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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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Zen and the Art of First Place Maintenance

It was another great game, I suppose, but even noble vintages can become a surfeit after enough bottles have been sampled.
Roger Angell on Game Seven of the 1986 World Series

We’re not exactly in Ho-Hum, Another Win territory, but after a weekend like last weekend and a Tuesday night/Wednesday morning like Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, Wednesday night’s exciting and gratifying Mets win was practically routine.

Would you believe routinely intriguing?

A mysterious entity wearing No. 59 and making his Major League debut quivered all over the mound, walked the ballpark, was done in by his second baseman’s wide wickets, gave up three runs right away.

Would you believe it was no big deal?

No, it wasn’t especially encouraging to watch Alay Soler’s first wave of pitches defect from the strike zone, but these are the 2006 Mets we’re talking about. They’ve been known to fall behind, but they hardly ever fall apart.

In other years, maybe even other weeks, I wouldn’t have been sailing on calm seas with Soler, but the top of the first wound up no more confining to him than Cuba did — he got out of it. And as he was rescuing himself, his teammates rescued him right back.

“All it’ll take is a run here,” I thought in the bottom of the first. Let’s just get a marker on the board and we’ll be back in it. As has become his custom, Carlos Beltran left his mark, and it was 3-1.

I won’t say “and that was that,” because didn’t Jeremi Gonzalez settle down in the second on Friday only to implode in the third? I still hadn’t seen more than one inning out of Soler and I know I saw Randolph use every reliever from Darren Oliver to Danny Frisella less than 24 hours earlier and the Phillies still had the makings of a threatening street gang, but I wasn’t consumed with angst. Not because “it’s just a game” — I’m not that Zen, and not because “it was in the bag” — I’m not that zany. It was more like, these are the Mets. They’ll be fine.

And, like Soler after the first, they were. Those who you’d expect (Wright, Reyes) to deliver, delivered. Those who you’d like to deliver (Woody atoning for that error, Valentin with a tremendously timely sac fly) arrived in thirty minutes or less. While Pat Burrell felt compelled to remind us why he presumably named his daughter, his son and his three favorite hamsters Shea, he didn’t constitute an emergency. A 4-4 tie late? So we’ll break it. David Wright got a corner of the Sports Illustrated cover this week but the jinx fell out with the subscription cards. Mets 5 Phillies 4.

Aaron Heilman, current and future bullpen anchor, held ’em. Billy Wags then closed ’em like bleeping Saturday never bleeping happened. Maybe it bleeping didn’t.

A come-from-behind, marvelous-rookie-debut, contributions-from-everywhere, fireman-dousing-old-team, one-run win over our closest rivals? In the right circumstances, those are the ingredients of a classic. For the 2006 New York Mets as we’ve gotten to know them of late, it was just another very good night at the ballpark.

12 comments to Zen and the Art of First Place Maintenance

  • Anonymous

    I don't believe the jinx is in play when the player in question is the secondary story on the little strip in the corner.
    Carson Palmer on the other hand? Good luck buddy!

  • Anonymous

    A mysterious entity wearing No. 59 and making his Major League debut quivered all over the mound, walked the ballpark, was done in by his second baseman's wide wickets, gave up three runs right away.
    Would you believe it was no big deal?

    It does feel different this year. I was watching Soler in the first inning and thinking to myself, “He's just nervous, he's going to settle down.” What would I have thought in '04? Or any other year, for that matter? We had a rookie stopgap pitching in a “two and a half man rotation” against the biggest threat to our division this year, and for once, with my Mets, I wasn't waiting for the other shoe to drop. These Mets feel different.

  • Anonymous

    “These Mets feel different” is right. Let's look at Friday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
    4 games against blood rivals and division rivals.
    4 games in which the Mets were behind early.
    4 games which were decided by one run.
    4 wins.
    That's a pretty good sign. And yes, I conveniently left out the misstep from the weekend; focus on the positive, I say. (Wow, these Mets are making me say some weird things.)

  • Anonymous

    I agree that things are different. Jason wasn't home last night and I turned the TV on late, only to find the Mets behind. Then came the Beltran home run (boy, does Joshua love that battered old apple. He loves the droopy, smoky fireworks even more). And I felt very comfortable about the whole thing. To use David Wright's cliche of the day: “We never say die.” They really don't, and amazingly, we don't have to either.
    On the other hand, could we just review the Pat Burrell situation? How can a guy who has 171 career home runs have 33 against the Mets?That's almost 20 percent of his lifetime total. It's insane. Did he make some kind of a deal for our signs? And if he did, why doesn't he share them? (Not that I'd like him to give his secrets to the other Phillies, just wondering.) Unlike the two men ahead of him on the home-runs-against-the-Mets list, this is a decent but by no means dominating player who routinely makes the Mets look silly. What's up with that?

  • Anonymous

    Isn't it Chipper that named his kid Shea?

  • Anonymous

    “Danny Frisella”? Good God, man, how old ARE you? I haven't heard, or thought of, that name in 35 years.

  • Anonymous

    Greg is an old soul wrapped in an older body…

  • Anonymous

    Danny Frisella died in a freak dune-buggy accident on January 1, 1977.
    Somehow, that's a very-'70's way to go. Dune-buggy accident? You don't hear that very often nowadays. Do they even make dune-buggies (dune-buggy's?) anymore?

  • Anonymous

    Amazing how Soler came out of his funk in response to Woodward's error.
    That's a winner.

  • Anonymous

    Metlady is back! That's the headline.
    The subhed: Yes, Chipper IS the one with the kid named Shea. But Burrell's been a lot worse, so…

  • Anonymous

    New Zen Mets or not, we still can't sweep–that hasn't changed. And now we face the one good/decent pitcher in the Marlins' rotation. Let's see if Pedro can break out of his funk, looking to improve on that lack-luster outing that earned him his fourth straight no decision last week (7 scoreless against the Yankees, how does he look at himself in the mirror?)

  • Anonymous

    Hard to argue with,Greg….