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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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Just a Loss

The good news, such as it is: Tuesday night’s loss to the Nationals was just a loss. No record scratch, no talk-radio meltdown, no requirement to sit in a dark room and ponder.

It was an annoying yet pretty interesting slow drip of a game, won by a team that slapped and blooped singles, worked out walks and stole bases and lost by one that failed to do the same. Hard-hit balls were few and far between: this was almost a game borrowed from the deadball era. Perhaps not what we’d want as a steady diet, but mildly refreshing in an age of titanium-thewed sluggers, nuclear-armed hurlers and baseballs concealing cores of Tigger-bottom’ed springs.

Zack Wheeler took the mound without the electric stuff he’d shown off in Miami — the slider in particular was unfortunately MIA. He hung in there, and it would be wrong to say the Nationals hit him hard. He also seemed to learn a valuable lesson later in the game: he started pounding the strike zone with his fastball, which is more in line with the philosophy espoused by Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, and yielded far better results.

The Mets, meanwhile, were undone by an utter lack of clutch hits, with two at-bats particularly annoying. In the sixth, back-to-back singles by Juan Lagares and Tomas Nido put the tying run on third with one out. That spelled the end both pitchers’ nights at once: Gio Gonzalez departed in favor of Sammy Solis, and Wheeler was called back to the dugout for a pinch-hitter. Callaway opted to pass over Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Lobaton, choosing 0-for-2018 Jose Reyes.

Reyes fanned helplessly at a 2-1 pitch, then was dismissed on a half-swing. The Mets did not score.

The Nats did, and in unlikely fashion. Robert Gsellman was asked to pitch to Bryce Harper with first base open, one out and 2018 human out Ryan Zimmerman on deck. Another head-scratching Callaway call, except Gsellman retired Harper on an easy fly, making the manager look like a genius. Gsellman thenĀ gave up an RBI single to Zimmerman, because baseball is perverse and will kill you.

That made it 4-2, and in the bottom of the seventh the Mets faced a smaller-scale version of the sixth inning: consecutive one-out singles by Yoenis Cespedes and Wilmer Flores put a runner on third and brought up Todd Frazier. Frazier struck out against Ryan Madson, swinging nearly as wildly as Reyes had. For all intents and purposes that ended the game, unless you wish to further explore the heroics of annoyingly good young Nats catcher Pedro Severino or a fruitless AB from Asdrubal Cabrera, which your recapper does not wish to do.

Given two nearly identical at-bats with poor outcomes, it may seem unfair to pick on Reyes while excusing Frazier. But there’s a wider context here: Frazier filled a Mets offseason need and has played superb defense, collected big hits and won accolades in the clubhouse.

On the other hand, Reyes’s return didn’t make a lick of sense in the first place, and read like the Mets locked up a Plan B because they weren’t sure ownership would approve the more expensive Plan A. Reyes had the most ABs on the 2017 Mets, which is as thorough an indictment of that wretched season as the name “Tommy Milone.” It’s good that he’s no longer an everyday player; unfortunately he’s never been a bench player and shows no sign of being suited to that role. Reyes has decayed into a singles hitter, he’s no longer automatic stealing bases, and the most charitable description of his range afield would be “better than Flores.” Being a mentor to Amed Rosario doesn’t justify a roster spot which would be better filled by Phillip Evans, a far superior hitter who gives the Mets more defensive options, or by Ty Kelly if for some reason Evans makes too much sense.

There’s simply no reason for Reyes to be a Met any longer; unfortunately, eating his $2 million salary would be admitting an offseason mistake, something I can’t see the Wilpons allowing until summer at the earliest. Until they decide it’s time, make Jose the league’s most expensive bench coach. Nostalgia is pretty curdled in his case anyway, given his off-field issues. But even in the absence of such unhappy considerations, holding on to the past is a fatal mistake in baseball. Callaway shouldn’t be bound by it as a newcomer to the Mets, while Sandy Alderson should get his flinty-eyed Marine on and remind his bosses that the Mets shouldn’t waste a heaven-sent start.

7 comments to Just a Loss

  • Gil

    I found it hard to believe that Mickey pitched to Hercules in that spot too but Gsellman got him. Calloway manages a little with his gut, which is very refreshing* in today’s analytics-driven ball game. Computers should not manage baseball teams. I think Mickey is going to do a great job of managing the pitching staff. I can’t believe I’m about to write this but I was kind of bummed to see Robles optioned, but Bautista came up and pitched well enough.

    * Disclaimer: when it works more than it doesn’t.

  • 9th string catcher

    Evans or Kelly replacing Reyes doesn’t make enough sense. There would be no one to back up Rosario at SS. Neither field well enough and Kelly can’t hit.

    However, the second Guillorme is ready, dump Reyes in the first available river.

  • Pete In Iowa

    If there’s one thing the Mets have a lot of, it’s back-up infielders. Evans, Kelly, Guillorme, Cechini, and yes, TJ Rivera (remember him!) come to mind.
    I didn’t have a huge problem sending Reyes up in that spot against a lefthander. I was hoping he was due — at least for an outfield fly or a grounder he beats out on a double-play attempt.
    Ooops. Not due. I think it’s time to cut bait and give one of our minor leaguers a shot. How can they be any worse??

  • Greg Mitchell

    Have we forgotten Reyes was just as bad last year and in a far longer span until he got regular playing time and was actually very decent in 2nd half. Could happen again–but then we’d have to wish for a major injury AND put up with his (no) range. So, yes, bad bench player.

    Also Gsellman in last two appearances just the latest to show effects of over-use–remember when he was striking everybody out 1-2-3? So glad to see Mickey give Bautista an inning.

  • Stuart Miller

    The one thing I would say in defense of Reyes is that we know how badly he started last year and how much better he got in July. Not to say we should give him that long to adjust to being a bench player but he does have speed the rest of the team lacks and if he could perform the way he did in the second half then it’s worth waiting till, say, mid-May to see if he improves.

    Also, for the record, the Mets last year were actually notably better when he started (.468 winning percentage vs. .306 when he didn’t). Obviously there were other factors at play and nothing about last year was good but I do think many Mets fans are too quick to blame Reyes for things.

  • Lenny65

    I honestly couldn’t agree more about Reyes. Yes, he improved during the second half of last season (a lost season if there ever was one) but the first half of the schedule counts too and during those games he was absolutely wretched. IMO it’s preferable to try to catch some lightning in a bottle than it is to wait three or four months for Jose to find his groove again. It’s not like he wouldn’t be available in case of emergency, who the hell else is going to sign him if the Mets cut bait? When he’s going poorly he drags bad vibes around behind him, like there’s a little cartoon cloud over his head.

  • Dave

    “Reyes has decayed into a singles hitter.” If only. He’s tied with Gerson Bautista for 19th place on the team in hits. So there’s that.