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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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Brace Yourselves

In the bottom of the second inning last night, the umpires made R.A. Dickey cut two small friendship bracelets off the wrist of his glove hand — bracelets his daughters had given to him in January, before he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

Yes really.

My suspicions — and those of probably every other Mets fan — immediately focused on Dusty Baker, with some folks on Twitter noting that such gamesmanship could be payback for the Mets complaining about Mat Latos’s loose pockets last night.

But no, that would have made too much sense — Baker was apparently innocent. (Though not of being annoying and destroying young pitchers’ arms.) Suspicions next fell on the umpires — and, for a moment, I wondered about the conspiracy theory making the rounds in the Mets clubhouse that the team doesn’t get close calls because MLB’s umps are still steamed about Sandy Alderson trying to make them accountable more than a decade ago. I haven’t put much stock in the Mets’ musings — their real problem is that they’re not very good — but for a moment you had to wonder. After all, it’s true that MLB’s umps are a childish, cosseted bunch whose performance this year has been dreadful to the point of absurdity. Seriously: You can now watch a week of baseball and be pretty certain to see three or four painfully bad blown calls. We’re headed inevitably for replay, and not just because it effectively already exists in every modern park and is making its way onto fans’ phones. We’re headed that way because MLB’s umps are now so routinely incompetent that ultimate oversight of the game needs to be taken out of their hands.

But supposedly the umps weren’t to blame either — it was MLB, enforcing some absurd ticky-tack rule, and of course doing so selectively. (Here, for instance, is Felix Hernandez post-perfecto with something on his wrist that presumably would have sent last night’s home-plate ump James Hoye to his fainting couch.)

It’s enough to make the blood boil, but honestly, who cares? Someone was being stupid. Dickey was pissed about it, and justifiably so. But as he admitted later, he just wasn’t very good. That’s no sin, particularly not in a 15-4 campaign — R.A. is basically the only reason to watch this moribund club stagger toward the day when they’re told they can stop playing baseball. But he wasn’t exactly compelling viewing last night, as about a billion feet worth of Cincinnati home runs more than demonstrated.

Terry Collins was pissed about the bracelets too, but he looked a lot more pissed about other things — like his vanished offense, or the general air of depressing dead-assedness that’s settled over his club like an endless hangover. The Mets are horrible right now, they’ve been horrible since the All-Star break, and this is the fourth year in a row that they’ve been horrible in the second half. That’s a bad pattern whether you’re plotting a return to contention (perhaps we should aim for relevance first) or trying to sell tickets. Once upon a time, Fred Wilpon was mocked for wanting to see meaningful games in September. I never thought that was as crazy as everybody else did, but jeez — right now “meaningful games in September” seems like a pipe dream. Meaningful games in August would be novel.

Oh, and here are the Mets themselves, after tonight’s loss: “Baxter, Tejada each collect two hits in loss to Reds.” Not mentioned: That those were the only four hits the Mets had. Or that they endured a 6-1 pasting in which the only run scored on a double play that short-circuited the inning. I believe this is what’s known as trying to polish a turd, and I really wish the Mets would stop embarrassing themselves and us with stuff like this. Right now there are 25 guys taking care of that already.

Sigh. I’ll leave you with this: In the top of the second, before Braceletgate turned tragedy into farce, Jordany Valdespin hit a twisting pop into the seats between home and the third-base dugout. As fans windmilled their arms and leaped about, a woman in a Mets t-shirt calmly flicked out her hand and caught the ball. No drama, no fuss — it was pretty damn cool.

It was also easily the most impressive thing someone wearing a Mets shirt did all night.

13 comments to Brace Yourselves

  • Steve D

    Am I in the minority if I feel being forced to take off a bracelet should not negatively affect a professional’s performance? I don’t know if it did or didn’t, but if anything it could make a professional mad and more focused in a game that could mean winning 20 games this year. The rule was ridiculous and the Mets reaction was maybe more so.

  • Dickey’s bracelet = the 2012 version of “9/11 capgate.”

    Joe Torre is a weenie.

