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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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LET'S ALL PANIC! (Oh Wait, Let's Not)

So the Mets lost a tight one to the Atlanta Braves tonight … and you’d assume it’s time for us all to jump off a bridge. Four games out and the Phillies came off the gurney to beat the Reds and Cliff Lee’s a Yankee Ranger and ohgod ohgod ohgod ohgod ohgod.

Except I can’t seem to bring myself to panic.

Part of being a baseball fan is learning to be greedy. After a bad stretch you go into spring training thinking it would be fine to be .500, play the game it should be played, and have hope for the future. Then if that looks like it will work out you want to be five over, because then hope becomes a thing that doesn’t have to be talked about using the future tense. Then if that works out you want to be 10 games over. Then if that works out you want to be in first place — even if it’s just for a day. And then, well, of course you want it all. (Unless you’re a Yankees fan, in which you’re only familiar with the final stage of this process.)

I’m all for baseball greed, but some perspective is in order too. Yes, it’s disappointing to think that we could have gone into the All-Star break tied for first and will instead wind up somewhere between two and six games out. But honestly, back in March I would have signed on eagerly and instantly to that possibility, without bothering to check what was behind Door #2. The Mets still have work to do, lessons to learn, albatrosses to be shed and demons to confront, but I no longer fundamentally distrust them, wait for the anvil to fall on their heads, or weep for the future.

Nor did the various things that went wrong tonight strike me as particularly auguring doom. The amazing R. A. Dickey pitched quite capably for 6 2/3 innings and hit pretty well too, but he threw two knuckleballs that didn’t knuckle, and the unlikely power duo of Melky Cabrera and Omar Infante swatted them a very long way. But that’s part and parcel of throwing the knuckleball; it was bound to happen to Dickey one of these nights. Josh Thole and Ike Davis looked uncharacteristically like rookies on a poorly executed bunt into the teeth of the wheel play, but then they are rookies, and it’s not shocking to discover they did not, in fact, materialize from Buffalo as fully formed major-leaguers. Jason Bay looks like he desperately needs some time to lie in a cool dark room and think about nothing, but he’d certainly agree that sounds like a good idea right now. Jose Reyes looked good some times and awful other times and uncomfortable all the time, leaving me simultaneously glad he was here for a big series and thinking he and we would be better off if he sat the next two out and watched the All-Star Game on TV. But remembering the wreckage of Jose’s 2009, I understand his reluctance to sit out any length of time with anything less than a severed leg. Particularly when first place is on the line.

I almost wrote “when it’s against the Braves,” and of course that’s what it is. But these aren’t really the same Braves. Yes, Chipper is still there (though shelved tonight) and Bobby Cox is still there grousing and grumping, and the Braves are putting together a pretty stirring title run by way of a farewell. With Chipper and Cox possibly and definitely heading for the golf course after the season, respectively, this should be an epic showdown between old gunfighters, or samurai settling a decades-old feud. And perhaps before 2010 comes to a close it will be. But for now, I’m not feeling it. We’re so long from the days of Rocker and Maddux and Glavine and Smoltz and Klesko and all those bogeymen of ages past. The guard has changed more than a few times, and things have gotten pretty jumbled up: Glavine famously became a Met and morphed into Gl@v!ne, Kevin Millwood was on our radar before we hurled him bodily out of his audition in Baltimore, and even Michael Tucker played out the string as a Met — the same Michael Tucker who a long time ago took us into the break in excruciating fashion with the connivance of the loathsome Angel Hernandez. (Though, it should be noted, I hated that little bastard even when he wore our colors.) Billy Wagner’s over there, following the same road trod by Matt Franco and Todd Pratt in their time.

Not to mention that the old Braves never would have suffered the presence of a player as jaw-droppingly stupid and prone to self-sabotage as Yunel Escobar.

