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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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Head of the Class

All the Mets wanted from Logan Verrett was two things. The first was for him to not be Matt Harvey for a day. The second was for him to do more or less what Jon Niese did on Saturday — keep the pain to a moderate level and let the bats do their work.

I’m the first to answer the bell when Niese needs denigrating, but that’s not what’s happening here — Niese did just fine pitching without oxygen with Coors Field’s famed humidor apparently on the appliance DL.

Verrett, though, is a veteran of pitching under ludicrous conditions and exceeded expectations by a fair margin. He looked shaky in the first inning, as Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu singled, but then got himself out of trouble, racing to the first-base bag and putting himself in perfect position for a 3-6-1 double play. Nolan Arenado ripped a ball up the middle, but shortstop Wilmer Flores — more about shortstops in a bit — smothered it and fired to first.

Given a reprieve, Verrett settled in, mixing a diving slider with a sinking change and using his fastball to make both look better. David Hale, meanwhile, was striking guys out left and right. Unfortunately, his most frequent victim was his own catcher, Dustin Garneau. (Whose name keeps tripping me up — it sounds like some weird mash-up of Justin Turner and Travis d’Arnaud.) It’s possible I’ve seen teams score two runs on consecutive wild pitches before, but if so I’ve blocked it out for the good of baseball.

The Rockies had looked wretched all weekend, but Sunday they commenced to play particularly stupid. If it wasn’t Carlos Gonzalez air-mailing throws, it was Blackmon making terrible baserunning decisions. It was all to our benefit, but it was still discouraging to watch baseball played in such a chronically lunkheaded fashion.

For all that, though, it wasn’t half as depressing as the sight of Jose Reyes falling vaguely near balls or running at three-quarters speed to first.

The Sky Fell the Night Jose Went to Miami narrative has annoyed me for years, because it’s a product of fans being determined to ignore both reality and good sense. The Mets were never going to pay Jose anywhere close to the absurd amount of money Jeffrey Loria gave him in bad faith, and that contract was pretty much a guaranteed stinker for a player so dependent on speed. If this weekend doesn’t make the Jose fantasists cut it out already, I give up: We just saw firsthand how age has eroded Reyes from a great player to a merely good one who’s hugely overpaid, and we also just saw him going about his duties in a way that would have had Gil Hodges walking slowly out to his position.

Reyes is obviously miserable as a Rockie and told the Denver Post at this stage in his career he just wants to win. I sympathize and hopes he gets that chance one day. But he’s running out of days, and no team watching Reyes play this weekend would conclude he’s an ingredient in a winning recipe. That’s nobody’s fault but Jose’s.

More impressive was a player in his final years, one whom I’m happy to have on our side. In the ninth, Hansel Robles came on for Verrett and promptly walked LeMahieu. That brought Juan Uribe to the mound for a conversation. It was short and pointed: The veteran third baseman spoke, his jaw bulging, and the wet-behind-the-ears pitcher listened and held very still.

Robles, chastened, got down to business. He fanned CarGo, got Arenado on a tough chance that became an out because of Uribe’s soft hands and calm demeanor, and then fanned Ben Paulsen for the victory.

Another win, another day off the schedule, six or seven innings Harvey can pitch later, Verrett showing he deserves a chance to play substitute again and/or help the relief corps, and a first-place club doing what first-place clubs need to do to play in October.

It’s only a day, but each game is only a day. And this day was everything the Mets could have wanted and much more.

45 comments to Head of the Class

  • When the Mets acquired Uribe, a bunch of non-Mets baseball people in my timeline remarked on how much they loved Juan Uribe. I assumed it was due to some kind of gregarious personality, but moments like the one Jason described above and his complete willingness to take whatever role is necessary make me even happier that he’s on our side now.

    • Eric

      Whatever Uribe said – or maybe it was how he said it – to Robles worked.

      Uribe wasn’t messing around with this 9th inning lead. It was a Hernandez-to-Orosco Game 6 type of moment.

      Robles was visibly nervous. The walk looked like he wanted no part of throwing the ball within contact range of the Rockies’ bats. Uribe got Robles’s head right, quick.

