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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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This Is NOT a Drill (OK, Actually It Is a Drill)

Noah Syndergaard had just finished retiring 19 of his last 20 batters faced and was sitting in the visiting dugout in Atlanta, perhaps thinking about his ninth win of the season. Tyler Clippard was on the mound, squinting in at Travis d’Arnaud with that little lip curl of his, trying to navigate through some wildness. The tying run was at the plate in the person of Adonis Garcia. I was sitting on the couch, watching the proceedings with moderate interest.

And then Garcia connected, a ball that was not just instantly and obviously gone but a candidate to land in the Atlantic Ocean. The game was tied. This was not a drill. Perhaps it was time to come down from our little orange and blue cloud.

Except a couple of minutes later d’Arnaud had whacked a long fly that Nick Markakis played into a double, Eric Young Jr. had run for d’Arnaud, and Kelly Johnson had coolly slapped a ball into right to restore the Met lead and order.

Just kidding, everybody! It really was a drill!

(Perhaps this would be a good time for a historically minded wave to Edgardo Alfonzo and Ken Boswell?)

The Mets’ nominal pursuers, the Nationals, will be playing tomorrow to stay over .500. If the Mets go a wretched 7-13 the rest of the way, the Nats will have to go 17-4 to claim the division. That’s not impossible, but there’s being cautious and there’s being crazy. I once saw the Mets hit into an unassisted triple play to end a game they’d seemed poised to win. It sucked, but it doesn’t mean that every time there are Met runners on first and second with nobody out I go into the fetal position.

If you want to gnaw your fingernails about something, it would be far more logical to look at the Dodgers, currently boasting an 81-60 record compared to the Mets’ 81-61. That unofficial mini-race could determine if home games are played at Citi or in Chavez Ravine; the Mets hold the tiebreaker, having won the season series four games to three.

Beyond that, here’s a cool little fact I want to mention now, because I suspect we’ll be too busy/frantic/euphoric/miserable to care much about it later: Forty-eight men have played in a game for the 2015 New York Mets. By the time the regular season ends, the count will rise to 49, unless Tim Stauffer becomes the 10th ghost in club history.*

Of those 48 (or 49) Mets, an amazing 19 are alumni of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Here’s the list, in order of 2015 matriculation: Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jeurys Familia, Rafael Montero, Dillon Gee, Eric Campbell, Daniel Muno, Kevin Plawecki, Hansel Robles, Jack Leathersich, Darrell Ceciliani, Bobby Parnell, Akeel Morris, Jenrry Mejia, Michael Conforto (last year!), and Dario Alvarez. And none of those players wore a BC on their caps during some asterisk-worthy rehab assignment — those 19 residencies are all legit.

When the Cyclones opened for official Met-related business in 2001, we were warned to temper our expectations, to keep in mind that out of a given year’s crop of players, one or two might eventually make the majors. Now, nearly 40% of this year’s big-league roster came through Brooklyn. That’s a fun thing to keep in mind next summer, as you’re biting into a Nathan’s dog and eyeing the Wonder Wheel beyond the fence down in Coney Island.

* The ghosts will be listed here for posterity, and because further research has shown previous Faith and Fear in Flushing posts on the subject to be lamentably incorrect. The Met ghosts are Jim Bibby (1969 and 1971), Randy Bobb (1970), Billy Cotton (1972, never played in major leagues), Jerry Moses (1975), Terrel Hansen (1992, never played in major leagues), Mac Suzuki (1999), Anderson Garcia (2006), Ruddy Lugo (2008), and Al Reyes (2008). Justin Speier, once counted as a Met ghost, turns out to have spent his entire Met tenure in procedural limbo, never having been added to the roster, and thus must content himself with being a ghost of a ghost. Good luck to the aforementioned Mr. Stauffer in escaping the spectral ranks.

46 comments to This Is NOT a Drill (OK, Actually It Is a Drill)

  • Eric

    20 games over .500. For a long time, the measure of success was whether the Mets would get back to 10 games over .500, or .500 since the 13-3 start. They’ve doubled it.

    4 straight strong starts, albeit 3 of them were against the Braves. Niese is auditioning for his play-off role. I’m rooting for him. As much as he’s endured as a Met since 2008, to come this close to the play-offs, but then lose his chance to start a play-off game would be a shame.

