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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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Adventures on the Bell Curve

So now we know how Max Scherzer‘s conversation with the brass went — it turned out to be an exit interview, as Scherzer is on his way to the Rangers (along with $35.5 million through next year) in return for Luisangel Acuna, whom you probably didn’t know is the younger brother of Ronald Acuna Jr. For those keeping score over more than a generation (and if so, applause), the Acunas’ father was a Met minor leaguer in the early aughts. Here’s hoping — for all sorts of reasons — that Luisangel proves a valuable major leaguer; if not, rest assured Greg and I will be ready with sneaky references to Mike Maddux and Pedro A. Martinez for a decade or more.

If I’m feeling paleolithic, the monetary aspects of the Scherzer trade feels at least mildly absurd: $35.5 million is a lot to pay for a prospect, even a good one. But in all walks of life it’s good to resist being paleolithic. Scherzer gave the Mets 90% of a superb initial season, a disappointing finale to that first go-round, and then followed that with an iffy, worrisome sophomore effort. He wasn’t going to get any younger (none of us will), and there was no guarantee that 2023’s issues were going to be behind him. So the Mets sent Scherzer to a contender, added a bonafide prospect in return, and will retool their starting rotation without him.

Without Scherzer and now, it seems pretty clear, without a bunch of other dudes: Seeing what happened to David Robertson and Scherzer once tarp hit field, Tommy Pham, Mark Canha and Omar Narvaez have got to be wondering if the next rain delay will mean their departure. And how funny would it be if the Mets trade Justin Verlander back to the Astros, pitting their two 2023-on-paper aces against each other for an AL division crown?

Stepping back further, though, I keep resisting the impulse to be appalled by the amount of money being thrown around. It’s Steve Cohen’s money, not mine or yours or a kitty that otherwise would go to feeding orphans or building schools, and I keep coming back to the thought that the Mets’ 2023 plan seemed sound: pay a short-term premium for top-shelf starters, try and charge through the window of contention that spending pried open, and then turn to a hopefully restocked farm system.

It didn’t work out — and because it didn’t, the 2023 Mets will be trotted out as a cautionary tale for decades — but so what? Does the plan having failed necessitate some sort of hairshirt nonsense where the Mets pare back spending and take a couple of years to be morose about it? Cohen has enough money to try a modified version of the same plan, only with a younger starter in Scherzer’s place, and maybe one in Verlander’s slot as well, and if you’re thinking about Shohei Ohtani, well, so is everyone else. (I don’t think Ohtani would come here, but hey, half a billion dollars is an excellent way to change someone’s mind.)

I also keep thinking that the outcome of seasons can be plotted on a bell curve. (I should have dressed this up with a fancy graphic, but hey, 2023.) A season in which everything goes right — rookies blossom, veterans find fountains of youth, bounces go your way — goes on the right-hand side on the curve, down below that mountaintop of middle. Think 1969 or 1986 — and hey, 1999 and 2015 and 2022 are over there on the descending right as well. But there are other seasons, ones in which prospects turn into suspects and veterans get old and bounces work out for the other guys. Those go on the left side of the curve — and 2023 may as well be Exhibit A.

Here’s the thing, though: There are no half bell curves. To have a chance at landing on that magical right-side tail, you have to accept that you might wind up on the dismal lefthand side instead.

There’s 1969 … and there’s 1992,

There’s 1986 … and there’s 2004.

There’s 2022 … and there’s 2023.

That’s the way it goes — and frankly, that’s the way we should all want it to go. We just have to grit our teeth when we realize a given year is destined for that lefthand side, and wait with as much patience as we can muster for fate to flip our position.

* * *

Oh yeah, the game: Your chronicler was out to dinner with his in-laws and it was 7-1 Nats when he reported for duty, meaning he missed Carlos Carrasco reducing his trade value essentially to zero by getting strafed (with some oh-so-2023 defense not helping) and a whole lot of unpleasantness. I also missed newest Met Reed Garrett, but here’s betting there are some more debuts ahead.

I did see Francisco Alvarez connect for his 20th homer — now there’s something that’s gone right — and Mark Vientos follow Alvarez’s blast with one of its own, which isn’t bad for a kid who’s been buried on the bench. Poor Brett Baty even doubled, a welcome tonic given that Baty looks both frustrated and like he’s running out of gas.

Does any of it matter? Not particularly — but then nothing else the Mets do on the field will much matter until next April. That’s when we’ll get a chance to assess whatever the new plan is, and to wonder where the new season will land on the bell curve.

14 comments to Adventures on the Bell Curve

  • The King

    I’m happy they’re owning up to their personnel mistakes. OTOH, I don’t see much hope in the next few years and I ain’t getting any younger here!

    Question: Is Baty the 3d base equivalent of Ike Davis? I hope no one steps on his foot.

  • Lenny65

    I’m not really all that broken up re: Scherzer. He’s been pretty good at best, and bad at worst, and in all honesty, it appears that his best work is behind him. Plus, he flopped hard in his two biggest starts as a Met. Snagging a legit prospect for Scherzer at this stage of his career isn’t the worst move they’ve ever made. It’s hard to envision Max having a terrific “bounce back” season at his age.

    On the other hand, though, it’s demoralizing to see them stripping the wreck for parts already. Just a year ago, this team had visions of playoff glory dancing in their heads, AND they’ve added a phenom catcher and Verlander since then. And it all went south, just like that. They’re bad, they’re getting worse, and it’s kind of difficult to ascertain what it is they’re trying to do here, exactly.