      That moment, more than any of the clutch HRs or defensive plays by Uribe so far, showed off why he’s the kind of veteran leadership presence an inexperienced team needs in a pennant race. The moment had the trace of a 2-time World Series champion who intends to go back.

      There’s no sabermetric stat for leadership. Nice pick-up by Alderson.

  • eric1973

    Great to see the good guys get a sweep, and also great to see a not-so-good guy, Reyes, get swept.

    He is still an immature creep, who will never change his spots, and he deserves to be where he is.

    • Matt in Woodside

      Man, don’t hate on Reyes. Geez.

      • dmg

        agree with you, matt.

        • Matt in Richmond

          The greatest ss in Mets history, the most exciting player (non-pitcher) in Mets history, a guy who came to the ml at age 19 and destroyed the competition with electrifying speed, fearless base running, and unbridled enthusiasm for the game. He helped carry the Mets to some of their most successful seasons in 20 years, and this guy just can’t stop insulting him (or David Wright). I honestly don’t see how you can be a Mets fan if you have this much disdain for 2 of our greatest players.

          • dmg

            i just don’t understand dissing reyes — a revelation as a position player and offensive force, and who singlehandedly raised the team’s joy level for years — for not re-signing when the mets made it clear they weren’t going to vie for his continued services.

            in fact, if testing free agency automatically triggers a hater’s response with no regard to what the player’s brought to the team, why bother cheering cespedes? why not beat the holiday rush and start booing him now?

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Best Post-Mets Reyes paragraph ever. Thanks.

  • Andee

    Hear hear about Reyes! We got the very best of him, and the only reason people longed for his return was that we had to sit through Tejada’s bad period and Flores’ bad period and Q’s any period, etc. I’ll stick with my memories, unless Jose wants to come back when that awful contract is up for one last hurrah.

    • Eric

      Sentimentally, I’d like Reyes to come home, too. But right now, I have my doubts he’ll make a late-career transition and become a different kind of productive player.

      As Matt in Richmond said, much of Reyes’s value to the Mets was from his “electrifying speed, fearless base running, and unbridled enthusiasm for the game”. But injuries have dogged him and his speed has been chipped away.

      Reyes’s chief concern is re-injury according to his comments in the Denver Post. He’s no longer a fearless base runner nor does he play with unbridled enthusiasm. Yet, judging from his comments, he hasn’t reconciled what he is now as a player with his image of what he is (was) as a player.

      It was sad to see a diminished Reyes in the 2 games he played in the Rockies series. It’s not just from playing for a non-contender. That was the Reyes described by Blue Jays fans, too.

  • DanielHall15

    Yay on crumpling the Rocks!

    Now, to bring everybody’s mood down with six weeks to go, the 2015 Mets vs. select teams:
    vs. WSH … 7-6 (6 left)
    vs. STL … 3-4
    vs. CHC … 0-7
    vs. PIT … 0-6
    vs. LAD … 4-3
    vs. SFG … 3-3

    Doesn’t look pretty, but they played the chunk of those games with PR interns, peanut vendors, and their janitor in the lineup. I am actually slightly confident.

    • Steve D

      The Mets are not a powerhouse team…they are beating up on the lesser teams and dominating at home. We don’t yet know if they can beat the better teams under pressure. Can Collins lead them with high stakes involved? If Wright comes back, plays 4 days a week,shows flashes of his former level and leads in the clubhouse it will take even more pressure off and this thing will build on itself. If he comes back, plays tight, doesn’t hit in clutch, it could damage the delicate chemistry.

    • Metsfansantamonica

      Looks fine to me – aside from the Cubs and the Pirates, we’ve played well against the best of the NL. Besides, regular season records mean nothing in the post season. Just ask the 88 mets and dodgers. While the Pirates do look like a more complete team, they also can’t beat the cubs this season. And the Cubs don’t stand a chance against the Cardinals in a short series. I do expect to be facing either the Dodgers or Giants in the NLDS with home field advantage a real possibility now, and then to get a chance at redemption against the Cards in the NLCS where I fully expect Noah Syndergaard in relief, to strike out Yadier Molina looking on a called third strike with a knee buckling curve, to send us to the series.

