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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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Another One Gone

Noah Syndergaard was one of my two favorite Mets.

I’ve written before about why I loved Syndergaard, so here’s the abridged version: When he was at his (admittedly brief) peak, he had the best stuff I’d ever seen a pitcher command. The short version was “triple-digit fastball, vicious slider, evil change-up, pretty good curve” but that didn’t do the arsenal justice. Syndergaard threw the slider at 95, with ungodly break. When I was a kid, I could name every power pitcher in the game who threw 95 — but those were fastballs, some with sink or ride but mostly of the Here It Is Hit It If You Can school. A 95 MPH slider? That pitch didn’t exist when I was a kid. It was the stuff of videogames on cheat mode, or some goofball Saturday morning cartoon featuring, say, Josie and the Pussycats having to outfox robot ballplayers.

Like I said, best stuff I’d ever seen. Yes, better than Seaver. Better than Doc. Better than Saberhagen. Better than deGrom. In 2016, the question for me wasn’t if Syndergaard would do all manner of superlative things — perfect games, fanning 20 in a game, Cy Young awards — but when he’d do them. He was that good, and I’d been lucky enough to see him and dream on him from the beginning. Syndergaard was a stock I’d snapped up at $1 and now figured I’d retire on, spending the rest of my days burying myself in piles of money like some beer-drinking bipedal version of Smaug, and oh my was it ever sweet to think about.

About a paragraph ago some of you started muttering that stuff isn’t everything, and that’s true of course. But Syndergaard was smart, too. Smart enough to discuss how his arm motion was akin to a trebuchet, of all things, and — more importantly — smart enough to change his pitching mix before hitters figured out the best way to counter him. That insane slider was a Dan Warthen special, introduced late in 2015 after Syndergaard realized he needed to do more than torch hitters with the fastball — a realization he made as a rookie, when most guys need two or three years of scuffling for the lesson to sink in. The stuff was there from the jump, but it was imagining what Syndergaard might do after he got done fusing stuff with smarts that really made me salivate.

(Oh, and he was also smart enough to pretend to be dumb when that was what was expected, as epitomized by his half-assed semi-alibi to Tom Hallion, post-Utley and pre-ass-in-the-jackpot, that “I’m tryin’ to throw a fuckin’ fastball.”)

It didn’t work out, because pitchers break. Syndergaard lost a good chunk of 2017 to a torn lat, looked at least something like his old self again in 2018, and then 2019 was a strange year, one in which that arsenal somehow stopped yielding the results it should have. And then came the news we’d all known we’d get eventually: Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard missed 2020 and then wound up missing nearly all of 2021 too, reduced to a lousy pair of cameos in which he was pitching without his breaking stuff.

But that was OK, I told myself. The Mets were going to hand him a qualifying offer, which he seemed inclined to accept. 2022 would be different, right? The arm would be healed, for real this time, the full complement of pitches would be available again, and we’d figure out nagging details like innings limits and the possibility of a labor war if we had to. Noah would be on the mound again at Citi Field, and while I figured I’d have about a million questions about the 2022 Mets, at least that one would be answered the only way I wanted to be.

And then the Angels showed up offering more money and a fresh start, and that was that. The silver lining, I suppose, is that Syndergaard is bound for the AL West and so I’ll mostly forget that he exists. Except when I’m fuming about his being elsewhere, or mourning it.

I’m fucking 52, and I know by now that your favorite players rarely if ever stick around to lift a cap from graying temples at the end of a storybook farewell. Hell, I’d barely started being a Mets fan before M. Donald Grant sent Rusty Staub, my first favorite, to Detroit for having opinions. (If you’re reading this, Lucifer, give Grant another turn on the spit and tell him it’s from me.) Mike Phillips was next, until he was shipped off to St. Louis. Keith Hernandez wound up in Cleveland. Gregg Jefferies wasn’t my favorite anymore by the time he left, but leave he did nonetheless. Edgardo Alfonzo became a Giant, visited various ports of call and never quite made it back where he belonged. My favorite Mets who left as Mets? Offhand, I can’t recall any. David Wright, you might say, but boy did that ever come with a giant asterisk.

And now Noah. I shouldn’t be surprised, let alone hurt, and yet I’m both. And maybe that’s for the best. Maybe to still be a baseball fan in your 50s you have to still be capable of feeling stunned and stung. Maybe that’s the price for also still being capable of feeling wild ridiculous joy about a game.

I don’t know. Ask me in April, if there’s an April that matters. For now, in November, there’s another one gone. Not the first, and certainly not the last, but one that hurts.

At least my other favorite player’s still here. Any news about Michael Conforto recently?

16 comments to Another One Gone

  • open the gates

    A few hot takes:
    1) Damn. Damn damn dammit.
    2) One of the reasons we were thrilled to see Steve Cohen replace the Wilponzis is that we now had the richest owner in sports and we would never have to see our owner being outbid again. So now Steve Cohen has been outbid by the, for crying out loud, Anaheim Angels??? What the actual hell?
    3) Another thing we thought we wouldn’t see again: after two years of repairing one of the greatest ballplayers on the planet, another team gets to reap the benefits. This was another late-era Wilpon special (see: Wheeler, Z.; d’Arnaud, T.). Nice going guys.
    4) My feeling is that the Mets hired their new GM exactly one day too late. Sandy Alderson’s next move should be to fire himself and get the hell out of town. This is the last straw.
    5) I’m having this nightmare. World Series 2022. Angels vs. Phillies. Game Seven. Syndergaard vs. Wheeler.

