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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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Mets Being Mets & Sometimes Not

What are the Mets historically on the field of play if not outstanding pitching, reliable defense and frustrating offense whose capability for power and speed emerges mostly in sporadic fashion? This is their personality profile through the years. Some seasons the composition varies, but this is what one has been conditioned to expect if things are going reasonably well.

On Thursday afternoon, the Mets were relatively true to who the Mets tend to be and things wound up going more than reasonably well. There were three components of their game against the Cardinals that stood out.

1) Jacob deGrom threw a Metsian start in the best sense of the phrase: Eight innings (that might have been — gasp! — nine except for concerns over body part soreness) in which he gave up one hit and no walks while striking out eleven. Allowing no earned runs, striking out double-digit opponents and walking nobody is a rarity in franchise annals. Tom Seaver had a start like that once; we know it as the Imperfect Game of July 9, 1969. Matt Harvey, two years ago as he unspooled the White Sox, had a start like that once. R.A. Dickey in that mythic 2012 one-hitter at St. Petersburg that the Mets clumsily attempted to litigate into a no-hitter also had that kind of start once. Now deGrom has one.

And those guys are it. Four pitchers, four starts matching the statistical criteria at hand. But a lot of starts in the Mets backstory were proximate enough to what deGrom did. This is who the Mets were the first time they were a pretty good to very good team. They pitched so well you couldn’t believe they didn’t win. Sometimes you had to believe it because they hit so poorly, they couldn’t score. it’s an identity they keep coming back to as if by reflex.

2) The Mets hit into four double plays in the first six innings, while Juan Lagares ended one of those other two innings by getting picked off first and thrown out at second. As Jacob was getting stronger, potential rallies on his behalf were getting snuffed out left and right, leading to the possibility he was in for a matinee version of what afflicted his staffmate Monday night. Harvey pitched great for eight innings; the Mets scored one run; Jeurys Familia gave it back in the ninth.

By the time the Mets fell victim to their fourth twin-killing, they had provided deGrom with two entire runs, so maybe the worst wouldn’t happen. Or maybe some Cardinal named Mark or Matt would detonate whatever portions of Citi Field they inadvertently left standing Tuesday and Wednesday when 19 Redbirds flew across the plate.

3) Lucas Duda blasted two home runs. I mean blasted. Maybe not Mark Reynolds “go see if the Iron Triangle has a dent in it” blasted, but authoritative and effective enough to count for four RBIs in bold type. John Mayberry’s second RBI grounder of the week notwithstanding, Lucas accounted for and embodied the bulk of the Met offense on Thursday. You’re not shocked to learn Lucas Duda hit a home run. You’re surprised but not stunned to learn Lucas Duda hit two home runs in the same game. Just on Mets fan instinct and roster DNA, you’re shocked that a Met is capable of hitting two home runs in any one game.

The New York Mets have traditionally been where imported lumber turns limp on arrival and where growing our own has yielded mostly a buzzkill. The powerful exceptions to the rule have been thrilling because they so rarely break the mold. Duda is a mold of his own. We saw it in the second half of last year. We got a big, hearty glimpse of it again Thursday. It was indeed thrilling. Duda’s two homers complemented rather than stole the thunder from deGrom’s eight brilliant innings. They obscured the DPs, the CS, the general lack of speed and the defense that’s nothing special outside of center field.

When the Mets reach an occasional apex, they have the kind of Harvey/deGrom pitching we automatically identify with them because we were exposed to Seaver or Gooden or have been taught to assume they represented the norm. When the Mets are so good that you never worry that they’re going to go bad, they have more Lagareses than Floreses in the field. When the Mets’ goal is winning rather than finishing, it usually means that somewhere along the way they got lucky and found a Mookie or a Jose to run the hell out of the bases. If the Mets have it all going on, it’s likely somebody like Strawberry or Piazza has emerged to regularly threaten the other team’s pitchers. And when the lower-case wild cards fall into place — the unhittable middle reliever, the lefty pinch-hitter who inevitably comes through, the scrap-heap veteran who suddenly fills a gaping void in the lineup — that’s when the Mets redefine “the Mets” completely for the better.

Those aren’t the Mets we are programmed from experience or legend to see on a recurring basis, but when we do see them, they are a sight to behold.

We don’t really have those Mets at the moment. But Thursday, when we won 5-0, we had enough of the elements that make those kind of Mets. We had deGrom. We had Duda. We made due. We did all right.

6 comments to Mets Being Mets & Sometimes Not

  • Lou from Brazil

    As a kid, it was always fascinating that teams in baseball had an identity- it was the moment when I realized there was more nuance to the game than just throwing and trying to hit a baseball. Indeed, the Mets are a pitch first, whatever else a distant second kind of club. I recall the 80s teams even though I wasn’t a Met fan yet, and they always had great arms with a lot of guys playing out of position. It’s hard to imagine Kevin Mitchell as an infielder, for example, because my memory of him is patrolling left at Candlestick. For the Mets, it’s always been that way- Murphy and Flores are the current gen guys without true positions. Strange how a team maintains that identity, almost by design through the years. Must be something in the water. Still, when the plan comes together, it is pretty tough to beat. Exhibit A was on display with deGrom on the hill, and it was a joy to watch.

    • Dick Mitchell

      Lou…I guess the Mets decided that if Mitchell can make a barehanded catch in the outfield like he did for the Giants, then the infield shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.

  • Dick Mitchell

    Greg, nice article but your age (or lack thereof) is showing…I remember Met teams that had none of the above. Make a list. Check it twice. Nope, the Mets had none of that. Pitching? Hitting? Fielding and defense? Check across town. They might have some.

    Richie Ashburn! Ron Hunt! And the ever-present, always-wonderful-no-matter-what, Ed Kranepool! That’s what we had. And they were enough.

    Until 1969. Childhood’s End. Man on the moon. And then The Mets That Roared. That’s when their identity manifested.

    Both you and Lou from Brazil are very perceptive and can clearly pass on those observations. I’m on the other coast and your blog is how I keep track of the Mets.

    • Always enjoy hearing from a New Breeder.

      I guess point of origin informs perspective per “the norm” (if not Norm Sherry). For me, it was ’69 and the years that immediately followed, when I came to consider a normal Mets game one pitched expertly by Seaver, Koosman, Gentry, McAndrew and, a touch later, Matlack and (probably) lost 2-1. One took decent fielding for granted in those days but rarely expected hitting.

      What’s changed? I don’t necessarily expect decent fielding.

      Glad you found us. I really do appreciate first-hand pre-1969 insights.

  • Rachel

    Great piece, Greg. Mets surprise me whenever they score more than 1 run. I keep saying that the Mets are wasting great pitching. We just don’t score enough. We must be last in MLB in hitting and scoring.

    It seems that whenever the Mets acquire a veteran batter from another team, that player fails to fulfill expectations. The list is endless. You can add Granderson and Cuddyer to that. I would like the Mets to bring up two of our infielders from the minors to replace Flores and to play for Wright if he continues to miss a lot of time. There is no need to trade for a high-priced player. If we must trade for someone, I would like a Gold Glove caliber player like Cozart from the Reds, a team that may be on the verge of rebuilding.

    Anyway, I hope the Mets get a win against Burnett who is having a surprisingly good year for the Bucs.

    All the best.

    • Last night on the broadcast it was mentioned Andrew McCutchen tied the PNC Park record for homers with…Jason Bay. Chills ensued.

      I’m all for picking apart the Big Red Carcass for valuable pieces.

      Good to see you here.