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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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Base Camp

It was Camp Day at Citi Field Thursday, where I don’t know how many thousands of kids were getting their first live exposure to Mets baseball the way I did 40 years ago this month on my Camp Day. Given that these outings cast a dragnet over the lot of a camp’s participants and not just the Mets fans or baseball fans, any of the boys or girls who were unfamiliar with the sport until this afternoon might be confused.

They might think the object of a baseball game is simply to get as many of your players on base as possible. That’s certainly how the Mets operated, putting runners on all kinds of bases in almost every inning that occurred. There were 14 Met hits, 5 Met walks, 1 Met hit by a pitch, and 1 error that resulted in a Met reaching base. That’s 21 Met baserunners, which — along with another Brave error plus a Brave wild pitch and an additional base provided by a horrific if friendly call on what became, essentially, David Wright’s ground-rule triple — might indicate to the youthful baseball neophyte that the Mets were absolutely creaming their competition.

Well, they did win, so it would be difficult to counter that impression. But of the 21 Met baserunners, only a third scored. The limited follow-through was good for 7 runs, which the arithmetically inclined campers who haven’t forgotten everything they learned since school let out could have immediately recognized as three more than the amount the Braves scored. That’s how you win a baseball game, kids: runs, not runners.

But the Mets literally seemed to have more runners than they knew what to do with. Of the eight innings that had Mets batting, seven of them landed Mets on some combination of first, second and third. All that base-occupying pumped up the ballpark volume, partly because the Mets have more meters for measuring (and thus eliciting) noise than the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has for measuring earthquakes, partly because day campers out on their version of work-release are capable of making plenty of noise without a ton of electronic prodding. Mets get a guy on? Fire up a noise meter. Brave pitcher needs a consultation? Fire up a noise meter. Child spotted murmuring rather than shouting? Fire up a noise meter. (I wonder if the Citi Field Sleepover will make the same generous use of those not at all obnoxious prompts.)

The scoreboard was another matter. The “H” column worked fine. The “R” column was a little pokey. Good thing they don’t post LOB, lest all other pertinent info be squeezed out of the picture. The Mets left 14 of their 21 runners to rot. Four Mets produced a hit with runners in scoring position, meaning nearly four times as many (15) produced no such thing.

Yet the Mets triumphed, 7-4, which is, in fact, the object of a Mets baseball game on Camp Day or any day. The final score provided a fun souvenir for the campers to take back to the bus, perhaps something even a son or daughter would excitedly tell a parent about at dinner tonight, paving the way for more trips to the ballpark and a lifetime of Mets fandom. More likely, the cotton candy and noise meters did a Men In Black on their memories and by evening they were all, “What baseball game? I am so jittery. Mom, did you refill my Valium Junior prescription?”

A game in which many scoring opportunities are bypassed yet enough of them are cashed in — plus enough pitching to make the whole goop mélange stand up to scrutiny — beats the spit out of what transpired Monday when it was Dillon Gee, a wing and a prayer somehow proving inadequate in the face of a late Brave pounce. Still, from my graciously procured cushy seat not much beyond home plate (where I paused to contemplate that it took me only four decades worth of Camp Days to work my way down from the Upper Deck to the Delta Club), it seemed a shame to waste so many baserunners. Why put 21 on if you’re only gonna score 7? Why not score 21?

Then I remembered: doubleheader in D.C. Friday. The Mets were literally saving some for tomorrow.

That is how it works…right?

18 comments to Base Camp

  • Kevin from Flushing

    It feels like eons since I worried whether the Mets were saving enough runs for a Dickey start the following day. We still miss you R.A.! Can’t wait for the 2014 trading deadline fire sale in Toronto that gets us back Reyes and Robert Allen.

    • open the gates

      Well, currently R.A. is sporting an 8-11 record with a 4.75 ERA, and Reyes has only appeared in 35 games due to injury. He has only 10 stolen bases on the year, and has yet to hit his first triple. Not terrible, but also not losing sleep over their not being here.

      • Dickey seems to have a bit of an alternating-year thing going on a la Bret Saberhagen as a Royal. In R.A.’s case, even years are his time to shine. So let him work out his problems in 2013 and gladly bring him back in 2014.

        Jose too, of course. Thanks for keeping them on ice, Jays. We’ll take them from here.

        • Andee

          Dickey has been battling neck and back problems all year. And remember when he said in his book that he always told young pitchers never to go on the DL if they could help it, because they could be Pipped? Unfortunately, that attitude is coming back to haunt him, and his team. Dude…you’re not getting Pipped, they still owe you another $25 million.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    Hope you came back feeling better from this camp day than you did your first one.

    For anyone who does not know what I am referring to, suggest getting a copy of the book “Faith And Fear In Flushing” by Greg W. Prince to find out!

    Zack seemed to have no better command of his pitches today than before. I’m sure by sitting behind home plate and being so obsessed with arithmetic today you took notes on every pitch and knew that 42 of his 95 pitches (44%) were outside the strike zone. Even one of his strikeouts came on a wild pitch (which eventually cost him an unearned run) so one could calculate 43 of his 95 pitches being outside the strike zone which increases that total to 45%.

    He also gave up two home runs which gives him a ratio of one gopher ball for every 5.557 innings.

    And he hit his third batter of the season.

    But despite all that, at the end of the day there was still that “happy recap”!

