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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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The Death of Maybes

Well, Emily and I had fun for eight innings.

It was a lovely night, we warmed up for the game with my wife’s first-ever visit to Donovan’s (I wouldn’t say it’s the best burger in New York City, but it’s very good — a bar burger executed perfectly), and during the mid innings I got to compare notes with an old Journal colleague and his daughter, Yankee fans making their first visit to Citi Field. They were big fans, with particular praise for the food and the fact that most of the fans in attendance weren’t psychotic. (Their words, not mine.) We chatted happily for a bit and then I went back to my seat and to Emily and the Mets fell behind again and then they tied it up again and then they took the lead and then bad things happened. Very bad things.

Izzy didn’t look right from the get-go, walking Logan Morrison, and the crowd started to mutter, no doubt recalling all those pitches last night.

(Brief digression about Monday’s game: We went out to dinner, and leaving the restaurant I checked MLB At Bat and groaned to see the Mets down 3-1. Back in Brooklyn, Emily headed home while I went to meet friends at a bar. I checked in grimly … and saw it was 3-3! Lucas Duda had hit a home run; with a happy suspicion, I pulled up the play by play and saw that yes, he had hit it with two out in the ninth. I fairly skipped the rest of the way to the bar, walked in, looked at the TV, saw the bases were loaded, and three pitches later Mike Stanton connected. That’s 42 years of Mets fandom in a nutshell right there.)

Anyway, from last night to tonight: With Morrison on first, up came Stanton (whose arm really ought to subject to some kind of weapons limit). He popped up, but old pal Mike Cameron ripped a single up the gap to left-center which Angel Pagan barely corralled to keep the game from being tied right there. Izzy then hit John Buck, and up came Bryan Petersen with the bases loaded and one out.

On 0-2, Petersen hit a little grounder to Justin Turner, who I thought had time to come home. But it would have been close, and Buck was sort of in the way (reluctant kudos to him for terrific base-running, slowing up to ensure Turner couldn’t go for the quick tag and throw to first) and Turner by his own admission “kind of got into panic mode.” He threw it past Duda, and a horrible groan went through the crowd. The Mets skulked off amid a torrent of boos, a Daniel Murphy double-play grounder snuffed any realistic hope of a rally in the bottom of the inning, and we filed out, made numb by an awful loss.

(Oh, and Johan Santana’s on his way to New York to be re-evaluated for lingering shoulder discomfort. Fan-fucking-tastic!)

The Braves have hit a bit of a bump themselves, so the Mets are still 7.5 out of the wild card, which you can argue is not insurmountable, particularly with Atlanta coming to town on Friday. And this year’s Mets have been so confounding, so crazily Jekyll and Hyde, that there’s no way I’m going to declare them dead this time. They’ve jumped out of coffins before; I wouldn’t be surprised to see them do it again.

But honestly, they can’t seem to escape the gravity of .500, or the reality of the standings. (The Marlins are a .500 team too, and those last-place Nats in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear.) I’m thinking less about the number in the GB column than I am about the team we see too often during these recurring ruts — the one that can’t get consistent offense from its patchwork lineup, has a ragged bullpen, and has to contend with a right side of the infield afflicted by chronic dingbatry and doofusness. Teams like that don’t win, unless they’re in crap divisions like the NL Central, which we aren’t.

Now, there’s no shame in not winning — these Mets are being stripped down and rebuilt with better parts, and that will take a while. Nor is there shame in believing — musing about a maybe is a lot more fun than shaking your head and offering nos and nevers.

But August is when time starts to become the enemy along with whomever you’re chasing. August is when it creeps into your mind that your team’s flaws aren’t going to solve themselves this season. August, all too often, is the death of maybes.

25 comments to The Death of Maybes

  • Tell us more about your Hamburger..Better yet dont you wish you had it in Cincy!!
    What the hell is up with this team at Citi Field?

  • Andee

    I just hope Danny Murphy’s not gonna get the Melvin Mora treatment, getting run out of town on a rail because of a couple of bonehead plays, only to rake for another team while the fans gnash their teeth over having “given him away.” Fortunately, I think Sandy has more brains in his small toe than Steve Phillips does in his entire body, and he’s not nearly as easily manipulated by the media, so I doubt it. But still.

