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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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Growing Pains

Let’s revisit two days ago’s rather optimistic Mets recap post, shall we?

(You don’t want to? Tough. I don’t particularly want to either, but I’m driving this train.)

Bobby Parnell may be learning to be successful without his best slider, but nothing a pitcher can learn will get him through days when all he has is his worst slider. Parnell sidelined his fastball to throw flat helicopters to Logan Morrison and John Buck, and the resulting home run and double turned an inspiring Mets comeback into a discouraging Mets loss.

Daniel Murphy may be a pure hitter whose potent bat can outweigh his suspect glove, but it’s tough to outweigh an afternoon in which you drop too many flying things that you get your hands on.

As for the rest of you Mets, well, too many balls through the wickets, too many missed cutoff men, too many messes.

Dillon Gee, on the other hand, burnished his growing legend. It was obvious soon after the start of today’s game that Gee was essentially unarmed: He couldn’t command his change-up or curve, leaving him with nothing but his thoroughly average fastball, and even that seemed to have a mind of its own, flying everywhere except where Gee wanted it to go. It happens to every pitcher sometimes, and generally leads to disaster and an early exit.

But Gee, somehow, hung in there despite a lot of grimacing and fretting, even when his teammates betrayed him in the fourth: A dreadful Jose Reyes error turned two outs and none on into first and third and none out and Murphy dropped a foul pop. Cruelly asked to get six outs in an inning in which getting one seemed uncertain, Gee somehow did, keeping the Marlins at bay and walking into the dugout with a battered, vaguely startled expression. He then found himself after a shaky start to the fifth (the Marlins got the leadoff runner on in each of the first five innings), gave way to a surprisingly effective Manny Acosta, and was watching when David Wright slammed a two-run homer over Soilmaster’s left-field agglomeration of random boarded-up football crap for a thoroughly unexpected 4-3 Mets lead.

Which led to Parnell, and disaster — soaring anthems souring into minor chords and collapsing into squalling and stilled cymbals and fighting in the studio while the engineer goes out to smoke a cigarette down to the filter.

These things happen, particularly with middle relievers learning to be closers and guys whose gloves can’t be hidden. (Which isn’t a problem in that stupid beer league the senior circuit never should have acknowledged as part of baseball.) I’m not backing off my hopes for the Mets’ long-term health, or abandoning the good scenarios I see for players who have made strides this year. They have made strides; they’ll make more. But some days they go backwards and inexperience proves fatal — and on days like that, it’s hard to paint rosy-colored scenarios. This one got away, and it hurt.

8 comments to Growing Pains

  • dmg

    this one reminded me of the stupefying losses — those spirit-crushing late-inning losses that wiped away all good efforts — that characterized all too many of the outcomes in the season’s first third.

    at least those haven’t happened as often as this team of random parts has meshed effectively. but they are still, as we have seen, quite possible.

    i just wish it wasn’t the marlins — again! — or that the mets lost a chance to gain on the braves — again! and i surely don’t want this loss to presage The Raising of the White Flag.

  • 9th string catcher

    I could be wrong, but it seems to me that Murphy, despite playing in almost every game and multiple positions, none of which he has much experience at has lost very few games for the Mets with his glove. I have to chalk some of yesterday up to the intense heat and dog-dayitis that particularly hits teams that have been counted out of the race by their fans, media, management and ownership. This one doesn’t hurt to me – the team is in there trying their best despite the distractions of the trade deadline, injuries and 2012 planning.

    I put Parnell’s performance in the “rather be good than lucky” category. In other words, he will learn a lot more from mistakes and missed opportunities now than getting by with good statistics, luck and guile now. Let him have his growing pains when the expectations are low rather than next year when they’ll presumably have more at stake. And if Beltran’s going (as well as Izzy and anyone else), make the move already or pull them back. It’s really hard to play a team sport when you don’t know who’s on the team.

  • open the gates

    I hope the fans have a lot of patience with Bobby Parnell. He will have days like this. The big test for him is, how does he pitch the day after? Does he have the heart and guts of a closer, as well as the arm?

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    Why can’t we beat the “Stinking Fish”?
    We own them a ton of pay back!

    This one should have not gotten away from us, especially when they suck more than we do right now!

  • […] Faith and Fear in Flushing examines and contrasts the growing pains of Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee, and Daniel Murphy. […]

  • Will in Central NJ

    Back in 1997, we had a righty reliever by the name of Juan Acevedo. When warming up in Shea, you could hear ‘kapow’, ‘kapow’ of the 100-mph fastball in Todd Hundley’s mitt. Sometimes Acevedo would retire the side, 1-2-3; some times the ‘kapow’ would be off of the opponent’s bat. Too much of the latter occurred, and Acevedo went on to log a 28-40 career for a bunch of teams.

    Somehow, Bobby Parnell reminds me of Acevedo. Perhaps they are at similar points in their respective career arcs. But, for Bobby’s sake and for the remaining hairs left in our heads, I hope Bobby Parnell develops properly into the pitcher we need him to be.

  • Andee

    What *do* you do when your bullpen is a POS, though? Other than just keep on changing bodies and hope to eventually get it right, and knowing that even if you do, it’s probably temporary? Stats on relievers (other than those few like Rivera who have delivered for a decade or more) are notoriously unreliable, mainly because relievers, unlike starters, typically face different batters every year.

    But man, this bullpen really is a POS. They’ve compensated for the injuries quite well in the lineup and starting rotation, all things considered, but I never feel right in the late innings without a four-run lead, at least.