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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 1, Monkey Formerly on Back 0

Not so long ago, an off-day for the Mets was secretly a little bit welcome. But that was before Ike Davis rolled away the stone from Citi Field and commanded that the Spirit of 2006 come forth — and be quick about it, dammit. (What’s that? Putting too much pressure on the rookie? Don’t know what you can possibly mean.) Thursday I was antsy because there was no game to play; today I was nervous and excited, trying to will 7:10 p.m. to hurry up and arrive. In my desperation I even wound up watching 15 minutes of WPIX News, an experience dangerously close to being lobotomized.

I think for a lot of us there was a sneaking suspicion that tonight would see an immediate and painful return to cold, hard terra firma. Yes, the Mets were on a roll, but the Cubs are mediocre at best, the Braves played like they’d never seen a baseball before, and the Dodgers have degenerated into a squalid soap opera. The Phillies have had injury problems, but they just stuck a shiv in the Giants to pull out a pretty amazing victory, they were returning home, and, well, they’re the Phillies. How many balls would they launch into that dinky left-field porch, seemingly built to the opposite specifications of the Great Wall of Flushing? How many Met drives would Shane Victorino snag in the gap? Would a Met reliever walk in the winning run? Perhaps an overenthusiastic Met runner would get called out for obstruction? Even without Jimmy Rollins woofing sweet nothings, there’d be Chase Utley to contend with, and the blandly surly Jayson Werth and the foaming-at-the-mouth Greg Dobbs and who knew who else. In recent years the Mets have had to claim, not entirely convincingly, that the Phillies aren’t in their heads; since late 2007 I’ve never tried to claim they aren’t in mine.

One game out of 18 means pitifully little, I know, but this one sure felt different: The Phillies got steamrolled in every aspect of baseball except mascot antics. A shaky second inning aside, Jon Niese was sublime: His strikeout of Placido Polanco was one of the most beautifully unhittable and downright unfair curveballs I’ve ever seen not end a season. There’s something appealingly lunch-bucket about Niese, from his squashed-looking nose and his ungainly grasshopper legs to the way he snaps his catcher’s throw out of the air and turns his head as if annoyed with himself, tramping back to the rubber to give it another try. Meanwhile, Jeff Francoeur was the night’s Indiana Jones, suffering injuries and indignities from chain-link fencing and hurled fastballs and abusive fans and afterwards declaring it all great fun. Francoeur plays baseball like a dog racing after a Frisbee, and even when he’s doing something spectacularly ill-advised you can’t help grinning at the idea that he just might pull it off. And there was David Wright golfing a homer into the shrubbery and Barajas slamming two of his own and Jason Bay somehow plucking Victorino’s two-run triple out of the flowers, among other wonderful things. (Does it surprise anyone else that flowers survive in Citizens Bank Park? I’m faintly amazed Phillies fans don’t incinerate them with lighters.)

April sure looked like the cruelest month in the early going, but it’s ended on a hopeful, downright gleeful note. The Mets are somehow in first place, and playing like they belong there. And to my happy surprise, I find myself eager for May.

11 comments to Mets 1, Monkey Formerly on Back 0

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jason Fry. Jason Fry said: Mets 1, Monkey Formerly on Back 0. With notes on Jon Niese and Jeff Francoeur. Faith and Fear in Flushing. […]

  • oogieball

    My name is Oogieball, and I am in serious danger of believing.

  • These guys are going to lose a game again, likely soon, but I will be damned if they do not feel they belong on the diamond, and more so that they collectively, those part of the past and those with no skin in that game have something to prove.

  • kowalski69

    Frenchy represents everything that this team was not last year. Last night he said he’s going to try to make it back into the lineup ASAP because he “…doesn’t want to miss this.” Last year when he hurt his hand on a diving catch he said that he’d just put some ice on it and drink some Jack Daniels and get right back in.

  • Chris

    Great post, I’m sure many fans were similarly worried last night. It’s only one game, but I really enjoyed it. This is pleasantly surprising, totally unexpected. Let’s hope they can weather the bad times when they come too.

    And yes, watching 10-15 minutes of wpix news (as I did, like you) is very close to having your frontal lobes cut.

  • Joe D.

    I was keyed up for over 48 hours and even more estatic after the final out but what a letdown after that – instead of Steve Sommers fielding calls from delerious Met fans, FAN was broadcasting live from Vegas and covering tonight’s heavyweight bout.

    BTW – I did not catch the PIX news prior to the game and avoided it after the final out by instantly switching to SNY for the post-game show.

  • BlackCountryMet

    WOW. As this was a night game it didn’t start till after midnight over here and working at 9 am I avoided the scored and watched in when I got back.SO CHUFFED. Everything we didn’t do last year, played great defence, pitched really well and were offensively excellent. Niese was fantastic, HOW GOOD was that curveball?!? My mate said, if we can hit HRs at Citi,we’ll hit LOADS on the road. I KNOW it’s only April, I KNOW we’ll hit rocky patches and I KNOW that we still have issues to address BUT HEY….YA GOTTA BELIEVE!!!

  • Rob D.

    Referencing Greg’s post yesterday (and my own ennui), I’m all in again. Haven’t whooped at a win like that in a very long time.

  • Phils Troll

    I’m not going to fire off any of the prerequisite taunts, world series brags or reminders that it’s only an 8th of the way through the season.

    I’ll simply say congrats on a well played game. The Phils were AWOL last night and the Mets Punished them.

    I enjoy your site (despite an intense hatred for the Metropolitans), as your posts have the right blend of passion, zealousness, reverance for the game and historical perspective (Winston Churchill quotes? Love it!).

    But mostly, I just wanted to comment on Frenchy. I gained quite a bit of respect for that big-nosed gamer last night. We may be tough on our athletes in Philly, but what we demand from them are same things we respect the most: hustle, effort & heart. Frenchy showed all of those last night and while it kills me that it was against a slumping Phils squad, I can’t help but admire & respect it nonetheless.

    PS – how great is it that the rivalry is in full swing again?!

    Oh, and since I’d have my fan card revoked by John Kruk & Stark if I didn’t include it: Mets suck.

  • Rob D.

    I’d like to amend my 5/1 post after the weekend’s “festivities”.

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