    Turner, OTOH, probably wouldn’t be any great loss if everyone was healthy. And I do mean everyone; we’re looking at you, Reese Havens.

  • gary

    “dingbatry and doofusness”.excellent metaphor for the a right side of the infield that could have played for Casey in 1962.I was at the game last nite also.The minute me and my buddy saw Izzy come in last nite, our stomachs started to churn

  • open the gates

    Again: If K-Rod were still in town, we might be talking nine-game win streak and look out, Braves.

    That’s for all you folks who think that the idea of a bullpen closer is a myth. Who think you can just stick anyone into the ninth inning of a game. Who never appreciate the K-Rods, Wagners, and (yes) Francos when we have them.

    Being a closer is more than the ability to get outs. It’s about demeanor, and being able to bounce back from a blown save to get ‘em the next night. With some (K-Rod) it’s about intimidation. With others (Franco) it’s doing it with smoke and mirrors and just plain guts. It’s why Franco is one of my all-time favorites. The man may have kept you at the edge of your seats, but he Got The Job Done.

    Now we have one guy (Izzy) who is no longer a closer; another (Parnell) who is not yet a closer, and a bunch of others who never will be closers. And again, I know we had to trade K-Rod (damn that vesting option!), but too many people thought of it as a good thing. Parnell could have done worse than setting up for K-Rod for the rest of the season. Hey, even Mariano Rivera caddied for John Wetteland for a season. Didn’t seem to hurt his career much.

    Bottom line: If you’re serious about a playoff run, you need a closer. The Mets don’t have one right now.

    • Andee

      You don’t need a “closer.” You need pitchers (note plural) who can record outs. They’re not the same thing; Krod already has 2 blown saves for the Brewers. If he was blowing saves at that rate in Anaheim, he’d be working at a Pollo Loco now.

      • 9th string catcher

        I totally agree, Andee. I hated, HATED watching Franco, Benitez and Wagner come in and blow saves, yet come back out and do the same thing again and again since they were CLOSERS. K-Rod, for my money was probably the best Mets closer I’ve seen, but that didn’t make him bulletproof or undefeated. I think Terry made a rare error last night in putting him back on the mound after having a long outing the night before, but I know he was trying to give him instant redemption. Not necessary – you have three good arms out there (four if you count Byrdak) use the best arm for the best situation. I am sick to death of the annointed closer, and feel that you can win without one.

        • dmg

          yes, i was at the game last night — and by the way, what a terrific night to be at a ballpark — and agree that collins blew the call bringing izzy in to tell him “you’re our guy.” even so, i cannot kill izzy for this one; this baby was turner’s, and an ugly one it was.

          i wouldn’t have minded parnell making a two-inning performance, though those are probably not ever considered. but if you’re going to have a closer-by-committee, couldn’t you at least consider it?

        • Andee

          Yep. And when you think about it, Rivera is really a freak exception. Most closers, even the better ones, only have a few years of effectiveness in them, at best, but their careers still dribble on and on after that, unless there’s a career-ending injury (cf Gagne).

          And again, I wonder if there are really a lot of metrics for measuring the effectiveness of relievers, especially in 1 to 2-year samples. If you are a starting pitcher for the Mets, you know you’re going to face Albert Pujols 15 to 20 times a year; if you’re a reliever for the Mets, even a closer, you might never face him at all. And usually the pitchers with the better peripherals become starters and expect to remain starters.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    If Izzy was being tagged by the fish Monday, possibly due to trouble with his ankle, then why bring him back tonight or keep him in as he was again being roughed up?  It’s true that they would have tied the game even if Turner did not commit that Murphy-type error but still, he allowed them to get on base.

    Also, does anyone notice a trend in which the team only seems to be relaxed when it gets out to an early lead?  They seem to build upon their scoring but wilts down in the late innings (how many games in Cincy were blowouts that became nail biters?).  

