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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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Which of These Things is Not Like the Other?

On October 1, 2005, the Mets beat the Rockies 3-1 and raised their record to 83-78.

On October 1, 2006, the Cardinals lost to the Brewers 5-3 and lowered their record to 83-78.

The Mets clinched a tie for third place.

The Cardinals clinched a division title.

The next day, the Mets would complete their season with a loss.

The next day, the Cardinals would prepare for the playoffs.

The Mets won 12 more games in 2005 than they won the year before.

The Cardinals won 17 fewer games in 2006 than they won the year before.

The Mets finished 2005 tied for third with the Marlins.

The Cardinals finished 2006 as World Champions.

83-78.

83-78.

28 comments to Which of These Things is Not Like the Other?

  • Anonymous

    This way lies madness.
    I think one of the things that's enjoyable about watching sports is that you can't in good faith say (as you can sometimes in life), “The better team lost.” In sports the better team is defined as the one that wins that day under those circumstances. The comparison you make is interesting and enjoyable to read (as is pretty much everything you write), but I don't know where to go with it beyond that.

  • Anonymous

    I agree. I had a long-running debate with a friend over the '88 NLCS results. He said the better team lost. I said no, that can't be. If the Mets were better than the Dodgers, they had the only arena that counted in which to prove it. I'd say the same about the Mets and Cardinals in the 2006 NLCS, damn it.
    But I'm not talking 2006 Mets vs 2006 Cardinals. I'm talking 2005 Mets vs 2006 Cardinals. Why? Because in one of the articles lauding St. Louis after the fact, the regular-season record that was emphasized, 83-78, stuck in my head. “83-78…why does that ring a bell?” Then I remembered: That was the Mets' record the year before on the night before the season ended. I was so happy to get it that high. We didn't get anything for it except a self-awarded merit badge.
    One of the other things enjoyable about watching (or observing) sports is the numbers, even if the aberrations don't always work in your favor.
    Damn it.

  • Anonymous

    Was walking to work yesterday and realized I'd been fuming, on a basically subconscious level, for a good five minutes. Stopped to assess what I was fuming about….
    Big breaking hook. Drops in. Beltran straightens up. Molina in the air.
    Big breaking hook. Drops in. Beltran straightens up. Molina in the air.
    Big breaking hook. Drops in. Beltran straightens up. Molina in the air.
    Big breaking hook. Drops in. Beltran straightens up. Molina in the air.
    This is gonna take a while yet.

  • Anonymous

    This piece reminds me of that radio commercial for a hospital whose name escapes me… You know the one I'm talking about (cue the scary staccato piano music):
    “Bill Pulsipher had elbow problems, back problems, and a brief seizure.”
    “Bill Pulsipher had elbow problems, back problems, and a brief seizure.”
    “Bill Pulsipher thought he'd never pitch again.”
    “Bill Pulsipher returned to the majors and finished his career with 13 wins.”
    Yeah, I miss baseball.

  • Anonymous

    The '88 playoffs was exactly the test case I was thinking of. I remember that someone wrote after the Dodgers won that they were the worst of the four teams in the playoffs. But they did have Orel “Damn it” Hershiser and Mike “Damn it” Scosia and Kirk “Damn it” Gibson and they just got it done. We did have the literary stylings of David “Scoop” Cone, but that wasn't enough.
    Damn it.

  • Anonymous

    I've been puzzling over that myself. And how even after their delightful little World Series Championship, said Cardinals had still not amassed enough wins to surpass our win total–from the regular season!
    Does this imply that the 2005 team could've gone all the way, given the chance? Ahhh

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps our mistake was playing a 162nd regular-season game. 83-79 won't get you a world championship. But 83-78? That's gold, Jerry. GOLD!

  • Anonymous

    Considering that the 2005 New York Mets featured the immortal Mike Jacobs in their lineup, I think one has to concede that anything would have been possible.
    They may have won the World Series in a three game sweep with their American League opponent too thoroughly demoralized by and fearful of our sweet-swinging stalwart at first base to even show up for game four.

  • Anonymous

    Since you invoked one of our patron saints
    Didn't Bill Pulsipher come up to the Majors the same year as Andy Pettitte? And wasn't he the far more promising or at least hyped lefthanded pitching prospect? And didn't Andy Pettitte just sign a very large contract because he went on to have a wonderful career? Is it possible they are the same age?
    The answer in each case is yes.

  • Anonymous

    These things are like light years. I'm not even up to fucking Armando in my winter recriminations.
    Fucking Jeff Lahti.

  • Anonymous

    The 1973 World Series pitted an 82-79 team against a 94-68 team. The series went 7 games. Any team can win a short series. And 7 games is still a short series. Even the Royals and Devil Rays can go 4-3 in a 7-game stretch.
    We really need to get over this and move on. Granted I haven't gotten over 2000 (fucking Armando), but still…

  • Anonymous

    The Cardinals defeated Fairfield Prep in the state semifinals in 99, before going on to beat Southington, 47-27.

