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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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A Pair of Losses

On Friday, in rapid succession, the Mets lost an interesting player and an interesting ballgame.

The player, of course, was Asdrubal Cabrera, now a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. More on him in a bit.

The ballgame, hmm. It wasn’t exactly a showcase for baseball, as at times neither team looked like it had any idea what it was doing out there. But it was kind of fun nonetheless, with Mets fans offered plenty of chances to size up new players and Pirates fans given plenty of chances to figure out if their team is great, terrible or somewhere in between.

Honestly, this was a game the Mets should have been out of early. Jason Vargas‘s line looks OK but was anything but: he was horrible, as he’s frankly been all year. He gave up a home run to David Freese in the second to bring the Pirates within a run, then loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth and hung a curve to Jordy Mercer. It was a meatball, all but arriving with a polite note to be turned into a souvenir, but Mercer missed it, lining out to Michael Conforto in left. Vargas — who at least is self-aware — knew it, too; SNY cameras caught him rolling his eyes as he walked off the mound, simultaneously appalled at what he’d done and amused that the baseball gods had given him a reprieve.

The stay of execution was temporary. Mickey Callaway let Vargas lead off the fifth with 73 pitches thrown, few of them sharp. In the bottom of the fifth, Vargas got Ivan Nova, but lost Jordan Luplow on an eight-pitch walk and departed for Seth Lugo, who arrived bearing a curveball he couldn’t command, a flat slider and probably a feeling of foreboding. Lugo didn’t get the call on close pitches to Elias Diaz with two outs, started Freese out 0-2, but then couldn’t get him to fish. Lugo went to the fastball, left it in the middle of the plate, and the Pirates led 4-3.

The Mets responded by loading the bases with nobody out, prompting me to sardonically ask Emily how many runs she thought they’d get: zero or one? The answer was one, and it was a near-thing, as Conforto scampered home on a horrific throw from Luplow that was so bad it almost turned into a Pachinko-style out at the plate. Then it was Reliever Roulette, which the Mets lost, though they did at least start using the young hurlers they’d called up and then decided to let gather dust and cobwebs in the bullpen. Last I checked, that wasn’t the optimal way to keep pitchers sharp, but what do I know.

Even the failure was interesting, though: in the fatal bottom of the ninth, Tim Peterson somehow managed to allow four baserunners on six pitches, which you have to admit is efficiency of a sort. One of those baserunners was an intentional walk, which would have made that combination of pitches and outcomes impossible not so long ago; in the era of the abracadabra walk it was still fairly unlikely. The last pitch, inevitably, was to Freese, who drove it over the head of an already-clubhouse-bound Jose Bautista, and that was that.

The Mets played a man short because Cabrera was dispatched to Philadelphia late in the afternoon in exchange for a huge, raw Double-A starter named Franklyn Kilome. Immediate reactions to the deal were far kinder than the response to the Jeurys Familia trade, in which the general consensus was that the Mets had traded a faded but still useful closer for roster fillers, slot money and (cough cough) cash back in the Wilpons’ pockets. Kilome has a beastly fastball he sometimes leaves up to get whacked, a plus curveball and control problems, which is a long-winded way of saying he’s a young pitcher in Double-A. Still, not a bad return on two months of a free agent to be.

As for that free agent to be, Asdrubal Cabrera will now play alongside Odubel Herrera, a combination that’s always entertained me and should have Phillies’ A/V guys preparing their parodies of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” We are left to miss him except for our nine games remaining with Philadelphia, ample time for Cabrera to beat our heads in.

Which I have no doubt he’ll do. Cabrera had superb baseball instincts and a frankly ridiculous amount of grit, playing through far more injuries and nagging hurts than we ever knew about and still handling both second and third capably. He kicked up a fuss about being moved off short, it’s true, but if any of us had the misfortune to be Mets employees I have a feeling we’d all be kicking up far more fusses than he did.

