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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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Open During Renovations

If a restaurant you liked had gone downhill, you’d understand if it had changed hands and a sign appeared in its window that declared UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT. And unless you were personally attached to the people who used to run the place, you’d approve of the change and look forward to an improvement. You’d certainly understand if they had to close down for a spell while they made everything palatable again.

You can conceivably do that with a restaurant. You can’t do that with a baseball team. Analogies from the rest of life often run into something unique about baseball, and what makes baseball different from much of the rest of life is it brings you, most seasons, 162 games that cannot be avoided. The bistro known as baseball is dependent on seasonal business. It must remain open from April to October (otherwise, why would they play through cold, fog and general meteorological discomfort?). Hence, all the operators of that restaurant you used to really like but had grown wary of patronizing can do in the interim is add on another sign:

OPEN DURING RENOVATIONS — PARDON OUR APPEARANCE

Or as Troy Tulowitzki and the Rockies might have said to Terry Collins and the Mets on their way out of town with a four-game sweep packed away in their luggage, eat our dust.

The Mets are an atrocious baseball team right now. There is no contractor who could fix that immediately, not even one who’s a wizard with numbers. They’re atrocious. My proof is they have played atrociously almost the entirety of this season. Granted, the entirety of this season to date is thirteen games. Beginning with the fourteenth game and extending through the one-hundred sixty-second, there is, technically, the chance that they will reinvent themselves as a spectacular baseball team.

But that’s not going to happen, at least not that soon and not that permanently. They’re atrocious. They’ve played atrociously. They are not equipped to be a whole lot more than atrocious at this juncture. “At this juncture” isn’t forever, however, and atrocious may very well not reflect their state when the season reaches a third, fourth or fifth month. The Mets no doubt will have made significant personnel changes by then. Rosters get shaken up even on good teams. The atrocious are rarely shy about trying to see what works.

Not much is working now…now. Now is also not forever, but now shows no particular inclination to depart the premises soon. So let’s not kid ourselves. Let’s not pat the Mets on the back for not losing games by more runs than they do. Let’s not congratulate them for maintaining leads for innings at a time. Let’s not take solace that but for a hit here or a pitch there, their record could very well be far better than their current 4 wins and 9 losses.

You know what a baseball team that has a chance to win a bunch of games that it doesn’t is? Atrocious. A team that gives up leads, a team that does not take advantage of opportunities, a team that inevitably finds a way to lose is atrocious. That can’t be emphasized enough as we attempt to comprehend what we have in our midst.

It’s all right. It happens. Teams lose nine of thirteen, five in a row, eight of their last nine. Teams don’t do that based on a few random bounces, though, not really. Teams have to be playing atrociously to do that, whether the scores that doom them are 11-0 or 6-5 or whatever. Furthermore, teams that are playing atrociously are generally atrocious while they’re doing it. Good teams have bad stretches, but there’s usually some evidence they’re good teams to begin with.

The New York Mets are not a good team. They have no starting pitcher — not even the one we really, really like — whose mere presence reassures you a losing streak is about to cease. They have no single everyday player — not even the one who is considered among the best in the league at his position — who fills you with the opposite of the dread you feel when you encounter a Tulowitzki on the other team. Among 25 Mets, we can detect a few flickers of hope, a few bits of individual progress, a handful of potential successes.

But they don’t have a good team. And as long as we understand that, we’ll deal with it. We should understand it. We had an atrocious team as 2010 ended, the establishment (its management, anyway) changed hands and…what? There was very little renovation that could take place that was obvious to the patrons. The menu looked suspiciously similar in terms of the appetizing factor. A few side dishes had been renamed, but the overall ambiance and quality was not noticeably upgraded.

Behind the scenes? You hear good things. Good reputations. They’re capable of fixing this place up…but it’s not a quick fix. It’s a long-term repair job. In an ideal situation, they’d close, they’d gut the premises, they’d redo everything from soup to nuts and they’d target maybe April 2012 to hang out yet another sign:

GRAND RE-OPENING

They can’t do that. They have to serve up what they have as best as they can in the short term and beg your patience for the long haul. You, if you choose, have to believe there will be a few more flickers of hope, a few more bits of individual progress, another handful of potential successes to get you through the undeniably atrocious segments of 2011.

That’s your choice. You don’t have to buy what they’re selling, you don’t have to swallow what they’re dishing out. You are certainly entitled to take a bite and call it what it is: underdone, overcooked, not very good. You have that right. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good patron, it doesn’t mean you’re not a discerning patron. If anything, you’re showing a little judgment.

