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ABOUT US

Jason Fry and Greg Prince
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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The Good Stuff

Every year we have a horse-racing party, which is pretty fun. Then, the next day, we have to clean up, which is less fun. You realize just how many bits of chip have been crushed into carpets. You find quarter-glasses of booze in unexpected, even baffling places. All the stuff that got stowed downstairs needs to be put back where it belongs. Garbage has to go to the curb, recycling needs to go to the bins, the dishwasher and the vacuum need to be run repeatedly, the floor has to be mopped, and all day you’re heading up and down the stairs trying to get all these things done in a moderately efficient fashion.

As a kid trekking in to Shea from the wilds of Suffolk County, I learned pretty quickly that the Mets didn’t respect the quirks of my personal calendar. Tom Seaver was not a guarantee to pitch on whatever day my parents agreed to take me to a game. Dave Kingman might not homer. Mike Phillips — my favorite player once Rusty Staub was exiled to Detroit — probably wouldn’t even play.

I got used to this idea back when Jimmy Carter was president. But still, the day after the horse-race party always sees me offer a plea that the Mets rouse themselves to be reasonably entertaining and good company.

Sunday’s game was promising, what with Noah Syndergaard on the mound, the Diamondbacks on the ropes and an unfamiliar sight up there in the sky … why yes, it was the actual sun, returning from its apparent stay on the 10-day DL.

And the early doings were interesting enough, as taken in while hauling trash and pushing mops and trying to figure out if the vacuum cleaner was broken or had just become inadequate for handling its one essential task. Eventually the distinction was ruled to be meaningless; ironically, the vacuum has been DFA’ed for failing to do what the still-employed Jose Reyes now does reliably.

Syndergaard is having a perplexing year, one in which we’re all faintly cross with him but can’t figure out why. He’s being less efficient with his pitches and seems to be lacking that Asgardian something … yet you look at the numbers and see he’s 4-1 with a sub-3.00 ERA, fanning more than a hitter an inning and walking basically nobody. Honestly, Syndergaard’s biggest problem this year has been being a Met — he’s been undone by crap defense, lousy relief and anemic hitting, and could easily be 7-1 with less Metsiness around him. If only the rest of our rotation had such flaws.

At least on the scoreboard, Syndergaard was outdone for a while by Clay Buchholz, last seen throwing a big-league pitch in anger more than a year ago. Buchholz mixed his pitches well and was the recipient of a lone run, the product of consecutive singles from reliable annoyance Jarrod Dyson and Nick Ahmed and a modest little grounder from Jeff Mathis that Wilmer Flores correctly saw couldn’t be turned into an out at home or second. But he went unscathed after that, with Jay Bruce throwing out Mathis at home to prevent further trouble.

Amed Rosario got Syndergaard even with a solo shot in the sixth, but it looked like Noah would once again come away with nothing for his efforts — at least until Asdrubal Cabrera connected as a pinch-hitter off Jorge De La Rosa. That was immediately followed by Rosario’s second homer of the day (and year), and both the Mets and their starter were ticketed for wins.

Cabrera’s having a quietly amazing season, the kind that turns a player from fondly remembered to eternally beloved. I enjoy how furious he gets with himself when he fails to execute the way he believes he can, flinging bats into the earth and stomping toward first with jets of steam whistling out of his ears, like some unholy mingling of Paul Lo Duca, Al Leiter, and primeval human rage. You can’t really be mad at Cabrera for failing at a baseball-related task because he’s already so comically furious with himself. There was no need for any of that today, happily — Cabrera waited for his pitch, unloaded on it, coolly admired the result, trotted 360 feet and returned to a now even more enjoyable day spent mostly off.

Rosario’s offensive outburst, of course, is potentially of greater import — if things go right, he’ll still be stationed on the Citi Field infield when Cabrera’s being chatted up by Steve Gelbs or some successor. The Mets are clearly trying to teach Rosario plate discipline, but he’d mostly processed that as “don’t immediately swing at the first pitch,” pitchers knew it, and Rosario was left with a lot of 0-1 counts and creeping dismay. Not today — he crushed De La Rosa’s get-me-over four-seamer instead of waiting for a better pitch that might never come. (While we’re applauding the youth, props also to Robert Gsellman, who looked thoroughly in command in recording his first career save.)

By the time the afternoon was waning, the house was clean, the Mets had won and hope abounded. That’s a pretty good day.

Black Box Offense

When the Mets struck for two tying runs in the eighth inning and then the winning run in the ninth Saturday night, I thought of the ghoulish if sort of logical question that gets asked after aviation disasters and applied it to our at least temporarily aloft carrier of choice:

Why don’t they make the Mets’ offense out of the same material they make the black boxes that manage to survive wreckage and preserve flight data recordings?

To put it in a baseball-specific context, if the Mets can generate runs as desperately needed in the eighth and ninth, why can’t they just do that in the other innings and spare us the suspense, the angst and the general sense that we’re going down yet again? It probably has something to do with human beings competing with other human beings and some buzzkill “regression to the mean” pedantry. After all, if the Mets could just score at will, why couldn’t the Diamondbacks?

Because that would be no fun to theorize over, not from our standpoint. The fun was mostly packed into the final two frames Saturday, first on the two-run, eighth-inning homer swing Devin Mesoraco put on an Archie Bradley four-seam fastball to cut through the fog that hung over Citi Field all night, then on a succession of clutch connections made by the top of the order in the bottom of the ninth. Bradley had given way to Andrew Chafin, and Chafin gave way to standin’, cheerin’ and rejoicin’ as Brandon Nimmo doubled to right; Asdrubal Cabrera bunted for a base hit that placed Nimmo on third, and Wilmer Flores put enough wood on enough horsehide to send Brandon home via sacrifice fly.

