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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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Black Box Offense

When the Mets struck for two tying runs in the eighth inning and then the winning run in the ninth Saturday night, I thought of the ghoulish if sort of logical question that gets asked after aviation disasters and applied it to our at least temporarily aloft carrier of choice:

Why don’t they make the Mets’ offense out of the same material they make the black boxes that manage to survive wreckage and preserve flight data recordings?

To put it in a baseball-specific context, if the Mets can generate runs as desperately needed in the eighth and ninth, why can’t they just do that in the other innings and spare us the suspense, the angst and the general sense that we’re going down yet again? It probably has something to do with human beings competing with other human beings and some buzzkill “regression to the mean” pedantry. After all, if the Mets could just score at will, why couldn’t the Diamondbacks?

Because that would be no fun to theorize over, not from our standpoint. The fun was mostly packed into the final two frames Saturday, first on the two-run, eighth-inning homer swing Devin Mesoraco put on an Archie Bradley four-seam fastball to cut through the fog that hung over Citi Field all night, then on a succession of clutch connections made by the top of the order in the bottom of the ninth. Bradley had given way to Andrew Chafin, and Chafin gave way to standin’, cheerin’ and rejoicin’ as Brandon Nimmo doubled to right; Asdrubal Cabrera bunted for a base hit that placed Nimmo on third, and Wilmer Flores put enough wood on enough horsehide to send Brandon home via sacrifice fly.

It wasn’t quite Justify slogging through the mud at the Preakness, but our race was won, 5-4. Toss in the two-run homer from Michael Conforto in the fourth and the five post-Matz innings of shutout ball the bullpen threw, and you had a result that resisted gravity for a change. The Mets took a one-game winning streak and extended it for the first time since they won nine in a row in essentially another era. Getting on this minimal roll means we can sublimate our daily catalogue of Metsian gripes, including East Setauket Steve’s inability to reach the fifth; the battery of umpires who refused to see erstwhile Royals pest Jarrod Dyson should’ve been called out stealing in the fourth; the Mets producing no runs from a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the sixth; and the front office having cobbled together, for these DL-intensive times, the shortest and least useful of allegedly major league benches.

Instead, we can celebrate the most obvious factors that contributed to victory. A walkoff is never not fun, and nobody’s more fun to pound on the back and drench with liquid than Wilmer. Certainly no current Met has been the cause/object of more walkoff affection. Saturday’s was the eighth game in Wilmer’s six-season career that he was directly responsible for ending in the best way possible. We can also high-five over Mesoraco’s continued revival. There’s no figure baseball treasures more than an old catcher in a new locale, provided the catcher has a track record of success (he was an All-Star in 2014), was set back by circumstances for several years (he was injured and on the Reds) and is now considered reasonably healthy, preternaturally wise and the kind of hard worker directors of pickup truck commercials linger on lovingly. We adore unsung professionalism and sing its praises to the high heavens when it gets our attention. Nobody is more of an unsung professional than a veteran backstop who coaxes the young pitchers, mentors the young catchers and socks a few dingers. Too often our Kelly Shoppachs and Jose Lobatons don’t rise to narrative-quality performance. Mesoraco has already attained René Rivera knows-what-he’s-doing-back-there status behind the plate and is verging on John Buck territory when it comes to sudden, surprising power.

True, Devin couldn’t nurse Matz past trouble (irony of ironies, it was Diamondbacks catcher John Ryan Murphy Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt who put the most hurt on Steven), but the Cincinnati import put down all the right fingers for Lugo, Sewald, Ramos and Familia. Mickey Callaway said prior to Saturday’s game that Tomás Nido — up for the DFA’d Lobaton — was recalled so he could study under Prof. Mesoraco. The manager and his coaches value the way Devin prepares and they want their main catching prospect to absorb some lessons. Jacob deGrom, fresh off his thirteen-strikeout masterpiece Friday night, gave his new receiver all kinds of credit, too: “You come in and he’s already got a full scouting report written out.”

That the Tao of Mesoraco is so impressing the Mets underscores what they must not have been getting from their sidelined platoon of Travin d’Arwicki, which can be interpreted as a telling commentary on the state of contemporary Mets catching. For as long as Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki have been fixtures around here (albeit of the easily detachable variety), they’ve never particularly emitted the air of knowing what they’re doing back there. Perhaps they never had a Mesoraco mentoring them. Perhaps not every catcher is constructed the same way, inside or out, just like not every inning can give us all the runs we need.

