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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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No Excuses

In recent history, the Mets haven’t led the league in much, but they’ve been a powerhouse when it comes to excuses.

Terry Collins would always sound philosophical when he noted the conditions, the weather, the late arrival, the flu, or whatever bogeyman had snuck in to sink its teeth into the Mets. It was never quite an alibi — more something Terry was noting in passing. But it grated nonetheless, because what never seemed to get discussed was how the other team had also been dealing with poor conditions, cold weather, the flu or whatever malady was at hand — none of which had prevented them from beating the Mets rather handily.

So I approached tonight’s inaugural throwdown with the Phillies with a certain dismay. It was a wretched night, rainy and packing the kind of damp chill that gets into your bones, with both the seats at Citizen’s Bank and the virtual amphitheater of Twitter all but empty. (Something to do with Rangers-Flyers, I guess.) But the Mets seemed to collectively shrug and get to work on old pal Cole Hamels, who was armed with nothing but his change-up. They worked counts and waited for fastballs they could serve over the infield, cornering Hamels until that ineffective pitch was his only option. The display of patience culminated in a three-run fifth, with the crowning blow a single by Ruben Tejada after Ryne Sandberg tried to coax one more batter out of Hamels than he was capable of. After that the Mets had an official game and the Phillies seemed content to get on with it and wait for a sunnier rematch. Which will take a while — tomorrow’s weather forecast is Biblical, with the chance of a game being played essentially 0%.

It was a messy affair from the get-go — early on a hapless ballgirl set the tone by pulling her stool out of the way of a Tejada double off the sidewall, then inexplicably trying to field the ball she’d just tried to avoid.

Well, messy except for Jon Niese.

Niese is far from my favorite Met; he gives the impression that he’s only minimally interested in the craft of pitching or anything else happening around him, which I find deeply annoying. But he was terrific today, maintaining his focus in horrific conditions while Hamels came unglued. (It’s not the first time — Niese has been good pitching in high winds at Citi Field and in Minneapolis and Denver starts that might as well have taken place in a walk-in freezer.)

It was an awful night to do anything, let alone try to play baseball. And only one team seemed ready to do that. For a change, that team was the Mets instead of their opponents. No excuses necessary. I could get used to this.

17 comments to No Excuses

  • Lou from Georgia

    Nice game last night. The warm fuzzy feeling that comes from a win like this is that good teams should win games like this. Conditions, road games, late starts should not stop these Mets from succeeding, and so far so good.
    Funny you mention Niese and the way he carries himself on the mound. I’d categorize Niese and Wheeler as the most indifferent looking starters in the rotation, but perhaps that’s simply their demeanor. After all, Colon always looks like he’s having fun, Gee reminds me of Rick Reed, and Mejia looks a little wild and on edge out there. But so far Niese actually looks like he deserved the opening day start- very in command lately.

    • metsfaninparadise

      Are the Mets a “good team?” Although I think it’s a little early to anoint them as such they’re certainly playing like one right now. Maybe in a couple of weeks I’ll embrace that appellation, but right now I’m taking their success with a grain of salt. They were a “good team” for half of 2012. One hallmark of a good team is to keep on trucking even when the injury bug strikes, which they’ve done so far. But it remains to be seen whether they have adequate reinforcements for the long haul, and whether they’ll be willing to use them if their progress continues to be slowed by the poor performances of certain players. The apparent willingness to move Grandy out of the cleanup spot suggests Terry learned something from the Ike soap opera last year, but I’m not yet convinced

      • Lou from Georgia

        Of course it’s extremely early, but I think winning games like they have lately is an indicator of good things to come. Last year, when they had rain and snow delays ad nauseum, every off day filled with make up games, it just seemed like the team was listless. This year, I get the impression the players are buying into the program and are playing for one another. Win or lose I’ll be there, but I think the team is on the cusp of good things. I’m an optimist, what can I say?

  • Dave

    We would be remiss were we not to revel just a little bit about witnessing the inevitable transformation of the Phils into an aging team with a seriously bloated payroll. Built to win right now, if by “right now” one means 2008. If nothing else it likely means we can have our own stadium back when the Phils travel up the Turnpike…their fans won’t bother accompanying them.

  • argman

    @Dave – and I think we’re only a year or two away from taking up a significant portion of the seats in CBBP when the Mets visit. These teams do seem to be heading in opposite directions.
    I love this blog and the commenters. I read Metsmerized and everyone is overly giddy about the last three weeks. Then I go to Mets Today and everyone is basically saying this isn’t for real, it’s all smoke and mirrors, they still stink.
    I think that Greg and Jason and most of you have a perspective that I can appreciate – enjoy the triumphs, try to be optimistic, but understand that it’s a long season and things change. Born of experience I guess.

