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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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Getting a Grip

Timing really is everything.

My kid and I got on a plane to Iceland a few minutes after the end of the Mets’ victory over the Cubs and returned a few hours before the first of their check-for-pulse efforts against the Dodgers. While overseas and four hours down the clock, I checked in on our stalwarts as arrival times and hotel Wi-Fi allowed.

I’ve done this on previous trips and there’s something equally wonderful and weird about sitting in the equivalent of late-afternoon daylight despite the clock showing it’s after midnight and watching baseball being played at night on another continent. You look from Gary Cohen’s face to Icelandic hillsides dotted with intrepid/foolish sheep and feel amazed to be part of the age of miracles and wonder.

But this time both miracles and wonder were in short supply, and my timing was terrible: I brought SNY up for one of the games against Washington and had just registered that it was 3-0 Washington when Wilmer Flores made an error, skulking back to his post as the score became 4-0. Like a rat who’d pushed a button and been shocked (not for the first or even the 101st time), I came to the conclusion that I’d seen all I needed to see of that particular game. And say what you will about the evils of jetlag, but it did replace six hours I would have spent suffering through miserable baseball in L.A. with relatively blissful shuteye.

Last night I arrived a bit late to my post because of an extended dinner, and braced for impact as I turned on the TV. For me, assessing what’s happening in a game I’ve joined in progress is often a slapstick affair. First my senses frantically collect information ranging from the score (generally obscured by some TV/cable status readout) and the inning to the tone of the announcers’ voices. Then my brain collates this data, often not particularly efficiently, until I’m fully caught up and manage to render a verdict of HA! or huh or [weary expletive].

This one started as a huh: I grasped that the Mets and Giants were tied 1-1 in the second, with Lucas Duda on second base. But then Lucas was steaming home on a ball slapped past eternal enemy Conor Gillaspie at third, a ball I realized had been hit by Seth Lugo. That was prelude to the Mets battering poor Ty Blach as Bruce Bochy watched stoically: Yoenis Cespedes annihilated a high fastball for a two-run homer and Wilmer Flores, Michael Conforto and Travis d’Arnaud all doubled, turning the huh into a definite and definitely much-needed HA!

(The craziest-ever moment of assessment: in late 2007 my plane touched down at JFK and I turned on my sports Walkman to find myself in the middle of the Jose ReyesMiguel Olivo brawl. It was a long, busy time before Howie Rose was able to address that the Mets were up 9-0 and John Maine hadn’t allowed a hit. That was a lot to take in.)

Friday night’s game also featured the return of Asdrubal Cabrera, who collected three hits but had made headlines before stepping onto the field. Cabrera, displeased at being told he’s now playing second, asked for a trade. Cabrera’s pique mostly has to do with being surprised — he spent his minor-league rehab playing shortstop. Which is definitely a reason to be annoyed, and yet another example of the Mets fumbling basic communications with their players.

Left out of the conversation was the real reason Cabrera and every Mets fan should be annoyed: he’s being asked to move so the withered corpse of Jose Reyes can keep contributing four automatic outs per game. Jose was the only member of Friday’s starting nine to go hitless; he’s now hitting .191 with a no-that’s-not-a-typo .267 OBP. The only debate in Mets circles should be whether Jose is even worthy of a spot on the bench. (Spoiler: he’s not.) Pretending he’s an everyday player is negligence fueled by truly determined obtuseness, and that delusion will have consequences beyond a one-day media dustup.

* * *

I got my set of Topps Series 2 cards in the mail last week and found that the eBay seller had filled out the box with junk commons: a random assemblage of hockey cards, a bunch of Fleers and some hastily grabbed ’89 Topps cards.

The latter were frankly more interesting than the graphically busy, statistically light 2017 Topps cards, so I separated them out and let myself stroll down memory lane with the likes of Jeff Blauser, Jim Clancy and Mike LaValliere.

And then I got to the card that made me go oof.

Gregg Jefferies‘ first full season was so hotly anticipated that Topps made his Future Stars card part of the box art. He was on the cover of every season-preview magazine and all but inducted into Cooperstown before Dwight Gooden and Joe Magrane squared off at Shea for Opening Day. Jefferies went 2-for-3 that day but also made an error; 1989 would see too much of the latter and not enough of the former, as well as friction with teammates and fans. Eventually the Mets decided a professional divorce was best for all involved; Jefferies went on to become a Royal, Cardinal, Phillie, Angel and Tiger, forging a career that was pretty good by most standards except the impossible ones that had preceded him. He was out of the game before his 33rd birthday.

“Life comes at you fast” is an old adage that’s been revived as a Twitter taunt. It’s true, of course — changes of fortune arrive in an eyeblink, rearranging everything. But it keeps being true even as the moment passes, with today’s controversy becoming ancient history before you quite realize what’s happened. So it was with Jefferies, who went from the front of the box to filler inside it in a couple of baseball generations.

I never used that ’89 Jefferies card in The Holy Books. The original reason was probably that it still stung too much. I’d been a huge Jefferies fan during his rocket ascent in late 1988, blew the budget on him in next year’s college fantasy league, and waited for a triumph that wasn’t to be. But that’s become a long time ago. Seeing a Jefferies rookie come back to me, I decided to keep it and slotted him in, between The Other Bob Gibson and Mark Carreon.

