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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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20/20 Vision

Over the past three games, the sub-.500 Mets have scored 20 runs and allowed 20 runs against the sub-.500 teams directly adjacent to them in the standings. It’s been like a sporadically entertaining round-robin of mediocrity.

But they’ve won two of these three games, which is good news for those still keeping track of the Mets’ daily doings, yet must rattle the front office’s fealty to the sacred nature of run differential, at least for the small sample at hand. What’s the point playing .667 ball across 27 innings when the scoreboard suggests you’re no better than a .500 enterprise?

It’s September. All we have left are small samples. On Tuesday night, when the Mets’ eight runs withstood the Marlins’ six (the math checks out, even in arithmetically challenging Miami), there were a couple of delightful small samples one might be tempted to extrapolate to high heavens. Juan Lagares, for example, went 4-for-4, was on base five times, scored three runs, drove in two runs, stole two bases and robbed himself of a triple at the wall. Only the last part isn’t true. The David Wright who’s been bumming us out for months ceded his spot in the lineup to the David Wright we vaguely recall revering for most of the preceding decade. David registered three hits (including two of the extra-base variety, for goodness sake), drove in three runs and pronounced himself “dangerous,” which is the David Wright equivalent of holding third base high above his head and unsubtly hinting that Lou Brock could take a seat.

Lagares is unstoppable and Wright is reborn. All our problems are solved. When you watch the Mets, you tend to take the good and decide it’s a permanent condition. Unless you’re the type who watches the Mets and decides only the bad is indicative of reality. You could be forgiven for the latter, but you might as well go with the former. It’s September. It will all be gone soon, so enjoy what there is to be enjoyed.

You know when I knew the season was over in every sense except officially? When I received the annual Metropolitan Hospitality e-mail telling me I could book my holiday party at Citi Field. The invitation showed up on August 21. At a juncture of the calendar when other ballparks are accepting tentative reservations for postseason galas, the Mets are already clearing their ballroom for the next affair.

Then last week, I shared 7 train and LIRR space with the U.S. Open flock. Visitors from all over the world wondered what that other facility with the red bricks was for — the one few of their fellow mass transit passengers were streaming toward. It was another sure sign that the season doesn’t have much season left to it…and a cruel reminder that we’re light years removed from how George Vecsey described the Flushing Meadows ideal in 1986:

“The Open is still my favorite two weeks of the year — tennis in the afternoon, baseball a few nights at Shea, no bridges to cross, no Bronx, no New Jersey, everything coming true for the Mets…”

Nothing comes true for the Mets anymore, except the truth that September serves as a vestigial appendage left over from happier times. The team goals are nonexistent. The individual goals are all that’s left. Aside from the annual vague desire to “see what the kids can do,” maybe three specifics remain.

1) Get Lucas Duda to 30 home runs.

Duda has 26 dingers. He has also stopped being Wally Joyner or whoever it is we have rushed to anoint him the second coming of since he lit the West Coast ablaze. If Duda reaches the big three-oh, he’ll deserve our applause, but also our pause. Remember the last first baseman whose second half propelled him to 30 homers? He plays for Pittsburgh these days. Not that Ike Davis’s precedent is destined to equal Lucas Duda’s near future, but I’d insist on two consecutive solid years before comfortably declaring a void has been effectively filled on a going basis.

Sidelined Daniel Murphy gave us consecutive solid years and by all rights should be going for 200 hits and/or league-leadership of said category this month, but lots of shoulds go unanswered around here.

2) Get Jacob deGrom the Rookie of the Year award.

Jakey’s been coming up on the outside, his Mane ’n Tail flowing in the late summer breeze, but will it be enough to catch speedy Billy Hamilton and whoever else among the freshman class has been galloping along since April? This is one of those individual goals that is out of the individual’s sole control. It’s been fun watching deGrom insinuate himself into the ROY conversation; it’s been less fun realizing players from New York’s National League franchise appear not as favorites in these races but dark horses.

Also conceivably in the running are Jeurys Familia and Travis d’Arnaud, each of them having accomplished a decent amount of self-establishment in the second half of 2014, but both probably off the pace as a result of uncertain starts. If we have a horse in this, it’s the one in whose name and number some depleted department is selling four otherwise unfillable Field Level seats.

3) Get Lagares the Gold Glove.

Our big hope here is Juan has become such a cult sensation among the set that actually pays attention to spectacular defense that the buzz that surrounds his every grab filters up to the managers and coaches who vote on the totally meaningless but indisputably glitzy award. Again, how sad is it that we have this all-world center fielder in New York — Willie! Mickey! The Duke! — and he’s relatively obscure? More highlight footage, more provisional praise and more 4-for-4 nights would surely help his cause. (Also, to be brutally frank, Carlos Gomez being hurt doesn’t hurt.)

What, you might be wondering, does Juan Lagares’s hitting have to do with him winning a Gold Glove? You must be new to the Gold Glove. Charitably speaking, offense serves as subliminal advertising for a player’s defense. Mostly, names are made at the plate no matter how many runs are saved in the field.

Drive for show, putt for dough, or something like that.

Let’s say all our individually wrapped goals are met. Duda totals 30 homers and, if he fully reheats, 90 ribbies (just like Ike!). DeGrom becomes the first Met to accept Rookie of the Years honors since Dwight Gooden three entire decades ago. Lagares glitters like Carlos Beltran and Tommie Agee did in their day. Their quests will fill September with a little something besides undistributed Curtis Granderson Poster Day posters (somebody in promotions has his finger on the pulse of the fans), and that would make the annual countdown to inevitable oblivion a wee bit more palatable.

