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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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You Can Go Home Again

In the first couple of weeks of April, emotions are subject to the perils of small sample size just like everything else. Win and you feel like your team is a lock to win 125 games, with various newcomers locks to hit .400, slug 50 homers, retire every tough lefty and turn every double play. Lose, and someone needs to call up the surviving ’62 Mets and tell them to start monitoring box scores, because the errors and strikeouts and injuries are going to snowball into an avalanche that wipes out everything in its path.

There’s nothing wrong with this — we’re talking spectator sports and not, say, nuclear negotiations. All that pent-up emotion from a cruelly baseball-less winter has to go somewhere. But we should remember that it’s silly. And for once, this is where we can learn something from baseball’s Proven Veterans™. They know in their bones the cliches we forget every April — that all the games are the same, that it’s a long season, that you gotta take ’em one day at a time.

Someone today asked Michael Cuddyer something along the lines of whether it was time for the bats to get it going, which is one of those daily baseball questions so Platonically inane that it should be counted as heating and redistributing air and not as actual speech. Cuddyer coolly replied that he didn’t think various Mets hitting .150 at the moment would keep doing so, which dispensed not only with the question but also with the foolish franticness behind it. The man’s been playing baseball for a long time, and he knows that a week is no basis to use for assessing anything. We should all keep that in mind, whether it’s April or August. Hot streaks will come and go, luck will ebb and flow, and we’ll make up stories to explain it all that will be triumphant or despairing, while Cuddyer and David Wright and Curtis Granderson and the grizzled vets measure out their marathon pace and remember — another useful cliche inbound — neither to get too high or too low.

But that said, few things are more fun than a home opener. Neither Greg nor I were there, but it was glorious watching the crowd bathed in sunshine, and seeing the happily dopey pomp and circumstance, complete with giant flags and Howie Rose barking out names and Mets waving, tipping their caps or practicing stoicism. (The faithful booed Bill de Blasio, which is what happens to elected officials of any ideological stripe; Ray Ramirez, which was childish but funny; and Ruben Tejada, which was just childish.) Bartolo Colon was cheered like a conquering hero, which was as it should be, while Matt Harvey received what was probably the loudest ovation ever accorded a pitcher with 13 career wins, a point I make in jest but I’m sure some talk-radio troll got half an hour out of. (I wouldn’t know, because the things I have to do with my time that would be better uses of it than listening to WFAN et al include stapling myself in the crotch and gargling with strychnine.)

And then, when all that was done, the Mets played a taut, interesting little game against the Phillies, one they came away from as winners.

It was an interesting game for a lot of reasons.

First of all, the ball wasn’t carrying at all, leaving Gary, Keith and Ron to ponder the mysteries of winds in that part of Flushing, an investigation now entering its sixth decade. If this game had been played in summertime, I suspect it would have been 5-3 early and relievers would have been a-scurry everywhere. Instead, it was one of those days where you got the feeling the game would come down to a compact little rally, a mistake, or both. And, indeed, that’s what happened: The Mets converted their first run when Aaron Harang caught his spikes trying to field a little squibber by Juan Lagares, and their second run after Chase Utley — who was the biggest tire on the Phillies’ fire today — let a double-play ball go right through his legs. Jacob deGrom benefited from not just the good luck but also the conditions — our favorite hirsute sophomore was admittedly not terrific, but hung in there with what he had and walked off with a win and a deceptively sparkling pitching line. Baseball, to quote the noted philosopher R. E. Kanehl, is an unfair game.

Ben Revere‘s fifth-inning snag of Curtis Granderson’s sure double goes in the file labeled Things You Didn’t Enjoy But Should Admire Anyway. Revere played a superb OF all day in tough conditions, though his popgun arm wasn’t enough to prevent Cuddyer — who’d somehow tripled — from coming home on a Travis d’Arnaud sac fly in the eighth. Small sample size alert: Don’t pencil Cuddyer in for 22 triples.

One New York fan added something neither enjoyable nor admirable to Daniel Murphy‘s fourth-inning double, waiting to douse Grady Sizemore with beer through the fencing of the Mo Zone. Here’s hoping he was not only ejected but banned from Citi Field. What’s hard to understand about this? Booing the enemy is your prerogative. Trash-talking (within the bounds of decency) is perfectly acceptable and can even be good sport. Interfering with a player in the field of play? Completely unacceptable. Plus from a replay it looks like he missed. Whoever you are, dude, you even suck at being a dick.

