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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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Arc of a Riser

You never know, but now and then you’re overcome by an inkling, and at the moment I’m inkled that the Mets aren’t going to be the mildly surprising success story I sort of thought that maybe, if enough went well, they could be in 2013. The injuries, the traditional vaguely defined recovery periods, the thin layer of talent, the speed at which depth has gone shallow and something about how there’s always a “Mets official,” “Mets source” or “Mets person” willing to whisper a discouraging word in some reporter’s ear have combined to take the edge off the moderate state of sanguinity I could swear I was packing when Spring Training began five or six months ago.

On the positive side for the near term? The Mets are still 0-0…and you never know. Plus Matt Harvey.

But enough doom and gloom and fitting the Mets for a tomb. We weren’t expecting a surge from 74 wins to remarkably more than 74 wins, were we? It’s kind of pointless to put a number on these things at this stage anyway. The next time somebody offers up a bunch of all-knowing projections of exactly how many games 30 major league teams are going to win and lose, take out a calculator and see if the numbers add up to a collective .500. If they don’t, then they’re full of it. And if they do, they’re also full of it.

You can pick a number out of a hat during Spring Training and it’s meaningless. The team you’re contemplating in March will change and change again by September. The personnel will evolve. The competitive circumstances around them will evolve, too. The team you decided would be 12 games better than the Mets might itself be 20 games worse than you realized when you were assigning guesses to the unknowable. Yet another lesson in you never know.

So barring miraculous health, brilliant strategy, a lossless campaign and a romp through the postseason, here’s what I’d like to see from 2013: a much-improved arc over what we’re used to. Even if we can’t have a winning team, I want the sense that things are getting better — tangibly, I mean, not just because somebody is waving prospect rankings at me — and I want a reality that doesn’t feel worse in the interim.

I’m not asking for 1969 or 1984 or 1997, the three patron-saint seasons of delightful surprise. If a reasonable facsimile emerges against all expectations, I’ll accept it with relish (not to mention sauerkraut), but I’m not setting myself up to be disappointed. The Mets of those years produced 100 wins and a championship; 90 wins and a spirited second-place finish; and 88 wins and legitimate Wild Card contention on the heels of, respectively, years that produced 73 wins, 68 wins and 71 wins. You can’t expect to be delightfully surprised like that. You have to allow for the element of surprise to do its thing.

I’m not pegging my desire to a precise result. What I want is that better arc, something like 1994, a season I’m guessing nobody old enough to remember remembers much at all. And well you shouldn’t, to a certain extent. 1994 ended in the second week of August, and not just Metaphorically. The owners tried to be hard-asses, the players struck and it was a mess. The Mets played 113 games that year. If the Mets could’ve lopped 49 games off their dance cards the last three years, we’d probably think more kindly of their 2010, 2011 and 2012 accomplishments.

Nineteen years ago, the Mets finished 55-58. It wasn’t gorgeous, but it was uplifting. For one, it represented a massive turnaround from the year before, 1993, when the Mets went 59-103 and (according to one of my pet theories) dug themselves an image hole from which they as a franchise have never fully recovered. If our damaged self-esteem was going to be in need of intensive psychotherapy until Bobby Valentine came along, 1994 was at least a cup of chicken soup for the Mets fan soul: not all that filling, but at least we could warm up from those terrible chills we’d been feeling.

But it wasn’t just a 55-58 record that made 1994 a little nourishing. It was how the Mets went about compiling it.

• There was a start that was good — not set-the-world-on-fire good, but uncharacteristically positive for the era: 18-14. They were eight games better than they were a year earlier. They were in position for the newfangled Wild Card, though it was a little early to be tracking playoff spots (not that I wasn’t). They were a breath of fresh air, mostly. The Mets don’t suck!

• There was the inevitable backslide — a 15-29 stretch that disarmed any notions that a full-scale revival was underway. It came early enough so as not to undermine any seriously developed dreams but not so early that it crushed one’s Mets enthusiasm out of the gate. OK, the Mets are sucking, but at least it was fun there for a while.

• There was a reversal of form — a solid 22-15 ascent that catapulted the Mets into third place when the bats and balls were prematurely put away on August 11. Mind you, the Mets were a million miles behind Montreal and Atlanta and had generated no buzz in New York while summer was still in progress, but if you were a Mets fan, so what? You created your own buzz. Your team didn’t curl up and die as it had done at the back end of 1991 (24-46), 1992 (21-37) and 1993 (the whole damn thing, really). It showed just enough life to make you wish there was no strike beyond simply wanting baseball to continue. There was no guarantee another, more unfortunate reversal wouldn’t have transpired, but all you could do was go with what you had: a team that had fought its way out of the basement and close to a winning record. And while you cursed the strike, you thought about Hundley and Brogna and Kent and Vizcaino and bought into Pulsipher and Isringhausen and Wilson and…geez, the Mets were not terrible this truncated year and maybe they’ll keep getting better whenever they play ball again.

That’s essentially where I want to be when 2013 ends and that’s how I want to get there. I don’t want to be buried early as we were in 2011 (5-13) or 2010 (4-8). I don’t need to be suckered into believing there’s more going for us than there really is as was done last year (31-23) if it’s not going to take. I just need something decent to hang my hopes on early, something less than total dissolution in the middle and a nice comeback with which to conclude. Get me to the end of a season for the first time since 2006 where I’m actually looking forward to the next season convinced we’re going to build on what’s already there. Not another sorry winter of “we may have to keep sucking before we can get better,” but actual better-getting as the year ends, making it impossible to be reflexively cynical about this entire operation.

