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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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Forest and the Trees

When the 2016 Mets trudged home to Citi Field earlier this week, it sure looked like they’d ceded the divisional race on June 29, dragged down by injuries, bad luck, lack of clutchness and Daniel Murphy, to name but a few maladies.

Later today, somehow, they’ll trust a four-game sweep of the big bad Chicago Cubs to Noah Syndergaard.

Baseball is designed to break your heart, as Bart Giamatti warned us all those years ago. But it’s also designed to make you look stupid, whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist. This isn’t a bug but a feature: if you tell a half-year story in three-hour chapters, you’re certain to get lost in the plot’s twists and turns.

Still, good luck keeping perspective. We’re storytelling monkeys, an adaptation that helped us find patterns when leopards were picking off our ancestors who picked fruit at dusk but now mostly causes us to believe in conspiracies and fail to calculate odds. And look, it’s a lot more fun to listen to the story that’s unfolding now than it is to clap your hands over your ears and insist the real tale’s still unknowable. Try intoning that “the odds are against this meaning anything in October” right after the conclusion of a Braveheart-style comeback in early May. If you don’t get beer thrown on you, you’ll find yourself with no one to talk to on the 7 train. And with reason.

The same thing is true, in miniature, of individual games. Last night, as Bartolo Colon drifted serenely on and off the pitcher’s mound and Jake Arrieta stalked around in a huff, I found myself thinking that while watching a game we’re forever assembling, disassembling and reassembling it in our heads based on what seems fated to happen. (To be fair, this may be a side effect of recapping.)

Sometimes these stories-in-progress are pretty easy calls: if the Mets give up 10 in the first, you’ve probably got an embarrassing farce that will grind on interminably. If they score 10 in the first, substitute “merry” for “embarrassing” and “amble along amusingly” for “grind on interminably.”

But a lot of the time you don’t know — and so you keep trying scenarios on for size and running the risk of making a fool of yourself.

Here’s last night’s likely story, revised as events shifted or threatened to:

1) Romp, with Fireworks: So declared after Neil Walker followed Brandon Nimmo‘s opening walk with a high drive that clanged off the facing of the top deck of Citi Field’s Sponsored Soft-Drink Demarcated Region. This narrative picked up speed after Yoenis Cespedes followed with a double and the Mets kept ratcheting Arrieta’s pitch count higher.

2) Grim Reminder That One Does Not Waste Runs: Swam into view after Cespedes — who’d arrived at second before Arrieta recorded an out — failed to score. Making Arrieta throw 35 pitches in the first was good; failing to convert a gimme third run was not. It was only 2-0, and those were the Cubs out there.

3) ‘I Told You’ Shrug of Despair: Proposed story filed in the top of the fourth, when the Cubs began things with a Kris Bryant single and an Anthony Rizzo shot over Cespedes’s head that let the excess of Cub fans in the stands find their voice. Now it was 2-2 and anything — Gutty Mets Win, Evil Cubs Take Revenge, Death March to Inning Twenty — seemed possible.

4) We’re Unlucky Except When We’re Lucky: In the bottom of the fourth Asdrubal Cabrera singled, Alejandro De Aza forgot to screw up and Travis d’Arnaud stepped up with two out and two on. He hit a sad little pop fly, one that sounded like it might have broken his bat and drifted over the infield. Javier Baez almost made a barehanded, back-to-the-infield, over-the-shoulder catch, but that’s hard to do. The perfectly placed ball fell in, and because there were two out both runners scored. 4-2 Mets, somehow.

5) Offensive Ineptitude > Occasional Luck: Bottom of the Mets’ fifth, Nimmo single, Walker single, three straight outs. It would be dumb to have Cespedes bunt, of course, but still. What the hell, stupid Mets? If we lose this game 5-4 that inning is really gonna hurt.

6) What the Hell, Stupid Mets? (Reprise): Juan Lagares came back just to hit into a double play with runners on the corners and one out? Ridiculous!

7) Middle Relief Is Our Soft Underbelly: Enter Erik Goeddel, exit baseball struck by Ben Zobrist. 4-3 Mets, enter Jerry Blevins … who walks Jason Heyward. Enter Addison Reed, and oh man this is the same Addison Reed who sometimes looks great and sometimes throws an eye-high bait pitch down the middle at 92, and that’s Bryant at the plate and OH GOD NOW A WILD PITCH SENT HEYWARD TO SECOND AUGGHH I DON’T WANT TO LOOK.

8) Addison Reed Is a Goddamn Gunslinger, I Tell Ya: Oh, he struck Bryant out and did that thing where he sticks his hat back on his head and moseys (mosies?) off the hill into the dugout like a boss. You and me, we’re temporarily cool, Addison Reed.

9) That Was Fun, But Now I Need to Author a Screed About Bullpen Management: Rizzo’s leading off the Cub eighth in a one-run game. Shouldn’t Jeurys Familia be in here instead of facing the bottom of the order in the ninth? Terry Collins is so stupid. Wait, except relievers take comfort from clearly delineated roles and that’s not Terry’s fault and honestly the guy in the other dugout’s the innovator. Baseball is so stupid.