    The Nationals have turned into the 2007-2008 Mets. If Scherzer loses to Hand tomorrow and Niese beats Weber, the Mets will have gained 6.5 games on the Nationals in 7 days. The Mets’ largest lead all season before this week was 6.5 games.

    Clippard has been overused and it showed last night. I hope Collins gives him the Marlins series off as well as tomorrow off.

  • Matt in Woodside

    After that three run HR, I thought “Clippard is tired. Should have rested him. They’ll probably still win in 9.” And it happened like clockwork. Can’t remember the last time I felt that about the Mets. Probably nine years ago. Tough luck for Syndergaard, but man he looked awesome.

    Also great shoutout to the Cyclones. I still can’t believe I saw Conforto at MCU just last summer. What a great transition to the majors.

    • Eric

      Me, too.

      If the Braves had taken an 8th inning lead, I might have worried, but for these Mets, while playing a team like the Braves are right now, a tie feels like a lead that’s waiting around the corner.

      It feels like karma when a seemingly catchable fly ball eludes a good outfielder like Markakis. Nothing lucky about Johnson’s RBI single, though.

      Collins runs his favorite relievers into the ground. I was disappointed if not surprised when Collins opted for Clippard in that spot given his heavy recent workload, including the 41-pitch effort last Sunday. His control has been off and he’s looked for a while like he needs a few games off. When his bread-and-butter change-up starts to float in belt-high, they become HR derby pitches.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Great line about not going into the fetal position every time the Mets have runners on first and second with no outs. I’ve been puzzled by the amount of pessimism and gloom displayed by many Mets fans over the past month. Every (rare) Mets loss or Nats win would lead to garment rending and teeth gnashing. I guess I just feel bad for the fans who haven’t been able to enjoy the totality of this amazing season. I think this club has earned (and had earned quite a while ago) a little more faith and a little less fear.

    • Matt….weren’t you around in 2007 and 2008? Do you not remember how they managed to lose the Eastern division both of those years to the Phitin Phillies in late September? And also miss out on a wild card playoff by one game. Getting more and more confident every day,but until they lock it up, those memories are still strong.

      • Matt in Richmond

        Please sir, respectfully, please don’t mention those years. This team has absolutely nothing to do with those teams. The manager is different, the players are different (DW excepting), they even play on a different field. If the team had lost a late lead in the last year or two and featured many of the same players then an analogy could maybe be drawn. Basing ones feelings, expectations and/or concerns for this team on one that has no correlation with another besides a name and uniform is superstition on such a level that an exorcism may be in order.

  • Daniel Hall

    I have a strange feeling. Like… things easing up? All those worries, and fear, and angst dissipating … and what remains you might call … confidence?

    I absolutely need to watch those NLDS games at ungodly Pacific Coast Times at four in the morning. Better start schoomzing up to my boss tomorrow to get some mornings off in October. Anybody know a great recipe for a chocolate cake or something like that?

    • Eric

      It’s not just the Mets winning that inspires confidence. It’s more than the Nationals simply losing. It’s the ways the Nationals are losing, ways that are familiar to traumatized Mets fans.

      Losing late leads in critical games, including a 6-run inning with 2 outs? We can empathize.

      The baseball curse, whammy, maloik, or whatever you want to call it that has haunted the Mets since Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS seems to have been done with the Mets with the July 30 rain-delay loss to the Padres and passed from the Mets to the Nationals with the July 31 Flores game-winning HR.

  • Inside Pitcher

    When the game ended last night, Howie Rose announced that the magic number was Boswell.

  • Steve D

    The first time I hinted of an echo to 1969, I felt silly doing it. Now it feels like it would be openly embraced…amazing young starters…early 11 game winning streak…mid-season doldrums…acquisition of a hitter that ignites second half blitzkrieg. They can’t win 100 games…they won’t even try as they will rest so many people, but I do hope there is a way to edge out LA.

  • mikey

    I agree with old geezer….and the fact that 5.5 games were made up in 6 days tells you its possible….although you could argue this mets team is
    just flat out better than nats. Still 2007 and 2008 have scars. But this feels really good. And we should absolutely be angling for home field against the dodgers right now. If the keep fighting for that at least they should keep their hold on the division

    • Eric

      Right. The Nationals had chopped off 2.5 games in 4 days going into the head-to-head series while the Mets had stumbled in their last 3 series, and with the Mets headed into DC, the Nationals had lined up their best pitchers and were threatening to take the Mets lead down to 1 or 3 games followed by an easier schedule for the stretch run. The Mets starting pitching was in flux and the middle relief was in shambles.