  • ljcmets

    I was feeling a bit for Gary and Howie (maybe it was sitting through the replay of June’s Hall of Fame ceremony) because it’s obvious that the Mets and SNY and WCBS are scouting and holding tryouts for their eventual replacements. Both are taking more time off this year(as are Keith and Ronnie) and I think both lead broadcasters- especially Howie – are hanging on, putting off retirement in hopes that they can call the third Mets World Championship season. There’s a generational shift coming in the booths as well as on the field.

    I don’t understand Buck’s mumbling answers about Scherzer’s trade. It’s one thing to straightforwardly say “I can’t talk about this; that has to come from the front office,” but to imply that it wasn’t official or still in flux was ridiculous when every single player interviewed ( except Alonzo) indicated they knew during the rain delay that he was gone and they had said their good-byes before the game even started. As if Buck’s original answer wasn’t bad enough, he followed it up with “ I know a lot more about this then I’m saying.” If the Mets want to get more modern, they might start with the manager; every single player was more forthright and honest than Buck. I am more than weary of his act already.

    I would like to see the Mets keep Verlander if he wants to stay. But the one thing they must not do is trade Alonso. Steve Cohen has got to remember what 1977 through 1982 felt like as a fan, and while Pete is not The Franchise, he is the face of the team in the same way that Keith or Gary Carter or David Wright was. Trading him would be a supreme breaking of faith with the fan base. In my estimation, the only way they should trade Pete is for Ohtani on the condition of a full ten-year contract in place before the deal is made, and I’m not sure even that would placate Mets fans. I know that many fans have been upset with Pete for various reasons, but trading him would not be a rebuild; it would be complete demolition. We surely don’t need another era of that.

    As for the rest of this season, like a 3-0 slider, we need to just spit on it. Not our year.

    • Eric

      I’m not impressed with Keith Raad or Pat McCarthy, if either is meant to take over for Howie Rose. In sound and substance, they’re both the kind of generic announcers in MLB video highlights of local broadcasts that make us thankful for Gary Cohen and Howie Rose.

      Maybe Wayne Randazzo can be brought back when one of the Mets announcers retires.

  • Maybe another way to look at it is they paid $35 million for a very good prospect plus whatever they get with the money they’re not paying Scherzer. Also, if you reverse the trade in an alternate universe, what if the Mets were in contention and they traded money and, say, Ronny Mauricio for someone like Scherzer? We would not be happy.

    • Yes. This is an aspect of the deal that I neglected to note because I was tired and writing fast: With the initial plan not having worked out, Cohen is using the sunk costs to acquire minor-league talent, not for 2024 but for a window past it. He’s essentially using money already spent to restock the farm system the way the Mets envisioned doing organically through the draft.

      Honestly, it’s pretty smart.

  • K. Lastima

    They are not winning anything in the next 3 years so anyone who can be moved for younger A+++ talent, should be moved. Unfortunately, Pete is the most valuable present commodity they have that can be converted into rebuilding for future success. They should trade him now while his value is at its peak and then play Vientos at 1B

  • Richard

    No pitching = no winning..

  • eric1973

    Seems like a great trade, as getting anyone related to Acuna, Jr. has to be viewed in that light. I will even hope his wife/girlfriend, dog, and house furniture is included in the deal as well. The money paid to Texas is insignificant, as Uncle Stevie could win the Mega and still regard that as chump change.

    Again, very thoughtful comments from Nimmo, as opposed to the pap spewed from Lindor, as well as padding his stats when the game is out of reach. Never seen anything like it.

    As for Buck, his initial comment to any question is that of a snarky know-it-all, but then the next sentence is some semblance of a truth. So you just need to wait for it, that’s all.

    Finally, since Baty and Vientos are showing nothing so far at bat or in the field, lets not expose Mauricio to this poisonous environment and wait to bring him up on Opening Day. Also, too frightening to think that he may be exposed like the other two. And don’t get me wrong, as I love these homegrown guys and are rooting for them to perform to their capabilities on the back of Jason’s Minor League baseball cards.

  • eric1973

    Does anyone still like Ron Darling, after what he wrote about Bob Murphy in his book, which I would never read:

    “One of the most revered and classy figures associated with the Mets was radio announcer Bob Murphy. But during the 1986 playoffs in Houston, Darling reveals how the team filed into the clubhouse in the Astrodome before a game to find Murphy passed-out drunk on the trainer’s table. He was so sloshed, the team had a meeting around his prone body, as if he was the roast in the middle of a buffet table.”

    Time for he and Gary to go somewhere else.

  • LeClerc

    Mets fans want to watch winning baseball.

    Cohen, Eppler, and Showalter are very clever folk.

    Can they put a winning team on the field?

  • Eric

    The Mets staggered through September last year before losing to the Braves and Padres. They’ve continued to stagger through this season.

    The mindset of the team needs a good shake. Maybe trading two veteran leaders will do that. Too bad about Robertson. He was good. Robertson would have been a strength as Diaz’s set-up man or the closer when Diaz came in earlier as a fireman. Robertson’s old but he’s still got it. Maybe the Mets can bring him back next season.

    Scherzer dead arm for the Dodgers at the end of the 2021 playoffs. In 2022 for the Mets, failed in the biggest games, the very games he was hired to pitch. Gave up a lot of home runs this season. Scherzer isn’t what he used to be. Best to trade him now before he deteriorates fully into washed-up MadBum and can’t bring back anything no matter how much of his salary is paid down.

    The willingness to trade Robertson and Scherzer speaks well of Cohen’s recognition of the state of the team and willingness to use his money to adjust course accordingly.

    • Lenny65

      I agree. Scherzer was part of the problem IMO. He simply wasn’t the pitcher they signed him to be. This season, he’s ranged from decent to terrible, and it’s hard to envision a scenario where that suddenly changes. They took a shot, it didn’t work out.