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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 Meaning of Noah

You could look at how Noah Syndergaard pitched Tuesday night’s game against the White Sox — brilliantly — and infer that this was Noah’s way of telling the Mets how much being one of them means to him.

You could look at how the Mets played in support of Noah as he pitched brilliantly — maddeningly — and infer that this was the Mets’ way of telling Noah he is now and forever truly one of them.

Noah, as noted, was brilliant. After so many frustrating starts in 2019, some of which yielded him wins despite his feet getting stuck in quicksand, Syndergaard rarely deserved a win more, yet he didn’t get it. That, of course, is the Met way. The Mets have deprived their best pitchers of wins for as long as they’ve had best pitchers. For seven-and-a-third innings, it was hard to imagine it getting any better than what Noah was doing. Every pitch worked. Every inning was mastered from the mound. Everything indicated Syndergaard’s plenty-long last name would be adorned at its end with a W.

Yet it wasn’t, because the Mets never automatically furnish their best pitchers with the support, offensively or defensively, they merit. Not Seaver. Not Gooden. Not Pedro or Johan or the Dark Knight of Gotham when they were steering the rotation through inevitably choppy waters. Not Jacob deGrom, the first 10-game winner to fashion an almost unanimously acclaimed Cy Young season. Noah Syndergaard got the treatment Tuesday night. It wasn’t the first time. Perversely, I hope it won’t be the last.

As the Mets prepared for their third series ever in a ballpark that’s had a different name every time they’ve detoured there, their “probable pitcher” never felt like a certainty to throw the game’s first pitch. Ervin Santana was scratched from his start for Syracuse. On most days, that news would be of surpassing interest only to Ervin Santana and the pitcher who took his place. Most days aren’t the day before the trade deadline. Ervin Santana not pitching for Syracuse was Butterfly Effect stuff. Your Triple-A starter doesn’t flap his wings, Noah Syndergaard might be packing his bags. Or Zack Wheeler. Or Marcus Stroman, who has yet to unpack.

Santana’s instructions to chill did not have a chilling effect on Syndergaard. Noah remained active for the New York Mets on the South Side of Chicago. Other teams could remain interested in him. but only the Mets could use him, which they did to optimal effect. Noah flirted with perfection, then no-hitterness before settling in for routine dominance. Eleven strikeouts. One walk. He overwhelmed the White Sox, who, to be fair, seemed ripe to get overwhelmed. If it weren’t for a Todd Frazier error, Noah would have gone unscored upon. If it weren’t for the Mets failing to hit with myriad runners in scoring position, Noah would have carried a massive lead into the late innings.

Ah, but these were the Mets being the Mets toward their best pitchers, whether it was leaving Tom Seaver high and dry in the early 1970s or Noah Syndergaard with minimal margin for error at the end of the 2010s. It was a game the Mets could have been ahead in by a ton. It was also a game the Mets could have been down by a run. What Noah didn’t hold off, Seth Lugo did. Mostly, for a very long while, it was a game that a good team would have taken hold of, except this game between the Mets and White Sox didn’t contain a good team.

The Mets, despite playing some of their best ball of the season, are still not that well-formed. The starting pitching that they are continually rumored to be intent on dismantling has been about as sublime as it can possibly be of late. The hitting has veered from opportunistic to dormant. Catching the ball is always catch as catch can. Mickey Callaway is still ostensibly running the show. On Sunday, in answering a question about the personnel upheaval potentially at hand, Callaway tried to make a point about the cohesiveness of the unit. “We wanna win together,” he said. “We wanna lose together.”

Second aspiration accomplished plenty since April of 2018, Mick. Yet finally the Mets aren’t losing together as a rule. Five in a row now, six of their last seven, 11-4 since July 13. Most of the success has come at the expense of sub-.500 outfits like themselves, as if relegation was inaugurated while nobody was looking. All we know about the Mets at the moment is after a first half when they kept blowing games to good teams is they’ve figured out how to hang on against less good teams.

