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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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Dead First-Place Team Walking

It was a team of Cuddyers versus a team of cadavers Tuesday night. Who would your money be on?

I suppose there's no shame in losing to one of the pitchers if not the pitcher of our generation, but there is a mighty-Mississippi-wide difference between taking a few collars and tipping a few caps and meekly grounding, flying, popping and lining out 26 times — with one late K mixed in to keep the whole thing on the up and up. The Mets lost for the millionth time in their last million and three games. As has been the case for almost all of these losses, they looked pathetic, impotent and beaten from the start.

We were stymied on offense by the magnificent Johan Santana and overrun on defense by, if I'm reading the boxscore correctly, everybody who wore a Twins uniform, save perhaps for Ron Gardenhire. The four errors didn't help. The dreadful pitching by returned-to-Earth Jorge Sosa didn't help. Actually, nobody helped. Everybody hurt. This loss, much like just about every loss since June 3 when the current chain of pain began, was a total and complete Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York effort.

Go team.

Tuesday it was the Twins who were massively better than the Mets. Over the weekend it was the Yankees. Before them it was the Dodgers and the Tigers and the Phillies and the Diamondbacks. True enough that each of these units is a quality outfit. Many of them, as has been tirelessly documented, were 2006 playoff participants and every one of them owns a winning record in 2007. Oddly enough, so do we. We're still in first freaking place after not quite three of the most rancid weeks I've ever seen a Mets team compile. Gil help us once the Braves, Phillies and Marlins are no longer subject to American League opponents.

Can you believe it's not even three weeks that this has been going on? Three weeks ago at this moment I had drifted off on the couch to the blissful images provided by Jose Reyes bouncing, Armando Benitez balking and Carlos Delgado blasting. That was three weeks ago. May as well have been another lifetime. The next night Barry Zito dropped a Santana on us. Not quite as complete, but we tipped our caps and won the night after. Then in came the Diamondbacks and by the end of that series, the slide was in progress.

Well, that's not telling you anything you don't know. I wish I could pretend to have reliable sources and report the exact cure, but I don't and I can't. In lieu of certainty, any suggestions? I dunno. Turn over a buffet table? Reinstate kangaroo court? Hold extra fielding practice in the midday sun? Punish every miscue with a mandatory slice of that awful Sbarro pizza? Trade for…oh damn it, I don't want to talk about trade rumors in June. I hate trade rumors. Trade rumors are what fans of teams who are thread-hangingly in it or hopelessly out of it cling to for the balance of the summer — who we must trade for…and which Quadruple-A stat monster none of us has seen must come up…and who we must sign in the next class of free agents.

I hate that stuff. I'd rather join a fantasy league than feel compelled to think in those terms midyear. I loved last summer because I barely heard a peep of trade or minor league or December chatter. I'm sure it was there but I didn't listen to it. I tried not to indulge it anyway.

Now? For now I'm answerless. There's the occasional evening's peace when the Mets play like what we thought we could safely assume the Mets would be, but it doesn't last. The Mets haven't won a game directly following a previous win since May 29, since the Reyes-Benitez-Delgado bounce/balk/blast game. Monday night was the first game since June 2 to feature hitting, pitching and defense acting in concert. If it wasn't a can of whoopass, it was close enough, and if we could open anything approaching a can of whoopass on the Minnesota Twins for one night, you'd figure we could at least gather a collective pulse for the challenge of facing Santana the second night. But you'd have figured wrong.

The only saving grace I can find, other than Johan Santana will not be pitching Wednesday night, is we are not the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. This isn't a gratuitious shot at (youthful potential and Oriole chaos notwithstanding) the sport's worst franchise either. I fell into the Devil Rays-Diamondbacks game in Phoenix after our fleeting attempt at professionalism, and the Devil Rays have not grown one inch in their decade on the planet. Arizona fell behind 8-2 in the fifth, but Tampa Bay couldn't hold the large lead. Tony Clark hit a two-run pinch-homer in the ninth off previously unblemished closer Al Reyes to tie matters at eight in the ninth and Chris Young launched a two-run job off Reyes' 44th and final pitch in the tenth to make it Arizona 10 Tampa Bay 8, arrive home safely.

