Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998 and in his current position since 2004.
While discussing the difficult removal from the roster of longtime Met Dillon Gee Monday, Sandy Alderson paused for a good 30 seconds mid-sentence.
Overcome by emotion?
No. Letting a plane pass overhead at Citi Field.
That's the way it is in baseball. One day you're part of the fabric of the locker room. The next you're gone while an unused camouflage jersey hangs in your locker and three rookies play Nerf basketball with the net right next to it.
Life goes on.
That unsentimental mind-set is why the Mets should have moved Gee before they designated him for assignment. Not off the roster, but into the bullpen for an extended stretch to see if he could help there.
The Mets have room for Class A reliever Akeel Morris, whom they called up Monday, but not for a guy who has won 40 games in five-plus seasons?
There was no reason for Gee to start Sunday as a one-time deal to give the other starters an extra day of rest. That assignment should have gone to Steven Matz, the Ward Melville product who is both dazzling and languishing in Triple-A.
Everyone agrees Matz is ready. Everyone agrees Matz should be the Next Big Thing in Flushing. Look at the way Noah Syndergaard lit up Citi Field Monday night with 11 strikeouts in six innings against a Blue Jays team that had averaged eight runs a game during their 11-game winning streak.
Some think Matz has even better stuff.
Last month, Gee complained that he was "wasting bullets" on a minor-league rehab start after a groin injury healed. The bigger issue for the organization is Matz wasting bullets in Las Vegas instead of using them in the majors.
Sunday would have been the perfect opportunity to introduce the lefty to Citi Field and vice versa, even if it was just for one outing until the Mets again need a sixth starter, which isn't expected for a couple of weeks.
The Mets have made 16 transactions over the past six days, including the surprising call-up of Morris. One of those moves could have been to give Matz a look Sunday instead of dangling false hope in front of Gee, who allowed eight runs in 32/3 innings to Atlanta in a game the Mets rallied to win, 10-8.
So, does Gee's deletion mean the Matz Era is more likely to begin soon? That question led to a little cat-and-mouse and give-and-take between Alderson and reporters (and between planes).
"Does this represent a move up for Steven Matz?" Alderson said. "Probably. At the moment. But we don't have any immediate plans. So, for example, if Akeel Morris is only here for two or three days, does that mean Steven Matz is going to be here in two or three days? No. Don't jump to that conclusion."
But Matz will be up before long, right?
"I'm not saying how long," Alderson said. "Just let's not create an expectation that doesn't exist, that shouldn't exist."
Why shouldn't it? Matz is 24, not 21, and every pitch he throws for Las Vegas is one he won't throw for the Mets. He's 6-4 with a 2.30 ERA in a league in which any ERA below 4.00 is outstanding. Four teams in the Pacific Coast League have a staff ERA more than 5.00.
Alderson did say Matz won't be called up to pitch in relief.
"He's not going to help us in the bullpen," Alderson said. "He's going to be a starter when he gets here, whenever that might be."
He could have already been here, even if only for one day.