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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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Syndergaard for Eppler

It’s not a trade in the sense that the Mets and Angels got together and exchanged personnel that they had any contractual right to exchange. Billy Eppler hasn’t worked for the Angels for a while. Noah Syndergaard entered free agency. That the former Angels GM is reportedly heading east to take the same job with the Mets and the former Mets ace (or co-ace) is reportedly heading west to assume a starting pitcher role with the Angels nonetheless makes it feel a bit like a swap.

Among other things.

It would be pretty cold to dismiss the impending departure of Noah Syndergaard — our Thor — as transactional trivia. Thor is leaving us. Leaving us cold. Maybe cold deserves cold. But leaving is his right. There’s a Basic Agreement in place for at least a couple of more weeks and, as a free agent, Noah did not have to take the lucrative one-year qualifying offer the Mets made him, not if he thought he could get a better deal elsewhere. The Angels gave him a better deal. More money, at any rate: $18.4 million in 2022 if he took the QO versus $21 million in 2022 from the Angels, pending the physical Thor presumably passes after spending two seasons rehabbing from Tommy John and two major league innings showing he can still throw fastballs.

The Mets at the moment are neither a sinking ship nor a rising tide. I don’t know what they are. They haven’t been a very good baseball team these past two seasons nor four of these past five. Noah Syndergaard hasn’t participated in the bulk of the past two seasons and missed most of 2017 plus a swath of 2018. The Mets’ only winning record in that span came when Syndergaard was able to make his full complement of starts, in 2019 (when his ERA rose uncharacteristically above 4). One can infer a connection between the Mets’ quality and Syndergaard’s presence. One has no idea what the Syndergaard of 2022 will deliver to his team, except that he’ll be delivering it in red and white in Los Angeles of Anaheim.

Thor embraced being a Met, which I appreciated. Thor was a Met worth embracing, especially upon his arrival in 2015 and amid his ascension in 2016. One starting pitcher has won a World Series game as a Met since Ron Darling won Game Four in 1986. That would be Noah Syndergaard, Game Three, 2015. Given the paucity of big games won by big-game pitchers on the biggest stage of all, that’s one powerfully punched ticket. After Thor did his “meet me sixty feet, six inches” walking the walk and talking the talk in precisely that order in the face of Alcides Escobar and the rest of the Kansas City Royals, he was golden. After his pitching arm was the only one among the five budding aces to persevere through the league championship defense campaign of 2016 — he made the All-Star team, nearly won the Wild Card Game and simultaneously blew our minds like he blew batters away — he established himself as one of our icons for the ages. After that, everything else in the Thor saga was details.

Unfortunately, baseball seasons are comprised of countless details, including who’s gonna take the ball every fifth day and what’s gonna happen when he does and doesn’t. Thor since 2017 has been a charmer always, a pitcher sometimes. It’s a symptom of being human and throwing at three-digit speeds. He belongs to the Angels now. You don’t love to see him go. You understand these relationships don’t usually last forever. Maybe I’m just numb to this sort of dissolution. I figured I’d be rationalizing Michael Conforto’s farewell before I’d be processing Noah Syndergaard’s. I’ll probably be doing both, if not precisely in that order.

The Angel we get in return in this veritable trade is Billy Eppler, former general manager in Orange County. The Mets were either turned down by or overlooked countless candidates to run their show. Or partially run their show. Or run their show until they can bring in somebody somewhat more senior to run their show above an interim showrunner. The offseason is the time to dwell on these dramas, yet I couldn’t get obsessed by the allegedly endless (now ended) front office talent search. Tell me when somebody takes the job, I asked.

Somebody’s taken the job. It’s Eppler. He has experience. He didn’t get it building a champion or even a contender. The Angels of Trout and Ohtani and whoever else he signed or retained didn’t win. Their status is mostly spoken of in the realm of what a shame it is that Mike Trout never gets to the World Series. Even Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets got to a World Series.

But Eppler’s been a GM, and that’s something. The last two fellas entrusted by the Mets with some approximation of that title were new to the helm and it didn’t work out for different reasons. Let’s hope Eppler and whoever he answers to have learned plenty and are ready to apply it proactively.

