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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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Hold It Like an Egg

“Don’t hold the ball so hard, OK? It’s an egg. Hold it like an egg.”

So says Crash Davis to Ebby Calvin LaLoosh. It’s good advice for us all.

The Mets suddenly look … OKish? They’ve remembered how to hit, the defense has been reasonably sound, and the bullpen offers depth, and not just because of the additional roster spots. (Though those help too.) On Tuesday night Brandon Nimmo, J.D. Davis and Amed Rosario all went deep, with Rosario’s drive particularly impressive — a no-doubter into the second deck in left field, with accompanying bat flip — and desperately needed to soothe the young shortstop’s psyche. Dom Smith continues to look locked in at the plate, and Robinson Cano is playing with a fluidity and ease we’ve never seen from him, even in his brief September renaissance. On the pitching side, Justin Wilson, Jared Hughes and Dellin Betances contributed solid relief, and Edwin Diaz finished his lone inning looking sharp after starting it looking less than that. Is that too generous? When you win you can afford to be generous.

What the Mets can’t afford is any more blows to their already rickety starting pitching, and that’s how Tuesday began, with news that David Peterson was hitting the IL with shoulder fatigue. His replacement was Corey Oswalt, who looked better than he had in previous Mets tours of duty but still got cuffed around the third time through the Marlins’ order. Say what you want about Luis Rojas, but he’s not sentimental: He pulled Oswalt two outs short of qualifying for a win, handing the ball over to Wilson.

“Shoulder fatigue” is one of those vague baseball maladies that can mean everything from “needs to skip a start” to “career in jeopardy,” so let’s wait for more information about Peterson before freaking out or conclusively not doing the same. On Wednesday Jacob deGrom will pitch, and then after that, well, no one will say. Thursday’s starter will probably be Steven Matz, since even his current gopherball-prone, deeply-frustrated/ing incarnation is likely better than Starting Pitching Plan D or E or whatever the Mets are up to by now.

The thin starting pitching should be a hard pump to the brakes for any optimism you can muster about the Mets — the old expression “momentum is as good as the next day’s starting pitching” isn’t just about staffs full of aces, after all. But, I dunno, squint a little and you can at least imagine the extra bullpen depth taking up some of the innings slack, the Mets toying with openers, and the offense overcoming some of their teammates’ messes. Hope’s free, and in this topsy-turvy year you can get by with a modicum of it: grab one of your league’s extra playoff slots and then play small sample size/short series roulette for as long as the scoreboard indicates you can keep going.

Maybe that’s not squinting a little but squinting a lot. Maybe deGrom grabs at his neck tomorrow night and Matz gets shellacked on Thursday and on Friday we’re all trying to hang ourselves with our masks. We’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime, hope’s an egg. Don’t hold it so hard.

8 comments to Hold It Like an Egg

  • Seth

    Rojas seems to employ this strategy of replacing good hitters in the lineup with pinch runners late in the game. Last night he replaced Dom with the useless Billy Hamilton. But the bases were loaded so had the 2 in front of Dom scored, it would have been 7-2 Mets and you still have Dom in the lineup if you need his bat later on. I can understand if Dom had been the tying/go ahead run, maybe you want a faster runner. But run #8 in a 5-2 game?

  • Left Coast Jerry

    I had no problem with Hamilton running for Smith. It was the 8th inning with a 3 run lead at the time and Hamilton would be coming in for defense anyway.

    I was also pleased that Corey Oswalt was better than the second coming of Chris Flexen.

    And what of Diaz? One run in, runners on second and third with nobody out and then he strikes out the next three hitters.

    • Seth

      He did it again last night, whereupon the Marlins tied up the game, Billy Hamilton went nowhere, and the Mets lost Dom’s bat for the rest of the game. Bailed out by Conforto’s heroics. What am I missing here?

  • Steve

    The double to lead off the 9th was a real knock, but the next two hits were nothing much. I think we have to give Diaz credit for bearing down here, hard as that may be to do.

    As for the starting pitching, I think the Mets are going to need to be more creative sooner rather than later. Matz will pitch vs the fish the next two times and hopefully do well, but he’s running out of rope in the short season. I’m all for Lugo getting a shot.

  • chuck

    As if I didn’t have enough reasons to hate the Marlins, they have a Goya logo on the pitcher’s mound.

  • eric1973

    Looking a lot better since Ces-pool quit the team, and quit ON the team.

    Winker just hit a homer off Matt Harvey, on KC now. Just one A-hole hitting a homer off another A-hole.

  • Daniel Hall

    Seems like nobody has any starting pitching left; since the Mets seem to avoid the daylight, I have to watch whatever is on the day game platter, and I was stunned to see Greinke pitch eight (I think) shutout innings a few days ago. You don’t see that anymore, and with “that” I mean guys not being hauled out after three and two thirds and looking entirely gassed after 69 pitches. Which I think serves as proof that pitchers DO need Spring Training to be as long as it usually is.

    Or they’re all babies and the game is doomed, what the heck do I know.

    Of course Greinke’s Greinke, and there’s only so many of those going around anymore. Alas, no W for him either, since the Astros didn’t score either. It went 11 until the Rockies failed to plate their stupid free runner.

  • WayneGarrett11

    The pitching paradigm is very different than the wonder years of Seaver and even Gooden. The pandemic accentuates the thinness of pitching quantitatively and qualitatively.

    Over the last 10 years, kids funneled through travel ball as pitchers pitching year round, and are taught to throw as hard as possible on every pitch to move the radar gun. It’s how you get on the radar screen of the scouts, or play college ball. The predictable consequences is very few have the necessary pinpoint control, and their bodies are taxed beyond belief from a young age. TJ surgery is a thing for HS’ers. Insane.

    On the hitting side, line ups are stacked with more power than ever. Think about the line-ups way back when. There might be 1 or 2 power hitters to be scared of; now, everyone is swinging out of their heels at the “right” angles to hit HRs. This approach has trickled down to HS also. Plus no one is intimidated by speed anymore. Everyone can get a pitching machine and face fastballs all day long.

    It’s no wonder the state of pitching is so fragile. When someone like Peterson shows up, the scouts poo-poo his velocity. They miss his movement and mindset, and he is encouraged to work to add more MPHs. Meanwhile, the front office accrues as many arms as possible that throw 95+, and hope one breaks through and their arms don’t break. It’s not a lot of fun to watch, although it creates a lot of noise. It’s basically watching an old time stick ball game… it’ll be even more like that when the robot umps show up… did the pitch hit the rectangle line on the wall?

    I hope the pendulum swings back to pitching. Hit locations precisely, spin it, mix it up. The rare times you see it, it is sublime. Jake is the alpha for that now, plus has velocity. For sure, there are some freaks who can throw hard sustainably, and I bet someone is going to figure out a formula for biomechanics (teams need more R&D) that tells us who can do it. For the rest, pitchers will use the Rapsodo and other tools to figure out new grips to spin it more consistently (like Bauer) in all sorts of different ways to throw off the batters. Who will have to adjust also.