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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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June Gloom

A review of some emotions we were feeling not so long ago: amazement at the tenacity and resourcefulness of the Mets’ “bench mob,” pinch-me gratitude that the team was in first place, and perhaps even a little optimism that the starting rotation’s continued excellence would see it through such ancillary difficulties.

The Mets are still in first place, believe it or not, but the rest of those emotions have drained away, replaced by foreboding, depression and gloom.

The bench mob has produced far fewer miracles as its various Plan B players have been either exposed by too much playing time or reverted to statistical norms (take your pick), with the Mets losing six of their last eight and being shut out in four of those games. On Tuesday night, they got their first hit on an excuse-me swinging bunt by pinch-hitter Jerad Eickhoff (there’s a sign of trouble right there) and didn’t tally another until James McCann doubled in the ninth.

The Mets have also been swamped by yet another wave of injuries. Robert Gsellman tore a lat muscle and may not be heard from until fall, while Jeurys Familia has been shelved with a hip impingement. Joey Lucchesi, who’d seemed to figure things out and enjoyed a run of success, tore his UCL and won’t throw a pitch in anger until late next season at the earliest. Then, on Tuesday night, it was Marcus Stroman at the center of a concerned group on the mound and eventually walking off and heading down that dark tunnel with the trainer, a phrase that’s taken on the air of a tragic Homeric motif, the baseball equivalent of clattering shields and faces in dust. The Mets didn’t seem too concerned about Stroman after the game, and the man himself tweeted that “everything’s gonna be okay,” but the Mets weren’t terribly concerned about Lucchesi at first, either.

And it’s not just the pitchers — Tomas Nido got hit in the hand, necessitating a hasty return for Patrick Mazeika, while the invaluable Jonathan Villar is dealing with a calf strain. Even the good injury news comes with you-must-be-kidding caveats: Michael Conforto returned earlier than expected but wasn’t available Tuesday because Syracuse had to do contact tracing after a Covid outbreak.

On Tuesday the Mets improvised after Stroman’s departure by calling on Yennsy Diaz, Drew Smith, Aaron Loup and Trevor May. Diaz didn’t warm up sufficiently (a frequent malady for young pitchers summoned in emergencies) and loaded the bases on an infield single and a walk, but somehow got out of it, fanning Ender Inciarte, opposing pitcher Charlie Morton and big bad level boss Ronald Acuna Jr. It was a heroic stand, encouraged by infield whip Francisco Lindor and then celebrated with emphatic Lindorian fist pumps, but Diaz’s luck ran out an inning later as Dansby Swanson crushed a pitch through the wind into the left-field stands for a 3-0 lead that was all the Braves would need. Smith, Loup and May were nothing short of heroic in following Diaz, but moral victories mean little beyond word count in recaps like this one. Meanwhile, the Mets could do nothing against Morton, a well-traveled journeyman who bedeviled and frustrated them with a seemingly infinite number of variations on sweeping curves for his 100th career victory.

Reinforcements? The Mets picked up Robert Stock on waivers — you may recall him as the big, action-figurelike Cubs hurler they beat last week, though perhaps you’re unfamiliar with his very entertaining Twitter account. They’re calling up Tylor Megill to make his major-league debut tonight, assuming he escapes Syracuse’s Covid woes. (Megill will also join Eickhoff in the ranks of Mets Who Frequently See Both Their Names Misspelled, if that’s a stat you track.) Nick Tropeano and Thomas Szapucki are down there at Triple-A, presumably doing something other than having swabs stuck up their noses. One figures all of these pitchers will have a role to play at some point soon; one also feels duty-bound to note that the list features no name to make you sigh with relief that the cavalry’s coming. Meanwhile, Noah Syndergaard remains idle and Carlos Carrasco isn’t throwing off a mound yet, with his hamstring injury having entered the realms of Lowrie-esque surrealism.

The Mets will have to endure these misfortunes, just as they endured the slings and arrows of May. Will they? Hell, if I could predict that with any degree of confidence, we’d have ads or be some kind of fancy subscription newsletter. I can’t and so we don’t. Stir the tea leaves, peer at the MRIs, and make your own forecasts. Share the optimistic ones with us; we’ve got the gloomy ones more than covered.

15 comments to June Gloom

  • Seth

    Do the Mets own their own MRI machine on site? Might be a good investment, Steve Cohen. In fact, maybe 2 — the queue is getting long.

    After watching baseball for a good number of years, I can draw no other conclusion than that these guys are just in terrible physical condition. Or they’re babies, but I prefer not to conclude that.

  • Eric

    The Rays’ swoon places the Mets struggle in some perspective. A bad mid-late June stretch is worrisome but still early enough to recover.

    As much as I want to blame Yennsy Diaz for the loss, the bullpen as a whole covered adequately for the Stroman exit. 3 runs down in the 3rd inning and no runs allowed the rest of the way should not be a mountain. But once again last night it seemed like 1 run was too much to overcome. The blame goes to the hitters. The Mets that reached 10 games above .500 weren’t scoring well, but they were scoring enough with timely hitting to complement the elite pitching and good defense. Besides Lindor’s 5-RBI game and Smith’s bases-clearing double, the timely hitting has dried up.