      • Eric

        Agreed. Just get into the post-season, get there healthy, stick one of the young stud starters (Syndergaard or Matz, depending on who pitches better in September) in the bullpen to patch up the middle relief, and roll the dice.

        The post-season is a new season with a different kind of baseball.

  • Dave

    That was 3/4 speed Reyes? He’s fallen worse than I thought then, because that looked about half speed (and half assed) to me. I liked that Gary pointed it out and asked Keith to draw the parallel to his move to the 1983 Mets. The only legitimate beef anyone can have about how Reyes left the Mets is that Alderson didn’t trade him that summer, and even that’s pretty much a moot point by now.

    • Yeah, people forget Jose had hamstring woes early in the second half of his last year and wasn’t particularly good for the rest of that season. Which would have made trading him even more difficult even without the PR/attendance hit.

  • eric1973

    Right on the nose, Jason.

    The leadership Uribe showed Robles is something our returning Captain has never shown in all the 10 years he has been on the field (or on the DL).

    Those mumbling, robotic responses for the cameras do not pass for leadership .

    • Dennis

      The Captain….David Wright. The greatest 3rd basemen in Mets history. The one who, when he returns, automatically makes the Mets a better team. I’m looking forward to his return tonight. Hope you are as well eric!

  • eric1973

    Can’t wait.

  • The point-counterpoint on Wright is interesting.

    I’m really happy he’s back, but also hope the Mets will do what’s best for the club. If that means David plays three times a week, once a week and pinch-hits, or goes back on the DL, then that’s what they should do.

    Not dissimilar to looking back at Reyes. I’m sentimental about what Jose was and what he meant then and cold-blooded about what he is/what he would mean now. I think that kind of double vision is important to master. It’s also very hard, of course!

    • Matt in Richmond

      Not only is DW the greatest 3rd baseman in Mets history, he’s one of the best players, period. Certainly with the club in win now mode, it is difficult to assess how best to utilize him coming back from such a lengthy absence. As to eric1973’s attempts to criticize his leadership, I have to take issue. Leadership is a difficult attribute to quantify, and takes many forms. Wright seems to have the respect of his teammates and opponents, and has always carried himself with dignity and class. He can be boring when dealing with the media, and as fans we may sometimes wish he were more colorful, but that’s his choice. Cal Ripken was pretty boring too. I seriously doubt many of his peers would question his leadership.

      • Steven

        Questioning how Wright will fare in his return is fair. Casting aspersions on what he has done to date in his Mets career seems bizarre. Not sure why some feel the need to attack him, but hopefully he returns and plays solid ball, which is what is needed from him.

        And the guy has always been about winning, so concerns about him demanding to play because he’s David Wright and getting upset if he’s not always in the lineup, especially if he’s not playing well, just seem ridiculous. There’s zero evidence available to think the guy cares more about himself than winning.

    • Steve D

      There is no way to expect 2005-2008 Wright. Different stadium, younger guy, healthy. I would gladly take 2012 Wright with a little clutch thrown in. Due to his back, we must temper expectations and absolutely nobody can predict if he can hold up. The Mets have been pretty smart about things recently and will ease him back I’m sure. If he can be a clutch pinch hitter, that alone is a big boost, but I have never seen him as more than average in the clutch.

  • 9th string catcher

    I think the team, Collins in particular, have learned the advantages of utilizing their depth, and that sometimes less is more. Terry’s done a great job keeping everyone involved, including Lagares, Flores, Tejada, Murphy and all the other outfielders. They seem to be thriving with a more balanced workload, and I’m sure he will get as much out of Wright as he’s been getting from the rest of the team.

    BTW – how about that Verrett? When Matz comes back or they go to a 5 man rotation, I’d love to see him as the 7th inning guy.

    • Eric

      With the mid-season additions, d’Arnaud’s return, and Collins mixing and matching, they have a line-up that can produce runs 1 through 8, assuming a bunt isn’t needed.

