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The Year We Turned Ten

With Faith and Fear’s tenth-anniversary year [1] coming to an end, I thought this would be a handy occasion to round up the series of ten articles I wrote to reflect upon our 2005-2015 milestone and revisit their subject matter a bit.

1. Madoff Changes Everything [2] (March 9)

You know what I like to write about? Baseball. One of my favorite things is to look at the Mets and try to figure out whether their team is good enough to win, and if it isn’t, I like to puzzle out what might be done to make it better. We all do this. Except every time I’ve attempted to do this for the past six or so years, I hit a brick wall. Every meditation on the near-term fortunes of the Mets inevitably devolves into some version of “…but we don’t really know how much the Mets can spend, so who knows what’ll actually happen?” That’s the legacy of “Bernie Madoff” in the Met sense. It used to be we knew. We grasped whether the Mets had resources (it was more or less a given that they did) and by their actions they let us know what they planned to do with them. Maybe the Mets spent them wisely or foolishly, but you could follow along at home. When we began blogging in 2005, they had resumed spending enthusiastically. It produced a fun ride for a while. Then Madoff happened. Actually, I suppose Madoff happened before. Madoff happening — not the part where he was caught, but the part where he seemed to be a wizard and the principal owner trusted him implicitly — meant the Mets acted as if they had resources they didn’t necessarily have. Or they had them before they didn’t. See, I still don’t quite get it.

Update
I still don’t get it, but I came away from 2015 with more respect than ever for the job Sandy Alderson and his front office do [3] to work within the still murky parameters of the Mets’ budget limitations. It’s not ideal, but it produced a pennant.

2. The Four Aces [4] (March 18)

A funny thing inevitably happens on the way to where these aces are supposed to be taking us. Pedro was The Man in practice for a year-and-a-half before sputtering in and out of the rotation for the rest of his four-year deal. Johan, who closed out 2008 with such a flourish, was never around for the close of a season again, including two seasons when he was under contract but wasn’t around at all. R.A., given his beautiful pitch and unorthodox makeup, seemed a lock to be signed long-term. Instead he was traded. And Matt Harvey — calling him just “Matt” or just “Harvey” doesn’t seem appropriate in this context — was directed to the Tommy John table before his first full year was done. His second full year is scheduled to begin far behind schedule. Pedro and Johan and R.A. became history all too soon. But Matt Harvey has returned to make more of it. To make more good copy for us, too, which I will tell you, quite selfishly, ratchets up my interest in his aceness. Without a certifiable ace, you have to depend upon the achievements of mere mortals and work to find a hook 32 times a year. These guys who top rotations thoughtfully provide framework, fill in blanks, twist, turn, excel, elate and sprinkle our heads with content dust.

Update
We did get the fourth ace of the FAFIF era back in 2015. He drove us a little crazy [5] as August became September, but boy were we glad to have him around come October. Even better is he’s not alone. I daresay “The Four Aces” will have a different, contemporary meaning if nobody gets hurt in 2016.

3. Jerry’s Kids Grow Up [6] (March 22)

Seven guys who debuted as Mets under Manuel are still Mets [though] Manuel hasn’t been manager since October 3, 2010. Nobody’s much brought up Manuel since maybe October 5, 2010, the day he was officially not renewed for 2011. Nobody thought much of Manuel once his “gangsta” rap lost its ability to charm. He was the manager who kinda chuckled, kinda cackled in whaddayawantfromme? fashion after losses. He […] didn’t leave behind a legion of mourners when he chuckled/cackled for the final time. Turns out he may have left the Mets something better. He left them a legacy. He left them something close to a third of a roster for use a half-decade down the line. The team that is positioned to perhaps win more than it loses for the first time since Jerry Manuel took over from Willie Randolph has as its foundation Jerry’s Kids — now appearing in Port St. Lucie as Jerry’s Adults.

Update
The seven players in question — Daniel Murphy, Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Jenrry Mejia, Ruben Tejada, Lucas Duda and Dillon Gee — all played for the 2015 Mets. Three of the above have moved on to other organizations since the end of the season; one is suspended until the middle of the year; one more is a free agent. Only two of Jerry’s Kids — Duda and Tejada — are slated to be part of the 2016 Mets. Beyond patting the departees on the back and wishing them sort of well, we shall forever remember the October of Murph [7]. Or we’ll try to keep it in mind the first time we see him in his new Walgreens uniform.

4. Year of the Stewed Goat [8] (March 27)

I was vaguely aware that GourMets existed in its heyday […] but encountering it on the eve of 2015 was a revelation. I instantly fell in love with my second-hand copy of GourMets and, on some surprising level, I fell for the 2007 Mets all over again…maybe for the first time.