Versus the White Sox, they hung in despite the machinations of the man imported specifically to make holding one-run leads a formality. Edwin Diaz came on with a 2-1 advantage in the ninth and left with a 2-2 tie. Diaz’s name has been mentioned in trade rumors, too. For all of his Mariner credentials and highly considered talents, I find myself wishing he’ll be mentioned in trade realities by four o’clock today. Trade him for a bag of balls. Very nice balls in a plush velvet bag, but move him along if you can. I won’t flinch. Some people aren’t made for certain situations. I’m sensing Diaz and the Mets are not a match made in Flushing. He has rarely been shutdown-caliber this season, which is not just a matter of style points. The more a closer has to struggle, the more the butterfly flaps its wings. Edwin throws this many more pitches, even in victory, it means he can’t do this or that the next time. And the next time inevitably includes a lot of this or that he’s not getting done.

Diaz has 23 saves anyway. Leave him be and he’ll probably collect more than 30. That sounds impressive. On some level, I’m sure it is. On some other level, I get the feeling it means some combination of other Mets relievers would have gotten most of, as many as, or more than that amount of saves. If another team wants to relieve us of our alleged ace reliever for a package properly compensatory to his reputation (he was The Man in Seattle, after all), go for it. I won’t hold it fiercely against this administration if Diaz finds himself reborn in another uniform or that if only we’d been patient we would have benefited from a renaissance tantamount to Tug McGraw shaking off his horrendous blahs in 1973. Edwin’s been a Met for two-thirds of a season in a season that wasn’t going anywhere on his right arm.

it’s not like Noah. Noah in another uniform, despite the frustrations he’s engendered periodically, would forever bother me. He’s a Met. He’s a New York Met. He’s embraced it. He’s crafted an image for himself and mostly seemed to understand the absurdity of it. To me, that’s always been the difference between the Dark Knight and Thor. Matt Harvey took the whole Matt Harvey thing far too much to heart, and when his body couldn’t keep up, his head couldn’t handle it. Noah Syndergaard is in on the jokey aspects of Thor. He’s committed to the bit, but he knows it’s a bit. It only looks like a distraction when, for one reason or another, the pitching isn’t functioning as he and we would like.

Noah as an Astro or Padre or whatever would look wrong. Dykstra as a Phillie wrong. Reed as a Twin wrong. Cleon Jones of the White Sox when the White Sox played in a great ballpark wrong. Whether it proved to be a disaster of a trade or the epitome of foresight in letting go a guy a year too soon rather than a year too late, the optics of a displaced Thor would forever sear the heart. He’d always be a Met even if he wasn’t a Met, and that’s the worst vision you can have filling your screen, in October or otherwise.

Noah of the Mets didn’t get a win on Tuesday night, but the Mets eventually did. In the eleventh inning, after a tenth when Robert Gsellman did what Edwin Diaz couldn’t in the ninth, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto did what no Mets could do all night. McNeil lofted a fly ball that just kept carrying until it was a two-run homer, scoring Amed Rosario (4-for-5) and himself to put the Mets out in front, 4-2. Conforto followed with a blast that was barely contained by whatever the White Sox presently refer to their building as. Gsellman protected the 5-2 advantage, and the Mets ultimately enjoyed what amounted to another productive night at the tomato can factory, taking the measure of one more team apparently worse than them. Bet you had no idea there were so many of them. I was just grateful there was no chance Diaz could re-enter the game and attempt another save.

The alchemy that pieces together a team that wins together far more often than it loses together has thus far eluded the Mets, recent string of triumphs over baseball’s tomato can division notwithstanding. If you can show me how converting Syndergaard’s abilities into other players that would lift the Mets from their perpetual state of hoping everything breaks right and maybe we can be in sixth place for the second Wild Card a mere five games out, then I could convince myself to look past Noah in strange colors. If you could convince me this isn’t only about budgeting the pitching staff, that this is really about competing, contending and prevailing, then, go ahead, convince me. I’m not convinced trading a pitcher as good as Noah Syndergaard can do that.