The Mets are 4-9, with most of what they need to do to regularly win baseball games at this moment beyond their grasp. Disarray may be too strong a word, but it sure isn’t array. You can see that for yourself. As long as you keep that in mind, and trust that it has a chance to get better without getting too much worse first, you’ll be OK.

At some point, they will, too. And that, indeed, will be most grand.

30 comments to Open During Renovations

  • Ethan Zien

    This blog makes me feel better about the Mets, allows me and smile and laugh among this misery.

  • Andee

    Nobody could reasonably have expected them to be THIS bad, though. Nobody could have expected that every single pitcher on the team would forget how to pitch, that normally decent fielders would muff the simplest plays, that they would have runners on third with nobody out over and over again and score nothing. It’s statistically impossible to lose four out of every five games all year.

    But then, this is the Mets. This is the team who other players leave and become legends for, the team who somehow didn’t manage to kill the talent of Mike Piazza and Tom Seaver before getting a few good years out of them but has managed to kill almost every other talent that’s ever put on its uniform. We’ve even had players come here after being good for someone else, suck for us, put on someone else’s uniform and be good, then come back and suck for us AGAIN. I fear we are paying the karmic debt forever for Mookie’s grounder.

    And I have to wonder if the atmosphere around this team has been poisoned for good. The local media is contemptuous of this franchise to the point of openly rooting for them to lose, deliberately creating dissension among the players, and spreading rumors they KNOW are false. Not just once, but repeatedly. I have not seen any sports team in any other city treated this way, and I’ve lived in a lot of places, some of them with teams much less talented than this one. With the exception of 1986, when the team was so dominant there was nothing bad the media could say, they’ve been treated like toilet paper, even when they were actually good, during their entire history.

    It can’t just be the Wilpons, either. People act like this is the only team in baseball owned by overentitled douchebags with questionable business practices. Yeah, surrrre.

    You wonder if Sandy will bail when he figures out you can’t fight a curse. I kept watching the Rockies and thinking, it would be SO nice to root for a team that wasn’t so completely hexed. But then, maybe it’s me. Maybe if I root for another team for a while, they’ll go down the tubes, too. It might be an interesting experiment.

    • Maybe if I root for another team for a while, they’ll go down the tubes, too. It might be an interesting experiment.

      The best explanation I’ve ever read for becoming a Yankees fan.

      • Andee

        Problem is, I think it only works if you don’t pick a team you hate. Otherwise I’d happily glom on to Philadelphia.

        • March'62

          Andee, I feel your pain. Rooting for the Mets is, as you infer, not like rooting for other ‘normal’ baseball teams. The team is bad as a matter of course, and it takes actual miracles (see ’69 and Buckner) to ever win. It can’t be the town and media, because there is another team playing in this town who have played in over half the world series played in the past 80 years. The players have changed, the coaches have changed, the media has changed, and yet the Mets lose. They have found so many ways of losing over the years – they have no closer, they can’t bunt, they can’t throw strikes, they leave tying runs on third, they have injuries, they drop popups, they miss third base, their manager dies right before the season, and on and on. We root for the Mets obviously not to see them win on a regular basis. We root because, one day, one year, they will rise up and snatch another championship, and we will all be witness, firsthand, to another miracle. And it will be bliss.

  • mikeski

    I wonder if Collins, at any point, even considered brushing Tulowitzki back.

    • charlie

      I wonder if Collins, at any point, even considered brushing Tulowitzki back.

      several people in section 312 were screaming for this

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    I for one am glad that te horrible homestand is over. Maybe there will be less pressure on them on the road.

    We do have the Astros and Diamndbacks They are both as bad as us.)coming in next. I personally wouldn’t go to those game with “Free Tickets”

    Is it possible that we can be “Out of it” by May?

  • James Allen

    We can describe it in any terms we like but the fact of the matter is we knew, all of us, that this team, as constructed, was painfully, predicably, and boringly mediocre. This was obvious. Close loses (or wins for that matter) don’t mean shit. They could go to Atlanta and sweep the Braves and it wouldn’t mean much of anything because we know that this roster blows and that they are headed to 70 wins. I mean, who are half these guys? This is year one of rebuilding? Really? No rookies you give a shit about? Bargain basenent pickups and spare parts being used as starters? REALLY? And I like R.A. Dickey, I do, but he’s now the stopper? REALLLLLY?? And the managerial hire? Can you say Art Howe II? I knew you could.

    But yeah, I’ll watch the games. Cause that’s what I do. That’s what we all do. I lived through the late 70’s, the early 90’s (gag), I’ll live through another one. 25 years isn’t the longest drought, but the number’s starting to get kinda big isn’t it?