    At the start of the game I was impressed by the defensive quality at every position except at 2nd base with McNeil. Sure enough, Swanson’s 3-run HR was immediately preceded by a force out by McNeil that maybe could have been an inning-ending double play. Then McNeil tapped out to Morton to end the 5th inning after Eickhoff’s lucky single.

    McNeil’s bad night was no worse than his teammates’, but it did exemplify the fear that the regulars returning from the IL will defend worse, hit no better, and run slower than the subs.

  • Jacobs27

    I am no good at predictions either, but I’d say that there has to be some regression to the mean for the injuries, too.

    Aside from the weird short season last year throwing people, especially pitchers, into uncharted waters, there’s no reason why players should be getting hurt this constantly. Right?

    I hope that the Mets at least avoided serious injury to Stroman by pulling him and that he will continue his strong season in 5 days.

  • Eric

    Fortunately, like deGrom after his early exits, Stroman’s MRI came back okay and he’s “day to day”. I wonder what caused his hip to hurt at the start of the 2nd inning. Earlier in the season Stroman left at least 1 game, albeit not early, after running the bases. Maybe he’s nursing something.

    Seth’s “babies” comment goes to why, while I consider deGrom’s performance so far this season to be on an all-time level, I don’t consider it to be the *greatest* of all-time. Because in Gibson’s 1968 and other all-time seasons, pitchers pitched substantially more innings than deGrom has this season. Which implies 2 key differences between them and deGrom and even pre-2021 deGrom and 2021 deGrom: They pitched in games feeling hurt and deeper into games feeling tired. Whereas 2021 deGrom is exiting games upon feeling hurt and exiting games early upon feeling tired.

    Strategy along with quality of pitches changes when pitching more innings deeper into games at less than peak condition. How would the stats of inner circle Hall of Fame pitchers like Gibson be different if they had pitched only at peak condition like deGrom? How would deGrom’s incredible 2021 stats be affected if he pitched more innings at less than peak condition, ie, hurting and tired, like a traditional ace?

    Presumably we’ll find out as the safeguards are eased as injury fears fade and the pennant race picks up. However, if deGrom completes an all-time season with short starts and extra rest throughout the season, it’ll still be a great achievement, but it won’t be the greatest as long as a key factor is avoidance of pitching hurt and tired like a traditional ace.

  • greensleeves

    You want glass half full optimism?

    James McCann leads the league in crotch grabbing, increasing that lead in multiples with every AB.

    Pete Alonso’s deep inhalations before every tense pitch point to remarkable lung capacity. (He studied under Squirrel McNeil.)

    Trevor May has a great bass baritone and should be ready for game analysis in the broadcast booth whenever he decides to call it a career.

    Billy McKinney still owns a great stroke. Here’s hoping he can find it.

    Kevin Pillar gets a free pass until whenever that mask comes off. And beyond.

    Your Carrasco/Lowrie analogy is right on the money.

  • dmg

    after screaming into my “shut out AGAIN?” pillow, here’s a shotglass half full:
    as noted, it’s june* — and yet somehow the mets have a monthly record so far of 11-11 and remain in first place.
    you have previously cited the rule of thirds: every team wins 54 games and loses 54 games, it’s what’s done in the other 54 that resolves the season. i am placing these losses, and those to come with the double A roster the mets are forced to use, in that expected third. and trying not to look back to see who’s gaining.

    *moreover, june has only 8 more games to go.

  • Eric

    At this point, I’ll be relieved if the Mets are still in 1st place after the Independence Day weekend Yankees series.

    The Nationals sure are charging hard. Not that the Mets are running away from the rest of the division. They’re 1 bad week from losing their lead and they’re having a bad week. 4th place is in easy reach.

  • Dave

    The way I’m trying to look at this is June is usually not a happy month for us, yet despite having a surreal number of injuries and a whole bunch of people we think of as our best players underperforming, there’s only another week left in June and we’re somewhat comfortably in first place. I suspect we would have all signed our names in blood for that, given the opportunity.

  • Daniel Hall

    I’m just glad these are night games, I am reduced to the box score and a deep moaning groan, but didn’t stew through 3:35 of 2-hit losing.

    When’s Johneshwy Fargas coming back? Maybe he could also fill in as pitcher. We’re no longer picky.

  • Harvey Poris

    Hey greensleeves. The Carrasco analogy was borrowed from my comments posted the previous day. I’m honored Jason liked it..

  • Cleon Jones

    Our Mets need a new strength and conditioning team.Why are there so many injuries? Let’s go Mets!!!!

  • mikeL

    perhaps the present-era reliance on advance analytics – and the myriad of time and motion ‘refinements’ they inspire – have turned our athletes’ singular bodies into a externally orchestrated, newtonian mess of sometimes conflicting operations. like what ballet dancers do. unnatural and unsustainable movement.
    i always thought of atheletes as being the least likely to get hurt but for collisions or similar violent mishaps. it seems like guys are straining hammies more than ever, with lats a close second.
    we’ve heard recently how suspect pitchers’ spin rates did or didn’t change as sticky substance monitoring was being discussed.
    would love to see more emphasis on full-body health and fitness and less surveillance tinkering with micro-body-mechanics.
    there might be more room for guys to own *their* approach and to tough out being a little hurt – as players routinely did not so long ago.

    and let’s leave words like launch angle and escape velocity to the folks firing rockets into space!