      In other words, it was still a tense pennant race at this time on Monday. Even among the inveterately (and unusually) optimistic Mets fans, few would have predicted the Mets would gain 5.5 games in the standings over the next 6 days, instead.

      The faith is setting in less from how the Mets are playing, although the Mets are playing comfortably well, than the growing realization that it’s not a race anymore due to what’s happened to the opponent. The Nationals are a broken team. Even with the sweep loss, the Nationals could have gathered their pride to make a final do-or-die charge on their easy remaining schedule. Instead, their lifeless efforts against the Marlins are telling of a team that’s folded.

  • mikey

    Btw off topic….did any of you see chris Davis break his bat on the ground after being intentionally hit by the royals? Whoa…..I bet nobody does that again. He stood there for a second with a sawed off handle in his hands….before tossing it away. It was awesome though probably not for the pitcher who may have stained his uniform

    • Matt in Richmond

      My brother told me about it so I looked it up. It was impressively frightening, though still not as awe inspiring as Bo Jackson’s effortless snapping of a bat on his knee as if it was a small twig.

  • Lots of mentions about the magic number being a Darling, Boswell, Stearns or Lagares…

    … but none about Kent or Alomar :)

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Jim Bibby. The only ghost to participate in a division-clinching celebration:

    At 7.27:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc865NM7uLU

  • Matt in Richmond

    Side note on above, I know quite a few guys have snapped bats on their knees since (including Chris Davis), but every one I’ve seen they’ve put a ton of effort into. The one I’m referring to, Bo did while playing for the Chisox, and he barely put any effort at all into it. Just crazy. Also, while cool, I’m not quite as impressed with his breaking the bat on his helmet because that bat was already broken.

  • Mikey

    Hey matt….I know where you are coming from but its not quite superstition yet. This is a very different team indeed but I cant be 100 percent excited just yet….maybe 97 but thats not 100. Thats all!

    • Eric

      It ain’t over til it’s over.

      Certainly, Collins is still running Clippard and Familia out there like there’s no tomorrow if the Mets don’t win today.

  • 9th string catcher

    I love how the Mets are doing, but they can ease up when magic number is 3 with 15 games left. Don’t forget we have the goddamn Marlins and Yankees next week not to mention a tired rotation and two overused bullpen guys. I mean, my brain says the Nats are dead and buried, but my paranoia from watching this team for 4 decades says otherwise.

    And how much do you love Cespedes? Guy patently refuses to let Terry take him out yesterday. Cranks HRs every night. NY is a good fit for this guy.

    Still not confident yet. Nope. Not yet.

    • Eric

      I agree with that.

      The Marlins who are playing spoiler now look more like the team predicted pre-season to compete with the Mets for 2nd place in the division and the 2nd wildcard. They play the Mets and the Nationals this coming week and will have a lot to say about the courses of the last of the season for both teams.

      After today’s game, the Mets go home to play 3 against the Marlins, have an off day, and play 3 against the Yankees. Over the same days, the Nationals play 3 at the Phillies and 4 at home against the Marlins.

      This coming week is the Nationals’ last realistic chance to make the division race anxious for the Mets, ie, come back within range of making the final series meaningful.

      As you noted, the Mets are interested in more than winning right now. They’re trying to rest starters and key relievers and sort out the bullpen for the play-offs. The two goals contradict. Particularly for the key relievers, Collins will wear them out until the division is clinched. Time off for veterans playing hurt like Murphy, Duda, and Cuddyer is important, too.

      As such, setting aside the possibility of a furious comeback by the Nationals while the Mets suffer a 2007-type collapse, just by staying close enough to the Mets, the Nationals can play spoiler by compelling the Mets to abandon their post-season preparation plans by riding worn and hurt players who need the time off ahead of the NLDS.

  • alfred

    I just read an article which listed the Nat players represented by Boras. Maybe he runs that team.

  • eric1973

    Clippard and Familia are fine. They are young guys who, relatively speaking, have hardly pitched at all this year (because they are relievers). So Clippard had a couple of rough games. Familia had a rough 6 weeks, but is back to where he was…
    Happens…

    On to Garrett and Dyer today.

  • wooferson

    RULE CHANGE:
    Why should the pitcher who gives up the tying runs then go on to get the win. In a rational and benevolent world, the reliever should bequeath the win to Syndergaard for an outstanding performance more than worthy of the W.