If a Mets game was coming down to a key at-bat, Cabrera was the guy I hoped to see at the plate. When he faltered or failed in those situations, he turned into the position-player equivalent of Al Leiter: any rancor you wanted to direct at him quickly disappeared because Cabrera was already angrier with himself than you could possibly be. Sometimes this made me laugh; sometimes this made me laugh while being mildly worried about him. Seriously, cartoon characters with steam whistling out of their ears and noses were slightly less over the top about their rage than Cabrera with a good boil on.

But enough about failures. I wanted Cabrera at the plate because there was a good chance he’d succeed — as he did in crafting one of the Mets’ indelible Citi Field moments, the September walk-off homer against his future employers that keyed the team’s unlikely march to a 2016 play-in game.

Greg had the recap of that night, which you can read here. I wound up watching it over beers (so many beers) at Foley’s, with an old friend in town and a guy at the next table who was making his first trip to Citi Field the next night and had a million questions about the park, the fans, the atmosphere, and everything else.

The Mets blew a 4-3 lead in the eighth, with Addison Reed surrendering a three-run homer to Maikel Franco, but tied it in the ninth on a two-run shot by Jose Reyes. They then gave up two more runs in the 11th, but kept grinding along, putting two men on against Edubray Ramos. With one out, Cabrera connected. He knew it was gone before anyone else on the planet did, flinging his bat away and thrusting both arms skyward. Cut to Foley’s, and one overserved blogger flinging his own arms skyward in happy disbelief. Future Citi Field attendees were hugged, impromptu dances were exhibited, exclamations of amazement were made, beer may possibly have been spilled, and who knows what else.

Cabrera’s reaction and Gary Cohen’s double OUTTA HERE! will be replayed forever in Met Land, and justifiably so, but my favorite part of that highlight comes a moment later. It’s the sight of all the other Mets scurrying from the dugout to home plate, hurrying to get there and form the welcoming committee — but Cabrera, at least for the moment, is going the other way, his pace a moderate trot. A long night’s labors are behind him and a celebration awaits. But these next few seconds are Cabrera’s alone, and he’s going to use them to quietly savor a job well done.

16 comments to A Pair of Losses

  • LeClerc

    Kevin Plawecki coming to bat with the bases loaded and none out. Did Plawecki A: Hit into a double play? or B: Strike Out? Answer: B

    David Freese coming to bat with the bases loaded and none out. Result: He stroked a walk-off hit to win the game.

    • Rank in order of usefulness: Plawecki, Reyes and Tits on a Bull.

      • Daniel Hall

        Easy. Bull, Plawecki, Reyes in decreasing order of usefulness. The bull’s still got some good beef to it, and half of the avid train wreck at least has a catcher’s mask to hit somebody over the head with in case of a brawl.

  • Orange and blue through and through

    Farewell and good luck to a gritty if not great Met, Asdrubal Cabrera. If only the ownership could display such class and character.

  • eric1973

    Jason, you left out a mosquito in an iron lung.

  • JerseyJack

    Can the Mets score more than a few runs for Jake , tonite ? With the lineup they have, probably not…. I’d like to know what the Mets runs/game avg is w/ deGrom on the mound vs everyone else . Greg ??

    • Run Support per Innings (runs scored/27 outs while the pitcher is in the game as the pitcher), via Baseball-Reference:

      Syndergaard 4.8
      Wheeler 3.7
      Matz 3.6
      deGrom 3.0
      Vargas 2.7

  • Daniel Hall

    “Seth Lugo, who arrived bearing a curveball he couldn’t command, a flat slider and probably a feeling of foreboding.” – Not only him!

    Oh man, when the Mets rocked Nova for three in the first, I was for a sliver of a second confident that they could survive not only the other team’s but also their own pitcher, and they had Nova in the ropes a couple of times. However, ultimately, everything came up blech again. But that is what happens to terrible teams that score one error-riddled run from three on and none out, which is the right situation that always makes me hope to at least see an unassisted triple play unspool in real time.

    And the dang Mets aren’t even going to give me THAT!

