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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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Out On the Edge of Darkness

Now I’ve been happy lately
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be
Something good has begun

Perhaps it’s because once Marcell Ozuna threw out Kirk Nieuwenhuis at home plate to end Friday night’s game one brick shy of a tie, the baseball gods had simply run out of quintessentially Metsian ways to saddle the Mets with losses. “Tying run cut down at the plate on a sure sacrifice fly, we’re not gonna top that one for a while,” they reportedly said before going on a well-earned vacation.

Nieuwenhuis was improbably out and the Mets had predictably lost, yet from that moment forward, it’s been Mets 25 Opponents 6. Amazingly, the 25 runs have been wisely distributed so it wasn’t like there was a 1-0 loss tucked between a couple of 12-run blowouts.

The Mets have won three in a row, five out of six. That doesn’t sound all that impressive, but it sure feels like something. They pounded the almighty Oakland Athletics, they of the best record in baseball, the best run differential in baseball, the best storylines in baseball on a recurring basis.

The Mets are 8-1 in the village of Flushing against the Oakland Athletics since Game Three of the 1973 World Series, when Tom Seaver’s 12 strikeouts couldn’t keep the Mets from losing, 2-1, in 11 innings. Don Hahn couldn’t feel his way around Shea Stadium’s desodded warning track, Jerry Grote couldn’t hold on to strike three from Harry Parker with Ted Kubiak on first…yes, there was more to not winning that World Series than not pitching George Stone four days later.

So where was I? Oh yeah, we’ve been beating Oakland at Shea and Citi pretty consistently ever since even though some regrets refuse to fade with time. We took the next two in 1973, all three in 2007, two of three in 2011 and Tuesday night, too. We’re not just regular hot; we’re cosmically hot.

Take that, Charlie Finley, wherever you are.

Now I’ve been smiling lately
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be
Something good has begun

There is little daylight to be found streaming through the Tuesday night box score, cluttered as it is with heavy Met hits. Everybody who started, including Bartolo Colon, put a dent in Oakland pitching. There was a homer from Travis d’Arnaud, who offered more proof for my new theory that the most consistent offensive weapon the Mets maintain is Whoever They Called Up Just Now. There were two from Chris Young, who made an excellent case for Being Threatened With Removal From The Premises. Word conveniently leaked out that Young’s salary wasn’t going to save him, so he’d better get to belting ASAP. By some crazy coincidence, he belted a whole bunch.

Absorbing most of the Met pounding was Johnny Narrative, a.k.a. Scott Kazmir. George Stone’s got nothing on Scott Kazmir when it comes to Met lefties whom hindsight insists should’ve been handed the ball. We’re about a month away from the tenth anniversary of being reminded (again) the Mets mindlessly traded Scott when he was a lad full of hiss and vinegar. For what it’s worth, the Mets made the playoffs two unrelated years later anyway. Also for what it’s worth, Victor Zambrano pitched a handful of good games for the Mets before his aching left elbow got the best of him.

It was still an insipid trade and nothing like it should be repeated late this July, but the transaction deserves maybe a touch of forgiving revisionist history if only for accuracy’s sake — and just so it doesn’t need to be dredged over when the Mets visit Oakland in August.

Besides, I’ll need that time to dwell on George Stone being skipped some more.

Get your bags together
Go bring your good friends, too
’Cause it’s getting nearer
It soon will be with you

Hey, how about those towels? Kind of silly, kind of super, I’d say. Nice to detect a note of enthusiasm from our occasionally detached millionaire heroes. Waving towels (even if they are mostly surrender-white) strikes me as good, clean high school jock behavior. It’s even kind of creative.

“Mets towel waving party after hits has turned into towel waving car wash after home runs,” tweeted the Star-Ledger’s Mike Vorkunov, who wrung from Curtis Granderson a perfectly sensible elaboration on what else they’re doing with their Terry cloth:

“Once you finish, you gotta get dried off.”

These rituals are all a matter of taste. By my reckoning, waving the towels beats giving buzzcuts. It’s not quite as excellent as that business with the claw or the spotlight or whatever they were calling it when Jose Reyes and Justin Turner were instigating a fleeting whale of a time in 2011. I’ve always liked the dancing and the curtain calls and such. I like anything that indicates the Mets are winning.

If the Mets keep winning, they can stage The Nutcracker between innings for all I care.