  • Daviault

    I was there today through all 18 (was it really ONLY 18?) innings. Somehow the “It’s only April” mantra isn’t bringing me peace and enlightenment.

  • BlackCountryMet

    Left work early to watch the 1st game with me mate on ESPN America. Felt that all too familiar depressing feeling, only to be given hope late on.Enough to decide to watch the 2nd game on MLBTV. MISTAKE!! At the moment, the team appears to have little belief in the fact that they can maintain a lead, once they have it. THe pitching,even from RA, is ropey at best and poor in the main, we’ve been getting out of innings rather than blowing threw them and the bullpen? well seems just as bad as last year ;-( Still it’s only, so there’s still 5 months left lol!!

  • Al in Japan

    You can just imagine the headline,

    SuperTuloGoesBallasticTheMetsTheyAreAtrocious

    (Stolen from the original British soccer version)

  • The past few days I couldn’t help but think of this game, 14 years ago to the day yesterday:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN199704140.shtml

    Not saying these Mets are also going to win 88 games, but 1997 was the last time I’ve had similar good feelings about a Mets team fly in the face of most mainstream expectations (not to mention an ugly start).

    • I thought of 1997 last night and tried to decide if there are any other parallels besides the lousy starts. Without breaking down rosters, et al, the one thing I remember about April ’97 was they looked lifeless but I believed they were better — I just didn’t quite get why they were better. How bad, I thought, could they be based on their having had Johnson, Gilkey and Hundley? Well, only one of those guys was a meaningful contributor as the season progressed. Olerud broke out, Alfonzo broke out and Reed broke out. And, really, Valentine broke out.

      Collins doesn’t give me that feeling. And if there’s a stealth star emerging from among the current roster, I’d be surprised. I suppose that’s the idea, though.

      In a spiritual sense, at least for me, I don’t think there can ever be another 1997. Its successes so snuck up on me. Now that I know it can happen like that — in a different way from 1984 and 1969 — I’m always kind of waiting for it to happen when a Mets team stumbles around out of the gate and is utterly written off so early.

      They can’t be as bad as they’ve been lineupwise and defensively, but the pitching…hoo boy.

  • I want this part to be finished now…

  • boldib

    I think Fred Wilpon’s love of the team and baseball is genuine. But, based on the make up of the squad it’s become more and more apparent that his vision for Citi Field and it’s ridiculous dimensions was a major conceptual mistake. The old Cardinals and the old Busch Stadium were built for each other. Speed, speed, more speed, good D, gap hitters, solid pitching and really tough on the opposition to hit it out. Think 2006 Mets and, other than Reyes, you’re thinking power numbers. Beltran, Wright, Delgado were the core. There’s no Mets curse. This team was out flanked and driven back by a lack of coherence and the abstaction that is Citi Field.

    Yeah, the other team plays there too – but they go home when it’s done.

    People make mistakes. Time to fix them – rebuild or renovate.

    In the meantime, let’s get Ryan Church back to miss 3rd base scoring the winning run. Egads.

  • Guy Kipp

    During the nightcap yesterday, Gary Cohen expressed the sentiment that maybe the Mets really need to get out of town and away from Citi Field for awhile. Right … to Turner Field. Because things always go so well for the Mets in Turner Field.
    Also, why is anybody mystified that this pitching staff walks so many batters? The pitching coach is someone who, in 307 career innings himself, issued 198 walks (that’s 5.8 per 9 innings). Since 2008, Mets pitchers have walked about 3.7 batters per 9 innings. And somehow Warthen survived the overhaul of the coaching staff last October–around the same time that Sandy Alderson was letting Hisanori Takahashi go to free agency.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    It’s funny how you refer to the team as a restaurant, for wasn’t that a major part of the mission that our dear friends, the Wilpons, had for Citi Field?

    Unlike those in the past, other than for Hairston (whom I heard slowed down assuming he had a home run on a double in the second game, which takes a lot of Carlos Delgado chutzpah considering his miscue in the first game led to a run) these guys come to play and try their hardest.  It’s just that most all the new players Alderson has assembled (about half the players are new) are not that good and are either cast-offs not sought by many other teams or rookies still learning the trade. 

    So they can’t be faulted for their lack of skill and don’t deserve receiving the wrath of the fans by being booed.  They are more or less fringe players that the organization touted would confound the doubters just to cover up the fact that the Wilpons have no money to spend (and whose fault is that?).   For placing them in that position, boo the Wilpons, boo Alderson but don’t boo the ones wearing the orange and blue.  They might not have much talent but they make up for it in heart. 