It wasn’t quite Justify slogging through the mud at the Preakness, but our race was won, 5-4. Toss in the two-run homer from Michael Conforto in the fourth and the five post-Matz innings of shutout ball the bullpen threw, and you had a result that resisted gravity for a change. The Mets took a one-game winning streak and extended it for the first time since they won nine in a row in essentially another era. Getting on this minimal roll means we can sublimate our daily catalogue of Metsian gripes, including East Setauket Steve’s inability to reach the fifth; the battery of umpires who refused to see erstwhile Royals pest Jarrod Dyson should’ve been called out stealing in the fourth; the Mets producing no runs from a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the sixth; and the front office having cobbled together, for these DL-intensive times, the shortest and least useful of allegedly major league benches.

Instead, we can celebrate the most obvious factors that contributed to victory. A walkoff is never not fun, and nobody’s more fun to pound on the back and drench with liquid than Wilmer. Certainly no current Met has been the cause/object of more walkoff affection. Saturday’s was the eighth game in Wilmer’s six-season career that he was directly responsible for ending in the best way possible. We can also high-five over Mesoraco’s continued revival. There’s no figure baseball treasures more than an old catcher in a new locale, provided the catcher has a track record of success (he was an All-Star in 2014), was set back by circumstances for several years (he was injured and on the Reds) and is now considered reasonably healthy, preternaturally wise and the kind of hard worker directors of pickup truck commercials linger on lovingly. We adore unsung professionalism and sing its praises to the high heavens when it gets our attention. Nobody is more of an unsung professional than a veteran backstop who coaxes the young pitchers, mentors the young catchers and socks a few dingers. Too often our Kelly Shoppachs and Jose Lobatons don’t rise to narrative-quality performance. Mesoraco has already attained René Rivera knows-what-he’s-doing-back-there status behind the plate and is verging on John Buck territory when it comes to sudden, surprising power.

True, Devin couldn’t nurse Matz past trouble (irony of ironies, it was Diamondbacks catcher John Ryan Murphy Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt who put the most hurt on Steven), but the Cincinnati import put down all the right fingers for Lugo, Sewald, Ramos and Familia. Mickey Callaway said prior to Saturday’s game that Tomás Nido — up for the DFA’d Lobaton — was recalled so he could study under Prof. Mesoraco. The manager and his coaches value the way Devin prepares and they want their main catching prospect to absorb some lessons. Jacob deGrom, fresh off his thirteen-strikeout masterpiece Friday night, gave his new receiver all kinds of credit, too: “You come in and he’s already got a full scouting report written out.”

That the Tao of Mesoraco is so impressing the Mets underscores what they must not have been getting from their sidelined platoon of Travin d’Arwicki, which can be interpreted as a telling commentary on the state of contemporary Mets catching. For as long as Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki have been fixtures around here (albeit of the easily detachable variety), they’ve never particularly emitted the air of knowing what they’re doing back there. Perhaps they never had a Mesoraco mentoring them. Perhaps not every catcher is constructed the same way, inside or out, just like not every inning can give us all the runs we need.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

“Give it a listen. What do you hear?”
“‘DeGrom.’ Definitely ‘deGrom.’”
“You’re crazy. It’s ‘Conforto.’ Listen…‘Conforto.’”
“You’re the one who’s crazy. Can’t you hear the pitching? Seven innings. Thirteen strikeouts. No walks. ‘DeGrom.’”
“No way, it’s all hitting. You listen: four-for-four, a couple of RBIs. ‘Conforto.’”
“‘DeGrom.’ Plain as day.”

“Excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt, but are you guys doing that thing where everybody hears something different?”
“Yeah. Except I hear it right and my friend here hears it wrong.”
“Says you. DeGrom!”
“Conforto!”
“Here’s the thing, fellas. I think you’re supposed to hear them both at the same time.”
“WHAT?”

“It’s not just about pitching, though deGrom mowing down the Diamondbacks and paving the way for a 3-1 Mets victory Friday night in a crisp 2:36 was sublime. And it’s not just about hitting, though Conforto breaking out made sure the great starting pitching — and equally good relief — wouldn’t go to waste. C’mon give it another try. You, the guy who only heard deGrom, listen again. What do you hear?”
“I hear ‘deGrom.’ DeGrom drowns out everything.”
“C’mon, listen harder.”
“DeGrom. I’m not changing my answer.”

“What about you, Conforto guy? Use these Q-tips, clear out the wax and try again.”
“Conforto. And my ears are fine.”
“Forget it. There’s no getting through to either of you.”

“Hey, you guys are doing that deGrom/Conforto thing? I heard about that. Can I play, too?”
“Sure. Maybe you can break the tie. Honestly tell us what you hear.”
“I hear…I hear ‘Lagares.’”

“Lagares? Everybody hears either deGrom or Conforto. How the hell do you hear Lagares?”
“It’s all I can hear. That and a faint yowl of agony. Wait, I think there’s something else in there.”
“What?”
“A gaping hole where there should be an additional major league outfielder.”
“You can hear all that?”
“My audiologist says I process sounds on a very finely tuned frequency.”
“Meaning?”
“Meaning I hear mostly defense — or the lack thereof.”

