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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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They Came, They Got Us

As Monday’s game and possibly the season it is a part of were getting definitively away from the Mets, I found myself particularly irked not so much by their comprehensive, soup-to-nuts on-field shoddiness but the deficiencies in their off-field communications. It’s bad enough they don’t play a good game, they’re also not up to the task of talking one.

Mind you, if you win, you can fill in the script later. And if the 2019 Mets start winning, keep winning and win all there is to win or at least a great deal of it, we can point with pride to the January day the general manager issued a gutsy challenge to the rest of the National League East or even that time in June when the manager delineated a significant milestone for his charges. While I wouldn’t rule out the Mets getting to winning as if it’s something they are designed to do, I have less faith that a tangible connection waits to be made from their prospective victories to whatever crossed the lips of Brodie Van Wagenen or Mickey Callaway.

Van Wagenen’s offseason pronouncement is the more infamous one. It seems destined to go down as this decade’s version of Fred Wilpon’s testimony that Art Howe lit up the room or Bobby Bonilla swearing the smile won’t be knocked off his face. You know it by heart already, for it is a classic:

Come get us.”

Reads brutally in the wake of the team way ahead of them thrashing them, doesn’t it? “Come get us” has grown into an easy punchline every time the Mets have strung together losses, but it resonated all the worse Monday when the Mets were facing one of the teams that was supposed to come get them, as if the Mets were everybody else’s aspirationally high bar. The Mets’ opponent, on the road, was the Atlanta Braves, not just as hot a team as baseball features of late, but the defending NL East champions.

Were the Braves of Acuña and Albies and Freeman and the rest really supposed to be intimidated by Brodie Van Wagenen’s Mets? Atlanta hadn’t gone away in the offseason. They made a few enhancements to a 90-win team, including bringing in Josh Donaldson and bringing back Brian McCann. It might not have made them prohibitive favorites to repeat, but they didn’t get worse just because the Mets were working on getting better.

The Mets certainly worked on it. On the day Van Wagenen issued the quote that remains tattooed to his forehead, the club was introducing Jed Lowrie to the media. The rest of us look forward to meeting him real soon. Jed theoretically joined previous bold-type Van Wagcquisitions Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia and Wilson Ramos to create a sense of all-around improvement. Hands were definitely not sat on in Flushing. Combine these names with the starting pitching we’d long depended on for good news; the progress we could legitimately anticipate from the likes of Conforto, Nimmo, Rosario and maybe McNeil; and the encouraging September that erased some of the bad taste that otherwise spoiled 2018, and, sure, the new GM had every reason to be upbeat. Mind you, this was before we had a clue what Pete Alonso was going to be or even where he was going to start the year.

Here’s how Brodie fully articulated his thoughts:

• “I look forward to showing people that we’re a team to be reckoned with,” Van Wagenen said on January 16. Fair statement.

• “Let’s not be shy on wanting to the be the best and I fully expect us to be competitive, to be a winning team.” There was nothing controversial or at odds with reality within these sentiments.

• “Our goal is to win a championship and it starts with the division.” Admirable ambition and sensible step.

• “So come get us.”

Oof.

Follow up those first three sentences with “let’s go get ’em” or “we’re gonna keep building” or “with a little luck, we think we can make some strides” or “we’ll play hard and look for every edge” or, my favorite hypothetical, “enough talk, see you in St. Lucie in a few weeks.”

But no. “Come get us.” I don’t know if front offices in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Washington reverberated with giggles or were too busy preparing their own rosters to notice the Brodie bluster, but if you’ll excuse a fan for thinking like a fan, somehow I’ll bet the Baseball Gods heard. You know their Karma Council took note. They’re worse than Joe Torre when it comes to handing out fines.