I’d prefer September revert to its intended role as potential conduit to October — when “Metropolitan Hospitality” is supposed to be expressed via “ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Citi Field for the first game of the National League Division Series” — but we can’t have everything. Or all that much of anything.

16 comments to 20/20 Vision

  • Dave

    The realist in me says we go 0-3 on this wish list. Duda is probably just as likely to hit 10 homers this month as he is to join Granderson on the 1-for-too-many express. The same journalists who told everyone in March who to look out for among NL rookies are the same people who decide who is the ROY, therefore in a position to show everyone how smart they are. I don’t have to do any research to know that none of them said to keep an eye on Jacob deGrom for deAward. And ROY goes to the best rookie. Sportswriters could be excused for not drawing the link between “best” and “Mets.”

    Gold Gloves are the sports equivalent of the Emmys. Best way to win this year is to have won one last year. Lagares definitely deserves it, and sometimes the award actually does go to the best fielder and not the best fielder among the best hitters (see Ordonez), but still thinking Juan’s reputation still has some spreading to do before he wins the hardware. But then again, I predicted that Dickey wouldn’t win the CY a few years ago, so maybe…

  • joenunz

    4) Get to 75 wins. One more than Vegas established in April as the total that would have me sweating out my annual “C-Note on the Mets Over”.

    4a) If above is unattainable, get to 74 wins and make the whole season a push – a waste of everyone’s time, but nobody’s money.

  • argman

    What might help Lagares is that more writers are paying attention to “advanced” stats like WAR these days. Lagares leads the National League in Defensive WAR, and he’s actually 4th among all position players in the NL in overall WAR. If he finishes strong at the plate and throws in a few more highlight reel plays in the field, he could get the GG.

  • Rob

    As we wind down a season that MANY consider “a waste of everyone’s time,” it’s pretty significant that we can even HAVE this Duda/deGrom/Lagares discussion now. In April Duda was platooning with Ike, deGrom wasn’t even on the radar, and Lagares had just slashed .240/.280/.350. Record aside, it’s consolidation seasons like these that help teams jump to the next level.

    • Other than the quote from Fredi Gonzalez and maybe the lede in the Reuters story, those were all written by pro-Mets folks if you look closely. Nothing wrong with pro-Mets folks, of course, but he’s still more our cause than high profile.

  • Rob D.

    If Granderson & Wright had only done what was expected, and no more, we’d be in the 2nd WC hunt. Pity.

    • In a league where nobody is lapping the field, it wouldn’t have taken much to have gotten into that race. Pity, indeed.

      • Rob D.

        As a good friend of mine has said often…you mean to tell me in a market like this one, the National League representative for NY can’t get to 85 wins and a second WC slot..EVERY YEAR?

  • Wheaties54321

    Rob D. said it. With “typical” production from Granderson and Wright, the Mets would be several games better in the standings – right around or better than .500 – and in the thick of a wild card run. Shame.

    The losses are always depressing. But it’s hard for me to not consider 2014 a big step in the right direction. Let’s not forget, the Mets entered the season with long-term question marks at C, 1B, LF, CF, SS, and several question marks in the bullpen. Now we’re looking ok to great in most of those spots.

  • APV

    There are signs that things are heading in the right direction. But there’s always going to be that one dark cloud called Jeff Wilpon that stands in the way (I know I used that phrase about Niese and Collins too earlier this year, but Little Jeffy is the biggest obstacle). His mere presence sometimes makes rooting for this organization a waste of time. Let me guess why Farnsworth, Valverde, and Abreu were even on this team to begin with earlier in the year, holding back Lagares and Familia in the process? Or why Dickey was traded? Or, well I could go on and on.

    Oh, and for the love of God Mets, do not finish last or whatever good vibes I had from this year (granted, not much) will be gone. Amazingly, for all the crap we’ve seen since Citi opened, the Mets have not finished last in this stretch. I’ll have to check but I think the last cellar-dwelling bunch was the 2003 squad. That’s an embarassment no matter what your record is.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Another problem with Lagares is that he makes it all look too easy, i.e. no highlight reel stuff. A long perfectly timed run doesn’t make Baseball Tonight even when it covers half the field. He needs to jump over (or thru, like denDekker)a wall or two. Or even pull a Swoboda. Which Swoboda had to do, whereas Lagares would have glided over and made a shoestring catch, nice, but not memorable.

    • I responded to a request from a Cardinal blog in Spring Training for a Mets Eye View of things and when asked to name the Mets I looked forward most to watching, I said Lagares, specifically to watch him track fly balls. That’s how I felt about Beltran’s defense, which reminded me of everything I’d ever read about DiMaggio’s.

      • Rob D.

        Hear, hear. I sat in CF @ Citi in 2009 (I think) and marveled at how Beltran glided to the ball. As you said, GP, it was everything my dad had told me about DiMaggio. Lagares is approaching that category. My teenage son, who is also a CF, watches Lagares in awe.

        • Some time in the last week or so, Lagares loped from left-center to a ball whose location Nieuwenhuis was still determining in right and picked it clean. Not showy, just making like a natural-born center fielder.

          Beltran made his share of “OH WOW!” plays (the Hill in Houston comes to mind first) and Lagares has had a few himself (like the one when he robbed the Atlanta pitcher Wood), but it’s the day-in, day-out stuff that makes guys like these stand out. When you watch day-in, day-out, it’s extremely rewarding.

  • […] bridge from how well 2014 ended to how promising 2015 appears. In early September, I dared to list three wishes on top of my previously stated desire for a .500-plus record after the All-Star break. Lucas Duda […]