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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.

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Mets Whiplash -- Catch It!

Perhaps you’ve heard: Baseball is an unfair game.

I learned that as a kid, having read it somewhere in the collected works of noted philosopher Roderick Edwin Kanehl, known once upon the Polo Grounds as Hot Rod. Baseball, Prof. Kanehl explained, “is a lot like life. The line drives are caught, the squibbles go for base hits.”

Zack Wheeler was eight outs away from a no-hitter, instant elevation to Mets Valhalla and a pretty awesome mic drop in his presumably friendly rivalry with fellow phenom Matt Harvey. You’d think I’d know better after 44 years of Mets fandom, not to mention perusing The Teachings of Chairman Rod, but on my couch I was ready and very eager to see what No-Hitter No. 2 would feel like. And why not? Wheeler was so astonishingly dominant, and the Marlins are so bad, that the question had shifted from “can everything go right?” to “will anything go wrong?”

This wasn’t fan overconfidence, either. Man, was Wheeler ever a treat to watch — there’s his leaping motion, the way he drags his foot down the mound like he’s chasing the baseball towards the batter, and that darting slider, and most of all that diving, running fastball. You can see hitters gather themselves with a touch of resignation when Wheeler starts pouring those in — he has so much natural movement that he can just put the ball on the plate and watch it do its work. He’s already very impressive, and you can see him getting steadily better since his recall. It won’t be a perfectly smooth ascent — it never is — but if you’re not salivating at the thought of Wheeler a year from now, have an ENT check your glands. Because barring the usual pitcher you-never-knows, he’s going to be really good.

Hell, he’s already really good.

But then Ed Lucas singled — you had to figure it would be the 31-year-old rookie, because it always is — and that was that. It was nice to have it be a disappointment and not another invitation to ponder the universe’s grudge against Mets pitchers — thank you, Johan — but then a minute later Donovan Solano had singled and Jake Marisnick (who the hell are these guys?) had singled and not only was there no no-hitter, but the game was tied. Wheeler, to his considerable credit, got himself together and coaxed a double-play grounder out of Jeff Mathis, but five minutes had turned the game from the stuff of dreams to your run-of-the-mill Mets mess.

Never mind our great pitching — why the hell can’t any of these guys hit?

Wheeler departed and the Mets got down to Metsing. Marlon Byrd — the savior nobody saw coming — tripled, but a leadoff triple for the Mets is like a two-out single for anybody else. Marlon stayed rooted to his base while Ike Davis struck out and John Buck grounded out and Omar Quintanilla struck out, leaving Chad Qualls literally tumbling off the mound in excitement, and a familiar spot of discomfort in my stomach tried to blossom into a baseball ulcer. Because if you wanted another extra-inning affair against the Marlins in Lorialand, well, that made one of us.

So of course the Mets won tidily in 10 — just enough free baseball to settle things. Bobby Parnell didn’t look like himself, with poor location and a fastball missing some zip, but he got bailed out on nifty plays by Daniel Murphy and Wright. You know how it feels when you watch your closer walk off a loser on a flurry of bloops and a swinging bunt? (Not that that’s ever happened at Soilmaster.) Well, this was the opposite — gloves flung out like cestas, coming up with balls and turning them into outs.

Like Hot Rod said, it’s an unfair game.

5 comments to Mets Whiplash — Catch It!

  • mikeski

    I thought Darling’s point about Ike an apt one – it’s not one good game, it’s whether you can follow that game with another and start to make some progress. Ike fouled off a few oitches in that last AB but, in the end, looked bad striking out. Again.

  • March'62

    So what holes do the Mets need to fill today? Starting pitching is pretty set; they have a solid closer; a catcher for next year; third base has our captain; and even the outfield has looked very good with Young, Lagares, and Byrd. Second base is good and we have a few more prospects ready to jump in if needed. We can use a slight upgrade at shortstop but I haven’t given up on Tejada quite yet. The big glaring hole is at first. I don’t think they can get that today but a Fielder or Pujols bat in the middle of this lineup would go a long way toward playing meaningful games next year. Just sayin’.

    • open the gates

      And if Tejada isn’t the answer, we could do worse than Omar Q. He’s shown us something the last couple of months, particularly in the field.

    • Oh, we still have tons of holes, particularly in the OF. Lagares looks good now, but Duda and Nieuwenhuis looked good in small samples too. I wouldn’t expect anything from Young, who’s already showing signs of reverting to the kind of player he’s always been, and Byrd will be gone next year if not later today. (And justifiably so — he’ll want a last big contract, which the Mets would be unwise to give him.)

      1B is a mess. Murph is a complementary player at best at 2B. SS is a mess. C is unproven.

      It’s great to have solid young starting pitching, which it does look like we’ll have even with a few of the prospects inevitably not panning out. But the lineup remains one star surrounded by seven dwarfs.