The blog for Mets fans
who like to read

ABOUT US

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.

Got something to say? Leave a comment, or email us at faithandfear@gmail.com.

Need our RSS feed? It's here.

Visit our Facebook page, or drop by the personal pages for Greg and Jason.

Or follow us on Twitter: Here's Greg, and here's Jason.

Two Fastballs, Still Going

It’s good to know, in some perverse way, that with only two weeks remaining in the flat-out, most embarrassing second half the Mets have ever matriculated down the field, a given Mets loss can still rankle me enough to make me kick a plastic beer cup until it makes a thwack almost as loud as the one Ryan Howard generated against Josh Edgin. I’d have kicked Jonathan Papelbon instead of the cup when this given Mets loss was fully gifted away, but they probably arrest you for that (although in Flushing, I don’t see why punting Papelbon should be a crime).

So many Mets losses at Citi Field since July 8, 2012. What’s one more? My answer would be one more is disgraceful when it robs your legitimately thrilling pitching phenom of the win he earned when he threw seven one-hit innings to bid premature adieu to the starting rotation — the Mets have 14 more starts, yet Matt Harvey will have none — and it’s distasteful when it breathes another 24 hours of life into the Philadelphia Phillies’ mostly hopeless, totally unforeseen playoff chase (amid a multiplicity of Philadelphia Phillies fans, oh joy). The Phillies commenced charging toward the bonus Wild Card slot far too late and from too far back for their ongoing lunge to be taken terribly seriously, but then again, I root for a jest of a team, so who am I to say anything?

How close did the Mets come to not losing a home game for a change Wednesday night? They came so close that there was something historic about how they pulled this particular sickly rabbit from its threadbare hat. Two outs, nobody on, Edgin loses Chase Utley on the slowest-occurring three-two pitch in human annals (Bob Davidson called ball four and Utley mysteriously instigated Occupy Batter’s Box for seconds on end). Then up steps Howard against the rookie reliever you’re not sure should be entrusted with the ninth-inning situation on the line until you are reassured by a companion who shall remain nameless that this is the right call, Howard never hits lefties.

Howard then hits a lefty. Boy does he hit a lefty. 2-1, Mets, becomes 3-2, Phillies, and there’d be a bottom of the ninth, but you didn’t really see any point to it, Mets’ previously established Stengelian “whommy” on Papelbon notwithstanding. These Mets weren’t blowing a 2-1 lead one out from books-putting only to get it back. That would’ve required a third and a fourth run. The Mets rarely do third runs at Citi Field and they never do fourth runs.

But here’s the historic part, and I had an inkling about it even before I had a “baseball source” confirm for me that my Metsie sense wasn’t tingling simply out of justifiable disgust. I’ve been witness to my share of Met meltdowns, just as has any humble citizen of Metsopotamia who spent the 1990s and early 2000s subject to the Franco/Benitez Reign of Terror. Yet having survived Johnny and Armando (and their successors in sadism), why did this specific episode of ninth-inning follies feel so unusually awful?

Because nothing exactly like it had occurred in 23 frigging years. My “baseball source” tells me the last time the Mets lost a home game in which the visitors stuck it to them from behind with a lead-grabbing home run when the Mets were one out from victory was on August 20, 1989. And, oh yeah, of course I remember the incident, ’cause that was the day the Mets’ brief pennant race resurgence died.

We led, 3-1, going to the ninth. Don Aase was pitching versus the Dodgers; he got two quick outs; then he gave up singles to Lenny Harris and Alfredo Griffin; then Willie Randolph — yes, that Willie Randolph — hit his first home run of the year. The Dodgers led, 4-3, tacked on another run and brushed off a Met rally in the bottom of the ninth to hold on, 5-4. It was a bitter loss. The Mets had won 15 of 19 after acquiring Frank Viola and seemed poised to ascend to the top of the National League East. Instead, they got smacked with Terry Pendleton Lite and soon faded from contention.

But at least they had been in contention in August of 1989. In the jury-rigged double-Wild Card world of 2012, where seemingly toasted teams like the Brewers and Phillies stay alive well into September, the Mets evaporated in July and have produced only condensation to prove they ever existed.