15 comments to Black Box Offense

  • LeClerc

    The Mesoraco/Harvey swap is looking very good.

  • JoeNunz

    “ John Ryan Murphy Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”

    Possibly the funniest thing I have ever read.

  • Daniel Hall

    Dear baseball gods,

    please make Jose Reyes go away. He makes me sad, and I don’t want to be sad. Because I know that every relief in life and baseball alike has to be bought at a price, I am willing to give in to his replacement being of dubious value. Which is still more than no value. Like, Ruben Tejada.

    That’s too much value, you say? How about Jordany Valdespin?

    Omar Quintanilla?

    (gulp) Eric Campbell?

    • Lenny65

      This is exactly how I feel. Jose Reyes makes me sad and I want him to go away. There is literally nothing to lose by releasing him and his presence on the roster is blocking the path of someone else who couldn’t possibly be any worse.

      • Jacobs27

        Reyes is not playing well at all, but I think it’s not actually true that nobody could be worse. The Mets farm system really does not have any even marginally major league-ready hitters to fill Reyes’ position. The hope, I think, is that Reyes will come around like he did last year and become at least a reasonable utility guy. There’s gotta be an expiration date on that hope, but I don’t think it’s crazy, at the point.

  • Greensleeves

    There is musicality to his name, Devin Mesoraco. (Think ‘Fascinating Rhythm’; it’s in the syllables.) And poetry in his swing. Sure hope this bodes well for his rebirth in Flushing.

    I’ve always wondered why – when hitting – catchers don’t have a serious leg up on pitch selection. Doesn’t it stand to reason that they should ‘go fishing’ less often than others in the lineup?

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Devin Mesoraco has provided more value to the Mets in the last 10 days than Matt Harvey did in the last 2 years. Great trade!

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Diamondbacks catcher John Ryan Murphy Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt…

    Yep, you used that at least once before, and it stuck in my head to the extent that it’s exactly what I thought of last night. Not that I had any idea he was now on the Diamondbacks until I saw the lineup at the beginning of the game. Of course, by the 7th inning I wished he was still on whatever team he was on when he was first mentioned here.

  • Dave

    When you hear the technical “here’s what being DFA’d means” stuff with the “7 days to work out a trade,” I laughed. I figured if anyone wanted Harvey, the best the Mets could get in return would be someone hitting .189 in Single-A. Obviously every GM has hits and misses, but this is, on a small sample size, one of Sandy’s best in a while. Mesoraco obviously knows what he’s doing, and aside from the guy on the mound, nobody needs to know what he’s doing more than the catcher. He’s a free agent at the end of this year, it’ll be interesting to see what the Mets do if he performs.

  • NostraDennis

    I second that emotion,Left Coast Jerry.

  • sturock

    Could a nice little run be beginning? Mets need at least one more truly reliable starting pitcher. Looking back at Saturday night, how pure and efficient was that rally? Nimmo drives an 0-2 pitch, Cabrera bunts him to third, reaching base in the process, and Wilmer sac-flies him home. How many pitches did it take? It was a thing of beauty and almost clinical precision.

  • eric1973

    “His name is my name, too!”

  • Louis Verardo

    I want to second all the positive comments about our new catcher. He has applied himself to his new role with great diligence and has become a nurturing presence for our pitchers. I have noticed how our broadcasters (both TV and radio) have pointed out the things he does to communicate with his pitchers both before and during the games. Love his home run trot as well: no dramatic bat flip, head down to run the bases, and big smile when he hits home plate and greets his teammates. He looks like he has been with the team since spring training.

    Can’t wait to get a Devon Mesoraco baseball card with him in a Mets uniform!

  • Paul from Brooklyn

    Wilmer came through at the right time again.I will always love Reyes but….. one out,down by two runs,bases loaded,down by two runs I would have pulled him and batted anyone else in that situation. Wilmer could have gone to third on the switch. Ah, but yes! We won anyway.Two in a row without Frazier or Cespedes.
    What was better than watching Star Wars fans answering every trivia question asked on the centerfield screen in a second while waiting for the person on the screen to answer?….nothing.
    Looking forward to giving Mr. Staub his day in the stadium.
    Let’s go Mets!