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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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 Little Team That Didn't

The fine print on doggedly determined underdog teams that rise up and take a bite out of dismissive expectations is they’re prone to getting rapped on the nose by those wielding rolled-up newspapers…or booming bats.

This was a lousy weekend to be the Little Team That Could once it became apparent they Couldn’t. This was a lousy weekend to have not nearly the ability to back up whatever heart you’ve been leading with for nearly three months. This was a lousy weekend that save for Nick Swisher — or “Nick Seizure,” as my Droid’s spell-check insists on calling him — failing to be as tall Friday night as he was irritating for three days, could have been historically abysmal.

All is lost, at least until tonight in Chicago when the Little Team That Can might very well make the Subpar Series a quickly fading memory, given baseball’s eternal equity as the game of redeeming features. Still, their shot at instant redemption doesn’t excuse the spit show the Mets put on Saturday and Sunday, when they proved themselves temporarily incapable of playing with the big boys.

We lost the battle...and then we lost the next battle...but...uh...

Two one-run losses felt like a pair of blowouts, as there are no prizes, not even moral victories, for constantly being behind a run and endlessly staying behind a run. The Mets lived for eighteen innings in the Land of Opportunity but told the Welcome Wagon it wasn’t interested in cashing in. Theoretically, a couple of 9-1 debacles would have been less fun to watch, but I’m not sure how.

OK, that’s probably not true, either. But yeech on Saturday and yeech even more on Sunday, the latter day featuring much to moan sprinkled by a tad to cheer. There was welcome return by Ruben Tejada; the discovery of Andres Torres, Base-Stealing Weapon; and the inspirational sight of R.A. Dickey taking back with his all a fraction of what he gave up with his arm. Too bad Keith Hernandez wasn’t doing the game, because he would have oozed with old-school pride over R.A. eschewing the “la-di-da” ethos Mex finds so distasteful and running through Chris Stewart to score the first Met run of the game. Too bad it came when the Mets were already down, 4-0, and it didn’t nearly take the spin out of Dickey’s uncommanding knuckler.

R.A. pitched a bad game. Hard to believe, tough to admit, painful to realize not so much because I assumed he’d never again not pitch a one-hitter (though I was beginning to lean that way) but because if we don’t win an R.A. Dickey start, then what do we do?

It was admirable, to a point, the way the Mets pulled R.A. out of his ‘L’ hole and tied things up in the sixth on a series of singles, walks and opposition miscues, but without a proper post-Sabathia followup — say, a big hit of the extra-base variety — leaving the game tied loomed was an invitation to trouble. And trouble wasn’t shy about RSVP’ing in the eighth when Miguel Batista’s second inning of usefulness proved a fairy tale.

Batista shouldn’t have been pitching to Robinson Cano, I suppose, but it kept coming back to the Mets’ inability (or refusal, you’d almost think) to put the saw into what could have been a see-saw thriller. The Yankees take a 6-5 lead? Well, damn it, Mets, take a 7-6 lead. Easy enough to say from here, but the visitors who trailed 3-0 on Saturday and let slip a 5-1 lead on Sunday didn’t seem to have any problem remaking the game in their own image when they had to.

Because, quite frankly, that’s what they do and that’s what we can’t do. Or didn’t. But should’ve.

Six hours and thirty-seven minutes of intracity futility spread over two nationally telecast nights leaves one shy of sustained logic and overloaded with frustration. So let’s call on R.A., whose verbal skills didn’t take a personal day even as his command called in sick, to bright-side this latest episode in municipal shame:

“It didn’t quite live up to the billing. But golly, I’m so proud of our guys who scrapped and fought. We can build off that.”

If you really can, please do.

8 comments to The Little Team That Didn’t

  • Rob D.

    “overloaded with frustration”. Truer words….

  • Joe D.

    Don’t forget if it wasn’t for a running catch on a hard liner to deep center on Friday night we probably would have lost that game (due to the walk and single that followed)and been swept again. But at least that streak (win three, lose three) is over with.

    We were in both those losses but TC admits he blew it having Batista once again pitch to Cano after Robby had homered off him in a prior game instead of bringing in Byrdak. I still wonder if it was Terry who also ordered David to advance the runner to third with nobody out in the seventh inning when we were trailing 4-3 on Saturday. If so, then two games the manager was, in part, responsible for losing due to his own strategic moves and then the sweep streak could have continued – but in our favor!

  • Jacobs27

    It seems like Byrdak’s done a lot of warming up and not coming in lately. What situation, exactly, is Terry Collins waiting for?

    “Because, quite frankly, that’s what they do and that’s what we can’t do. Or didn’t. But should’ve.”

    Yeah, but:

    I realized something last night, partly in reaction to Terry Francona’s thoughtless endorsement of putting the DH in both leagues: Give me the two-out rally with pitchers batting, stolen bases, pinch hitters, double-switches and strategy, over a bland home run barrage any day. Sure, the Mets could really use some more of the latter, but that’s not ultimately what makes me enjoy a baseball game. And these Mets, when they’re not being excruciating, are pretty damn enjoyable, in my book.

    So let this team keep playing the type of baseball they’ve been playing. They don’t need to be the Yankees, and I’m glad they’re not. They just need to improve, not fundamentally change. Because there may not be style points or moral victories, especially against the Yankees, but for me, it really does matter not just whether they win or lose, but how they play the game.

  • It’s not often that we’re not on the same page, Greg, but this time… I actually came away from this series feeling better than after the sweep 2 weeks ago. THAT series was where I came away feeling the talent deficit was too great. This time, the takeaway was the old “process vs. results” conundrum: I felt the Mets played well, played the Yankees to a standstill, basically, but just couldn’t close it out and made too many unfortunate pitches. The whole narrative of the series is different if Duda takes his first step FORWARD on Saturday night.

    Anyway, to quote RFK, “Now it’s on to Chicago and let’s win there.”

  • Andee

    Yeah, this one came down to bullpens. As in, they have one and we don’t. That and Ike Davis not washing his cutting board with hot water, or something.

    Even still, Batista already lucked out with one scoreless inning; I’m almost relieved that he barfed up the second, because maybe Terry will finally get it. Batista is a mop-up guy, that’s it. And of course Terry is thinking extra innings in the eighth against a team so stocked with power hitters they could probably pull one of the guys out of the laundry room and suit him up in pinstripes and HE could jack one out to center. No such team in the NL, eh Terry?

    And this was RA’s first bad game in what, 10 weeks? So of course the paid media narrative is that he sux now. But Sabathia got hit at least as hard, but he’s one of Them, so his ace status remains intact. Barf.

    • Steve D

      I always assumed when Rivera retired or was gone, things would be very different…oh well.

      As for Dickey, they jinxed him when they read some crazy stat during the game…maybe didn’t hear it exactly…something like no pitcher EVER had the combination of 11-1 record with the ERA, strikeouts, few walks, etc as Dickey. He’s a modern day Joe Boyd.