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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 New Old Mets

The deal came together with startling speed – in far less time than even one of today’s foot-on-the-accelerator news cycles, Jose Bautista went from possible New York Mets target to likely signee to announced acquisition to standing on the field wearing No. 11.

No day or two to get his affairs in order, no needing to find a flight from wherever – he arrived with the speed of the delivery order that leaves you wondering if the guy was circling the block with a miniaturized kitchen between the handlebars of his bike, waiting impatiently for you to figure out that yeah, you were getting the General Tso’s this time too.

All of this is ignoring the question of whether or not Jose Bautista, New York Met, is in fact a good idea.

The Braves had no use for Bautista, calling him up for a fortnight’s look-see and deciding that they could do better with what they had – a similar decision to the one they made about another superannuated Met, Adrian Gonzalez. One might make a joke about not being good enough to make the Braves, except have you seen the standings lately? Maybe the Braves were the first ones to get the memo about the value of what they have.

Bautista’s a new old Met in multiple ways – because fans of a certain vintage will recall that he was once technically Met property, laundered by the team on July 30, 2004 on his way from the Royals back to his original employer, the Pirates, as part of the deal that brought back Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger but somehow not a title.

There’s a lot of that on the field these days. Jay Bruce is a recidivist Met. So is Jason Vargas, who gets the added currency of having been a Shea Met. Ditto for Jose Reyes, Bautista’s fellow Jose and fellow former Blue Jay. (I’m probably forgetting one or two. Sorry — frantically typing in the airport on very little sleep.)

Reyes remembers Bautista from his glory days north of the border, when Bautista was a feared home-run hitter and playoff hero, the man whose joyous lumber launch sparked a brief inferno of bat-flip hot takes. (Between Bautista, Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera, the Mets can lay claim to three stalwarts of the genre.)

So does Bautista have anything left? Well, for the short-term he’s a hard-to-argue-with shrug, a chance at counteracting left-handed pitching and filling in for Cespedes and Todd Frazier, Yo’s counterpart in the very Metsian club of Guys Who Will Be Missing Longer Than First Thought.

And he’d certainly seem to have more left than his aforementioned fellow Jose. Which is where I got a little annoyed.

Bautista replacing Reyes on the roster would have been a lottery ticket with a side of sweet relief, as Reyes continues to make us painfully aware on a daily basis that he is no longer even a shadow of what he was. He’s dreadful at third, not much better at short, punchless and inept at the plate and nothing special on the bases. Given all that, unless his mentorship of Amed Rosario includes necessary life-saving instruction in the body’s normally autonomic systems, it’s difficult to see what anybody’s getting out of the deal.

But no, Reyes remained and Bautista took the place of Phillip Evans, who honestly would probably be the wisest of the three players to employ on a semi-regular basis. Which leads me to a recent criticism of the Mets from baseball analyst Joe Sheehan, plucked from his very smart newsletter. To paraphrase. Sheehan noted that the Mets have had some recent success in developing young talent but seem determined not to trust it: Dom Smith is trying to stay thin in Triple-A and Brandon Nimmo is fighting for playing time while their at-bats go to Gonzalez and Bruce. Why not throw Evans into that mix for good measure?

Anyway, Bautista doubled in his first Mets AB, which could be a good sign or could prove he’s recycling Jose Lobaton’s material, but didn’t do much else Tuesday night. He had plenty of company in that, as the Mets were stymied by Caleb Smith.

Smith threw one of those easy oh-fors at the Mets lineup, looking ordinary while mowing down hitter after hitter with a well-placed and well-chosen mix of pitches. His opponent, a newly unhirsute Zack Wheeler, had one of his more encouraging outings, walking no one and working six innings.

But encouraging isn’t the same as a win. Wheeler was undone by the second inning, in which everybody had a part: Wheeler gave up several rockets, but Reyes muffed a Smith bunt and another run came in on a perfectly placed Luis Sojo special up the middle by J.T. Realmuto. That gave the Marlins a 3-0 lead that proved more than enough, particularly when AJ Ramos’s relief work looked more like the Ramos who’s had us bracing for impact this year.

Look, you’re gonna lose baseball games – a good 60 of them are ticketed for that column even in pinch-me campaigns. Day One of the Bautista regime isn’t a fair referendum on him, or anybody else. It takes longer than that to form a judgment. But judgments do arrive. And sometimes, like Met injuries, they linger far longer than one would think necessary.

23 comments to The New Old Mets

  • Jacobs27

    I’ve been defending Reyes recently, but I think I’ve had enough at this point. If he’s gonna play defense this fundamentally unsound it’s no longer worth waiting and hoping his bat heats up. Sucks that our last memories of the guy are going to be of such ineptitude.

  • LeClerc

    Reyes is a defensive liability at 3rd base.

  • Luis

    Older and SLOWER with Atlanta castoffs while young players wither in Vegas…fast becoming the team of my discontent..

  • eric1973

    Look, Sandy knows his days here are numbered, so his only option is trying to win with The Patchwork Family.

    I half expect to see Carol Corbett at first base and Rags over at third.

  • sturock

    Isn’t this on Alderson, though? Why do the Mets have no right-handed batters waiting in Binghamton or Vegas, first-baseman Peter Alonso notwithstanding. If Bautista had anything left in the tank, wouldn’t the Braves have kept him? Nor is Joey Bats a lefty-basher; he’s shown no splits in that direction for the past several years. And we’ve all noticed how inept this team is vs. left-handed pitching.

