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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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Actually It Can Get Worse

The Mets, who started out some long-gone season 11-1, are back to being the same shambling disaster we’ve come to know all too well.

Sudden, unexpected injuries to key players? Check.

Nagging, thoroughly expected injuries to other key players? Check.

Nagging injuries to key players with no corresponding DL stint, ensuring those maladies become something worse? Check.

Playing time given to older players who don’t warrant it? Check.

Roster spots wasted on guys who should be on the golf course? Check.

The result is a team in freefall, bearing all the grim stigmata of having broken through “flawed” on a one-way trip to “hopeless.” They’re still above .500, I know, but then a guy who just fell out of a 50th-floor window is still above ground level.

Flawed teams have one weakness — an anemic offense, a leaky bullpen, fragile starting, erratic defense — and if you’re a fan you imagine scenarios in which they patch up that problem (unlikely but hey, you can dream) or do everything else right (which actually happens sometimes).

Hopeless teams, on the other hand, have multiple weaknesses, which take turns coming to the fore and sabotaging a club. Watching baseball becomes like playing a slower, more depressing version of “Clue” — will the murder turn on runners left on base in the fourth inning, bad defense in the seventh, or bad relief pitching in the 10th?

That’s the 2018 Mets. They can’t hit or field, they can’t keep their starters in the rotation, and their relievers are either DFA-level bad, having lousy seasons, or on the DL. Wednesday’s game went down the toilet when A.J. Ramos gave up a walkoff home run in the 10th, but hey, he was just Col. Mustard with the wrench in the billiard room. If it wasn’t him it would have been someone else, in some fashion, sooner or later. (Still, can we please lock Ramos and Hansel Robles in a room and lose the key?)

Sigh.

The sigh is because the 2018 Mets are proving that the bad scenario above can, in fact, be worse. This next part won’t surprise anyone right now, but it’s important to record it for posterity, to be unearthed when the horrors of May 2018 have receded to some smudgy blur in memory.

Any team can be sabotaged by injuries, crap hitting, bad defense and crummy relief, but it takes a really remarkable team to make things worse by batting out of order.

The Mets did that Wednesday afternoon. Jim Riggleman noticed and walked out to the home-plate umps, removing Asdrubal Cabrera from second base, where he’d arrived after dumping a ground-rule double. That short-circuited a potential rally, if the term “rally” can be perverted by being connected to the 2018 Mets. (Bruce was out without seeing a pitch, with the putout credited to the Reds’ catcher, while Cabrera’s double never happened. It was nullified, which perhaps some kind person in MLB’s offices could do to this season.)

Oh, and the Mets lost by the not-coincidental-seeming score of 2-1.

The screwup wasn’t unique in Mets’ lore. The ’77 team got caught batting out of order by the Padres on April 29, with Roy Staiger phantom-retired by the catcher while Mike Vail‘s walk got wiped away. (It’s kind of fun spotting the dirty deed on Retrosheet’s play by play.) The Mets have caught opponents batting out of order three times, so at least we’re ahead in something. They caught the Pirates in ’67, the Expos in ’95 and these very same Reds (or rather, utterly different Reds except for Joey Votto) in ’08. (You can go down the rabbit hole here if you wish.)

I remember the last one and chortling at the sheepish look on the face of Dusty Baker, a manager I’d come to loathe for his destruction of young arms and general air of smugness. I’d forgotten the truly Metsian detail, however, which was that I’d stopped chortling after realizing that Willie Randolph had screwed up, noting the error by speaking up after David Ross flied out. Ross, given a second chance, singled.

(Batting out of order makes everyone’s head hurt. I’ve re-read the 2008 post above and the rule, and it still took me half an hour to process that it was indeed the luckless Bruce who should have been called out on Wednesday, not Wilmer Flores. )

Anyway, the ’67 and ’95 Mets were hot messes. The ’77 Mets and ’08 Mets were ticketed for collapses with sides of infamy. Doesn’t bode well, does it? Maybe this time around the villains will be all the Clue characters, with all the weapons, in each and every room.

17 comments to Actually It Can Get Worse

  • LeClerc

    Nevertheless – I give thanks that Jay Bruce is on paternity leave.

  • JPFArrelll

    Instead of calling him Hansel Robles, just use his initials: Home Run. And Vargas: No-gas. But I do think Jay will come around.

  • Daniel Hall

    How on this damn earth can any baseball team – the dang Mets or the Omaha Scarecrows, doesn’t matter – bat out of order, ever? It should be in the sacred rules of baseball that team staff and brass should combine for at least six working brain cells to prevent this sort of foolery.

    As usual about Mets games recently, the best part about Wednesday’s drowned beaver of a game is the post about it here on FAFIF.

    Speaking of drowned beavers, I would not find it out of the ordinary if a Mets pitcher (starter, reliever, Plevin Krawecki, doesn’t matter) would find a way to drown on the mound. Or break their neck twisting around to catch a last glimpse of a 500-foot tater on the way to OUTTA HERE. The latter, probably Robles or Ramos, the pair of dastardly outrageous dugout railing lickers.

  • mikeski

    “I’m choking on my own rage here!”

