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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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Entertainingly Terrible

For the life of me I can’t figure this Mets team out.

They’re built in a slapdash manner, with wildly optimistic Plan As and aw-shucks shrugs for Plan Bs. They can’t field. The hitting, relief and even the vaunted starting pitching are all inconsistent, lighting up and then going dark and making you want to bang on the side of the damn thing until it works. The manager, it’s all too apparent, is a dunderhead. You know about the owners. The result is a mediocre Mets team, the kind of outfit I should be thoroughly tired of after all these years of mostly futile fandom.

And yet, somehow, I find this half-assed patchwork weirdly compelling. When this baseball Frankenstein wins I’m thrilled, more than I should be as a 50-year-old fan who knows better. When they lose I shrug, because who expected otherwise?

The last two games have been Exhibits A and B in assessing this lovable, pitiable mutt of a team. Both times, the Mets fell behind, couldn’t get out of their own way, suffered some bad luck and then, just when we’d all given up on them, came roaring back to make a game of it … and then of course lost.

Friday night in Miami saw the lowly Marlins ambush Jacob deGrom, who looked sharp in the beginning but then shed command and location until he had basically nothing, culminating with a moonshot home run by Jorge Alfaro that once upon a time would have dented that hideous Red Grooms Pachinko machine. (Derek Jeter has been a disaster as Marlins jefe, but at least he disappeared that monstrosity.) It was another weird start in a weird year for deGrom, one he finds more baffling and infuriating than we do. The Mets didn’t help matters by slapsticking around, with Robinson Cano not running hard to first and human white flag Paul Sewald sent out to the mound to pass the time, except the Marlins have no bullpen and so the Mets pulled within two before inevitably losing. Fittingly, the end came when former Marlin and current Proven Veteran™  Adeiny Hechavarria — who should be in the stands watching his job performed by a player with an actual future — struck out.

Giving a job to Hechavarria is exactly the kind of half-assed notion that should make this team unbearable, yet I still find myself fond of these Mets. Maybe it’s that Pete Alonso is ridiculously fun to watch no matter what — he hit a 417-foot homer essentially with one hand in the second, then a no-doubter in the eighth, and continues to have a wonderful time surprising even himself. And while the starting pitching’s inconsistency is maddening, deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler are all even bets to be spellbinding in a given start.

Or maybe I’ve finally attained what passes for baseball wisdom. The Mets are an assemblage of ill-fitting parts, a tinkerer’s mad garage creation that’s constantly spitting out gears and leaking oil and grinding to an unhappy halt. But now and again the thing actually walks and does something cool, and I find myself wondering if maybe it will happen again and eager to see if it will.

16 comments to Entertainingly Terrible

  • Jacobs27

    I definitely get what you’re saying, Jason. The parts of this team are ill-fitting and inconsistent, but there’s still a lot to these parts that is compelling.

    About deGrom, I’m no pitching coach, and obviously a lot went wrong here as the game went along… But what stands out the most to me is that deGrom was living almost exclusively in the 92 to 97 mph range, throwing only fastballs and sliders. Even the handful of changeups he did throw were 90-91 mph, not much differential. So basically the Marlins could always sell out for something hard. And since deGrom didn’t have his best swing-and-miss fastball, that leads to at-bats like the one against Cooper, where the hitter is able to adjust enough to foul off otherwise tough pitches until he gets a mistake, as Cooper eventually did. And according to the story, that mistake was a 91.4 mph changeup . Apart from being down the middle, that’s an awfully fast changeup…

    In other words, I feel like if the hitters had to seriously worry about getting slightly slower changeup or a curveball, they wouldn’t be able to foul off so many fastballs and sliders. And that would make a big difference. For what it’s worth.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Never has the (in my view) truism of never-give-a-starting-pitcher-a-massive-long-term-deal been so obvious so early. Whether it’s the usual wearing down or a nagging and recurring injury. Especially when no need to make the deal at that time. And with an ownership that will not throw money around in the future to compensate. And I’m sure everyone’s shocked that Cano didn’t run hard.

    • Jacobs27

      As far as Cano goes, I think he’s made it fairly clear that he picks and chooses when to make an effort. He quite visibly doesn’t always run things out, he’s casual to the point of careless in the field, he “never gets frustrated” about hitting as he explained recently. On the bright side, that means he’s even-keeled, the slumps won’t get to him, but it also means he’s pretty detached.

      That’s tolerable when you’re the elite hitter that he’s been his whole career. It gets increasingly less so as his skills decline, as they already seem to be. Sigh.

