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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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Little Things With Big Effects

If you’ve had your fill of Mets angst and drama (and who hasn’t) you might have missed Sandy Alderson’s contention yesterday that the Mets should be better than their putrid record because their run differential (currently at -6) suggests they ought to be nearly  a .500 team rather than one staring way, way up at that mediocre number.

Hold that thought.

That was on my mind last night as Greg and I rolled into the MLB Fan Cave, where we’d been kindly invited to check out some art and baseball. As we arrived God was attempting to drown New York (eh, He probably had his reasons) and the monsoon was playing havoc with the DirecTV feeds, so the two of us dripped and squished our way over to a bank of little monitors and found the Mets in the bottom of the first, the Braves with the bases loaded and nobody out, and Jacob deGrom‘s vast multitude of hairs standing on end. We exchanged a wary/weary glance and settled in to cheer the mini-deGrom on.

The Braves were working hard against deGrom, fouling off pitch after pitch and being uncharacteristically selective. I thought to myself unhappily that it had to be 95 degrees in Atlanta. (Close enough; it was 91.)

DeGrom fanned Justin Upton. He coaxed a fly ball to right from Jason Heyward which we thought was deeper than it was; B. J. Upton broke from third and then headed back. Greg and I exchanged shrugs. Perhaps we’d arrived at the perfect time to give the karmic wheel a much-needed spin back to Metsian justice.

With two outs now, deGrom dUg in against Chris Johnson. On his seventh pitch, Johnson hit a shoulder-high liner that intersected with Eric Campbell at third. It was a hot shot, the kind of play you can’t expect your third baseman to make but hope he does. Campbell didn’t; the ball bounded into the left-field corner and three runs scored.

That was all that mattered; despite our attempts to convince each other otherwise, the Mets were beaten. Your bloggers played a bit of skee ball and table tennis, talked baseball with old pals, met very personable and so far not suicidal Mets fan/Fan Caver Daniel Frankel (whom you can follow here), and had about a good a time as can be had when your hapless baseball team is getting swept in Atlanta. When the Fan Cave festivities ended we headed a few blocks west to watch the inevitable end, and wound up playing a very Metsian parlor game: Who is the least-consequential Met in team history? I think it’s Jim Mann; other early picks worthy of consideration are Jack Egbert, Joe Depastino, Brian Buchanan and Fred Lewis.

(If you wanna play, some ground rules: The least-consequential Met has to be the kind of guy you’d forget, not the kind of guy you’d like to forget. He cannot come with a memorable moment, a significant body of work elsewhere, an interesting statistical oddity, a famous/infamous distinction, or any kind of mythic resonance — however pathetic and sad — to his career. This eliminates the admittedly less-than-immortal likes of Esix Snead, Chris Jelic, Dave Liddell, Garrett Olson, Eric Cammack and Joe Hietpas, to name but a few.)

But back to Alderson and run differential. Sandy’s assertion was branded as stubborn, delusional, desperate, pathetic, etc. and all the things you’d expect from a fanbase pushed by frustration to a collective nervous breakdown. I just shrugged. Because Sandy’s correct — run differential generally does track a team’s record pretty well. If the Mets retain the current roster, they may indeed close in on .500 — not because they’re tested/tougher/more resilient/blah blah blah, but because the math on these things tends to be self-correcting. When that happens, I’ll cheer. (And probably praise the Mets for being tested/tougher/more resilient/blah blah blah, even though I should know better.) For now, though, the Mets’ ExWL of 42-43 isn’t exactly making me work on a Ya Gotta Believe banner.

Which brings us full circle to Campbell and that first inning. He was in the right spot. He almost corraled Johnson’s liner to end the inning. DeGrom would have strode off the mound having escaped. The Mets’ fourth-inning run (which Greg and I both missed) might have held up for a 1-0 victory. But Campbell didn’t do that. The ball went down the line, the Mets lost, and this flat frustration of a season creeps along.

37 comments to Little Things With Big Effects

  • Tristram Shandy

    What are we to make of Alderson’s comment? Factually, he is correct. But what are the implications? Does he mean he feels he’s put together a rip-snorting team that Fate has temporarily smitten and that will be embraced soon by Fortune? Is he justifying a plan to do nothing to improve this team this year, outside of the promotion of Wilmer Flores again (after which he will languish on the bench)? What does it mean, Sandy? What does it mean?

  • Rob D.

    I think it means he’s greasing the skids for Terry.