To their credit, the Mets have also produced Matt Harvey, and upon my first up-close inspection of the young man, I am willing to confirm that he is the goods. It’s no wonder that before the game, as I watched a haggard Terry Collins listlessly go through the media motions (he’s at that stage of his tenure when, like a president after two years in office, you can’t believe how much he’s aged), the manager suddenly perked up and actually smiled when asked about Harvey being special. Yes, Terry was only too happy to assert, Matt Harvey is special.

Our special young man gave up a cheap leadoff home run to cheap leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins and then, for seven solid innings, he decommissioned the jukebox: no more hits for the Phillies. If the Mets were going to unplug Harvey, the kid wasn’t going to go out with an acoustic set. He threw hard, he threw deep and he threw great. When he was through, he was en route to being the winner we already consider him.

Matt Harvey was actually able to leave with a lead. Thank David Wright and his delightful detonation of a Cole Hamels pitch in the sixth…and maybe a karmic assist of sorts. David is chasing Ed Kranepool for most hits ever by a Met and has almost tracked him down. He came into this game six behind the Krane’s 1,418. I happened to notice Eddie in the house, sitting in what my friend Sam Maxwell calls the Raymour & Flanagan seats behind home plate. Now and then I’d gaze down there from the Champions Club — of which Ed is a member in good standing since 1969 — and see what the man who has ruled as Met hit king since 1976 was up to. As David approached the plate for his third at-bat of the evening, I spied Ed getting up and leaving…perhaps to go home, perhaps for a refreshment in the Romney Sky360 Club. The moment Ed Kranepool disappeared, though, David Wright homered and moved to within five of 1,418.

Maybe the man who’s held the record for 36 years didn’t want to see it inch that much closer to oblivion. Or maybe Ed just had to use the John or something.

Speaking of Met champions, Wednesday’s blogger night festivities brought my blolleagues and I into substantial pregame contact with an honest-to-goodness 1986 Met, Barry Lyons. Barry was Gary Carter’s backup early in that championship season (before giving way to Ed Hearn) and would return to the roster as a Met mainstay until 1990. I’ve had the good fortune to meet several Met alumni over the past couple of years, but nobody to date has been more giving of his time nor more gracious in his manner than Mr. Lyons of Mississippi, whom I will always remember for one hit that stands out among the 131 he collected as a New York Met.

I asked him if he knew the one I was thinking of. I said “home run,” “Giants” and “pennant race,” and he took it from there.

Barry knew the home run — a grand slam, the only one Lyons launched in the bigs; it lifted the Mets from a 4-3 deficit to an eventual 7-4 triumph.

Barry knew the date — August 20, 1987 (precisely two years before that ghastly Aase-Randolph business), when the Mets desperately needed to make up ground on the Cardinals and did, once their catcher’s sixth-inning salami definitively garnished the David Cone victory that pulled the team to within 2½ games of first place for the first time since May 8.

Barry knew the pitcher — Kelly Downs.

Steve Keane (of the Eddie Kranepool Society, appropriately enough with Eddie in the vicinity) asked Barry if he knew what the pitch was.

“Forkball, I think,” Barry said a quarter-century after the fact.

Well, maybe not. According to Lyons’s quote in Joe Durso’s next-day story in the Times, Downs “threw me a fastball inside on one-and-two, and I got it.”

Twenty-five years later and a competitive universe removed from the halcyon days when the Mets could win 92 games and have it rationally viewed as a subpar season, Josh Edgin threw a fastball, “middle up,” to Ryan Howard. No, actually, Josh corrected himself. It wasn’t a fastball.

“I gave him a meatball.”

Or as Casey Stengel advised one of his beleaguered relievers in 1962 after a key home run had been surrendered, “It couldn’t have been a perfect pitch. Perfect pitches don’t travel that far.”