“Ooh, you guys are doing that everybody hears something different thing. I want in!”
“Why not? What, pray tell, do you hear?”
“Chaos!”
“Chaos? What the fudge does that sound like?”
“It’s Lagares going on the DL for the year for what was supposed to be a sprain, it’s having no suitable replacements for him, it’s Cespedes not immediately going on the DL when we all knew that’s where he was ultimately headed, it’s the free agent innings-eater never lasting more than four innings, it’s the Mets batting out of order, it’s weeks of minor league catchers, it’s failing to put back-to-back wins together for more than a month…”
“You hear all that?”
“I heard it on the way over. I was listening to the pregame show.”

“That’s not how this is supposed to work.”
“Nothing’s ever how it’s supposed to work with the Mets. That’s what makes them them not just chaotic, but dysfunctional.”
“Conforto’s functioning fine. Except for the long slump until now.”
“DeGrom’s functioning flawlessly. Except for the hyperxtended elbow.”
“Right. And Lagares won a Gold Glove four years ago and basically hasn’t been heard from since, and won’t be heard from again. Just like d’Arnaud. Just like Swarzak. Just like…say, anybody heard from T.J. Rivera lately?”
“Who?”
“Exactly.”

“Pardon me, I’ve overheard what you’re doing. Do you mind if I have a listen?”
“Everybody else has, go ahead.”
“Ooh, I hear winning record, bunched up divisional race, three-quarters of a season remaining, maybe not everything going wrong for the Mets despite everybody being determined to believe otherwise.”
“That’s because of deGrom.”

“Conforto!”
“DeGrom!”
“Lagares!”
“Chaos!”
“Dysfunction!”
“Actually, I hear rain is in the forecast.”
“Yeah, I heard that, too.”

The Cure-All

Earl Weaver, a wise man, once cracked that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. Games take the form of stories as they unfold, but all those stories start with the guy on the mound. If he’s got his full arsenal, recent frustrations and failures are likely to dissipate. If he’s got nothing, a run of positive outcomes will likely come to a screeching halt.

Fortunately for the shooting-at-their-own-feet Mets, Jacob deGrom had everything working Friday night, most notably a fastball with movement and bite, one that seem to grind up Diamondback bats and batters. Paul Goldschmidt looked particularly helpless, lost in one of those fogs during which a hitter can’t remember ever doing anything positive, but no Diamondback looked excited to be in the batter’s box. DeGrom did his job and more — I didn’t think it was a particularly good idea to send him back out for the seventh given recent events, but he struck out Alex Avila with a runner at third and one out, then retired Jarrod Dyson to walk off the mound to much-deserved applause.

The Mets, meanwhile, seemed determine to do as little as possible against Zack Godley, who had little feel for the location of his breaking ball. But with deGrom good as he was, a little was a lot. Michael Conforto went 4-for-4, a breakout that was really the BABIP Gods finally smiling on him: Conforto, you may recall, was robbed of two hits in Wednesday’s soakfest.

Conforto shaking off the rust of his freak shoulder injury and curtailed spring training would be a much-needed jolt for a flat, injury-riddled club that’s been shorn of Yoenis Cespedes and Todd Frazier, is getting nothing from Jay Bruce, and just lost Juan Lagares for the year. Lagares’s erasure left Mickey Callaway talking about Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes as outfielders, which sounds like a terrible idea even by Metsian standards; more likely is that the job will go to Ezequiel Carrera, just signed to a minor-league contract along with infielder Christian Colon.

Carrera did nothing in the Braves’ system this year and is now on his third organization of the calendar year, but he did hit .280 with 10 steals for Toronto last year, and is certainly a better idea than witnessing Wilmer Flores aiming a terrified look heavenward while staggering around in left field. (It’s even a homecoming of sorts — Carrera began his professional career as a Met farmhand way back in 2005, departing in 2008 in a deal that was more Roman orgy than baseball transaction, involving three teams and 11 players.)

So the Mets got a stellar pitching performance, hit enough, didn’t take the field wearing uniforms that made you want to flush your eyes with lye, and won in a tidy two and a half hours. That will do nicely … at least until tomorrow night, when they continue their thrilling, monthlong quest to win two games in a row.

Steven Matz will be your starting pitcher. For a read on the momentum, check back in 24 hours or so.

Was It Something I Said?

X-rays were negative but he may not play Friday. He’s day-to-day, which in these parts is known as foreshadowing with a side of foreboding. Cue the uneasy minor-key music, buckle up, and if you’re a believer, say a prayer for Lagares.

Well, this doesn’t seem so funny any more. Juan Lagares likely out for the season with a … wait for it … hyperextended big toe and ligament damage.

BURN IT ALL DOWN.

Wet and Wild, Meek and Mild

Absent a perfect, um, storm of unfortunate factors, Wednesday’s matinee would never have been played.

It was a miserable day in New York, a gloomy, continuous soak. But the Mets and Blue Jays had only two scheduled meetings here, and while the Mets had an off-day Thursday, the Jays did not. That left both clubs out in the elements, with the umpires gloomily hunkered down in the rain, occasionally joined by doggedly laboring groundskeepers and managers and players checking in to wonder WTF and being told essentially, This TF.

You understood the why behind This TF, but it was a forest-for-the-trees why, an argument that began with demanding you accept an absurd premise. This game should have been moved to Toronto, or held in abeyance to see if its outcome mattered to either of the mediocre outfits involved. But absurdity was the order handed down from on high, and so the Mets and Blue Jays played in front of a few hundred fans who I can only assume were there because they were visiting from Toronto or had lost bets. I love baseball — I really really really love it — but I can’t imagine anything that would have convinced me to spend the afternoon sitting out at Citi Field watching that.