The Braves are a good team, and they’re in our way. But they feel like any other good team in our way, with the exception of cameos from Chipper and Bobby. And even that hatred has mellowed with time, somehow. Chipper’s grin once struck me as the embodiment of evil, a toothy V stolen from the Joker; now it just makes me wonder if his face hurts when he does that. Bobby Cox’s crabby trudge out to be ejected by another umpire once filled me with rage; now I just think, “My God, he looks old.” I used to wonder why each Mets-Braves showdown wasn’t represented on the pocket calendar by brilliant red squares, since we all knew there would be blood and thunder and Armageddon; now I’m like, “Oh yeah, these guys again.”

Though should Martin Prado spike Josh Thole at home plate on Sunday and get called safe by some crooked ump, disregard all of the above. Because it will be so fucking on.

Monday, July 12 is AMAZIN’ ALL-STAR MONDAY, with Marty Noble and Howard Megdal. Come out to Two Boots Grand Central at 7 PM. It’s in the Lower Dining Concourse of Grand Central Terminal, 42nd Street and Park Avenue, accessible via Metro-North as well as the 4, 5, 6, Times Square Shuttle and, of course, the 7 train. Phone: 212/557-7992. Full details here.

11 comments to LET’S ALL PANIC! (Oh Wait, Let’s Not)

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by You Gotta Believe!, Jason Fry. Jason Fry said: The #Mets lost to the Braves, but I don't feel like jumping off a bridge. Curious. Faith and Fear in Flushing. http://bit.ly/ccNnbR [...]

  • Andee

    (Unless you’re a Yankees fan, in which you’re only familiar with the final stage of this process.)

    Heh. That’s what I found to be such a gas when I went over to Pinstripe Alley and found out that most of the regulars there were against the Lee trade, and were hoping it didn’t pan out (not because they opposed Montero being traded on principle, but because they wanted to save him for trading for someone they actually needed this year). Imagine — Yankees fans who not only watch during the regular season, but actually pay attention to more than slash stats and RINGZZZZ! It’s easy to forget that even the most loathed team has fans that aren’t complete knuckle-draggers.

    But don’t people just up the ante for themselves in general, not just in watching sports? “I’d be so happy if I had x” quickly turns into “Okay, now I have x, but I’d be so happy if I had x + y,” and then, “Yeah, so I have x + y, big deal, x + y + z is what I should be having.” And then “y” goes away, never to return, and then they talk about how great it was when “y” was around, when they only really appreciated “y” for the first few minutes.

    But boy, this team really does need some Beltran. Just sayin’.

  • patrick o'hern

    this team needs more Indians and Orioles on the schedule.

    • kd bart

      This team has yet to play a game against the Astros, Pirates and Diamondbacks. The three worse teams, record wise, in the NL. Meanwhile, the Braves have played 16. Going 12-4 in those games. The Mets have to beat up on the weaklings of the NL.

  • Jacobs27

    I worry though, this year, with the Braves as good as they are at home and the apparent exorcism of our Turner Field ghosts and demons in doubt because of our continued suck there… If the Mets go in there and…
    I could see myself hearkening back in a hurry…or perhaps, gloriously, not.

  • Lenny65

    Hey, ya gotta keep things in some sort of perspective. Back in April I was fully expecting 2010 to be “2009, The Sequel” and so far it’s been a hell of an improvement over that debacle. Improvements have been made. They appear to actually be managed this season. Players touch the bases, pitchers are making it out of the first inning, homers are being hit, Luis Castillo & Ollie Perez are nowhere to be seen. It is the middle of July and we’re in 2nd place. Many Met seasons have come and gone where that would have been unthinkably, unimaginably incredible. So for now I will refrain from lapsing into panic-mode and I’ll try to enjoy it for what it is and not worry too much about what it isn’t.

  • DAK442

    Who ever thought a loss to division-leading Atlanta would seem so ho-hum? Funny how rivalries evolve – I think I was more aggravated by Cincinnati’s implosion.

  • Lenny65

    …Although a few more afternoons like this one might…uh, put a damper on my enthusiasm. Hit the damn ball, guys.