The Diamondbacks did to the fourth-place Devil Rays what we did to the Diamondbacks that first Thursday night at Chase Field when we were the team for whom no deficit was too big, no hurler too daunting, no circumstance too impossible. I was actually getting nostalgic for the 2007 Mets of April and May. I can't imagine our current crop of June bugs being any more than mere pests to a team of middling or better caliber. It's the same guys, mostly, but their hearts or their guts or their souls or their ability to play decent baseball for as many as two consecutive nights…let's just say that at this moment we're a first-place version of the Devil Rays. But just barely.

We're actually only seven games better than they are. And I wasn't planning on using them as our yardstick this season.

22 comments to Dead First-Place Team Walking

  • Anonymous

    Still up 3 in the loss column..Remember St. Louis was an 83 win champion last year. Just hang in there. We now sit on the flat water, but the wind is bound to pick up!..A little win tonight to take 2 out of 3..
    A little trick.. Whenever I get down I just imagine myself in the Polo Grounds on a lazy afternoon. A Knickerbocker at my side and Willie Mays breaking the silence with a screaming liner into left center..Come to think of it I could use a little trip to Cooperstown…
    Gotta go.
    Rich

  • Anonymous

    It was a team of Cuddyers versus a team of cadavers Tuesday night. Who would your money be on?
    Well… if you put it that way… (says the girl wearing the Michael Cuddyer t-shirt).
    But it was also a team full of batting champions, MVPs and Cy Young Award-winners. Let's not confuse the Twins with the, uh, Devil Rays
    Last night was one of the ugliest in recent memory. Let's hope tonight we can manage to look like a $100 million+ team for a change. Even if Willie has to sit every regular just to kick them in the behind. (Do we even have enough warm bodies left to do that?)

  • Anonymous

    Wow. My son, brother and sister-in-law and I attended last night's game.
    It sucked.
    Never have I seen such sucky display of sucking suckitude.
    – Today's turning point of the game was Delgado muffing the ball on the first play of the game. It just set the tone.
    – This was the first time that the game was over before my son got his Sbarro's pizza. We watched helplessly from the concession stand as the cashier tried to figure out how to reverse the $59.90 she charged us for pizza and bottled water. I almost handed over the money without an argument because y'know how the prices are…..
    – I believe I now have a new measure of suckitude: The Errors/Hit ratio. For the Mets, it was 1.00 meaning they sucked 100%.
    – The lowlight of the game was my brother chanting “Let's Go HOME!” when Cowbell guy came over to chant “Let's Go Mets!” in the 6th.
    – The express 7 was too crowded to step onto when we left the game….after the 7th inning.
    – We got these tickets when the Mets offered all those of us who sat through the 3 hour rain delay back in May tickets to the Twins series. I still want my money back.

  • Anonymous

    All is not lost!
    They had a shot vs. Santana in the first, but Reyes & Beltran hit to the deepest part of the park. And when you give Johan extra outs, well…
    Then I saw bunches of bullets right at people.
    Yes, it was a tough night. Tonight will be different.

  • Anonymous

    “Remember St. Louis was an 83 win champion last year”
    That 83 win clubs could even participate in the post-season has been an embarrasement to the National League. St. Louis, in reality, was nothing more than the winner of a post-season elimination tournament. Do not want to be a mediocre club pretending to be a champion but a team to be respected.
    Same thing with our 1973 club. On paper, starting out the season it was a very good club. Some claim we were deserving champions because the team was decimated by injuries and when we finally got back to full strength won 21 of it's last 28 games. But teams don't receive handicaps for injuries and we were only a .500 club lucky to be in the NL East .
    Don't want to win it that way in 2007. Want to have the class of a champion deserving to be in post-season.

