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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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Mets Also Not Getting It Done

I wonder how many Ollie Perez starts Johan Santana would have to make to have me look at him in anything but awe. Even after he gave up five runs in five innings Sunday, when I saw him giving postgame interviews, all I could think was, “There’s the man who threw a three-hit shutout on three days’ rest with everything on the line the second-to-last day of 2008.” And I reflexively swooned.

We Mets fans might hold grudges, but we also cling to goodwill for quite a long time if given anything at all to which to cling. Of course Johan has given us some very nice days since 9/27/08, including last Monday, so his benefit of the doubt is heftier than anybody else’s on the team. He might give up another grand slam like the one he gave up to Josh Willingham en route to an inarguably dispiriting defeat, but I’ll never give up the image of him being The Man against the Marlins when it counted most.

The rest of this team has a shorter leash. Jeff Francoeur is surely lengthening his — what an arm, and what a lousy 90 feet of baserunning from Adam Dunn in the third; Mike Jacobs finally earned a link in the chain for the first time in almost five years (he always did hit well at home in losses to the Nationals on Sundays); and never let it be said Raul Valdes has ever done anything wrong in a Mets uniform, but overall this was a cheerless game at the end of an erratic homestand, to put it kindly.

Baseball being baseball, the 2-4 Mets are not far removed from being the 4-2 Mets. Tatis is a little quicker or shrewder Wednesday night, and that’s a win. Barajas is schooled in the dangers of hitting it to Harris Saturday, and that’s a win. If that’s the case, we’re talking about a team that either clubs teams to death (as the Mets did Monday and Friday) or one that never says die and finds ways to win.

Sadly, they didn’t find ways to win the games they lost and they have died four times, if indeed a team can be said to have encountered death after six games. By the one-third measurement discussed here recently, the Mets have won one game they were going to win (Opening Day), lost two games they were going to lose (today and Thursday, because how are you supposed to touch the likes of Livàn Hernandez and Burke Badenhop?) and are 1-2 in those games that determine your season, slotting the Pelfrey game, which was 2-2 entering the seventh, in this category. It’s an inexact science, but based on what we’ve watched, 1-2-1-2 reads about right.

There are some encouraging signs around this team. Jeff Francoeur is a six-game superstar to date, and that’s on top of his solid second half last year. Rod Barajas has demonstrated a pulse, a bat and a presence behind the plate. The unknown quantities comprising the bulk of the bullpen — Igarashi, Takahashi, Nieve, Mejia and now Valdes — have acquitted themselves mostly well. Frankie Rodriguez saw fit through those awesome goggles to answer Willie Harris’s yapping (if he wanted to hit you, he would have found your back, not your inside elbow) and I only wish the minor kerfuffle that ensued would have found heretofore yappy Brian Bruney taking one from K-Rod. A few other Mets have played fine to dandy for moments or stretches, and that is fine as well as dandy.

On the other hand, whatever the starting pitching occasionally has going for it, length has not been among its attributes. No starter has seen the seventh from the mound. One can accept that the first time through the rotation if one isn’t too demanding, but now we go to Coors Field, where bullpens tend to get leaned on, and Busch Stadium, where Mt. Pujols looms in the distance. Our lineup in any given deficit situation has been a disheartening exercise in anticipation. Depending on the daily configuration — which is to say whether Francoeur is batting fifth or sixth — you take a deep breath and hope something happens with the batters who are best described as “…and the rest” à la the Professor and Mary Ann before the Professor and Mary Ann earned their own ID in the The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle.

Best news? Six goes into 162 27 times. The first 1/27th of the schedule has not been optimal. Yet it’s the last 26/27ths where the stories of seasons are told.

12 comments to Mets Also Not Getting It Done

  • Chris

    I was at that game in ’08. It was the last time I can remember getting really excited about this team.

  • Excellent perspectivizing, Greg. No illusions, but no wallowing in fear and despair, either. You’re right. Its in the last 26/27th of the season that the good teams are separated from the bad.

  • Andee

    One thing I have noticed about this team over the past couple of years is that often, they will play up (or down) to the level of their competition. They will lose series against “easy” teams like the Gnats and the perpetually pesky Padres, and then go ahead and win series against “difficult” teams like the Dodgers and Sillies, and make it look like nothing.

    Also, given the relentless negativity of the fan base and media as duly noted, they might actually do better on the road this year. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit. So I make no predictions on how they will do on this road trip, or on the upcoming “difficult” team stretch in general. Other than that the games in Colorado are probably all going to have ridiculously high scores.

    As putrid as the non-Frenchy hitting is now (and boy, the Frenchy trade is starting to look like a royal fleecing by Omar, regardless of how the Amazin’ Avenue crowd pissed and moaned about it), does anyone really think Jason Bay or David Wright or Jose Reyes (!) has forgotten how to hit? (Barajas and Jacobs are who they are, guys for whom it’s longball or nothing, but they’re just placeholders anyway.) No. It’s called a slump. It will end.

    • Francoeur’s working out great and I don’t miss Church in the slightest. The latter won’t change (as I found Ryan Church and his Nats buddy Brian Schneider two of the most depressing Mets of my fan tenure) but I will keep the Mission Accomplished banner in my back pocket on Francouer for at least a little while longer. I love what he’s doing and what he’s done, but just as a slump is a slump for six games, so is a hot streak. That said, I hope Frenchy leaves a lot of people questioning their certainty over how much, how far and how wide he was definitely going to suck.

      • I decided Frenchy really has figured something out about pitch recognition, if not the value of reaching first base other ways, and added him to my fantasy team.

        In other words, he’s doomed.

      • Joe D.

        Sounds even more like a steal when one realizes it was essentially Lastings Milledge for Jeff Franceour.

  • BlackCountry Met

    The margins of error in Baseball,as in life, can be pretty fine. As Greg says, if Tatis runs better, we win, if Harris doesn’t puill off an awesome catch we win. All of a sudden we’re then 4-2. However, I’m more concerned that our batting with RISP is quite frankly appalling at the minute and really needs addressing quickly. Also, how much pressure is Johan under(admittedly that’s what he’s paid for)when he knows that we rely on him to win every game? Thought the bullpen has been better over last few games, Valdes was on the money yesterday. Not often in agreement with Manuel but he did say to judge after 20 games(or words to that effect) so am prepared to do so. Have to say, I feel its likely to be 8-12 though ;-(

  • Mike

    Good teams may be separated from the pack in the 26/27th or 27/27th of the season, but the reality is that bad teams are separated from the pack in the first few 27ths of a season….they’re certainly not playing “significant, meaningful games” in September.

  • CharlieH

    I just got back from a weekend spent submerged in a sea of Phillies crimson.

    WOW, “we” suck.

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