Spare a good word for Jerry Blevins, who has an unenviable assignment: For each series, he can identify the fearsome lefty hitter or two that he’ll be called upon to confront with the game on the line. Today Blevins was perfect, erasing Odubel Herrera (who’s awfully young but looks pretty good), Utley and the still-animate corpse of Ryan Howard in a flawless eighth. Blevins has retired all eight batters he’s faced so far this year, which we’ll forget when he hits a week in which bearding lions in their dens proves more difficult.

Oh, and how about the ninth inning? If your recipe for escaping a no-out, tying-run-at-the-plate jam was for a double play put together by Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores and Jeurys Familia, you’re a braver fan than I am. It’s nice when things work out, isn’t it?

12 comments to You Can Go Home Again

  • Dave

    I’d love to see a “things I’d rather do than listen to WFAN” hashtag. You make two well advised recommendations.

    Was at the game and couldn’t see the moron trying to give Sizemore a beer shampoo, but I was in Sizemore’s place years ago at a game in Philly. Guilty of nothing more than wearing Mets apparel, I was going to be the recipient of what was probably this Phan’s 16th beer of the day, although not because he thought I might like to drink one. Thanks perhaps to the effects of the first 15, he missed.

    And I tell you, it’s more fun being at a game against the Phils when there are maybe a dozen of their fans at our park and not 15,000.

    • Ugh, sorry to hear it.

      Yes, the Phillies invasions of Citi have been galling. Here’s to hoping they’ve more than peaked.

      • Dave

        The story I told happened in the 86-88 timeframe, probably 86, when I’m sure they were as sick of thousands of Mets fans in their stadium as we became of their road trips. Used to be you’d drive down the Turnpike to these games and every other car was filled with people in Mets regalia, we’d outnumber them. When I told my wife I wanted to go to yesterday’s game and she found out it was against the Phils, she questioned my sanity but I assured her that they’re no longer worth driving 100 miles to see.

  • open the gates

    Yet another satisfying season opener. Nice to know that young Mr. deGrom has the ability to win with less than his best. Mark of a good pitcher.

    One thought that went through my mind. If the late Ralph Kiner had still been with us, how many times would he have referred to Odubel Herrera as Asdrubal Cabrera? Those are two guys who are destined to be teammates someday, if only to confound local sportscasters.

    • Daniel Hall

      Even GKR made the Asdrubal Cabrera remark at one point.

      Odubel and Asdrubal *are* both awesome names, by the way. They should be brothers. *And* teammates.

      • Left Coast Jerry

        Agree that both are awesome names, and since Odubel is a converted infielder, I would love to see Odubel and Asdrubal as a double play combination. The Awesome Name Hall of Fame could also include such great names as Oddibe McDowell, Yusmeiro Petit, Argenis Reyes, and Joe Panik.

        If anybody cares, I’m boarding a plane in Los Angeles later today and heading for the Big Apple, to spend a couple of weeks. I will probably be somewhere over Kansas when His Aceness throws the first pitch tonight. If Terry had announced in January that Harvey would be starting the game on the 14th, I probably would have booked the flight on a different day.

        • Daniel Hall

          Whatever happened to Argenis Reyes anyway? When I got into baseball I played around with a 2008 Mets start of an abandonware version of PureSim Baseball. Argenis was a very serviceable second baseman for those fictional Mets. When I started watching games in 2011, I was curious to see him play for real, but well, no luck. Hasn’t been seen in the majors since ’09.

    • Stan

      Ralph would have called him “Mookie”. :)

  • Dave

    Today was one of the first bikable mornings we’ve had here in Chicago. Riding into work and reading the FAFIF recap is the surest sign that winter is behind us. Not having baseball for six months is hard, but I probably miss the recaps as much as the actual games. Thanks for all your work and welcome back.

  • open the gates

    Well, no discussion about awesome baseball names should leave out the immortal Greg Legg, who played for the Phillies in the mid-’80’s. Not a great ballplayer, but a truly amazing moniker.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Cuddyer is quoted saying that the fans’ reaction to the 9th Inning DP “gave me goosebumps”. On so many levels that just makes my day. And welcome to New York Michael.

  • Pat

    One New York fan added something neither enjoyable nor admirable to Daniel Murphy‘s fourth-inning double, waiting to douse Grady Sizemore with beer through the fencing of the Mo Zone … Plus from a replay it looks like he missed.

    Worst of all, he committed the unpardonable sin of spilling the beer.