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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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Even the Losers (Get Lucky Sometimes)

The essential kindness of baseball is that even a 51-111 team — which Greg noted is what the Mets have been since their 11-1 head fake — will give you more than half a hundred days and nights that end with a fist pump, a satisfied nod or at least a sigh of relief. The Mets beat the Diamondbacks Saturday night in Phoenix and it wasn’t even all that close: Michael Conforto hit a line-drive homer into the stands for three runs, Steven Matz looked superb working into the seventh and disaster was averted when creaky Asdrubal Cabrera managed to force his battered parts into motion enough to collar a bases-loaded grounder and flip it to still young and spry Amed Rosario.

Oh, and Robert Gsellman even used the bullpen cart. The rest of the pitchers were amused — the way Noah Syndergaard reacted, you’d think Gsellman alighted from a carriage in Cinderella’s full regalia — but I imagined Tug McGraw out there somewhere, slapping a spectral glove against his thigh in approval.

If you’re in a good mood, stop there and skip down to the three stars for more nice things.

Still here, you masochist? All right then: I couldn’t help but notice, however, that the Mets’ victory hinged on contributions from three players whose development and basic care have been horrifically mismanaged by the club.

Conforto is the best position player the Mets have developed in years, but the Mets wasted his 2016 season by adhering to an idiotic Just So Story from Terry Collins that he couldn’t hit lefties because he was a young player and not a Proven Veteran™. They have forced him to play center field, where he’s adequate at best and has never looked comfortable. They’ve done that mostly to placate Yoenis Cespedes, but have continued doing it even with Cespedes on the DL, leading to outfield alignments in which all three Mets are at their second-best position. This year, we were cheered when Conforto returned early from his grotesque shoulder injury, but it seems somewhere between “highly possible” and [sad shake of the head] that he was rushed, and would have greatly benefited from more recovery time followed by a lengthy rehab to avoid bad habits.

Matz has pitched very well this year despite various aches and pains, a narrative that’s come to fit him like a tailored suit — he’s the Guy Who’s Great When He’s On the Field (Which He Usually Isn’t). But once again, look a little deeper and you’ll find the Mets treating an injury — and a young player’s development — with negligence bordering on cruel indifference. Matz has seemed much sounder physically since surgery to reposition his ulnar nerve, a procedure for which he was shut down last August. At the time, Collins claimed Matz wasn’t injured — but then it came out that Matz was getting through the season with a regimen of game-day injections in that elbow, which often swelled to the size of a grapefruit, and had been either skipping or scrapping his bullpen sessions because of pain. Yes, most pitchers lie about their health and stubbornly try to push through anything short of a torn ligament — I’ve always thought that was all Dan Warthen meant with his comment about John Maine being a habitual liar — but well-run teams know this kind of macho stupidity is the norm and perform their own investigations. You’d think a well-run team might notice an ineffective young lefty’s elbow wouldn’t look out of place with a Sunkist sticker on it and take action, but this is the Mets. They didn’t last year and still don’t this year, despite all the happy talk about new personnel and wiser regimens.

Which brings us to Cabrera. Like the Mets as a whole, he got off to a ferocious start and is now trying to drag himself through the season on his hands and knees. Cabrera can barely move out there or at the plate, and looks all but helpless. He should be on the 10-day disabled list, along with Jay Bruce, with the injury a chance to let Luis Guillorme develop. But because this is the Mets, Cabrera is being thrown to the wolves night after night, in hopes that some sort of medical miracle will ensue. If you watch the Mets, you know that Flushing isn’t exactly Baseball Lourdes — the lame and sick tend to acquire crutches and boils, rather than be relieved of them. But Cabrera remains out there doing whatever he’s capable of doing — and hey, rumor has it Bruce is starting this afternoon.

For one night in the desert it worked. You play 162 games, that will happen sometimes. But it doesn’t happen nearly as often as we’d like, or the players we watch deserve, and the blame lies with the people who own this ramshackle franchise and dictate the shambling, self-destructive way it’s been run and will continue to be run.

* * *

Last night’s Mets game came with an appetizer that nearly topped the meal: our first trip of the year to MCU Park to see the Brooklyn Cyclones. After watching the last bits of the Mermaid Parade, having our spines realigned on the Cyclone and taking a more leisurely spin around the Wonder Wheel, we plunked ourselves down in our seats and watched the Cyclones dismantle the Staten Island Yankees, 7-0. Briam Campusano pitched six no-hit innings for Brooklyn (a night after Staten Island’s Matt Sauer did the same to them), Fort Greene’s Manny Rodriguez made his home-borough debut for the good guys, Kendall Coleman crashed a grand slam through the teeth of Coney Island’s punishing on-shore breeze and Jose Brizuela had two triples, a double and three runs scored. (Unfortunately absent: Cyclones manager Edgardo Alfonzo, but we’ll give him a pass: he was in the Dominican Republic for his induction into the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame.)

