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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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Tick Tick Tick ... Boom

By one measure, Justin Verlander looked pretty good after facing 16 Dodgers on Friday night at Citi Field to kick off the second half of the 2023 season: He hadn’t allowed a hit, keeping the Mets even in a 0-0 pitchers’ duel with Julio Urias.

And if that’s the extent of what you saw, well, maybe there’s a position available for you with the Mets braintrust, to stretch the definition of a word to the breaking point and possibly beyond.

Because Verlander had been maddeningly inefficient, as he has been so often this year. With one out in the fifth, he’d thrown 77 pitches — on a sweltering night, as an old power pitcher forced to deal with the relentless pace of the pitch clock. (Mark my words: This is going to be one of the lessons learned from the introduction of Rob Manfred’s new toy, with the Mets’ 2023 blueprint front and center in explanations of what no longer works.) What Verlander had done so far in Friday’s game strongly suggested he’d wind up trying to finish the fifth north of 90 pitches. And the combination of the heat and what Verlander had done pretty much all year strongly suggested viewing that at least as a yellow light and probably as a flashing red one.

But the Mets bullpen was quiet. And it stayed quiet as Verlander lost his command, walking the next three guys and indeed bringing that pitch count above 90. Eventually Jeremy Hefner was sent out to try and offer some counsel and Mets relievers started milling around and limbering up, but it was too late: The Dodgers’ best hitters were coming up and knew they had Verlander on the ropes with no chance of rescue. In a four-pitch stretch Mookie Betts singled and Freddie Freeman doubled and the game was lost. On my couch, I was sputtering in rage, not so much at Verlander having failed but at how he’d been fed into the meat grinder. Had Buck Showalter really not seen that coming? Was anyone in the dugout paying the slightest bit of fucking attention?

After Verlander imploded the game degenerated into a farce, with Met hitters doing literally nothing and Met relievers walking guys and giving up hits and trudging around disconsolately while a weary crowd booed halfheartedly, disgusted by a game that had gone wrong pretty much from the jump. Let the record show that the Mets’ leadoff hitter, Brandon Nimmo, hit what was called a home run, then (correctly) revised into a double, and that was the only hit the Mets tallied all game. Their 1-0 lead was a phantom that lasted about 90 seconds.

What a way to start the second half: The Mets not only played badly but also looked badly led.

Look, baseball players fail all the time — it’s a cliche of the game that a hitter who fails seven times out of 10 is considered All-Star quality. The game can be capricious bordering on deeply unfair, and the ebbs of a season — those teeth-grinding stretches where nothing goes right — are brutal.

But there’s failure and there’s setting up your players to fail. What happened Friday night struck me as inattention bordering on negligence. And if that’s the way a team’s going to be run, why in hell should anyone watch?

16 comments to Tick Tick Tick … Boom

  • LeClerc

    Buck’s 2022 guiding hand seems to be lost this season.

    The mid-inning bullpen moves are particularly maddening.

    A line-up that can’t handle left-handed pitching?

    Here’s hoping Senga can break this spell.

  • Seth

    If it’s Buck’s fault so be it, but no runs 1 hit isn’t going to get the job done.

    • Lenny65

      It’s more than just Buck’s sometimes weird in-game managing. They’re just absolutely lifeless. For some reason, this allegedly very talented roster is just a bad, uninspired baseball team, and you have to wonder exactly why that is. Are these guys just plain not that good, is it poor guidance, low morale, or what? How can this roster be this bad?

  • Nick D

    Hope dies hard.

    Maybe that little spasm before the ASG was the last gasp. I can’t even, with this group. Did this game, coming off the 4-day break (what was the matter with three, the old man muttered at the cloud), stick a fork in the 2023 Mets for once and for all? Well, probably not but man part of me almost hopes so.

    Okay I take that back. But come on already!

  • K. Lastima

    What a clown show, once again this franchise has become a laughingstock … meet the new boss, same as the old boss …only difference is: we Mets fans DID get fooled again!

  • Lenny65

    You have to wonder exactly what the problem is here. Well, the main problem, obviously, is that the 2023 Mets are a lousy baseball team and they stink. But in my opinion, there’s clearly something amiss with how the team is operated, coached and managed. Aside from the obvious stuff, that is. It’s deeper than Buck making weird lineup and bullpen moves. There’s some fundamental flaw, and it’s sucked the life out of this team.

  • ljcmets

    I thought the same as the top of the fifth wore on, and immediately wondered what Buck was thinking – if anything- as the bullpen remained dormant. Is there any Mets fan out there who missed the looming disaster after Verlander walked his second batter?

    I’m not upset with Verlander, who strikes me as thoughtful and an excellent pitcher ( although not what he was when he was ten years younger – who among us is?). But I’ve finally had it with Buck and his mumbling evasions after one too many useless press conferences. I think Buck hung Verlander out to dry in the fifth, and he never says “that’s on me” but wiggles out of responsibility. Time after time this season we’ve seen Buck not get the bullpen up in time or bring relievers into the wrong situation while “saving” others for phantom opportunities that never develop. The kindest thing that can be said about this behavior is that he’s lost a step or two in his feel for the game; the least kind that he doesn’t care.