At least J.A. Happ had fun. The Jays pitcher was on base three times while allowing only two Met baserunners, which is quietly kind of amazing in an I-wish-it-hadn’t-happened way. The Mets might have made a better offensive showing of it if not for the presence of Kevin Pillar, who was out there in center doing Juan Lagares-like things. Lagares did a Kevin Pillar-like thing of his own in the ninth, running down a drive to center from Gio Urshela and banging his big toe into the fence. X-rays were negative but he may not play Friday. He’s day-to-day, which in these parts is known as foreshadowing with a side of foreboding. Cue the uneasy minor-key music, buckle up, and if you’re a believer, say a prayer for Lagares. (The Mets did at least finally come to their senses and put Yoenis Cespedes on the DL — how depressing is it that that can be considered progress?)

As for Zack Wheeler, he was good until he wasn’t, with the “wasn’t” following an 18-minute stoppage in the third inning during which an army of groundskeepers essentially blanketed the infield in Diamond Dry. Wheeler’s crumbling afterwards was blamed on the long spell of inactivity, but I can’t get too worked up about it. Wheeler losing it isn’t a new phenomenon, he was apparently offered the chance to throw more than the usual between-innings warm-up pitches but passed on it, and the absurdity was his being out there in the first place.

Anyway, he got pounded and so did the reliably hapless A.J. Ramos (there’s a joke in there somewhere about Happ, A.J. and J.A. but this stupid game doesn’t deserve the effort of landing it), and the only item of interest left as the Jays collected their first-ever win in Flushing was the arrival of Buddy Baumann, who escaped weirdo ghost status and spared me years of explanations and arguments by pitching the eighth. Baumann looked good in his first inning of work but terrible in his second, establishing beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s suited to be a member of this ridiculous, ramshackle franchise.

The Rainy Season

The deluge prior to Tuesday night’s game between the Mets and their infrequent visitors from the north rattled trees and plans. The deluge during the affair, on the other hand, was an offensive blessing. Runs rained down on Citi Field, almost all of them in the bottoms of innings, which is how we prefer they land upon our soggy but efficiently draining home turf. The weather kept the show from starting until nearly an hour-and-a-half had passed beyond its originally intended curtain, but the Mets’ suddenly lively bats made the delay worthwhile — while the atmospheric commotion did not disturb in the least the Toronto Blue Jays’ established migratory patterns.

The Jays come to Queens, the Jays lose in Queens. Tuesday the Jays gave up twelve Mets runs and lost to the Mets in the greater Shea area for the twelfth time since 1997. You’d think somebody would arrange to schedule these guys more often, but no point in putting too much stress on the Blue Jay that diplomatically lays its golden egg in our nest.

After such a scary late afternoon and early evening of thunder and lightning and assorted precipitation-related mishegas, we got a beautiful night, both in terms of calm skies and busy basepaths. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend an 8:36 PM first pitch, but there was something almost civilized about the improvised start time for this ticketholder. I took a later and mellower train than normal; I ogled a rainbow in the vicinity of Woodside (every sophisticated New Yorker whips out a phone and records the phenomenon for posterity); I found security delightfully less handsy than I’m accustomed to. When I climbed the steps of 509, my choice of rows awaited me. Every seat was damp, but I had the foresight to pack paper towels.

The Mets had the foresight to pound out sixteen hits, several of them in bundles, leading to multiple clusters of runs. The Mets really did score twelve and they really did give up only two. That adds up to winning baseball across leagues, across borders and at home for a change. The Mets hadn’t won in their own ballpark since April 17. They hadn’t won in front of this particular fan since last September. We all got what we came for. Maybe not the Jays, but they’re welcome anytime anyway.

It was good to stand for “O Canada,” something I don’t think I’ve done in public since the Expos ceased to exist. It was good to notice the Maple Leaf flying, however limply, from one of the right field flagpoles. It was good to see Curtis Granderson once more. The Mets played him a returning-hero video and we gave him a couple of richly deserved standing ovations. I don’t know how the Blue Jays felt about seeing Noah Syndergaard, the pitching prospect they gave up in 2012 in the name of Going For It. We gave them R.A. Dickey. Dickey was pretty decent for them, but Thor was young and limitless. He still has potential, some of which has yet to be delivered upon. You looked up in the first and Noah struck out the side. You looked up in the fifth and Noah was past a hundred pitches. Whatever the context of his remarks passed along by the Post’s Mike Puma, Dave Eiland wasn’t altogether off base when he suggested Syndergaard has “yet to do a whole lot at the major league level”.

No doubt the Jays prefer Noah was doing it for them. Even with their former minor league pitcher still grasping for optimal efficiency in 2018, they only reached him for two runs in five innings. The Mets were altogether on base the rest of the time, giddily rounding many of them in rapid succession. A five-run fourth; a three-run fifth; a three-run eighth. Yes, the Mets.

