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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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Dreaming of an Even Keel

Here’s a second-half resolution I’ll never keep: I need to be more even-keeled as a Mets fan.

The Mets began the year looking hopeless. Then they looked pretty good, maybe even better than pretty good. Then for a long stretch they looked both bad and boring, even as some were insisting they weren’t really that bad, that they were being undone by an unlikely run of bad luck. And then they looked pretty good again – so that, to my surprise, the All-Star break came as an unwelcome guest. Stop playing baseball? When we were finally enjoying it again? Why would someone do that to us?

The Mets returned from the break on Friday by rolling out to a 4-0 lead over the Padres, who are normally hapless but somehow not against us. (Or at least not while contained by Petco Park.) They blew the lead, then regained it behind a key single from Travis d’Arnaud, whose season has been a microcosm of his team’s. So of course tonight they got steamrolled by those very same Padres.

For the most part, credit Tyson Ross, who rode his evil slider through seven very effective innings. If you’re feeling pessimistic, apportion some blame to Dillon Gee, whose elevated pitches fueled a massive home run by Yasmani Grandal and a lesser shot that still counted by Will Venable. The Mets loaded the bases in the seventh, but Ruben Tejada turned in a poor at-bat, and that was essentially it.

What does this mean? Basically nothing. The Mets are going to get dismantled by good pitchers – it happens routinely in baseball – and sometimes by their own mistakes. They’re going to have bad days and cold streaks to go with laughers and hot streaks.

Baseball players know this, and try not to get too high or low about it – the noted philosopher Rod Kanehl once observed that “the line drives are caught, the squibbles go for hits. It’s an unfair game.” We refuse to believe what the players know, and attribute agency to what’s mostly chance – a team on a hot streak has chemistry, desire, grit, heart, etc., while the same team on a cold streak lacks leadership, is listless, doesn’t care, isn’t meshing, etc. We ought to take a long view, demanding to know if our team has been properly assembled and if its key players are being put in situations that give them the best chance of growing and succeeding. If that’s true, well, it guarantees nothing. You hope your squibbles get through the infield and the other guys’ line drives find gloves.

The Mets still face fundamental questions about ownership’s willingness to field a competitive team, as well as the usual arguments about whether prospects are ready and veterans are shot. But amid the ebb and flow of a schizophrenic season, there are positive signs: Lucas Duda, Travis d’Arnaud, Ruben Tejada, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Zack Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia and Vic Black all look like they’ve taken steps forward in their development, and a number of hitters in the minor leagues have pushed their way into conversations about the future. I should keep my eye on that story, instead of letting my emotions run wild in response to day-to-day dramas.

I won’t do that, but it’s nice to imagine that I might.

Insult to injury: I’m up in Maine visiting my kid at camp, and so was following tonight’s game on Gameday Audio, part of the MLB At Bat app. Gameday Audio has gone from godsend to problem child this year, with chronic crashes and freezes. Tonight the WOR feed got stuck on the last bits of Mets pregame, refusing to advance to the game itself. Which left me listening to the Padres’ radio guys.

Wow. Just wow. The Pads’ play-by-play guy is Ted Leitner, who might be the worst announcer I’ve ever heard. Where to start? He’s a hopeless homer, for one, but I’ll grant that’s a matter of taste. Unfortunately for Padres listeners, Leitner also has an annoying, choppy style that’s frequently behind the play – he repeatedly described great pitches, their action, etc. before circling around to the rather important fact that said pitch was strike three. He was ill-prepared – he consistently mispronounced “Nieuwenhuis” and “d’Arnaud,” which could have been remedied by simply asking the guys in the next booth. And he’s a bundle of lame shtick, from his irritating “ball going, ball gone” home run call to rambling stories that have nothing to do with baseball and random outbursts. (Come for the stuff Mel Brooks told Leitner about “Blazing Saddles,” stay for Leitner making a “Camptown Races” reference for Lucas Duda. It was like someone gave an eight-year-old a microphone.)

