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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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Lowering Your Gaard

One of the first things we learn as kids is that you can’t win ’em all. We know this, and when we’re disappointed to realize it really is true, we remind ourselves that it wouldn’t actually be fun to win ’em all.

From a fan’s perspective, rooting for a team on a crazy roll isn’t really so different than rooting for one that can’t get out of its own way — we confuse very recent history with eternal destiny.

When your team’s losing daily, you get hypersensitive to players’ body language and random portents and umpire bias and everything up to and including monsters under the bed. It’s self-evident that they will never, ever win again, that such a thing is in fact impossible. If they’re up 9-3 with two out in the ninth, a meteor will hit the stadium or the Rapture will occur. Something will happen, and only a damn fool would bet against it. Until finally they win a game and it’s not a big deal and you feel kind of sheepish about the whole thing.

Winning’s like that too. Well, except it’s a lot more fun. We’re down 3-0? Ah, no biggie. The late rally will just make it more dramatic. They’re just missing pitches, or balls aren’t quite falling in, but another time through the order and the reversion to the mean will be sweet, just you wait and see. Until finally they lose a game and it’s happened and you don’t really want to discuss how an hour ago you were so smugly unperturbed.

That’s pretty much how Sunday’s soggy, chilly matinee with San Francisco went. Noah Syndergaard was pitching just fine and obviously a little bump was no big deal … until he was out of the game and Hansel Robles had sent inherited runners home and then he’d lost. Michael Conforto was going to wreak havoc like he does every at-bat until he was striking out and flying out on the first pitch and then he’d taken an oh-for. The Mets were going to come back and win until they’d made that impossible by losing.

It happens. Afterwards, I found myself thinking — as I do more and more — about how many baseball games turn on something very small.

No, not Ron Kulpa’s called third strike on Asdrubal Cabrera, though that was pretty, well, sight-deficient. I’m thinking about Bruce Bochy sending Buster Posey from first with one out in the fourth. If Posey doesn’t break, Brandon Belt’s one-hop grounder to Neil Walker is a sure-fire double-play. Instead, Posey was already steaming into second, causing Walker to momentarily eye Matt Duffy coming home with the first run and then reluctantly take the out at first. With one more out to get, Syndergaard threw Hunter Pence a fastball that hit 98 but had too much plate; Pence blasted it into the seats above the Mo Zone. More stuff happened, including the call that deserved an umpire’s mea kulpa, but essentially that was it.

Look, good call by Bochy — he’s got those rings for a reason. But as with most baseball narratives, most successes and failures are Just So Stories, ruled on after the fact. If Belt hits a liner to Juan Lagares in right, it’s a different kind of double play and someone out there is grumbling about Bochy trying to force things instead of trusting a disciplined team of hitters and the left arm of Madison Bumgarner.

Games get won even when your team appears star-crossed, just like games get lost even when you’re reveling in being bulletproof. You could look it up. Next time I’m feeling hopeless or overly buoyant, I’ll try to remind myself to do that.

10 comments to Lowering Your Gaard

  • Dave

    On Twitter after the game, someone commented about the progress Mets fans have made to be able to accept a loss as part of life and let it roll off our backs. And of course we didn’t exactly lose to a chump pitcher. The population of Panic City has dropped significantly.

    And while everyone is making a big deal of the stolen bases against Syndergaard, Gooden had similar issues in 84 and 85, and I don’t think any of us look back and say “Wow, if it weren’t for those stolen bases, Doc would’ve been really good during those years.” Thor is 23 years old, one would expect that there are aspects of his craft he hasn’t mastered yet.

    • Seth

      Accept a loss as part of life? That’s pretty easy when you’re coming off an 8-game winning streak. Like the team’s first month, it’s a pretty small sample size to be passing judgment on fans’ attitudes. :-)

      • Dave

        Well, in recent years, there often wasn’t even a small sample that showed Mets fans to be logical about these things. Nobody has to be talked off the ledge, that’s a good thing. Now, lose 3 in a row or something, Panic City might be getting crowded again…

        • Ismail

          “Panic City.” I love that phrase like with the begrudging love I have for all things Mets.

          Does anyone know the origin of the phrase “Panic City”? I’m curious to know.

  • open the gates

    …and no one is saying, “Just imagine! A couple of years ago, we would have been thrilled with an eight game winning streak, and we wouldn’t care how we lost the ninth game! And we would be thrilled to have a couple of absolute phenoms make a few missteps in one game rather than the parade of Chris Schwindens and Omar Quintanillas we had then!” Yeah, nobody says that anymore. Except I just did.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Just as every Home Sunday this year is supposed to be “Retro ’86 Uniform Sunday”, I hope Terry Collins doesn’t decide to make every Home Sunday “Retro May ’15 Second Half of the Lineup Sunday”. As soon as I looked at that lineup I knew the winning streak had a good chance to be over.

  • eric1973

    Hey, Ken K., it was “Bums vs. Bumgarner.” If you’re going to lose anyway, might as well get those guys some at-bats.

  • Eric

    Losing a game to MadBum doesn’t disturb me, albeit 2 shaky starts in a row for Syndergaard featuring an exploitable flaw is a bit disturbing. More disturbing is the Nationals swept the Cardinals and shut out the Royals.

  • Gio

    I know this post is a few days old, but I’ll comment anyway: very good points about how invincible we feel when the Mets are rolling and how hopeless and hypersensitive we are when they’re on a losing streak… and how ridiculous either feeling looks after the fact. 2015 has been a real gift to Mets fans in 2016, in that way; where I was hanging on every pitch, hit, and strikeout in 2015 as if the season depended upon it, I’m taking in 2016 with a much more calm and measured demeanor, knowing-as-ever but finally actually appreciating the fact that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. A loss just feels like a loss. It doesn’t ruin my night and it doesn’t make me think that we’re doomed. A win feels good in a fist-pump, satisfactory way. It doesn’t bring a long-held exhale of relief or the sense that we’ve escaped certain doom.

    2015 was a wild roller coaster ride. It was what we’ve experienced every year since 2006, with unlikely successes and huge, important moments and hold-your-breath games and edge-of-your-seat games and jump-for-joy finishes and bury-your-head-in-your-hands evenings, but with a thrilling and joyous conclusion (until the bitter end). 2016 is… fun, exciting baseball, and a sense that everything will be okay. It’s a brilliant change of pace. It’s confidence without cockiness. It’s reassurance on a nightly basis that this is a good team and that we should be proud of our Mets. It’s also – not to get ahead of myself, but I will, because this feeling demands it – confidence that we’ll get another year of playoff baseball, and all of the promise that it brings.