    And I finally feel that it’s infecting the whole team. My husband said that the Mets this year “can’t seem to respond to anything.” It’s true that the Mets have had very bad luck this year, but it’s also true that overall, they had very good luck last year. This year, if the Mets catch even the slightest bad break in the first inning, as evidenced by the last two games bookending the All-Star break ( Sunday -a ball hit by the opponent’s leadoff hitter goes just foul, giving him new life; tonight – Nimmo’s scorcher bounces off the wall and is ruled a double -not to mention something more serious like Pham’s injury), the team crumples and wilts. Neither of those two batted balls and their outcomes should kill momentum for the entire game. But that’s what happened, save a meaningless two-run rally against the Giants.

    I hope I’m eating these words by the end of the season, but I’ve finally reached the conclusion that this team is not going to win with Showalter. If this drudgery continues, we’ll know at the deadline what this ownership and management team is made of. We know what the last team would do – panic and make a useless trade or two and mortgage the future by trading or selling Alonso or McNeill, or do nothing at all. The answer is in the middle ground – if you can’t make a run this year, trade the pieces that have some value like Marte, Robertson, and (sigh) Canha, and bring in new, younger leadership and both see what happens this year and develop it for the future.

  • Bruce From Forest Hills

    I didn’t watch any of the post-game. Watching the 9 innings of the actual game was enough for me.

    No matter how bad Verlander looked in the 5th inning, Buck has no realistic option except to leave Justin in there. Do you really want the worst pitchers in your bullpen to pitch to Betts and Freeman? (BTW, I’ve been saying the same thing since I thought Grady Little was right to leave Pedro in there)

    I don’t know all the technicalities of the pitch clock rule, but if the old starters can’t throw at a fast enough pace, maybe the Mets shtake violations if they find themselves at 0-1, 0-2 and 1-2.

  • Jones61

    The good news is that through the help of F&F, I was able to synch the radio feed with the video. Or so I thought it was good news, as it happened in the top of the 5th. One truly wonders—and I say this with at least a smattering of compassion—if there’s some Dick Howser situation going on with Buck.

  • Rumble

    Telling it like it is, Jason. A few comments, commencing from the ground up. I see a lot of sloppiness in the field, very little unity, and even less leadership from the players. Not to mention the horrifying underperformance by so many. There are some bright spots, like Alvy, but little to cheer about in 2023 so far. As for Buck, let’s face it. Despite winning some individual awards, he’s essentially a career .500 manager with a pitiful post season record, when it counts, and an embarrassing record of having two former teams winning the WS the first year after he’s gone. That speaks volumes to me. He makes many mind numbing decisions that he rarely accepts responsibility for. And repeats the same mistakes. I see very little passion and command. As for Eppler, he has a losing career record as a general manager, while working for two owners that let him spend lavishly. He has little to no insight, as most horrifically evidenced after last year’s pathetic trading deadline and utter late season collapse, when he claimed with a straight face, after that Ruf fiasco, and others, he had “no regrets” about what he did at the trade deadline. Lastly, although I applaud Cohen for accepting some responsibility for the nightmarish 2023 season so far, and his willingness to spend $, he massively over paid for Lindor, JV, and Max. Even more concerning was when he essentially gave his ok for the Mets to continue with their incredibly disappointing 2023 under performance by saying the Buck and Billy show would continue uninterrupted, at least for the rest of the season. His apparent paramount value of stability and the claimed benefits thereof isn’t persuasive to me. Lastly, I’ve been cheering for this team for more than fifty-five years and through the years this team has repeatedly proved to be one of MLB’s most dysfunctional organizations.

  • eric1973

    True, taking a strategic pitch violation may not be the worst thing in the world. Since Verlander is going to be throwing balls anyway, rather than strikes, might as well not exert.

    Regarding Buck, his bullpen management does indeed stink. To bring in Peterson a bit too late to qualify for the highest leverage part of the game is pure management malpractice, as he has become a nothing. We might have all slept better if he used Leone or Gott to sink our ship, rather than staying with a clearly done Verlander.

  • Seth

    What we have here is that the whole is LESS than the sum of its parts. I’ve no doubt many of these guys would thrive on a different team – there’s something about this team as currently configured that just isn’t able to get it done. Blame anyone and everyone, but this current combination isn’t effective.

  • K. Lastima

    Blow it up, nobody on major league roster is untouchable except Alvarez. Even Alonso, I’d wager that the Mets have gotten the best out of Pete, so sell high and trade him for a boatload of A+++ prospects, he won’t be worth the contract he’s gonna want!

  • Bob

    Your comments as usual are spot on.
    When I’m able to watch this Mets team “play”, it’s usually only for short time as I get more & more desgusted with what I’m seeing (at least GKG get paid lots of gelt for decribing this Orange & Blue dumpster fire).
    Thanks to Jason & Greg and all youse for your comments–you guys help me keeep what little remains of my sanity.
    61 years as a Met fan -as my Mom in 1963 would say,-“you could plotz from the Mets”.

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