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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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Quantity and Quality

You can’t argue with the numbers. I mean you can, because somebody always wants to argue something, but you’d have to dig pretty deep for a debate let alone a dispute when the Mets are steaming along as they have thus far this young season.

The Mets have won 16 of their first 23 games, a mark previous Metropolitan editions have exceeded only once (19-4 in sui generis 1986) and have achieved only thrice: 1972, 1988 and 2006. We know the clip established in 1988 and 2006 augured highly successful regular seasons, and we can compartmentalize 1972 as one of those injury-riddled years. The thing I really like about 16-7 at the moment is 2022 after 23 games has now surpassed the pace set by 2018 at the same interval. Four years ago, Mickey Callaway’s swift starters were already reverting to the mean at 15-8 after bolting from the gate at 11-1. Once you get past the first few weeks of a season — and most every Jacob deGrom start — 2018 as a precedent serves only as a downer.

The Mets have won their first seven series, something no previous Mets team has done. It’s one of those records it didn’t occur to a person was a record, because who thinks about the record for most consecutive series won? Series vary in number of games, and enough of them are of the two- or four-game variety to change series wins in a row to, at best, series won or split in a row, with the unsatisfying sibling-smooching that implies. Streaks of series victories are something striven for more in theory than in actuality: “Just keep winning series,” you hear to shoo away anxieties over losing the third game of a three-game set after taking the first two. Substantial winning streaks in the traditional sense are thrilling as long as they continue, but stoke anxiety regarding the instant they end and the market correction one fears will follow. The Mets have yet to win more than three consecutive games in 2022. I’ve rationalized this as an encouraging development because, well, they haven’t lost a series…and they’ve gotten this far without the substantial winning streak of more than three games in a row that inevitably awaits every team.

Max Scherzer hasn’t lost a regular-season start since last May. Until this April, that was of little interest to us. Now we’re riding Max’s winning ways for as long as we have his permission, which, when you glimpse him on the nights he pitches, we’ll just go ahead and take as implicit, because we’re not bothering this guy on the nights he pitches. The security people at Fort Knox envy how locked in Scherzer gets when he’s on the mound and when he’s in the dugout in the other halves of innings. On Sunday night versus Philadelphia, Max focus meant leaving the Phillies completely hopeless most of the time. There were three home runs for the visitors to Citi Field, but I choose to process those as long fly balls that permit the pitcher breathers between strikeouts (and anything slugged by Kyle Schwarber versus any pitcher in a Mets uniform barely counts as an extraordinary event). Scherzer went six strong innings — nine muscular strikeouts, four earned runs all tallied via pesky homers, a lead when he left. Technically, it wasn’t a quality start. Max is 4-0 and the Mets are 5-0 when he takes the ball. Tell me that’s not quality.

The Phillies indeed outhomered the Mets four to zero, yet the Mets outscored the Phillies, 10-6. Intermittent festivals of frustration like Saturday’s notwithstanding, the Mets’ offense generally functions in a state of relentlessness. There are too many good hitters bound to get hits. They strung fifteen hits across eight innings. Six came with runners in scoring position, which will generate some runs. Anybody you saw in the lineup Sunday night you don’t want to see plenty of? Jeff McNeil, who I was ready to trade in the offseason, had four hits and is hitting .361. Dom Smith, to whom I was growing unattached during our winter of lockout discontent, batted 1.000 in his four at-bats and timed his explosion to coincide with Roster Cutdown Eve. I assume Billy Eppler noticed. Buck Showalter surely did. Showalter, we have learned, notices everything.

