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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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The Carlyle-Eveland Revue

What’s worse than being a team that hasn’t been good for the longest time? In the moment, probably being a team that was pretty good not so long ago yet is now experiencing the falling out of its bottom. That situation described the Mets by this time of year in 1991 and 2002, and the scenario fits today’s Cincinnati Reds right down to their green-trimmed uniforms.

That’s how much of a mess the Reds are. They can’t even get their colors correct. (C’mon people, it’s in your name.)

Irish Heritage Night finery notwithstanding, the Reds — same outfit that made the playoffs three of the past four seasons and was in the thick of an N.L. Central dogfight as recently as the middle of July — are a mess. And when you send a new mess to take on an experienced mess, well, Let’s Go Mess!

I mean Mets, who tidily stomped the Reds in Cincy Friday night, 14-5. The Mets hit five home runs, every one of them landing on the other side of the Ohio in Kentucky. Seriously, they were launching lasers early and often: d’Arnaud; Flores; Herrera; Duda; even Curtis Granderson’s bat came out of retirement to belt one.

The unraveled Reds, who are 15-31 since the All-Star break and 7-19 over the past month, have dropped from contention to a record worse than ours. And the Mets? They’re punching powerfully in their weight class: three sub-.500 opponents over the past week have enabled them to take five of their last seven decisions. With two more at Great American Ball Park and then three at home against the eroded Rockies…nope, sorry, not even at 67-74 will I allow myself to take ’em anything but one at a time. Or fourteen at a time if Red pitching insists. Still, you can’t help but enjoy the Kids In America when they’re learning to win a little.

Cases like Cincinnati’s are why I roll my eyes every March when self-appointed experts attempt to project the exact record and standing in advance for each of the thirty major league franchises. Somewhere along the way, players are going to get hurt, players are going to slump and players are going to deteriorate. Inevitably, you’ll find a franchise on which all those kinds of players are gathered and represent a plurality of the personnel. It happens not every spring, but every summer. It happened to our guys in 1991 (from 53-38 to 77-84) and 2002 (from 55-51 to 75-86). It’s happening to those guys our guys are playing currently.

Everything can look very different very quickly in baseball. For example, if you’d asked me less than a year ago to connect Buddy Carlyle, Dana Eveland and Las Vegas, I’d remember that time in the 1970s when my parents went to Las Vegas for some kind of convention and one night at the Sands, they saw Buddy Carlyle, billed as The Fastest Wit in the West, open for the Chanteuse of the Strip, Dana Eveland.

Or, if I wasn’t feeling particularly creative, I’d shrug and tell you I’d heard of Las Vegas, thought maybe Buddy Carlyle rang a bell of some sort and as for Dana Eveland, I have no idea who she is.

He? OK, he. As recently as the last Super Bowl, I had no idea who Dana Eveland was, whatever the pronoun.

And now? Now I know better. Now I know Carlyle and Eveland were and are veteran pitchers who, lacking anywhere better to ply their trade, signed with the Mets during Spring Training, were assigned to the Las Vegas 51s, got called up during a bullpen crisis and, like John Cusack’s record store buddies in High Fidelity, just started showing up every day. That was three months ago.

Let’s not overstate the contributions of our version of Barry and Dick. Buddy and Dana have not transformed the 2014 Met sessions into championship vinyl. But let’s not undersell what they’ve contributed, either. They haven’t been bad.

You’ve watched enough Mets bullpens implode to know “they haven’t been bad” is practically the highest praise one can ladle upon Mets relievers whose roles are defined as nothing more specific than present. Depending on the composition of the DL at any given moment, the Mets seem set at closer, setup man, setup man to the setup man, lefty specialist and long man/swingman. Somewhere on the edge of that crowd have been Eveland, the second lefty who’s less specialist than contingency plan, and Carlyle, the kind of righty who comes in when all hope is not quite lost yet not necessarily in sight.