  • Anonymous

    I was at the Reyes-Benitez game. Beautiful! Then I was at the Zito game and walked out before the odious G Mota was introduced, suspension over—this is where the Mets went wrong (and made the attempted torture of Bonds by the Shea fans insipid). Resigning Mota–a known cheater, an unproven commodity given he's been using HGH to get by–to a two-year contract reeked. Reeked to high heaven. It said: We have no integrity or imagination, and we'll snooker you suckers. The SI article on Minaya was revealing. He's a born-again delusionist; did Mota just look into Minaya's eyes and say: “Brother–I repent for my sins! Gimme $10M! Thanks, bro! In God We Trust, eh?” Was that the hustle? And if so, do we trust this GM who stayed pasive on a 2B, a SP, obtained a cripple to patrol both LF and the DL, and let Bradford and Oliver jump while KNOWINGLY signing an injured Schoenweiss? If I were the Wilpons, I'd keep him tied up by committee so he can't trade the future–Milledge, Gomez, Pelfrey, et al.–for some stop-gap scrub. 2008 may be good if we develop hungry young players in 2007. This team's a flop, and born-agains should patrol the idiot winds of Smoltz's Atlanta and the Coors' fascist Christians-only Rockies organization.

  • Anonymous

    Wow…
    You lost me with this one:

    If I were the Wilpons, I'd keep him tied up by committee

    You sound like a Yankee fan.

  • Anonymous

    I want them to win it all in the post season.
    Fuck everything else.

  • Anonymous

    Hear, hear Charlie.
    WTF was that?
    Newsflash, anonymous:
    If the Mets stripped their roster of every player who is currently, or has in the past, used illegal PED's they'd have a pretty tough time coming up with 25 names.
    As would every other team in the majors.

  • Anonymous

    Wanna win it too in post-season but if the Mets go 83-79 it just won't taste so sweet.

  • Anonymous

    It'll be fine by me!

  • Anonymous

    Well,
    Don't think an 83-79 would get them anything other than a plane ticket home after the last game of the regular season.
    Maybe the ease of which they won last year and teeing off on weak clubs the fist two months made them a bit complacent; hopefully this bad stretch might actually turn them back into a more aggressive ballclub.

  • Anonymous

    Whenever I get down I just imagine myself in the Polo Grounds on a lazy afternoon. A Knickerbocker at my side and Willie Mays breaking the silence with a screaming liner into left center..

    Funny thing, pc…
    My grandfather was huge fan of the Giants and worked for the company that made Knickerbocker (Rupperts).
    So, many a day for my Dad was spent at the Polo Grounds with a cold Knick…

  • Anonymous

    Oh and Greg… you know I love you. And you know I love Johan. But there's a certain guy still knockin' 'em dead–currently in San Diego–who is the pitcher of our generation. Johan's only even been a starter for under five years… hardly enough of a pedigree at this point to rate him over Greg Maddux.
    (That's me, sulking)

  • Anonymous

    I'm with you Charlie!

  • Anonymous

    It IS all Omar's fault.
    He only signs Latin players.
    He's also responsible for pulled hammys, acid rain and global warming.
    Oops…my mistake…thought I was on MetsBlog.

  • Anonymous

    JoeD in this day and age you win it anyway you can. You cant afford to do it the 'right way'..I totally agree with you, but everything has been reduced to one dead level. If you really think about it the Mets are pretty much just like everybody else now. We all want them to be something special, but they are not. Perhaps the same can be said about the entire major league level..
    Rich

  • Anonymous

    I agree with you, pretty much, Charlie. I just wish your prediction about tonight had come true. I'm afraid it wasn't different enough…

  • Anonymous

    A fair point.
    But I've never been comfortable with the “In this day and age” talk. People use it a lot and have for many days and many ages. But I'm pretty sure we'd have trouble coming to consensus on what day and age we are exactly in. Regardless, I don't see anything about our present that makes winning absolutely any way we can any more (or less) necessary or desirable than in the past.

  • Anonymous

    And it's always tricky figuring out when the last generation ended and ours begins.
    I'm sure there are many (especially employed by FOX and ESPN) who would still point to a certain unholy incarnation (Thank Gil we managed to vanquish him even in our diminished state) as the greatest pitcher of our generation.

  • Anonymous

    As much as it would pain/sicken me to do so, I would have to accept Satan's place in that pantheon, as arguably the greatest pitcher of our generation. I just don't think Johan is in that category yet, after only a handful of years. And to say Maddux isn't in our “generation,” but Santana is, would be pushing the argument too far for me.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed.