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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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A Bump in the Road to Somewhere

Honesty compels me to admit it wasn’t really Mike Pelfrey’s fault.

My 2011 designated scapegoat pitched OK; his teammates let him down with a second straight evening of shaky defense and a distressing inability to collect hits when they were most needed. The Beard wound up Feared, the Mets lost, and a West Coast trip that started a giddy 3-0 ended up a more meh 4-3. Which isn’t bad for a West Coast swing even when you’ve got a complete club, and is nothing to hang one’s head about. But after that 3-0 start … well, 5-2 would have felt a whole lot better, wouldn’t it?

And so the calendrical first half is done, and the Mets disperse until Friday, when they will have to march straight into the blur of bullets and sharp objects that is the Phillies. They’re 46-45, 7 1/2 games shy of a wild-card berth with three teams between them and the Braves.

What to make of that? Well, 7 1/2 out seems like a long way to go, particularly the Braves looking like an awfully good club. (I’m not even thinking about that 11-game gulf separating the Mets and the Phils.) On the other hand, the Mets are without Johan Santana, David Wright, Ike Davis and Jose Reyes — but today, in a reversal of the usual Metsian narrative, they got rather encouraging news on all four of the missing. Johan is soon to begin throwing BP to actual players, Wright is headed for a minor-league assignment, Ike has been running and Jose’s hamstring seems to be on the mend. With all the talk of potential player moves, the Mets stand to significantly upgrade two roster spots within the next couple of weeks, with two other upgrades a possibility within a month or so. Meanwhile, they’ve seen encouraging campaigns from the likes of Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada, Justin Turner, Bobby Parnell and Jonathon Niese, all players who seem to have made strides beyond what we thought we had in them at the beginning of the season.

Sure, we still have those larger uncertainties, starting with the question of the Wilpons’ roster spots and what level of success on the field and at the turnstiles David Einhorn would like to see. Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran could be on the move and Jose Reyes could be headed into an orange-and-blue sunset at year’s end. If the Mets get mauled by the Phillies next weekend, sink back below .500 and are soon 10 behind the Braves, the team could and probably should look very different in early August, in which case those three straight wins against the Dodgers will be tinged with melancholy.

But who knows? Disaster seemed in the cards when the club was 5-13, but they’re 41-32 since then despite taking more body blows than a Monty Python knight. They play hard for Terry Collins and seem to have internalized Dave Hudgens’ advice, more often than not working tough counts and getting good pitches to hit. They’re undermanned and sitting on shaky fiscal underpinnings, no doubt. But they’re also reliably fun to watch. They feel like more than the sum of their parts, even if some of those parts are factory seconds or have been bashed into spaces where they don’t quite fit.

If you’d told me when the Mets were 5-13 that before the All-Star Break they’d be stripped of David and Ike and Reyes, I might have canceled my cable and yanked my Internet connection right then, retreating to a dark room with a stack of ’69 and ’86 DVDs and a message for someone to come get me when the whole depressing ownership mess had been sorted out. But instead the Mets are still bobbing along, surrounded by intriguing possibilities as well as agonizing ones. Four Metless days might have been expected to feel like a respite; instead, I wish Friday would hurry up already so I can have them back.

6 comments to A Bump in the Road to Somewhere

  • 9th string catcher

    It’s amazing how much better 5-2 sounds than 4-3, but like you said, you don’t need to qualify a winning road trip at any time, much less one where you’re facing 5 All Star pitchers on the West Coast with a ton of injuries. The team may not know exactly how to win, but they have learned how to fight – they work counts, put the ball in play, pitch smart and don’t bring bad at-bats or field play into the next inning.

    I’m not sold on this dismantaling of the franchise – if you’re REALLY REALLY lucky, you get someone like Jose Reyes who you will develop, put into the lineup, nurture, and then ultimately trade for another young player who you’ll end up developing, putting into the lineup, nurture and ultimately trade for another young player…….please, don’t sell me this season for more uncertainty. Let these guys play it out and see what happens. If you can move K-Rod, Santana or Bay, that’s different, but seeing Reyes or Beltran going mid season does nothing for me.

  • kd bart

    To me, they looked like they ran out of gas the last few days. But that’s to be expected when you combine playing several regular missing from your lineup, 13 out of 16 on the road and 12 out of those 16 versus teams in first place or who were in first at the time. The last 2+ weeks for the Mets have been a grind and the fact that they held their own at 9-7 speaks highly of this team. Yes, they loss ground to the Braves during that span but when you look at the schedules of the two teams, it was almost expected. While the Mets were playing the Rangers, Tigers, Dodgers and giants on the road plus the Yanks at home, the Braves were playing the Padres, Mariners and Phils on the road and the Rockies and Orioles at home. The Phils are the only one of those teams that have a winning record. The Braves went 11-5.

  • NostraDennis

    These Mets at this point deserve the same surprising critique my wife gives to the Golden Arches’ oatmeal. It doesn’t suck.

    Considering what we’ve lost along the way this season, that is high praise.

  • Yea, though I walk through the valley of death…: I will be setting foot in Citi Field for the first time since 2009 on Friday night. Vs. the Phillies. On fireworks night. I think I’ll merit combat pay after that one.

    On the plus side, I’ll be joined by a retinue of 8 other Hangleys — including my wife, who will be making HER Citi Field debut.

  • eric b

    At this point, I would love it if they kept Reyes and Beltran… Reyes for well beyond this year… Beltran for this year at least. Of the folks likely to be moved, I can only really rubber-stamp the K-rod trade. And even he’s been pretty good…

  • eric b

    Oh…and if we can just get 1 vs. the Phils, with Reyes and Wright coming back in the aftermath, I think we’ll be alright.