I’m not asking for 1969. I’m not asking for 1986. I’m asking for 1994. That’s really not so much to ask for.

And if you’ve ever asked to meet David Wright, here’s your chance (rib cage pending, one supposes) to make it happen, courtesy of the Ride of Fame and your own video creativity.

17 comments to Arc of a Riser

  • Greg

    What is your psuedo optimism based on?

    Journeymen Andrew Brown, Powell,Hoffman,Quintinlla,?
    4A non prospects Lutz & Satin?

    Duda? read backwards -A DuD

    Frank Francisco (no Reyes $ but 12 million large for him-relly Sandy?

    slap hitting Murphy MIA since 2/18 and is not a MLB 2B man?

    Wheeler & D’Arnaud still minor leaguers and injury prone…Johnny Bench had 2 NL MVP awards by the time he was the laters age and Seaver had a Cy Young, ROY , WS & All-Star win at the formers age!

    Other than Wright & Ike, Niese, Harvey, Gee the Mets have zero players of ML championship calibar…watch the Braves, cardinals look at the players they have on line and coming up as prospects and compare to Mets.

    I want the Mets and NL to thrive in NY but one must get realistic in accessing the organization and recognize the depth of the probelem and then take real steps on multiple fronts to correct the problem and that means having ML talent on board awaiting the youthful prospects we all hear about so often.

    • You found that pseudo optimistic? Talk about the glass being 20% full. I wrote that and wondered if I could get my hands on some antidepressants. Prior to the last couple of days, I was clinging to “they couldn’t possibly be as bad as generally thought” and a determination to not expect the worst. Spring Training still has another seven or eight months, so I won’t totally give up on you never know.

    • Dennis

      “Wheeler & D’Arnaud still minor leaguers and injury prone…Johnny Bench had 2 NL MVP awards by the time he was the laters age and Seaver had a Cy Young, ROY , WS & All-Star win at the formers age!”

      An absolutley ridiculous comparison to two players who are legendary and maybe the greatest at their positions. Do you realize how many young players across MLB history never reached those goals at that age but ended up having great careers?

  • joenunz

    An “arc”!? Noah over at FloodsAndAnimalsInFlushing.com can have the arc…I want 76 wins to make my annual “C-Note on the over” a worthwhile investment…

  • Since Thursday night, everything I read about the Mets makes me want to put my head in the oven.

  • Dave

    Not asking for 1969? Hell, I’d settle for 1968 at this point.

  • MatthewA

    I distinctly remember being frustrated by the ’94 strike because I felt the Mets had a legitimate chance to end the season at or above .500, which, after 1993, was no small feat. It’d be a smaller feat in 2013, but no less appreciated.

  • I was really annoyed at baseball when the strike hit in 1994, but I was happy about the Mets. Saberhagen had one of the best seasons most Mets fan don’t remember: a Mathewsonian 14 wins and 13 walks while pitching 177 innings in a season cut short a third. I still recall sitting up watching them play in the rain at Philly, losing in extra innings in a really good game that would be the last game of any type for a long, long time. I’ll take an order of ’94, hold the strike.

  • azulnaranja

    The other thing I remember about 1994 is that they played and behaved like a professional team. I believe Dallas Green received some of the credit for that and it wasn’t really undeserved. If we can have a ’94-like season WITHOUT seasons like ’95 and ’96 following, that wouldn’t be so bad.

    • 1994 and 1995 produced similar winning percentages, prorated to 79- and 78-win seasons, respectively, but strike-delayed 1995′s arc was the stuff of whiplash: a horrendous start (25-44), a groping middle (10-13) and a fantastic finish (34-18) that pumped expectations unreasonably high prior to ’96, though as noted above, it’s nice to have expectations that aren’t dispiritingly low.

      If history could’ve slotted 1996 directly after 1993, then given us 1994 and the latter portions of 1995 as the lead-in to 1997…without the 8-14 start that made catching the Marlins prohibitive despite the 80-60 finish…and done something about those final five games of ’98…

      Candies and nuts, I suppose.

  • Jerry

    How sad that a repeat of 1994 is the best we can hope for. Sandy could have improved this team, this outfield, by picking up Bourn but found reasons not to do it. So now we Met fans have to suffer through a season in which we will compete with the Miami Marlins and the Houston Astros for the worst record in baseball.

  • open the gates

    You do realize that, if we follow your thoughts to their logical conclusion, you are condemning Harvey, Wheeler, and Syndergaard to Gen K2 status.

    Just keep the damn Sports Illustrated photographers away from those guys.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    I’d be even happy with a repeat of 1962 because at least it will be funny and not sad to watch and we’d savor every hard earned victory.

    This is going on Sandy’s third year now and why is most of the talk so full of gloom that it might drive you to anti-depressants? I’m depressed by what is happening but not at all going to fall that down into the valley of the dolls because I did not set myself up for such a deep hole to fall into. While so many thought our GM came in with a vision and was an architect at building clubs, it was obviously he was more set on destroying them in order to build back the owner’s financial solvency.