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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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Mets 11, Phillies 7, Surgeries 4, Missing 5

On Monday, the Mets scored many runs, gave up a few less, won a baseball game, and announced several of their players would be going in for surgery. It’s indicative of how 2017 has unraveled that the win seemed like the most surprising development of the bunch.

The 2017 Mets have carved out a fistful of niches in which they are particularly skilled at not succeeding. They don’t win most Sundays (7-16); rarely win midweek matinees (1-8); are nightmarish in day games in general (13-28); really thread the needle when it comes to Sunday day games at Citi Field (1-8); and lose the vast majority of final games of series wherever and whenever they are played (13-30)…but they’re not bad on Monday afternoons at home. They won Opening Day, Memorial Day, now Labor Day. Throw in their previously documented success at Citizens Bank Park, and we have the makings of a potentially exciting scheduling algorithm.

If Citizens Bank has turned conceptually into Citi Field South, then perhaps the visiting Phillies on Monday helped turn actual Citi Field into Citi Field South North. The Mets don’t win much at home as a rule (29-39), but they have taken three of their last four versus Philadelphia in Flushing. It’s a small sample size but indicates a favorable trend, and when you’ve had so few things go in your favor in a given year, you’ll take it and you’ll read into it with a magnifying glass.

The numbers on the scoreboard Monday were bright and bold enough to be seen without enhancement. A stolen base — from Kevin Plawecki (!) — set the stage to make it 1-0, Mets, in the second. Two home runs — from Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera — upped it to 4-0 in the third. An extended fourth inning packed with Met hits and Phillie miscues pushed it to 10-0, surefire blowout territory. The only problem there was the top of that inning took so long that it blew back in the face of Rafael Montero, who cruised through the first four, then slogged through the fifth before meriting removal in the sixth. The Met bullpen, mainly Paul Sewald and Hansel Robles, also took the edge off the blowout nature of the game. The final wound up 11-7. As long as the Mets had the 11, everything else qualifies as a Labor Day picnic that got a little out of hand.

Except for the surgeries, which is serious business for those on the receiving end. We joke about the cavalcade of Met injuries, mostly because what else are you gonna do, but probably also because it’s darkly amusing if it’s not happening to us personally. These are persons having procedures, presumably none of them life-threatening or career-curbing, but we should keep in mind that nobody really wants to go to the doctor to begin with. Going to the surgeon looms as exponentially more harrowing, no matter how routine this stuff sounds when it’s well-conditioned young athletes undergoing expertly conducted repairs that will allow them to eventually return to their lucrative professions.

Because they’re the Mets and because we’ve been braced for most everything that can go wrong, it wasn’t particularly surprising to learn that four more surgeries were slated for four more Mets who haven’t been on the field in weeks/months: Tommy John surgery for T.J. Rivera’s right elbow; arthroscopic surgery for Josh Edgin’s left knee; posterior capsule surgery for Michael Conforto’s left shoulder; and rotator cuff surgery for David Wright’s right shoulder.

One of these patients sticks out like a sore thumb (which is what Juan Lagares had operated on in June). You remember watching Rivera and Edgin and Conforto in 2017. Wright you’ve witnessed only in brief clips recorded in late August in Port St. Lucie, where rehabbing Mets go to disappear from view. There was a lengthy time when you couldn’t look at the Mets without seeing David Wright front and center.

That time was a while ago.

David is the captain of a ship that has sailed on without his guidance. It found its way to playoff port last year. It’s been lost at sea this year. Whether the best conceivable version of 34-year-old Wright — the one who’s been rehabbing his 5 off in an effort to return to active duty — would have made a tangible or intangible difference to these Mets can only be speculated upon. I would have preferred David Wright summering in Flushing rather than St. Lucie, a bat or glove occasionally in his hand. I would have gladly taken the theoretical 34-year-old, stenosis-coping Wright who figured out a way to suit up without agony. That’s the guy he’s been trying to be since the middle of 2016. He’s our captain. He’s our David. He’s under contract through 2020, which is no small detail, but also feels like a technicality. He’s our captain and our David without fine print and big dollars dictating the terms of identity.

It doesn’t seem likely we’re going to get even the physically diminished version of David Wright at any point over the next three years, does it? Rotator cuff on top of everything else he’s endured and is guaranteed to endure in his ongoing attempt to return to some semblance of action…the more I think about it, the less likely it seems. His admirable attempt to play rehab games for the St. Lucie Mets was surprising when he tried it last month and is almost shocking in the wake of the news about his surgery. Yet I believed it might lead somewhere. I believed he might be well enough to come home to Queens in September, wear No. 5, pinch-hit here and there, and maybe, just maybe, jog gingerly to third base, alongside Reyes heading to short — for an inning or a batter or a pitch — for nothing more than what unabashed sentimentalists like myself would freely admit was old time’s sake. If he could do that, then some role in 2018 didn’t seem out of the question. He was hitting home runs during his limited exposure in late 2015 and early 2016, and that was with the stenosis a known and mitigating factor. He wouldn’t have to be 25-year-old David Wright embodying the Mets as we wish them to be, even though that’s how he will likely forever appear in our minds. He could be 35-year-old David Wright, captaining the Mets daily, playing for the Mets occasionally, being one of the Mets always.

I believed it because I wanted to believe it. And because I spent thirteen seasons reflexively believing in David Wright. It wasn’t something I had to think about. Why wouldn’t you believe in David Wright? You’re a Mets fan. He’s David Wright. Period. Really.

