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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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Eh, 161-1

OK, 161-1 isn’t actually going to happen — and at the risk of disappointing someone, I’m guessing 151-11 will be a stretch too. But such giddy enthusiasm seemed eminently sensible after Jerry Blevins shuffled off the mound with a strikeout and a grounder on his 2017 resume, a combination that kept the game tied 1-1, simultaneously denying old friend Bartolo Colon a win and cleaning up Hansel Robles‘s mess.

On the couch, I was almost vibrating with glee, not just about the outcome but also about the tension that had preceded it: That was exciting! My goodness have I missed baseball!

It was also exciting when Fernando Salas coaxed a double play of his own, followed in short order by a key strikeout. And when Rafael Montero got a double-play ball he really needed.

But the returns on the excitement were diminishing. What had begun as a taut, nifty pitching duel between Colon and Jacob deGrom (looking great coming off surgery) had slowly decayed into a listless slog, one of those games where you catch yourself wondering if the pitchers are doing well or the hitters are doing terribly, decide it’s the latter and has been the latter for a while, and wind up watching the rest of the game with the vague sense of shame that accompanies the realization that you’ve been had.

Eventually Montero surrendered a double down the line to the irritating Matt Kemp, the Mets failed to fight back against Jim Johnson and a 3-1 loss ended the dream of a perfect season. The game lasted 12 innings and 3 hours and 51 minutes; it felt quite a bit longer.

(Though, hey, baseball’s new intentional-walk rule did keep the proceedings from taking 3 hours and 53 minutes. Quelle révolution!)

It ended messily, but things had been untidy for a while. The Adonis Garcia double that tied the game in the seventh would have been run down by a right fielder better than Jay Bruce, who’s lead-footed even once he gets going and doesn’t help his cause with curious routes to balls. On the other hand, the Garcia double should have scored two — except Brandon Phillips seemed thoroughly confused, stopping and starting his way to third instead of home.

This isn’t to pick on Bruce, who is what he is — and if he keeps on collecting three hits a night, what he is will be pretty awesome. But when I catalog my anxieties about the 2017 Mets, the list doesn’t begin with “injuries to starting pitchers.”

No, the first thing on that list is “outfield defense.”

  • Even with his bouts of carelessness, Yoenis Cespedes is a fine left fielder with a cannon arm, which is to say he should be a right fielder.
  • Curtis Granderson should be a left fielder, but is now playing center — the one outfield spot he’s less suited for than right.
  • Bruce should be a left fielder, a first baseman, or a designated hitter.
  • The bench provides little solace: Michael Conforto‘s yet another left fielder who needs to hit to justify his defense, and not even Juan Lagares can run down balls while sitting in the dugout.

I can come up with reasons to be worried about each and every Mets’ starting pitcher: the currently injured, the recently injured, the please-not-destined-to-be injured. But there are many scenarios where those worries prove unfounded or overwrought. It’s hard to say that about the outfield. Another decimation of the starting-pitcher ranks is a possibility; the Mets being hurt by their poor outfield defense is a certainty.

But we’ll see — and I’ll remember that logjams have a way of clearing themselves in the outfield, as they do on the mound. And crummy loss and all, I still enjoyed a night being reminded of things that make me happy.

Some were big things, like having my eyes jump to the clock and register that it was 6:55 p.m. and I had an appointment. And some were little things, like remembering how Blevins always looks sheepish and vaguely disappointed even when he’s just succeeded at something difficult. Or the way Addison Reed ends an inning by shoving his cap back on his head, squinting as if looking into the sun, and walking unhurriedly away from the mound like a gunfighter who took no pleasure in the recent unpleasant business but knew it had to be done.

We’re going to lose at least one game, and probably a fair amount more than that. Balls will get by Bruce and Granderson and even Lagares now and again. Relievers will find that third out elusive — or, on occasion, the first one. The first week will remind you of all that too. Which is as it should be, because those things are also part of the game — the best damn game there is, finally back to keep us company again.

21 comments to Eh, 161-1

  • eric1973

    Robles has a world of talent, but still stinks. Maybe one day he will put it all together.

    With each no-pitch intentional walk, millenials cursed out loud, because they lost that extra minute they could have used to stare at their phone.

    Q: If the count is 3-0, can the manager just wave the batter to first without throwing ball four? I would think so.

    • Dennis

      “With each no-pitch intentional walk, millenials cursed out loud, because they lost that extra minute they could have used to stare at their phone.”