Coleman, by the way, is the first player to have played for both Staten Island and Brooklyn — he came over in the apparent dog-and-cat minor-league deal that sent L.J. Mazzilli to the Yankees. After last night, I’m gonna put that trade in our column.

Oh, and a few seconds after I admitted I was cold, Emily caught a t-shirt and handed it over. If you had any doubt, I’m the ballast in our family enterprise.

After the game, the Cyclones blitzed us with a no-foreplay 10 minutes or so of pretty solid fireworks, ending with an orgy of rockets while the Parachute Jump was decked out like an American flag and the park’s light towers’ neon circles became red, white and blue pinwheels. It was ridiculously on the nose and it worked. This also reminded me of a Cyclones’ Fireworks Night where the game went into extra innings. So to not run afoul of a Coney Island curfew, the decision was made to simply combine the fireworks show with the remainder of the game. Yes, bombs were bursting in air right behind the batter’s eye. That was perhaps the ultimate proof of something we’ve said a lot over the years, and that’s become a Bull Durhamesque koan in our family: Anything can happen in the New York-Penn League.

Anyway, we’ve been having a blast going to see the Cyclones for 17 years now, somehow, and last night has to rank as one of the best outings. Whatever your record is and however many body parts you have ailing, happy summer!

7 comments to Even the Losers (Get Lucky Sometimes)

  • eric1973

    Let’s face it, it’s a young man’s game. Sandy is 70, and appears (?) to have a contract which runs out after next year.

    However, if he is pushed out sooner, the new GM could hire his own manager, making Mickey ‘one and done.’

    I don’t really think most of this is Mickey’s fault —-  I just don’t like the cut of his jib, so I would not be sorry to see him go. We’ll just hire another puppet to do the new GM’s bidding. 

    In Mickey, Sandy hired a clone of himself, as they both get extremely high marks on the BS meter, as illustrated by Sandy’s ‘quote’ in yesterday’s piece.

  • Jacobs27

    Another season-defining lyric from that song: “Shoulda known right then it was too good last.”

    Jason, you’re right to insist on the deep dysfunction and negligence that continues to characterize the Mets’ handling of injuries. Will it ever change? Will they ever stop blithely letting/making players play through injury, wincing, hobbling, swelling up and under-performing until they need surgery or worse? Alderson’s so worried about “optics”, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

    Let’s go Cyclones! Sounds like an interesting group this year.

  • Orange and blue through and through

    I doubt very highly you need to be made aware of a Mets blog named “Good Fundies.” However, if it has escaped you, you MUST read it. See what one blogger called “the Wilpon-fuckery of the Mets.” Startling, disturbing and yet, you have no doubt that every word is true. Kudos to the bloggers for pointing out the complicity of that senile old scum-bag ex-commissioner Bud (the worst commissioner in professional sports) Selig, and his chosen accomplice in the utter destruction of baseball, Rob (pace of play) Manfried. Everyone connected to the demise of this franchise needs to be held accountable. As long as the worst owner in baseball and his relentlessly incompetant son own the Mets, we as fans can expect, to paraphrase Bette Davis, to be in for a bumpy ride.

  • Dave

    Since Jason and Greg are both turning it up a notch with music references, I’m going to nominate both a song and album title to sum up the 2018 Mets so far. Song is “Oh Shit” by the Buzzcocks, and album title is “Too Much Too Soon” by the New York Dolls. I think both fit pretty well.

  • Avi Kessler

    The fear is here. I see it everyday. Where is the faith gentlemen? We will not finish 51-111. The same personnel that won 11 out of 12 will pull themselves up by their bootstraps and do better. Why? Because they are the “Amazins” and that’s what they do. May I remind you all that we have been to the world series every decade of our existence save the 90’s. That’s not bad for a club with a lifetime .479 W-L percentage. Remember who you are, and where you came from. LGM…

  • Daniel Hall

    Hey, hey – just when you think the Mets will not ever have a winning streak again, they snatch consecutive games from the Snakes. It had only almost been a month, but TWO wins in TWO days – whoah, make it stop, I’m dizzy already!

  • Greensleeves

    Like a lot of lifers, I tuned in just as the comeback began last night.
    Would have paid cash to hear Keith in the booth for Dumb Smith’s
    ridiculous between the legs ‘transfer’… heard the collective scream
    echoing all the way up the Hudson Valley. Seems this kid lost both weight and brain cells in the offseason. Please deliver us from hot dogs unless they’re served by your section friendly vendor with mustard and sauerkraut. I hope Alonso’s paying rapt attention.