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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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Reining In The Racing Mind

The full moon is callin’
The fever is high
And the wicked wind whispers and moans
You’ve got your demons
And you’ve got desires
But I’ve got a few of my own

Don Henley & Glenn Frey

Thursday afternoon, give or take a sidelined shoulder and a tightened hamstring, Spring Training worked as well as it possibly could. A split squad of Mets were playing and winning on SNY. A whole different split squad of Mets were playing and winning on MLBN. The cries of “BREAK UP THE METS!” had been literally heeded by Sunshine State schedulemakers, yet the Metropolitan fragments that remained extant vanquished Houston in St. Lucie and St. Louis in Jupiter. For that matter, at the very same time the Mets (SS) were sweeping the Florida gold coast, the 1986 Mets were winning the National League pennant (in condensed-for-time fashion) over on ESPN Classic.

Every channel a Mets game, every channel a Mets win. This is how it works in my dreams.

Only the ’86 game counted and that one was put in the books a while ago. The others, per our implicit understanding that March is fleetingly fun but increasingly pointless, go into no books unless something goes terribly wrong. You can’t even call it trivial, because where would you look up the answers to the trivia if none of it gets put in the books? Still, it was uplifting. It was uplifting enough to make me check the Grapefruit League standings, an act for which I should fine myself.

We are apparently 9-8. I mean we’re 0-0, but we’re 9-8 in Florida. I thought we might be 13-2 after such an invigorating afternoon. We’re not, but that’s OK. The Spring Training standings are good for only two things.

1) Marveling at how weird 15 teams unmoored from their usual league and divisional settings look when they’re stacked tightly in one box.

2) Making sure we’re not first or last among those 15.

We’re neither. Thankfully, we’re tied for somewhere in between. Why be thankful for seemingly inconsequential favors? Elementary, my dear Allen/Matt Watson.

You don’t want to have the best record among your snowbird neighbors because you’re likely setting yourself up for a fall (if not the fall) if you do. Nobody wants to be the champions of what doesn’t count.

You don’t want to have the worst record, however, because then something’s probably a little too off about your entire operation to scoff away with, “But it’s only Spring Training.” It bears repeating every year at this time: the 1962 Mets and the 1986 Mets each compiled .500 records in their respective springs. One of those .500 spring teams went on to lose three of every four games when it mattered. The other .500 spring team in this equation of extremes went on to win two of every three games when it mattered.

Which is to say it still doesn’t matter if the Mets — split-squad, double-wide, extra-cheese, whatever — go out today and move to 9-9 or 8-10 or 25 or 6 to 4. But winning two (or three) games with two (or three) different versions of “the Mets” on two (or three) different channels in the very same time slot gets a fan to thinking…

Maybe we really are this good.

Maybe everybody really will hit.

Maybe everybody who’s healthy really will pitch.

Maybe everybody really will pick up ground balls and track down fly balls.

Maybe nobody else anywhere else has their act so fully together.

Maybe Kevin Long is the Granderson whisperer.

Maybe Michael Cuddyer bathes in the fountain of youth — or at least his swing does.

Maybe Wilmer Flores really was the best available all-around shortstop the world had to offer this past winter.

Maybe Niese and Gee and Montero, all of whom effectively muted their opposition Thursday, will soon be up there with Spahn and Sain and we’ll never have to pray for rain after Harvey and deGrom and pass me that Colon.

Maybe this really is the year.

Even as we wait for the other shoulder to drop in the Vic Black case.

Even as Daniel Murphy’s lifestyle turns day-to-day.

Even as we feign surprise to learn Zack Wheeler, in addition to being plagued by tears to his UCL and his tendon, made consecutive starts last August with what doctors now describe as a “small axe” lodged in his lower vertebrae. (When questioned, general manager Sandy Alderson dismissed the significance of the finding, calling the axe “a non-factor” in Wheeler’s and the club’s decision to seek Tommy John surgery sooner rather than later. “It’s just not that unusual to uncover tools and weapons inside of young pitchers today given the nature of how much they throw and the sorts of sales you see at Home Depot,” the GM added.)