  • Anonymous

    Fucking Darold Knowles…

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    Had there been just two divisions with champions facing off against one another then October's loss to an 83-79 winner from a patheticly weak Western Division would have been more acceptable. If we rejoice in 1973, we would then have to accept dismay 33 years later. Those are the breaks.
    Always against the current playoff system that includes few little teams in too many divisions plus a reward for one second place loser. With 16 teams in the NL, there could still be two divisions of eight with free agency assuring that no team need remain buried in the second division year after year (unless owned by a clone of M. Donald Grant). No convoluted “wild card race” for sub-par teams – only champions suvriving a good old fashion pennant race.
    Under the old system, St. Louis, if in the East, would have finished third, 13 1/2 games behind the Mets. Even in a weak West, they would have been 4 1/2 games behind the Padres and L.A., who would have finished the season requiring a one-game playoff.
    In the NFL teams like the Giants who were 6-6 going into the weekend were still deep in playoff contention because of wild cards. At the end of the season, these mediocre teams do not belong with the big boys looking for a conference and Super Bowl title. It's a shame MLB followed the same path. The World Series has long since become a water downed product, which is proved by the decreasing fan interest over the last ten years.

  • Anonymous

    I consider myself a baseball purist. I hate the DH, love the double-switch and the sacrifice bunt, and reacted initially as you did to the Wild Card.
    Problem is, while the WIld Card is not good for the team that finishes way ahead of the rest of the pack, it is, overall, good for baseball.
    Come trading deadline time this past summer, how many teams were still in the hunt for the post-season? I'm thinking something like 13-14 teams. If we had four divisions, and only the regular season winners moved on, how many would still realistically have a show? I'm thinking 5 or 6. Attendance stays up in those extra markets, along with merchandise, concessions, and the rest. Until reality sets in come mid-September, millions of fans actually think their team can win it all.
    That's frustrating for teams like the '06 Mets, especially considering the outcome (the 12th best record wins the whole damned thing), but overall, it's good for the game.
    I do believe that no team, in any sport, should be able to make the postseason without winning at least half of its regular season games, and half of its games within its division. If you can't beat your three or four biggest rivals consistently, why should you be rewarded. That'll never happen, but it NostraDennis' world, it should.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, attendance stays up for most extra markets (except Florida and even Philadelphia) but this really puts profits ahead of product and I really question how good this really is for the game. In the past, all who were competing for the league and world series title was a true champion of a season long pennant race; now, all we have is the survivor of a post-season elimination tournament.
    Before the new system, MLB wasn't doing so bad at all (sans the 1994 player strike). There was so much excitement during the season and way more tension in late September when losing meant going home for the winter. We will never experience a Bobby Thompson moment again. Imagine what Russ Hodges' call of the shot heard around the world would have sounded like today: “Branca thows, there's a line drive it's going to be, I believe. The Dodgers win the wild card, the Dodgers win the wild card!”.
    That's real baseball.
    Just a take from an old baseball purist.

  • Anonymous

    “The Mets win the Wild Card, the Mets win the Wild Card” (or words to that effect) in 1999 was one of the happiest moments of my life. Doesn't really matter what it was called that night.
    Cincy got left out with 96 wins. Luck of the draw.

  • Anonymous

    They play for six months… I don't mind four teams making the playoffs instead of two. Scoff as you might at increasing fan interest, but if your squad is hovering at .500 at the break and you still have a shot, you'll pay attention. Is it good for the game if all but the most devout fans in Philly/Boston/Houston/wherever turn their attention to football if they're ten out on August 1st?
    There needs to be adjustments. The first round should also be best-of-seven. And the wildcard team should only get one home game per series (up till the WS). And if teams from different divisions are competing for the same wildcard spot, it's only fair they play the same schedule, so get back to the balanced schedule, and do away with interleague (you wanna keep three 'rival' games a year, I guess I can live with that).
    Thanks for reminding me about Beltran's lookie-loo. I was almost enjoying my day until that.

  • Anonymous

    Wouldnt last September have been more exciting and tension filled if Oakland/Minnesota in the West and the Yankees/Detroit in the East going down to the wire – with the winner take all? Same with the NL West with the Dodgers and San Diego.
    If my team is hovering at .500 at the break, it still would have a shot at a division title with a hot second half. If not, then so be it. And I suspect more fans than one thinks would be interested in watching true championship teams than those just earning berths for a post-season tournament. Again, look at the dismal world series television ratings.