And they’ve been so not bad that they’ve been kind of good. In a season when we’ve continually pinched ourselves that Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Vic Black, Josh Edgin and Carlos Torres have fairly consistently surpassed our wildest dreams and somewhat regularly scaled the heights of dependability when we haven’t had 14-run cushions on which to fall back, Dana Eveland and Buddy Carlyle have effectively secured the outer perimeter. That is to say the thought of them entering a game that isn’t well out of hand doesn’t instinctively inspire anxiety.

You may not have noticed, given that they’re not inserted into the highest of high-leverage situations unless something has gone horribly awry, but these Carlyle and Eveland blokes have brushed up against superb in 2014. In 24 innings, Carlyle’s walked four guys and given up only two home runs (one Friday to Todd Frazier as he carefully nursed a ten-run lead), while registering five-and-a-half strikeouts for every base on balls he’s issued. Eveland has been used a little more, perhaps to his left elbow’s detriment, and been a little less statistically spectacular, but has served as an net asset rather than the traditional Met pen liability. Of the 58 lefty batters he’s faced, the southpaw has retired 41 of them. No lefty has homered against him, and only four of the last 19 runners he’s inherited have scored.

Buddy (first such friendly Met moniker since Harrelson) and Dana (warmly evocative of a most sorely missed Mets Fan) are unsung, which sounds unfair, but it’s better than being reviled, the usual fate of Met relievers you tend to forget are on the roster, let alone in organized baseball. Carlyle first saw the majors in 1999, yet this is only his eighth season logging any MLB experience. His résumé, which encompasses loads of stops in loads of minor league cities, also includes stints with the Hanshin Tigers, the LG Tigers and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. The first and third of those are Japanese teams, the one in the middle Korean. Like Carlyle — not to mention Eisenhower — Eveland went to Korea. That was where he spent 2013, going 6-14 for the Hanwha Eagles.

One season later, erstwhile Eagle Eveland is big-league all the way, same as Carlyle, who was a Princeton Red in 1996 and a Buffalo Bison in 2013, only occasionally something akin to a San Diego Padre or Atlanta Brave in between.

You’re welcome to draw grander conclusions about relief pitching from the successes of 36-year-old Earl Lester “Buddy” Carlyle and 30-year-old Dana James Eveland, both of whom seem way older by dint of their respective journeys. You can speak to the randomness of relieving, how last year’s unimpressive Eagle is this year’s practically premium portsider, therefore don’t spend a lot of money based on a small sample size. You can scoff at an overreliance on name brands like Jose Valverde, Kyle Farnsworth and John Lannan and wonder what would have happened to this season had somebody thought to bring Carlyle and Eveland north sooner than a third of the way into the schedule. You can look around at 29 other teams and ask why nobody else saw something in these two warm bodies who heated up in the Vegas desert and didn’t wilt under the lights of Flushing. You can point to the Mets’ tendency to overwork their primary bullpen arms and be happy that for a change they found a couple of fellows who could provide genuine depth.

Me, I’m glad the Mets took February flyers on guys I’d barely to never heard of. Certain types of triumphs that don’t automatically show up in the standings set a fan’s heart aflutter. Like the runner who tags up from second on a fly ball to deep center. Like the bunt against the shift for a base hit. Like Matt Harvey emerging in the late summer of 2012 and Jacob deGrom suddenly exceeding his hype come July of 2014. Pound for pound, though, how do you not love, more than anything, the scrap heap find who proves worth his weight in prior obscurity?

Once upon a time you got it from Matt Franco, from Rick Reed, from Benny Agbayani, and they helped create a legitimate postseason stalwart. For part or all of a year you got it from Duaner Sanchez and Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez and wound up with a division champion. Sometimes, though, it’s just the satisfaction of watching somebody overwhelm the nonexistent expectations attached to him and do so for your team. It may not have made the 2014 Mets the kings of anything, but it’s made them that much more compelling and competent, and that’s also not so bad.