Everybody did something that made coming out in the rain the wise choice. With Michael Conforto sitting versus lefty Jaime Garcia and Yoenis Cespedes’s quad/hip flexor floating unmoored within the mysterious confines of Mets injury protocol purgatory, Juan Lagares emerged from under wraps to knock out four hits, including a triple, and drive in three runs. He even stole a base, which is something Mets are usually too polite to try. Former and perhaps future phenom Amed Rosario was legitimately phenomenal, chipping in three hits, featuring a double that was nearly a homer, but whatever didn’t go out on Tuesday simply kept the carousel spinning. Devin Mesoraco, he of the Devin Mesoraco Trade, homered and scored four times. Luis Guillorme notched his first career RBI. Noah drove in a pair of runs, or as many as he allowed. Seth Lugo didn’t drive in any runs, but he was nearly perfect for three innings of relief.

Baseball should always be so civilized.

The only drawback to the late hour was it eventually cost me my compadres. This outing was organized by Met Maven First Class Matt Silverman, but he had to bolt after seven innings, as he lives about as far as a Mets fan can live from Citi Field while still saying he lives somewhere remotely in the vicinity of Citi Field. The other half of our contingent was the intrepid Uni Watch team of Paul Lukas and Phil Hecken (credit to them for noticing the Mets’ starting infield of Flores, Cabrera, Rosario and Reyes represented four shortstops manning four different positions). They were gone by the fifth in deference to Paul’s stubborn head cold. For a moment, around the eighth, left to my own devices in a mostly deserted Promenade, I thought, well, should I go, too?

Then I realized my own devices are set to being at a Mets game, especially when the Mets are wining by a lot and in the process of adding to their advantage. Of course I stayed. I stayed until Jacob Rhame recorded the final out and Ace Frehley confirmed we were back…BACK in the New York groove, a helluva place to be. The Blue Jays may beg to differ, which would explain why they come around so rarely.

Oh Mickey, Just How Fine?

Let us suppose there is no more definitive sample of a manager’s effectiveness than his first 37 games in a new job. Let us make this dubious supposition because the current manager of the New York Mets, Mickey Callaway, has managed 37 games in what is still his new post and there’s nothing else definitive by which to judge his performance to date. There’s observation and anecdote and a sense that maybe he’s gonna be really good or maybe he’s not, but none of that shows up in the standings. The standings are all that show up in the standings.

So how is Mickey doing when measured against the other 37-game wonders in Mets history? As Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits said of Harry with the daytime job in “Sultans of Swing,” he’s doing all right. That’s based on Mickey’s record across this definitive 37-game stretch, a span 18 of his 20 fellow Mets managers managed to put on the board before managing further. The board was more compressed for interim skippers Salty Parker (15 games) and Mike Cubbage (7 games). Like Harry from the aforementioned Sultans, they don’t make the scene.

Your perusal of the standings will tell you that after 37 games, Mickey Callaway has guided the Mets to 19 wins and 18 losses. They were all his responsibility if neither wholly his doing nor fault. When the definitive sample was 12, maybe 14 games, there was no reason to not crown Callaway the sultan of managing. No Met manager had ever led the Mets to as good a start as he had at that tender juncture of a first season; no Met manager had ever introduced himself so well, regardless of when in a given schedule he had commenced his tenure.

The Mets were 11-1, then 12-2. Lately they’ve been less than that. That’s why you can’t form definitive judgments after 12 or 14 games. That’s why you need 37 games, at least when all you have is 37 games. The Callaway Mets, at 19-18, aren’t as impressive as they were. Mickey Callaway now officially has good old days to look back on wistfully. Some Mets managers, as they had just gotten going, had even better old days to remember. For a few, it could be said definitively that they never received better new days beyond them.

Based on those ever so helpful standings, the best First 37 Games manager among all Mets managers was Buddy Harrelson. Harrelson replaced the most successful manager the Mets had ever had, Davey Johnson. That’s counting beyond 37 games in Johnson’s case. In Harrelson’s case, 37 games was ideal. Certainly the Mets were, running up a record of 28-9 after Davey finished his heretofore brilliant Met career at 20-22 and out in 1990. Frank Cashen fired a guy who had never won fewer than 87 games across any of his six full seasons because his team was stumbling along after 42 games.

Using 42 games to draw so significant a conclusion? That’s crazy.

Using 37 games to draw any kind of conclusion? That’s what we’re doing here, and for 37 games, Buddy was exactly what the Mets needed. He was the freshest breath of air an in-season managerial change ever wrought. The air that was stale in the last days of Davey dissipated. Everybody was recharged. Everybody was resilient. Everybody was ready to play ball under Buddy. The Mets surged from seven out of first place to on the cusp of grabbing the lead. No manager has ever made his mark 37 games in the way Harrelson did.

The Mets’ tear wasn’t quite so torrid the rest of 1990. Harrelson did not steer the Mets to a division title. By the end of 1991, Cubbage was using his office. It’s almost as if you can only tell so much after 37 games.

Yogi Berra’s first 37 games as Mets manager were similarly impressive. He was thrust into managing the 1972 Mets under the worst circumstances imaginable, following the Spring Training death of Gil Hodges. Berra was handed a job nobody wished anybody but Gil still had, and he and his Mets responded amazingly. After 37 games, they were 27-10, five lengths ahead of the field. After 156 slightly strike-shortened games, however, the Mets were 83-73, because however good a manager Berra might have been, he wasn’t much of a doctor, and that’s what the injury-riddled 1972 Mets really could have used.

Unlike Harrelson, Berra made it through his second season as manager in style, with his 1973 club roaring from behind to capture the NL East and NL pennant. Even at their You Gotta Believe hottest, however, the Mets never played quite as well for Berra as they did when he first took over. Yogi was fired 109 games into the 1975 season, as strange as it seems to consider Yogi being treated like a regular manager and not Yogi Frigging Berra.