Now come and join the living
It’s not so far from you
And it’s getting nearer
Soon it will all be true

Cynicism will not die easily if at all around here. As I watched the homers fly and the towels flutter Tuesday, I could picture the Mets marketers, quick studies that they are, scheduling a Rally Towel Night for August 28 or thereabouts. Branden and Alexa and possibly Christina would crank up their collective charms and excitedly inform us that “there’s nothing better than coming to the ballpark and waving a tow…” before SNY’s automated brain cut them off in favor of a Cambridge Pavingstones commercial (pavingstones are not to be confused with George Stone). By the time Rally Towel Night finally arrived, the Mets would be umpteen games under .500 and umpteen-and-a-half games out of the second Wild Card and nobody would remember that night in June when Chris Young was still on the Mets, let alone hitting home runs. Grumpy Guest Relations staff would be handing out sad, sponsored towels to handfuls of patrons who wondered what any of this had to do with baseball.

On the other hand, I also allowed myself to think that whatever has gotten into this team over the past week — Ozuna’s temporarily deadly peg notwithstanding — is utterly fantastic and I’m giddy as hell and what fun it is to be a Mets fan when five of six have been won, including three in a row that have been taken by four, six and nine runs, respectively. There were so many long, awful games for such a long, awful time until very recently. Now we win by a ton and it takes no time at all and you wouldn’t mind evenings like these lasting into perpetuity.

Maybe we’re not so great just yet. Maybe we’re just that crappy team that happens to give a much better squad inexplicable fits. That’s not unfun, either, y’know. However this train rolls, what’s the point of a baseball season if it can’t carry you away now and then?

***

Though you suddenly can’t wait for first pitch, there are suitable diversions to help occupy you between now and 7:10:

• Monday night I returned to the Rising Apple podcast, where host Rich Sparago, John Coppinger of Metstradamus renown, Mets Musings’ Gary McDonald and I swapped recipes and gardening tips. No, actually, we talked about nothing but the Mets for an hour. Listen in here.

• In March, I took part in a wonderful event that explored Storytelling as Good Medicine, the kicker being that all the stories were baseball stories. A second edition is coming to Bergino Baseball Clubhouse on July 17. Learn more about attending here.

• The best time to induct Gil Hodges into the Baseball Hall of Fame is right this very minute. Wish it was that easy. If you believe the manager of the Miracle Mets and the cornerstone of the Boys of Summer — and by all accounts one of the greatest gentlemen the game has ever known is worthy of enshrinement — there is a petition you should know about right here.

• If you’ve worn out your copy of A Year To Remember, there is a new movie coming together about your 1986 World Champion Mets. Learn more from filmmaker Heather Quinlan here.

• And you’ll want to play this little ditty from 45 Adapters at least 45 times today. As the band in question advises, Let’s Go Metropolitans!

22 comments to Out On the Edge of Darkness

  • Lenny65

    I knew it. If there was any sure thing about tonight’s game going in it’d be that CY would hit multiple HRs if he played, no doubt whatsoever. They might be on to something with this “we’re getting rid of you soon” approach. Plus it’s sort of Wilpon-esque in a Wilpon-esque sort of way, too.

  • rich porricelli

    They seem to be having fun- waving those towels is great to see! Staying loose and winning..Hang in there guys and good things will happen !! I will be there tonight to have some fun myself….

  • open the gates

    I’ve always thought that, particularly in hindsight, the Kazmir-for-Zambrano deal was always overrated in terms of Terrible Met Trades Of All Time. True, Zambrano was awful, but Kazmir never became the perennial Cy Young winner all the doomsayers predicted he would be. In other words, it was a lousy trade, but doesn’t compare to even a second-tier Terrible Trade like, say, Dykstra/McDowell for Juan Samuel. Hey, the Mets don’t even make lousy trades as well as they used to.

  • kd bart

    The Kazmir/Zambrano trade was a bad one but everything Duquette said about Kazmir at the time did come to fruition. That his mechanics were going to cause him to have injury problems down the line that will help shorten the productivity of his career. By the time he was 26 in 2010, he was an injured wreck and 2010-2012 were a disaster. Having a nice second act of a career now.

  • Dave

    It’s just too bad that Duquette was only able to foresee Scott Kazmir’s injury-filled future years and not that Victor Zambrano would be toast after a few months. Not to mention that Rick Peterson didn’t realize that the only thing you can do in 15 minutes is save 15% on your car insurance, of which we are reminded between almost-catchy Cambridge paving stone jingles on a nightly basis.

  • Mets Maven

    Love the Cat Stevens references!

  • argman

    Who are these guys and what have they done with my Mets?

  • The Jestaplero!

    The Kazmir-Zambrano trade deserves some revisionist history: it was WORSE than people believe.

    Zambrano started 30 games with 10 wins for the Mets in three years. No matter that Kazmir did not become a “perennial Cy Young winner” (how many of those have there been since?), he won 57 games in 6 seasons with Tampa Bay, with an ERA under 4.00. He was over .500 every year with them, twice an All-Star.

    But wait, it gets worse.