    It would have been nice staying in the race for the wild card and we might actually still have been it had Beltran and KRod not been shipped off. Those moves were made solely on the basis of reduced spending and lowering the Wilpon’s own personal debt ceiling (which, like those being made by the politicians) will have little impact on the state of the Wilpon economy. Yes, we got Zach Wheeler and a player to be named later from Milwaukee but (like the final agreement made by Congress) would those moves really make much of a dent toward improving our future? What are the chances that these two will become diamonds in the rough leading us to the promised land any more than the slew of prospects we already have?

    Not much thoughts anymore of miracles(hopes, maybe) enabling us to continue to be in the wild card hunt BUT even if continued just for a short while more (let’s say till the end of August) what would have then been wrong retaining KRod and Beltran, keeping the current roster stronger and at least letting our young players taste a bit of some type of pennant race-type pressure and continue to learn from Beltran’s leadership? Isn’t that also looking ahead toward the future?

    Can live with the errors made by the young kids who are learning and still have to adapt to the pressure of major league life.  Izzy isn’t expected to be around after the season.  So wild card race or not, just consider these growing pains.

    • Hi, Joe.

      I beg to differ, here.

      Frankie’s vesting option (Thanks a whole helluva mutha-effin’ lot, Omar!) was so onerously ridiculous, that it had to be disposed of. It was. That’s a win.

      The Beltran situation was never going to be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction: Beltran would never be re-signed at a price he & Scott Boras would deem “fair,” and the clause in his current contract that precludes him being offered arbitration (Thanks a whole helluva mutha-effin’ lot, Omar!) means the team would have been left holding a bag of air come December.

      These were moves that had to be made, and kudos go to Sandy Alderson for finding the most palatable solutions. I thought the Mets were an 85-win team WITH K-Rod & Beltran: they probably won’t be any worse than that without them.

      • Agree. Smart moves that had to be made.

        • Joe D.

          Hi Jason,

          I always look at decisions a few ways, 1) based purely on baseball, 2) based purely on financials and 3) based on a combination of both.

          Nobody should give away the store as the Wilpons allowed Omar to do but still, the revenue generated by being in New York City was quite enough for them to turn a profit after all operating expenses the last three years at Shea. There is no reason why we have to operate like the Kansas City Royals instead. With the outrageous ticket prices and emphasis put on the non-baseball commercialization of Citi Field,the Wilpons snubbed the true Met fan and went out courting those with the big wallets instead. That financial strategy backfired big time and we would not have been put in a situation over the winter where Sandy Alderson could only go after rejects or damaged goods to fill a roster.

          That’s why I don’t agree 100% with sending Beltran off to San Francisco for a young pitching prospect, even if he is highly regarded so far in A Ball, As mentioned, the contribution of keeping Beltran through the rest of the season would be his influence on the young players because his bat could help us possibly stay in the wildcard hunt a bit longer (which is different than saying we have a real shot of winning it). That’s giving the kids the added valuable experience of how it is to play in meaningful games under pressure situations.

          Does anyone think the Mets would have unloaded Beltran this season (even though he would be walking come October) had finances been different? With us paying most of his remaining salary, the savings is minimal in the scheme of things.

          Meanwhile, Beltran could have been kept had this been a well run organization to give the team a chance to see how it feels to be in a pennant race, even if for just another month.

          Yes, we all felt like Sandy that there was little chance we would remain in contention. So if he felt getting a highly touted prospect in return I cannot argue with him. It’s just that the talk was getting rid of Beltran from the start of spring training and it continued even when it was apparent he was making a great come back. Same was true with Reyes until his great season forced the Wilpons to reconsider due to fan reaction. So it is apparent these decisions were made a long time ago due to financial concerns and nothing more.

          Under these circumstances, the Mets act more like their expansion brothers, the Houston Astros, who got rid of their still young but very dangerous hitters over the weekend.

          BTW – the KRod incentive was ridiculous and I agree the Mets had to let him go for financial reasons.

          • Yep, I ABSOLUTELY think the Mets would have traded Beltran had finances been different.