    • Dave

      @argman – We used to have fun back in the 80’s going down to Philly to watch the Mets play there, but the knuckle-draggers among the locals became way too hostile for it to be enjoyable. Despite being a low-key guy who never gets in anyone’s face, I once became the target of a Phillies fan who needed a random head topped with a Mets cap as a beer receptacle. I was spared a Bud Light shampoo only thanks to the previous, I don’t know, maybe 16 or so beers he had previously poured down his throat, thereby making my head too small a target for him to hit. The fun of outnumbering them in their own park has to be weighed against being in too close proximity to what would still be thousands of Phillies fans.

      • Will in Central NJ

        I was there on Sunday, Sept. 22nd, where our Mets outdueled the Phillies, 4-3. It was a beautiful autumn day; 44,000+ for Phan Appreciation Day, in fact. But although my 17-y.o. son and I were prepared for any verbal jousting with red-clad oafs, there was virtually none.

        There were lots of families and older fans for the freebies, so maybe that was part of the reason for the unexpectedly civil crowd at Citizens’ Bank Park that afternoon. But, really, I think the Phillie fan base has come to realize that their time in the sun has come and gone. That realization has taken some of the vinegar out of them. Their peak period from 2007-12 is/was clearly in their rear view mirror, and the ballpark was all quiet and sullen as the Mets completed a three-game weekend sweep, and surpassed them for good in the 2013 standings.

        So, I’ll offer that it’s almost safe to see our Mets in Philly again…almost.

        • Dave

          Well, I’m glad that you had a good time and came out unscathed, because there are plenty of good reasons to visit Philly (the mac and cheese at Dahlia’s in the Reading Terminal Market alone is worth the trip). You would hope that fans of the team with the most losses in the history of baseball would find some humility somewhere. Once asked a good friend from South Jersey, being that since 1962 the Mets and Phils have almost never been rivals in a race and are often both bad teams, why do the players and fans there hate the Mets so much? His somewhat reluctant admission was that it’s based entirely on the city’s jealousy of New York.

  • open the gates

    I think we may want to get away from the whole passionate/dispassionate thing. At this point, who cares as long as he’s a winning pitcher. He could be a freaking robot for all I care.

    • Dennis

      I agree. While it’s nice to see them having a good time, I don’t care if they look like they just had a root canal performed on them as long they keep winning.

  • The Jestaplero!

    Wasn’t it Jon Niese who recently said that all of his arm troubles started after those sub-arctic starts in MN and CO? I kept wishing Terry would take him out once we had a five-run lead. Was anyone else thinking that?

  • 9th string

    Until this team stops leading the league in sub .200 hitters , this team cannot be considered “good”. The ifs that always hover around the Mets are still unanswered – can the catcher, 1b, SS and outfielders hit? Can the bullpen extend the solid starting pitching? Until the Mets have a sustained offensive attack, the pitching will be overtaxed and the inevitable 2nd half collapse will occur again.

    The good news is that the ifs are still ifs and not nos. I hope TC can rotate his outfielders based on output and not salary. If Abreu is the answer, play him. If Lagares can really hit, play him. If Grandy can’t hit his weight, let him sit.

  • Jesse

    Remember the spoof PSA about women who suffer from “Bitchy Resting Face”? Niese suffers from Trachsel Pitching Face. Truly unfair, because of how efficiently Niese works.

  • SL

    Clearly a nice win, particularly against Hamels, who they do seem to deal with better than the rest of the league.
    The team is, as we all felt it would be, starting pitching and solid outfield defense, with the infield being a bit of a surprise at this point.
    If they ever abandon the “approach” at the plate and let guys hit, and Sandy does something positive in the bullpen, then there is a real chance to start turning into a good team.

  • Lenny65

    If Jonathon keeps tossing games like that one last night, he can wear any expression he likes as far as I’m concerned. But yeah, he’s one of those guys who’s performed admirably for a while but just hasn’t “cemented” his Met legacy yet. Hope that changes soon.

    Well, even if the bottom does drop out from under us, we’ll always have April, right? If I had to give April a letter grade I’d go with a straight-up B. Hey, they put up a nice winning record despite the many holes in the lineup and the starting pitching looks solid so far. Hope I feel similarly at the end of May.