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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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Toss It On the Pile With the Rest of Them

World War II ended in 1945, yet there were handfuls of particularly stubborn Japanese soldiers in far-flung outposts who hadn’t gotten word or refused to believe what they were told about their nation’s surrender. One, Hiroo Onoda, was found to still be fighting a war that was no longer in progress as late as 1974.

And if you’re waiting for a Met collapse, there might be a jungle in the Philippines with your name on it.

The eight-year battle against inevitable humiliation is about to be settled in earnest, comrades. Come in from the isthmus and grab a remote control so you can watch the glorious conclusion for yourselves. The post-September 30, 2007, world we’ve inhabited far too long is rapidly giving way to a brighter day.

Technically, the Mets haven’t won anything in 2015 besides 82 games (for the first time since 2008) and a commanding advantage over whoever our archrival was supposed to be six weeks ago. But we know for sure the Mets haven’t lost a damn thing in seven games, no matter how hard they seemed to try not claim the seventh.

For those of you who believe a practically prohibitive divisional lead serves as no more than a Trojan horse brimming with bad news poised to leap out and stab us in the proverbial heart, Sunday appeared to be your Day of Karmic Rebuttal. Bad enough that Washington actually won a game. The Mets were sloppily assembled — all kinds of regulars were simultaneously seated for the Turner Field finale — and they treated their time in the field as defense-optional. For the vast majority of the afternoon, it felt like one of the most ostentatiously mediocre games a Mets team above or below .500 had ever played.

The provisional result was a 7-4 deficit in the top of the ninth with nobody on and two out. Although one could have rationally argued everybody is entitled to an off day (let alone a day off), the experienced Mets-Case Scenarioist could have just as justifiably ranted that a team preoccupied with resting pitchers in September should make absolute certain there is an October to rest them for, therefore enough with the piggybacking starts chatter and sitting significant starters during getaway games. The bit about “…a third of your games you’re gonna lose…” is tough enough to accept without presenting one of those allegedly predestined losses to ancestrally detested Atlanta on a veritable silver platter.

Turns out the Braves are allergic to silver and thus dropped the gift the Mets so generously attempted to give them (though like all episodes of clumsiness Sunday, it was officially scored a hit for Nick Markakis). In baseball, you can’t fall on the ball and run out the clock, but on the first Sunday when baseball endured pigskin company, Fredi Gonzalez basically called Joe Pisarcik out of the Braves’ bullpen and ordered him to hand off to Larry Csonka.

It didn’t work for them. It sure as hell worked for us.

The details for those hiding in a tree and waiting for definitive orders from the emperor were as simple as they are beautiful: Gonzalez, having seen Peter Moylan give up a double to Juan Lagares (a double almost but not quite caught by Cameron Maybin, perhaps paying penance for having caught the final ball ever hit at Shea Stadium), replaced his veteran reliever with rookie Ryan Kelly; Kelly walked Curtis Granderson; Kelly then faced Daniel Murphy, who had spent the day otherwise disguised as a minus sign.

Murphy then launched a three-run homer to tie the game at 7-7.

It was exhilarating. It was breathtaking. It was, as Casey Stengel surely described it from wherever he was observing the action, Amazin’ cubed.

Also, it was as close to business as usual as something forged from completely out of thin air could be for this team. This was, what, the fifteenth or sixteenth comeback like this in the past week? Maybe more, maybe less. Who can keep track anymore?

We’re past the point of counting them or ranking them. We simply ask that they keep arriving regularly at the correct address. We promise to send thank you notes in the offseason.

After the Mets scored the three runs in the tenth that would provide them a 10-7 triumph — their seventh consecutive victory overall, not to mention a four-game sweep at formerly intimidating Turner Field (cripes, I almost felt sorry for the Braves fans in attendance) — I saw a stat that identified Murphy’s shot as the third of its kind in Mets history. The only other home runs that made up a shortfall of three or more runs with the team down to its final out previously were those hit by Carl Everett in September 1997 and Victor Diaz in September 2004. Those were touchstone home runs of their era, each a cherished memory for me as a fan.

Murphy’s? Yeah, his improbable game-tying dinger was swell, too. Just toss it on the pile with Nieuwenhuis’s from the other night. And Johnson’s. And all of those from Cespedes. It’s September 2015. We’re growing harder to impress.

OK, I’m not that jaded yet, but as Roger Angell put it regarding the deciding contest of the 1986 World Series, “It was another great game, I suppose, but even noble vintages can become a surfeit after enough bottles have been sampled.” We still anxiously await the bottling, corking and ultimate uncorking of 2015 — it’s been a very good year — yet the mind-boggling comebacks are beginning to blur.

