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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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Good Game, Good Game

I know I’m not the first to note their facial and follicle similarity, but on Thursday night Tim Lincecum really put me in mind of Mitch Kramer, the newly minted ninth-grader doing his best to avoid a paddling from the SOB seniors in 1993’s 1976 homage Dazed and Confused. Whenever I see Lincecum’s locks, I think of Mitch at the moment his Little League game is over and he, his teammates and their opponents have to go through the sportsmanlike motions of exchanging disinterested high-fives and muttering — as 14-year-olds will, when forced to do anything — the ritual “Good game, good game…”

The sight of Lincecum, who, at 26, still looks like he just turned 14, never fails to elicit a “good game, good game” out of me. That’s how much Tim resembles Mitch. This time, however, I mean it. Dickey vs. Lincecum, the unappealing outcome notwithstanding, was, in fact, a good game. A very good game. One of those games that’s so good within the context of crispness that you’d be a fool to stay mad about losing it.

Dickey, true to the cinematic identity he forged for himself prior to his loss in Puerto Rico, gave us just about every Chance to win. One pitch was a mistake, a knuckler that failed to float south of Pablo Sandoval’s happy zone. Otherwise, R.A. tended his garden just fine across seven innings of five-hit ball. Being There on the mound for the first post-break start was just what the Mets needed, despite various shouters on ‘FAN and SNY caterwauling that “YOU CAN’T START THE SECOND HALF WITH R.A. DICKEY!” as if his excellent first half wasn’t a matter of public record.

Likewise, being there for reporters after the game was right up R.A.’s alley, too. This guy is both substantively and literally a pleasure to listen to when it comes to explaining his night.

Dickey has a way with words you just don’t expect from ballplayers in the minutes after they’ve finished working. He couldn’t hold back his disappointment at being outdueled by one of the best pitchers in the game. “Sad,” he kept saying. He was particularly upset with himself for popping up a bunt in the third inning. Not advancing Ruben Tejada certainly didn’t help his cause, but Dickey didn’t earn his way into being trusted to kick off the back end of a pennant contender’s season by not being meticulous about all aspects of his performance. No wonder he thought Thursday’s result sad.

Another word he used truly tickled me. He was asked whether the Phone Company Park wind gave his knuckleball an advantage. Dickey paused, thought and answered: “Inconsequential.” Not “it didn’t matter” or “nah” or “not really,” but, “Inconsequential.”

Who, major league pitcher or otherwise, has a go-to word like inconsequential on the tip of his tongue? It was as if R.A. had just been studying for the S.A.T. And oh, that voice of his! Listen to him speak sometimes and then listen to Shawn Mullins open his one hit, “Lullaby,” with its spoken-word intro: “the children of the stars/in the Hollywood hills and the boulevard…” Mullins even mentions Dickey’s hometown of Nashville (“with a tan”) toward the end of the song. I swear these guys’ vocal cords must have been separated at birth.

R.A. Dickey: losing pitcher this time, winning interview all the time.

Tim Lincecum, meanwhile, left Met batters dazed and confused between his fastball and his changeup. The Mets weren’t exactly high on hitting before the break and they weren’t about to start paddling these pitches. One could dissect the few chances they had and where they went awry, but I find it healthier, after inhaling the tasty pregame appetizer that was Mets Yearbook: 1965, to look at it through the prism of some of that season’s top National League hurlers.

Sandy Koufax beat the Mets 17 times in his career. Jim Maloney did it 19 times, Don Drysdale, 24; Juan Marichal, 26; and Bob Gibson, 28. Now Tim Lincecum has won once versus us. Unbalanced scheduling and pretty good luck had kept him off the board until now. No shame in losing to one of the great ones. And that’s what this kid is.

Speaking of great ones, who was that stranger batting cleanup and patrolling center field for New York?

Carlos Beltran hath returned! And he looked…all right. Hard to say, as he was greeted by Tim Lincecum for four at-bats. Carlos returned with one hit, one cheeky steal attempt (it took a dart of a throw from Buster Posey to nail him) and no collisions in the outfield. The brace on the right leg is pretty noticeable, but I detected no limp.

The only thing that bothered me in the slightest, really, was Beltran sort of jogging to first as he made the second out of the ninth. If it’s because he wasn’t capable of running 90 feet at full speed, that’s not good. If it’s because he figured it was best to conserve his legs as they build up strength, it’s still not good. I’ve seen Met pitchers and Met catchers not bust it now and again this year, and I rationalize that they have an excuse given the demands of their positions. It was just one grounder that wasn’t likely to be thrown away, but watching Beltran not run it out gave me shivers of the 2009 variety, the year when too many Mets didn’t run balls out. First night back, getting the feel of full activity, it’s not a huge deal. But I’m hoping it’s not a sign that Beltran isn’t up to the mission of the 2010 Mets physically or attitudinally.

In 2010, the Mets run out most everything. It’s one of the reasons they’re still in it despite having no Carlos Beltran for 88 games.

