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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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Come On, Let the Provin’ Begin

The team that was a surefire bet to cruise to another division title got off to a rocky start. But then they began to right the ship, they had their pitching lined up, and once September rolled around, they took dead aim at first place, inching closer and closer day by day until they were presented with an enormous head-to-head opportunity against their direct rivals.

But, alas, the 1987 Mets couldn’t overtake the team that had run in front of them all summer long, the St. Louis Cardinals.

See? Not every historical comp revolves around the 2007 Mets blowing an unblowable lead. Sometimes teams that enter September in front stay in front. Sorry I had to drag Terry Pendleton into this, but don’t you get it?

We can be the 1987 Cardinals. Or any number of LOTS of first-place teams that didn’t become second-place teams. It happens. It happens more often than the opposite. You build a lead and you earn a cushion. The Mets went into their Biggest Series In Seven Years with a cushion of four games.

They are one-third through it with a cushion of five games because they beat the Nationals, 8-5, after taking an early lead of 3-0 on solo homers off Max Scherzer by Michael Conforto, Kelly Johnson and Yoenis Cespedes; ceding a grand slam to Wilson Ramos and then another enemy tally (oy, Niese); and then storming back. The Mets made it 5-4 and 5-5 and 6-5 and 7-5 and 8-5. The best part — besides the five runs added to the three previous runs through the offensive machinations of Cespedes, David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson, Travis d’Arnaud, Ruben Tejada and let’s mention Cespedes again because it’s so much fun to realize he’s a Met who was obtained to do exactly what he’s doing — is that the Nats’ total stayed steady from the fourth through the ninth.

Jon Niese gave up five runs in the fourth, the 15th time in his career he’d given up five runs in a single inning, something no Met pitcher had ever done. Niese is a problem right now. Niese could have represented a fatal error in the company mainframe this Labor Day, but his co-workers came to his aid with vital tech support. Five Met relievers kept those five National runs very lonely. Carlos Torres (whose unmatched endurance and left calf I didn’t intend to curse), Erik Goeddel, Dario Alvarez, Hansel Robles and Jeurys Familia shut out an opposition that had gobbled up our starter and looked ravenous for more.

Well, good luck with that, Washington. No, actually, rotten luck to you. Our guys had the good luck and skill today, as the pen was mightier than the Niese (and the Nats). Hats off in particular to Goeddel for having to come in on a moment’s notice in place of a limping Torres; Alvarez for pulling a modern-day Rich Sauveur in striking out Bryce Harper after coming out of close to nowhere and making his first pitches of the season count like crazy; and Rapid Robles, whose quick-pitching drove Ryan Zimmerman to distraction…and the bench.

That was some good relief pitching. That was some good hitting, Cespedes’s (three extra base hits) and otherwise. And mostly that was some outstanding not giving up. This Mets team hasn’t heard of the 2007 Mets team. This Mets team creates its own precedent. Particularly lovable was Wright, after scoring the seventh Met run, gesticulating in fist-pumping approval in similar fashion to how he did during the last season when the Mets played games like this. That was 2008. That was seven years ago. Wright has waited a long time for this.

So have we.

Sitting down to a Labor Day contest in which the Mets were a) in first place and b) preparing to beat back the team in second place was a refreshing change of pace from all the Labor Days and all the September days we have known during this decade. I flashed back briefly to what I was doing on Labor Day two years ago. The Mets were playing the Braves. The Mets got their ass kicked slowly and repeatedly. I soaked up every goddamn pitch, wondering why I was sitting through a game as bad as that.

Now I know. It was to get to games like this and appreciate them fully.

More to come, too. We are granted no guarantees, but we have every chance to prove that 2015 is its own thing, is its own year, is its own precedent. Tomorrow night we have Harvey going. Six or twelve or some undetermined number of games after that, we might have Harvey going again. Somewhere in between, Niese might find himself. Or Niese might find himself keeping company with the other extant 2008 Met pitcher Bobby Parnell, asking from the shadows of the back of the bullpen, “Whatever became of us?” Harvey’s still a member in good standing of this rotation, just as Niese shouldn’t be professionally dead to us yet. As Jason pointed out, it was easy enough to write off Colon when he waned and he’s presently our most dependable and dynamic starter. I’m willing to give Jon the Veteran the benefit of one more start’s doubt. If he doesn’t flourish, then I’ll personally petition Scott Boras to sign him and instigate the immediate capping of his innings.

That’s a dark thought. Today is a day to look at the sunny side of life. On a Monday holiday, the Mets beat exactly who they had to beat and extended their first-place lead to five meaningful games in September.

