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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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Shackleton's Team

Lots of things can go wrong for a baseball team.

Tuesday night — which bled painfully into Wednesday morning — brought cruddy relief, an absence of hitting and some bad luck, all familiar maladies of late. Matt Harvey looked better than he has in a while, with life on his fastball and sharp breaking stuff, but was chased off the mound by rain, an opponent for which no scouting report is adequate. Through no fault of his own, Harvey departed before the middle innings that have been his 2016 downfall, leaving us all to wonder how much progress he really made; through some fault of his own he allowed the Nats to grab a 1-0 lead, which was too much given that Harvey got his usual run support.

When the rain finally passed through, Harvey had turned into Erik Goeddel and newly minted Nat Lucas Giolito (who’s very tall) had turned into Yusmeiro Petit. Goeddel then turned into Jerry Blevins, who surrendered a two-run homer to Bryce Harper in the fifth. The Mets had a chance of sorts in the sixth, loading the bases against Petit with one out, but old friend Oliver Perez came in and erased James Loney on sliders, then coaxed a lazy fly ball from Wilmer Flores. In the seventh Hansel Robles surrendered a two-run double to Wilson Ramos, and by then you just wanted it to be over.

But back to the things that can go wrong.

Sometimes one flaw jumps up with maddeningly regularity: the starters can’t get through the middle innings, the bullpen develops a yen for arson, the hitters seem to freeze up with runners in scoring position, the defense gags when it really matters.

Sometimes these flaws show up in apparently random order, like a really unfun game of Whack-a-Mole: the bullpen loses a game, keeps the team in the next one only to have the hitters fail, watches in horror as a starter implodes the day after that, then regroups and induces ground balls, which the middle infielders promptly flub.

Sometimes all of these things go wrong at once.

And now and again all of these things go wrong and on top of that key players are injured and the team is facing a parade of good teams for which everything is going right, and a leadoff single for the enemy leaves you feeling like you can’t breathe. Which is pretty much where the Mets find themselves right now.

As a fan, what do you do when that happens? Well, if you’re a dummy you call the FAN and rant about the will to win or grit or players not trying. Which, to be fair, is tempting even for us non-dummies: stretches like these are frustrating and as human beings we’re determined to find patterns in randomness and search for explanations. If you’re not a dummy, in fact, you’ve got it harder. All you can do is endure, and remind yourself that every baseball season is full of ebb and flow, teams’ fortunes wax and wane, and try not to let it make you crazy.

Good luck with that, though. Because it’s not going to get easier, not with Max Scherzer trying to pitch the Nats to a sweep on Wednesday and the big bad Cubs coming to Citi Field after that, followed by the always aggravating Marlins and then — that’s right! — the Nats again. The Mets have no reinforcements coming health-wise, unless you think an aging Jose Reyes will be a game-changer; if anything they’re in danger of losing more players to bone spurs or as-yet-undisclosed ailments. Ya gotta believe and all that, of course, but by the time the All-Star Game rolls around things could be grim around here indeed.

Reminder: Debate all you want, but if you make the debate personal you’re doing it wrong, at least on this blog. There’s been too much of that around here of late, and for your proprietors it’s become a bone spur that’s harder and harder to hide from the media. Be nice to each other, y’hear?

35 comments to Shackleton’s Team

  • Daniel Hall

    This morning, I almost became a coffee fountain when I opened the box score and saw that Matt Harvey had pitched only 3.2 innings while not allowing bomfteen runs. Thankfully it was “only” a rain delay… The team should be ashamed though for dropping him to 4-10.

  • rich porricelli

    best part of last night was that doc gooden documentary.. the rest of it was frankly a waste of time…the boys have a brutal schedule ahead..

  • kdbart

    Let’s face it people. We’ve been witnessing a historically inept team when it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position up to this point, halfway, in the season. Currently, the Mets are hitting .207 with runners in scoring position and .161 with 2 out and runners in scoring position. Both are at the bottom of MLB and by significant margins and are approximately 50 & 70 points below the league averages respectively for 2016. I scanned through year by year back to 1960 to see if any team ever finished a season with averages as low in those areas. Only the 1969 Padres, an expansion team, ever had a lower BA, .201 with RISP. No one was lower with 2 out & RISP. The 1965 Astros were close at .165. We’re watching bad history.

