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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 Manchurian Marlin?

The Mets once had a player who was referred to, without irony, as Mr. Marlin. His name was Jeff Conine. We knew him as a nice if ineffectual guy at the end of his career. He couldn’t help stem the tide that washed the 2007 Mets out to sea, but even Mr. Marlin can do only so much when the enormous waves come crashing to the shore.

The Mets once had a player who set all kinds of Marlins career marks despite your intuition suggesting it’s unlikely anybody bothers to save old Marlin box scores. You know who’s played in more games, come to bat more, scored more runs, recorded more hits, singled more, tripled more, walked more, reached base more and stolen more bases than any other Marlin? None other than Luis Castillo, whom Mets fans will remember mostly for swiping defeat from the jaws of victory in 2009.

The Mets built playoff powerhouses with Marlins the Marlins no longer had use for — Dennis Cook, Al Leiter and Florida flash Mike Piazza in one veritable swoop, Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca in another. For that matter, the Wild Card that was won a year ago (seems more like a century) was facilitated by the presence of 2012 Marlins alumnus Jose Reyes. It’s not like the Mets haven’t had good fortune picking through Miami’s recyclables. Yet with the rare Marlin whom you might instinctively identify as a Marlin, whatever good emanated from his Met tenure tends to get overwhelmed in memory by deleterious circumstances. Gary Sheffield hit his 500th homer as a Met shortly before ’09 chemically dissolved in acid. Moises Alou extended a hitting streak to 30 while the Mets were in the process of blowing a division lead of seven games with seventeen to play. Cliff Floyd earned beloved status at Shea in 2005, but struck out against Adam Wainwright to help end 2006. Livàn Hernandez came to us too late, Preston Wilson left us too soon (albeit in a good cause).

No Marlin-tinged Met, however, has seemed more attached to his Marlininity than AJ Ramos. Even Mr. Marlin Conine and Mr. Marlin Record Holder Castillo had moved on from the Marlins before alighting on the Mets. AJ Ramos was a Marlin his entire career prior to joining the Mets. Nobody is a Marlin his entire career for very long. Giancarlo Stanton is the lavishly compensated exception to the rule, and even he and his 55 homers are the never-ending subject of trade rumors. Their franchise is built to expunge its own. Ramos came to the major leagues in September of 2012 and remained a Marlin until July of 2017. That’s a lifetime Marlin, relatively speaking. Ramos apparently developed a real affinity for his one and only pre-Met ballclub, which you can understand in theory, except that it was the Marlins, and who maintains an emotional attachment to the frigging Marlins?

Our ad hoc closer, that’s who.

Prior to very recently, AJ had done a decent if stress-inducing job pitching late innings and protecting rare leads since coming over. We didn’t have Jeurys Familia. We no longer had Addison Reed. Ramos would do in the short term and perhaps contribute in the longer term. But every time I heard him wax nostalgic for his old team and his old teammates, I was thinking there’s no way it will work out well when he faces them.

I should’ve gone with that sense. Instead, in an uncommonly good Met mood Tuesday night — after Reyes, Travis d’Arnaud and Seth Lugo had all excelled — I generated a generous thought in AJ’s direction. It was the top of the ninth, the Mets led by three, Asdrubal Cabrera sent a fly ball to deep right. I would have liked it to have gone out to extend the Mets’ advantage to 6-1, but when it was caught at the track, I thought, ah, that’s OK, at least now Ramos can get a save that will be particularly meaningful to him.

Kiss of death. Sorry about that. More Ramos’s blown save en route to a ten-inning loss than mine, but I’ve been futilely rooting for the Mets to beat the Marlins in South Florida long enough to know better than to believe the result was anywhere proximate to the proverbial bag, let alone securely inside it. How would AJ know that he was bound to throw 32 pitches, put six separate Marlins on base and allow the three tying runs to cross the plate without escaping the ninth? He’d watched his share of Marlins games in which Mets’ leads evaporated on the spot, but he watched it from the other side of the field. Maybe he was doing what he assumed he was supposed to do. When you’re in Marlins Park, aren’t you supposed to doom the Mets as painfully as you can? It probably got confusing for him amid all the pastels and empty seats. He looked down at his newly Metsian self, saw a reserved gray road uniform and no longer knew what to believe.