47 comments to Come On, Let the Provin’ Begin

  • Dennis

    Brilliant column to go along with the biggest win of the year……so far. LGM!!!!

  • LA Jake

    Great win, great recap. But Jon the Veteran can have his next start next April as far as I’m concerned.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    The pen was mightier than the Niese — love it, Greg. Seriously, taking the first game of the series gives me a lot more faith and a lot less fear. Prior to the game, I was envisioning limping out of DC with a 1-game lead. That can’t happen now.

    And let’s hope Dario Alvarez has a higher up side than Rich Sauveur. He already has more career victories.

    After the game, I went to have lunch at a local fast food restaurant. I was wearing a Mets t-shirt and the 20-something kid behind the counter who took my order had a conversation with me that went something like this:
    You’re a Mets fan?
    Yes, I’ve been a Mets fan ever since they were born.
    Well, I’m a Dodgers fan. Do you see the Mets when they come to LA?
    No, I prefer to go to San Diego. It’s a much better stadium.
    Well, I’ll bet you guys miss Dickey.
    Miss Dickey? We have deGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard and Matz. Who needs Dickey?

    At least the kid got my order right.

  • Kevin from Flushing

    That “a little captain in him” entry was the first thing that came to my mind when he scored!

  • Dave

    What a roller coaster…over the course of the game, my wife wondered at least once if I might be bipolar. I said of course I am…as Greg said, we sit through the years of pain so that games like this will sink in fully. My daughter is convinced that my death certificate will give “Mets-induced heart attack” as the cause of death. But it’s real living in the meantime. I know that in a month we could be in agony, but beats the sense of entitlement they have in the Bronx.

    And if MVP is supposed to be for the player most valuable to his team, presumably helping them win, who on earth is a better candidate than Cespedes? Yes, that little shit Harper is having a nice year and is finally not the most overrated player in baseball, but Yo is carrying the 1st place team.

  • Matt in Woodside

    Great post Greg! And I meant to say earlier today, fantastic post about Harvey. Hoping he pitches well tomorrow night, and he and the team can start putting that Boras-induced debacle behind them.

  • Eric

    After the quick 2.5-game drop, today’s win pushed back against the flashback to the 5.5-game-drop-in-less-than-a-week slide in Sept 2007 that featured a 3-game Phillies sweep. No sweep for the chaser this time.

    The Mets haven’t pulled clear of the Nationals yet, though. Today’s win made up the ground lost against the Marlins while the Nationals were sweeping the Braves. Where the Mets’ lead had fallen behind the 6 head-to-head games, today’s win re-syncs the division lead with the 5 remaining head-to-head games.

    In other words, it’s still a race. The Nationals still have an easier schedule and I expect them to continue beating up bad teams. The Mets still need to hold off the Nationals with a pitching staff that has growing questions from the undependable middle relief, to Niese’s hit parade, to Harvey’s shutdown, to deGrom and Syndergaard looking gassed and pitching ordinary. Colon has stepped up big in his last 3 starts but was recently alternating good and bad starts.

    The Mets still need to win either Harvey or deGrom’s start to gain ground. A 5-game lead covers the season-ending series. Lose the next two games, though, and a 3-game lead is dicey, especially with 6 games against the Yankees and Nationals ahead. Sweep the series and a 7-game lead covers the Yankees and Nationals games.

    Today was a good start. There’s more heavy lifting needed.

  • Harvey

    They should have used Alvarez to pitch to Bourn yesterday.

  • 9th strong catcher

    If we wanted it easy, we wouldn’t be mets fans. Once more unto the breech, my friends, once more!

    • Dave

      Well put. I’ve always said, ANYBODY can be a Yankee fan, it takes no commitment, no hardship, no passion. To quote Bob Dylan, they just want to be on the side that’s winning. We’re the ones who get tested and keep coming back for more.

    • Eric

      Well, I want it easy, but as a Mets fan, I don’t expect it. I expect the other shoe to drop.

      The thing is about the 2015 Mets, the other shoe has dropped lolMets-style – add the Harvey kerfluffle to the pile – but they keep fighting back up. They’re resilient, and better yet, they’re resilient with a lot of homegrown players.

  • Steven

    The cold hard facts are the Mets are a better team than the Nats and are proving it. No need to worry about all the head-to-head games because this team is more likely to win a series vs the Nats than get swept.

    Let’s see what Harvey does tomorrow. Would be nice to see the Dark Night with the nasty attitude toward hitters.

  • John

    All I can say is this team has heart and it has been great to watch them fight back. If the Mets want to win the division they need to invade the current division winner and take the crown.

    Maybe a blessing in disguise yesterday that “mental midget” Niese will NOT pitch in the playoffs. Any adversity and he crumbles…Ugh

  • Michael G.

    Wright’s elation at scoring was great! He and Murph, veterans of the dog days, can truly appreciate this, and they are showing it.

    • Eric

      Rookie Murphy played well down the stretch in 2008. He deserves to be a major part of a post-season Mets team before his possible (likely) departure in free agency.

      Parnell and Niese were rookies in 2008, too, though they didn’t play as big a role as Murphy did on that team.

  • 9th string catcher

    I sure hope this Harvey business is not a smokescreen for an actual injury. It’s the only reason I could come up with for why Boras would make this a public issue. If he is injured, the last thing he would want to do is to go on the DL lest anyone think he’s damaged goods and missing out on a big payday. Better off coming up with an innings limit out of thin air and shut him down that way.

    • Eric

      Would Harvey take the risk of 2 more starts if he was hiding an injury?

      The simple, cynical explanation is Harvey approached this season as – as Matt in Woodside described the possibility – a rehab assignment for his future FA employer. Rehab assignments are designed wholly for the player with no account for the rehabbing team’s mission. In other words, Harvey wanted to start his rehab assignment in April, he wanted to pitch on regular rest as much as possible, and secretly, he wanted a 180-inning hard cap. The only way to get the rehab assignment on his terms was to agree to the team’s plan based on a soft innings limit that was open-ended for the play-offs and calibrated on how he feels. Apparently, Harvey feels fine. But as he approached 180 innings, Harvey simply declared a satisfactory completion of his rehab assignment while saying he assumed a Strasburg-type limit all along.

      • Rob E

        I think Boras is setting up (actually, has ALREADY set up) a future lawsuit. It’s BRILLIANT (except he’s put his client in an inexorable position). But think about it…it’s on the record that Dr. James Andrews — a respected expert and the guy who performed the surgery — has prescribed a 180-inning limit. The Mets have no choice but to sit him down now or risk getting sued if Harvey hurts his arm pretty much ever again.

        So Harvey will get his money at some point, and all it cost him was everything he ever worked for as an athlete. Score one for Corporate America. The Dark Knight is dead (if he ever existed). Hope it was worth it, Matt. Thank your agent for us.

      • Matt in Woodside

        I kind of made my “Mets as rehab assignment” comment out of exasperation following Harvey’s terrible press conference on Saturday. (If Boras stirred up this hornets nest about a hard innings cap this year, does that mean he’s going to make more noise in 2016 about limiting Harvey’s innings to 200? At what point will Boras view a standard starting workload as non “abusive?” My guess is it’s around the time that he cashes in on this particular big-name client in 2019.)

        For now at least, I’m satisfied with Harvey’s statement that he does plan to pitch in the playoffs if the Mets make it, and I’m looking forward to his start tonight. I still think Boras is an obnoxious, noisy man, and I can’t for the life of me understand what his end-game is/was with this. He threw a live grenade into the New York tabloids and his own client had to land on top of it. The tough-as-nails image has been a bit diminished.

        • Dave

          But at what point is Boras shooting himself in the foot…then he’s got a client who has a reputation of being fragile, can’t give you innings…not the type of pitcher anyone’s going to give a $200M 10-year contract to. And Boras doesn’t need an end game. Either Harvey doesn’t live up to the hype and he can blame the Mets, or he does, and he reaps the benefits with his cut off the big contract. He was taking advantage of the NY media…if with the 7th pick in the 2010 draft, Harvey had been picked by Minnesota or Colorado or someone like that, Boras wouldn’t have been able to make so big an explosion as he did here.

          Owners have colluded before. Think of how nice it would be to see them all collude against Boras clients.

        • Rob E

          I still think he’s going to sit, except now they’ve managed to make it the Mets decision instead of Harvey’s. The Mets can’t risk being on the hook for future damages no matter what the player says. The ante has been upped for ALL pitchers from here on out. It’s not just that pitchers get hurt, the question moving forward will be “did the team contribute to the injury and are they liable for lost future wages?” What team is going to want to be on the hook for THAT in the age of $200 million contracts? I think this is a game-changer on a much bigger scale than people realize right now….not just for the Mets, but for EVERYBODY.

          Unfortunately for Harvey, the fans aren’t going to be very sympathetic after the way this all went down. We all lose on this one.

        • Eric

          Harvey’s PT statement helps, but the 2 positions still don’t mesh.

          180 innings plus regular play-off load makes more sense with the soft limit in the Mets’ plan, but as you first reacted, it doesn’t fit if Harvey has a hard cap.

          As long as Harvey pitches where he’s needed, I can accept the inconsistency, but it remains to be seen how the gap is resolved.

