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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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How Fragile We Are

During yet another scintillating replay review Friday night, we learned Keith Hernandez spent part of his All-Star break pulling weeds. Not by himself, mind you. He was assisting Maggie, “the gal that oversees my property,” in getting the job done, which, as Gary Cohen pointed out, was “lovely” of him. It’s lovely, too, to know that Keith can contract for certain services which he used to have to badger friends and acquaintances to complete.

You know that if Keith is moving these days, he doesn’t have to convince some fella he just met at the gym to give him a hand the way he did when he’d been retired from baseball for just a couple of years. And if Maggie didn’t know a guy to put him in touch with, Keith certainly has the Franchise Four juice to stride into the Mets clubhouse and enlist someone there to help him.

You think a big, strapping, young buck like Noah Syndergaard is going to turn down Mr. Hernandez? Listed at 6’ 6” and 240, Thor would find Keith’s furniture a breeze to transport. Two dressers, a box spring attached to a headboard, a twelve-piece sectional, the convertible sofa that tends to open up, even the three-inch thick marble coffee table obtained in Italy…22-year-old Noah could handle all of that up and down the stairs of any three-story brownstone Keith throws at him.

I could definitely see Syndergaard carrying all kinds of weighty objects — but you can’t expect him to carry a feather-light attack all by his lonesome.

These regular Friday night engagements Noah has had with opposing batters haven’t put a noticeable strain on our promising pitcher’s physical capacity, but I worry about him throwing his psyche out of whack. Of late, the Mets have provided him with two runs against the Reds, two against the Dodgers, a gargantuan four against Arizona. Those were veritable bounties considering that in each of those outings, Noah allowed only one run apiece. It’s a skinflint’s formula for winning, but it worked across three consecutive starts.

It can only work for so long. Sometimes you have to have help. Sometimes you need Maggie to make a call.

Almost nobody in the Mets clubhouse came to the aid of Mr. Syndergaard on this Friday night in St. Louis. While he was all but singlehandedly keeping the mighty Cardinals at bay, the Met hitters remained lost in their collective weeds. Curtis Granderson provided a leadoff home run versus Lance Lynn. Then everybody called it a day before the sun went down.

Noah could deal with the paucity of support for only so long. The first five innings, he put up zeroes. In the sixth, the Cardinals got a little lucky. Kolten Wong dropped a ball between Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares. Flores rushed back, Lagares forward. I thought getting in Juan’s way was counterproductive, but Wilmer was trying his defensive best and Juan, probably aching more than we know, has never been defensively worse (because we’ve never seen him defensively bad at all). Next thing you now, Wong is stealing his way to second. Ruben Tejada can’t corral Kevin Plawecki’s throw and Flores is not properly backing him up, thus Wong lands on third. Matt Holliday’s sharp grounder to first could have been thrown home by Lucas Duda — Wong wasn’t exactly making a direct beeline to the plate — but Lucas opted to step on the bag instead.

One run. It shouldn’t have presented a definitive impediment to success, but one run scored off a Mets starter is as daunting to move as a three-inch thick coffee table shipped over from Italy. The Cardinals got no more than a little lucky, but the Mets can’t afford to abet anybody’s good fortune. It was 1-1, and Syndergaard hadn’t really done anything wrong.

Then he did. He dared to give up a home run to Jhonny Peralta. Just like that, he was in a 2-1 hole. What were the odds his teammates would rally to pull him out?

Long to non-existent. Noah left after seven, still trailing, 2-1. The increasingly obscure back end of the Mets bullpen gave up another run in the eighth to make it 3-1. In the ninth, the Mets were poised to disappear altogether, but because they’re the Mets, for better and worse, they wouldn’t and couldn’t go quietly. They shouldn’t. They should get runners on base. Which they did in their own lucky fashion. With one out against not quite right Trevor Rosenthal, Duda outmuscled the shift for a single and Plawecki received a Wongish gift that turned into his own base hit. We had first and second. Maybe something was happening.

Bob Geren, ostensibly pushing the buttons because baseball’s amphetamine ban apparently doesn’t extend to bantam rooster managers who don’t care for a given ball/strike call, went all out. He pinch-ran the modestly paced Eric Campbell for molasses-slow Plawecki. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who seems to have reverted to pumpkin status (.135), fought a seven-pitch good fight against Rosenthal, but fanned for the third time on the night. Two out.

Then opportunity: a wild pitch eluded the loathsome Yadier Molina. Runners on second and third. The Mets had to take advantage. If this were, as I wished to imagine it, a preview of the 2015 NLDS, you have to grab whatever the Cardinals give you. You have to make your own luck. And, somehow, the Mets sort of did in their limited capacity to generate scoring threats. Ruben artfully placed a tepid ground ball beyond the grasp of Rosenthal. It died in the middle infield. Duda scored. Campbell moved up to third. It was 3-2.