Thinking so giddily, even provisionally giddily, nearly short-circuited my springtime serenity, for when you start to thinking your team might win, you start to worry that they won’t win explicitly because you, dummy, made the mistake of putting too much pressure on them by thinking too many good thoughts about them.

This used to go on in my head forever. It was an organizing principle of my rooting when this blog was founded. It dictated how I conducted myself for the entirety of 1999 and 1985, a.k.a. my two favorite seasons, when every day was, essentially, Game Six of the 1986 NLCS. You gotta be in it to win it. We were in it those years. We were so in it, it hurt to imagine seeping out of it. Seep we did, very late in the course of events. It hurt, but the commitment to the idea that the Mets must, must, must win transformed the pain into its own mutation of pleasure. Something was on the line. Something so delicious I could taste it in my mind for months. What if I took such an enormous mental bite that I left nothing for the actual Mets to feast on?

This was how I rooted when the Mets were routinely good, striking a balance between curbing my enthusiasm and reining in my anxieties. I haven’t rooted that way in a while. For the past six years it’s been hope for the best, expect the Mets. It’s a challenge to simply tamp down my disgust. Thursday afternoon, with the Mets winning from town to town, up and down the dial, I allowed myself to imagine a morsel of what I once dug into with brio, hold the hubris. I had the same allergic reaction to imaginary hubris now that I did then.

Anyway, I take that I’m even thinking about thinking like that a good sign that I’m in midseason form…of a much better season than we’ve had here in a while.

***

Interested in my further thoughts on the season ahead? Cardinals blog C70 At The Bat was, and they present them (along with those of some fellow Mets bloggers) here.

Interested in the fate of the old Mets bullpen car? I was enough to have participated as a questioner in a Q&A with the current owner, who is looking to find it a new home — or perhaps its old home — albeit for the right price. You can read the transcript of the virtual conversation at MetsPolice, your headquarters for all that relentlessly intriguing Mets ephemera you can’t quite put your finger on why you want to know more about, but you do, so good thing there’s MetsPolice.

Interested in hanging with Faith and Fear and talking each other down from our potentially fatal premature 2015 high? Then come to our Tenth Anniversary get-together at Foley’s NY (18 W. 33rd St., between Fifth and Sixth Avenues) on Saturday, March 28, between 1 and 4 PM. Frankly, I have no idea what we’ve got planned, but I assume there will be beer and I know there will be baseball, so please join us.

4 comments to Reining In The Racing Mind

  • SkillSets

    Got to keep that Nelson Doubleday-owned bullpen cart out of Wilpon hands.

  • Will in Central NJ

    “Every channel a Mets game, every channel a Mets win. This is how it works in my dreams,” Greg writes.

    The inverse is also true; nightmarish Met losing streaks and sports-talk show vitriol had visibly altered my blood pressure and demeanor to the point that the missus banned any IPhone glances or portable radio broadcasts on all Labor Day vacations down at the Jersey Shore. My sourpuss was especially in evidence during Labor Day weekends of 2001, 2007 and 2008. I chuckle now at those days, but still…we’ll take this 9-8 spring training for now, MRIs and all.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Here’s hoping that come August we’ll all be lamenting about the bandwagon fans clogging up the line for a Pat Lafrieda steak sandwich.

  • Lenny65

    Spring training is fun (except for the inevitable parade of disappointing medical news, that is) and obviously I prefer them to look sharp (or at least not embarrass themselves) but I never put too much stock in the actual results. So far the most encouraging sign is that things are quiet (at least since the Murphy kerfluffle), they’re going about their business and, most importantly, no one’s doing anything stupid (looks in general direction of front office). Geez I hope I don’t regret saying that.

    I just want to see the Citi Field epoch of dreariness come to an end. Sure, it’s hosted a few memorable individual moments but nothing even close to the sustained excitement of legitimate contention, the every day thrill of pennant race baseball. They have to deliver at least a taste of that, they can’t take another pratfall and be a doormat heading into July and August. Maybe not a 1985 or a 1999 but at least a 1984 or a 1998. Even a (forgive me) a 2007 or a 2008 would be a welcome change at this point although I’d hope they’d have the decency to change the endings on those last two.