          • Matt in Richmond

            While you guys anguish with all your cynical theories and half informed conclusions I will be rooting Matt on as he helps push us towards the playoffs. (A position we wouldn’t be in without his yeoman efforts by the way).

          • Matt in Woodside

            @Matt in Richmond,
            For sure. I’m looking forward to his start tonight, and I hope he and the team can find some way for him to contribute in October if the Mets make it there. But IMO the theories and the grousing about innings limits are legit topics of conversation now. The whole mess is the definition of a distraction (for fans, for the media, and at least during the series in Miami, the team). Boras made sure of that. Winning last night certainly helped change the conversation a bit. Winning tonight would really help put it behind the team for now.

            Over at Grantland, Professional Mets Troll Michael Baumann has a column that strains to make this a story about a terrible organization planning to risk ruining the career of a promising talent because the Wilpons are cheap and evil. The column made me angry, but it clarified some of my thinking on this personally, and here it is: Harvey is an entertainer. Over multiple seasons now, I have become invested in the narrative arc of his career, and the careers of several of his teammates. I remember the “Harvey’s better” chant, I remember getting excited about all of his starts in 2013, and I remember how disappointed I was when I heard he was being shut down and would probably need TJ surgery.

            And, regardless of the innings limits and the pitch counts and the six man rotations, etc. etc., I was thrilled with his comeback season until that press conference on Saturday. Because Harvey, like all the young pitchers on this staff, is so close to reaching that part of the story where he gets his first taste of the playoffs. And he didn’t even sound disappointed that he might miss out this year. The whole episode, Boras and all, reminded me that sometimes this game is also a story about hundreds of millions of dollars being awarded to winners of the arm lottery.

          • Eric

            It’s upsetting that Harvey didn’t seem bothered that his agent threw a turd into the pool to stink up the party.

            It’s more bothersome because in terms of wrangling over Harvey’s remaining regular-season workload, the controversy seems unwarranted.

            Under the Mets’ plan for Harvey, with a 2nd skipped start and a six-man rotation, Harvey was only scheduled for 4 more starts. A 180-inning hard cap means 2 more starts.

            The current compromise is apparently 2 starts + Harvey’s scheduled season-ending start vs Nationals if needed to win the division. That’s 3 starts. (Limiting Harvey to his start tonight and then his last scheduled start if the division is on the line would mean a near 1-month gap between starts, which is problematic for a pitcher who’s complained about being off rhythm due to an extra day off between starts.) It’s easy to believe Harvey would have been skipped for his last start anyway if the Mets had clinched or been eliminated early.

            In other words, if Harvey will take on a regular play-off workload regardless, then all this fuss is over 1 regular-season start only.

            Given the Mets’ careful attitude towards Harvey’s comeback, it’s hard to believe the two sides couldn’t work out any difference over one start behind the scenes. If there even was a difference to work out – before the controversy, the Mets hadn’t ruled out a 3rd skipped start for Harvey.

            Per your point that Harvey didn’t seem much bothered by the cost of missing the post-season, the controversy only seems warranted if Harvey intended to cap his season strictly at 180 innings, even if his last start was needed to win the division, and then skip the post-season, too, since that difference could potentially grow a lot bigger than 1 start.

  • sturock

    It just behooves the Mets to win tonight, win tomorrow, rebuild the big lead, and try to get Harvey (and Syndergaard and deGrom) some extra rest down the stretch. Everything else is a Boras-induced distraction.

    No one expected this to be an issue because, really, no one expected the Mets to be contending at this point. Everyone figured the innings limit would kick in as the Mets were quietly finishing off another irrelevant season. Thankfully, that’s not how it’s turning out.

    And, to change the subject, the Mets must sign Cespedes this off-season. What a great fit he is!

    • Eric

      He’s been a game-changer.

      On the double to RF that scored Wright, see Harper run across to catch the ball before he realizes how hard hit it was. That ball whistled by him to the wall.

      In addition to what Cespedes does personally on offense, playing CF – well – opened a regular spot in the line-up for Conforto, so trading for Cespedes was like adding 2 high-end bats to the line-up. Plus the Mets kept Flores who’s been hitting like he was projected.

      He’s probably only a rental, but what a rental he’s been.

  • Will in Central NJ

    Seeing the sun rise slightly later, and set slightly earlier, combined with meaningful Mets September games, gives me a tingly feeling. Let’s go Mets!

