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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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One Good Thing

Jacob deGrom returned, as promised, and was more or less as we remembered — he hit 102 on the D.C. gun, looked like his old lanky and deadly self, and befuddled various Nationals with most of his arsenal. The lone blemish came in the fourth, when deGrom’s location eluded him and Victor Robles and Luis Garcia turned a single, stolen base and double into a Washington run.

The Mets, perhaps, overdid it in honoring deGrom by offering him the kind of run support they too often gave him in recent years, which was to say nothing. They had Cory Abbott on the ropes in the first, driving up his pitch count with grinding, relentless at-bats, but got nothing with the bases loaded and did little against Abbott after that.

Francisco Lindor got deGrom off the hook with a leadoff homer in the sixth against Victor Arano, but by then deGrom was out of the game as well, and the Met bullpen wasn’t up to his standard. Stephen Nogosek surrendered homers on consecutive pitches to Garcia and Yadiel Hernandez, while Yoan Lopez allowed a homer/first hit to 30-year-old MLB debutant Joey Meneses, who got the ball back thanks to his bullpen and their trade with a kindly Nats fan (wearing a Washington SCHERZER 31 jersey, no less).

That was a nice moment on what turned out to be the Nats’ night — an unexpected story that even those of us rooting for a different outcome had to admit was a bit heartening, seeing how the Nats had been stripped of not just superstar Juan Soto but also Josh Bell, Soto’s only reliable lieutenant in the lineup. Both were shipped off to the Padres, hyperactive as always come deadline day, in return for a haul of young players and prospects. A pretty good haul, to my eyes, but is any return worth giving away Juan Soto before his agent tells you that you have to?

The Mets were active at the deadline too, though not particularly in the way their fans — or at least those loudest on Twitter — had hoped. Willson Contreras stayed in Chicago, while David Robertson joined the Phillies’ bullpen. J.D. Martinez remained in Boston, but another J.D. — Jonathan Gregory Davis — left the Mets for San Francisco, along with Thomas Szapucki and a couple of prospects. The return for them was Darin Ruf, who should slot in as the other half of a capable designated-hitter platoon with Daniel Vogelbach.

Just before the deadline, Ruf was joined in the Met ranks by reliever Mychal Givens, a Showalter stalwart from Baltimore. But the pined-for lefty reliever — the commodity the Mets arguably most needed — never arrived.

Fan reaction ranged from disappointed to betrayed, with no one seeming particularly interested in GM Billy Eppler’s explanation that the cost for a lefty out of the pen had been too high, or his warning that “undisciplined thinking” — i.e. giving away too many prospects now — “can lead to years of mediocrity.” It didn’t exactly help Eppler’s case that the lesser lights of his existing bullpen got walloped by fill-in Nats a couple of hours later.

Was I disappointed? A little, sure. Like everybody else, I wanted a lefty other than Joely Rodriguez out there — and I’d daydreamed of catcher being something other than a black hole. But I’ll withhold judgment for now, having no idea what the dynamics of those GM-to-GM phone calls were, or how high various teams’ asking prices might have been.

(One thing I suspect might have been at play: Steve Cohen’s offseason showed he wasn’t afraid to spend, and he’d spoken of being aggressive regardless of payroll penalties. I wonder if other clubs, armed with relatively little information with which to judge Cohen and Eppler, figured the Mets would blink in their determination to make another splash, handing over blue-chip prospects in return for a rental or two.)

I was saddest about the departure of J.D. Davis, who probably needed another home but was a reliably entertaining Met, from his weirdo back-formation nickname and his inept heckling of opponents to his gonzo postgame speeches and buddy-cop friendship with Pete Alonso. Davis often seemed completely insane, or at least a little touched, but he had a sense of the ridiculous that I always appreciated, and I wish him well.

His replacement, Ruf, should arrive soonest, as should Givens and old friend Trevor May; they’ll displace Kramer Robertson (whose likely lone day on the roster without playing will make him the fourth Met ghost of 2022, joining Gosuke Katoh, R.J. Alvarez and Sam Clay) and two relievers, probably the recently luckless Nogosek and Lopez.

None of those gentlemen is left-handed, so that rather obviously remains an issue. Maybe Rodriguez will find the form he’s shown at times and fumbled for at others. Maybe the job falls to David Peterson, superfluous as a starter through no particular fault of his own. Maybe Clay escapes ectoplasm and becomes a flesh-and-blood hero when we need one the most. Perhaps Joey Lucchesi reports for late-summer duty with a repaired elbow and something to offer. Or maybe that’s a hole that goes unfilled and we rue what didn’t happen at the beginning of August.

