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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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The Glass Is Half Something

Watching Mike Pelfrey obliterate the Cubs and the Mets hitters do enough, I felt something I hadn’t felt since Opening Day. Or rather, I noted the absence of something.

Panic.

In 2009, a late two-run lead for the Mets was called foreshadowing. In the first week of the season it was a fantasy, as the Mets weren’t much for leads. Last night, it felt like a two-run lead — a number you’d like to see larger, but still proof against disasters of the lightning-strike variety. Could this still be the Mets? Could this still be me? Not long after I started thinking about this, Fernando Tatis refused to go gentle into that good night, slamming a pinch-hit home run over the left-field wall whose height has perhaps victimized him more than any other Met. We were four runs up, that felt safe, and it was.

And yet the Mets’ position remains precarious — in fact, it grew more precarious as the night went on. Ryota Igarashi slipped on the grass, strained a hamstring — SNY showed it contorting sickeningly in super slo-mo, which I’d like to ask them to never do again — and is headed for an MRI tomorrow. (Igarashi told the Times through an interpreter that “I felt the numbness develop,” which would be an excellent title for a book about being a Mets fan in the late Aughts.) And word came that Carlos Beltran had been to the doctor in Colorado and not pronounced fit for anything except more rehab. The idea of Beltran returning in May just evaporated; June is a place-holder, and here’s betting the All-Star break creeps into conversation before too long. Meanwhile, David Wright is being eaten alive by sliders and Jeff Francoeur is once again swinging enthusiastically at bags of peanuts he spies being tossed in the Excelsior level.

Given all this, why wasn’t I panicking? Because Pelfrey’s new splitter looked superb again, and you could see its owner seemingly growing more confident by the inning. (At one point Pelfrey was smiling and bantering with the umpire and/or catcher, and I barely recognized him.) And because after nearly a year of injuries, inactivity, questions, whispers, mysteries and troubles, Jose Reyes finally got to fly around the bases again like a giddy colt. His pregame interview with Kevin Burkhardt was oddly vulnerable for a professional athlete, so it was immensely reassuring to immediately see the old Jose on the basepaths — reassuring for us, but probably far more so for him.

An MRI. No Beltran doing much of anything. Wright and Frenchy looking lost. Bay still ice cold. And yet all of a sudden I can feel myself relax. I doubt that’s justified, but I’m not inclined to talk myself out of it.

10 comments to The Glass Is Half Something

  • Listened to this on the radio this morning (am in the UK, so the game happened overnight for me). Pelfrey sounded strong and totally in control, but I must admit I felt a little wary once he was taken off. Great stuff by Tatis, though, to settle things, although this generally seemed like an unbelievably steady Mets performance. If the middle order can get their act together, things should improve further. Shouldn’t they? Or am I being too optimistic?

  • Andee

    If Pelfrey is for real — and I’m pretty sure pitchers who actually suck don’t throw 19 consecutive scoreless innings — that constitutes a huge leap for this team, since almost everyone assumed the rotation going into ’10 would consist of Santana and four days of mashed banana. (Sorry, that’s the best I can do at this hour.)

    I like what I’ve seen of Niese, too; I can excuse the Colorado start, because he’d never pitched there before. The key is going to be Ollie, I think. If his last start really did constitute a turnaround for him, and he’s not just going to be a mashed banana tonight and most other nights, we might have a pretty good rotation.

    And if our #5 qualitatively (Maine) is the only guy in the ro who we have to watch with our fingers splayed over our eyes, that’s easy to deal with. Most teams’ #5 starters aren’t anything to write home about (*coughJavierVazquezcough*), and Maine doesn’t have an expensive long-term deal, so replacing him with Tak2 or Gee or somebody a little less cringe-inducing shouldn’t be that difficult if he continues to struggle.

    It’s not hitting at all that’s a problem, if your pitching is halfway decent. And other than the mid-’80s run, this team has almost always had to milk out runs as if from a pile of dirty gravel. I remember the ’99 and ’00 Mets really hurting for positive integers on the board when Piazza was mired in one of his many slumps.