Remember Jerry Manuel? Remember his immediate impact on the Mets? It was ten years ago now, so maybe it’s not top of mind. Manuel was a Harrelson type of hire: on the coaching staff, chosen to replace an accomplished incumbent whose team was in the doldrums. Willie Randolph hadn’t accomplished as much as Johnson, but he was less than two seasons removed from helming the Mets to a postseason when he was nudged aside for Manuel in June of 2008. Had Randolph added an extra postseason berth to his résumé in 2007, he wouldn’t have gone anywhere. But ’07 was no ’06, and ’08 appeared to be going nowhere, thus the decision to give Willie the boot and Jerry a shot.

Jerry was an injection of adrenaline into the body Metropolitan. Where once we were sluggish, we were slugging. Where once were out of it, we were on top of it. When Randolph was asked to leave his place of residence, the Mets were a saggy 34-35. After 37 games of Manuel, the Mets were 23-14 as Jerrymen and in first place by a hair over the Phillies overall. The hair would thin out by September and the Mets would again just miss the postseason. In a familiar refrain, Manuel’s debut would overshadow all of his followups. When Jerry was let go after the 2010 season, there were no playoff appearances on his ledger, just a stubborn layer of regret.

Jeff Torborg was hired to overwhelm the regretful way Harrelson’s (and Cubbage’s) time in the managerial seat ended. The 1991 Mets went 77-84, the franchise’s first losing year since 1983. Torborg was going to usher winning back to Flushing. For 37 games, there was no more effective usher in any theater. The Mets were 21-16. Then the 1992 movie turned into a horror show and Torborg was, depending on your viewpoint, either helpless to keep the audience from vacating the cinema or one of the characters who made the whole thing scarier. Jeff lasted the full 162 games in 1992 (72-90), but only 38 more in 1993 (13-25).

Another 21-16 entry in our 37-game sweepstakes was Joe Frazier. His 1976 Mets galloped out of the starting gate, though truth be told, they had already broken down some from the pace they’d set at 18-9. Frazier’s reputation as the right leader at the right time fizzled as that particular presidential campaign year wore down. Upper management elected to dismiss him 45 games into 1977.

Are you thinking that a winning record in a Mets manager’s first 37 games is a sign of not so good things to come? Contrary evidence is at hand: Davey Johnson — the Mets manager we’ve already identified as most successful ever — got out to a 20-17 start in 1984, and everything would get only better with and around him for several seasons. Davey was the second Mets manager to have started 20-17. George Bamberger had the same record when he assumed the reins in 1982. Sadly, his case presents more evidence that a winning record in a Mets manager’s first 37 games is precisely a sign of not so good things to come. Bambi finished ’82 at 65-97 and resigned at 16-30 in ’82.

Nobody’s perfect. Barely shading middling should sometimes be viewed as progress. That’s what Willie Randolph did upon his ascent to Mets manager in 2005. At 19-18, he essentially blew away the blahs left over from the Art Howe era. At 19-18, Callaway hasn’t quite put the last days of Terry Collins behind us, but since we live in the present, and his 37-game record is the only one that is active, we prefer Callaway’s 19-18 to the 17-20 posted by Collins in 2011 or even the 17-20 compiled by Gil Hodges in 1968. Neither Terry nor Gil lit up the standings 37 games into their respective Met tenures, but good things were not beyond their grasp. For Hodges, they came the following year. For Collins, they’d have to wait a while.

For Bobby Valentine — who shares a birthday with Mickey Callaway, albeit exactly 25 years apart (the Met managerial equivalent of Adams and Jefferson both dying on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence) — there was no sign in his first 37 games of much good at all. To be fair, Bobby V’s first 37 games should probably be loaded down with asterisks since they bridged two seasons, one that was already in the toilet and the other that had yet to arrive in Flushing. Over the last 31 games of 1996, Bobby’s original Mets, bequeathed to him by Dallas Green, went 12-19. During the first six games of 1997, when the Mets were on an extended California road trip to start the season, they were 2-4. Add it up, and it doesn’t amount to much: 14-23.

Within a few weeks, though, things began to click, and Bobby was the manager of a surprise contender that finished 1997 at 88-74 and became a turn-of-the-millennium playoff staple. It’s almost as if a Mets manger’s first 37 games isn’t a reliable indicator of anything. Or, in Art Howe’s case, it tells you all you need to know, since Art’s first 37 Mets games gave us 16-21, and the rest of Art’s stay wasn’t appreciably more encouraging. Or, in the case of Joe Torre, 16-21 in the midst of 1977 was par for the course of what he’d deliver through 1981, but not a harbinger of Torre’s managerial career overall. He’s in the Hall of Fame, you know.

For the record, the rest of the records after 37 games were: Roy McMillan, 18-19 (and gone after his 26-27 interim stint wound down in 1975); Frank Howard, 15-22 en route to 52-64 en route to “thanks a bunch” for completing Bamberger’s unexpired term in 1983; Wes Westrum, 12-25 upon taking over for Casey Stengel in the summer of 1965; Casey Stengel, 12-25 upon inventing the Mets in 1962; and Dallas Green, 10-27 as he volubly if futilely attempted to clean up after Torborg while 1993 festered.

I’m having some fun with Callaway’s 37-game sample size because it’s all we’ve got for now. Weather permitting, we’ll soon have 38 and a whole new set of impressions. Mickey’s record is fine, if not mindblowing. Maybe we’ll give him a whole half-a-season before we begin definitively deciding what to make of him.