  • Rob E

    Excellent discussion on this situation between Buster Olney & Jayson Stark (with input from Adam Rubin). Well worth the time if you’ve got about 30 minutes:

  • Matt in Richmond

    What an exhilarating win! The icing on the cake was seeing the captain come through with the huge clutch hit, then race around the bases to score from first with a PERFECT slide. That was why he put in all those hard yards rehabbing for 4 months. Beautiful. LGM!

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Now they are talking about Playoff Starts but with a 60 pitch limit. This I want to see. I want to see the fan reaction when Harvey is pulled in the 5th inning of a 1-1 Playoff Game at Citi Field. In fact, as of now, that’s what I’m rooting for. F.U. Matt.

  • eric1973

    Love Flores – wish he was a fulltime starter at Tejada’s expense, though Tejada has been decent.

    Boras only cares about 1 person, and it is NOT Harvey — it’s BORAS only!

    Imagine the feathers in his cap if he can portray to potential clients that he makes organizations buckle to his every whim.

    • Matt in Richmond

      Flores is great, & I was thrilled that they kept him. He still is a defensive liability at SS though. TC has done a great job getting Flores his ABs and limiting his time at SS, & Tejada has actually been better than expected (in a limited role).

    • Eric

      Tejada is odd.

      He looks like he should profile as a slick-fielding, athletic SS who can run and get a bunt down. The Mets could use that kind of SS.

      But he’s not.

      He’s not fast and not particularly athletic. He may be more agile than Flores but not by much. He bunts as poorly as every other Met.

      Tejada is the closest thing the Mets have to a defensive SS only because he’s their only true SS, but he’s a shaky fielder. Good arm. But mediocre range and he flubs routine plays.

      His one major-league strength, when he’s on his game, is he grinds his at-bats, which is a good skill for an 8 hitter. It’s also an important skill in the play-offs.

  • eric1973

    Pretty cool how Cespedes consistently swings at Ball Four, and hits it over the fence.

  • mikeL

    i’m rooting for harvey to be his most bad-ass dominant self tonite. i want him to feel strong and ready for the rest of the season and the short one that follows – whatever that may bring.
    all of the inning limits, 60 pitch playoff starts are nothing if the mets don’t take care of business tonite and tomorrow and beyond.
    i’d be more bummed about this whole spectacle if we didn’t have degrom, syndergaard and matz.
    as for cespedes, it is mildly intriguing to imagine what the team would look like with him manning center for several years! has any other player had a bigger impact on a team’s (sudden) success than him? MVP!
    may he and the team go on a run that would make it impossible not to sign him.
    my fantasy: ticker-tape in the am; press conference in the afteroon, ticker tape still in his hair as he puts on his 52 jersey.
    first things first…

  • Ed Rising

    David Wright getting that hit to drive in go ahead run and then coming around to score on Cespedes’ double was incredible. I so want to see David back to form and contributing to this team again! It is another in a series of feel good stories in this Mets team. I do worry about what our pitching rotation would be sans Harvey going forward and will enjoy this run with an eye on 2016 when we can be stronger and better. We will need Cespedes, Murphy, Clippard resigned as major priorities.

    • mikeL

      yes, how could i leave out the wright slide/safe call/fist pump?
      that was a beautiful and epic moment and one that a couple of months back – with david using a chair for support during his press conference – i didn’t imagine we’d ever see.
      here’s to another great win tonite!

  • eric1973

    If we, and Dwight Gooden, didn’t unleash a torrent of shitrain all over Boras and Harvey, we would all be saying goodbye to him after 180.

    Don’t let up, folks….

  • 9th string catcher

    OK, enough Harvey crap. Cespedes just gave the Mets more time to negotiate! Given the Mets reluctance to spend, probably unlikely to re-sign, but love the gesture. Boy, has he been incredible to watch! Power, speed, defense and rock star attitude.

  • Eric

    Mets roll out their prime line-up for the 1st time tonight, although it’s not up to speed yet with Duda just back and Murphy playing hurt. I prefer to bat Cespedes 3rd or 4th, but that’s a minor quibble. When a hitter is hitting as well as Flores but he’s legitimately the 8th hitter, that’s a line-up that makes me happy.

    Curtis Granderson, RF
    Yoenis Cespedes, CF
    Daniel Murphy, 2B
    David Wright, 3B
    Lucas Duda, 1B
    Travis d’Arnaud, C
    Michael Conforto, LF
    Wilmer Flores, SS
    Matt Harvey, RHP

  • eric1973

    Flores’ defense ain’t bad enough to sit him in favor of Tejada. Tejada is the Bobby Parnell of SS. He keeps getting the job by default, and then is not good enough to hold it.

    But if Tejada does play, he needs to get rid of that sit-spin move. Usually, he pulls the glove back too soon, and the catchable balls go right by him. Ole!

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