  • Steve D

    Last year was a gift. I often compared it to the Miracle of 1969. A weak hitting team that had great young pitching…an early season 11 game winning streak…mid-season doldrums…a key acquisition…a late season surge…early round playoff domination. The main difference was the Harvey drama and poor fundies which cost us the final chip.

    If you know your history, miracles are called such for a reason…they don’t repeat too often. Slight changes to chemistry (Murphy?) and injuries have hurt and the offense needs a spark again.

    I would call Reyes up TONIGHT and tell him to use whatever speed he has left to spark this team. Then go out at the deadline and get Todd Frazier or someone of his ilk. We could make this season like 1973.

    • Seth

      I was thinking last year was like 1973 — they kind of stunk most of the year but made a push at the end, had a bunch of great luck, and made it all the way to the World Series, only to fall short.

      • Steve D

        Some aspects were like 1973…but in 1973 there were a lot of injuries and the Mets were in last place in August. Last year they were never that low.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Well there were some NY highlights…learning that Lucas Giolito’s Grandfather is Warren Frost, who played Susan’s Father on Seinfeld. Which in turn led Keith down a slippery slope of trying to recall Terry Hatcher’s name without mentioning her “spectacular” assets. Gary made a nice save on that one.

  • Mikey

    the past two nights I have only watched 3-4 innings.

    the hitting is historically bad, yes. but when our pitching lets us down, especially the starters, we have little to no shot. It just looks too easy for opposing offenses.

    anyway I think it was Jason who said there is nothing wrong with taking a few days off from watching the Mets. I’m not there yet. I always start out a game with hope. but when we fall behind and our shitty offense does what it does it can be easier on the frayed nerves to turn it off and watch something else or do something else. I love the Mets, but sometimes…

    • DAK442

      I went out of town for four days so last night I was happy to settle in to watch a game for the first time in a while. I fell sound asleep within 20 minutes. Worse than being bad, this team is boring. Tonight shouldn’t be much of an improvement with our feeble lineup facing Scherzer. Good thing I have a lot of stuff on my DVR to catch up on.

  • Matt in Richmond

    kdbart, I’m well aware of the historically awful numbers, and have mentioned them several times recently. The funny thing is though, I point to those numbers as one of many reasons to be optimistic. Sound crazy? Well, in my opinion, there’s very little evidence that this team should have such historically awful numbers. The injuries have hurt yes, but I chalk the results thus far mostly up to fluke and bad luck. There is every reason to think they should ascend to the mean If you will.

    • kdbart

      My favorite stat is that at this point in the season, they’ve hit about 30 more homers than they did in 2015 but have actually scored fewer runs. At this time last year, the Mets were fielding lineups that consisted of the likes of Mayberry, Ceciliani, Campbell, Tejada and Monell. The lineups, on paper, that they’re fielding are so much better but producing far worse.

    • Pete In Iowa

      While I agree to a small degree that “they should ascend to the mean,” I’m afraid their collective approach at the plate will continue to hold them back. I’ve been a fan (of baseball in general and the Mets in particular) for 5 decades now and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lineup which so consistently swings at bad pitches. And I mean horrible pitches that are never a strike anywhere on their trajectory to the plate. And it’s not just limited to one or two hitters – it’s all of them. We can’t continue to give away outs so consistently in this manner and especially when runners are aboard. Loney’s AB against Perez was a perfect example of this. On the last pitch, he flailed away at a ball which was always below his knees and ended up nearly in the dirt a foot outside.
      Or look at it another way. I think the biggest difference with Harvey, DeGrom, Matz and Thor (lately) is their inability to put away hitters with two strikes. Foul ball after foul ball, takes of pitches just out of the zone, and hardly ever swings at pitches in the dirt or way out of the zone. It is exactly what our hitters are not doing.
      But, as Mets fans, we always hold out hope. I know I am. After all, the season isn’t half over yet and there is a limited number of teams with a chance at the post-season in the NL.

      • Dave

        I’m holding out hope too, there’s not much else we can do…but my fear is that while we’re waiting for them to ascend to the mean, we will learn that this is the mean.

      • kdbart

        It seems that every hitter goes up there with the thought that “I’m going to lift us out of it by hitting a six run homer.” Start chasing bad pitches. Thatt seems to what happened to Conforto. He went from a hitter who drove the ball hard to left center to one who tried to pull everything so quick

        • Pete In Iowa

          I don’t necessarily have a problem with a hitter trying to get around and yank one out from time to time. The problem is that you have to get the right pitch to do that with. Apparently, our hitters don’t have the patience to wait for those pitches – they flail at anything. Just hard to understand.
          Final point on “ascending to the mean.” We’re currently hitting .234 (and last in MLB) overall. If we ascend to that level with RISP we would rank 26th in MLB (with RISP).