A Weekend at the Improv

The plan was a good one: head down to Philadelphia for Saturday’s night game, for which friends had sweet tickets through a work event. I was excited to see Noah Syndergaard, our pals, the Mets, and to get another look at Citizens Bank Park, which back in the last years of Shea opened my eyes to how much better a modern park might make things.

Not so fast, said Mother Nature.

The radar was a sea of red to the west. We knew we didn’t need to hurry to be there for first pitch. Then came the rains — vengeful, Biblical rains. It didn’t take a baseball lifer to guess there would be no first pitch.

Ah well, so it goes.

But then it looked like Sunday’s game would vanish too.

This time, the weather-related havoc turned out not to be an entirely bad thing. The Mets and Phils were delayed long enough for Emily and I to take our seats in the front of the Megabus back to New York — we arrived (in radio terms) as the Mets had the bases loaded and one out against Aaron Nola in the top of the first. Alas, nothing came of it, and as the bus pulled out Jacob deGrom took the hill for the bottom of the first.

He was still there as our lumbering bus navigated central Philly traffic and construction.

He was still there as another round of passengers got their bags settled and arranged themselves on board.

He was still there as the bus headed across the Delaware River.

He was still there when we crossed into New Jersey.

It felt like he might still be there when the sun ran out of fuel, swelled and engulfed the Earth. That would probably interfere with the game even more thoroughly than a thunderstorm.

DeGrom was there for 45 pitches in all, a frustrating, quietly mesmerizing Verdun of a struggle. Like the Mets, the Phillies loaded the bases. Like the Mets, nothing came of it. DeGrom, incredibly, escaped without scoring a run. Except he didn’t really escape — that inning ‘s overwork ensured his departure.

The game then settled into a slow grind as our bus rolled up the turnpike, with Emily and I on an earbud each. It’s been a while since I was radio-only, and once again I found myself thankful for the presence of Josh Lewin. Lewin is still “the new guy,” but at this point that’s by default — somehow this is his seventh season calling games alongside Howie Rose. As has been the case since Lewin arrived in 2012, I appreciate his quirky sense of humor, his quick wit, and most of all how much he’s loosened up Rose. Howie is a treasure, but years of undistinguished radio partners had left him sounding cranky and bored by 2012. The new guy (sorry, it’s inescapable) has helped him shake off the rust, making his crankiness once again endearing. And there are few radio duos better at rising to a game’s occasion: that endless first inning brought out the best in them, as they kept track of pitches thrown, balls fouled off, remarked on the strange lack of action, eyeballed deGrom with his recent injury in mind, and searched for historical precedents.

It was a treat to listen to, though after that they didn’t have as much to work with. The game became a snoozy back and forth. Yoenis Cespedes (who arguably shouldn’t have been out there in the first place, given we all know how pushing him through a leg injury ends) connected for a home run in the sixth; Paul Sewald left a slider over the fat part of the plate in the bottom half of the inning for an enemy homer. 3-1 Phils.

Meanwhile, we were nearing New York — and I was worrying about my phone’s battery. We’d been at 47% when I got on the bus, with nary a USB port to be seen. I’d conserved power by resisting the temptation to check Twitter, email and other scores, so as our bus crawled through Mother’s Day traffic in Hoboken I wondered what percentage of phone and game remained.

The bus reached its New York stop with the Mets down to their final out and Asdrubal Cabrera at the plate as the tying run, facing Edubray Ramos, against whom he had done wonderful things before. Two strikes, and I dared to peek at my phone. Its battery counter read 2%.

I was hoping the Mets had enough game in them that I’d need more than that. If not, well, at least I’d see things through.

But that look proved fatal — it was Orpheus sneaking a glance over his shoulder. As Ramos got the sign, my screen went black. I didn’t know it at the time, but about a minute later, so did the Mets’ chances.

* * *

Longtime readers know that I’m semi-obsessed with Mets ghosts — guys who were on the active roster but never got into a game. Going into this season there had been nine of them, starting with Jim Bibby back in 1969 and running through Ruddy Lugo and Al Reyes in 2008. Two of the Met ghosts — Billy Cotton (1972) and Terrel Hansen (1992) — suffered the additional indignity of never getting to play in a big-league game for anybody.

Ghostdom can be a temporary thing. Corey Oswalt became one earlier this year, escaping when he was called up again and got into a game. Matt Reynolds spent the 2015 offseason as a ghost, with the additional asterisk of having been added to a postseason roster, before shedding his ectoplasm in 2016.

But I’ve never seen a ghost quite like Buddy Baumann.

Baumann — whose full name is the rather regal-sounding George Charles Baumann IV — was designated for assignment by the Padres at the end of April after pitching a third of an inning against the Rockies, during which he got, well, rocked and wound up suspended for being part of a brawl.

The Mets called him up for Friday’s game, but he had to serve the one-game suspension he owed MLB. Saturday’s game was rained out. Then Baumann was sent back down to make way for deGrom on Sunday.

Huh.

So is Baumann a ghost or not?

I’ve concluded that he is, though it’s a tentative, softly voiced ruling.

It’s a fact that as I write this, there was never a Mets game in which Baumann could have pitched. That would indicate he’s no more a ghost than, say, Justin Speier, who worked out with the Mets and even threw in the bullpen during a game, but was never on the active roster.

Yet while Baumann couldn’t have played, he was on the active roster. You have to be on the active roster to be suspended — that’s why his Met tenure began so oddly. He had to be activated so he could absorb the punishment of being inactive, or something like that.