  • Steve D

    Here’s what may have happened…Felix pitches a perfect game yesterday afternoon wearing bracelet…of course everybody in MLB offices watches the ending and the highlights after…someone there in a position of power assumes wearing bracelet gives some mystical powers…then sends out texts to all umpiring crews banning such aids.

  • Dak442

    Not that I have positive thoughts about the Yankees or David Wells or anything related, but what about the time Wells wore Babe Ruth’s cap in a game? I thought that was an incredibly cool thing to, a modern star honoring the greatest player of all time, and the notion of sweating up a piece of memorabilia worth tens of thousands of dollars was pretty neat, too. So what happened? Torre soiled himself and made him take it off, for fear of offending the league with a non-standard uniform. (Though apparently Torre’s Elmer Fudd hat and Joba Chamberlain’s Mountie model passed muster.)

    As for the umpires: MLB blessedly crushed that union a few years ago, and had the opportunity to invite back only the umps they wanted. So what happened? They let every stinking one of them back in. The tenure-based system sucks. Guys with no business being in the majors are ensconsed until they decide to retire or keel over. There is virtually no turnover, so more qualified umps languish in the minors, likely giving up and finding another job (or never attempting in the first place). Umpires should be graded annually and the lousy ones weeded out or sent down.

  • mikeL

    the important question though: did anyone from the mets get that woman’s contact info?
    she’s got skills – maybe the mets could invite her to spring training.

    it is too bad that dickey let this incident get to him. couldn’t he have let a fastball ‘get away’ and plunk the offending home plate ump instead??

    can’t wait for this season to end…maybe the next one too!

  • neoncleon

    “Dead-assedness”…exactly, Mr. Fry. Back in March, when I shelled out $250.00 for my full season on MLB.TV, I figured that the 2012 season would be re-building year, and mentally signed on for that. I assumed we would not contend for the post-season, that alot of playing time would be given to various place-holders, and to “the kids” to see what we had going forward. I never really considered the possibility of a post-ASB swoon, because I didn’t think we would have much of a height to fall from. I was wrong, and this team has become a goddam CHORE to watch.

  • Dave

    Everybody on this team looks like they’re on megadoses of Xanax or something…nobody is angry, nobody is having fun (although that’s pretty understandable), they just look like extras in a George Romero movie. It’s getting painful to watch, although it probably means more 50-cent tickets on stubhub next month.

    I hate to pin any of this on Collins, but I’m starting to wonder if he takes the fall.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    The question does have to be asked – how much is the lack of support these players get from the front office play on their psyche? Second straight season in which a group of kids and seasoned veterans put together a great first half and a 100 percent effort and yet this year, when we were told there was some money Sandy could use and that he was in discussions with other teams, that the players find there was no attempt from the top to fill out the obvious holes other than calling up kids from the minors.

    Last season after the trades were made it was R.A. Dickey who said the front office showing it did not believe in the team was hard to swallow. Add to that this year and it’s no wonder that, as you correctly said Jason, there is a “general air of depressing dead-assedness that’s settled over his club like an endless hangover”.

    Joe Beningo has said a few times that when a team has a shot at something they should go for it for one never knows if that opportunity will ever come again soon. That doesn’t mean bankrupting the farm system but look at some of the players obtained by other teams acquired for cash and relatively low rated prospects – even if they were just rentals.

    Perhaps we were playing above our heads this season and the swoon would have come regardless, but I’d rather have seen us as an organization go down fighting than taking a dive.

    • The players in house had pretty thoroughly screwed the pooch before the trade market really developed and they had no tradeable commodities you’d have wanted to part with. Did you believe in this team by the third week of July? I sure didn’t. Sandy did the right thing by doing not much, because there wasn’t much to do.

      • Steve D

        Why couldn’t they do something mid-June, when the Mets were leading the wild card?. Donn Clendenon came on June 15, the old trade deadline.

      • Joe D.

        Hi Jason,

        This is really not at all about Sandy.

