- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Bring Your Kids to See Our Kids

In the summer of 1977, with Tom Seaver [1] exiled to Cincinnati, the Mets tried to lure fans back to Shea Stadium with the cheery come-on “bring your kids to see our kids.”

It didn’t work — nothing short of M. Donald Grant’s public execution would have worked under the circumstances — but this month I keep flashing back to that ancient phrase. The soon-to-be free agents are mostly gone or going, replaced by a kiddie corps of Amed Rosario [2], Dominic Smith [3], Brandon Nimmo [4], Kevin Plawecki [5], Chris Flexen [6] and Matt Reynolds [7] — bolstered by young veterans such as Michael Conforto [8] and Wilmer Flores [9]. (It still boggles my mind that Wilmer just turned 26, since he’s about 75 in Emo Met Years.)

On plenty of nights the kids haven’t been all right. They’ve looked like … well, like kids, undone to wildness and lack of focus and uncertainty and overeagerness and other kid maladies. But now and then everything has snapped into focus, and damned if you don’t find yourself fantasizing about 2018 and beyond.

Take Wednesday night’s game, in which Nimmo was on base all four times, Conforto drove in two runs, Smith belted his third big-league homer, Rosario was 2-for-4 with a RBI, Flexen recorded the best start of his very young career and Paul Sewald [10] rode to the rescue with sparkling relief work. The oldest guy mentioned in this paragraph is all of 27.

No, it wasn’t a perfect night: Flexen still walks too many guys, and the Mets played some avert-your-eyes defense beforeĀ Juan Lagares [11] bailed them out by making a fine running catch in short center and firing home for an inning-ending, lead-preserving double play. But it was good enough for a win [12], and to make you imagine more such wins in the future … perhaps even the near-future.

This youth movement is an odd one — the Mets didn’t tear down an old team so much as they accelerated already-existing plans to part ways with veterans. Barring a big splash in the free-agent market — which seems unlikely given the club’s eagerness to slash payroll and trade for cash — the 2018 plan seems to be to bring back the once-glittering, now-tarnished starting pitchers and hope that a) this time their arms don’t all fall off and b) the young bats can score enough runs to win.

We’ve got all winter to discuss that plan; for now, it occurs to me that youth movements are much the same whether they’re part of a teardown or a mere remodeling. You have to put up with mistakes and mismatches, and squint to imagine potential blossoming into production.

Losing isn’t fun even when it comes with patient words about lessons and the future. (Hell, that kind of losing may be even less fun, since it implicitly demands that you accept more of the same.) The question is how much losing you’re willing to endure in exchange for basking in the occasional sunshine.

There’s no one answer to that. Personally, I’ve been chewed up by this wretched season — by the Mets’ horrific luck, poor decisions and annoying penny-pinching. But watching Rosario and Smith high-five after a win sure helps. So does seeing Nimmo sprint to first with his goofy grin, and realizing that I’ve come to admire Sewald for his guts, and thanking the baseball gods that not even Terry Collins [13] would sit Conforto now.

Tomorrow may not bring good news: I can imagine coming in from the beach to find it’s 5-0 Diamondbacks, with Rosario booting balls and Smith looking overmatched and Rafael Montero [14] nibbling at corners. But for now the kids are winners, and you don’t even have to squint to see it.

I could get used to that.