Now to be totally inconsistent on the subject of hustle, it’s tough not to worry about Jose Reyes and his doubtless desire to go all out. J!4 was in the starting lineup for about twenty minutes Thursday afternoon before somebody noticed he still wasn’t capable of hitting lefty. Being without Jose Reyes just as we are finally with Carlos Beltran is a cruel baseball joke, but we may to be without him on the active roster already yet. Half a Jose really isn’t better than none. Obliques apparently don’t play themselves into shape.

Last chance to vote in the FAFIF primary for Howard Megdal. Our polls close at 5 PM EDT.

20 comments to Good Game, Good Game

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by You Gotta Believe!, Greg Prince. Greg Prince said: Lincecum left #Mets dazed and confused. Dickey, however, was hardly inconsequential. http://wp.me/pKvXu-1Cm [...]

  • Andee

    I love Dickey! Dickey who? You know who! Really, we couldn’t have asked for more from this guy.

    Hard to believe it took Big Time Timmyjim this long to get a W off us. And he had to pitch a shutout to do it. He’s beaten everyone else, hasn’t he?

    But there’s nothing like a game like this to remind us that this team is actually two teams: One with full-strength Reyes and one without, and the one without might as well be the Washington Nationals. But did they have any indication early on that this injury was any worse than Pagan’s? Pagan needed a few days’ rest and that was it.

    At some point, players have to be held responsible for telling the team what’s going on with them physically; the trainers shouldn’t need a crystal ball to figure it out if no objective exam turns up anything. Players routinely play in pain, and I’m not comfortable with the widespread assumption that Reyes is too stupid to know whether he can play or not.

    Actors and singers take care of their own vocal cords, they don’t rely on the studios or record labels to protect them from nightly projectile vomiting or anything else that might mess up their instruments. The enormously powerful Players’ Association will back him up in any dispute with management; nobody’s going to make Jose Reyes do anything against his will. But God love him, he knows his team is screwed 46 ways to Sunday without him.

  • rich P

    Going back to that last home stand you could feel it slipping away…This is the time that truly competitive teams step up- and they are simply not..This road trip will set the pace for the entire second half.

  • RM

    Indeed no shame in losing to Lincecum, and Dickey almost equaled him. As a Giants fan living in NYC, it was interesting to listen to Keith and Gary call the game – while he knows him by reputation, I think this may have been the first time Keith has seen Lincecum in person when he was “on his game.” He seemed impressed.

    There’s been a lot of grumbling among San Francisco fans this season that “something’s wrong with Tim.” This points to the kind of expectations surrounding this kid. Ten wins, leading the league in Ks, ERA under 3.00 .. you get the feeling that this is the kind of “wrong” a lot of teams would be willing to put up with.

    Mets and Giants now have identical records, I believe, and watching last night they looked equally matched. How about David Wright for Matt Cain – call it a HBP Exchange – just to keep things interesting?

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    Good observation about Beltran’s half-hearted effort down the line in the ninth. That’s definately an attitude from 2009,2008 and 2007, not 2010. I’m one who wasn’t so sure the return of Carlos would be of benefit until Frenchy once again went cold but the difference between the two is that Jeff would have ran out that grounder 100%. Maybe not important in relation to last night’s loss but something that won’t cost us a game down the road unlike Beltran’s lack of hustle that possibly could.

    BTW – did you know all along that the play I said would probably not appear in the 1965 promo film was the first thing shown after the opening titles?

    • I’d seen the film many years ago but had completely forgotten how it began, so when the handkerchiefs came out I was surprised as well as gratified knowing your recall of it as significant in its time was confirmed.

      Wow, what a bad call. Armando Galarraga level bad call. Lewis was safe!

  • mikeski

    When I see Dickey, I always think of Danny Concannon.

    • I’m absolutely floored that I had not thought of that. And now I’m a little disappointed that Sorkin didn’t include the Nashville Tennesseean in his background. Then again, he did work for the Dallas Morning News.

  • March'62

    Even more than the jog-down-to-first on a groundball, the thing that really bothered me was the routine fly ball in the first with a runner on 2nd and two out while his next at bat with nobody on was a line single to center. Hey, it’s .500 on the scorecard but a big fat zero on the scoreboard. THAT more than anything is what the past 4 years have been about. Decent stats – not enough wins

  • patrick o'hern

    Best part of the Dazed and Confused scene are the mumbles of “yeah,right” in between the “good game” comments.

  • NostraDennis

    You know, we’ve already had a Carlos who didn’t hustle on every play. He’s currently not playing anywhere. I hope the aroma from that brain fart clears soon for Beltran.

  • nestornajwa

    Yeah, no shame in losing to Lincecum, who pitched well, but now the deficit is 5, and we’re on the West Coast for the next 10 games. I like this team and I’ve enjoyed the season for the most part. Tejada and Davis could be stars, Niese looks very good, Pelfrey may have turned the corner, Pagan has made huge strides and now we’ve got Beltran back. So there’s cause for optimism.