Here’s another resolution, one I really can keep: Every night I will be grateful for Gary, Keith and Ron on TV and Howie and Josh on the radio. The Mets may be mediocre with dreams of something more, but the guys who chronicle them are already championship caliber.

9 comments to Dreaming of an Even Keel

  • Lou from Georgia

    I thought I was the only one with problems on the audio side of At Bat. Good to know. As for the game last night, the Mets were due for a stinker. Be calm Jason, there’s still a long way to go. And while I agree many guys have played well this year, I still think Tejada should be a utility guy, not our starting shortstop. A little more dynamic player at that spot might actually make a major difference on the lineup as a whole. He’s been clutch in a few games but I’d love a little speed and a little better defense over there.

  • Pat O'hern

    Couldn’t agree with u more on your ted Leitner take

  • Michael G.

    The broadcasters’ value can’t be overstated. Imagine being a Met fan with Leitner-quality announcers? If only our broadcasters’ excellence could be consistently replicated on the field and by management.

  • That Adam Smith

    For all the frustrations of being a Met fan, I am continuously thankful for the incredible quality of both of our booths. I’m reminded of this nearly anytime I’m forced to listen to another team’s broadcast. Also thankful for a couple of great blogs, particularly Faith and Fear, for reminding me that terrible baseball can sometimes inspire terrific writing. Thanks guys!

  • Stan

    I went to Twitter for help with the audio stream. I received an “it’s working on our end” response and suddenly it was working on my end. Coincidence or an “oh shit” moment at MLB HQ?

  • otb

    One doesn’t have to listen to what’s his name in San Diego to appreciate our broadcasters. Much closer to home, the classless crew in the Bronx, Sterling and Kaye, radio and TV respectively, make me glad I’m not a fan of the New York Unmentionables, as if I didn’t have enough reasons already.

    Incidentally, another West Coast team still has Vin Scully, still the classiest baseball voice in the business, although he’s cut back to radio only, home games only, and only the first seven (I believe) innings. Our guys are great, but so is Vin, whose voice I first heard in the Brooklyn days, so I can’t resist mentioning him here. Both Vin and Red Barber (and the forgotten Connie Desmond) scrupulously avoided being “homers”.

  • Dave

    Even my Yankee fan friends admit that the Mets announcers are far better than what they’re stuck with. Yes, we’ve had our Fran Healys and that guy on before Josh Lewin whose name I’ve blocked out, but those of us who go back to the original 3 have enjoyed decades of pro’s pros.

  • tad richards

    Same story. Metcast frozen, Padre radio guy unbearable.

  • nestornajwa

    Keeping an even keel requires perspective, maturity and a strong stomach so you can recognize when it’s over. Game 1: when the Padres tied it up, I was certain I was watching That Game — you know the one. The game that happens each year when the conversation changes from “you never know” to “what will they get for [insert name here]?” That Game has happened as early as June, and it’s happened in late September. Memorable examples of the latter include Luis Aguayo in 87, Gl@vine in 07, Ollie’s weaksauce in 08, and the Benitez Double Sunday Choke in 01, which was actually 2 games. You almost always know That Game when you see it, but we all try to deny it for a couple of weeks when it happens around midseason. Denial is anathema to an even keel.

    Game 1’s ending was a pleasant surprise. I thought: “If they can avoid That Game during this trip, I may have something besides my roto team to keep me hooked on the 2014 season.” Side note: I understand that roto talk is generally shunned and discouraged at F&F, but it really helps me keep my sports sanity (i.e.: an even keel), especially as a Mets/Jets/former Isles fan.

    Sadly, today had all the earmarks of That Game. A bad loss to a bad team. We needed 2 of 3 in Petco. We didn’t get it. I wonder what we’re getting for Colon.

    Also, the Mets have been involved in about a dozen pennant races (I guess we have to call them Playoff Races now. Thanks, Bud). They have won only two — 73 and 99, when the playoff berth in question was in close contention. Keeping an even keel requires perspective. That means accepting that, even if the Mets can keep up with the competition, they have about a 1 in 6 chance of playing in 164 games.