Paul Sewald (0-6) pulled what remained of the Mets chances out of the fire in the ninth and then, predictably, burned them to a crisp in the tenth, giving up the game-losing home run to J.T. Realmuto. Not long ago that would have provided AJ Ramos with the cue to gather at home plate alongside his fellow Marlins and heartily congratulate the Fish of the hour. Now he had to keep straight who he was with, who he was against and what he was supposed to do. No high-fives for J.T. No hugs for Giancarlo. No good times in the company of Dee and Christian and Marcell and Ichiro. No communing with the spirit of Luis Castillo in the only place on the North American continent where that’s considered a desirable endeavor.

The fellow’s surely befuddled. Have mercy on his Marlin soul.

8 comments to The Manchurian Marlin?

  • Kevin From Flushing

    :sigh: Curious, when the Marlins up and move to Montreal in 2030, how will you react?

  • mikeL

    I’ve found ramos’ fidgety stretch/wind-up an irritaing thing to watch since he jouned the club. (The exact opposite of reed’s stone faced minimalism.) All that twitching and dude can’t find the plate – except when serving up big hits.
    Yes last season – hell, the all-star break (and seeing our lone all star PLAY) seems a short lifetime ago.
    This season can’t end soon enough.
    Except for the daily posts here…
    If the mets could play half as well as our hosts here write!

  • Eric

    The Dodgers lost their 55th game, meaning they can no longer win 108 to match the 1986 Mets. If the Diamondbacks hadn’t cooled off, their division would be starting to become interesting.

    I wasn’t bothered much by the blown save because Ramos isn’t proving anything – he’s neither a young up-and-comer nor recovering from injury – and team wins and losses are low on the list of priorities at this point outside of deGrom’s W-L record. (I agree 17 wins would be a good number for the ace to finish the season.) We know what Ramos is, and his first blown save as a Met isn’t a revelation. The Mets pitchers who preceded Ramos and several Mets hitters had done enough good in the game to satisfy me, blown save or not, and Sewald got a clutch out on Yelich in the 9th inning.

    I also didn’t mind extra innings because that meant bonus reps for the younger Mets in a higher leverage situation. The most annoying part of the loss is that Realmuto’s walk-off HR meant Evans, who would have led off the 11th inning, was denied the extra-inning AB.

  • Gil

    Anyone going golfing at Citi? Thinking this winter the Wilpons might offer some curling at Citi. Or ice dancing. Really anything but winning baseball games during the baseball season.

  • Harvey Poris

    Lost in last night’s debacle was Reyes’ 4 hits, raising his average to a previously unthinkable .244. If the debate is between bringing him back or Cabrera, I vote for Jose with his versatility, speed (something Cabrera lacks) and his mentoring of Rosario. If they choose Cabrera, Reyes should go into the Mets Hall of Fame. He in the top two in many
    Mets lifetime offensive categories, and in the top dozen in most.

  • Daniel Hall

    For some time, I’ve been glancing at the box score, made the face I make when I drive past some fresh roadkill on my daily commute, and shrugged. I used to watch the highlights for all the Mets games I couldn’t see live. But all the highlights are always for the other team now. And I stopped watching them altogether when Wilmer smashed his own nose in. That was so Metsish that it hurt (not only Wilmer).

    Best news: next year they still have mostly the same cast of has-beens, never-have-beens, and never-will-bes assembled, with all the tender elbows, hamstrings, and noses (hopefully?) still attached, and won’t add anything meaningful in the offseason because you can always claim your **** is good enough for 85 wins and a wild card. The good thing about this is however that this time we all know beforehand that they will lose another 90 games.

    Asdrubal Cabrera will probably stick to this roster forever. Mets are dumb enough to pick up his option… gee, I wonder why nobody wanted to take on that shattered porcelain ballerina at the deadline or even afterwards.

    I could ramble on, but the FAFIF staff can do it better than me.

  • […] Mets who pitched in relief in lieu of Familia (including a faux closer named Ramos who was still so enmeshed in his innate Marlinnity that their new prospective ownership probably schemed to dismiss him all over again). Mets who […]