We need pitching. We need a winner. Let’s start by winning this veritable trade.

12 comments to Syndergaard for Eppler

  • eric1973

    My last memories of Thor when he was an actual player was that he could never put anyone away when he had 2 strikes on him. Overrated.

    And at least Eppler has experience, and is probably not afraid to hire a manager WITH experience.

    As the runners are approaching 3rd Base, hope Rojas has enough time to call upstairs so he can be told whether or not to send them or to hold them.

    “Matchups.” What a dunce he was.

  • Steve

    At the tender age of 43, I received my first personalized jersey. That jersey is now retired. It awaits the signature of many members of the 2015 Mets, a team I very much adored.

  • Dave

    It’s been a long time since a player move has pissed me off like this. Just a few weeks ago Thor says he had a very hard time picturing himself in another uniform. Today, ahead of 99% of all other free agents, he bolts so fast that he’s going to find himself in the NASCAR rankings or whatever they’re called. That it came when a) the Mets starting pitching needed more, not fewer, able bodies, and b) they just hired a GM who was their 82nd choice for the job, has my confidence in the 2022 New York Mets starting off pretty damn low.

    My wife, who reminds me that I’m lucky she met me before Jacob deGrom otherwise I’d be single, texted me today with the message “We’re going to lose my boyfriend.” In our relationship, it’s typically my job to be the calm one who assures her that everything will be OK, we shouldn’t worry. My reply to her text was “Yep.”

    But…we got a GM who (checks notes) gave Matt Harvey $11M.

  • Seth

    The “5 Aces” was fan fiction — not from anything results-based in a real starting rotation.

  • Joey G.

    I am having trouble getting worked up about this one. We will always have Paris (2015/6), and he will always be a Met. Perhaps we are being spared watching up close and personal the decline and fall of another heroic flamethrower. That scenario is much more likely than the transcendent post-Met career of another Texan right-hander who left for the Halos under very different circumstances after the ‘71 season.

  • mikeL

    didn’t expect this but yes, thor was mostly disappointing, after he bulked up and tore the lat…and until his return was post-post-postponed.
    and in that i take a little comfort. for now at least.
    after last season i’m still feeling that sense that the team needs a major rebuild (2015 now feels like another century), and letting go of thor and conforto bolting (why oh why was he not traded at the deadline for a couple of of promising young arms??) is part of that process.
    maybe our new GM can eventualy package lindor for a team with more money and less sense than the mets but now i’m just daydreaming…
    at least he didn’t join zach in philly (THIS year).

  • Bruce in Forest Hills

    Do you think maybe Thor wanted to work near Disney Studios so he could be in a Marvel movie? Time will tell.

  • 9th string catcher

    Oh goody, another mediocre white guy takes the reins at metsland. What could possibly go wrong? Is anyone ever going to notice that Sandy is the problem? And too bad Thor left- I was really looking forward to vintage 2021 Matt Harvey like production from him.

    Rebuild from within. I can wait.

  • Curt Emanuel

    Losing a tower of a man who throws 100 mph and knocks down an opposing batter to open a World Series Game hurts.

    Losing a frequently injured pitcher who, while throwing hard also throws a relatively easy-to-hit flat ball and has spent very little time healthy the past few years does not.

    Seeing him someplace else would have bothered me in 2016, not so much today. He could go on with a magically healed arm, strike out 300/game and earn 3 Cy Youngs the next 10 years. That might bother me a little but it won’t make failing to offer him more than $18.4m for a one-year audition a mistake, just a reasonable judgment that didn’t pan out.

  • Eric Grossberndt

    We definitely need pitching, but after seeing the (lack of) emphasis Eppler put on quality pitching during his stint with the Angels, I fear we’re not going to get it.

  • Eric

    Except for 2015 and partially 2016 the plan didn’t work. Building around David Wright, followed by the staff of aces, followed by the next crop of position players.

    The staff of aces was supposed to facilitate everything else and now it’s gone except for a mysteriously hurt deGrom whose truncated 2021 season draws attention to his age and shrinking prime.

    Eppler’s track record with the Angels doesn’t inspire confidence, but it’s not a deal-breaker, either. I’m willing to give him a chance with an open mind.