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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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Beneath the Camouflage

The Mets of recent vintage have been more about sabotage than camouflage, but for a night all was well in Flushing. The good vibes started with Jenrry Mejia, whose mix of cutters, sinkers and sliders had the Cardinals flailing, muttering and occasionally smashing bats. Mejia faltered in the seventh, as per usual for 2014 Mets starters, but in his postgame interview he flashed a dazzling smile and redirected praise in the direction of Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy, about whom more in a bit.

Watching Mejia, I wanted to go key Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya’s cars. How much did those two cost Mejia in terms of development, derailing his career in a vain effort to save theirs? (And oh what a time for ownership to leave off its usual meddling.) But that’s the past. Mejia is here, apparently healthy, and looks like he’s gaining confidence with every start.

Mejia’s teammates didn’t do a lot of hitting (and Mejia himself is positively Colonic with the bat), but the gloves were on point. There was Tejada’s sprawling stab of an apparent single by old pal Yadier Molina in the fourth, which was overshadowed an inning later when John Jay hit one to essentially the same spot with Jhonny Peralta on first. This time Tejada skidded to a halt on his belly and shoveled the ball with his free hand to Murph, who grabbed it barehanded facing the center-field wall, then spun on one stiff leg, like some grotesquely plumaged wading bird, firing it to Josh Satin to complete the double play. It was a marvelous play, but the most fun part was watching Murphy beam at his infield partner afterwards, clearly delighted with himself, Tejada, being a Met and life in a benevolent cosmos. The other day I was thinking that watching Murph must be like watching Ron Hunt, when the Mets were new and bad and you took whatever praiseworthy baseball you could get. But Murph also has some Ron Swoboda in him — he plays hard, but sometimes his own excitement leads him to do something dopey. And sometimes those dopey ideas turn out pretty spectacularly. It would have been wiser to guide Tejada’s toss into the glove and make sure of the out at second, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun. (The same goes for stealing third under Molina’s nose, a foolish notion that succeeded brilliantly.)

While we’re talking about defense, points to David Wright, who ended the seventh with a long throw across the diamond to Satin and smothered a downy Cardinal rally in the ninth, trapping a bad hop in his solar plexus and starting the around-the-horn double play. Wright is in one of those grooves where he’s playing at the top of his considerable ability, which — like all things Wrighteous — we should appreciate more than we do.

Speaking of appreciation, I spent the last couple of innings nodding happily at Travis d’Arnaud‘s work behind the plate. D’Arnaud still has trouble with balls in the dirt, but watch attentively for just a few minutes and you’ll see that the talk about his pitch-framing prowess is justified. He’s quiet in his positioning and doesn’t sneak pitches back to the fringes of the plate so much as he ensures that his glove is in the right place to make them look their best when they arrive. Once you spot it, you can’t stop watching — or noticing the contrast with catchers whose “noisy” mechanics cost their pitchers strikes. D’Arnaud’s bat looks better, too — the double he clanged off the wall was almost a home run, he gave the Mets a badly needed insurance run with a ringing single to center in the sixth, and the other day only the superlative glove of Andrelton Simmons kept him from tying the game in the ninth. To be sure, d’Arnaud’s neither a finished product nor a sure thing — above all else he needs to stay on the field — but the more I see of him this year the more I like.

What wasn’t to like? The only thing I have is whatever the hell the Mets were wearing out there. Look, I have ample amounts of respect and gratitude for our armed forces, and the Mets’ ticket offer for the troops deserves applause, but the team looked like someone Photoshopped the Padres’ togs to look even worse. This is worse than the tail, the ice-cream caps, the orange bills and pretty much anything else the Mets have inflicted on the eyes of their fans over the decades.

Still, for a night it worked — Mets infielders were constantly materializing out of the dirt of the infield to make hits disappear. Why, they even looked like a good team. Might just be camouflage, but it was a welcome sight.

13 comments to Beneath the Camouflage

  • Z

    Would anyone be shocked if Mejia’s our ace by the end of this season (not counting Harvey, of course)?

    Remind us, what were Minaya and Manuel’s crimes against his development?

    • They put him in the big-league bullpen when he should have been starting at Binghamton. He wasn’t ready for the level of competition or a new role, and it messed him up and arguably led to the arm woes he soon experienced. Mejia probably lost a year and a half to their incompetence and selfishness.