Robinson Cano did not contribute to the rousing Sunday night victory. There’s an “I never miss it, ’cause I never watch it!” punch line in there given that there’s been little Cano contribution evident in most of these series wins. If the Mets had been playing all along with 26 players, Cano’s presence would seem more than a little atonal from a box score perspective. With 28, we could enjoy the presumed benefit his elder statesman role has yielded from the perch of first place. But 28 becomes 26 today. One pitcher, designated enforcer Yoan Lopez, will definitely go, and one position player will have to depart as well. It’s a real reality show wrinkle to a season that hasn’t lacked for twists and turns. Robinson Cano would be the absolutely obvious choice if he weren’t Robinson Cano. Player X with his production wouldn’t require much in the way of comparative analytics. Player X is slashing .195/.233/.268, with a 40th birthday on the horizon and a recent backstory that explains why 2021 is a blank on his career stat sheet. Unless Player Y is playing with a spike through his head, there’s not much comparison to be done if a roster spot is on the line.

Yet he’s Robinson Cano, which speaks volumes internally never mind financially. We can bandy the phrase “sunk costs” all we like, as if we’ve crammed the night away for our microeconomics final — it was very popular in the waning days of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez — but something tells me Steve Cohen didn’t get to be Steve Cohen by cavalierly dismissing (even for him) absurd amounts of dollars owed. Plus Robinson Cano, as cold as ice as he is and old as dirt as he appears, is not a batch of widgets. People, as they say over in Sociology 101, are people. Cano is definitely one of them. One with 2,632 hits.

None of this should be construed as an endorsement of demoting a more productive option who has options. I’d rather have Smith than Cano; J.D. Davis than Cano; Luis Guillorme than Cano; or Travis Jankowski (no options) than Cano. I’ve just never cared for how venomous we as Mets fans get when we smell the blood of our own. George Foster in 1986. Kaz Matsui in 2006. Cano volubly booed every plate appearance on Friday night before the combined no-hitter diverted our attention. When the team sucks and a given player really sucks, we can live with it because the team sucks, so what’s one more practitioner of the sucky arts? But when we perceive ourselves on the verge of greatness, how dare a player with a track record of achievement require a little extra patience when he’s going badly? He’s getting in our way! Thus, the floe is gleefully prepared. I don’t necessarily mind the decisions that ultimately separate the unproductive player from the aspirational team. I don’t love the mindset that accompanies it so much.

And as long as I’m tilting at attitudinal windmills, I was a tad disappointed the Mets did not devote sixty seconds of CitiVision/social media hat-tipping to Jeurys Familia. A few highlights of key strikeouts, a few clips of giving back to the community, a circle squared before reverting to our competitive postures. Famiia was a Met for eleven seasons, minus a couple of months in Oakland. Familia set the franchise’s single-season save record and threw a fistful of clinching pitches. He was imperfect in certain situations and I don’t particularly miss his right arm in this year’s bullpen, but I’ve always appreciated the philosophy behind the “thanks, ex-Met” videos. They did it for Matt Harvey despite Matt Harvey leaving in a cloud of murkiness. They did it for Asdrubal Cabrera despite trading Asdrubal Cabrera to a division rival based ninety miles south. They did it for Zack Wheeler, albeit in an empty stadium, never mind that Zack voluntarily signed with Philadelphia. It’s a classy thing to do and show. I don’t know if this is a new regime thing — if you’re not with us, you’re against us — or was skipped because the marketing department took its blather about Rivalry Weekend overly seriously. I detest the Phillies, but I can handle a minute of gratitude expressed toward a current Phillie who was very much a Met who mattered for a decade.

Mattering less until it matters again: Sunday Night Baseball brought to us by ESPN and ESPN 2. The regular SNB broadcast was on the so-called mothership, which I gave a whirl more than I usually do because I thought the crew did OK the week before in a non-Mets context. Karl Ravech, Eduardo Perez and David Cone are not an automatic turn-off for this viewer. They would have been helped by the blessedly abandoned seven-inning doubleheader rule, though, because by the ninth, I couldn’t take them anymore. I think it had something to do with them falling back on yammering about where the Mets fit in the New York baseball scheme of things. Fellas, the Mets fit at the top of the NL East, which is all the ranking I need right now. Over on the Deuce, I sampled the KayRodCast, partly to see Keith Hernandez and Hadji, partly out of morbid curiosity. I dug the Manningcast, upon which this variation is based, during football season, far preferring Eli and Peyton to whoever was doing the main feed of the Monday night games, probably because I didn’t particularly care about Monday Night Football and I will always adore Eli Manning. Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez alongside even a guest you might actually want to hear from is probably a dicey proposition under any circumstances. While a Mets game was in progress, it was not optimal. Their lines of conversation with Mets-friendly guests like Keith and Hank Azaria might have made for a tolerable hot stove chat. The season is underway, however. As was the game.