    • Dave

      Yeah, my first thought when I read that comment was “hmm, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for the manager.” On one hand, it’s easy to conclude that TC is on his way out because losing teams that figure they have to do something/anything usually throw the manager under the bus. But Alderson has not demonstrated the burning desire to do something/anything (no, not an attempt to work Todd Rundgren LP titles into the conversation); he has shown endless patience. Or apathy. I’m not sure which anymore.

      • Terry has a two-year deal and Jeff orders Mets employees to conduct nightly couch searches for nickels. Put the two together and I doubt he’s going anywhere.

  • Eric McErlain

    On this date in 1973, the Mets were 33-41 with a run differential of -21. so maybe Sandy isn’t so crazy. Then again, that team was crushed by injuries, so there were plenty of reasons to expect a turnaround once the lineup got healthier. I’m not sure I see the same potential here, mainly due to the lack of punch in the lineup. Leading the league in walks is fine, but that only takes you so far when you’re 13th in total bases.

    • Lenny65

      That team also had Staub, Jones, Millan, Seaver, Koosman, Matlack and McGraw. The current team does not.

  • metsfaninparadise

    So the players are good enough. What’s left to explain this La Brea tar pit of a season?

  • Eric McErlain

    As for an inconsequential Met, how about Brock Pempberton?

  • Dave

    Inconsequential Mets…egads, how do you stop at one? Saw the tweet suggesting McKay Christenson, he belongs. What about Brad Emaus? Or fellow Rule 5 hope-you-kept-the-receipt return Kevin Lomon? And who can remember Brian Rose, Ced Landrum or Joe Vitko? Ryan McGuire, anyone?

    Better (or sadder) question…which 2014 Met will wind up in this conversation in the future? Here’s looking at you, Taylor Teagarden, but not so fast there, Andrew Brown.

    • Buddy Carlyle’s top-shelf pointlessness gives him a shot. Teagarden had a moment, so he’s out. McKay Christenson came up in our bar conversation, definitely. Brad Emaus was too much of a lightning rod to make it. Rose, Vitko and McGuire are good contenders.

  • Bob P

    And for those of us who are a “little” older:

    Tommy Moore
    Francisco Estrada
    (although both of those guys were part of big trades, so I don’t know if that disqualifies them)

    Greg Harts
    Billy Wynne
    Shaun Fitzmaurice
    Jesse Hudson

    I’m a long-time reader but this is my first comment here, so I also want to say: great work, Greg and Jason!

    • Thanks Bob!

      That’s a very good list, except I’d drop Estrada. His career is actually pretty fascinating — he was part of the Nolan Ryan trade and wound up playing in the majors even longer. Seriously — he’s like the Carlton Fisk and Connie Mack of the Mexican League. Have always meant to do a write-up about him.

      • Bob P

        Fascinating, Jason–I never knew that about Estrada. I’d love to see the backstory. I know I could probably Google it but I’m sure you’d make it much more readable!

        Hudson might be the most interesting story of the group. I put a post up about him maybe ten years ago on Ultimate Mets…one game, two innings, less than a week before the Mets clinched the NL East in 1969. I can’t say I remember his big night, but I sure do remember the 1969 Mets!

        • Ken K. in NJ

          I actually think Hudson was interviewed briefly by Ralph Kiner during the televised post division-clinching clubhouse celebration. I remember thinking to myself something like “he’s a Met for a week and gets to celebrate?”.

          I’m not sure if complete video exists, but that’s how I remember it.

          Also not sure if that disqualifies him from the “inconsequential” balloting.

  • lmb

    “If you wanna play, some ground rules: The least-consequential Met has to be the kind of guy you’d forget ….”

    So how are we supposed to identify someone we’ve forgotten?

  • Dave

    Man, great minds think alike. I was going to say Jesse Hudson but edited myself for a change. I actually remember the time he pitched…I had seen him in the yearbook and wondered if he’d be up, then he was and I remember my 10 year old self being amazed by one pitch he threw, a nasty slider, or at least I thought it was nasty. I figured he’d be up in ’70 and around for years, but alas, said slider may have been his last major league pitch. I guess those who knew these things much better than I weren’t as impressed.

  • Steve D

    If it wasn’t for Yasiel Puig, who brought the name back to mind, it would have to be Rich Puig.

    • Yeah, whether sharing a last name with a memorable player knocked Rich Puig out of the running was a lively Greg/Jason conversation.

      I still think our Frank Thomas got kind of a raw deal.

      • open the gates

        Our Frank Thomas had a pretty good season for the ’62 Mets, so he probably wouldn’t have qualified anyway. The guy I feel bad for is our first Pedro Martinez.

  • Harvey Poris

    How about that famous Canadian, shortstop Brian Ostrosser.

