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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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The Panic in Needless Park

What's the big deal about Jonathan Sanchez? We have no hitters in our lineup all the time.

On the Friday night the Mets traded Church, their offense may as well have stayed in temple. Then again, every night is the Sabbath for these bats. A day of rest…a week of rest…a month of rest…there's a reason Bob's Discount Furniture, purveyor of sleeper sofas, sponsors the Mets.

Meet the Slumber Company. And it's not like the rightfielder we just traded for is Dave Parker.

Then again, why get out of bed when you're facing Bronson Arroyo, the second-greatest pitcher in the history of baseball (bowing only to Joel Piñeiro)? Arroyo toys with the Mets over and over. I can only assume he's won three or four Cy Youngs.

Arroyo (21 runs surrendered in his three previous starts against non-Mets) is clearly unbeatable. The guy from the other night on the Dodgers is unbeatable. So is the Phillies starter last Sunday. They're so awesome I couldn't remember their names without looking. No offense (as if we have any to give) to Clayton Kershaw and Joe Blanton. It's just that it's getting hard to keep track of who shuts us out. The Mets have been shut out three times in five games by three different teams. They've absorbed a shutout in five of their past six full series. Since scoring nine inexplicable runs against Pittsburgh on July 2, they've scored 10 runs in seven games. The last Met to homer was Fernando Tatis, more than a week ago. The last Met to steal a base was Frank Taveras, around 1980.

The Reds launched two balls that somehow cleared the unclearable fences of Yosem-iti Field (last Mets home homer was by Gary Sheffield seven home games ago). Can't do anything about those once they're gone. It was the run Cincinnati scored in between the Joey Votto and Lance Nix blasts that illustrated why this team has exhausted its slack quota vis-à-vis its lack of Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, whoever. Brandon Phillips is on third. Jerry Hairston misses a squeeze bunt. Phillips is as dead as the Mets lineup. Brian Schneider, who somehow survives while all associated with him are whisked away, fires to David Wright. All Phillips can do is create a basepath of distraction inside the third base line and hope the Mets botch an easy out. And it works. Wright throws a little high to Schneider and Schneider is completely flummoxed. It flicks off his glove and Phillips steps on the plate.

I cursed out David Wright's off-target throw for a minute or two, which made me feel guilty since David must be crying himself to sleep most nights. Switching over to MLB Network during the next commercial break made me feel better. The throw, according to Dave Valle and repeated slo-mo replay, wasn't off-target. Schneider, the big-deal defensive catcher, presented Wright with a terrible target, too high and too far to the right of the plate. It wasn't the fault of DW after all.

It was all BS.

Wright and Schneider aren't Buffalo herdsmen. They're not playing because somebody in front of them isn't. They're the starters. They're the veterans. And they can't execute a play in which a baserunner is dying to be executed. It's just one play, but it's been a season of so many plays like that. Amid nonexistent hitting and barely adequate starting pitching, the Mets can't throw from home to third to home without giving up a run.

No wonder we're caught in a most un-Wise big city crunch.

Into the teeth of 2009 steps Jeff Francoeur, so I'm feeling better. They built largely unnecessary Citi Field primarily to take our money, but also allegedly from some vague desire to promote outfield adventures. Jeff's our man, I guess. He's got that cannon of an arm. So did Ellis Valentine. Come to think of it, so did Ryan Church.

What did Church do so badly that he needed to be traded? Nothing from what I saw, but the same could be said of what he did particularly well to merit staying on, at least since the several times the Mets played bocce with his noggin. Ryan, his propensity for misfortune and his recurring bewildered expression would have fit in well on the Wes Westrum Mets, which is pretty much what the Jerry Manuel Mets have become, save for the insertion of inappropriate managerial cackling where “ohmigod, wasn't that awful?” used to go.

Wanna keep Ryan Church? Would have been fine with me. Wanna trade Ryan Church? Fine with me, too. His place in Mets history was secured when he took the last swing ever taken at Shea Stadium. It was for an out, which is what Ryan Church is now. Given the pair of mishandled concussions to his coconut, I wouldn't wish the door hit him on the way out, but I do wonder whether he remembered to touch third.

