a decision many Arizona fans probably characterized as excessively polite, given Goeddel’s desperation and lack of command. Goeddel threw the same pitch again, and Pollock did his job, clubbing the ball over the wall for a 3-1 D’backs lead.

The Mets fought back. Michael Conforto homered off perpetual annoyance Fernando Rodney, he of the askew hat and arrows fired heavenward. But that was a cosmetic victory. Yoenis Cespedes — who’d earlier driven in the tying run and actually shown interest in playing the field energetically — popped up, Wilmer Flores came out on the short side of an 11-pitch battle, and Dominic Smith flied out to left. Thanks for coming everybody and please get home safe.

“Safe” is far from assured for this year’s Mets — the latest to fall is Steven Matz, who will undergo surgery to relocate an irritated ulnar nerve, meaning his season is over. The surgery itself isn’t particularly worrisome — Jacob deGrom had it last season and showed no ill effects — but the subject is. Matz’s career has been a litany of arm woes, from the Tommy John surgery that felled him before his first professional pitch to the maladies that have now curtailed all three of his big-league seasons. Matz is left-handed and obviously talented, but it’s reached the point where the first question he has to answer is “Can this guy stay on the field?” So far the answer is “no,” making follow-up questions of little import.

Still, I found myself not terribly bothered by the loss. Part of that, I’ll admit, is being on vacation — the first few innings unfolded while I was engaged in a vigorous three-way battle for family mini-golf supremacy. But more than that, it’s that I’m content watching the young Mets earn their stripes — and take their licks.

I rooted for Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Rene Rivera and other departed Mets, but they weren’t pieces of the team’s future, and watching them finish out a lost season had become a singularly pointless exercise. I’d campaigned for weeks for the Mets to move the lame-duck veterans and let the kids play. Once they finally did that, complaining about the results would be laughable.

Sure, the game’s looked too fast for Amed Rosario at times, and Dominic Smith doesn’t look like he’s enjoying his introduction to the ungodly breaking shit they throw in the Show. But it’s by enduring those moments that Rosario and Smith will learn. They need to play, just like Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Plawecki do.

Robert Gsellman might benefit from a Dale Carnegie book tucked into his stocking this Christmas, but since declaring that he doesn’t care, he’s pitched like he does. The Mets need to see if he can keep doing that — and they need to provide new challenges for Paul Sewald, Chasen Bradford and the other young relievers once starters such as Gsellman depart. Hey, that even includes seeing if Goeddel can work back-to-back days.

On Monday night the answer to that last question was “no.” But that’s all right. Testing the capabilities of Addison Reed and Lucas Duda stopped being relevant sometime this summer. It was time for the Mets to prepare a different exam, however much we may not like the class’s initial grades.

15 comments to Losing the Way It Oughta Be

  • eric1973

    Shame about Matz, but we all knew something was wrong 3 weeks ago. All except the Mets, of course. They finally gave him the test to see if it was the ulnar nerve. Where was that test 3 weeks ago? Instead, they let the guy torture himself on the mound every five days.

    Do they need to play that ear-splitting garbage at Citi Field in between every pitch? People seem to like it. Just shows there is no accounting for taste.

    Rosario the other day, now a poor slide by Cabrera to lose the game. It’s not just the young guys losing all the games by not being able to do the simplest things.

    • Seth

      You make a very good point. Why did he continue to run out to the mound every 5 days, for how long has it been? A couple of months? When clearly something was wrong… it’s irresponsible.

  • Dave

    Yes, we have to grade on a curve, or at least with realistic expectations. It’s just frustrating to get such a stark reminder of how briefly that “you have a chance to win it all” window stays open. World Series to Wild Card one and done to start rebuilding in 22 months.

    • Frustrating, sure. I wouldn’t call it a rebuild, though — all the guys who’ve been shed this summer would have likely been shed in the off-season anyway. They’ll go into next year dependent on the health of the starting pitchers. Which seems a lot dicier than it did last spring, but so it goes.

      • 9th string catcher

        Law of averages should help us on pitching. I have to think that Thor, deGrom, Harvey on a walk year, Wheeler, Gsellman, Lugo and then Matz is pretty sturdy. Corner outfield is strong, bench is pretty good, but infield and catcher needs some shoring up, and we lost a lot of power. Do you foresee any notable FA signings this winter?

        • Dave

          9th – I gave up on the law of averages long ago. And you want to use the words “Harvey,” “Wheeler,” “Matz” and “sturdy” in the same sentence? Careful.

          Jason, I see your point about whether or not this is a rebuild, the guys recently traded were not going to be here next year and I fully support these moves. But the bottom line is that we’re replacing some known quantities with young players still finding themselves. I’m hopeful that these kids will be quality major leaguers, and playing regularly now definitely helps, but there will still be growing pains for a while yet.

  • Guys — please have a “webmaster” do something about the narrower and narrower reply columns !!

  • Pete In Iowa

    Yeah all those guys needed to go so we can see what ability the next wave might have. On this topic, what in the world is Cabrerra doing in the lineup, much less still on the team? Might have won last night except for his lead feet and sliding directly into the tag. He needs to be sent on his way, or at the very least, be given a spot squarely on the bench. Who knows — still have nine days to move him out. We can only hope!
    And, God forbid they are actually toying with the idea of picking up his option and letting him play 3B or 2B next year.
    BTW Jason the “A.J. Pollock, whose season has been disappointing enough to grant him honorary Met status” line may have been the best of the season. Kudos for being on your game even in these most trying of times!

    • Dave

      Other teams are looking at the same Cabrera we’re looking at. They’re probably not interested.

      • 9th string catcher

        I think someone in the Mets organization is in love with schadenfreude. As in, the one guy who publicly asked to be traded is the only one they haven’t gotten rid of. And still doesn’t get to play SS.

  • metscoast

    I didn’t watch the whole game (couldn’t), but I caught a very important juncture: bottom of the ninth, score tied 1-1, Nimmo leading off. The Arizona reliever was having trouble with his breaking pitches and Nimmo worked the count full. It should have been obvious to Nimmo that the guy was going to throw a fastball, because that’s all he could find the strike zone with and he doesn’t want to walk a fast runner to start the ninth. On any other team, the hitter would be salivating, looking for that straight fastball and clobbering it over the wall for a walkoff home run. But what does Nimmo do? He takes a close pitch, a very hittable, very straight fastball, for strike three! What’s worse, the pitch was down and in, right in the happy zone for lefthanded power. After I saw that I got so upset I turned off the game, figuring they’d lose in extras in true Met form. And, of course, they did. Why are Mets hitters so passive at the exact times they should be aggressive? This organization has to change its philosophy.

  • Brad

    This team is becoming unwatchable, it’s embarrassing, really. Tommy Milone??? Come on.

    I’m still mad about Rene Rivera.

  • kdbart

    Heading into 2017, one surely knew that the 2018 roster was going to be completely different from the 2017 one. That this was the last go round for a number of everyday players with this team.

    That game ending at bat for Dom Smith was a lesson that might be beneficial for Dom Smith. At both 2-0 and 3-1, Rodney threw off speed pitches to a Dom Smith rather than a fastball. I’m sure in the minors, Dom Smith was use to getting a fastball in such situation. But this is the majors and a veteran like Rodney will throw you off speed and get an over anxious young hitter out.