    • vertigone

      The pitcher W-L stat is 100% worthless as a metric, but many people cling to it because they grew up with it. I’m convinced that’s the only reason it’s still cited at all, because there’s certainly no credibility to what it tells you.

      Syndergaard – 7 IP, 2 Hits, 1 BB, 8 K’s, 1 Run = No Decision
      Clippard – 1 IP, 2 Hits, 1 BB, 1 K, 3 Runs = Winning Pitcher!

      Shelby Miller of the Braves has a 2.86 ERA, which is 6th best in the league, but his W-L record is 5-14. So is he good or does he stink?

      I wish they would stop with this nonsense.

  • eric1973

    Interesting concept. Under normal circumstances, the victory would go to the most effective pitcher AFTER the fellow who blows the lead. However, since Familia values the SAVE more than the victory, it had to be Clippard.

    You may be correct. Perhaps baseball needs to go BACKWARDS, and give it to the pitcher most effective before Clippard.

    • Matt

      No. It goes to the pitcher who recorded the last out before the winning run(s) scored. The ONLY time they use the vague measure of “most effective reliever” is when the starter fails to go 5 innings.

      • wooferson

        It’s still a foolish and antiquated rule. We need a Bill James mind to create something new and reward the starter for his efforts…nobody pays attention to the box score anymore. Thor gets the win (in my book.)

  • open the gates

    Being a Met fan is a chronic case of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even ’86 had its Game 6. That time, the shoe didn’t drop. But we were still one strike away from losing the best season we ever had.

    Logically, we shouldn’t worry. But since when does logic have anything to do with it.

    That said, this has been, thus far, the most awesome season in many moons. LGM!

    • Eric

      Also, it’s baseball. The Yankees track record across town of consistently winning when they look like they ought to win is not normal.

  • eric1973

    It MAY matter a lot whether we get home field advantage over LA.

    Kershaw/Greinke is less daunting in Flushing than at Chavez Ravine.

    Don’t go crazy, TC, but do not give Monell/Campbell, etc, too many starts.

  • I understand where you are coming from Matt, but there are franchises (Atlanta for about 15 straight years winning the NL East) (the Yankees from ’96 to the middle of the first decade of the 2000s) who changed many of the personnel and still continued to win. And on the other side there are the Cubs, Mets and formerly the Red Sox who tried every sort of voodoo and magic to change their fortunes with no luck until they finally emerged from the dust and turned things around. I see that happening with these Mets, but I was there when Glavine gave up 7 runs n the first inning to the Marlins on the last day of the season. Let me keep my skepticism for a little while longer, all the time rooting and cheering these new Mets on.

    • Eric

      What Matt in Richmond gets wrong, or at least interprets differently than the rest of us, is that he insists on viewing the 2007 Mets collapse in isolation.

      It doesn’t exist in isolation, though. The 2007 Mets collapse was a featured episode of a continuum that sparked when the hitherto clutch Valentin struck out with the bases loaded after the Chavez catch. It set in when the hitherto clutch Beltran froze looking at strike 3 on the Wainwright curveball. And it broke free with the 2007 Mets collapse. When the Mets lost a late lead again in 2008, we knew it for what it was.

      It’s true that most of the players, management, and even the home field have changed since 2008. But the 2007 Mets collapse didn’t go away. It became the 2008 Mets collapse which became six losing seasons of LOLMets on the same continuum.

      If anything, changing ballparks wasn’t a cure because Citi Field didn’t have Shea’s immune system built on play-offs and championships past. Until now, Citi Field only knew the continuum of LOLMets that followed the 2007 Mets collapse.

      This season is an exorcism. Or it’s a penicillin course where it’s important to carefully take every pill – worry over every integer of the magic number – on the schedule, especially when we start feeling better, lest the disease enflame worse than ever.

      The 2007 Mets collapse may be in its dying throes now in the prolifically talented hands of the young stud starters, young stud closer, and ¡Cespedes!, but we won’t know for sure we’re cured of it until the magic number is 0.

      • Matt

        Sorry, I just don’t buy it. What you are alluding to is some sort of “curse” or “spell” or something ethereal and otherworldly. I don’t believe that Beltran got caught looking at strike 3 because he wore a cursed Mets uniform. He just struck out. Every ballplayer does from time to time. The reality is that this years Mets team has demonstrated toughness and resiliency since Day 1, has had fantastic starting pitching and above average bullpen pitching all year, and for the past 6-7 weeks or so has had the best offense in the NL. All reasons for optimism over pessimism, joy over sorrow, faith over fear. If some of you want to believe in witchy curses and follow the team in a constant state of terror waiting for the other shoe to drop that’s your prerogative, but it doesn’t sound like much fun to me.