Update
An unexpected souvenir of the most star-crossed season in the FAFIF era allowed me to unclench a little when contemplating those 2007 collapsibles. Was it a sign that we were destined to cook up something better [9] eight years later? However it happened, it is clear that we did.

5. Keep It .500 [10] (March 31)

The Mets have played 1,620 regular-season games since we started. We’ve blogged something about every single every one of them. They’ve won 810. They’ve lost 810.

Update
On September 13, the Mets not only clinched their first winning season in seven years [11], but made certain that Faith and Fear’s all-time regular-season record would sit above .500 into our twelfth year. (It is currently 900-882.) For six seasons, I secretly enjoyed the challenge of writing about a losing team, but I can publicly affirm that I enjoyed far more writing about a winning team in 2015.

6. Three On A Mic [12] (April 4)

Try to imagine these past six seasons without GKR. Try to imagine these past nine seasons, including the ones that weren’t mostly miserable from start to finish. The SNY booth made the Mets more Amazin’ when they were good and elevated them above intolerability when they were awful. Gary, Keith and Ron have given us Augusts that shouldn’t have been nearly as august and Septembers that we didn’t want to end no matter the tenor of the seasons barely any longer in progress. They gave us truth and insight and friendliness and intelligence and hilarity and baseball talk like it oughta be. They’ve been a talking miracle. They narrate the often sad and lame machinations of a franchise struggling to be less sad and less lame and have been encouraged and allowed to shine as if they’re nightly counting us down toward a magic number.

Update
The team turned around and the announcers remained, as Keith Hernandez would say, on point. The only danger from a blogging perspective is making a postgame article a summation of all the great things the guys said because their perspective informs so much of what we process. Sometimes, however, you can’t help going there [13] at least a little.

7. Wrighthood [14] (April 7)

Did it matter to David Wright that on his eleventh Opening Day, at Nationals Park, his manager decided to bat him second, somewhere he’d never been slotted on Opening Day or too often on any other days, certainly not recently? Does stuff like that ever matter to Wright? Or if it does, would he ever cop to it? “‘Terry,’” he said he told his manager during Spring Training 2015, “‘I don’t care. Just bat me wherever you think is best to help this team win, whether it’s second, third, sixth, seventh. It doesn’t matter.’ I don’t think it’s a big deal at all.” Thus, on April 6, 2015, David batted second in a starting lineup for the first time since August 31, 2010. Did it make a difference?

Update
David’s absence from the lineup made a helluva difference in the wrong direction after he went down with a mid-April injury. When he returned in late August, he came back to a transformed team — and just like he had every time his team changed around him from 2004 forward, he made a difference [15]. The Mets’ bullpen cart of yore may have been auctioned off in 2015, but David Wright could have been chauffeured to third base in a Big Yellow Taxi. He is a classic example of not knowing what you’ve got until it’s gone.

8. Our Team. Our Time. [16] (April 10)

They edged Washington to start their season. They lost in irritating fashion the next night. They finished off their opening series by sticking it but good to those pesky Nats. Welcome to 2015, which has kicked off exactly as 2006 did, if you take your parameters narrow (and if it helps, know that the Mets finish this year against the Nationals, which they also did in 2006). More to the point of this particular stroll down Has It Really Been Ten Years? Avenue, though, is that the above paragraph also describes the first three games of 2006, the best season to date of the Faith and Fear Era.

Update
I used to think it would be a very long time before we got to blog a season that was better than 2006. And it was. It was nine years. But 2015 set a new standard [17].

9. No Towel Thrown In [18] (May 31)

Citi Field and I have had a strained relationship these past seven seasons. We grin and bear each other, all the while never truly feeling at mutual peace. It correctly senses deep down I’ve never forgiven it for succeeding Shea Stadium. Yet I’ve learned deep down that I can’t live contentedly without regular exposure to Shea Stadium’s successor.

Update
On the night Citi Field hosted its first postseason game [19], its probationary period finally ended. Welcome home.

10. Carry On My Sheaward Son [20] (September 28)

Shea Stadium has finally stopped being present in my mind because it’s no longer present in the present. I still love Shea for what it was. I can’t love Shea for what it is. It’s not there anymore. A season like this and the postseason ahead, whether or not you change at Woodside, belong to Citi Field. The torch has been passed to a new configuration.

Update
Our World Class Ballpark not only got a World Series and all of its attendant ruckus, it also began to fall apart a little [21]. No wonder I don’t need to miss Shea anymore. It’s beginning to feel like we never left.