    Agree with all the above posts on Jose Reyes. If he’s gonna muff grounders, there is no reason at all to keep his <.400 OPS on the team. Can we say goodbye once (if?) Todd Frazier returns?

    I still think this team can make a run but it needs some better construction, including at the minor-league "inventory" level. And, yeah, why not give Phillip Evans a chance?

  • Will in Central NJ

    Mike Bordick, if I recall, homered in his first AB for the 2000 Mets. He provided little offensively afterwards.

    Hopefully, Jose Bautista will be giving the Mets more than his double in his first Mets AB…

  • open the gates

    … Philip Evans, and Gavin Cecchini, and give Luis Guillorme some more AB’s, and get one of the younger pitchers (NOT Hansel Robles) to replace AJ Ramos, and Brandon Nimmo had to practically force his way onto this team, and who’s betting they give TJ Rivera even a ghost of a chance once he’s off the DL… The lack of confidence in younger players was one of the things I wasn’t so happy about with Terry Collins, and one of the things I was hoping Mickey Callaway would change. Looks like it might be more on Sandy Alderson – he keeps getting the old guys on the way down. No knock on Jose Bats, and maybe he becomes a pleasant surprise. But he’s part of a pattern.

  • greensleeves

    Yes. Like peace, give Phillip Evans a chance…

  • Pete In Iowa

    I think Wheeler has been unhirsute for at least a couple three weeks now. If that’s what you mean by “newly.”
    Bottom line … it hasn’t seemed to help him pitch.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I’m sorry but I forget where I read it, but Reyes not only had the worst defensive metrics in the league at Shortstop last year, but also was the worst 3rd baseman and the worst 2nd baseman in his limited time at those two positions.

    And that was when he was a year younger.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Sandy’s “get older” approach working well. Now Mets admit Frazier and 32-going-on-42 Ces long way from even a rehab assignment. Sandy needs to go now to handle rebuild–he has not stake in it and needs to be out. And his master “prospect” plan of bringing in 5 relief prospects for all his trading chips hasn’t worked out either.

  • 9th string catcher

    Reyes, Batista, Frazier, Bruce, Gonzales! Boy, would this be a great team 6 years ago.

  • mikeL

    yea very disappointed with calloway re: keeping the hot bats (and gloves!) on the bench. reyes has no business on the roster. especially when guillorme has shown himself to be quite able. perhaps the wilpons need to sell the remaining reyes merch before they’ll let him go…
    and yes for all the young pitching talent obtained in last year’s sell-off why should we ever have to see hansel in a mets uniform again? perhaps give him to cincy as a thank you card? hell give ’em ramos too…

    • Jacobs27

      Guillorme deserves as shot, but based on last night, I’m not sure how able he is. He did bat 1.000 for a few ABs, but since has looked a bit over-matched at the plate. He’s got a reptuation as a slick fielder, but booted a routine grounder. He may not be MLB-ready, though he fits right in on this team, unfortunately.

  • 9th string catcher

    I’m pretty convinced the only way the Wilpons and Alderson could build a winner is by accident. Case in point – getting Cespedes was only because their first option didn’t pan out. Any of the Mets’ home grown talent was signed by Omar. The Yanks got Glayber Torres and then got Chapman back. The Mets got Jacob Rhame, Eric Hanhold and Ryder Ryan. Sigh.

  • Gianni Privacio

    OK I’ve remained silent until now, please note that tonight, for the first time this year, Callaway put together a batting order almost like the one he should have been using every day since March 29: Nimmo, Cabrera, Conforto, Bruce (ok if Cespedes were active there would have to be some adjustment), Mesoraco (if Frazier were active insert here), Gonzalez, insert catcher here, Rosario (or pitcher if you think you are so clever you might rethink over 100 years of tradition).

    In tomorrow’s news, Familia will start and therefore not blow another stellar performance from deGrom.

  • Gianni Privacio

    Wondering, anyone know if Cespedes got hurt emulating tablesetter at the top of the lineup?

  • Gianni Privacio

    I like the Mesoraco trade. However wondering why he comes over and suddenly they need to have Nido at the major league level to watch him so he can learn how the new guy preps for games. Guess before they traded for a catcher from a last place team they had no one good at preparing for games?

  • Gianni Privacio

    Also curious why Mickey, famous for innovation in inventing the Andrew Miller lengthy relief role, is not doing same with Lugo and Gsellman, who as starters obviously can go longer than one inning. Stats on blown holds and saves from this practice, anyone?

  • Gianni Privacio

    Did I forget anything? 24-21 is a disgrace with the talent they have. Here’s hoping they get healthy and hot to turn it around.

  • Daniel Hall

    “Hey, the Mets are going to sign Bautista!” – oh, no, dear gods, HELP!

    Whoops. Too late. There is this year’s mid-May Rick Ankiel signing. And it will be as pleasant as every year.

    Normally I’d say that I can’t wait to see Reyes and Robles and Ramos and Bruce and Gonzalez and whichever disappointing catchers are on the roster as of now all summarily and wholly thrown to the sharks, but … eh. Like that’s ever gonna happen.

    The second-best development would be Sandy being kicked to the curb for picking through other teams’ leftover breakfast to fill out a porous roster *again*, but it seems like his budget signings, while not allowing the Mets to make any gains in the standings, at least don’t cut into ownership’s earnings, so he will probably continue to fudge this team all the way to hell until the day he dies. And then some.