    But there’s cause for pessimism too. Yes, there’s the five game hole but there’s something else. Something that’s almost counter-intuitive to the casual observer of the New York Mets. The Mets hardly EVER win a close race.

    Sure, they make it to the postseason from time to time, often playing well when they do. They are historically very good in the first round of the playoffs. But when they play meaningful games in September, they lose a lot more often than they win. I’ve been reading FAFIF for a few years, but I don’t remember this issue coming up; if this phenomenon has been explored in this space, I apologize. please understand that I LOVE this team and I’m not trying to discourage my fellow FAFIF readers. But it’s BECAUSE I love the Mets that I spend so much time thinking (obsessing?) about this stuff.

    The Mets have made the postseason 7 times. In 3 of those seasons (86, 88 and 2006), they have won the division without the trouble of a close race. In 1973, they won the East by a single game. In 1969, they won it by 8. 8 games is, under most circumstances, not close enough to qualify as a “race”, but everything about that year was special and, while I’m a little too young to remember the details firsthand, I can imagine no one could believe it was happening until it happened, so let’s call it a race and a win.

    That leaves the club’s 2 Wild Card berths in 1999 and 2000. The Wild Card gave them the opportunity to gain the postseason despite losing the race for the division, and it created the potential to lose two races (one for the division and one for the WC) in a single campaign. In 99 they lost the division by 6 1/2, and won the WC in a 1 game playoff. That is, for those of us scoring at home, one win and one loss. In 2000, they lost the division by a single game, while they won the WC by 8. Sorry, I don’t remember the WC ever really being in serious doubt. That’s one race lost and a WC berth secured without a race. Am I wrong to count a “race” lost by 6 1/2 but not count one won by 8? I don’t know, but that’s where I’m drawing the line. The 2000 Wild Card sure seems like less of a race than the 1969 division. Your results may vary.

    Now we have to talk about all those times the Mets contended for the postseason without breaking the plane. By my count, the following seasons qualify: 1985 (lost by 3), 1987 (3), 1989 (6), 1990 (4), 1997 (lost WC by 4; no race for division), 1998 (lost WC by 2, no race for division), 2001 (lost division by 6, no race for WC, but they trailed the Cardinals by 11, if you really want to know), 2007 (lost division by 1, lost WC by 2 – our first “double loss”), and 2008 (lost division by 3, lost WC by 1 – our second).

    So, my tally has the Mets at 3-13 all-time in close pennant races. It’s 2-13 if you strictly define a “race” as a final margin of 7 or less. They’re 4-13 if you set it at 9 and bring in the 2000 Wild Card. I suppose it could get a lot better if you set it at 4 or 5, but that would leave out a number of years when the Mets were clearly in contention. It’s a pretty dismal record no matter how you slice it.

    A pennant race is exhilarating, win or lose. If winning is all that matters, there’s a team a few mile uptown that’s accepting applications for bandwagoneers. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and I’m desperately hoping that the team stays in contention long enough to pad these stats. Because there is something worse than losing a pennant race and that’s missing out on one entirely.

    • I feel your pain, or at least your doubt. Regarding close races, it’s a little misleading to just go by GB totals at the end. The Pirates chased the Mets until September in ’88. The Mets did the right thing then — they pulled away. The Mets and Braves in ’99 were separated by one game with two weeks to go (which doesn’t speak well of the Mets falling away within a week’s time), but the Wild Card kind of invalidates them not winning the division. 1999 and 1973 are why we continue to have faith; 1969, too, obviously.

      I’m tired and am talking in circles, but let’s hold off on giving up in 2010 because we didn’t do so hot in 1987 — and because we’re in a two-game scoreless stretch against two Cy Young winners.

      YGB/LGM

  • Andee

    Jesus, I had forgotten that Zito won a Cy Young. Eight years ago. At least it wasn’t a no-hitter, which was my premonition before the game.

    They’re never scoring another run ever again, are they?

    • It’s true, they’re not. They’re just going to wander up and down the Pacific coast for the next several years, offering live stand-ins for pitchers who are working on their breaking stuff during BP. Nobody will notice back East as New York will be enthralled by all the winning One More for the Boss that figures to take place between now and the end of time.

  • [...] Auto Draft by Jason Fry on 17 July 2010 2:41 am Didn’t we just see this game? [...]

  • [...] He also likened pitching in humid and rainy conditions to “straight guerilla warfare”. Again, how many pitchers talk like R.A. Dickey? Better yet, how many pitchers stand in and battle like [...]

  • [...] in which we fully realize we’re toast — 7-6 losses of games which we once led 3-0 should seem, as R.A. Dickey might eloquently put it, inconsequential. For the big picture, sure, but in terms of leading by three and losing by one, [...]

  • [...] I can’t blame Roberts or any of the other writers covering the Mets for going to the Dickey well at the drop of a knuckleball. They work with the language, and Dickey clearly respects the language. He reads the language. He speaks the language with grace and style — and he indeed possesses the most charming of accents. [...]