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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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February Fears

So the other day ESPN.com invited readers to rank the major-league teams from #1 to #30, using one of their whizzy mechanisms where you drag numbers onto pictures. (Which is very cool until you work from worst to first, get to about #6 and realize you forgot the Reds.)

So here’s how I ranked them, with voters’ consensus rank in parentheses. (Caveats: I did this quickly, and I don’t know jack about most of the American League. Because, honestly, who gives a shit.)

30. Royals (26)
29. Orioles (27)
28. Devil Rays (29)
27. Pirates (28)
26. Nationals (30)
25. Rockies (25)
24. Reds (23)
23. Rangers (19)
22. Diamondbacks (22)
21. Mariners (24)
20. Astros (16)
19. Giants (18)
18. Marlins (20)
17. Brewers (21)
16. Cubs (9)
15. Braves (17)
14. Padres (15)
13. Blue Jays (13)
12. Indians (14)
11. Cardinals (5)
10. Dodgers (7)
9. Phillies (10)
8. Mets (4)
7. Angels (11)
6. Red Sox (2)
5. Yankees (1)
4. White Sox (6)
3. A’s (12)
2. Twins (8)
1. Tigers (3)

So.

I don’t apologize for thinking the Yankees and Cubs won’t be that good. (The Cubs won a division on paper, so what — ask Steve Phillips, Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar how that turns out. Besides, they’re the Cubs.) I don’t think the Cardinals deserve an asterisk or anything, but 5th best in baseball? C’mon. I admit I’m probably too high on the A’s because of a lingering Moneyball crush and it’s just too hard to keep track of a team that uses a DH 3,000 miles away.

But what you’re really wondering is this: Eighth? Really, Jace? The average ESPN voter has more faith in our team than you do?

Um, I guess so.

Look, I still rated us the best team in the National League. But I admit to being nervous, and it’s not just a longtime Met fans’ innate pessimism.

It’s the pitching.

Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez are capable, but they’re awfully old. Mike Pelfrey and Philip Humber could become stars, but they’re awfully young. John Maine and Oliver Perez could take a step forward, or a step back. (Given Perez’s career, by now he’s got enough steps for a whole dance routine.) Dave Williams and Jason Vargas and Aaron Sele are the pitching equivalent of spaghetti hurled at a wall. And Pedro? His projected date of return ranges from August to never.

I’m not sure what percentage of that glass is full and what percentage is empty, but it makes me anxious. I wouldn’t be shocked if Glavine got to 300 wins and a few more for lagniappe, El Duque was serviceable, either Pelfrey or Humber had a breakout, star-making year, either Maine or Perez or both took steps forward, the spaghetti starters weren’t needed beyond spot starts, and Pedro arrived like a conquering hero come summer. In that case, print my playoff tickets and hold my October calls, please.

But I also wouldn’t be astonished if Glavine was merely serviceable, El Duque spent a long time on the shelf, Pelfrey and Humber scuffled while learning their craft in New Orleans, Maine and Perez took steps backwards, the spaghetti starters channeled Lima and Gonzalez, and Pedro never arrived at all. In that case, we could lose a lot of 7-6 affairs, and October might be spent listening to Tommy Lasorda tell us to get out of the tree.

Maybe the sight of pitchers running along the warning track and reading the 35th story about Moises Alou just fitting in will make me perk up a little. Maybe. For now, though, it’s freezing and I look at our pitching staff and I think, We could be second or third and we could be 15th, so yep, that averages out to around eighth.

Change my mind, please.

9 comments to February Fears

  • Anonymous

    SEVEN American League teams ahead of the top National League team? P'shaw. The American League embarrassed itself in last year's tournament. Their World Series representative stomped all over its opponents and then couldn't throw a ball to first base. (Don't look for intellectual consistency this time of year.)
    And even if you think it, I don't know how you could put the team you did at No. 5 and us at a number not as high. I mean, dude…protocol!
    I voted us No. 1 because it's January and why the hell not? I share many of your same concerns and they'll begin to leak out in due order, but it's January. If my team can't be No. 1 in January, what's the point?
    My other selections since they asked for at least five (I don't remember the order) were Cardinals, Dodgers, Blue Jays and Tigers. I always think the Blue Jays are about to put it together. They rarely do.

  • Anonymous

    (…I don't know jack about most of the American League. Because, honestly, who gives a shit.)
    I do. And props for No. 2. You're clearly a man of superior baseball knowledge.

  • Anonymous

    Ummm… I didn't vote. Does that make me a bad American or something?
    Jason, the NL came within a few unmentionable hairs of winning the All-Star game, which should've been some kind of sign to the rest of us. No matter. Then the lowly, execrable Cards completely dismantled, disrespected and dishonored the AL by humiliating the Motor City Kitties. The tide has turned.
    I do like where you put our guys re the rest of the NL. Our arms will be Ok or better, our bats will be better and the dynasty will grow another year.

  • Anonymous

    While I don't feel warm and fuzzy about the starters, either, let's not forget that this team relies more upon a powerful offense and a deep, talented bullpen. I could go position by position or demonstrate why this pen should again be light years ahead of the competition, but, instead, I'll simply utter two magical words: Steve Trachsel.
    Trachsel averaged 5.4 innings per start last year. He was walking as many as he was striking out. The opposition hit .288 hit against him. His 4.97 ERA was 13% below league average. In any just world, he would have gone 8-15, rather than the 15-8 record he posted.
    Sure, some of the other teams have improved, and the Mets aren't likely to be able to replicate the performance Pedro provided them last April and May, but the Tale of the Trachsel is the story of this team: Offense and bullpen — and not starting pitching.
    The job of the Mets' starters will be to not get blown out. If they keep the team in the game, the offense/bullpen combination will likely prevail, especially if they can get into the other team's middle relief corps.
    And did I mention that the offense could be a hell of a lot stronger this year with Alou?

  • Anonymous

    In all seriousness, I do have to agree with Jace regarding the sorry state of our pitching. And I don't recommend throwing Dave Williams against the wall anytime soon, since yet another one bit the dust yesterday.
    Woe is most definitely us.

  • Anonymous

    Oh God, please.
    ANYTHING but Tommy Fu**ing Lasorda again.

  • Anonymous

    I'm going to go crazy and take solace in volume of pitching over superiority of it, in an era when superor ptiching is in short supply.
    Volume, yeah, that's the ticket.

  • Anonymous

    *runs to dictionary*
    lagniappe – A small gift presented by a storeowner to a customer with the customer's purchase. 2. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit.
    Good lord man, I can't think that hard. I now have a headache.
    I'm thinking 8th is a mite low myself. As for younguns, we've had our ups and downs with young arms. It's been a long while since we were on the good side of that. So the baseball gods owe us one.
    I've changed the address to my blog by the way – http://edinwestchester.blogspot.com/
    Please be so kind as to update the link.
    Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    I could not disagree more. This world could use more Tommy Lasorda's and his spaghetti sauce. What we need less of are these articulate ways of expressing ourselves exemplified by good ole Rusty.