I have no idea. No one does. For now, deGrom’s back. That’s the kind of good thing other teams dream of having happen to them. Let’s not lose sight of that.

11 comments to One Good Thing

  • Greg Mitchell

    Worst thing about trades and non-trades is (as you hinted) it leaves Rodriguez as only lefty and therefore will never be sent down despite being one of worst pitchers in MLB the past three months. So he takes a spot where someone else may help and will get used in “lefty” spots even though he is a) bad b) has never shone in career against lefties.

    Meanwhile, my bromance with Nogosek may be over. Pen has lost Holderman and Smith and gained Givens and May. So: at best a wash, and not what Eppler ordered or promised….Where have you gone, Adonis Medina, a Mets nation turns its lonely eyes to you….

  • mikeski

    (One thing I suspect might have been at play: Steve Cohen’s offseason showed he wasn’t afraid to spend, and he’d spoken of being aggressive regardless of payroll penalties. I wonder if other clubs, armed with relatively little information with which to judge Cohen and Eppler, figured the Mets would blink in their determination to make another splash, handing over blue-chip prospects in return for a rental or two.)

    This seems exactly right to me, and pretty much what I told my wife, who was doing her best to argue the BETRAYED!!eleventy!! position.

    I made the mistake of venturing down the page at Metsblog yesterday to check out the comments. Wow. Those folks were doing their best to empty the Strategic Bile Reserve.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    It’s occurred to me on more than one occasion, but expecially last night, that whoever comes in to pitch right after deGrom must look like a piece of cake to opposing batters. If deGrom is only going to be a five or six inning pitcher for the forseeable future we’re going to see more games like last night’s.

  • Eric

    That was familiar. DeGrom was deGrom’ed by the offense and bullpen. Last night was his final dress rehearsal, which includes his health assessment through Sunday, for deGrom’s real opening day versus the Braves.

    Ruf’s stats versus left-hand pitching make sense as a platoon with Vogelbach, but his age gives me pause with the memory of Cuddyer falling off a cliff. The cost seems excessive, particularly the 2 2021-draft pitchers who might be useful someday, if not as future Syndergaards, at least as more-valuable trade pieces if nothing else.

    Coming away with only Givens to reinforce the bullpen worries me. Last night’s game is an illustration: strong start, not enough offense for room for error, bullpen gives it up. The bullpen as is doesn’t inspire confidence for the playoffs. Fingers crossed that the in-house arms make up the shortfall. The Braves games will be a test. The Phillies offense is dangerous, too.

  • I know it’s heresy, but I almost think the Mets are better without deGrom. It sounds crazy, but the guy doesn’t win games. Best pitcher on the planet, yes, but it can’t be a coincidence that Mets bats turn into sawdust every time he’s on the mound, can it? It’s almost like the team is so goddamned awed by the mere presence of the guy that they freeze up and try to do too much. I will be very curious to see the Mets’ record in deGrom games – they happened to be 48-48 since 2018.

    • 9th string catcher

      I mean, I’m being fatuous here, but there must be some answer to this. It’s unbearable to watch.

  • Seth

    “figured the Mets would blink in their determination to make another splash, handing over blue-chip prospects in return for a rental or two.”

    I can certainly imagine that other teams’ prices for dealing with the Mets would be higher — the Mets are a 1st place team, who is going to make a deal that makes them better? They’ll make the Mets pay, and you’re right, we weren’t privy to those phone calls.

  • Jonathan Wynne

    The curse of De Grom for years and years has not only been lack of run support (worse than run support to other Mets starters), it also has been bad bullpen support (worse than for other Mets starters). (One year I did a study, the bullpen ERA for games he started was like 6.50.) Those factors, along with managers sometimes removing him too soon, are what have collectively doomed him. But things can always change. Showalter will build him up to 100 pitches or more if he stays healthy. And in general, these Mets are not the same as the old Mets.

  • Jacobs27

    I will definitely miss J.D. as well. Guy was a lot of fun.

    Ruf doesn’t really seem worth him and all those players — ironic that Szapucki would go to SF of all places — but I guess it’s nice to have someone who has the numbers against lefties you’d hope for from J.D.(D.)

    I hope to God Jake is here to stay now.

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