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ABOUT US

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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The Full Complement

There are supposed to be 162 games every season. Since 1962, the Mets have failed to play at least that many to a conclusive result in eleven different campaigns. A total of 132 were lost to labor stoppages in 1972, 1981, 1994 and 1995. Eleven more were forever rained out or cancelled by whatever means necessary: two apiece in 1962 (imagine the N.L. not forcing the Mets and Colt .45s into a replay of a 7-7 rain-shortened tie) and 1988 (ever wonder why the Mets took a legendary ten of eleven from the Dodgers as opposed to eleven of twelve?); one each in 1966, 1973 (we clinched in the 161st game the day after the season was supposed to end — so much for the planned doubleheader), 1991 (Olympic Stadium was falling down), 2002 and 2003 (a confluence of the August blackout, the Springsteen concerts in October and the Giants ultimately not getting hung up on home field advantage).

By my reckoning, somebody owes us 141 games. And no, the 163rd game in 1999, as awesome as it was, does not reduce the total. We’re entitled to the full complement.

More to the point, the full complement is entitled to us. Whatever constitutes a complete season knows what it’s doing. It’s the Mother Nature of baseball: you can’t fool it. It knows all. It will hunt you down. It will take your measure. It won’t let you get away with any more shortcuts than those itself is willing to give. It eats you alive, it catches you at the border, it shakes you down and it won’t get out of your way.

In light of the way the most recent version of itself played out, Faith and Fear announces that the Nikon Camera Player of the Year for 2008 is the 162-game schedule. In the end, it always wins.

You can consider this a lifetime achievement award, certainly one earned in 2008, but not a factor for the first time and probably not for the last time. The 162-game schedule, in the words of Beavis, rules.

It rules!

That’s an innocuous thing most years, a good thing some years, a rather unfortunate fact of life these past two years. In 2008 and, yes, 2007, the Mets could not hide from the full complement. These weren’t the first instances of the Mets’ fate being determined at the finish line.

• If the 2008 season had ended after the Mets played 157 games, there would have been a postseason at Shea.

• If the 2007 season had ended after the Mets played 158 games, there would have been a postseason at Shea then, too.

• Conversely, if the 1999 season had ended after the Mets played 159 games, there would have been no postseason at Shea…and imagine how dull life as we know it would have been these past nine years without everything that happened from the 160th game of 1999 to its bittersweet end.

• In 1998, double-conversely, we would have had some October action for sure if we could have put a capper on matters after 157 games.

The Mets brought the 162nd game to the National League in 1962, they and the Houstons. Expansion spurred the lengthier schedule, up from the 154 that was the standard from 1904 through 1961. It would figure that the last few Met-mandated contests would make such a tangible difference in our fortunes four times in eleven seasons.

If the 162-game schedule, the six-month equivalent of ninety feet from home to first, underscored anything in 2008, it’s that it’s a very long year. To those of us who try to make sense of it on a going basis, we are plainly shot down again and again by the length of baseball’s year. So many times I sorta, kinda had this team figured out, only to have time undo my assumptions. It’s not so much a matter of whether I was wrong or right — believe me, I was wrong a lot — but rather how impossible the 162-game season makes it to reach a definitive conclusion about your team, let alone live in the moment.

I can’t tell you how often and how much I wrote off the chances of the 2008 Mets well in advance of their 162nd game. That they did not successfully extend their season would seem to prove me out, but I’d say no, it proves nothing of the sort. My thoughts on the ’08 Mets weren’t of the “they’ll come up just short again” variety. They were “don’t even get me started.”

The Mets began to be written off by me, a professional writer, on April 6:

On our side of the fence, the Mets clearly aren’t clicking, save for Santana and Church. Let’s hope they can resist the pull of their new teammates and their old karma. It’s already begun to suck Schneider and Pagan into that stale and dismal vortex that seems unchanged from last September, the one that makes you forget we’re only five games into 2008.

One game later — six games in — I confirmed that it was going to be a lousy and long year:

It wasn’t a brand new season full of hope we saw take shape on Tuesday. It was September 31, 2007. And it was damn depressing to watch.

Well, it would be long. One-hundred sixty-two games long. It always is, save for the exceptions noted above. But that wouldn’t stop me from having it all figured out after ten games:

I’m past comparing this season to last season. The current edition has yet to put together an early stretch of dominance even close to what the Mets of 2007 racked up. Ten games in, they are, in the argot of the chronically inarticulate, what they are. They are a .500 ballclub, good some days and nights, less so on others.

After eleven games:

It’s an average-ish team in an average-ish league.

After nineteen games:

The Mets defy useful analysis at the moment. The slippery slope of trying to unravel their ennui runs from “what’s wrong now?” to “what’s wrong tomorrow?” to “will it ever be righted?” and in about 15 seconds you’re hosting one of those enlightening shows on SNY wherein second-tier WFAN talent shouts each other down for half an hour.

After 21 games:

Your 2008 Mets: They could be better, they could be worse, they don’t look, after an eighth of a season, like they’ll have much to do with the playoffs.