      LOL!!! I have to say, hands down, this will be the best post for the 2017 baseball season!

  • Lenny65

    Remember when the Mets couldn’t find a LF for years and years? That’s our Mets, it’s always too many or not enough, they never make anything easy.

    Jay Bruce is looking awfully Kingman-esque out there in right. If you’re old enough to remember Kingman playing the OF you just shuddered. And I cannot be the only one who wishes Jose Reyes wouldn’t always swing at the first pitch, right?

  • If this game were in September, I’d be livid. But second game of the year? Meh…

    I’ll sign up for no more than an additional 65 of these.

    Could Jay Bruce be a ’17 version of ’86 Ray Knight?

    • Pete In Iowa

      I’m afraid games in April mean just as much as those in September. That’s the beauty of the 162 game season. In my opinion, it always hurts to lose a winnable game against a supposedly inferior opponent, no matter the month of the year.
      I recall last year when many here screamed that Familia was used for a 2 inning save against the Phillies in early April. Seeing how the Mets finished exactly one game ahead of StL last season, I’d say that was one important April win!

    • Will in Central NJ

      I had the same thought: not only does Jay Bruce have a chance to become the next Ray Knight, I’ve also seen parallels between Hansel Robles and Alejandro Pena. So, each apparition might cancel out the other. But, we can all hope for more Knightism and less Pena-ism.

  • LeClerc

    Rafael Montero 2017 looked very much like Rafael Montero 2016.

    On the bright side: Jacob DeGrom 2017 looked very much like Jacob DeGrom 2015.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Why was Montero even in the game in 10th. 1) He’s not a reliever 2) has been awful throughout big league career particularly in tough spots, e.g. tie game, in relief 3) we still had Smoker, who eventually came in for one batter too late and 4) you’d think they’d save Montero for a long stint if game went 18 innings. Sheesh.

  • Ken

    Will Michael Conforto go down to Triple-A when Juan Lagares returns from the disabled list next week?

    And will Sandy Alderson look to sign some veteran free agent pitchers to play down in Las Vegas to provide some more depth for the starting rotation?

    And to think that it’s only early April. Oy vey!

  • Greg Mitchell

    Letting Ynoa go maybe not smartest move…did well with Orioles this spring and they like him a lot as 6th starter

  • Ken K. in NJ

    This one I’m blaming on Ty Kelly. If he’s going to be The Bat Off the Bench When We Need a Base Hit, somebody needs to let him know his job description is to swing at the ball.

    • Eric

      Isn’t TJ Rivera still with the big league club? If any Met is suited to come in cold off the bench and make contact, it’s Rivera.

  • Greg Mitchell

    And finally, I will ask: Why is Montero even on the roster now? They are down to him as 6th starter so shouldn’t he be stretched out in AAA? I can’t think of a worse guy–given his track record–coming out of the pen in the bigs.

  • Gil

    That relay noted for Bruce’s slow play should have also noted that Walker, who had an otherwise fantastic day in the field, threw an 8 hopper to third from a few steps into the outfield. That has to go on a line to the mitt. I thought when he rounded second we had him dead to rights. Poor execution all around.

    deGrom was fantastic. I know he’s coming off the gritty year and the arm trouble, but he had just retired Freeman to end the 6th and was in the low 90’s on the pitch count. Trot him back out there for at least a batter or two.

    I dont love Grandy in center and I dont love him in the 4 hole. Conforto’s one at-bat looked an awful lot better than all of Grandy’s combined, and he has a much better arm in center with probably the same abilities as a fielder.

    Jason I actually said the same thing to myself last night – my goodness how I have missed baseball. Great to be back and great to have your recaps for another year. LGM!

  • JoeG

    I was delightedly around for 1986, but what is the Ray Knight and Jay Bruce reference, aside from both being ex-Reds?

  • Dave R.

    Is it my imagination, or have the Mets rarely been 2-0, despite their excellent record on opening day? Does anybody have that stat?

    • 2013 was the last time Mets started 2-0. Before that: 2012, 2009, 2007..and then you have to go back to 1994, 1993, 1991, 1987, 1986, 1985, 1983, 1979, 1978, 1977, 1976 and the first time they did so, 1973. Also, for asterisk’s sake, the “second season” of 1981.

  • […] courtesy of miscommunication between Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto. (Once again: it’s the outfield defense that will kill us.) At least on this night the Mets’ defense gaveth as well as takething away (that literary […]