Never, however, has my mind been so willing to expand to accommodate them all.

I was certainly happy with the outcome. I imagine every Mets fan worth his or her blue and orange was similarly delighted. Yet I also imagine that somewhere somebody — maybe even a reader of this humble blog — had a sharp-tongued comment all cued up and ready to post. Now, we’d see, that the Mets were just setting us up. Now, we’d see, disaster was about to unspool. Now, we’d see, the worst was yet to come.

Then the Mets had to go and spoil it all by doing something sublime like reshaping destiny to fit their own giddy purposes. Alas, for the naysayer out there, there was no nay to say on Sunday. Instead we high-fived across the virtual universe and subtly saluted the likes of Wayne Garrett, Lenny Randle, Frank Taveras and Tim Teufel, some of our most distinguished wearers of 11, for what that number’s worth.

The Mets continue to lead the National League East by 9½ games, except now with only 19 to play. Nobody can vouch for what might transpire in the playoffs, but nobody in his right mind would suggest the Mets won’t be a part of them.

If your mind tells you otherwise, grab a sweater. A lonely jungle might get chilly at night.

43 comments to Toss It On the Pile With the Rest of Them

  • vertigone

    I popped the Divisional corks after the Washington sweep. Despite my uncharacteristic hubris concerning the Mets, I fear no reprisal from the baseball gods. I know that some fans are still suffering PTSD from 2007, but c’mon now folks, that was a whole different scene than what we’re seeing in 2015.

    I’ve been trying to forecast the actual clincher. I think maybe next week’s series at home against the Braves if we’re lucky, or perhaps the following series in Cincinnati if this runaway train slows down a little and the Nats remember how to win some games.

  • Gio

    vertigone nailed it. This is not a drill; this is not a dream. The Mets are making the playoffs in 2015. They’re a good team and they’ve been blessed by the baseball gods with magic moment after magic moment and memorable storyline after memorable storyline. There’s no veteran hubris or hopeless futility here, in contrast to the talented-but-fading team of the mid-2000s. There’s no entitlement, like there was then (remember Delgado’s “We get bored” comment?!) – these Mets are just as excited and surprised by the goings-on as you or I, the average fans. They’re having fun, dancing around the dugout with pure jubilation rather than cockiness. Their swagger is fun-loving and infectious, not standoffish. They’re fun to watch every single night, and they do not give up. Ever.

    I’ve felt like the Mets teams of the past decade have too often just kind of felt resigned to their fate, just kind of playing it out, hoping for success and celebrating at the proper moments but sort of understanding their place as an also-ran team in the standings. This team doesn’t feel that way, and they don’t know any better. They have excitable youth and real leadership. They don’t know that they’re not supposed to keep winning. So they keep right on winning. The playoffs are going to be so, so fun. This team has tasted just enough success to be excited to keep pushing and not so much sustained success that they’re jaded by it. They’ll respond to the home crowd in a big way and we’ve already seen how magical that feels at Citi (see: Washington series a few weeks back, which was incredible to attend in person).

    It’s time to forget about 2007 (and 2008, and every losing season since). This team is exorcising those demons in real-time, and we’re all witnessing it together.

    On October 2, 2007, the New York Times ended its reflection on the final day of the collapse with the following: “Still, on this day, it was hard not to feel that if Euripides were around, probably writing for Broadway, he might have concluded that those whom the gods would destroy, they first make Mets.”

    Not this year, bub. Not this year. My, how times change. Let’s Go Mets.

    • Rochester John

      ” They don’t know that they’re not supposed to keep winning. So they keep right on winning.”

      Or as Guy Clark put it, “He did not know he could not fly…and so he did.”

  • Daniel Hall

    I’d like to add that our magic number is also Ruben Tejada. Poor guy. He’s always forgotten, overlooked, ignored.

    Best part – aside from Murph’s shot – about yesterday’s game was Keith’s constant groaning and moaning about the horrible ballgame that was being conducted. “This is not Lakeland! These are the major leagues!” XD

  • eric1973

    “MY WORD!!”

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Further proof: at worst, we’ll be 7.5 up with 17 to go. Mathematics tells me that’s a bigger lead than we had in 2007!

    I’m not even focusing all that much on the Dodgers right now. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the final 3 weeks for what they are. The happiness should keep me warm all winter. LGM

  • Dave

    I’m often a glass half empty kind of guy when it comes to the Mets, in fact often assuming that whatever is in the glass will make me sick. But now I agree, we’re not tempting fate too badly by boldly predicting a 1st place finish. Collapse is not going to happen; the Nats decided that was their job. For now I’ll just focus on a game at a time, a magic uniform number at a time, so that when the clincher happens, I’ll be more elated.