            Despite the wild mood swings of the season, I think the Mets have been basically a .500 club on the outskirts of possible wild-card contention from the get-go. And I think despite the diplomatic talk of his last weeks, there’s no way in hell Beltran would come back here. (Or that any deal he’d seek would make sense for the Mets given his age, the state of his knees and where the club stands.) So the choice, regardless of finances, was to keep him for a slightly better chance at a not-very-likely wild card and get nothing for him (not even draft picks), or give him up and get a prospect. I think the latter was clearly the right choice in any situation.

            As for Reyes, sure, fan sentiment plays a part in the changing attitudes about re-signing him — and that’s good. But I think you’ve got the causality backwards. The outpouring of love for Reyes reflects that he’s having a very good year that’s seen him make progress as a player and been mostly healthy, and the front office has properly paid attention to all of that. If Reyes were hitting .260 with 55 games played and four DL stints, there’d be no serious talk of re-signing him from the front office and few of us would disagree, however sad it made us.

            Sure, the Mets have financial question marks. But I don’t see them dictating what Sandy’s done the way you do. I think his decision-making has been sound, regardless of the financial picture.

  • Tom in Sunnyside

    Good to hear Donovan’s has reopened. The city had shut it down for a few days last month for health code violations.

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    I feel the “Dog Days of Summer” are upon us! What is realyy ugly about this team is that they can not win at home! This is a problem.

    We are creeping back ever so close to the basement!

    Just think Spring Training 2012 is only 6 months away!

  • 9th string catcher

    I definitely concur with Joe D about Beltran, less so to K-Rod. Believe me, K-Rod would have blown at least one of these games, and probably a lot more. But I didn’t see the point of getting rid of someone that was making a difference THIS SEASON. Plus, it’s the goddamn Marlins who play better at Citi Field than the “home” team Mets.

    Ultimately, this is a team that will be .500 this year. It’s how it’s built – there are substantial gaps on this team in terms of experience, talent and injury that aren’t going to be solved right now. They will win 4, lose 3, win 2, lose 4, win 6, lose 2, and at the end of the year hover around .500. At least there is no gap with effort, and that’s the most positive thing to come out of this season. You see players maturing, developing and getting ready to take the next step – hopefully that will pay dividends next year.

  • NostraDennis

    Wake me up when September ends, guys. We’ll see Greener Days ahead soon, I hope.

  • kd bart

    I’ve stated many times, didn’t think this team was more than an 85/86 win team because it does not have the pitching to obtain more than that. The starting rotation consists of a bunch of back end of the rotation types with no true #1 and/or #2 starter. No starter who is capable time after time of going out there and giving you 8 innings of 1 or 2 run pitching. A Roy Halladay/Tim Lincecum type. The bullpen is a crapshoot from game to game and has to pitch a lot of innings because our starters do not go beyond six innings enough. The past two games might have been loss due to poor fundamental play in the field but the Mets were put into that position by the lousy pitching that proceeded it. (Walks and hit batsmen).

  • Lenny65

    The bone-headed blunders were exactly the sort of thing they were managing to avoid for most of the year, here’s hoping they got them “out of their system”, so to speak.

  • “Contenders hate August. It’s hot, sticky and uncomfortable: the pennant races don’t start for another month. Bad teams, like the Mets, hate August. It’s hot, sticky and uncomfortable: the season dooesn’t end for another month.” — Maury Allen on the 1968 Mets (just before Gil Hodges’ first heart attack), from the book The Incredible Mets

  • Ken K. from NJ

    If they talked about this on FSNY I missed it, but has any Mets team tied 2 games in a row with bottom of the 9th homers with 2 outs? Has any team, ever, susequently lost both games in the 10th.

    PS, re last week’s main topic, I found a website with an MP3 of the radio call of the last inning ever at Tiger Stadium (1999). Our former pal Carlos Beltran was the last batter (Ernie Harwell called him “The Royals Rookie Sensation” as he came to the plate). Carlos ruined his 3 for 3 day by striking out:

    http://www.detroitradioflashbacks.net/flashbacks/drfsports/ERNIE_HARWELL_COMPILATION.mp3

  • [...] is here. This is where – as my friend Jason Fry so aptly put it yesterday – maybes go to die. Hopes that are hatched in April, May and June find [...]