    And I’ve got a hunch that if the Wilpons sold the team tomorrow and new ownership made tickets and concessions just a little bit more affordable, there would be more of us sitting in the stands cheering them on, no matter how poor the play on the field.  For some of us, it would be like it was with the Amazins in the Polo Grounds and those early years at Shea, hoping for better times ahead.  Until the Wilpons sell, there is no hope at all.

  • rich

    What it really boils down to are some unmistakable numerical truths. The Pitching staff as a whole lead the league in Losses, Hits, BBs, Runs, Blown Saves, and Hit by pitches. They are second in HR’s allowed. I think R.A. is capable of stopping a losing streak, Neise and Capuano are just a pitch or two away each game from competence, and Pelfrey will get hot (as he always does). I think the Igarashi and Beato tandem can surprise in the bullpen. What really concerns me is the lack of power in the line up. We need Bay to come back and be the Bay of old. If that minor miracle happens, it will have a tremendous effect on the rest of the lineup. I think Beltran IS the guy who puts fear into the opposition. But only if he can stand up to the rigors of playing 4 out of 5 games. Then Hairston and Harris can return to what they do best. Serve as the fourth or fifth OF’s. I’d also like to see some kind of commitment to a second baseman. Bonehead defensive plays aside, I think the only way for this team is up.
    *Disclaimer
    I have been drinking the Kool-Aid.

  • Well-Meaning Phils Troll

    I know you guys aren’t fond of our guys, but look at the silver lining – or at the very least, reason to be hopeful – that the Phillies organization of the last half-decade represents for Mets devotees…

    The Phils served dinner through 28 seasons of renovations wife the last success… They did it for 97 years prior to that.

    Prior to 2008, the Phils were one of the oldest clubs in baseball. Since their migration to the City of Brotherly Love from Boston in 1883, they had accumulated only a handful of.world series appearances and just one championship. They were also the crown holders of a more dubious distinction: the first professional.sports franchise to earn 10,000 losses… And EARN it they did.

    In my short quarter century of phandom, I witnessed two.decades of mediocre-to-downright-godawful baseball.

    To my dad, that veritable blink-of-the-eye is laughable when compared to his 60-year baseball purgatory.

    The Phils were the Pirates before the Pirates were. They were the punchlines of comedies who felt bad for the Cubs at best; at worst they didn’t even merit consideration. They were the thougts that followed afterthoughts.

    Were you to tell me.even 10 years ago that.my lovable band of hard-fighting failures would.be considered the class of the NL and one of the best teams in baseball within a decade, I’d have laughed in your face and called you cruel.

    The old wisdom claims that thigh are never ad bad as you think they are in the moment.

    That’s bullshit. For Mets fans and Phils phans, they are more often than not far worse than you could imagine in the moment.

    My point, though, is that the future isn’t set in stone, or some self-fulfilling causality loop of sucktitude that is.never allowed to break from losing traditions for more than a rare few fleeting moments of greatness.

    The trying times try fans’ wills and break their spirits, but they become stronger for it in the broken places, as the man once said.

    I remind myself all the time to savor these games and these years as they happen because this is what those years of awfulness were for. Not that this is some divine reward, mind you (no post hoc ergo propter hoc here…), but rather our reason for sticking it out. They’re not good BECAUSE we stuck with them and suffered while they sucked; We stuck with them when and suffered all the suckiness because of the HOPE and belief that they would one day be good. In the end, it’s made it all the sweeter.

    That time will come for the Mets ad well. I’ll HATE it and suffer the same “this will never end” anguish, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

    These times of torture and battlefield camaraderie will only serve to make the future golden age that much sweeter.

    Trust me.

  • Bobby F.

    Well put, Greg. It will take time. We’ll know things are better when we see exciting, young starters make it to Flushing. Isn’t that usually the case? The following may seem trivial considering what we saw this week, but I see evidence of hope in what we don’t see. We don’t see Matthews, Jr playing ahead of Pagan; we don’t see JF playing every day in right; we don’t see Mike Jacobs at first; we don’t see Castillo nor Ollie.

    That said, second base must be manned by a player who can complete a DP last time I checked, especially considering we have no Seaver, Koosman, Gooden & Cone missing bats. This guy Eamus doesn’t look the part. Murph will find his proper niche in the AL one day. They both play as if they’re praying the ball won’t be hit to their way. I don’t blame them for praying. Fonzie, he’d work. Hell, I might settle for a Robert Douglas Flynn or a Brian Giles. Well, maybe not Giles.

    And let’s just admit that this Harris thing is atrocious indeed. It isn’t going to work out & move on. Summon Evans or Duda or Kirk tonight.

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