No wonder this time of year is such a Met drag. Getting Stroman should have been exciting. Mostly it was mysterious. Getting rid of Jason Vargas and his auxiliary director of media relations portfolio was simply a salary shed, what teams out of it do in late July. Vargas projects as useful for the Phillies, who are closer to real as an immediate contender than we are. Wheeler? We’re still looking to trade a starting pitcher who can help a team win games down the stretch? Why is our stretch perennially of such little significance that we can’t ride a Zack Wheeler for two more months and think about keeping him another year or more? Maybe a dreamish rotation of deGrom, Syndergaard, Wheeler, Matz and Stroman won’t cure all our ills. It definitely won’t help various Mets smother baseballs and throw them accurately every time out, but it’s something to conceivably look forward to.

Looking forward to the Mets other than out of habit. Remember how that felt?

19 comments to The Meaning of Noah

  • LeClerc

    Stroman in, Vargas out = Good.

    Vargas was gone as soon as he threatened Healey – and then evaded both apology and/or explanation.

    Keep Noah and Zack.

    Stretch run suggestions: Surgical removal of Dom Smith’s head-band. Pencil in Cano to bat in the 8 hole.

  • mikeL

    ** sorry for posting this twice, today’s post came in early but i *had* to vent ;0]

    yes, keep noah and zack. especially noah. that would be a serious rotation. address glaring defensive weakness during off-season. **

    ok so syndergaatd dominates like his mets tenure is on the line. lugo pulls an amazing bases loaded battle to record game-saving DP (reminded me of a pat mahomes appearance during the nail-biting final weeks in’ 99).,,and then put diaz in??
    i really thought lugo earned the right to save the game he saved.
    i was yelling at my tv and at diaz last night. we’ve all seen some absolutely horrendous 9th innings but holy crap: that was the worst.
    yes 9th string: there’s gotta be another struggling AA catcher out there a team could give up for this one-man dumpster fire.
    throw in ramos and frazier if you must. i’ve come to find them both viscerably unbearable, even when they *do* get barrel on ball.
    if the mets put any kind of run together – and heaven forbid reach the wild card – could diaz *possibly* be a part of if


    i really thought mickey should have come out with trainer after that near decapitation and rescued his closer ftom further humiliation. sure looked like *something* wasn’t right…injury would have been plausible.

    gsellman looked damn good. he and lugo could close. anything but diaz, seriously.

    let’s go mets

    by mikeL on Jul 31, 2019 at 10:36 am

  • eric1973

    I am having a vision that our dear beloved Edwin from 1973 will be paying a visit tonite to our currently troubled Edwin, and tell him that beginning on August 1st, he too will turn around his season as well, and lead his team on to greater glory.

    Ya Gotta Believe!

  • Eric Bloom

    They absolutely have to put Lugo in the closer role…and let him pitch multiple innings if need be. There is no way you can put Diaz into a tight game at this pt and still expect to make a run. Honestly a trip to the IL or even to Syracuse might be in order.

  • ljcmets

    The ultimate in out—of-uniform cognitive dissonance is Seaver as a Red (or a White Sock, as long as we’re still on the South Side, but at least I can associate that with his 300th win in New York, albeit it in the wrong stadium). I still involuntarily flinch whenever I see it, and it’s been over 40 years.

    Noah pitched a gem last night, and he should not be traded (see above paragraph for background). But man, we need a closer. I like the idea of Lugo and Gsellman as a double-headed beast, a la McDowell/Orosco. Maybe both at once, as happened one night in 1986! Diaz could still pull it together, but he’s not Tug. Tug was a known quantity in 1973 and although his first half of the season was horrendous, you could Believe that he would come around eventually. If the team wants to make a run, they need to beg, borrow or steal a closer, or develop one in the minor leagues for 2020. At the very least, if Diaz does figure it out, you have options. ( Greg, I can’t remember, but did the Mets ever seriously consider turning Harvey into a closer a la Smoltz? I know they sent him to the bullpen but I can’t recall their using him in that way and then again, Harvey could have refused the idea.)

    And I know Gary and Ron said it had been done before (Cole Hamels) but if Noah had pitched a no-hitter and then a trade was announced, that would have been the Most Mets Thing Ever.