  • joenunz

    And in financial news…the Mets 82nd win propelled them above the 81 1/2 that the markets in Las Vegas, (financial capital of the world) determined at the beginning of season they were going to win this year.

    Those of you who invested a C-note on the over, please step forward.

    • Dave

      Only at -120. I was looking for a better price on a higher number and couldn’t find it. Also looking good on my 5-1 Division Win bet.

  • 9th string catcher

    It used to be you watched until the last because the Mets would always find a way to lose. Now it’s the opposite. No reasonable way to hope for Murphy to do the one thing they needed in that spot…bang, there it goes.

    Not that I want to, but I’ll be in the jungle until the end of this week. Marlins and Yankees – one spoiler, one hanging on for playoff life while Nats have the Phillies. It ain’t over yet.

    Going to see Bartolo on Wednesday – LGM!

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Both Howie and Gary used the exact same phrase in describing Murphy’s Home Run:
    “You’ve gotta be kidding me!!!” (same number of exclamation points too.)

    #11 to me will always be Ed Bouchee. I was in little league in 1962 and that’s the number they gave me. So, briefly, Ed Bouchee was my favorite Met. I even patterned my batting stance after him even though I was a righty. (He had an odd stance where his front foot was sort of pointed at the pitcher).

    Of course, I didn’t know about any of the sh*t with him, and he was gone way before my little league season ended anyway.

  • Rob E

    I’m going to give a shout out to the left-for-dead Bobby Parnell, and to Terry Collins for not burying players. I can’t imagine how many remotes got thrown at big screens when he brought in Parnell. The difference between today’s glass being half-empty and half-full was about a 1/2-inch of Cameron Maybin. May the magic continue!

  • Dennis

    Another amazing win in what has been an incredible season. LGM indeed!!!

  • Give me some C-rations and tell 9th string catcher he’s going to have company in that jungle I remember remarking in 2007 (almost at this time in the season)”Even if they only play .500 ball, the Phils gotta win 15 of 17 or something like that.” Something like that is exactly what occurred. Nope, no gloating from me just yet, though I want to. Will be there on Oct.3 for the Nats game, and if I’m still in the jungle, I may never come out.

    • 9th string catcher

      Bonzai!

    • Eric

      Nah. It’s a suspect analogy.

      The most obvious misfit in the analogy is the current point of the 2015 campaign for the NL East doesn’t match the discovery of Onoda in the timeline of WW2-Pacific and its aftermath. Right now, the Mets are about at securing Okinawa, not at a Japanese tourist stumbling on Onoda 30 years later.

      And even after we seized Okinawa and VJ Day was all but inevitable, we didn’t relax and take the rest of the campaign for granted. Because we understood that in baseball, it ain’t over til it’s over.

  • Guy K.

    The Carl Everett home run you referenced, like Daniel Murphy’s, was also on Sept. 13.

    And the Victor Diaz home run came against LaTroy Hawkins, of all people.

  • Steve D

    This made my day…arrived at my cousin’s house after a long car ride during the bottom of the ninth…he is a huge Met fan as were many people already there. They always have sports on TV. I said “why isn’t the Met game on”…he said “it’s over, the Mets lost”…I said “Parnell blew it already?”…he said “no they were down 7-4 and someone turned to football”…I said the game is still going. They thought I was making it up until they put the game back on.

    • dmg

      i also got to tell another mets fan who had turned off the game in the ninth with two outs and assumed they lost that no, they won. really pleasing to both of us.

  • Eric

    This time last week, Harvey had just thrown away his Dark Knight of Gotham persona and announced he was checking out at the height of the pennant race. The Nationals had cut the Mets’ lead from 6.5 games to 4 games. The Mets’ top strength was evaporating with the starters gassed and handicapped by innings limits and skipped starts. The middle relief was an open wound. The Mets were travelling to DC to play the Nationals’ best 3 starters while using their worst starter (of late) in the 1st game against the Nationals’ putative ace. If the Nationals could slice the Mets’ lead down to 1 or even 3 games, next week (now this week) was the hardest part of the Mets’ remaining schedule other than the season-ending series. A Nationals series win dominated by their aces over the Mets’ fading aces would have foreboded a winner-take-all season-ending series.

    Instead, against the best the Nationals could muster, the Mets swept them for a 6-game swing, then followed the sweep by piling 2.5 more games onto the lead. The magic number was sliced from 23 to 11 in a week.