And you know what? He looks good there, waiting beneath his own personal marquee for a future he can’t know will never arrive.

8 comments to Getting a Grip

  • eric1973

    We have now reached a new level of childish, spoiled brat, entitlement.

    Our used-to-be-respected icon, Cabrera, believes he should get something in exchange for moving to second base, such as the team picking up his option. Is this really happening? Is there no more shame left in people?

    Looking forward to his contract running out and nobody picking him up for next year, due to injuries and diminished skills.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Thoroughly enjoyable column and loved the Paul Simon reference. Hate to disagree with you and I know I’m in the (tiny) minority, but I’ve been super relived to see Jose at shortstop every day recently. This team hasn’t been struggling due to lack of offense. It’s pitching and defense that’s been killing it. Seemingly unnoticed by everyone, Jose has played a pristine SS while Flores and Rivera have been bungling every other ball hit their way. And everyone should remember how horribly Cabrera was struggling before he went on the DL. Reyes isn’t a .300 hitter anymore for sure, but even his offensive struggles are somewhat exaggerated. He got off to such a bad start that his numbers don’t really reflect how he’s playing now. He homered twice off of Kershaw, was one of the only Mets to even put up a fight against Scherzer and remains our only speed threat. And it’s a bit uncharitable to bust his chops for not getting a hit last night as he walked twice.

  • LeClerc

    2017 Mets thus far:

    Brittleness of pitching staff + Brittleness of position players + Atrocious infield defense = Nine games under .500 as of 6-24-17 AM.

    Wilmer + TJ = good hit, no field.
    Asdrubal = bad knee, bad thumb. pretty good hit, depreciating SS skills. Reyes = good knee, good thumb. No hit, bad 3B, pretty good SS skills. Walker = good hit, good field, very bad hamstring.

    For the nonce, Cabrera = 2B, Reyes = SS, Duda (facing RH pitching) = 1B, Wilmer (facing LH pitching) = 1B, Black Hole = 3B.

    Mets Management (field and front office) = Dazed and Confused. Have Free Agents, Will Deal.

  • Steve D

    This post highlights two names that are at the heart what is truly wrong with this franchise – Reyes and Jefferies. The Mets have never been able to internally develop and keep star hitters over their entire 55 years. Reyes, if he hadn’t left for a few years, would have the most hits in franchise history at close to 2000. Wright is first with 1777 and sadly will not get many more. Kranepool is second, but Reyes will pass him and wind up in second. Then comes Cleon, Edgardo Alfonzo, Mookie and Harrelson. This CANNOT be the list of top hitters a franchise has developed in 55 years. It is embarrassing and pathetic. Jefferies reminds me of all the touted hitting prospects who never panned out or were traded and flourished on other teams. I’m sure somebody will now want to mention Rosario, Smith and other current prospects. Do you blame me for being skeptical? This has to be the worst franchise in history at developing hitting. Hard to win, when you develop about one solid hitter every decade, let alone all-stars. I don’t care to blame any one person or thing, but I am sick of it already. If Murphy keeps this up, in a few years we will look back at him as the best hitter the Mets ever developed. Insult to injury as he kills us every game he plays against us.

  • Lenny65

    Re: “the withered corpse of Jose Reyes”…I am still confounded by what the Mets think there’s to be gained by continuing to pretend Jose represents a viable everyday option. It was glaringly obvious two months ago that he’s finished as an everyday starting player. He’s blocking the path of a legitimate position player prospect, he’s having a historically abysmal season at the plate and his defensive skills don’t even come close to making any kind of real difference. He’s a terrible starting player, he offers nothing off the bench, yet there he is, night after night for some inexplicable reason. I simply don’t understand the logic at work there.

  • Dave

    Yeah, while Twitter was blowing up last night at Cabrera’s undeniable arrogance (dude, you’re hitting .240 and playing crap defense, find some humility), I was still seeing things from his position, or “why should I move to make room for a guy on the interstate?” The most clever line, and sorry that I don’t remember who it was, was the observation that Asdrubal was surprised, not ready.

    Jason, you’re on my list of people of whom I’m jealous for having been to Iceland. A friend and her husband are just returning, pictures are great, and supposedly so is the beer (the scenery goes without saying). The music too, check out a band called Purrkur Pillnik, but I digress. Seems as though I have sold my wife on the idea, so despite the fact that going out for pizza costs about $200, I’m looking forward to planning a trip there.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Shortstop is first and foremost a defensive position and the Mets right now, more so than most teams are desperate for competent defense to help their struggling pitching. Cabrera in 380 innings at SS has 11 errors. Reyes in 280 has 1. That’s why it’s time for AC to move.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    I was at the game last night and had a thoroughly enjoyable time with my son and granddaughter.

    As far as Mr. Cabrera goes, the Mets are doing him a favor by moving him to 2nd base. He will be more valuable as a free agent if he performs well at 2nd, because he certainly isn’t doing it at short. If somebody was paying me the kind of money the Mets are paying Asdrubal, I would do whatever they asked as long as it wasn’t illegal or immoral.

    The only thing management is guilty of (in this instance anyway) is not communicating their wishes more timely.