Jeff Francoeur? I tend to be automatically impressed when we get a guy I've heard of for doing something other than sucking out loud his entire career, provided he's measurably younger than Moises Alou. My first-blush image of Francoeur is frozen from 2005, the last of the Brave division winners. Francoeur came bursting off the assembly line with Brian McCann and seemingly a dozen homegrown Atlantans, making our lives miserable for the first and presumably not final time. I'm still surprised Ryan Langerhans and Pete Orr aren't superstars.

I needed to be reminded that in the pantheon of Braves rightfielders Jeff Francoeur wasn't the second coming of Henry Aaron, that he hasn't been burning it up these past couple of seasons, that he was briefly demoted to the minors in 2008, that he had been playing his way out of his hometown for a while — and even I was cognizant that he will swing at anything.

That said, what the hell? This team was spiraling downward with Ryan Church, so it can attempt to alter its trajectory with Jeff Francoeur. He's here because the Mets didn't want their guy and the Braves didn't want theirs; because Jeff's only 25; and because he doesn't carry an onerous price tag (the Braves threw in a few bucks to make the contracts even…when was the last time a team had to send the Mets money?). Once Francoeur is offed, which seems inevitable given the Mets' perpetually revolving right field door, one suspects he won't be missed. I've watched Victor Diaz come and Lastings Milledge go amid the heightened hopes that enshrouded them both. I've heard Omar Minaya hail the potential longevity of Xavier Nady and the upside of Ryan Church. Who can take this position or, for that matter, this general manager seriously anymore?

This is Kevin Bass in 1992, Richard Hidalgo in 2004. This is a Mets team with limited to diminishing upside taking a flyer on a guy who's fallen from favor elsewhere. This is what it's come to. In the context of where 2009 now sits — a 12-24 record since June 1 — acquiring Jeff Francoeur, also known as “doing something, anything,” is as encouraging a development as anything else the Mets have produced lately.

Which in itself is pretty discouraging.

Trade sitting home on July 21 for joining us on July 21 for the first of Three AMAZIN' TUESDAYS at Two Boots Tavern, a Mets night devoted to reading, rooting and Roy McMillan. Get all the details here. And get your copy of Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.

6 comments to The Panic in Needless Park

  • Anonymous

    I'm just amazed there was a no-hitter recorded last night and it didn't involve the Mets.

  • Anonymous

    I think Ryan Church is a better baseball player, If only slightly. I think Castro is a better catcher than Santos, if only slightly. That 'slight' difference seems to be how Jerry Manuel feels about said player.
    I almost hope it's Hidalgo. Didn't he come here and hit like 20 home runs in 2004? I'd be surprised if Francoeur did more than .250, 4 HR, 30 RBI while striking out more than David Wright in the second half, but one can hope.. But it feels like they got him because he's already under contract for next year. Yeah, next year. That's what it feels like Minaya is thinking about, which is discouraging.
    At least until I tuned into the game last night..

  • Anonymous

    No no, the way the Mets are going…
    Johan will pitch a no-hitter tonight, with the only blemish being a Jeff Francoeur dropped fly with one out in the 8th that gets past him and ends up being and inside the park home run and an error.
    And the Mets will be no-hit on the other side.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    Though we haven't been to Citifield we have made the trek to the top of El Capitan in Yosemite and from what we can surmize the big valley is in Flushing, not northern California.
    The season is shot so why isn't Jerry simply allowing the kids to play day in and day out to see what they can do? Murphy and Martinez can't do it by alternating between the bench and the field with Reid, Sheffield and Tatis.
    Jerry should indeed take a tip from Wes Westrum. Wes gave kids like Jones and Harrelson a shot and we know what happened a few years later.
    BTW – “Panic In Needle Park” was a great movie and not nearly as depressing.

  • Anonymous

    AHHH, Hidalgo! I had almost forgotten.
    I understand that the roster is stuffed to the gills, but Nick Evans becomes the fall guy in a lost season? He was hitting decent. Why not let him stay in the bigs?

  • Anonymous

    i still remember having Hidalgo fever. But then, I also remember losing all perspective at the thought of signing Juan Gone.