  • mikeL

    franchise disaster partially averted thus far

    yes, the o-o-u dissonance would have been robust ffor syndergaard.

    i remember my first mets game after the seaver trade. 13 years old with my grandfather, and getting my first real taste of life as a mets fan (which began with the stretch run of 1973); the stadium was dead and we had pat zachry snd george foster and i wanted none of it.
    they say childhood trauma is replayed over and over through one’s adult life.
    perhaps all us traumatized mets lifer’s are getting a little break today!

    edwin for anything or nothing in return…DO IT BRODIE!!

    edit : i’ve GOT it.

    put him on a cab and pay driver to take diaz to yankee stadium with the note FREE taped to his back.

  • Henry J Lenz

    I watched 5 Days in Flushing on SNY this morning. Got choked up. Tom Terrific and then Wilmer leaving were dark days. Thor would be another.

  • open the gates

    So Edwin Diaz can officially add his name to my “What did they know that we didn’t know?” list. It’s a list of other teams’ closers who were traded to us, because we needed a closer, except they started to disintegrate as soon as they crossed the Whitestone Bridge. Leaving us to realize that the other team knew that their closer was on the verge of disintegrating, so they quickly palmed them off on a sucker (aka us) before they did so. It’s a much longer list than one would suspect. Anyway, here goes, and pass the antacid:

    Don Aase
    Tim Burke
    Frank Francisco
    Doug Henry
    Braden Looper
    Greg McMichael
    Alejandro Pena
    J.J. Putz
    Francisco Rodriguez
    Mel Rojas
    Donne Wall

    …and this year’s addition, Mr. Diaz. What did they know that Brodie didn’t know? (Maybe I shouldn’t ask that question.)

    Oh, and I almost forgot the most intriguing member of that club. Last year any Met fan with two eyes saw that Jeuris Familia was a ticking time bomb. So we palmed him off on the A’s, where he actually performed decently. So of course we grabbed him back and lavished him with a large contract, only to have the time bomb go off on us after all. So apparently, even we knew something we didn’t know. (Somewhere, Yogi Berra is laughing maniacally…)

  • open the gates

    … and ljcmets, to me the greatest cognitive dissonance re Seaver was seeing him as a Red Sock in the enemy dugout in the ’86 Series, with the possibility that he would be activated to pitch Game 7 for them. That’s as dissonant as it gets.

  • Michael in CT

    Watching Diaz last night was exasperating and painful. It seems he didn’t know where the ball was heading when he threw it, and almost decapitated one of the White Sox guys. The White Sox should have scored more than one run off him – he was wild and unsure of himself. Instead they stupidly swung at pitches out of the strike zone, and somehow he got out of the inning with the score tied. And yet some of his pitches were blazing heat on the corners, untouchable. He’s clearly got skills but has lost his nerve or something. To be a dominant closer you need to be a Zen master like Mariano.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    When it comes right down to it, I’d rather have 2 more months of Wheeler than to see him traded for another Jacob Rhame clone that will spend the next 3 years shuttling between the bullpens in Flushing and Syracuse and working to an ERA north of 7.

    • Matt in Woodside

      Also, the Mets will get a compensatory draft pick if Wheeler declines a qualifying offer. If teams weren’t offering a top prospect for him, there was no good reason to make a trade.

  • mikeL

    now wheeler’s linked to rays.

    watch brodie trade him for d’arnaud and some scuffling ‘prospects’

    actually the mets *have* to go for it now. get draft compensation during the off-season at very least

    5 mins to go!!!

  • LeClerc

    Now Andy Martino can take a Xanax.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    And once again, Cano is hitting cleanup in tonight’s lineup. There is no logical explanation for this. He’s a strikeout or double play waiting to happen.

  • greensleeves

    Diaz looks like Ryne Duren c. 1957 out there sans the coke bottle glasses. Batters are taking their lives into their hands when they step in against him. Regan better straighten him out quick before takes the ball in a future games. Demote him to
    set-up, and live with Lugo.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Interesting nugget mentioned by Gary Cohen early in tonight’s game. In case anyone missed it, last night was the first time the Mets ever hit back to back home runs in an extra inning game.