This was the perfect spot for the Mets to bring that professional bat off the bench, the one Sandy Alderson secured over the All-Star break, the one a team that packs this much pitching needs if it is going to truly approach the second half of the season as a contender.

Instead, Geren sent up John Mayberry (.188). His other options were Johnny Monell (.195) and Danny Muno (.120). He might as well have asked Keith for Maggie’s number.

Everything has to go practically perfectly for the offensively fragile Mets to make up a two-run deficit in one inning. They were handed three, maybe four breaks by the Cardinals. If Rosenthal wasn’t going to favor them with a balk, they needed to make one good thing happen by themselves. They needed somebody to connect for a base hit with a man on third. They needed somebody capable of doing that in the first place.

Instead, they went with Mayberry, who hung in with the All-Star closer for nine pitches. On the ninth pitch, he struck out to lower his average to .186 and leave the Mets one run to the rear. Syndergaard took the loss. He carried the Mets through seven. You’d think somebody could’ve picked him up for once.

35 comments to How Fragile We Are

  • dmg

    this game was a reminder to all those who shrug off the mets’ chances by saying one bat isn’t going to make a difference. um, yes it can — especially in games as tightly pitched as this rotation consistently delivers.

  • Eric

    The talk about Lagares is his hurting elbow has shelved his sniper-rifle throwing arm. But has he lost a step or two in the outfield as well? Balls are falling behind and in front of him like he’s an average centerfielder. Is Lagares out of shape? What other injuries is he nursing? Lagares’ poor hitting is only tolerable as long as he’s playing Gold Glover defense.

    d’Arnaud has started rehab. Hopefully, he’ll be back sooner rather than later.

  • Michael G.

    Is d’Arnaud cut out to be a catcher? It seems he’s an injury waiting to happen. Maybe convert him to the outfield and hope he can stay healthy there. We need his bat.

    • Eric

      How many unlucky or freak injuries with long DL stints have to pile up before they’re considered normal, not exceptional?

      When he comes back, I would play d’Arnaud in LF and maybe 1B, and use him to pinch hit for the rest of the season. I guess he will struggle switching cold to the outfield, but it’s an emergency measure. For lack of a better option, LF is a sinkhole and the Mets need his bat. d’Arnaud is a good athlete for a catcher, so the adjustment may be easier than we think.

      After the season, reassess the outfield with Conforto and/or Nimmo hopefully close to ready and d’Arnaud’s future as a catcher.

      • dak442

        Regarding the catcher injuries, I finally got around to reading Piazza’s book. Catchers are always hurt. All of them. It’s part luck, part nature of the biz. I’d rather see Travis as a ++ bat at catcher than a solid but not awesome OF bat.

        • Eric

          I want d’Arnaud to be the catcher, too, but he can’t catch or hit on the DL.

          His bat would not be exceptional in a typical outfield, but it would be exceptional in the Mets outfield.

          Like I said, it’s an emergency measure for the remainder of this season. Many preferred options need to be crossed off the list before playing d’Arnaud out there warrants serious consideration. Well, they’ve been crossed off the list.

          By the time he comes back, there’ll be about 50, maybe 60 games left in the season? At that point, if Cuddyer is still slumping, and assuming Nieuwenhuis’s HR outburst was an outlier, there won’t be anymore leeway in the season for wait-and-see.

  • Steve D

    This is exactly what you can expect the rest of the way…a well pitched game, poor defense and little hitting. Better get used to it. When the Mets face halfway decent teams, these will be mostly painful losses. The 1969 Mets needed one big bat and got him…but they played defense and knew the fundamentals. This team has too many holes to be championship contenders this year, but should still try to make some moves for next year. It looks like Wright is done being a franchise player…big shoes that need to be filled.

  • Dave

    I don’t have the data in front of me, and I’m out of town and was spared a first hand witnessing, but I think in games in which they trail after 7, the Mets have lost their last 3000 games and are hitting .005 during that stretch.

    And I’m half with Michael, injuries just find d’Arnaud. But I fear the OF would be a disaster. I think Duda’s 2014 was a career year rather than a breakout year. So while I still cringe at memories of Piazza trying to play 1B (still better than Hundley in LF though), I say Travis at 1st. Plawecki is the better defensive catcher anyway.

  • Rob E

    This is why it never feels like they’ve crossed the line to respectability…here they are, ONE game removed from a pretty uplifting nine-game stretch (a game against the best team in baseball), and the meter goes back to zero.

    This is the SAME team that just went 7-2 vs. LA, SF, and AZ. It’s the SAME team that’s 47-43, it’s the SAME team that’s 2-1/2 games out of first.