      1 run over 8 innings at Coors Field after a top prospect (Gray) and 3 veteran starters were rocked is a nice job by the rookie. He looked like peak Dillon Gee – no elite stuff, but good control and mixing of pitches. His change-up looked Clippard-esque at times, though, which can be the thing that keeps him around after the league gets to know him. For now, he’s shown enough in relief and in his spot start to see more of him in higher leverage situations. Verrett may turn out to be lightning in a bottle only, but with 39 games left in the season, that may be enough.

  • Eric

    Blackmon’s gaffe was bad. The field-level replay shows him watching Conforto field the ball in shallow LF with Conforto facing him as he’s rounding 2nd base, but then running to 3rd base anyway like he forgot to stop.

    The Phillies’ record says the Mets should take at least 3 of 4 games, but that’s misleading. The Phillies are playing well and have beaten better teams than the Mets, including the Blue Jays and Cubs, since the all-star break. With 10 of the Mets’ 39 remaining games against the Phillies, they’re poised to play spoiler. The Mets should look at the Phillies like they’re playing the Orioles or the Pirates.

    Duda is seeing the back specialist today who treated Wright. Given that Duda’s back didn’t respond to a week of rest and conservative treatment, it’s possible his back problem may be season-ending. Wright’s absence is a reference point, of course. For the Nationals, Span went on the DL on July 7 for a back problem and is just now working his way back on rehab.

    So Wright plugs into the hole on the roster left by Duda while Murphy and Cuddyer handle 1B. After the starting pitching, the 2nd strength of the team is its mix-and-match flexibility since the mid-season trades. It’s probably not in the works at all, but I wonder how quickly Wright could pick up 1B like his friend Zimmerman did for the Nationals.

    It’ll be interesting to see Wright’s effect on the team as an active player. The Mets needed him through July but, with the mid-season additions, have developed a working formula to win without him. Now, the Mets need to cover for Wright in the middle of a pennant race while he gets back up to MLB game speed and finds out what he can and can’t do anymore with his back condition.

    For the last few seasons, like Reyes, Wright was diminishing as a player before his back injury. I don’t expect much pop from Mattingly 2.0. I’m hoping for a good glove, OBP, and ‘small ball’ timely hits and productive outs.

  • mikeL

    i’m excited to see david start again tonite. fitting that our best pitcher, and perhaps the current face of the new york mets will be on the mound.
    unlike with the return of beltran – and the effect it had on (a fragile) team chemistry – wright’ will be joining an all-hands-on-deck sort of roster. the issues at short, those of shaky defense, lineup inflexibility have been resolved. third base has been manned quite solidly by an unselfish veteran-leader with two rings. the lineup is deep. the team’s winning. there’s little pressure on wright to do anything but be able to play baseball well again and have fun after so much time in pain and so much doubt. . if he can i think the rest will take care of itself. and if he can do something good soon, it will just add to the transformation of this team that began with the calling up of coforto.
    as for jose, i have finally given up all remaining ghosts after the weekend. i feel bad that he was dropped from a team making a strong run for the post-season, but yes, he shot himself in the foot by not treating his time with the rockies as a.) an audition for a club on a run potentially needing his services or (b.) another opportunity be the highly paid professional he is. he certainly hasn’t endeared himself to the clubhouse or the fanbase. his recent play suggests he’s not going anywhere soon.
    meanwhile, both tejada and flores have been flashing hot glove and bat, and speedster eric young will be up in september…
    september will be good!
    but first things first…

  • Matt in Richmond

    There was an awful lot of grousing when Verrett was pulled after one relief inning vs. Balt to save his arm for this start. Looks like another call that TC got exactly right.

  • eric1973

    Matt in Richmond — If you recall, they lost that Verrett 6-pitch game, and then were wishy-washy on Verrett getting the start. Those 2 things are what bothered me (other than the overall ‘pitch-count’ theory).

    Verrett most likely could have gone another inning, Mets winning that game, and still handled Sunday’s start.

    • Eric

      I don’t think it was a pitch count issue.

      From what I gather, whether it took 6 pitches or 26 pitches to complete the 6th inning, Verrett was pressed into emergency duty for 1 inning only to cover for Syndergaard’s failure to finish 6 innings. The plan was Robles taking the 7th inning regardless.