Brodie, my man. We embrace confidence in winter. We appreciate positivity when it’s merited — and you were making moves that we could process as positive. But we didn’t need to be overly impressed when simply impressed would do, and we absolutely shudder at the thought of karma being disturbed. Think of it as the oral equivalent of Jacob Rhame throwing high and tight at Rhys Hoskins. Do it once, swell. Do it twice, you’re asking for a 900-foot home run in retaliation.

Karma’s not known as a sweetheart.

Agents, of which you were apparently a good one, need to hype their product with a straight face. General managers, on the other hand, need to put their head down and get more relief pitching. Somebody should have told you that in advance. I apologize that I haven’t gotten around to mentioning it until after your team fell eight-and-a-half games behind the first-place team that just beat you by nine runs. My bad.

As for Callaway, talking out loud to people who can hear what he says hasn’t really been his strong suit since he became manager, thus expectations are always low. Still, he managed to not exceed them last week when he was asked about his club’s inability to scale .500. I thought this was a softball. For more than a month, the Mets have alternated stumbling and straightening out in the shadow of the break-even point. Statcast metrics indicate the inconsistency has teased us to within an inch of our sanity. Those of us who commit microscopic attention to the fluctuations of our team’s daily record bristle with frustration.

You know who shouldn’t admit to paying attention to it that much beyond the last game played having been either “a great win” or “a tough loss”? Their manager. Leave the details of winning percentages to those of us who obsess over such minutiae. When asked about your team not being able to win as many as it loses, your answer should be something along the lines of, “We can only worry about our next game. We take care of that one, then we can worry about the one after that.”

Clichéd? Perhaps. Unhelpful in answering the actual question with any degree of depth? Without a doubt. But the reporter’s agenda doesn’t have to be your agenda. You have enough on your plate, Skip. Instead of brushing off the inquiry cordially, you bit:

“I’ve been with a few teams, whether it is the .500 mark or getting above four games above .500. There are always these marks that seem to be difficult for teams and then once you finally eclipse them, you can finally take off. […] It’s like that mark, you get up to it and you get knocked back down. But we are not going to give up. We are going to get to .500 and we are going to have to take off at some point, we are just going to keep grinding away.”

Too. Much. Information. Let me condense from that response all that you needed to say to be both polite to the reporter and protective of your position:

“We are just going to keep grinding away.”

There. That was it. Add in some variation of taking them one game at time and you were good to go. Instead, you magnified the idea that the Mets are that team that can’t get to .500 — and that team that dared other teams to come get them.

Again, if Zack Wheeler was better, the defense tighter, the hitting timelier and the bullpen a source for anything but sadness, we wouldn’t be left to ponder the meaning of what were probably intended as no more than offhand musings or clumsily constructed declarations of optimism. But nothing the Mets said with their arms, gloves or bats made them look good in Atlanta or the standings.

21 comments to They Came, They Got Us

  • Daniel Hall

    You think an ownership group that even remotely cared about anything but earnings wouldn’t have canned this fantastically atrocious MGR/GM combo already?

    Has Fred Wilpon ever been at the ballpark? At game time, I mean. Not when there was some stupid ribbon to cut. I don’t even want to know about Jeff. Jeff makes me sad.

    I ask because I watch other teams regularly (whoever plays at 1 to 3 PM eastern, 4 PM on the weekends, really not too picky…), and from time to time the camera pans to the front face of the ownership group. The principal owner of the Brewers even visits the booth from time to time, seen it several times in the last years. I have never seen Fred Wilpon on an SNY camera. I don’t even know what he looks like. But I assume Gary Cohen would point him out to us. Out of everybody that comes to the ballpark every day, Gary Cohen does the very best job. But no Fred.

    They don’t care. Probably it would be very expensive to terminate Waffling Brodie and Captain Mickey at this point in the season.

    So it’s not gonna happen.

    They probably have lifetime contracts!

    I need a cookie.