  • Anonymous

    Since it's the only game in town, winning the wild card in 1999 was a thrill, however, it still left me with the taste of an also-ran. Winning the Division in 1969 and 1986 felt more satisfying. And Gooden surrendering a ninth inning home run against St. Louis that one September evening was the most gut-wrenching loss ever experienced in the regular season. Now, it wouldn't have meant all that much.
    Just thoughts from a guy who screwed up his math and sport three times last week!

  • Anonymous

    If the White Sox had won a few more games along the way, meaning Minnesota, Detroit and Chicago were going at it hammer and tong for two playoff spots, it would have been just as exciting as an old-fashioned (1969-1993) divisional race. When the Tigers stormed through the Yankees and A's to a pennant, I can't imagine a single fan in Detroit was rueing the division title that got away.
    Using a more parochial example, and coming back around to the 83-78 that seeped under my skin the other day, there's no way the 2005 Mets under the pre-1994 system were anything but an afterthought from the middle of May on. We would have been wiped out by the Cardinals early and often. Instead, we were permitted to dream until early September that we'd win the Wild Card. It was a hollow dream in the end, but finishing a few games from the playoffs beat finishing 17 games out of first place. It certainly gave us something to blog about.
    We're as likely to see two eight-team divisions, with their champions facing each other to the exclusion of all others, as we are to see the first-place team in the 16-team NL face the first-place team in the 14-team AL. And we're not likely to see that.

  • Anonymous

    I'll give you this, Joe. The 2006 division title was uniquely satisfying because we had been 18 years without one. In the context of the regular season, it represented the toppling of Atlanta at last, a very special achievement. If we had beaten them in the '99 playoffs, I can't say for sure 2006 would have had that little extra oomph since it was more coronation than race all year.
    Give me a few more coronation-type years and I'll let you know if they get boring.
    Under the old geography, Atlanta was in the same division as three California teams. Since that was a jury-rigged system intended to keep the Cardinals and Cubs coming to New York three times a year, it's hard to say that was a more equitable system than what we have now. (Though I'd gladly have burned every atlas I had to have sent the Braves packing back to the west between 1995 and 2005.)
    I can't say I was more satisfied with the division title and the LCS loss in 2006 than I was in 2000 with the Wild Card and a league championship, however. The object is to get as far as you can, whatever road you take.
    Give gut-wrenchingness due to the right guy: It was McDowell's pitch that ruined a September evening against the Cardinals. Gooden's pitch ruined an October evening against the Dodgers. Let's keep our kicks in the stomach straight (even if they sometimes seem too plentiful to catalogue).

  • Anonymous

    “When the Tigers stormed through the Yankees and A's to a pennant, I can't imagine a single fan in Detroit was rueing the division title that got away.”
    Wonder how they felt the Sunday they lost it to Minnesota and what damper this might have had prior to game one at Yankee Stadium?
    “We're as likely to see two eight-team divisions, with their champions facing each other to the exclusion of all others, as we are to see the first-place team in the 16-team NL face the first-place team in the 14-team AL. And we're not likely to see that”
    That, my friend, we are in agreement with. The only compromise is two wild card teams in a one game playoff to make the post-season. Will at least make winning a division more meaningful.

  • Anonymous

    “Give gut-wrenchingness due to the right guy: It was McDowell's pitch that ruined a September evening against the Cardinals. Gooden's pitch ruined an October evening against the Dodgers”.
    OK Greg,
    That now makes four goofs in less than a week on my part. Guess I'm lucky to remember the correct blog for these postings!

  • Anonymous

    We, in turn, are lucky to have you post here. Just remember good old http://faithandfear.blogharbor.com and we'll sort out the rest as we go along.

  • Anonymous

    “Just remember good old http://faithandfear.blogharbor.com and we'll sort out the rest as we go along.”
    Just to play it safe, I'll put the blog information in with the rest of my identication papers – once I remember where I last placed them.

  • Anonymous

    Well, if baseball insists on four teams per league making the playoffs, and it strikes us all as patently stupid and unfair when a weak division propels a 500-ish team into the postseason while a better team in a strong division is omitted, there is an obvious solution: scrap divisions completely and let the top four teams advance in a seeded tournament, 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3.
    Me, I don't like the idea, for the same reason that I don't like balanced schedules. But it would always ensure that no unworthy team (measured by regular season record) ever advances. And most years it would produce about the same outcome as the current system.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe it's just bad luck being so good. In 1985 the Mets won 98 but lost the division to St. Louis by 2 games. In 1988, they won 100 but lost the league championship to L.A. This season, of course, we won 97 and lost an elimination tournament to St. Louis. And the same 97 was won in 1999, when we were the wild card but finished second to Atlanta. On the other hand, being mediocre we won the league championship back in 1973 just three games over .500.
    Of course, when we won it all we had seasons of 100 and 108 victories.