    In 2007, the Mets shocked us by losing 5.5 games of their 7-game lead over a week with a sweep loss to the Phillies. In 2015, the Mets added 5.5 games to their lead in a week with a sweep of the Nationals. That’s a redemption.

    The Mets are now closer to the Cardinals for the best record in the NL than the Nationals are to the Mets and 1 game back of the Dodgers in the loss column for HFA in the NLDS.

    It was a special week in a special season.

  • mikeL

    how ironic. after so many years of trying to sustain our fan-selves on single player achievements or signs of a promising future, we now have to process this orgy of good news, ridiculous comebacks – leading the league in runs per game, homers AY (after yoenis) – while waiting for the (inevitable) other shoe to drop.

    yes this was washington’s season to collapse. no one expected the mets to be the hottest team on the planet for weeks.

    yes the mets are simply DOING IT in real time. they, like us may be working too hard to take it all in to let cockiness creep into the equation.

    the finish line is closer than it looks. must be close enough to smell for the guys on the field.
    let’s pass the dodgers on the way!

    • Eric

      Last year, reaching .500 would have been a major achievement. Entering this season, surpassing the .500 milestone with 82-84 wins would have been accepted as concrete progress. Meaningful games in September with a shot at the 2nd WC, not setting up for the NLDS with a shot at home-field advantage, was the optimistic hope.

      Today, the magic number is 11 with 19 to play. The Mets have the largest lead in the NL – .5 games behind the Royals for the largest lead in the majors. Winning 82 games is a minor note. 90 wins are within easy reach and 95 wins are not out of reach.

      The defining feature of this rollercoaster of a season has been the team’s resilience. The lows and highs of yesterday’s win were like an exaggerated caricature of the season. Which is to say, the other shoe has dropped. But this team keeps picking it up and pushing past our expectations.

  • LA Jake

    The Mets are simply the best team in baseball. It has been nearly 30 years since we could make that proclamation but it’s true. Whether it turns into a title is questionable, as we all know the 1986 postseason wasn’t easy. But there is no more complete team in the sport and no reason to fear any lead, any opponent or any seasons past.

    I hope this ends in a World Series title but this regular season ride has already exceeded the price of admission. And there’s good reason to believe there is more of it to come in the immediate future.

    LET’S GO METS!

  • Michael G.

    If this is Murphy’s last season — and I hope that it isn’t — a “you gotta be kidding me!” homer will be a nice way to remember him. For all his foibles, Murph has been a consistent offensive threat for years and someone who truly bleeds orange and blue!

    • Eric

      We forget now, but like Conforto, Murphy played well down the stretch as a rookie in 2008. Seven years later, he’s finally going to get his chance to show us what he can do in the play-offs. I’ve suspected that Murphy would excel under the increased intensity of the post-season.

    • Daniel Hall

      Just today I thought – twice – about Murph and 2016. I don’t want him to go! Despite all his defensive whoopsies, he’s a constant threat with the bat and covers most of the infield (mostly) competently.

      My logic is as follows, granted the Wilpons can find a dime to extend him (and I expect him to go somewhere in the $10m/y range):

      1. The Mets won’t bring back Uribe, because he’s largely limited to third base, where the Captain has risen from the dead. Just like you don’t need two first basemen, you don’t need two third basemen.

      2. The Mets won’t bring back Kelly Johnson, who is more of a utility guy who didn’t do much impact with the bat anyway; most of his career was at second base, but you could put him in the outfield, and our outfield is cramped as it is between Granderson, Conforto, Lagares, Cuddyer and – oh, how great would that be! – Cespedes?

      3. The Mets have Wright, Duda, Tejada, Flores, Herrera all under contract or team control in 2016. Never mind Campbell, Muno and whom else nobody gives a damn about. It seems to be that the Captain can’t play every day anymore, so you need somebody to sub at third base for him. None of the four other guys can do that. Murph covers first base, too!

      4. $10m sounds like a lot (to me…), but they would basically take part of Colón’s salary to cover Murph (who made $8m this year), while replacing Colón with Matz, and still have some left over (for a juicy offer for Cespedes?).

      5. Add d’Arnaud and Plawecki to that roster and you can build a heck of a lineup and have ample possibilities to platoon or to rotate out slumping guys.