    Yes, Greg, the Mets went to the postseason two years later, minus Pedro Martinez and El Duque. Do you think Kazmir could have helped us win one more game, to face the sweepable Tigers? At the very least, his presence might have meant Aaron Heilman would have placed lower on the depth chart. Kazmir may have become an “injured wreck in 2010-2011, but in 2006 when we needed him he was a 10-8, 3.24 All-Star.

    But it gets worse still. Kazmir’s absence on the staff created a deficit in left-handed starters, which was filled by….who? Who? That’s right, Mr. Oliver Perez, for whom we had to part with Xavier Nady, who was having an excellent 2006 at the plate. Think we could have used *him* in the NLCS?

    Could Kaz and Nady have helped us win *one more game* in 2007 and 2008?

    This past January, Scott Kazmir turned 30 years old.

    In my view, the Kazmir trade ushered in the Ollie Perez Era and may have cost us our third World Series championship. It’s one of our worst trades ever. Dykstra for Samuel was only bad in hindsight: Dykstra had played himself off the Mets, and arguably would never have found his potential without the change of scenery…while Samuel was still in his prime, only to fall off inexplicably. The Kazmir trade was bad in FOREsight. We were howling about it the moment it was announced. You don’t trade your first-round, hard-throwing, lefty starter for a mediocre pitcher known to have a damaged elbow.

    Not the worst trade in Mets history, but right up there.

    • dmg

      i like your dark reading of history, as it confirms my own.

    • It was an ill-advised trade whose return was not given its due diligence. No doubt. And yet I will never shake the sense that had the Mets held on to Kazmir, something would have gone terribly wrong anyway. This is the organization that didn’t develop a starting pitcher with staying power between Bobby Jones and Jonathon Niese. They would’ve found a way to not develop Kazmir and it would’ve resonated just as badly as trading him.

      I also don’t think the revival of 2005-2006 happens without that trade because the Mets would still be stewing in their morass without being shamed into becoming players for Pedro and Beltran. We’d be in the twelfth year of the old rebuilding plan by now, never having come close to almost making the World Series.

    • Dave

      I’m with Jestaplero…that was an awful trade even before pointing out the domino effect it had in subsequent years. How depressing, Oliver Perez instead of Scott Kazmir. The trade ranks at least with Jeff Reardon for Ellis Valentine; young power arm for known damaged goods.

      I disagree however, that the Dykstra and McDowell for Juan Samuel was only bad in hindsight, I remember it got a great big WTF from me as soon as I heard about it. Mookie’s legs were aging, so Dykstra would have become the everyday guy in CF and been there for years, I don’t recall anyone ready to replace McDowell at the time, and one could say Samuel was assigned to play out of position if only he actually had a position to begin with. I hated it from Day 1.

      • 9th string catcher

        Dave echoes my memory of it. I think it was Kiner who delivered the message, that McDowell and Dykstra were being traded for Samuel. I remember thinking, “another 2nd baseman? Don’t we have two already?” I never thought of him being all that good at anything, and now we’re losing a great CF and pitcher? They must know something I don’t”. Which was the first time I learned that at least in this case, they didn’t.

        Oh, and the Mookie for Jeff Mussleman deal? I was irritated at that as well. But hey, at least it was a precursor to the Al Harazin era. Good times.

  • Andy Chapo

    Don’t forget that except for the year, 2014 and 1969 calendars are identical. Do you believe in miracles?

  • APV

    If the Mets had gotten beat last night, would your headline have been “Darkness on the Edge of Town”? One of Springsteen’s darker 70s songs and it fit that era’s Mets as perfectly as it does this one.

  • Thanks a lot. Now I’ll have “Peace Train” in my head for the next week & a half…

  • The Jestaplero!

    Nobody wanted to see Dykstra go, but I think what happened to him is he got enamored with the long-ball – he had that big one in the NLCS and he hit 10 in ’87 when EVERYbody hit a ton of HRs – and developed a deadly uppercut in his swing and tried to hit everything out. His OBP plummeted to .318 in ’89, and the Mets just became exasperated with him. It was the Ike Davis conundrum: nothing is working, a change of scenery might help him, might as well get something for him. And like I said, Juan Samuel was actually a much better hitter than Lenny, up until the trade, when everything went south for Sammy and Lenny was, in fact, rejuvenated.

    The same thing happened with Nolan Ryan.

  • The Jestaplero!

    Well, Greg, both of us are speculating about what would have happened, because of course there’s no way to know how it would have played out. I just favor my theory because I’m assuming Kaz’s career with the Mets would have been reasonably similar to the one he actually had. And I beg to differ: the Mets DID develop a starting pitcher with staying power between Jones and Niese: Scott Kazmir!

    I also have a pet theory that Jim Duquette was just really bad with foreign first names, and actually thought he was acquiring Carlos Zambrano and Hideki Matsui.

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