The Phillies desperately needed to make up ground on the Cardinals, but didn’t. Howard’s hammer blow — the 297th of his career but the first time he’s ever hoisted a two-out, go-ahead homer in a ninth inning — ruined Edgin’s night and deleted a “W” from Harvey’s ledger, but St. Louis won again. Philly’s four behind the Cards, trail L.A. and Milwaukee besides and have only 13 games remaining…and only one against the Mets, a.k.a. the contender’s best friend.

If the Phillies somehow unspool a miracle finish from their remote standing, then what Howard did to Edgin’s fastball will live on in Philadelphia lore. If they don’t, it will be just one home run of hundreds to an accomplished slugger.

In which case, it will never quite compare with what Lyons did to Downs’s fastball that behaves like a forkball in memory. Shoot, 25 years have passed, and Barry and I are still talking about it.

38 comments to Two Fastballs, Still Going

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Wasnt the headline in the Post the next day “Aasehole”?

  • Rob D.

    I have tickets for Sunday and don’t know why in the hell I am even considering going (oh yeah..R.A. is starting). Once Utley walked, the handwriting was on the wall. Pathetic.

  • Dave

    Accountability. Where is it? I want to see someone step up and say “The Mets have become the worst team in baseball, we are going to lose a generation of fans if we haven’t already because the team is boring and irrelevant, I take full responsibility for it, and here’s my plan to fix it.”

    And not that I’m pointing any fingers of course, but this person’s plan to fix it should be to sell the team. Last night I wound up watching Jeff Kent chopping wood on Survivor and then after Edgin’s meatball (served up to a guy who looks like he likes meatballs quite a bit), it was time to watch Honey Boo-Boo’s family splash around in mud puddles. Anything beats sitting through this agony.

  • boldib

    The comic, finishing touch to the this horrid game was Valdespin getting tossed after arguing a called 3rd strike – TC tries to recreate history once again with this hotdog jackass vs. Papelbon. Aint gonna happen.

    TC looks utterly defeated. It’s a shame.

  • Metsfaninparadise

    I didn’t yell, I didn’t kick anything, I didn’t pound anything. I was numb. And that fact barely fazed me. I’ll still watch, because there’s nothing like having my 3 buddies, GaryKeithandRon, talking baseball in my living room, and there won’t be many more chances for that (especially when I’m stuck with the Marlins’ bozos this weekend).

    • vertigone

      There were 2 moments of unintentional hilarity on last night’s broadcast.

      First, when Guys Burkhardt was interviewing Harvey after exiting the game, Harvey mentioned something about having good defense out there behind him, at the exact same moment that Murphy’s throw sailed over Ike’s glove.

      Then, when G,K + R were mentioning the Breast Cancer Awareness charity event from earlier in the evening, Keith said the Mets are great in that they support a lot of charities, at the same time as they showed Jason Bay entering the game in LF.

  • Dak442

    This one hurt more than most recent losses, because we only have one aspiration now that it’s clear RA won’t be winning the CY: spoiler for the Phillies. Can’t even do that.

    Overlooked in the Edgin agita was the pathetic Andres Torres weakly grounding into a DP when a fly ball would have provided a fairly important insurance run. He might have been the bees knees in SF but I can’t wait for him to go away.

  • kjs

    Harvey’s got talent, intelligence, and cojones.

    The rest of the team can get lost, hopefully with the Wilpons.

  • I guess I shouldn’t have left in the 9th inning

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    You are so right to point out the improbability of the Phillies being in the hunt for the second wild card. They are just four games out in the loss column and yet last night’s victory placed them all of one game above .500.

    Couldn’t our front office have given us the same chance?

    Our problem now is scoring runs for pitching that has at least been credible from beginning to end. I count 30 games since the end of July in which they gave up four runs or less. I count 15 of them as victories – a .500 club with all that pitching?

    We have Torres, Rameriez, Francisco and Wheeler instead of the possibility of still having Reyes (if talks began before the 2011 season), Beltran (who said right up to the trade that he wanted to stay a Met), Pagan (traded for what?) and KRod (his season totals are bloated by the first few weeks of the season and one bad stretch of three consecutive appearances giving up nine earned runs in 1.2 innings and has since allowed 7 earned runs in his last 20 for a 3.15 ERA which includes just one blown save and eight holds during that same stretch).