Despite picking up a slew of medical terms people who aren’t Mets fans never learn, I continue to hold no expertise on all the maladies that afflict baseball players and, unlike what those Reader’s Digest articles of yore claimed to personify, I am not David’s spine. He will do with it and his shoulder and his everything else what he can the best that he can until he tells us otherwise. I wish him the best with it. I’d do that even if he wasn’t David Wright, New York Met. I do it especially because he is David Wright, New York Met.

10 comments to Mets 11, Phillies 7, Surgeries 4, Missing 5

  • 9th string OF

    My only remaining D Wright question is whether or not they’ll retire his #5. Seemed like a given about 3 years ago, but now I’m wondering if he’ll be known for not playing 5 years of a 7 year contract.

  • Rob D.

    Ronnie was brutally honest yesterday on SNY, saying that most of the younger guys (with which David has little to no relationship) would probably say to DWright “get out of the way old’s my time” And then as Gary said “It’s Darwinian”. Not saying that’s a Met thing, like Ronnie mentioned, once he became no use to whatever club he was on (I think it was the A’s), he knew it was time to go.

    • I heard their conversation. It’s probably true for ballplayers as a class, but Darling had no particular equity as an Athletic. Wright’s status within this organization (and perhaps his personality) is different from Darling’s. Then again, it occurred to me as I was writing this and was going to use the phrase “Wright’s teammates” to refer to the other three Mets undergoing surgery that in the strictest sense, T.J. Rivera has never played alongside David Wright. And Rivera came up more than a year ago.

  • Eric

    The possibility of Wright’s return may deter the team from pursuing a free-agent signing at 3B, but I don’t see that he’s in the way of a player who’s on the team or coming up in the system.

    What happens to Wright’s remaining contract if he retires as a player?

    If he stays employed by the team in another role, say as a coach or manager either in the minors or majors, does the switch in jobs terminate his playing contract and/or the insurance policy?

    Relatedly, what happens to Wright’s contract and/or the insurance policy if his comeback attempt falls below a minimum threshold of medical procedures, rehab/therapy, training, and baseball activity?

    I don’t doubt Wright wants to resume his playing career, regardless of the money. But at this point, with the mounting setbacks, I wonder how much of Wright’s perseverance is also driven by the goal to collect fully on his remaining contract. I say that without knowing how his contract and the insurance policy work in that regard.

    Right now, Wright’s being paid to try to play again. The concern is at what point do his dogged attempts at a comeback risk adding long-term damage.

  • 9th string OF

    Most likely retirement voids the contract, which means forfeiting over $40M. Ain’t gonna happen. The Mets could try a buyout, but realistically, they won’t save a lot in the process. So, it’s basically a non-confrontational standoff. Wright physically can’t play. As long as he stays inactive for full seasons, the Mets get a portion of the contract cash back and avoid a PR nightmare. Rinse and repeat until 2020.

    That’s the business side. The human side is that Wright still wants to play and knows if he could just get healthy, he could still hit, still rack up personal accomplishments and still lead the team into the playoffs. If. He doesn’t seem to know what he wants to do next, nor does he really have to. It’s the Mets’ responsibility to keep the Wright business in the background and get another hitter or 12 for 2018. They shouldn’t have a problem doing so. After all, they’re still paying Saberhagen and Bonilla.

    • Eric

      On the face of the situation, of the 3 parties, the insurance provider has the most incentive to work out a buy-out with Wright.

      But I don’t see the leverage for the insurance provider to push Wright into a deal unless a minimum threshold of comeback activity is required of Wright under his contract in order to maintain payments from either the insurance provider or the Wilpons, yet Wright is risking added long-term damage by continuing such required comeback activity that’s oriented on playing big-league baseball again as opposed to treatment and therapy oriented on his life and career beyond playing baseball. In that case, the risk/reward tipping point for a buy-out could be negotiated. Or alternatively, unless Wright is interested enough in switching over to some post-playing activity (eg, 2018 Mets coach or manager) that’s incompatible with his contract that he’s willing to give up X millions of dollars in a buy-out in order to begin that activity ASAP.

  • Dave

    I can’t imagine for the life of me that Wright lets this “My Life on the 60-day DL” tragedy continue for another 3 seasons. If he miraculously returned to health as perfect as could be expected for a 35 year old athlete, he’s already got most of three years worth of rust to shake off. How does he start hitting 100 mph fastballs after this much time off? And that good health miracle isn’t happening, you don’t have to have a medical degree to offer that prognosis.

    Loathe as I am to draw this parallel, he isn’t our Jeter. He’s our Mattingly. We have, I’m afraid, seen him play for the last time, and once a press conference makes it official, #5 should hang from the rafters forever for a great career, a great guy and a great Met.

  • eric1973

    The worst thing that could happen for D Wright and the Mets is for him to be healthy. Then he would have to play, and since he probably cannot, then what?

    Really, then what?

    Does he retire, and leave the money on the table? He’s not that much of an angel. The alternative is to release him without his consent and pay the contract in full, which even his most ardent fans could not abide.

    Best for all concerned that we play the operation game for the next 3 years and have most of his contract paid by insurance. Everybody gets what they want, money-wise, which is the name of the game on both sides.

  • dmg

    fun fact: back when the mets were deciding whether to re-sign reyes or wright to a big career-defining contract — because of course they were never going to sign both — one of the arguments was that reyes had a tendency to break down, and that wright was simply a better bet to stay on the field. so you’d get more games out of him, whatever the contract. good times.