        In 2010 the Mets were also in the division hunt when Omar was still here and nothing was done, either. That prior winter he siged Jason Bay yet we still had problems in the outfield and at first and what was Omar’s solution – before spring training opens he signs Gary Matthews, Jr. and Mike Jacobs? And then half way through the season we were just two games behind first place Atlanta and obviously in need of help to sustain us and people then questioned why nothing was being done to make us stronger as well.

        So it’s really not at all about Sandy but the shape of the Wilpons’ ability financial ability to hang on to the club which is forcing Alderson to carry on what Omar actually begun in 2010.

        And again, there were players that could have helped the Mets and cost us next to nothing based on who was trade for whom by other clubs. For example the White Sox acquired former Houston Astros closer Brett Myers and Twin starter Francisco Liriano and did not give up any top prospects for either of these players.

        The Chicago Cubs sent left-handed pitcher Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for a pair of pitching prospects: right-hander Arodys Vizcaino (who just had Tommy John surgery) and right-hander Jaye Chapman (a six year minor leaguer).

        Texas acquired Ryan Dempster for two A-ball minor league players.

        The Mets didn’t have these type of tradable commodites?

  • Texas acquired two bona fide prospects — Christian Villanueva, who potentially projects as a 30-30 guy and already has a plus glove, and Kyle Hendricks, who doesn’t have eye-popping stuff but clearly knows how to pitch, as demontrated by his staggering K/BB ratio. I wouldn’t trade two guys like that for Ryan Dempster — I’d keep them for 2014/2015.

    Nobody expected anything out of Maholm, who’s been a big surprise, and Reed Johnson is a spare part.

    Brett Myers is an awful human being I want nowhere near my team. Liriano has been horrible this year.

    No thanks on any of the above. Stay the course: Shed bad contracts, develop prospects, and don’t be gulled by first-half mirages.

    • Joe D.

      Hi Jason,

      I know we see thing at a 180 degree angle on this but there are valid reasons why I feel the lack of moves made on the major league level have little to do with being gulled by first half mirages (very clever on your part!).

      You know I think Sandy was hired for the specific purpose of keeping the franchise afloat for the Wilpons financially until they are able to re-invest more money into the organization and start concentrating on building up the team on the field once more – i.e, to downsize so the Wilpons are not forced to relinquish ownership altogether.

      The reason I am more convinced of this than ever before is due to what I also see going on in the minor leagues which are not signs of a team concentrating on the future.

      1) They dissolved the Port. St. Lucie rookie team. A Met executive said operating of the team cost in the range of only $400,000 to $1,000,000 which is not much. By having one less rookie team means maybe 25 or so less roster spots that can be filled by draft picks and other amateurs not selected.

      2) They did away with their Pacific rim scout.

      3)They did not come close to using all the slot money allowed. Now, it could be argued that they weren’t going to sign selections they thought weren’t worth the effort but then

      4) they do not sign their second round draft pick over a dispute of $80,000 and

      5) only sign three of their bottom twenty draft picks. It can’t be claimed there wasn’t much talent left because

      6) of the amount of bottom twenty draft picks signed by clubs who selected further back than the Mets and has lesser talent to chose from:

      Diamondbacks – 16
      Giants – 13
      Tigers – 13
      Cardinals – 13
      Rays – 13
      Rangers – 10
      Brewers – 9
      Yankees – 6
      Phillies – 6
      Red Sox – 6

      If the Mets were indeed limiting their actions on the major league level believing what they had now was not capable of doing better with additional help, then what explains their curtailed activity when it comes to scouting and signing prospects and less roster spots for them to give? Was the few million dollars in combined savings from all the above more important than the benefits they could have otherwise reaped?

      Jason, they are cutting back all over the place. If it was mostly limited to the major league level, I could agree with you. But seeing that instead of focusing more resources in their minor league operation – to build for that future they claim they are – the Mets instead make drastic cuts to that as well.

      I do not see that as developing prospects. That is why I don’t believe the moves they did and didn’t make on the major league level were for the best interests of the team as they were for the owners trying not to be financially forced to relinquish the club to others.