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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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Fight the Future

In a season turned disappointing, Matt Harvey’s performances just get more encouraging.

Harvey throws a fastball in the high 90s and supplements it with a good curve and slider and a developing change-up, so this statement wouldn’t seem to be edging too far from the tree trunk. But none of Harvey’s pitches was working particularly well tonight — especially when the batter was Tyler Paul Cloyd, who’d never seen a pitch thrown in anger in the big leagues. (For whatever reason, Harvey was incapable of throwing the least-threatening hitter in the Phils’ lineup a strike, which seems weirder than it is, baseball being baseball and all.) Harvey tinkered and fought and gutted his way through, though, and the Mets did just enough to support him.

We haven’t thought much about Lucas Duda in weeks, but there he was, socking a two-run homer inside the foul pole, making a moderately difficult running catch in left-center to deny Ryan Howard, and even stealing a base. Duda is a player you root for, one who was put in a less-than-ideal situation and lived down to it, leading to his Buffalo exile. When he’s right, Duda has a precocious eye at the plate and very quick hands, not to mention enormous power. Those things aren’t easy to find. Unfortunately, Duda is also a first baseman who can’t play the positions available to him, something that was made painfully clear this year. His other potential flaw is more interesting to think about: Numerous accounts make it plain that Duda is too open about his self-doubt, which is perfectly forgivable in the real world but a sin in the baseball world. I remember Jason Jacome being shipped out soon after admitting to self-doubt — and Billy Beane’s painful recollection of being unable to get out of his own way mentally, coupled with the realization that dumb, blithely assured Lenny Dykstra had the better recipe for being a baseball player.

Where Duda’s concerned, the Mets seem stuck. He’d be better off somewhere he could play first or be a designated hitter, which would keep his mind (and everybody else’s) off his defense. But his poor year at the plate — which quite possibly began with his own struggles on defense — has turned him from prospect to suspect, decreasing his value. So the Mets are left hoping that Duda can find his way in left, which isn’t substantially an improvement over the plan that just landed him in Buffalo. And so we have a dog chasing its tail: Duda needs a change of scenery, but the Mets can’t get enough back for him to make that change of scenery happen.

Harvey doesn’t have this baggage — he’s a power pitcher, with no obvious weaknesses except a lack of experience, which ought to fix itself. But things happen to baseball players that you can’t see coming — in fact, such things happen to the vast majority of them. The arc that began with celebrating a childhood phenom gets interrupted somewhere before Cooperstown: Players get hurt, or fail to keep up with opponents’ adjustments, or age before their time, or somehow just misplace that unshakeable belief in themselves. Harvey looks tough and promising, and he is — but so were Hank Webb and David West and Paul Wilson and Bill Pulsipher and Patrick Strange and Philip Humber and Mike Pelfrey. Eventually we all realized they needed a change of scenery.

You probably came here expecting a rah-rah post — the Mets have won four in a row, tied the Phillies for third place, and their bullpen suddenly looks like it’s found its footing. And I was planning a rah-rah post, because this is fun and because it would be very, very nice to finish the year looking down at the City of Slovenly Thugs. But something about Harvey and Duda emerging as the heroes of the game derailed that plan. Matt Harvey is a key piece of our future, but not too long ago so was Lucas Duda. Nothing is forever and nothing is assured.

7 comments to Fight the Future

  • Andee

    Duda does have one thing in his favor as a LF: In order to be an improvement over what was there, he only has to be better than Jason Bay. The same Jason Bay who’s hitting around .0000045. That’s not too tall an order, really. And if they can get a real CF and RF, I can live with him over there.

    If he tanks next year, they can put Wilmer Flores in there; they have to find a place for Wilmer if they don’t trade him for an outfielder, and he probably wouldn’t be any worse there defensively than Duda.

    But how about Matt Harvey’s bat, hmmm? Guy’s become a hittin’ fool. He’d better watch out, or he’ll never see another fastball again.

  • Andee

    (Also, it’s *Tyler* Cloyd.)

  • 9th string

    I can see the conundrum that is Duda but why be down on Harvey? He’s off to a great start – enjoy it! We had similiar notions about how good Dickey could be and he keeps getting better – not all Mets are underachievers!

  • Dave

    I”m a Debbie Downer often enough, but I’m optimistic about Harvey…let’s just see what happens. Flores, another story; I suspect he’ll be another overrated Mets prospect who is short one position to play. Maybe we need to hope for a universal DH with year round interleague, because we only seem to develop DH’s anyway.

  • kjs

    Pelfrey doesn’t have a lick of confidence—just a lick of his fingers. Harvey seems incredibly mature, focused, and willing to kick ass. I don’t know his ultimate upside, but he’s the son of a pitching coach and seems to have the drive to keep coaching himself, making adjustments, and deal with the realities if MLB. He’s as much of an asset as Pelfrey’s timidity is a deficit.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    “Matt Harvey is a key piece of our future, but not too long ago so was Lucas Duda. Nothing is forever and nothing is assured.”

    Good words and that was the point I was making about last season and the moves that sent KRod and Beltran packing. One never knows when a shot at something will next come again so one should not pass up on such an opportunity when it’s there. Doesn’t mean hocking the future, just – if nothing more – letting the team take it’s best shot. If anything else, it makes good business sense considering the extra fans meaningful games pour in.

    Coupled with what happened again this year,we don’t know how much those moves can come back to haunt us big time. Both David and R.A. say their first priority is being with a team that has a shot at winning and that they still need to see what direction the organization is heading.

    Sounds just like Sandy when he said he still needed time to see what direction the team was headed mid-point these past seasons. His own words might come back to bite him.

  • […] hand, is a mess. He can’t play any outfield position, he’s blocked at first base, and as I’ve discussed before, he doesn’t seem to be one of those players who can blithely keep adding runs with his bat […]