    The replay I can’t see often enough other than a certain early-August Drew Storen meltdown is the clip of Bartolo Colon robbing James Shields of his will to live at Petco. (…and even the Bartolo clip is sad now given that it occurred in one of the five-and-a-half games the last four years the Mets were able to pry David Wright off the stretcher for and he’s moving into the on-deck circle…)

  • Dave

    How long will it be before anyone passes AsCab up for the club lead in homers or RBI’s? Considering there are guys in the middle of the lineup who have barely surpassed Adrian Gonzalez…

    • Since64

      I have an odd way of summarizing Offense. I care about only 2 stats, Runs scored, and RBI’s. For all I care you can bat .000 and strikeout all the time, just keep scoring runs and batting them in.
      Now to the matter at hand. Cabrera scored 48 runs and added another 58 RBI’s; 106 in total.
      The two people closest to him are Conforto and Nimmo with 82 and 83 respectively.
      The Mets to date (including last nights shutout) have scored 406 runs this season.
      Now what percentage of your offense just walked down the street to Philadelphia?
      You can have the best pitcher in the world, if you don’t score runs we lose. Oh is that what happened last night….

  • Left Coast Jerry

    With regards to Asdrubal Cabrera and Odubel Herrera as teammates, there had been chatter that Mike Moustakas would be traded to Atlanta where he would have teamed with Nick Markakis. Alas, Moose ended up being moved to Milwaukee ending any chance of tongue twisting by the Braves announcers.

  • eric1973

    Somebody mentioned someone named David Wright….

    Daddy, please tell me about his time as a player for the Mets.

    Who would have ever thought the Cespedes contract would make Wright’s contract look golden in comparison.

  • JoeyBaguhDonuts

    Always liked Cabrera. Gritty, like he wants to win. That rubbed off in 2016.

    Today? I wish I wrote this but it’s Deadspin.

    “In many ways and for many reasons and for many years, the people that own the Mets obviously can’t be trusted to run a Major League Baseball team—not just trusted by the legions of defiant masochists who have stuck by the team but, more saliently, by the other image-conscious rich guys that own teams, and who know that the health of the league depends in no small part on the National League franchise in the nation’s largest media market not being run like a skunk-infested Quiznos franchise.”

    Hey now.

  • Richard Porricelli

    its an endless cycle of renewal for all teams. Some teams are better at it and can , more or less, contended year to year..I dont like this collapse/rebuild aspect of it. How do you avoid that? Total collapse suggests a poor foundation, a rotten infrastructure..As a fan i’m a bit lost here..Should I pay attention to the field or the front office?

    • Since64

      The front office are the architects of the team you get. Some teams spend lots of money to get players who can bring victory. When Stanton came free who went to get him? Some teams don’t spend money and bring in ex-stars on their last legs, hoping to squeeze out the last bit of stardom left in a career that has already gone by. (i.e. Bautista, A-Gon). Sometimes injuries destroy even the best made plans, but that is something all teams are exposed to.
      Contract extensions can be given to those you chose to make the core of your team. Let the players know that they are the chosen ones. Thor Matz, deGrom, Wheeler are core pitchers. Lugo, Gsellman, Swarzak relievers. Conforto, Nimmo, Rosario, Flores position players. Maybe Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce if someone can find them. You get the idea, build a core, trade for the rest, and pray.
      The Wilpons are still trying to get over Madoff. We as fans are in big trouble because we have no say in how or why they run their team the way they do. The league does not police the owners and hold them to a standard of excellence in the way they run their club.

  • eric1973

    I am going to defend the Wilpons and Sandy here, while at the same time slapping our own wrists. They signed our Manny Machado already, and it was Yoenis Cespedes. How we cheered his signing, knowing it might turn out this way.

    The braver move would have been to say to Ces, thanks, and then move on, but who among us would have accepted that, in order to wait to sign a Cain or Yelich.

    Hopefully, there is some kind of insurance policy in there somewhere, and hopefully in Bruce’s contract as well.

    One thing for certain is, if that is the case, we can now field the DL Insurance All Star team.