  • LeClerc

    Brooks Pounders was impeccable last night.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Come on, give Brodie a break, when he said “Come get us” he was just accurately predicting what half a dozen of his relief pitchers would soon be pleading to their manager from the mound in the middle of four-run innings…

  • Mark Mehler

    RE: “Come get us.” Can’t understand. It worked so well for Gary Hart.

  • greensleeves

    Two steps forward, three steps back. Four steps back… There goes summer.

  • “Come get us.” There are two possibilities. One, he’s a poor judge of baseball talent. Two, he was trying to drum up ticket sales. Even most casual but cleared-eyed baseball fans could see that the team he built would have trouble getting much over .500. He’s smarter than that. No, this is the Wilpon agenda: try to sell mediocrity as best they can.

  • Dave R.

    The best part of last night’s game was when Howie compared Rosario’s fielding to Frank Tavares, Mets era. Ugh.

    If the Mets were nice, they’d trade Drew Gagnon to the Dodgers. Win-win for all sides. They’d get rid of a lousy pitcher, he’d become a star in L.A., and since they’d only have to face him a few times a year, his killing them four or five times a year would be offset by how many games he would have cost them if he’d stayed in N.Y.

  • 9th String Catcher

    Man, this ownership group knows how to fire up a fan base. Let’s hire a slightly heralded pitching coach to be a first time manager. Let’s hire an agent to be a first time general manager. Track record shmack record – we got this.

    We finally get a day or two’s distance from Wright’s brutal contract, so let’s go through MLB and look for the worst contract in baseball and take most of it. Cool. Let’s blow 3.5M for a catcher we’re going to release. Let’s give up prospects for a CF we’re going to release. By no means should you add any starting pitching for this brittle group of underachievers. Not when you have Corey Oswalt and Chris Flexen! What we really need are as many 3b and 2b men as possible.

    A suggestion made a while back was to bring in Girardi to manage. I thought about it, and it still seems like a good idea to me. Can he get this motley crew to the playoffs? I don’t know, but he has a winning pedigree, something that no one in this organization has. And what you would lose in personal relationships, you should be able to make up for in in-game decisions and strategy. Something that I don’t see in Callaway’s approach.

  • K. Lastima

    Another season, another dumpster fire . . . and as dismal as this year is shaping up to be, good luck turning the ship around in anything less than 3-5 years. Pathetic.

  • mikeL

    c’mon folks. we all knew this team was built to win now.
    lots of aging veterans/clubhouse leaders, depleting a long-depleted farm system. a last romp through the league for our rotation of aces (TM); we sort of grudgingly, snakebittenly bought in. what we didn’t grasp that ‘now’ meant the first two weeks of the season and no mas!

  • Greg Mitchell

    Howie Rose on WFAN today as usual overly careful in ripping Mickey and barely able to even venture that thought that he “might” not be around next year? Ya think? I’m predicting after this horrid stretch against tough team ends and a new skipper will at least have a shot at getting off to an OK start.

    Howie also meekly threw out there–just as a thought not a strong opinion–that “maybe” the Cubs had it right 5 years ago when they went after quality young position players instead of the route taken by the Mets and many others, investing in incredibly risky and usually disappointing young pitchers. Of course, I have voiced this for the past decade. It’s even more valid today as we only ask even the best starters to go 7 innings and 6 is perfectly fine. Check out the Braves–yes they have one exciting young pitcher now but 1) he will probably go down from overuse at his tender age and 2) their best longterm young players are the very exciting Albies and Acuna and now Reilly and even Swanson (and then there’s Freeman). You’d really rather have a Thor? And I’ve predicted that even the beloved deGrom deal will be a disaster long long term (see “Santana, Johan”). I hope I’m wrong.

  • Gil

    Not sure if you guys watched Chernobyl on HBO but there are a lot of parallels to the Mets.

    Organizationally, they are inept. This is due to the culture which they have built and their inability to get away from their old ways, which in the past had proved to show negative results. They refuse to change course, they refuse to spend money on important parts. One of the reasons the reactor explodes is because they have the wrong people in the room, and the management doesn’t seem to care in the least.