Fourteen runs. Five homers. Buddy Carlyle. Dana Eveland. Who’d have figured?

12 comments to The Carlyle-Eveland Revue

  • Patrick O'Hern

    Seemed like for years the Mets could not hit a 3run homer. It’s all they hit now.

  • Lou from Georgia

    Any mention of Rick Reed gets me misty eyed. He was part of my early days as a Met fan, a poor man’s Greg Maddux (and once an actual poor man so desperate he crossed the MLBPA picket line in part to buy his mother insulin) and quite the scrap heap find. The bullpen has been a definite… I would use strength but that’s pretty strong. They have not sucked since April or so. That’s what you call progress sir.

    How about that middle infield? A homer from both positions? I say run with these guys. In the case of Flores, I don’t know why it took this long to get the playing time. Perhaps rather than trying to sign a big impact player at SS, the Mets go for yet another scrap heap find as depth behind Flores and give Reynolds a shot in the spring.

    • I loved Reed and am proud that Dillon Gee carries on the tradition of 35 with as much professionalism and determination.

      I’m also coming to really like Wilmer Flores, who is still what most people would call young (not the Chris kind). Heard him interviewed on WOR a little while ago and was thinking how much better his English is than my Spanish…and can give my English a run for its money (or dinero). I liked Tejada once upon a time, too, I suppose, but I’ve been waiting to see a SS who can hit a little and not embarrass in the field, and we may have that guy. Or we may need to go and get that guy, but for now, I’m enjoying the kid finding himself as we watch.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    wonder what would have happened to this season had somebody thought to bring Carlyle and Eveland north sooner than a third of the way into the schedule…

    Wouldn’t have worked. They’d have been asked to do what Valverde etc were asked to do, and they would have been Valverde etc Part B. Instead they sort of snuck up on us.

    PS: Gary Cohen was about as cynical as I’ve ever heard him after the Mets went up 11-2 or 14-3 or whatever it was, saying something along the lines of “and then there’s the Reds, who apparently don’t care at all”.

    • You’re right on re the timeline. As much as we like to believe everything can be in place starting on Opening Day, trial and error extends into the regular season and I certainly wasn’t waving my own proprietary scouting report on Eveland and Carlyle in late March. In the spirit of Rick Reed, I recall the Mets sorting through an entire relief corps in the early part of the season when they sucked (Jordan, Perez, Manuel, Borland…oh my!) before jettisoning all of them and beginning to win. They went 80-60 and competed hard after a dreadful 8-14 start. If only, I thought, they could’ve gotten their act together sooner.

      Sometimes you need later. In the case of this team and maybe this bullpen, later will have to do.

  • Rochester John

    I just love when the Carlyles and Evelands of this world get the kind of success that Buddy and Dana are having this year. These players bounce around from minor league team to team (and, these days, country to country), enduring the stresses of minor league ball, not for riches, but yes, for the love of the game. And when they do find a bit of success, it’s not the headline-making, big contract securing kind of success. It’s in seasons where they become consistent, reliable in multiple situations. It’s the kind of unexpected success that may only be noticed by their teammates, or knowledgeable fans, but the kind that finally makes all the bus rides worth the sacrifice.

    • It is beautiful, isn’t it? There was also a knuckelballing starter who matched that ethic a few years ago around here. Not everybody can become an R.A. Dickey at 35, of course. Hanging in there as a Buddy Carlyle at 36 is pretty good, too.

  • Paul from Brooklyn

    Hey,I just wanted to thank you guys for this blog.There are plenty every day readers out here and I for one appreciate your style and insights.
    Flores,den Decker and Lagares all looked like every day players months ago and de Grom,Buddy and Gee are keeping it interesting here in September.
    Here’s to our beautiful Mets and hoping Mr. Hodges gets in where we all know he belongs.

  • dgwphotography

    Actually, I thought Buddy Carlyle sang the theme song for WKRP in Cincinnatti