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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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As Good As You Look When You Win

I have a strong suspicion that the Mets we have seen through 14 games represent the new normal. These are the 2007 Mets. Our team. Our time.
Totally this time.
Granted, it's a small sample, a mere 8.64% of the season accounted for, but have you seen anything from these Mets that worries you to any great extent? I don't mean the ding to Lo Duca or the nursing of Heilman or the continuing education of Ambiorix Burgos or that every time the camera picks up Damion Easley, he seems to be wishing he took that repairman's job with Maytag. Of course there are going to be physical limitations and mental blocks and moss that gathers on those rarely called on to roll. That's normal stuff to worry about. You're crazy if you don't dwell on something.
But the big picture…it's pretty reassuring, isn't it? We're 14 games through '07 and save maybe for a couple of uncomfortable innings by a starting pitcher here and there, one or two vapor locks in the field and a few too many LOBs a week or so ago, have the Mets done anything wrong?
Not really. They've looked great without actually looking their best. I'm willing to bet they can play better than they have even if it will be tough to improve on 10 wins in 14 games, which happens to be the best mark in all of baseball right now.
Tim McCarver liked to say and Rob Emproto likes to remind me that you're never as good or as bad as you look. But sometimes, I gotta believe, you are what you appear to be. The Mets appear to be awesome, even more so than they appeared at this time one year ago.
Our record in 2006, when first place was freshly painted, was the same, 10-4. Given the newness of our occupation and the floundering of the former N.L. East penthouse tenant, the vibe was heady and novel. After 14 games a year ago, we winged our way west to San Diego and San Francisco and back this way for a changing of planes in Atlanta. It was one of those death-knell trips we'd been programmed to expect, except the bell never tolled. I was pretty sure we were for real before that trip and the 6-4 run through those erstwhile killing fields confirmed it. I wouldn't necessarily say the rest of last season was a victory lap, but we knew we were good by the end of that very first month.
Now? I have a sense we're more than that. There has been no letdown by these guys after not scooping it all up in '06, the key words here being these guys. In this era of piping hot personnel turnover, the '07 Mets have remained relatively stable. Most nights seven of the eight position players are Met vets. The rotation is composed of familiar faces. Only Alou, a couple of guys at the end of the bench and a jumble of middle relievers are new in town.
There's significance in that, I think, on several counts.
1) After two seasons of mixing and matching and dutifully filling the recycling bin to the rim with Tides and pink slips every Monday morning, Omar has got the team he wants out there, at least as close as he can get to it for now. His eye for talent along with Willie's talent for drawing out performance are on display daily. It's nearly impossible to fathom anybody filled their roles directly before them because I can't envision anybody filling their shoes.
2) I really get the sense the players themselves are on a mission. It's a very fan-projecting way to think, I admit, but do you imagine that any of the vast core of this team is satisfied with the way '06 ended? They didn't care what flags and rings were being distributed in St. Louis. They didn't give a damn what Jimmy Rollins said about anything. They're still the loosey-goosey, mile-smile fun bunch we fell in love with last year, but there's just that little extra edge to them now. They're good and they know it and they're intent on letting everybody they come up against understand it.
3) For us, the base, there is a comfort level I haven't felt in years. The getting-acquainted maneuvers this spring were minimal. We know our guys now. We trust them. They did it before and, heck, they can do it again. As much as I loved acquiring the big names we now call Mets, I cringed just a tiny bit the previous couple of winters over the mercenary factor. The Beltrans, Wagners and Delgados no longer have that rented-stranger feel to them. They're Mets. They're us. They're still here a year later. And they're kicking ass up and down the East Coast.
They continued to do so Thursday night in a dozen pleasing ways large and small. John Maine needed extra rest? OK, he got it and he cruised. El Duque needed to go in regular rotation? OK, he did and he cruised. One troubling inning and everything else fell into place. It was as if his last shaky start never happened.
When I found out we were facing a pitcher of whom most of the western world had never heard, I shuddered. The Mets can't handle obscure rookies. Even the 2006 Mets could be blindsided by unknown quantities, and this one seemed to have an excellent curveball. But these are the 2007 Mets and the 2007 Mets just know what they're doing. They sized up Rick Vanden Hurk and they battered him as if he were Chris Carpenter.
Lo Duca out? Willie moved some pieces around. Beltran bats in the two-hole and pretends it's the three-hole: 4 for 6, homer, two ribs. Castro takes Paulie's position and he homers and knocks in three. Delgado still not quite there? Maybe not, but he sure has a knack for big doubles. Wright got a hit 'cause he always does. Alou got two 'cause it's April. Reyes was Reyes and all that implies. Jose Valentin is ungodly hot (and incredibly competent afield) and even the often stiff and awkward Shawn Green is swinging with ease and yielding contributory results.
I think that's everybody. Everybody chipped in and the Mets stepped all over the Marlins. What was the final score again? 11-3. What was it the night before? 9-2. Night before that? 8-1 over somebody else. It's almost as if it doesn't matter who they play or when they play them. Earlier this season — and this season couldn't be much earlier than it already is — the Mets won 10-0, 11-1 and 11-5.
This is Met baseball. They pound people and they don't give them much of a chance to respond. And they're not even playing perfectly. The cold spell up north sapped them of power. The pitchers couldn't get their feel and threw too many balls. Wright and Delgado haven't truly broken out by any means.
Yet we're 10 and 4, ahead of the world. We may not be as good as we look. We may be better.
I don't want to hear that we've played some fallow siblings. Were the world champion Cardinals an easy assignment? The revamped Phillies? The Nats I'll give you but the Marlins? They're not terrible and even if they were, since when has that ever mattered during crunch time between the sacks of Soilmaster?
As for the Braves, yes, we're 1-2 against our closest competition, having blown them off the map once and lost tight ones to them twice. Now that the Phillies have retreated to an undisclosed location for group therapy, it appears it will be us and the Atlantans for a while. Even that, though, is different from the version to which we became accustomed circa 1998. We're not looking up at any Braves this time around. They want to compete in this division? They have to go through Shea. Whatever they accomplish this weekend, if in fact they accomplish anything, they'll have to keep it up at a pace commensurate to the one we set. We are quite capable of setting a demanding pace.
I respect the Braves, if not for their pre-2006 accomplishments then for the excellent start they themselves have enjoyed in 2007. I respect every team, every square on the schedule, every possible exigency, every fateful detail that can swat a year awry. I respect the baseball season and thus take none of its potential whims lightly.
But as a Mets fan in 2007, I fear nothing and nobody.