  • mikeL

    times like these, it’s good to remember it is just a game…though it’s just that fact that makes this game, this team so important to us.

    the ’99 mets miraculous run to the finish (and thd play-in to seal the deal) helped immeasurably in my losing my mom that summer.

    last year my gf and i watched the division clincher hours after losing a beloved pet and having him cremated – a pet whose arrival came on the midst of the ’99 post season. before his sudden ilness he was expected to be around for another.
    when harvey got emotional after the game, i lost it, and thus there was a beautiful convergence of deep feeling between self and team.

    sadly, i find it hard to feel anything for this year’s club. while i hold out for things to click, and for a pleasant surprise at the trade deadline, i don’t expect anything approaching the distraction from
    the world-as-it-is that the great and/or lovable mets team provided.

    more likely, this team will continue to nudge me towards the other things i could/should be doing on my evenings after work.

    i dare this lame-ass offense to prove me wrong, while i hope the pitching can keep
    us all in it, in spite of wear, tear and pointed projections of bone.

  • 9th string catcher

    It is hard to score runs when no one on the team can run, put down a bunt, go 1st to 3rd, or put the ball in play with someone on 3rd/less than 2 out. Pitchers never have to hold runners on and can concentrate on getting big outs. Look at what the Nats did to Syndergaard. And just about every batter is hitting around .250. So, like 1st half last year, the starters have to be perfect and are worn out by the 5th inning and the bullpen has to stretch out 3 or more innings every night. Tough situation.

    It’s tough – you were counting on Wright, Duda, Conforto and D’Arnaud to bolster the lineup. That’s half of your lineup – it’s amazing they’ve done this well. But it’s a long season and the pitching is there. I’m not counting them out. I do have a feeling, though, that this is the Cubs’ year anyhow.

  • Lenny65

    It really makes you appreciate how rare a season like 2015 is. I remember the misery of 1987, when what was supposed to be a coronation and the start of a mighty dynasty disappeared in a huge puff of disappointment. It wasn’t that they were terrible, exactly, just not what we expected.

    This season? I don’t know what the hell happened. It reminds me of that stupid yearbook cover from the early 1980s…a pinch of injuries, a dash of incompetence, a sprinkle of lousy hitting and etc. They’re dismal right now, no fun to watch, just waiting for the next shoe to drop. Our ace of the future has ten losses, our next ace has three wins, our NEXT ace has a damaged elbow as does the guy behind HIM, DW is gone, so is Lucas, Cespedes is a huge pile of bruises and dings, it’s relentless. Too soon to quit on them IMO, they’ve proven us all wrong before, but still.

  • Dave

    You know it’s a sign of the apocalypse when they can’t buy a #&^@ing hit off Oliver *$&#ing Perez. Has any Met even reached base against him so far this year?

    Lenny is right…2016 is looking like the new 1987. Except that 2015 wasn’t quite 1986.

    • Lenny65

      Not quite, there’s just that same “did we already hit the high note?” feeling in the air. And it stinks.

  • Gil

    The Mets are a bad baseball team right now and we all know it.

    Remember Neil Walker hitting homers from both sides every other day and Lucas and Cespy and Conforto smashing it all over the park? Remember Wright striking out a lot but still finding the gap and the seats every once in a while? Remember scoring runs? Me too. Cue up the “Those were the days” sitcom theme song.

    Still, you gotta believe. Maybe we’ll hand the wild eyed Nationals ace a loss tonight.

  • Eric

    The worse that the Mets offense sinks, Murphy raking for the Nationals, and raking for the Nationals against the Mets, doesn’t help at all.

    • mikeL

      yea, i missed the first homer, but his second one proved to be the dagger.

      worse yet, there’s no longer an everyday player on the field representing as the home-grown veteran “heart” of the team.
      it feels like murph took the team’s quirky mojo with him.
      the current group’s lack of personality would be tolerable if they had a pulse…

  • Lenny65

    Re: Murphy, let’s face facts here Mets fans. If he stayed, right now he’d be on the DL along with his .250 average, three home runs and twelve errors. If we never traded for Cespedes, Fulmer would be on the DL with bone fragments on his bone spurs after throwing 101 pitches in a double-rain delay game where the Mets were up 9-1 in the 8th and we also know they’d have gone on to lose that game 10-9 in seventeen. We all know that as soon as they mercifully dispatch this De Aza guy he’ll head over to the Bronx and bat .444 the rest of the way. These are realities and you and I both know there’s not a damn thing we can do about any of it.