  • Steven

    Matt in Richmond, since we don’t know what could’ve happened had Verrett stayed in the game vs Baltimore, we don’t know if the Mets would’ve won that game as well. And to assume that one more inning of work would’ve thrown off his Sunday start is also pure speculation. Guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. But I am glad Verrett pitched brilliantly yesterday.

  • Mikey

    I love reading Jason and Greg and the posts from some really smart and passionate fans here.

    I’m a bit nervous about Wright’s return chemistry-wise and also, as Eric mentions a few comments earlier, the Phillies are playing extremely well right now. It’s just really important not to take them for granted….not with road-split Noah, Colon and Niese following DeGrom. Thankfully too Chase Utley won’t be there to hit .750 over four games.

    I was in that camp that didn’t want Verrett pulled after 6 pitches the other night, and I still think he should have gone out to start the next inning, but it’s really hard to know what would have happened in that game. Still, the kid put in a gutsy performance yesterday and gave us hope for the bullpen going forward.

    I’m pretty stoked we have games every night this week, let’s win as many as possible and keep or build on the 5-game cushion.

    What I’m not stoked about, and this is from someone who works in the music biz–“Baby, let’s RIDE….let the wheels of this RAM truck, kick up a little dust…” or Crash Test Dummies singing about gruyere cheese.

    • Eric

      Mets v Phillies while Nationals v Padres will be fun to follow. The Phillies and Padres were both bad 1st-half teams that are playing better in the 2nd half with wins over good teams.

  • vertigone

    Bonus victory from the weekend is that the Zac Brown Band shows are over so we won’t have to see those commercials anymore!

  • eric1973

    When David Wright is playing 3B, I want to see him take a cue from Uribe and give a talking-to to whomever on the mound needs it. That was impressive. Doesn’t even matter what happens after that.

    You can’t just shortsightedly look at results. If the methodology is sound, you can live with the results, even if they do not turn out in your favor.

    However, if a player has limited ability and does not produce, that is a different story.

  • Rob E

    I disagree with much of what Eric1973 says, but (without pointing a finger at Wright here) I think there IS some validity to his larger point about “leadership.” Uribe does absolutely seem to be providing something that has been missing here for a long time. They lacked it during the Piazza and Beltran eras, also. That’s not a knock on THEM either…sometimes a team’s heart beats inside of lesser players like Uribe or Ray Knight, and the Mets haven’t been good about getting guys like that.

    There are a lot of other variables that you have to consider in evaluating David Wright’s leadership over the years…there has been a lot of adversity and it’s not fair to just say he’s not a leader. But whether the Mets knew it at the time or just stumbled into it, Uribe has something that seems to have pulled this team together. To me that’s a pretty important piece of the puzzle.

    • Recent article attests to that certain something with certain guys. David Ross, a guy I’ve always sort of wanted the Mets to obtain, is cited within. Similar to Uribe in performance, similar to Uribe in impact.

  • Dave

    Leadership takes many different forms, and being conspicuously vocal and rah-rah isn’t everyone’s style…not to mention that none of us are privy to lots of what goes on when there are no cameras around. Yes, David’s company line recitation responses to virtually every question from the media is predictable and at times annoying, but that likely has more to do with the way he was raised to be polite and respectful than anything else.

    Remember, just a few weeks ago the part time 3Bman was Eric Campbell. He doesn’t have to be the 30/100/.300 David Wright anymore to be a whole lot better than what we’ve spent much of the year watching.

  • eric1973

    To all —- Totally enjoyed all your comments regarding leadership, and let’s go get ’em tonite.

    TC raised the ante, though, by batting Wright cleanup. So now he has to hit like it. Jeter and Reggie would hit a ‘dinger’ their first time up in this situation.

    Let’s see what the captain’s got tonight.

  • eric1973

    All congratulations accepted, sarcastic or otherwise :)

  • Matt in Woodside

    Four wins with 49 runs and 26 allowed in the past four games, lol. That was like, literally, more than half of the runs they scored in the month of June. Freaking awesome!