    – M. Szyslak

  • DC Mets Rep Behind the Bar

    I’ve been feeling much the same way,and feeling so while surrounded by Gnats fans, but I do think there is hope. The injuries have been tough, but the offensive impact of losing D’arnaud, despite what we’d like to expect from him, will be negligible. The biggest thing I’m seeing is the catcher’s comfort with the staff. Hopefully with Plawecki coming back and now Mesoraco, the Mets battery can start getting comfortable. While the staff ERA can’t be expected to be as good as it was while they went on their run, once these guys get to pitch to someone they know again, and as the new guy gets to know them and become one of the guys, we can expect a return to respectability on the mound.

    Bats are fickle, but it’s easier not to press if you don’t feel as though you have to make up for a staff that’s searching for some sense of normalcy. Key guys have struggled to get it going, and we knew a lot of our early contributors were going to regress to human forms, but once the big bats start hitting again, and hopefully with some growth from Rosario as well, I am confident these Mets can compete.

    In a young season these Mets have given us an early taste of extreme highs and lows. If nothing else that makes them compelling. Here’s to hoping we break this streak and that the next hot streak comes before it’s too late!

    Or maybe it won’t get better. These are the Mets afterall,

  • Dave R.

    Wait a second, your posting actually gave me hope! There’s still a chance that this team will be like the 2008 Mets? I’d gladly take that, with all its heartbreak, over what this season looks like it’s going to become. That team was 40-42 after June, so there is hope!

  • DAK442

    You know what’s really depressing? Calloway saying “It probably cost us the game.” Losing a baserunner in the first inning cost you the game? No, the inept batters cost you the game. One run against the Reds is just pathetic.

    • BlackCountryMet

      THANK YOU! I thought I was the only person thinking “What! Didn’t we have 8 innings left to score?”

  • greensleeves

    Your posts remains the most eloquent crying towels any diehard could hope for.
    Thank you. Spring has finally arrived here in upstate NY and with it the accelerated Ov veys of Summer.

  • Greg Mitchell

    It is plausible that the bats will come alive bigly and Matz and Wheeler will pitch to potential and stay healthy, so I’m not writing off season quite yet. On the other hand, this old, slow, team is not likely to thrive in summer–and long range it is a depressing bunch.

    Even worse is that this is the biggest spread between appeal and potential of a Mets roster and the Yanks in many years. You could make the argument that not a single Met would start on Yankee team except leftfield–that is, IF and when Cespedes is healthy. And consider these young and exciting players on Yanks: Judge, Torres, Andujar, Sanchez, plus not much older and MVP types Stanton and Didi, plus guys like Frazier and others in minors. Mets? You could say, no one right now. Conforto may be damaged goods, Rosario disappointing, Smith in minors–and let’s face it, Nimmo is wonderful but as 3rd outfielder at best. So not the current losing ways–but this overall picture–that is real reason to condemn Sandy and if you want, Wilpons.

  • Bob

    Jason-
    Bingo, spot on article. You make me smirk thru my rage.
    Lucky for me, I did not know yesterday’s game was an early start (I’m in LA)-so I was spared the batting out of order spectacle…or is it the Mets doing Monty Python plays Baseball?
    This season,I fully expect several visits to DL by Mets who step on their own……………fill in the blanks….
    As my Pop would say–“OY Vey , do they stink..” but that was 1963 and we knew things could only get less worse..
    Bob in LA —–Met Fan since ……………….OY!

  • K. Lastima

    Seems like this organization exists under a dark looming rain cloud with the sun rarely breaking through . . . For example, Todd Frazier goes on DL with hamstring injury when he’d NEVER EVER had a hamstring issue before in his entire playing career, go figure . . . well at least they won’t lose tonight, so there’s that.

  • Dave

    Literally been at least 2 weeks since I’ve bothered looking at the standings. To quote someone with more of a way with words than me, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Or the Mets.

    • K. Lastima

      Or as Ol’ Blue Eyes sang: Riding high in April, shot down in May.

      Unfortunately, the Mets won’t be back on top in June, and since there will be nothing shakin’ come here this July, the club will once again roll itself up in a big ball and die. My, my.

      That’s life, and I can’t deny it

  • eric1973

    So, “It was an administrative thing,” huh, Mickey?

    We’ve come a long way from “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

  • It’s been a damn depressing few weeks but I’m not giving up all hope yet. Things will shift (some), and despite what we’ve seen lately, there is lots of talent on this team. I like the longshots when I play a horse once or twice a year, and that’s probably the same thing that drives my devotion to the Mets: as agonizing as it is to follow them sometimes, it’s a thrill when they come through. We all know who the favorites are in NY and that’s just boring in my opinion (although probably not as depressing).

  • open the gates

    I remember reading an article about the Mets in the early ’80’s, back when it seemed they would never have another winning season in my lifetime. The writer (don’t remember who) said that in April, the Mets of those years tended to play good baseball, or at least somewhat competently. And after getting everyone’s hope up, their Mays (not Willie, the month) would feature the team plummeting “like 25 men jumping off the Fifty-Ninth Street Bridge”.

    Well, here we are in 2018, and it’s starting to look like “The Magic Is Back.” And boy do I hope I’m wrong.