Here’s hoping Baumann returns — besides clearing up the above, the Mets could sure use a second lefty. For now, he’s the most spectral ghost of all, the wandering soul who was here so he couldn’t be here.

Friday Night Lightning

Choose one from among the applicable Met narratives:

a) the Mets can never do anything right;

b) the Mets rarely lose in Philadelphia.

The latter is more universally pleasing. Maybe not among the regulars at Citizens Bank Park, but that, unlike everything else lately, is not our problem. A typical for lately game, in which the Mets were going down to 1-0 defeat was interrupted by not one but two bolts of ninth-inning lightning Friday night, delivered consecutively by Michael Conforto and Devin Mesoraco, only one of whom you had in your Potential Met Heroics pool entering the week.

You might not have had Conforto, either, considering how Charlie Brownish he’d consistently looked swinging and missing last weekend against Colorado. Perhaps he’s finding his groove. Not only did his two-run homer off Hector Neris push the Mets from behind to ahead with one out in the ninth (two pitches after he sent one similarly far if a little foul), it elevated his road trip track record to 5-for-16. On the Mets’ most recent homestand, Conforto went 0-for-13. There was nowhere to go but up, and maybe Michael is heading there.

Mesoraco could have only wished to have been as lukewarm as Conforto was going into his Friday at-bat versus Neris. Devin, with whom we are now on a first-name basis, hadn’t gotten on base in eight at-bats as a Met and hadn’t taken part in a win at all for anybody in 2018. He’d played in eighteen games as a Red; the Reds lost all eighteen. The Mets lost the first two games in which Mesoraco had a hand. Meanwhile, Cincinnati took off on a winning streak without him (and with Matt Harvey, incidentally). Was the Mesoraco Effect gonna be a thing?

In one sense, it already was. Zack Wheeler threw his best start in ages on Wednesday with Mesoraco catching. Nobody much noticed since lineup card follies overshadowed everything in Metsopotamia, yet the only reason Mickey Callaway could fret that his D’OH! pas “probably cost us a game” was that Wheeler so effectively kept the Mets in that 2-1 ten-inning loss. The offense certainly didn’t. Asdrubal Cabrera’s first-inning double may have been wiped away by a clerical error, but all the “who bats third?” escapade likely deprived the Mets of was an additional LOB.

Mesoraco caught Wheeler for six uncharacteristically solid innings, which, unlike Cabrera’s double, did show up in the box score. Zack raved about Devin afterward, hinting perhaps that it does matter who does catch a pitcher. Maybe the chronically befuddled Steven Matz would have followed Wheeler’s effort with five fine innings sans Mesoraco (he was on his game in his previous start a week ago), but every little bit helps, and it now appears Devin is helping talented Met starters whose performance wasn’t living up to their curdled hype.

That, like the Mets’ near-invincibility in Philly, is a narrative we can deal with until it’s proven otherwise inoperative. We can also handle a touch of offense from our new catching savior, which he gave us in his ninth Met at-bat, the one in which he directly succeeded Conforto’s blast to right with one that rocketed to left. Suddenly, instead of moping over getting shut out at Citizens Bank, we were en route to a rousing 3-1 win.

Every postgame question I heard wondered of the Mets manager and his players what effect winning had on the outlook of the team. See, the Mets looked unhappy when they were behind and appeared happy when they surged ahead. Callaway, Conforto, Mesoraco, Matz and everybody else polled said yes, the scoring and winning represented a positive development. Good thing the Mets have a pack of intrepid journalists tailing them to discern their ever changing moods.

Like the Mets, I turned my frown upside down as results dictated. Not that I need a steady barrage of victories to love the Mets, but it certainly makes loving fun. I, like every sentient human, have no way of knowing whether prevailing dramatically one night will lead to more success, either immediately in Philadelphia (where the Mets are 42-17 since August 24, 2011) or in the ongoing season (in which the Mets are 19-17 since March 29, 2018). I do know it’s nice to get a break from all of us telling one another what a dumb, dopey franchise we root for and having that line of thinking repeatedly reinforced by those who don’t share in our emotional investment.

Losing happens. Sometimes more than winning, but even in and around winning. Gremlins once in a great while mysteriously move hitters’ names to unintended slots on lineup cards. Overly ambitious runners take one too many steps from first base and don’t dive back into the bag ahead of a pickoff attempt. Light towers shine menacingly in center fielders’ eyes. Pitchers who couldn’t get outs for us get outs for somebody else. Yet not everything is this week’s sign that the apocalypse is upon us. I understand concern. I understand a low hum of stress that can be construed as panic. I understand panic. A month or three from now, panic may retroactively seem an irresponsibly tepid reaction to all that was going wrong for the Mets in May and we never should have been fooled by that night in Philly when a couple of home runs turned out to be aberrations from doom rather than harbingers of delight.

But, for now, we have won a game we were all but slated to lose. Michael Conforto is Michael En Fuego. Citi Field is renaming its second-highest level The Meszanine. Nobody batted out of order. Our runner who got picked off did not cost us a game. Our center fielder who almost lost a ball in the glare recovered and caught it. Thor and Jake have the next two starts. Eleven of fifteen National League teams have attained between nineteen and twenty-four wins, and ours is among them.

Cheer up, fellow Mets fans. Friday Night Lightning might keep us electrified all the way to Monday. Clear eyes, full hearts, we didn’t lose.