    So it seems those players sent off in 2011 have continued to do well with their new clubs and I think Harvey would have won that game last night had there been Beltran, Pagan and Reyes in the lineup. Since scoring has been their problem the last two months, it is not unreasonable to say they would have won a lot more games this year and who knows how many more with Wright being unable to be pitched around.

    And we would for sure be ahead of the Phillies and the probably the Dodgers.

    One can have a vision for the future and build from within the minor league system but that doesn’t mean breaking up the parent club to do it. If we can look forward to the future with the aforementioned minor leaguers, why could we not also enjoy 2011 and 2012 with those who were already on the club?

    So the question once again is was there really a need to dismantle the team immediately instead of doing it slowly over a few years?

    Is all we can show for this is Zach Wheeler, was it really worth it?

    • Dennis

      Still would have done the Beltran deal, and then resigned him back in the offseason…..not an unreasonable thing to do. Could have signed Reyes as well. I can see where the contract he signed with the Marlins might be considered over the top, but for a team to play in NYC and not increase their payroll to compete is ridiculous…..the Yankees wouldn’t have let him walk. I haven’t been too critical of the Wilpons over the last few years, but this season has taken a toll on my patience as a fan.

      • Joe D.

        Hi Dennis,

        Would not have done the Beltran deal since his bat was a big presence in the line up.

        Of course, with Murphy and Neise then being injured it would have meant a lot of pressure on Turner to take up the slack for Murph at second, not to mention replacing Neise but then, even with those injuries, there were players on waivers and/or rentals who could have been acquired to also fill in the necessary gaps somewhat (don’t ask me which ones, I’m not the general manager, but they were there).

        Instead of adding, we subtracted and thus went 2011. The same for 2012, with even worse results. Don’t know if these moves would have had a major effect either year but it would have been nice for the front office to at least have given both rosters a shot.

        It would not have meant sacrifcing our future as many contend Omar did, other than obtaining Zack Wheeler. But don’t forget, Beltran was gone anyway and if the Mets weren’t offered a decent prospect in return, Sandy did say he would have then looked into monetary considerations.

    • Just_Da_Damaja

      Yup

      funny thing is we could’ve traded Wright in the middle of this year..while he was hot..to the dodgers for their top prospects…and just move murph to 3B..tejada stays at 2B…

      the problem is…the team doesnt know how to market anyone not named David Wright

  • 9th string

    Or, if I can restate Joe D – why build for the future if you never try to win in the present? Reyes was a free agent and was off your books anyway. Beltran was going to be a free agent and off your books. K-Rod could have restructured his contract – he did for Milwaukee. Pagan was an idiot and I was happy to see him go. The point is, this team never builds on its strengths – they are happy to be #2 in New York, they are happy to have marginal success in the first half which always leads to disaster in the 2nd half and simply has no feel for winning. There’s no leadership on the field, in the dugout, the front office or in ownership. I’d rather see G, K & R running this team – it’s the only winning combination they have.

  • Rob D.

    The damning thing is that it’s apparent that the “2nd WC” most years is going to be 5 or 6 games over .500 at the end, with the chance to upset what is clearly a better team (the first WC). You mean to tell me that a NY based franchise can’t put together a club that is .500 so there’s some semblance of a competitor?

    I watched TC on Francesa yesterday. he’s clearly out of answers. Mike was actually nice to him..can’t kick a guy when he’s down. The Wilpons send this poor bastard out there every day to answer for their sins. It’s pathetic.

    Like I said as soon as Utley walked, I was drawn in like “The Kramer”….I couldn’t look away.

  • [...] Faith and Fear writes of bad pitches and bitter losses. [...]

  • Dave

    Hmm, it’s Thursday night, and according to my TV listings, there’s a live game being broadcast tonight. Must be raining out in Flushing though, because I think they’re showing a Mets classic of that game in 1985 that they lost 26-7 to the Phillies. Weird, didn’t realize how much Veteran’s Stadium looked like Citi Field.

    • They’re doing incredible things with CGI these days.