12 comments to As Good As You Look When You Win

  • Anonymous

    I still can't discount the possibility that we might fall to earth this weekend out of sheer habit, but I am looking forward to being dead wrong.
    And have I mentioned lately how much I love Ramon Castro? Dude rocks. “Is that an earthquake? NO! It's Rrrrrrrrramon!!!”

  • Anonymous

    I am a man of many fears..One one of those fears is of happiness.
    Why do I desire the sound of footsteps in a field of flowers? Of breathing down the collective necks of the faithful who gather for a joyus event?
    Why does it upset me when six of the 12 grown men at the Wendy's I ate in last satyrday had some form of Met gear on! I wont put even a cap on! I need help Greg. I gotta get comfortable in my own skin..I still remember sitting in that darkened room- my wife upstairs happy that her Disney trip wont be ruined by the Series. I could hear her smiling..What would Keith have done..
    Section 14 row B in the Mezz tonight. I will say my annual silent prayer.
    Gotta go Pcelli60

  • Anonymous

    sure it's early, but what's great is knowing that one series, regardless of who the opposition is, is not going to make or break this team. they looked bad against the braves, yes, and that's about it. i don't expect the mets to look bad against them again this weekend, but even if they do, they will self-correct and keep on winning.
    even with the stinkeroos, they were 7-3 the first 10, and i thought, imagine 15 more of those 10-packs. what have they done since? gone 3-1. gotten BETTER.
    i bow my head to all the caveats you mention, greg, and know just how fickle the baseball gods can be (see 10/06). and we will see our share of uglyball. but only our share.
    i entered this season concerned that last year was some aberration. it wasn't.
    these guys know how to win, and have a solid history of playing together to build on. they go about their business with a joy but also a purposefulness that i find reassuring.
    i'm more confident about these guys than i was about our much loved 1999-2000 crew because management isn't about to dismantle this core. i enjoy mets 07 the way i enjoyed the hallowed mid to late 80's version. but these guys are their very own.

  • Anonymous

    Great piece. You forgot to mention this, but I will — all this and nice weather finally. This could be be the Greatest Weekend Ever.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed on Castro, Laurie. I, of course, have dubbed him “El Cabesa Grrrrrrrrrrrrrandeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

  • Anonymous

    This 3 game series against the Braves is as critical as one can get for two weeks into the season. I look at the Braves as if last season (for them) didn't happen and a genuine test for the 2007 Mets, one they didn't have in 2006. Shea should be rockin' tonight.
    BTW – both McCarver and our own Bobby were wrong – the Met teams of the late seventies WERE as bad as they looked. Those early, lovable editions – they don't count because they were the foundation for our love affairs.

  • Anonymous

    Any chance the Mets are a “warm weather” team. I know it sounds silly, but considering the large constituency of latino ballplayers and how they faired late last season and into the playoffs.
    Any possible merit or have I gone completely insane?
    Most likely the later I hope considering the World Series will most likely be in the Northeast this Fall (and I've had people call me insane before).

  • Anonymous

    I got so pumped after reading this column that I wished it was gametime.

  • Anonymous

    Stay strong. Enjoy the game.

  • Anonymous

    I share your extreme confidence in this team, mainly because of their lineup. As great as the mid-to-late 80's and 99-00 lineups were, this is by far the greatest Met lineup in history. There is not a lineup in the National league that comes close.

  • Anonymous

    I look forward to testing the warm-weather theory for six-plus months starting…now.

  • Anonymous

    I often think about this whole hot and cold streak thing. What good is another awesome season if come October the bats go cold?
    How does a team prepare to get “hot” at precisely the right time.
    Can Omar force our latino players to spend winters in Queens?
    Or maybe the WS should be played in the Dominican this year?
    What a nice gesture on MLB's behalf to help the economy of an impoverished third world country. It's the least we can do seeing as that's where the majority of talent comes from these days.
    Right?