  • Scott M.

    At 3-0 with a 1.something ERA? It seems like he’s our ace, RIGHT NOW.

    Whenever I see Mejia scheduled to pitch – and knowing his long route to Flushing – I think it’s going to be terrible to watch but this kid has some swagger that is fun to watch, like a combo of Reyes’ enthusiasm for the game and Gooden’s young imposing figure on the mound.

    On a completely unrelated note, it struck me that – after Ike’s trade – and knowing our team’s long history of treating it’s best player’s- or relatively interesting player’s – in the worst possible way that ownership is intent on trading away interesting/outspoken personalities. Dickey, Reyes and so on. The team seems to want everyone to look up to David Wright – immensely talented and worthy of being looked up to but no one would accuse him of being an interesting personality. The guy couldn’t say something controversial if you dared him…

    Not sure what my point is with all this but the team lacks that dominating personality that everyone else can rally around. I guess Harvey is that guy when healthy – which doesn’t bode well for his long term future…

    But back to the present – 3 shutout victories and 1 game over .500? I’ll take it. And hopefully the Mets Way (whatever that is) will overcome the Cardinal Way… (sorry Keith)

  • Dave

    Wow, you don’t need to be Tim Gunn to see that the camouflage and the blue numbers and logo with orange trim just doesn’t work. Find another way to support the troops, please.

    To think that conventional wisdom probably would have had Mejia in Vegas and Dice-K in the rotation. While I’m sure that the Mets will be watching Mejia’s innings very carefully as they begin to accumulate later in the season, it’s nice that they bucked conventional wisdom for a change.

  • Steve D

    I guess we’ll see those hideous uniforms until it is shown they are not selling well. To make them slightly more tolerable, they should wear the blue caps and cream pinstriped pants.

  • The Jestaplero!

    Assuming our starting five is healthy (almost incomprehensible) when Syndergaard comes up, who’s the odd man out?

    I mean, I know someone will be on the DL, these are the Mets, but just theoretically?

  • Will in Central NJ

    Friends, as I sat in section 126 of Citi Field on the evening of April 4, I watched through the cold, horizontal mist the form of Jenrry Mejia warming up vs. Cincinnati. “This can’t be good. This won’t end well.” In my mind was the history of Mejia’s two elbow surgeries, and the lesson learned (or forgotten?) of RHP Tim Leary, ruining his elbow in frigid Wrigley Field in April 1981.

    For those who forgot or don’t know, Leary was the Matt Harvey of his day. His arm was ruined in his MLB debut, and once deemed healthy, Leary’s resumed career was relegated to journeyman status: a lifetime record of 78-105 or thereabouts.

    After last night’s gem, it appears my concern was maybe premature: Mejia looks like dynamite. But sitting in the swirling, 39 degree mist on April 4th, I tell ya, I was worried for Mejia’s health and career.

  • mikeL

    sounds like a fun game – and on a free night when i was planning to watch.
    living in albany one gets the sense that no one in state gov’t is a mets fan…how else to explain that one of the state’s 2 mlb teams has NO RADIO PRESENCE and in spite of there being SNY, the game was not on tv either. as is often the case the local nyc b’cast was not carried here. last year it was coming home to miss friday harvey starts. now it’s the monday mejia starts i’m missing!
    it is good to see jenrry finally finding a role and success after all these years.
    i remember all the concern in 2010 of manuel misusing the young phenom in order to save his job – but it was more like underuse. when mejia went down for tommy john, it looked like another cornerstone of the future had been lost.
    still only 24, it’s hard not to think of mejia as part of a previous generation of the mets’ ever-distant future.
    perhaps having mejia on the same team as harvey, syndergaard and the like is a subtle sign that the present is finally advancing on that moving target.

    or not, but good baseball is good baseballl…

    • I’m sure you know, but MLB At Bat would take care of the radio problem. Not sure if you’re in the blackout zone for or not — I assume so, given MLB’s ludicrous territories. If I moved away from NYC I would drop cable in an instant and make do with

  • John Hicks

    Thanks, Jason, for the reference to Ron Hunt. I remember the days when he was the only reason to watch the Mets.