    • Steve D

      I went into the supermarket right as the first inning started…did all my shopping…came back and the damnedest thing…the top of the first was still going. I didn’t even miss a full half inning. Sucking has its advantages.

      Tonight I may get as close as possible to my last dream…a 100% empty ballpark to show the owners what they hath wrought. I’m going to check in later to see it.

  • Lenny65

    Serious question: was it Barry Lyons that plowed into John Tudor (ugh, John Tudor) in the dugout while chasing a foul ball that time? I remember the incident vaguely but not the details.

  • Patrick O'Hern

    Busted Tudor’s leg for the season. Next to ending Seaver’s career and the aforementioned grand salami, it was his Met highlight. Greg, Jason, I cant wait any longer for tonights post. I HATE THIS TEAM!!!! And I loved it as much as I loved the 1980 team in mid July as a 12 year old.

  • Steve D

    As painful as it was to watch that game, Collin’s press conference was more painful. It opened up more questions than it answered. He kind of threw the team under the bus…many will conclude that the team has quit in his mind. Hinting that the team quit also amounts to self-incrimination. It is his job to make them not quit. Let’s see if this team has a leader…we know who it should be, but has he ever stepped up to it?

  • James

    I’ve been a Met fan since i was 8 years old (2006) and watching us collapse in 07 and 08 to the phillies and having my heart shattered every single year by the phillies really made me want the Mets to win this series so badly. I wanted to be the ones to spoil it for them. For some reason, it would have meant a lot to me. Watching us lose last night on a 2 out, 2 run homer was bad enough, but then, we lost 16-1 tonight in by far the most depressing, negative, silent atmosphere ever at Citi feild’s history and i couldnt take it anymore. I know we werent going to make the playoffs anyway, but winning this series wouldve meant a lot to me.

    • Patrick O'Hern

      Ahhhh youth…..

    • Wait, so you were 9 years old for the first collapse, 10 for the second collapse and are still here?

      Run, James. Run while you can. You’re still a young man. Get the hell away from this incredible soul-killing disaster and find something to do with your life. All we ask is that you think of us occasionally.

  • nestornajwa

    Every time I think they’ve hit rock bottom, they break out the jackhammers and keep on sinking. The next milestone will be the fantasyland press release in November declaring that it’s in the team’s best interest to decline Wright’s option and use those resources to strengthen the organization and build for the future.

    But I’m kinda looking forward to Bobby V coming back next year. Of course, that depends on Boston’s willingness to take on most of Bobby’s salary. Because the Mets can’t be expected to throw around hundreds of dollars like that.

  • Joe D.

    Anybody believe there were really 20,000 fans in the park tonight?

  • Metsfaninparadise

    Makes you long for a game like Wednesday’s, which we could actually enjoy for 8 innings.

  • James

    I wanna see it when we win the world series whenever that happens

    • Bless you — strength and courage to you as well. When I was 14, the Mets traded Tom Seaver. Didn’t occur to me to quit. But then again, I was me, but eventually I got to see for the second time in my life what you and so many other are waiting to see once and I hope to see a third time. No guarantees, but when the payoff comes, oh, it’s so worth it (Septembers like these notwithstanding). This game is/can be rewarding. Hang in there.

  • JD

    Given today’s bloody train wreck of a game, 9/20 seems like a glorious victory in comparison. Words fail me. Games like this make me want to move to another city simply so that I have a different team to root for. Unbelievable… Yet predictable.

  • Stan

    Some time in the next week, the Mets will have to announce “just show up and we’ll let you in night” at Citi Field. Show up, come right in, here eat five hot dogs or they’ll go stale over the winter. Clean out the freezer.

    Their slogan for the rest of the year is “The New York Mets: Fuck it, we just don’t care anymore”

  • [...] • Michael Powell captured the Mets’ slippage into darkness as well as could be imagined in Saturday’s Times. Anybody who’s spent a surfeit of nights at Citi Field over these past four Septembers will know that Powell (a non-sports columnist and a Mets fan) landed his narrative high and deep in the right field stands — and hit his notes as effectively as Ryan Howard did that meatball from Josh Edgin. [...]