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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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Just Enough of Steven Matz

We need not mourn the departure of Long Island’s Own Steven Matz, traded to Toronto for younger pitchers Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Diaz and Josh Winckowski on Wednesday night. Nor need we celebrate his deletion from Met ranks. Sending Steven packing was just something that needed to be done.

Still, Matz, soon to turn 30, was no ordinary lefty coming off an 0-5, 9.68 ERA shortened season. He was one of us, from around here, having grown up with an affinity for the team we love before he ever pitched in its uniform. Steven couldn’t have started stronger, just as he couldn’t have ended worse. In between, he settled in as a familiar if ultimately frustrating figure. We wanted him to pick up where he left off on June 28, 2015, the first time we made his acquaintance. After seven-and-two-thirds innings we were standing in tribute to his maiden major league voyage and showering him with grateful applause. We’d done that multiple times that fun Sunday as he was not only defeating the Reds from the mound, but beating them silly with his bat.

When you get to the Blue Jays, Steven, maybe don’t set your bar so high.

LIOSM couldn’t follow up his first appearance with many remotely as scintillating, but I found his Met presence over time comforting. He was one of the last remaining 2015 National League champions. He was, in case you hadn’t heard, a local product. He was never unpleasant to listen to after games, lose or win. He supported causes it wouldn’t occur to you to oppose. There’s something to be said for your team having a foundation of players who are always there, who you don’t have to get used to, who you have absolutely nothing against when he’s not contributing to another defeat.

I liked Steven Matz a lot, albeit not enough to want him here forever. Not after 2020. Maybe not after six seasons that ceased amounting to much. Peering ahead to 2021 when I began mentally constructing April rotations — deGrom, Stroman, Carrasco, Peterson, maybe this Lucchesi fellow from San Diego — I realized I was already forgetting Matz before he was gone. That’s not a good sign for continued longevity.

All told, we probably got just the right amount of the lefty. Six years is plenty. Throwing key innings en route to a pennant was enormous. Occasional bursts of brilliance reminding you that maybe he will live up to the potential we projected for him presented an adequate case for preserving his parking space. Steven was a made Met for a while, intrinsic to the starting five we idealized in the middle of the 2010s. We’re the Mets. We grow pitchers. We grew or at least nurtured, in order of their debuts, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. By the time we gathered them together on one active roster for consecutive outings, the dream dissipated before our eyes.

Harvey, first up in 2012, was altogether done as a Met by 2018. Wheeler couldn’t help himself from taking the money and running to Philadelphia after 2019. Syndergaard’s elbow isn’t yet out of the shop from 2020 Tommy John surgery. Matz? Seemed dependable more than he could actually be depended upon, but nobody ever said the theoretical Five Aces were created equal.

Jacob deGrom’s still pretty good, however.

My one fear as extremely sympathetic Steven Matz scuffled was I would come to turn on him as I did on his inconsistent southpaw predecessor in Met clothing, Jon Niese. They are the only two fully homegrown lefthanders to start more than a hundred games for the Mets over the past four decades. For a while there, Niese was foundational, too. To be fair, I didn’t necessarily diminish my simpatico for Jon, because I was never particularly attached to him to begin with. Also to be fair, Niese was never really framed in golden terms — anybody really salivate at the notion of Niese, Pelfrey and Gee anchoring our future? — so you couldn’t honestly grow overly indignant when he proved to be mostly middling. He showed up one day, seemed kind of OK some days, got paid to get better and, well, didn’t.

It’s hard to remember that Jon Niese was a 2015 Met, just like most of the Aces. He started 29 games that championship season — as many as Harvey, one fewer than deGrom and nearly two-dozen more than Matz. I found it surprising that Niese and Bartolo Colon (a staff-leading 31 starts) were shunted aside to long relief that September to assure that the Mets’ postseason rotation would be all about the kids. By then, despite yeoman service dating to the last days of Shea, I was done with Niese. He was Toby Flenderson to my Michael Scott and I just wanted him to stop being the way that he was.

When I wished to express my dismay with lefty Matz, I would compare him, either in print or in my head, to lefty Niese. Now you don’t want to me referring to you as STEVEATHON, do you? Niese started 179 games as a Met and compiled an ERA a tick below 4. Matz gave us 107 starts and an ERA of 4.35. So maybe Matz actually wasn’t as good as Niese, yet my fear never came to fruition. I never turned on Matz. Yet I haven’t wrapped a black armband around any of the sleeves on my 2015 commemorative t-shirts.

Matz’s final appearance as a Met came in relief on the last day of last season. He pitched three innings, gave up three earned runs and lowered his earned run average as a result. Think about that: you give up a run every inning and it technically qualifies as one of your better days.

Those are the days that need to end, my friend. Or be taken to Toronto the minute border restrictions are lifted. Thank you for the first day, Steven, and scattered nights along the way. When you come by again, we’ll stand and applaud from wherever we are.

9 comments to Just Enough of Steven Matz

  • So sad that Steven won’t get to hit in the American League. (Assuming that the NL reverts to not using the DH this year)

  • open the gates

    Yep – it was time for him to go. We’ll always have the Grandpa Matz game.

    Gotta wonder if the Lucchesi kid is related to the manager who was socked by Lenny Randle. Talk about full circle…

  • Daniel Hall

    I’m devastated……

  • eric1973

    Always liked Matz, and wish him well, be it in Toronto, Buffalo, or whatever sandlot Cuomo provides for them.

    From the CF camera, he reminded me of Jon Matlack, one of my faves, the way he stood on the mound, with his long legs and his number 32.

    Literally unbeatable in 2015, and literally totally beatable in 2020.

    Regarding the new GM, that the guy who catches all those foul balls?

  • Daniel Hall

    Murph has retired:

    Baseball is a harsh mother again this week……..

  • Ray

    I shall be watching for him (through a crack in the wall in the parking garage behind Sahlen Field) next summer, and if he does well, I’ll order another jar so we won’t be wiping the Matz clean.

  • Curt Emanuel

    I want to stick up for Jon Niese. I liked him. Yes, he was never more than a mid-rotation guy but he showed up every five days and pitched. Never great, rarely terrible, gave innings, usually 6, and kept us in games, even during the dark 2010-2014 years. Best wishes to SM – I hope his age 30 season is better than most of his years with us were.

  • eric1973

    As I have said before in this space, Steve Cohen may be a crook, but he is OUR crook.

    And when all is said and done, what he has done, is doing, and will do, makes the Wilpons’ transgressions look like shoplifting a candy bar.

  • open the gates

    Oh, you talking about Mr. Robinhood? That’s just our man Stevie doing his hedge fund thang.

    Look, it’s like if JP Morgan had bought the Dodgers a hundred years ago. You’d know three things: a) Your owner is a robber baron. b) Your great-grandchildren (that’s us) are still Brooklyn Dodgers fans. And c) those pesky Yankees never get so much as a whiff at one George Herman Ruth.

    You want b and c, ya gotta deal with a. Best not to know how the sausage is made. Unless the sausage-maker’s name is Bernie Madoff.