    Lance Lynn pitched a good game, Syndergaard paid for a bad pitch, the Mets got a bad call, they almost came back in the ninth against an all-star closer, Mayberry had a nine-pitch at-bat. It was a well-pitched game on both sides, they were playing a good team, and they lost. SOMEONE had to, and last night it was us. Not every loss is a catastrophic failing.

    • Near-Win Almost As Good As Actual Win for Team That’s Been Winning More Than It’s Been Losing for a Calendar Year

      Not as snappy, but technically on the verge of accurate.

    • Eric

      It’s Jason’s see-saw.

      Rarely do the Mets win or lose 6-4 where the pitching gave it up or the hitting carried the day. Rather, it’s like the Mets compete against themselves more than against the opponent. If the pitching flinches, the team loses, but if the hitting gives a little more, the team wins.

  • LA Jake

    Greg and Jason, please rename this site to Faith and Fear and FRUSTRATION WITH THE FRONT OFFICE in Flushing.

  • LA Jake

    Rob E, you’re right. For just last night, taken in a vacuum, the Mets played a tight game against a tough pitcher and lost.

    But it’s not just one game. It’s been all season. The pitchers have no margin for error and it’s a so-so lineup (even if d’Arnaud returns) with a bench that has a .165 combined batting average (and if you want to say injuries affected the bench, we can plug Tejada back in for Muno and they come up to a sizzling .206).

    You may like it and be fine with it and that’s ok. But your apparent refusal to understand that others might be incredibly frustrated is mind-boggling. Especially considering most of us aren’t asking for a blockbuster deal for Tulowitzki (tho I am if it didn’t cost the team any of the current ML pitching stars).

    But even I would be satisfied with deals for guys like Casey McGehee and Juan Uribe and other players that have had proven success and could make for a legit bench.

    • Rob E

      I have been a Met fan for more than 40 years, I understand the frustration. I’ve been fighting this fight for DECADES, I’m just not used to defending them against MET fans. You guys get way OVER-frustrated too quickly, and you can’t enjoy a good run for longer than a moth can hover around a flickering light bulb. They’ve won 7 out of 10….the frustration level shouldn’t be too high about now. And the net is that most of what we hear about this team is negative, and it’s just not a true representation of what they are.

      I’m not saying there isn’t room to improve, there obviously is. But for all the negatives you cite, they are four games over .500. If this was a 95-win team underperforming, I would better understand the criticism. But it’s a young team that was a 75-win team that is IMPROVING. This painting isn’t finished. They started off with a completely burnt canvas, had to clear it, the painting is coming along pretty nicely, and yet every single stroke has to get criticized.

      • LA Jake

        I promise, my last response to Rob E.

        The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to change. As currently constituted, the Mets will remain a just above .500 team with no realistic chance to make the playoffs. We are happy when the team has a nice run, but we KNOW the offense just doesn’t have enough pieces on the field or the bench to score enough runs even when not that many are needed. And every game like last night is a reminder of the team’s fatal flaw that doesn’t have to be fatal.

        I see this team as very similar to the SF Giants in at the start of this current run of 3 World Series titles in the last 5 years. They had a great pitching staff but a lousy offense and lost a lot of close games. In fact, during their first title run, the fans referred to the games as torture and the team adopted the slogan. BUT…

        In 2010, their management went out and during the season acquired Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, Jose Guillen and Mike Fontenot to shore up the offense and won it all.

        In 2011, they traded for Jeff Keppinger, some guy named Carlos Beltran and Orlando Cabrera during the season but came up short.

        In 2012, they traded for Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence during the season and won it all.

        In 2013, they acquired Jeff Francoeur during the season but came up short.

        In 2014, they needed more pitching, dealt for Jake Peavy during the season and won it all.

        I’m willing to bet in 2011 and 2013, the fans accepted that not all player moves work out and it’s hard to win every year, but they were happy the team made small moves to try and make it happen.

        The Mets have known for a couple of months now that a legit 3B and SS are needed but no players outside the organization have been acquired. The Mets know the bench players are awful but no players outside the organization have been acquired. So we sit and watch and every time we see a game that plays out like last night, we are reminded of all the other games just like it this season (including 4 times to the Cubs alone which is the difference in being the 2nd WC and being on the outside looking in). Add that to knowing that even a mediocre offense would have this team in 1st place in the NL and a real contender is thoroughly frustrating, so we vent every time it happens, mostly in hopes that somehow our pleas will reach the tone deaf management’s ears.

        To use your analogy, they started with a burnt canvas 4 years ago. They have cleared and the painting is coming along pretty nicely. But for some reason they have stopped painting when a few more strokes would give it a chance to look beautiful. The brush remains in the sink, as though no more strokes are necessary. And that is extremely hard to understand when there are so many different colors available to paint with at this juncture.