    • Pete in Iowa

      I’ve had it up to here with Cano. Never, ever liked him to begin with and now to watch his utter disdain for hustling on a daily basis is just too much to stomach. In today’s Post, he claimed to think there were two outs on his DP grounder, and “sought out” Callaway — apparently to explain it — right away after it happened. Apparently, the scoreboard indicated 2 out.
      Question: Why the hell does ANY of that matter?? What, players only bother to run when there are less than 2 away?? What a crock!! Bottom line — running is OPTIONAL for Cano. Always has been, always will be.
      Additionally, a second baseman who hustles and has something called range, would have gotten to Kendrick’s pop down the line on Thursday. Cano’s lack of range and/or speed only cost us our best pure hitter for at least the next seven days!! McNeil makes that play EASILY!!
      Finally, he seems like he just can’t hit anymore. So why does BRODIE keep penciling him in 3rd in the batting order?? He should be in the seven or eight hole, if not ON THE BENCH.

      • Jacobs27

        Yeah, Cano’s supposed explanation is particularly damning because he’s basically openly admitting that in a 2-out situation, he wouldn’t bother running if he hits a comebacker. Not only is that bad on principle, but it’s also just stupid. Pitchers are inordinately more likely to make fielding and throwing mistakes. You’ve got to run out comebackers whatever the situation… come on!

  • LeClerc

    Jeter’s removal of the Red Grooms disaster was admirable, decisive.

    If only he could take over management of the Whitney Museum.

  • VTMetsfan

    Thanks for a column that makes an otherwise depressing Mets-morning-after a little less so. (But I’m still depressed).

  • Seth

    “an assemblage of ill-fitting parts, a tinkerer’s mad garage creation”

    I was thinking more like Frankenstein’s monster, but yeah…

  • Lenny65

    This bunch sort of reminds me of the post Bobby V teams of the early 00s, just sort of thrown together with no real “plan”, so to speak. I have no idea what’s up with Jake but figuring that out ought to be priority one. As far as this Hechavarria guy goes, IMO you gotta play Rosario every day, THEN decide whether he’s part of the future going forward, otherwise how will they ever really know?

  • eric1973

    If the Big 3 would have started against Washington, and Font had pitched last nite, maybe everything would be now be different.

    Or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking.

    Whomever is managing this team right now, it does appear Brodie is deciding everything and that Mickey is a glofified assistant coach. His imminent dismisssal will hopefully light a fire.

  • Dave

    The roster construction is head-scratching at best, Cano appears to be next to carry on the Mets’ great tradition of acquiring an All-Star AL 2Bman just in time for his career to tank, and how can a “come and get us” team have whoever Wilmer Font is as their 6th starter? Egads. But we’ve certainly seen seasons like this before, 162 games of fitting square pegs into round holes and being told it’s a perfect fit. Callaway will take the fall eventually, not that a new manager will make this a better team. C’est la Mets vie.

  • I don’t understand why they didn’t switch things up so Font didn’t have to see the Gnats. This is the 3rd or 4th time, they could have made a big picture move like this or skipping the 5th starter altogether. I have to imagine Brody is making that call, right?

  • Greg Mitchell

    After Saturday you just have to say “terrible,” forget the “entertainingly.” More like “frustratingly” or “disgustingly.”

  • Orange and blue through and through

    This is just another example of TOTAL Mets ineptitude! Hire a hot shot agent who thinks he knows baseball, only to show as a GM he makes a hell of an agent. Who would honestly make the trade with Seattle knowing you had to take on the non-hustling malcontent that is Cano? It’s not like Edwin Diaz is lights out from the closer spot. An asinine trade made when they could have had Craig Kimbrel! Oh, that’s right, THAT would have required spending money!
    Keon Broxton? Really? I’d rather have brought back Curtis Granderson. But wait, we’ll just cut Broxton for that loose cannon Carlos Gomez, THAT will improve the team. How much longer do we wait for Todd Frazier to start hitting? Jed Lowrie is enjoying the Yoenis Cespedes vacation package…what a waste of resources! Wilson Ramos is a passed ball with feet. To think we could have had Yasmani Grandal, but oh yeah, the money thing again.
    And Mickey Callaway makes me long for Art Howe! Callaway is simply awful. He has no right managing a major league team. And, if what is said in the press is true, that Brodie is calling the managerial shots, he knows less about baseball than Callaway!
    To have the gaul before the season began to say “we’re the team to beat” and “come and get us” makes BVW look even more ridiculous!
    To say this team is a garage tinkerers creation is wrong; because a real tinkerer would figure out what he needs and fix his mistakes. I don’t know about anybody else, but once again, we’ve been led to the tent and drank deeply from the Mets kool-aid. I for one can’t stomach anymore!

  • Dave R.

    Can someone please explain to me why you would intentionally walk the number 8 hitter with two outs and a 1-2 count?