  • Inside Pitcher

    “I felt the numbness develop,”

    Poetry.

    Mine has developed over the last couple of seasons; I’m waiting for it to thaw….

  • March'62

    In today’s New York Daily News, beat writer Christian Red actually writes that last night “the Mets’ bats finally seemed to come alive.” Maybe it’s not too late for him to find a position in baseball. I mean which game was he watching? Granted, the table was set, but nobody was stopping by for dinner. I think it’s time that we change the moniker of ‘heart of the order’ to one of lets just say the ‘heartless of the order’. Mainly because they make you eat your hearts out.

    I’m certainly glad that Pelfrey finally found his inner Hershiser. Every rotation needs a bulldog. There is hope for our pitching after all.

    Oh and Jason, maybe Beltran can use one of his many tools to repair whatever is wrong with his legs. He doesn’t seem to be using them for anything else.

  • Guy Kipp

    Pelfrey did pitch this well for a stretch in the middle of 2008, but what makes his outings encouraging so far this year is his ability to strike people out. Despite stuff in the low-mid 90s, he was never able to consistently finish batters off, even in 2008. The Mets’ atrocious defense certainly played a big role in his 2009 falloff. He needs to strike people out and keep the ball out of play.

  • harv sibley

    Was at the show last nite….a lovely evening. Pelf was da man once again.’

    Question: is it me or does anyone else wonder why it takes a premier closer more than 20 pitches to close it out?

    • Kiner's Coroner

      No, you’re not the only one wondering that. Too many hitters are laying off his off-speed, in-the-dirt junk. As a result, there are too many long counts. I grew up watching Tom Seaver (who had the perfect delivery), so I can’t stand to watch K-Rod pitch. His delivery evokes the image of a startled chicken.

    • Guy Kipp

      He’s too in love with his change-up. Keith Hernandez was audibly frustrated last night, said K-Rod is too obsessed with trying to “embarrass” hitters by trying to strike everybody out.

  • I actually swallowed my differences with Metdom and went to last night’s game. This was my second game at Ebbets Field Mark II, and Mike Pelfrey pitched both games. For some reason, when I’m in the yard, Pelfrey pitches like Sandy Koufax; when I’m not, he pitches like Sandy Duncan.

    The thought, “Where were you when Ike Davis hit his first major league home run?” came to mind. Unfortunately, he came up for the first time when I was FINALLY at the head of the line for Shake Shack. As John Travolta might say, “I don’t know if it’s worth seven bucks and two innings, but that’s a great freakin’ milkshake.” But when Davis finished his 0-fer, I was thinking Billy Crystal as Edward G. Robinson: “Where’s your messiah now, see?”

    But the Mets win the damn thing. We’ll be right back with the happy recap after these messages, right, Ralph? “Yes, we will, Murph, after this message from Manufacturer’s Hangover.”

    Attendance was 27,000. I’ll bet 5,000 of those were there just to see Davis, and another 5,000 were Cub fans. Seriously, a lot of Cubbie people there last night. They weren’t happy that the White Sox beat Tampa, either. Neither were the Met fans, because Tampa losing helps you know who.

  • Jason

    One of the oddly comforting things about the low expectations for the Mets this season is that it feels really good not to be a Yankees fan, where you can’t enjoy an April triple from Jose Reyes because the only thing that matters is the post-season.

    I was listening to WFAN when Reyes hit that, and I wasn’t expecting it to go well–in baseball, the beauty and elation comes from the difficulty of hitting the ball with the stick and the rarity of the line-drive to left-centerfield–but unlike the last two seasons, there was no anxiety, and when the call came and Big Pelf huffed and puffed home, baseball was fun again.

    Nobody likes to watch their team lose, but that other kind of baseball, where anything less than a Ring is a disappointment, well, that’s a sad kind of baseball.