    But seriously, wow, they’re really mired in it now, huh? Dead-eyed sad-sack sorry baseball at its worst, just waiting for the implosion. I hate it when they’re a chore to watch and coming on the heels of last year’s preposterousness, it’s all the more torturous. It’s one thing watching the 2010 Mets dragging their feet through a pointless season, it’s quite another when you’re NL champs.

    • Stephen Kairys

      @Lenny, great point on it being hard to watch this team after last year’s success. Agree, too, that it was less frustrating to watch earlier in this decade when there were no expectations.

      That said, if the Mets had won the WS last year, I think I would find their struggles easier to take. At least we’d have our championship…

      Let’s try to keep the faith. I suspect if I went back to FAFIF from a year ago, I’d see similar hand-wringing. Seasons can turn when you least expect them to, and there’s still just over 50% to go. That’s the beauty of a long season. Look at the Astros, likely left for dead earlier this year, and now, playing well and solidly in contention.

      I’ll be out there cheering Saturday night…


  • Jacobs27

    Why are the Mets so good at hitting home runs and so bad at hitting in general?

    No doubt there are many explanations. But what strikes me most is that the whole line up seems essentially composed of mistake-hitters. When a pitcher gives them a pitch in their wheel-house, they’re apt to hit it very, very hard most of the time. (That’s why they occasionally score 12 runs in an inning, etc. Pitcher’s unraveling gives them an weakness to exploit repeatedly).
    But if the pitcher makes a good pitch, they’re basically helpless. Hence the problems with RISP. When pitchers are really trying to put them away, staying out of the middle of the plate or other happy zones, not challenging them, they seem unable to adjust.

    For that reason, unless something changes in their approach, I’m not sure any positive regression to the mean is in the cards.

    • Steve D

      You make a great point. It boils down to poor fundamentals in every aspect of baseball, and not just the Mets. Strikeouts are at an all-time high in baseball, because hitters swing for the fences to try to get a big contract. Hell, they put 3 infielders on one side of the field and many a batter in baseball can’t go the other way or lay down a bunt. There is a reason why you never saw that 20, 10 or even 5 years ago. Do younger fans even know what a drag bunt is anymore? It is shocking how many guys won’t run hard to first.

      Pitching fundamentals suck also…guys have very poor command and games take forever. In an effort to gain an extra 3-4 mph to light up the radar gun, guys will put too much stress on their elbows with poor mechanics and then need Tommy John surgery. Guys like Terry Collins know better, but can’t offend their millionaire players who make a boatload more money.

      Ironically, though his fielding and running fundamentals got him a ticket to DC, Murphy had the best hitting fundies on the Mets and will now torture us for a few years.

      • kdbart

        It shocks me that more hitters don’t just lay one down when the shift is employed. Especially when leading off an inning. A base runner with no one out is a big advantage.

        • Dennis

          That is something that has amazed me as well. A batter will have the entire left side of the infield empty and there for the taking, but they opt not to lay down a bunt to get on base.

  • Mikey

    well with Verrett vs. Scherzer last night I wasn’t expecting much. but it especially sucked that De Aza was our leadoff hitter. nice tablesetter there….the guy is hitting worse than a lot of pitchers. And then there is Murph. If him owning us wasn’t so predictable, it would be funny. But it’s just not. I also wish I could be happy for him, but because it’s our hated rival he plays for, I can’t just yet.

  • kdbart

    Amazingly, the Mets could break their team record of 200 home runs in a season yet not score 600 runs this season. When they set the record of 200 in 2006, they scored 800 runs. That team knew how to score in multiple ways.

  • mikeL

    yup, little by little the sort has gotten dumbed down. i remember playing pickup ballgames as a kid; if we were short of full teams we’d disallow hitting to half of the field etc.
    how is it that with all of the (should be) ridiculous shifts going on that hitters aren’t salivating over the expanses of unpatrolled real estate? at leadt we kids avoided half of the field because it had become foul ground. these are elite ballplayers!
    is this another stupid, unwritten rule?
    i miss murph’s bat but his stealing of an unmanned third base during division series may have been his most brilliant statement ever…
    except as in that play, no one is paying attention.