    I can’t even.

    PS – the powers that be can throw a few extra logs on M. Donald’s pyre on my behalf as well. Three weeks after I officially announced my Met fanhood to my schoolmates, Seaver and Kingman were dispatched. Way to ruin a kid’s childhood.

  • Jacobs27

    I, too, am pretty bummed by this Syndergaard news. It was unexpected, so I think that makes it worse.

  • Seth

    When I heard the news I immediately unfollowed him on Instagram. It’s the only power of protest I have — I hope others do as well.

  • Souldog

    The difference between 18.4 and 21 mil ain’t all that much; it seems to me that if he wanted to stay, it would have gotten done.

  • Ryan XPress

    I continue to be befuddled by the lack of love from Mets fans for Conforto and why we are comfortable letting him sign elsewhere. He’ll enter the season at 29, likes New York, is, by all accounts, a great teammate, plays good defense and has put up some strong power numbers from the left side of the plate. Is just one season away from seemingly putting it all together, and was truly hampered by injuries this year. How can we keep him from leaving?

    • chuck

      My assumption is that it’s because Scott Boras, who continues to be a cancer on baseball, is his agent. Which also gives me no optimism that the Mets can get anywhere near Kris Bryant.

    • Bruce in Forest Hills

      Ryan XPress. It’s still Alderson’s team. And as long as it is, they’ll never find a place for Conforto. You remember that he wasn’t playing every day until Joe Maddon embarrassed the entire organization and put Conforto on the 2017 All-Star roster. Alderson doesn’t care if you hit or not. As long as you work counts. The “Mets way” has no place for first-pitch swingers such as Justin Turner, Daniel Murphy, or Travis d’Arnaud, just to name some off the top of my head. I don’t think they’ll sign Javy Baez in the end, for the same reason. Conforto never had the support of the organization, and as soon as they can find any excuse to get rid of Jeff McNeil and Dominic Smith, I’m sure they’ll be gone, too. There’s no indication that the Mets have any idea how to replace their offense. Maybe, like with deGrom, they’ll just get lucky. The Mets, could, of course, get rid of Alderson, and every front-office person he’s ever hired. But why try to win?

  • Eric

    According to Alderson, according to the Carton and Roberts Show, Syndergaard didn’t give the Mets a chance to match.

    I agree the criticism that Syndergaard is a thrower only was unfair. He did need to make adjustments, particularly to control the running game, and he was not putting away hitters before the TJ surgery. But those were adjustments he was reasonably expected to make with experience. The stuff was there.

    It’s just 1 year and pitchers coming back from TJ surgery often need the 1st year back to return to form. Maybe he comes home next year.

  • Bob

    Agree with you 100%.
    At least Thor did not end up on Fish, Barfs, Filthies or DC Expos.
    If Mets are dumb enough to Comforto leave, we should be so lucky…I can picture another Daniel Murphy nightmare here..
    Yes, I’m old enough to react to Thor’s departure to Angels with the name Jim Fregosi bouncing around in my empty head..sigh…

  • Lenny65

    I kind of feel like no matter what the Mets do, it’ll backfire or fail. If they threw a ton of money at Noah, it’s a safe bet that he’d re-injure himself during spring training and miss the entire season. Or perhaps he’d be healthy but totally ineffective. Now, of course, he’s going to dominate the easier league, which will lead to dozens of hot takes about how the Mets blew it again. This almost goes without saying.

  • mikeL

    according to a piece in today’s post, the mets failed (go figure) to communicate with noah after submitting the QO. anaheim’s replacement to our new GM flew out to noah and demonstrated that his organization had done their homework, and presented a convincing plan for how they’d use noah as he got back to health (including a six man rotation – which may, before long, become standard; i remember when the 4-man rotation was king)

    this reminds me of hillary failing to visit the “who else are they going to vote for?” rust belt in 2016. as though noah was only auditioning those last two innings for this smouldering dumpster fire of an organization…

    i don’t blame the man for jumping ship and i do wish noah well…but not THAT well.

    good work sandy.

    • Jacobs27

      Yes, this is the aspect of the story that makes me shake my head.

      Going by Sherman’s reporting in the Post, it sounds like one of the reasons Syndergaard decided to take the Angels’ offer was that they proactively presented a clear and cohesive plan while the Mets gave the impression of having no plan at all, no planner, even, until just now.

      If that’s true, it doesn’t bode well for this whole off-season. I sure hope they’re being more proactive talking to Stroman and other free agents.

      • mikeL

        heh! as the panic buying spree continues ahead of dec 2 i’m just waiting (dreading) reading that this front-office-in-transition let another one go!

  • Joe W

    The owner of the Angels is loaded also. His net worth is $4 Billion. If he wanted to go head to head with Cohen he could. And did.

  • Cobra Joe

    Angels owner Artie Moreno is starting to be a persistent gadfly; first he votes against Steve Cohen as the new owner of the Mets. And now, he signs Noah Syndergaard to a one-year-contract.

    I guess ever since the disastrous trade of Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi, the Angels have been a real pain in the Mets’ cabooses.

    Well, at least the Mets got good-fielding, light-hitting outfielder Dave Gallagher (of Trenton, NJ) in exchange for Hubie Brooks.

  • Bruce in Forest Hills

    If Syndegaard really wanted to stay, they would have worked it out. Because given baseball economics, the Angels offer isn’t much different from the Mets offer. My bet is if baseball doesn’t work out (and maybe if it does), he can always drive through the parking lots in Anaheim and shoot a new Thor movie for Marvel.