    When the RK-4 reactor explodes, The chain of command immediately begins believing that the situation is far less dire than it actually is. They don’t want to see the truth for what it is. They involve the local fire department to come to extinguish the worst nuclear disaster in mankind’s history. Those people immediately fail.

    When it becomes evident that the disaster is, in fact, a disaster and cannot be hidden, the next level of management is involved. These people have the exact same reaction as the former level of management – they deny the seriousness of the situation, hire some people slightly more equipped than the fire department, who in turn also fail.

    Time is passing. The reactor is melting down further and spewing radioactive garbage all over the city. It’s now in the air. Neighboring states and nations are becoming aware of the meltdown. Employees at the site are injured and the seriousness of the problem is now a known internal fact with the people ‘playing the game’. Nobody can deny the seriousness of the situation – its there for everyone to see.

    A new level of management is involved, albeit with the same overall mentality that this needs to be kept quiet and ‘we can fix this internally’, and then a specialist is hired to take over the situation, a Russian nuclear physicist who is the only man who can stop the bleeding. The fate of the whole thing rests on his shoulders. But the man is not of the organization, he hasn’t been poisoned by the old ways, the old mentality, the old protocols. He is THE man for the job, and he delivers the truth both to the brass and to the worker bees. He knows the dire situation. He knows the potential of fallout.

    And this is the juncture that the Mets now find themselves. But instead of a nuclear physicist, the only plausible next step is putting a man in charge who can let the management know in no uncertain terms what parts and pieces the group needs to stop the reactor from melting down and to stop the RK-4 family of reactors (read future Mets teams) from suffering from the same fate. Gorbachov (read the Wilpons) can’t be replaced, which is ultimately the problem, but for now, the Mets need the Nuclear Physicist named Buck or Joe to come in and take charge of what is an out of control meltdown that has largely been ignored by all levels of management.

    • K. Lastima

      Nice write-up. Excellent analogy but very depressing since the Wilpons are never going to hire THE MAN for the job

  • mikeL

    ^^ a shame the commissioner’s office didn’t veto the hiring of an agent as GM in the first place. the wilpons seem to be easy marks and it could have been presented as a cautionary courtesy call.
    it’s bad for baseball when the player rep hype masters get to run the club. like letting the military contractors run foreign policy.

    yea the cubs were onto something when they had solid shortstops. the red sox took a similar route with similarly impressive results.

    the next great franchise will likely corner the catcher market as they are in short supply.

    pitchers break. position players rake.

    and yes let’s stop pretending mets and hire an actual manager. joe G over bucky. younger and never had to manage the O’s

  • eric1973

    Interesting conversation last nite between Gary and Ron regarding the analytics, and how they turned out wrong, regarding the overuse of relief pitchers.

    The relievers’ ERAs are getting higher each season, as they throw more and more innings. So now some teams, including the Metsies, will now let their starters pitch longer.

    Which leads to the recent belief that computer managers will be more successful than real baseball men. Get on the stick, Brodie, and get Buck or Joe in here as soon as possible. This season can still be turned around.

  • LeClerc

    Gagnon’s gone. Familia back on the shelf.

    Nogosek’s up. So is Son of Blevins (Zamora).

  • Steve D

    I know I, maybe amongst others, was an early and vocal supporter of Joe Girardi. Hell, I met him in Stop and Shop when he was Yankee manager and at least he said hi back to me, although it was awkward. I heard him on the radio today and wow this guy knows the Mets, knows baseball, knows how to run a clubhouse and knows how to win in NY. I don’t wish this job on him. It is hopeless as long as this ownership is here, which is the rest of my life.

  • […] The Mets totally regret that we’ve stayed under .500, been stuck in fourth place and generally reverted to an all-too-familiar form after an offseason of desperately trying to deliver the impression that we knew what we were doing. […]