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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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Real Time With Zack Wheeler

You can now update the Mets’ slash line to reflect their currently accurate settings:


YRSWOPSA: Years Without Postseason Appearance
YRSWOPNT: Years Without Pennant
YRSWOWCH: Years Without World Championship

The clock jumped ahead one year once the Pirates beat the Brewers in a game loaded with playoff race implications, which is to say it had nothing to do with the New York Mets, except that it officially removed the slightest scintilla of an iota of a shred of statistical doubt that the Mets would be going home after their 162nd game next Sunday.

There’s no doubt. They’re going home. When they return, it will be another year without any of the above achievements. It’s 2014 for eight more games, but for all practical projectable purposes, it’s 2015…thus the revised arithmetic regarding the respective distances from the hallowed accomplishments of 2006, 2000 and 1986.

There was never any genuine doubt they’d be going home on September 28 beyond perhaps a few minutes here and there in July when games were being won in clusters and an opening within the lenient five-team October matrix beckoned unclaimed. Then the Nationals pulled away in the division and the Mets fell inconveniently behind too many Wild Card competitors and it was over before it was over.

While Lucas Duda was belting the home run that provided Zack Wheeler and three relievers safe harbor from the traditionally treacherous undertow of Turner Field, Ike Davis’s Pirates (with a key pinch-ribby from our erstwhile first baseman of the future) moved a touch closer to grabbing that final playoff spot. Pittsburgh’s record is 83-70. There is nothing magisterial about 83-70. In days of yore and Yogiesque lore, maybe once a decade some unremarkable record would be good enough to rate a postseason invitation. The anointing of a second Wild Card guarantees so-so won-lost marks will be adequate more often. The fifth-best team in the National League will go to the playoffs, get to play a sudden-death game and possibly jump on a glide path to the World Series.

This isn’t about the Pirates at 83-70. It’s about the Mets at 74-80 who couldn’t find a way in 2014 to win two more games each month and be, at 86-68, in command of that second Wild Card spot. Or one game more a month and be, at 80-74, Pittsburgh’s primary challenger. They wouldn’t be on the verge of clinching anything in the latter scenario, but you would have known for sure they’d contended. They haven’t contended in six years.

Seven years, as of 2015.

It’s not unfair to view 2014 as more of the same because, at base, it was. No contending, which is the bare minimum you can ask your team to do for you. No postseason berth, let alone league or world championship. While a finish of two games over .500 is still mathematically possible, the Mets haven’t been fewer than four games under .500 since June 4. That was 95 games ago.

So, yes, it’s been more of the same, yet there is an emerging dissimilarity that potentially separates this latest serially crappy year from its immediate predecessors. Duda’s home run was his 28th; he’s slumped mightily but he’s picking it up a little again, and he’s quietly outshone most N.L. first basemen, Ike included, all season long. Wheeler’s win was his eleventh, which (however little stock you put into that stat) suggests an established starter of at least the second order. Zack’s catcher, Travis d’Arnaud, made a sensational grab on a foul pop on Friday night, a small thing in and of itself but another reminder that Td’A is behind the plate night after night when it looked for a while like he might fall off the face of the roster. Jeurys Familia had a horrible outing Monday night at Citi Field that served to sabotage Jacob deGrom. He had a sensational outing Friday night in Atlanta and made sure Wheeler’s six shutout innings didn’t go for naught.

Progress is in evidence through the prism of these players and several others whose toehold in the terrain of major league life grew firmer this season. It’s interior progress at this point. It doesn’t fully present itself in the standings and it won’t be on TV in the month ahead. That’s when it will feel like more of the same. That’s when you’ll look at the Nationals and the Cardinals and the Dodgers and the Giants and (probably) the Pirates and it will hit you how much better their half of the tournament would be if it encompassed the Mets.

Will the ninth year be the charm? Is the incremental momentum we’ve witnessed capable of extending itself into something more akin to the leaps-and-bounds variety? You can sense the Mets, like a cherished animated Log, are becoming better than bad; how soon can they be good? Will they ever be good enough so the number we’re tracking every September is less tragic and more magic?

This is the tenth season of Faith and Fear in Flushing and the ninth occasion calling for an elimination meditation. For what it’s worth — amazingly little, I believe — this one has come a little later than recently usual on the Metropolitan calendar.

2005: 157
2006: Never Eliminated! (Not in the regular season, at any rate.)
2007: 162
2008: 162
2009: 144
2010: 151
2011: 149
2012: 147
2013: 144
2014: 154

If the Mets didn’t quite hang in there, at least they hung on — albeit to zero effect on the race — longer than they have in any season since the collapse years. That’s mostly a symptom of the addition of that extra Wild Card plus the dismal September performances of Atlanta and Milwaukee, two teams that seemed comfortably on pace to outstrip Pittsburgh’s current 83-70. Really, everybody but Washington and Los Angeles has disappointed on some level in this year’s version of the National League. We could look at the tableau of mediocrity and mine annoyance that the Mets weren’t positioned to take proper advantage in 2014. Or we could view the very same vista and judge it a promising platform for a little leaping, maybe even a bit of bounding in 2015 if the right moves are made and the youngsters accelerate their learning curves.

We can process the 74-80 Mets both ways, actually. Eight days from now, we turn into Burgess Meredith in The Twilight Zone, wandering a baseball dystopia, favored with time enough at last to ponder all questions Metsian, yet deprived of the vision to see clearly what lies ahead of us.

3 comments to Real Time With Zack Wheeler

  • open the gates

    I keep wondering which year will be the current Mets’ 1983. By the end of that year, they already had some of their furure ’86 stars: Mookie, Darryl, Keith Hernandez, and Jesse Orosco. Doc and Darling were on the verge. They also had guys like Hubie Brooks and Walt Terrell, who were at least good enough to be eventually dealt for the likes of Gary Carter and HoJo. They had an awful record in ’83, but there was a definite buzz by the end of that season. There seems to be a bit of a buzz now.

    Maybe this is the year before we finally turn the corner. I sure hope so.

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