      I don’t want Murph to go… :(

  • Dave

    I have Jets season tickets, and this weekend my wife was dropping our daughter off in England for her junior year abroad, so yesterday I was mentally multitasking, watching a football game in person, texting with my wife on 101 updates on what was going on across the pond, and keeping up with the Mets on my phone. I didn’t put the game on in the car after the Jets, as I was with friends who had travelled up from Florida, don’t get to see them often, but then I got home and finally was able to give the Mets my undivided attention. Saw that Murph had played the role of Cespedes just before I got home, I watched them take the lead for good, then saw Reed play Closer for a Day, reminding people “yeah, I used to do this all the time.” Every day now, a happy recap, and aside from Yo almost always in the middle of things, a different bunch of guys contributing every day. This is how winning teams do things.

  • Lou Banjawi

    I’m no pessimist, but the whole “magic number is 11” thing is giving me violent flashbacks to eight years ago. That was where we stood heading into the Phillies series, and we would be stuck on 11 for a good long while. I’m sure our 11-dom will pass more quickly this time around.

    • Eric

      Rightly so. This week is the anniversary week of the 2007 Mets collapse.

      Magic number at 11 at game 17 (2007) vs game 19 (2015), 7 games up (2007) vs 9.5 games up (2015), 83-62 (2007) vs 82-61 (2015), so the Mets were in a slightly worse position at the start of the 2007 collapse than today.

      Grab onto your anniversary flashbacks as milestones. They’re like immersion therapy because what these Mets are doing this season right now is an exorcism of the 2007 Mets collapse and its 7+ years progeny.

      For example, the 2007 collapse began with losing an extraordinary 5.5 games of the lead in a week starting with a Phillies sweep. Last week, the Mets’ lead gained an extraordinary 5.5 games in a week starting with a sweep of the Nationals. Milestone reversed.

      This week’s milestone reversal will be better because this week 8 years ago, the Mets magic number was frozen at 11 while the Phillies reduced their magic number from 25 to 14. The Mets magic number is again 11. The Nationals magic number is 30.

      Keep the 2007 Mets collapse in front of your mind as these Mets return to the scene of the downfall, but progress deliberately in the same week the 2007 Mets fell and brought 8 years of despair to us.

      Embrace the redemption.

  • rich porricelli

    07′ and 08′ will not be resurrected ..Think about it..This is so much better a ball club..
    As a 48 year Met fan my advice to you is to just sit back and enjoy..Its a great bunch of guys..I’m so proud of them all…

  • mikeL

    happy duffy dyer. at least for a short while…

  • eric1973

    Hopefully, down to “The Stork” tonight…

  • sturock

    Another day, another victory. I am not getting tired of this one bit!

    • mikeL

      nats won…but the mets are alone in the majors at 9-1 over last 10…nope, doesn’t get old! more and more new with each passing day, really.

      • Eric

        And 22 games over .500. Remember when the 11-game winning streak promised to be the high water mark this season? They’ve now doubled it in the standings.

  • Andee

    Eh, I knew we weren’t going to collapse. The reason for that is, in order for there to be a collapse, there has to be a multiple week period of mediocrity and a team ready and willing to take advantage of it. WAS has been stalled in the driveway for months; if they hadn’t been, SA wouldn’t have bothered with all those rental players. Even if WAS gets hot down the stretch, it’s too late. If we went only 8-10 the rest of the way, they’d still have to go 18-1 the rest of the way just to tie us. It’s over.

    Also, I don’t remember the ’07 and ’08 team having this many comeback wins down the stretch. These were the kinds of games those teams routinely wound up on the short end of, IIRC. Those years, PHI had the kind of late-season magic where it seemed like they always got the hit they needed, the play they needed, the out they needed. Looks like we might clinch there, too. Hee hee.

  • Rob D.

    All WASHINGTON has to do is get within 3 for the last series of the season. It ain’t over till it’s over.

    • Andee

      We would need to get really bad, really fast in order for them to make up six and a half games on us half a month, and they’d have to completely turn on the jets and win like 15 of 19. And then sweep us. Just to tie. And then win the tiebreaker. Having watched both teams for the last two months, I just don’t see it happening. They might make it a bit closer, but not that close. Not with that bullpen.

      • Eric

        Their bullpen is fine against bad teams. The Nationals’ remaining schedule is easy enough for them to go on a big run.

        2 @ Phillies.
        4 v Marlins.
        3 v Orioles.
        3 v Phillies.
        1 v Reds.
        3 @ Braves.

    • Eric

      At this point, the Nationals have to make up 6.5 games over their next 16 games to get within 3 games for the last series. Last week, the Mets gained 5.5 games on the Nationals in a 6-game stretch.

      16-0 – 9-6.
      15-1 – 8-7.
      14-2 – 7-8.
      13-3 – 6-9.
      12-4 – 5-10.

      If the Mets can go 10-5 before the last series, problem solved.