After 28 games:

They’re not thoroughbreds, but perhaps the Mets might give Nascar a whirl. It seems to feature lots of going in circles.

After 39 games:

The just-completed seven-game homestand against the sincerely second-division Reds and Nats should disabuse us of the notion that Mets are a good team. They are not good. They’re not necessarily bad. I’d call them ungood. Ungodly ungood.

After 49 games:

This is not an illusion, this is not a rough patch, this is not one of those potholes a team has to steer around in the course of the schedule. This is an abyss and the Mets are not equipped to rise above it. They’re not. So why bother kidding myself that they are?

You’re getting the idea, I’ll bet. The Mets weren’t going to be any good. Mike Pelfrey wasn’t going to be any good. Carlos Delgado wasn’t going to be any good. We were, individually and collectively, doomed.

The season wasn’t one-third over when I buried them. The season wasn’t close to half over when I dismissed a starting pitcher who, at 24, would win 13 games, and a first baseman of borderline Hall of Fame credentials who would hit 38 home runs and drive in 115 runs. After 75 games, I wasn’t all that sold on Johan Santana. The Mets were more than three months away from their 162nd game when I decided, for sure, they weren’t going anywhere.

As fun as it is to indulge in self-deprecation, that’s not the purpose behind saluting the 162-game schedule. You have to give it its props because not only does it outwit the baseball fans and baseball analysts and baseball bloggers, it outwits the baseball teams. It outwitted the Mets.

Outlasted them, to be sure. The other side of the 162-game coin was when they started to look very good, the impulse was to give the Mets plenty of rope. The idea wasn’t that they would hang themselves with it; rather, we (and they) thought they would lasso themselves a playoff spot. I sure hoped they would — after spending the first three months condemning them under my breath and on our blog. But they didn’t.

The 162-game schedule knew I couldn’t have it both ways. It knew I couldn’t not trust them and trust them implicitly. Likewise, it knew the Mets couldn’t float 3½ games above the crowd with no bullpen (Stokes to Ayala…it didn’t seem that crazy), no second baseman, two-thirds of an outfield and a crate full of catchers not worth a bucket of spit without rediscovering gravity. It knew — it just knows — you can’t get a division title or a Wild Card with four dependable everyday known quantities, no more than three go-to starting pitchers and zero bullpen.

We thought we knew different. Then we learned it wasn’t so. Then, in turn, we decided it could be so. Then it couldn’t. Until it could. And so on. And so on. Until there was no more so on.

The 162-game schedule won this round. It wins every 162-game round. It did us in in 2008. It did us in in 2007. Yet we still look forward to the next full complement in 2009. And I still want those extra 141 we never got.

Let’s face it: Baseball’s got our number but good.

FAITH AND FEAR’S NIKON CAMERA PLAYER OF THE YEAR

2005

The WFAN broadcast team of Gary Cohen and Howie Rose

2006

Shea Stadium

2007

Uncertainty

2008

The 162-Game Schedule

7 comments to The Full Complement

  • Anonymous

    2009: US Taxpayer Subsidized Field, home of the New York Mets.

  • Anonymous

    I like “US Taxpayer Subsidized Field, home of the World Champion New York Mets” better. A guy can dream, can't he?

  • Anonymous

    Much better, yes. A girl can dream too!

  • Anonymous

    Great job. Great, great job.
    Thank you for reminding me that I had the same attitude as you in April, so much so that I would cry on multiple occasions: “this is my least favorite Met team of all time! They're worse than last year! They've learned nothing! I hate this team!” That attitude didn't change until Jerry took over and actually said, “don't forget about last year.” THANK YOU, JERRY.
    Early on I kept thinking we were watching 2002 all over again, but 2008 ended up being more like 2001. There were some major differences, sure, but the plot was still the same: With a bad taste still in the fans' mouths, the Mets turn around an awful season and give us a fun summer. Or maybe time will look on 2008 like it does with 1998: “this group of guys almost made the playoffs? Really? That's remarkable.”
    I know that asking for a World Championship, or even a no-hitter, may be asking too much of the Mets. But man, as long as they give me a fun summer I'm a happy guy.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, and thank you for the phrase “a fun summer,” one I will try to apply to this past season and seasons to come, regardless of the 162-game bottom line. It was way more fun in July and August and specially marked portions of September than I would have imagined in late June. It's hard to remember, two months since the bitter end, how into this team I got, even if took some hellacious ramping up from hating them to loving them.
    These were points I might have made in the body of the post, but I was writing with a headache yesterday and just wanted to finish. Appreciate the assist in articulating a very important piece of the puzzle.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    Was that a typo stating the 154 game schedule was the standard from 1954? Didn't you mean to say 1904?
    Teams often played less than the full schedule during the early 20th century, not being able to take a jet to other cities to make up for a one-game rain-out in early August. Also, the owners didn't want to pay for additional transportation and hotel costs.

  • Anonymous

    Typo indeed. Fixed. Thanks.