    Speaking of Canadians, the Mets have had seven. Dr. Ron Taylor, Yalie Ken Mackenzie, Tim Harkness, Ostrosser,
    Ray Daviault (a reliever like Taylor and Mackenzie), the catching immortal Mike Nickeas and Hall-of Famer Jason Bay.

    • Ostrosser is definitely worthy of serious consideration. Plus he’s a Lost Met — one of nine guys who never got so much as a decent minor-league card. Ostrosser has one with Oklahoma City. Thing looks like someone made it on a Xerox machine.

      • Ken K. in NJ

        I’d eliminate Ostrosser. One, he was fairly significant for a couple of weeks as Bud Harrelson’s backup replacement in 1973 during Bud’s summer military obligation, which is not to say that he did anything significant.

        Plus he was actually mentioned in one of the books that came out about the 1973 Mets (Dam if I can remember which one, I’m sure I have it somewhere). The (somewhat possibly paraphrased) phrase being “Shortstop was being manned by a young man named Brian Ostrosser”, in reference to the state of the Mets in August during his brief call up.

  • Will in Central NJ

    Maybe not the least consequential, but how about RHP Shingo Takatsu, who Willie Randolph insisted “Brought the funk” with his windup?

    Or, that trio of late 1990s relievers acquired (separately) for Carl Everett and Rico Brogna: John Hudak, Ricardo Jordan, Toby Borland?

    • Willie made Takatsu memorable, plus he blew a big game down the stretch.

      Toby Borland pitched in the Jackie Robinson game, so he’s out. Ricardo Jordan appeared quite a bit. Hudak’s a good one, though I remember that he wore a piece of his own rib as a necklace, which is gross but undeniably memorable.

      Two nights ago Greg was trying to remember a guy whom he could only pin down as “not Juan Padilla, the other guy.” Turns out he meant Jose Santiago.

      Beyond the fact that “not Juan Padilla, the other guy” is a good sign, if Greg Prince can’t remember a Met, he’s a candidate.

  • Lenny65

    Anyone mention Sergio Ferrer yet? Dave Von Olhen? Tim Burke?

    • Ferrer’s good but probably not truly unmemorable. Burke was high-profile hapless. Von Olhen never appeared in a game.

      • Lenny65

        Sergio Ferrer and Gil Flores are forever linked in my memory for some reason. I didn’t realize DVO never appeared for the Mets. Back when I was a kid in the 70s I owned an electronic baseball game. My best friend and I would draft all-Mets teams and play each other, keeping stats and all. DVO was not only my pitching ace (40 game winner five straight years) he also led the league in HRs (75 in one season). Seaver was always the #1 pick, Kong always #2. But Dave was the MVP, just unstoppable.

        Mario Ramirez? Brent Gaff?

  • open the gates

    Mike Fyhrie? Jeremy Griffiths? Lino Urdaneta? Randy Milligan?

  • open the gates

    And as for the run differential? That’s what happens when you score 700 runs in two games at Yankee Stadium, and about 5 total for the rest of the season. (Slight exaggeration, I know…)

  • Greg Noonan

    I still remember Jerry Hinsley, Wayne Graham, Dennis Musgrave.

  • Dave

    How about Lance Broadway? Or does the absurdity of his name eliminate him? Tobi Stoner might fall into the same category.

  • Ken

    Was Don Hahn too consequential for you? I enjoyed watching him play but I can’t remember him doing anything of consequence. He is likely the least important starter for the 1973 team. Den Decker reminds me of Hahn and I can’t imagine him ever becoming consequential.

  • John

    It is the little things. Like knowing how to run the bases, how to cover first base when you are the pitcher, when not to run yourself out of an inning,when to pitch to a hitter and when to walk him, what base to through to, how to position yourself correctly before the pitch….. Well you get it…generally knowing how to play the game and how to win.
    The players on this team don’t know how to win, going all the way back to the 2006 team. I am inclined (actually I hope) to think it was lousy player development during the Manaya Bernazard years ( most of these players grew up in that era). But we we’ll find out soon as the new regime’s players move into the majors in the next year or two.
    It is promising that they have had a lot of W/L success over the last couple of years. Although records in the minors don’t really matter as much as player development, it is an attitude and it is something that can be learned.
    So I think the unstated part to SA’s comment wasn’t about luck, but rather the mental makeup of the current roster. I think we will see between now and the start of next season who SA thinks knows how to win and who doesn’t. Where trades to this point have been about acquiring young talent, the next set of trades will be about ridding the roster of players who will always lose by just one run.