  • nestornajwa

    Sorry, but all of this adds up to a very, very big deal. This is a flawed team that needs another strong starting pitcher and another reliable bullpen arm. I know, what team couldn’t use those things? But, without Lee, we’re gambling that Takahashi AND Dickey remain good enough to start for a contender. Other than Oswalt, who doesn’t seem inclined to come to NY, there isn’t another pitcher of that caliber currently on the market. Lee is a legitimate #1 or #2. That would give us 3 top-of-the-rotation types. A contender needs to excel SOMEWHERE, whether it’s a great power hitting lineup, or a dominant bullpen or something else. Lee would have given the Mets a potentially championship-caliber starting staff (provided we continue to get better-than-predicted contributions from either Dickey or Takahashi). Now, like George Costanza’s lost dowry, Not.

    Yesterday’s events are more significant than the actual loss of Lee, or the loss of a game in the standings. No, yesterday sucked mostly because it might make Omar do something bad. I think Omar figured he still had a week or 2 to put his best offer on the table, during which time Josh Thole would presumably continue to showcase his nascent talents for the catching-hungry Mariners. Omar isn’t a burn-the-midnight-oil type of GM who spends a lot of time watching film and reading scouting reports. The Mets are notoriously averse to modern statistical analysis; I’m not necessarily a Bill James disciple who knows Rod Barajas’ UZR and FIP. But I’d like my GM to have at least a passing acquaintance with these concepts.

    The point is that the Lee trade is going to put a lot of pressure on Omar to make a move, and he hasn’t handled that kind of pressure well in the past. In fact, he’s been a train wreck. I don’t trust Omar’s talent radar, and he won’t use sabermetrics to augment that radar. So I think it’s likely that he’s going to make a bad move. I fear he’s going to take the SAME package of players he had mentally put together for a Lee trade and put them on the table for a lesser player. If I had to guess now, I’d say we’re likely to unload the farm for Fausto Carmona, who was briefly very, very good, but has more recently been awful, and who has been middling in 2010. Hmm, where have I seen that career trajectory before? coughOLIVERPEREZcough. Yes, that’s a lot of negative prognostication, but this team’s trade-deadline history has a lot more Carlos Baerga than Keith Hernandez in it. The Mets have made so many bad trades that even if Omar becomes John McGraw overnight, I think most GMs approach negotiations with the Mets with an attitude of “Oh boy, we’re going to fleece these guys!”. Billy Beane alone has turned this concept into a successful GM career, a bestselling book and now, humiliatingly, a Moneyball movie (watch me not see that one). Omar realizes that he won’t survive another frustrating finish. Playing .500 ball in the 2d half and finishing 3d (at best) would probably (and hopefully) end his tenure.

    Add the double whammy of a Phillies win and a frustrating loss to the Braves and the events of July 9 might not be reason to panic (are you listening, Mr. Minaya?), but they do make a postseason berth perceptibly less likely. Fifteen days ago the Mets were tied for first. From here, that looks like the high-water mark of 2010. Prove me wrong, boys.

    • Andee

      Omar probably does have a “passing familiarity,” or more, with advance stats. I don’t think it’s fair to claim he doesn’t care about them at all or has no idea what they are.

      However, his bosses very well might not. Especially the old man, who seems to put a very high premium on “character guys,” especially after all the early-90s firecrackers-and-bleach-type disasters. (I use scare quotes because, as we’ve seen with Santana and others, it’s fairly easy to fake that, at least for a while.)

      Strangely enough, I think Jeff Wilpon might be receptive to having a Theo Epstein-type of GM once Fred is either dead or no longer sentient enough to know what room he’s in. But don’t hold your breath for it to happen before that.

      Also, do you really know for sure that Omar’s a Joe McIlvaine-type of slacker, or that he could have had Lee if only he wasn’t on the golf course? I think it’s more like the Mariners were holding out for Jon Niese and Ike Davis for a two-month rental, and Omar wasn’t about to offer that. Would you?

      (I can only imagine the auto-de-fe for Omar, too, if Lee had gotten pasted by the Pirates for us the way he got pasted by the Orioles tonight. Ouch, what an ugly game. His opponent, Chris Tillman, had an ERA over 8 coming into the game and only gave up 1 run.)

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