The radio remains handy for the next Sunday night Met date. And, should the Mets keep winning series, postseason as well.

UPDATE: Robinson Cano has been designated for assignment. Empathy remains, but no argument here.

14 comments to Quantity and Quality

  • Eric

    Good point about Familia. He was my favorite Met in 2015.

    How does Schwarber not slug 50 HRs every season? He hits HRs effortlessly like steroid Bonds when he plays the Mets.

    I believe Guillorme has options if Cano stays. Although Guillorme is the primary backup shortstop, Escobar can fill in there too.

    • 9th string catcher

      Agree with demoting Guillorme. It’s too early to dump Cano or to DFA anyone at this point, and we don’t want to have Lindor whining about this just yet. Lindor plays almost all the time anyway and Escobar actually has more experience at short than he does at 2nd. So he can fill in if necessary.

      Would I like to see Cano on an ice floe out of New York – most defintely, but I think we have time.

    • 9th string catcher

      As for Familia, maybe we’re finally getting around to not applauding spousal abusers.

  • Joey G

    I heard that they assured Cano as part of his DFA a spot on the Old Timer’s Day roster this summer (with no drug testing), and that he can hit in front of Cespedes. Uncle Stevie means business.

    As for Familia, we can quibble about whether a video tribute was in order or not (I think that he should have one, and there is still time), but I suspect he would have gotten one had he signed with the Reds or Mariners and not hated rivals. I am sure that geographic proximity to NY (like Wheeler) was important to him, so I would give him a pass. I find it fascinating that the Phillies have collected both the left-handed and right-handed versions of the same pitcher in Familia and Alvarado — guys with great stuff who always seem to implode due to their inability to regularly control it. A bulk order of Rolaids or Tums for Joe Girardi (if he survives) would be in order.

  • Eric

    Speaking of Alvarado, that was some passed ball by Realmuto on a straight fastball down the middle to allow a run.

  • eric1973

    Cano deserved to go, and rightly so.

    You cannot have players deciding the roster. Baez was a really bad guy, however Lindor loved him, and together, they pre-meditatedly ‘thumbs-downed’ the fans, unlike Bohm, who just lost his temper.

    Last time a player got a player here, was David Wright bringing over his good buddy, who turned out to be quite the flop.

  • Seth

    It was mentioned on the radio broadcast that Schwarber said (paraphrasing) he doesn’t do anything different or try particularly harder against the Mets. So what does that mean — we’re making it easy for him, he doesn’t even have to try? :-)

  • Marvin

    Cano broke faith with me when he was suspended for PEDs. And, I have trouble crediting his career accomplishments when I know he was a doper. Glad to see him gone.

  • JoeyBagofDonuts

    Maybe they didn’t honor Familia because of his domestic violence? MLB did just suspend Trevor (Wow, did we dodge a bullet there) Bauer for two seasons.

  • Seth

    I’m still waiting for them to DFA Jason Bay!

  • eric1973

    BTW, “quite the flop” was Michael Cuddyer, one of the worst Mets ever.

  • open the gates

    Agree with you on Cano. Agree with you on Kaz Matsui. But George Foster had it coming.

  • open the gates

    And regarding Cuddyer, he gets a pass from me for retiring mid-contract, leaving millions of dollars behind, so that his salary and roster spot could be used productively. All my years following the Mets, he’s the only one of their big-money mistakes to ever do that. Classy. You can bet Robbie Cano won’t follow his example.

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