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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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Afternoon Delight

You know why you should pay attention to your Metsies 162 times a year, even between 12:35 and 3:26 in the afternoon of the 158th time they play in a lost year like 2013? Because if you do, you might find yourself immersed in the unlikeliest of debates, such as the one my friend and I had via email sometime after 3:30.

HIM: Terry shouldn’t have taken out Dice-K so soon.
ME: I thought it was the right move.

We went back and forth on the merits of leaving in Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had pitched a splendid seven and two-thirds innings but had allowed a hit to open the eighth, versus removing him for Pedro Feliciano with two lefties, Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto, due up. Whether I was right in light of Feliciano stranding Derrick Robinson on second or my friend was right because Matsuzaka theoretically earned the chance to get out of the inning suddenly struck me as irrelevant.

Can you believe, I asked, that after all we’ve seen from this team that our big issue today is that we aren’t sure whether Terry Collins left Daisuke Matsuzaka in a game long enough?

Dice-K’s come a long way, baby, and the Mets…well, they won a Matsuzaka start, 1-0, in less than three hours; they took a series against a playoff team; and they finished up a road trip 5-1, bringing them to 9-4 in their last thirteen outings overall. The numbers mean only what you can make them mean by now, but still.

Pay attention and you see things. You see a catcher whose name existed on the farthest periphery of your Mets consciousness four weeks ago throw out an instantly legendary basestealing sensation with a ready-made Hall of Fame moniker. Juan Centeno? Gunning down Billy Hamilton? Who had been 13-for-13 in his core competency since coming up to Cincinnati in early September? Who had swiped a typographically correct 333 bases in his last three minor league campaigns? With Dice-K of the notoriously leisurely pace on the mound?

Yeah that thing happened in the fifth, and it was important in the context of a game in which only one run was scored and it wasn’t scored by Hamilton or any Red. It scored only because Wilfredo Tovar — a high-profile personality compared to Juan Centeno — was kind enough to get hit by Mat Latos, move along to second on a Matsuzaka bunt, take third when Latos threw a pitch that eluded the grasp of Devin Mesoraco (speaking of names that loiter in the back of your baseball awareness) and dash home when Eric Young broke his bat to produce the tricklingest of grounders that snuck into right through a drawn-in Red infield. The Mets went up, 1-0, in the third without anything that could be remotely mistaken for a component of an offensive attack and Matsuzaka, Feliciano and LaTroy Hawkins made it stick.

That thing happened, too. I wasn’t expecting it but it was worth paying attention for when it materialized. Call it the magic of the final weekday afternoon game of the year. Call it the Reds in a slump at the worst possible juncture for them; they’re all but eliminated from winning their division and they’ve fallen dangerously behind in their quest to host the Wild Card game. Call it Dice-K in renaissance mode, making each of us who doubted him, scoffed at him and napped to him very slowly eat our words.

Y’know what? They’re delicious.

73-85 with four to go isn’t so tasty, but it could be worse. This entire Met season has been an exercise in replacement-level baseball, maybe not in the strictest statistical sense of the phrase but in that the Mets have continually replaced guys who’ve replaced guys who’ve replaced guys and they somehow don’t own one of the ten worst records in the sport. Should that ranking hold and the crossroads of free agency and draft position grow muddy in the offseason, so be it. That’s for fretting over from November to February. All we have left to deal with in the near term is late September and the small satisfactions to be derived from winning a little more than we had been in mid-September.

In the last week of the season, when one of your allotted 162 games arrives inside your attention span on a Wednesday afternoon and delivers you a most pleasant victory, you take it, you grab it and you try to hold onto it a little tighter than if it showed up much earlier. You do it because you know damn well you won’t get another opportunity like this for a very long while.

11 comments to Afternoon Delight

  • Jacob27

    So who do you think is the real Dice-K: the one of the first three horrible starts? the one of the next four pretty-good-to-great starts? Somewhere in between?

    He’s still a big question mark, but given the even greater risk and uncertainty surrounding our crop of injured pitchers, I think he does seems worth considering for 5th starter. Assuming they can sign him cheap.

  • dmg

    small things matter. the mets now close the season with one winning record: 41-40 in road games. (the only team in the nl east to do so, in fact. you could look it up.)

    two more wins and they best their record from last year, when they had a cy young pitcher on their staff.

    last year they ended in 4th place. right now, they have 3rd all to themselves.

    progress is in the details.

    • vin

      agree 100%

      Plus perhaps Dice k and Harang in camp on the cheap as strong back up arms!

      all the things mentioned in column and replies are why baseball is greatest of games despite NFL uber hype amd presumption of dominance that all media now defers too. Incremental stats are fun to follow and makes every game have some importantance…so many do not undrstand this and clamor for football when things are down in august/now the Gints are 0-3 and Jets lucky to have 2 wins and the clamor and hype have quieted but we still have baseball left plus post season..enjoy!

    • RADeva

      Imagine where they would be if they still had that Cy Young pitcher on their staff…

  • Joe Nunz

    I know only me and 5 guys in Vegas care, but a split vs. the Brew Crew gets the Mets to push their O/U win total as set in March by those 5 guys in Vegas. You’ve come a long way baby, indeed…

  • 9th string catcher

    Hell, sweep and get to 77 – I’ll be only 3 games off my prediction of 80 wins. It is a great game – what other sport keeps you engaged nearly every day of the week for 7 months?

    Agree with Jacob and Vin – DK would make a great #5/#6 starter, especially if he’s affordable. Not so sure about Harang – would need to have a lot of incentives in the contract, but maybe. When you consider injuries, you need to be thinking 7-8 starters in the organization. For example:

    Harvey
    Gee
    Niese
    Wheeler
    Matsuzaka

    Hefner
    Torres
    Snydergaard
    Montero

    Go to the minors mid-season when one or more of the starters falter or get injured. Put Hefner and Torres in middle relief until needed.

  • metsfaninparadise

    The Met rally yesterday brought to mind the apocryphal description of an early-’60s Dodger rally: a walk, a stolen base, a sac bunt and a sac fly. The SB and bunt are interchangeable, by the way.

  • metsfaninparadise

    Even in his heyday Matsuzaka was known as a high pitch count, low innings total kind of guy. I don’t think he’s the kind of veteran we’re looking for.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    2011 Lost Met sighting: Went to the O’s vs Blue Jays game last night at Camden Yards, and starting in Center Field for the O’s and batting sixth, none other than 2011 met Hero for a Day Jason Pridie. Went one for 4, which seemed about right. PS, for the Jays, Josh Thole went 4 for 5. Upped his average to .179.

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