        • Rob E

          I’m with you. Fans also seem to forget years like ’88, and 2006 where they ran away with the division pretty much untouched, years like ’73 and ’99 where there were bitter pennant races that we won (including an on-the-road tiebreaker in ’99), and 2000, where they went to the Series from the Wild Card spot. The horrible losses leave long-lasting scars, but they HAVE risen to the occasion a time or two.

        • Eric

          These 2015 Mets resiliently now ruthlessly ripping apart and burning the 2007 Mets collapse and malignant legacy the 2008 Mets collapse and 6 years of LOLMets – chunk by odious chunk – game by gleeful game – is a fine pleasure for a Mets fan.

  • Eric

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/managers/collite99.shtml

    A factor in the Mets’ approach down the stretch that is mentioned but not highlighted is Collins’s selfish motivation as a manager.

    Collins is a baseball lifer in his mid-60s. In his first go around as manager, he failed to reach the play-offs. He lost late-season division leads and helmed losing teams.

    Over a decade later, when Alderson assigned him to manage the Mets in 2011, Collins was a forgotten also-ran as a manager who came over from the development side to shepherd a rebuilding team.

    Collins is now on the last year of his contract as manager and the Mets are contending, no longer rebuilding. In his mid-60s, this is the last stage of Collins’s career, which he’s invested into this Mets team reaching this point.

    Collins is likely living his last chance to manage a major-league winner. Here and now is his legacy in baseball.

    Veteran players with the end of their careers in sight will sacrifice for a last chance to win a championship. What will Collins sacrifice as manager down the stretch and then in the play-offs for his last chance to win a championship?

    • Matt

      A goat? A virgin?

    • Not buying that Terry’s managed selfishly. He’s rested his veterans strategically all year instead of riding them too hard. The bullpen’s been a little different, but Terry’s rationale in recent use of Clippard and Familia has been to use them when the Nats have lost. You can argue with that, but I wouldn’t call it crazy. And they’ve been both marked as unavailable today.

      I think Terry deserves a lot of credit for how he’s kept guys rested. I don’t think he’ll change his ways in this final stretch. Here’s hoping it gives the Mets a bit of extra advantage.

  • eric1973

    No, Matt, you’re wrong about the victory rule, but so was I.

    I believe that since Familia was the only reliever, and eligible for the save, he gets the save. Period.

    However:
    If there were an effective reliever in between Clippard and Familia, he would have gotten the WIN. Happens all the time.

  • dmg

    can we agree that the win today — as improbable as any this year — maybe allows us to step down from defcon 4, at least where the division is concerned?

    congrats to the team on its first winning season since, yep, 2008. continue with your exorcisms.

    • Eric

      Today’s game exemplified the exorcistic theme of the season, hunting down to slay the demon that has possessed the Mets for 8 years.

      Collins deployed a B line-up, started a struggling B pitcher, and backed him up with B relievers in a game that eventually featured the 3 2008 rookies against an awful opponent with little notion of winning the game of their own accord. Collins opened the door. The Mets’ real opponent this game was LOLMets rather than the hapless Braves. All game, they were assailed by LOLMets, grappled, and prevailed. The week’s 4th come-from-behind win was mounted with the Nationals’ win on the scoreboard.

      We just experienced a special week in Mets history and today’s win capped it perfectly. Magic number cut from 23 to 11. At 0, the 2007 Mets collapse and its metastatic progeny die. The exorcism continues.

  • eric1973

    Thor gets credit for a ‘Quality Start,’ a fairly new lame stat. Can’t give everyone a trophy, it ain’t Little League.

  • eric1973

    How exactly does it benefit the Mets when TC announces that Clippard or Familia are ‘unavailable.’

    It gives ammunition to the opponent, if nothing else making them feel like they have a very good chance to win. Why tell your opponent you are going into battle shorthanded?

    Always thought TC and Sandy were kooks for allowing this to take place.

  • […] their way to the coronation. Yes, the ’07 Mets fell through the trap door, but I’ll refer you back to my point about seeing runners on first and second and none out and living in terror of the unassisted triple […]