        • Matt in Woodside

          Yeah, when Plawecki’s throw went into the outfield, the optimist in me figured it might turn into a 14 inning nightmare that the Mets could win by attrition. But I was sure the score would be tied, and the Mets would still have trouble putting more runs on the board. There’s only so much the pitchers can do. I still don’t know who Alderson should trade, though. With Matz and Montero out, they need Niese (and Colon). And they’ve called up pretty much everyone who is close to being ready from the farm system already. I guess I don’t follow the minor leagues closely enough during the season to know what other players who are a bit further away might work for an organization that’s in the middle of an overhaul. What can you do?

        • Rob E

          That is a really nice analogy, but NO ONE really knows exactly what is available at this juncture. Just because they haven’t made an acquisition doesn’t mean they think their work is done. A LOT of teams need offense, and the only players that have changed teams so far are Mark Trumbo and Juan Uribe, and the trade deadline is still two weeks away. There is something to be said for NOT making a knee-jerk move, and they are not nearly in the dire straits that they are made out to be in. They are 2-1/2 out, and for all the reports of their imminent fall off the cliff, they’re still standing. For those who predict “more of the same,” “more of the same” has proven to be four games over .500 through 90 games. Not exactly a harbinger of doom, sabermetrically speaking…

      • Left Coast Jerry

        Rob, I agree that the team is certainly an improvement over recent years. That improvement is certainly a result of our young stud pitchers and nothing else. The offense is putrid. Murphy, at .272, is the only position player on the active roster hitting above .255. I’d like to see the front office bring in a bat or two so that the pitchers don’t feel that they have to throw a shutout every night.

        Yes, they won 7 out of the last 10, and it’s very nice to cite that, but in the 14 previous games, they only won 4. Your optimism is wonderful, but realistically, this team has some huge holes that need to be filled in order to sustain success.

        • Eric

          Besides the pitching, but related to the pitching, the most impressive part of the season has been the team’s resilience in bouncing back from dispiriting losing streaks.

          Just when their record drops to .500 or below, and a cliff seems to loom ahead for a freefall, they push their record back up and the team back into the pennant race. Then they plunge back to .500 and the cliff is back ahead again.

          I wonder how long they can ride the roller coaster until their resilience gives up. But their pitching offers an awful lot of resilience.

  • So when does Terry call in Jake to pinch hit?

    • Eric

      I wonder why Castellanos wasn’t given a shot before he left for Japan. I know he’s struggled when called up before, but it’s not like the Mets could afford to be picky.

  • sturock

    They need to score more runs. Why is three-four per game too much to ask? They need to get a bat for the bench if not for the starting lineup. They need to field a little better (but it’s not as bad as it was with Flores at 2B and Cuddyer off the field). I do believe that Sandy Alderson knows this. I hope Sandy Alderson knows this.

  • Rob E

    Just a random question for anyone who wants to answer…is there a place for Travis d’Arnaud on this team? Is there a place for Kevin Plawecki on this team? When I say “this team,” I mean in the context of both this team THIS year, and this team moving forward as a team we expect to improve and compete for REAL.

    • Eric

      Um, at catcher?

      I think Plawecki’s place on the roster is secure either as the starter or back-up for d’Arnaud.

      d’Arnaud is trickier. I would move him off of catcher for the rest of this season, and take the hit on defense when he’s in the outfield or 1B as the trade-off for keeping his bat available. Then in the off-season, think hard about moving him back to catcher.

      I think d’Arnaud will get another chance to play everyday as an exceptional hitting catcher, but if he goes on the DL again, his catching career will be over and he’ll be moved elsewhere on the field permanently or he’ll be moved to the AL to become a designated hitter.

  • eric1973

    Legares looks like the Goodyear blimp out there in CF. No wonder he cannot catch up to anything anymore.

    The only time this team ever hit was when d’Arnaud was in the lineup. Most of his injuries have been freaky, some due to catching, some not. So he needs to stay there — pretty good catcher, too. Wish Plawecki could hit, even a little bit.

    Love the pitching — best ceiling in MLB by far, with thee most talent. Shame as heck we have thee worst offense. So you get a .500 record and miss the playoffs. Unless Sandy does not see what we see, and thinks this hitting mess will all come together some day.

    Remember, someone thought it was a great idea to re-acquire Bonilla and Burnitz after those ships had already sailed, so you never really know what these GM’s are really thinking.

    We’ll pick on David Wright again some other time.

  • Offensive Offense

    The perfect example of just how bad the Mets offense is… Nieuwenhuis just swung at a pitch THAT HIT HIM!

  • Michael G.

    Hey Greg — “How Fragile We Are” is from the Sting song, right? Nice touch!