    • Andee

      Buck also did a terrible job of blocking those wild pitches, and that first run was unearned because he made an equally terrible throw to first base on a strikeout. And one of those homers was hit off a pitch that was definitely not a meatball; it was somewhere around the middle of Freeman’s calf, but he’s a damn good hitter and he could do it to anybody. It really was not a bad start at all, especially compared to what Hefner did the night before.

      Darling, during the broadcast, said that he thought Wheeler might become more of a groundball pitcher than a strikeout king as he progressed; that’s a similar trajectory to that of Bobby Parnell, who finally figured out that if he took a few MPH off the fastball, he could command it better, and now gets tons of bounce-outs. Young kids, when they’re first starting out, want to throw as hard as possible, and I’m sure that desire multiplies when you have a celebrated young starter on the team who sits at 98-99 MPH and maintains that velocity for seven or eight innings. But eventually, he’ll figure out that he doesn’t have to do that in order to be successful, and he’ll quit trying so hard.

    • Dave

      Let’s chill on Wheeler. He’s 23 years old (I have Mets t-shirts older than him, whether or not I can still get into them is another story), he’s 4-1 with an ERA of about 3.7. Yes, there are other stats that tell more of the story and need improvement, but he’s 23, chances are pretty good that he’ll improve. If you told me in March this is where he’d be in July, I would have signed up for it in a heartbeat.

      • Dennis

        Great post Dave…..he’s still a baby and learning on the job. Hard to be so negative about what he’s brought to the table so far.

  • 9th string catcher

    That’s why it’s great to have Wheeler here now. Learn how it’s done.

  • From those graciously procured Delta Club seats (thanks to my friend Sharon for those as well as an all-around lovely time), I will testify to the oomph Wheeler had on his pitches. Very exciting just to hear them over the din. Consistency and command figure to follow. Seeing as how the kid isn’t getting wracked around, there’s no pennant race per se and only a month and change of Triple-A left, there’s no harm in letting him learn what he’s doing up here.

    Incidentally, the first Harvey Day (though we didn’t call it that back then) was one year ago tonight. He’s made some progress, albeit from a running start, eh?

  • 9th string catcher

    Absolutely. Harvey wasn’t lights out every start last year but I believe the MLB experience really helped him progress. Wheeler may not be Harvey, but then, who is? Let’s see what he can learn while he’s here.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    The Braves leadoff hitter with the .283 OBP and amazing range and gun at SS is well on the way to becoming the latest in a long line of Atlanta Pests. To paraphrase Johnny Cash, When I have a Son, I’m going to name him Bill or George, anything but Andrelton…

  • Greg, thanks for vacating the Delta Club to say hello. As for Wright’s triple, I absolutely hate that the Mets have that stupid fence that is for some reason out of play. Why not put in a solid fence? A cushion-y or plexiglass-y fence would not require yet more boring replay timeouts (there’s enough of that in football) or tedious arguments. When I was at camp and we had a lousy ground-rule in Wiffle ball, we simply changed the rule to make it better. Mets should do the same. Just a tiny bit of the money from their sleepover to cover the extra cost.

  • mikeski

    See, effing Noise Meter!

    I toldja, it’s Noise Meters all the way down.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Guys,

    All I meant to say is that Wheeler is still a work in process but that those command issues are worrisome in that it has plagued him throughout his nearly four year professional career with no signs of gradual improvement during the course of those years.

    Of course he is only 23 but we have to be objective because we have yet to see him slowly make the transition from that of thrower to that of a pitcher. It’s not just the pitches outside the strike zone as there is have no signs of those missing pitches overall getting closer to the plate – which would be a sign of slow but real progress for they are indeed still all over the place.

    Even Zack admitted a week ago that his wildness is a serious problem that he has to overcome “immediately”.

    So this is not to meant to dump on Zack, only to point out that we should temper our enthusiasm a bit because we need to see more signs that he is indeed overcoming that wildness. He has the makings of a great pitcher for he has that electric stuff – but there is cause for concern whether or not he can make that transition from thrower to pitcher. We’ve seen it finally happen with Francisco Liriano in Pittsburgh after seven years. We also saw it never happen with Oliver Perez and Victor Zambrano. All three had great stuff and even Oliver and Victor often averaged ten strikeouts per nine innings throughout their minor league careers but it was that wildness that prevented the latter two from reaching their full potential. Both were impressive in their limited rookie seasons too and Perez had that one great season with the Pirates.

    Not to say this is going to happen to Zack. Just that we have to not see him as a lock but as a hopeful and go beyond just how great his stuff is.

    Let us hope the Mets are more patient with him for we all know why we got Jim Fregosi!

    • Andee

      Zack Wheeler has more pitching savvy in the blister on his index finger than Oliver Perez and Victor Zambrano ever did combined. Whenever he’s interviewed, he’s able to be very specific about things that he knows he needs to work on, and he walks his talk; you can see the changes he’s making as he goes along. He’s already learning how to conserve his pitch count; after a 31-pitch first inning, he only threw another 64 pitches over the next five. And he’s cut down on the walks. Another thing I like about him: he doesn’t get rattled with runners on base, he just clamps down and wriggles his way out of jams.

      Obviously no pitcher is a “lock,” in that you can map out the next few years for him. Look at Verlander this year. He was about as close to a sure thing as you could get, and he’s really scuffling since he signed his huge deal. Who saw that coming? But as Mr. Mejia just showed us, never count out a 23-year-old (or younger) with filthy stuff. Never.

  • stannc

    Careful with goop melange. Everyone thinks it went bad really fast.