10) Have You Already Forgotten That Addison Reed Is a Goddamn Gunslinger?: Struck out the side. I’m the one who’s so stupid.

11) Jeurys Familia Is God, Maaaan: No sweat, Mets win. A crisp, exciting game in which the Mets wore down Arrieta and then hung on, and Bartolo’s Zen and Loney started that nifty double play blah blah blah blah.

12) Get Out the Brooms, We Can Sweep the Cubs This Is Awesome!!!!: Well yeah. Unless we don’t and it isn’t. In which case a new narrative awaits.

23 comments to Forest and the Trees

  • Matt in Richmond

    Fuck yeah! Hope we get that highly coveted, rarely attained 4 game sweep today, but even if we don’t, this has been a fun weekend. And yet another reminder to the scared little bunnies that you don’t panic and throw in the towel in June when your team is several games over .500 and coming off a WS berth. I couldnt believe some of the comments I heard and read over the last couple of weeks. I wondered, have these people forgotten last year already? Do they not realize how long a baseball season is? This will quiet them down temporarily, but they probably haven’t learned anything. Another 3 game losing streak and they’ll be flinging all sorts of invective at TC, bemoaning the loss of Murphy, and demanding all sorts of non sensical trades and roster moves.
    Happy Thor Day everyone!!

    • Daniel Hall

      The only thing that quieted me down is that the power unit to my laptop fried a few days ago and until I can get a replacement for the – I was told – “exotic” component in question, I’m sitting here with the predecessor that has sat on the bench for a while, a glorified calculator really, that I literally bought at the grocery store; the Eric Campbell of laptops, if you want.

      It’s not the Alejandro De Aza of laptops, since it was cheap, and De Aza isn’t.

      Anyway, three wins over reeling Cubs that came in beaten already doesn’t make a nice summer. I haven’t seen much outside the box score for the aforementioned technical maladies and can’t get MLB.tv to run decently now, either, but it seems to be so that they still can’t score a run without the dinger. Their pitching is good enough, but as long as they don’t start plating runners on second base with nobody out, they remain a team that plays awful and frustrating baseball.

      And the day on which I stop whining for Murph will probably never dawn. Quit waiting for that.

    • Daniel Hall

      And just like that, they put eight runs on Jon Lester and the second inning is still going. I think. I get this frame by frame.

      Oh well, never mind I said something.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Thanks, Jason. You accurately reflected my thoughts throughout the game, except #9. I didn’t even consider bringing Familia in to start the 8th. And if the guy in the visiting dugout is an innovator count me among the nonbelievers. The people who labeled him an innovator are probably the same folks who dubbed Gene Mauch a genius.

  • Stephen Kairys

    Just wondering…

    I attended the game, and it seemed to me that the crowd was mostly subdued. I would have expected more energy with a full house (or close to it), and a close game that the Mets won, esp. against the Cubs.

    My theory: since it was Fireworks Night, perhaps a significant number of spectators are more casual fans who primarily came that promotion?

    I will say, though, that on the walk down the stairs from the upper deck, I heard some loud “Let’s go, Mets” chants. :)

    In any event, great win, and good to see them score the eventual winnning runs on a non-HR hit with two outs and RISP.

  • Matt in Richmond

    That was a funny bit there, “the Eric Campbell of laptops”.
    When the standings show that the Mets have the 5th best record in the nl and the 8th best in all of baseball it’s a little difficult to comprehend how anyone could call that horrible and frustrating baseball. And that’s without even factoring in all the horrible luck and injuries they’ve had. Once you do factor those in, the rational conclusion is that they’ve done a hell of a job weathering these obstacles and are in great shape for a second half push.

    • This dichotomy is essentially what today’s post was about.

      Day to day, there certainly has been a lot of awful and frustrating baseball: getting stomped by the Nats, most any recent game against the Braves. Looking at the big picture — which is as yet unfinished, of course — the Mets are doing OK given all that’s happened. And with their starting pitching, if they can just get to a postseason game they’ll be extremely dangerous.

      But it’s really hard — for me, for most everybody — to stay sanguine about that big picture when we get a stretch where the day-to-day stories are so aggravating/exasperating/what-have-you.

      • Matt

        I’m a Cubs fan myself, but I really liked this post and can relate to those experiences. When ESPN was anointing the Cubs “the best team in baseball” and comparing this year’s Cubs (quite prematurely after one month of the season) to the 27 Yankees I felt rather optimistic. Now after this rough stretch, it feels like 89 or 03 all over again.

        I try to stay rational and remind myself that, much like the Mets it seems, we have a front office that is trying to build a contending team for the next five years. So regardless what happens this year, since the post season is kind of a lottery with 10 teams, it’s best buy as many tickets as possible as opposed to going all in on one season.

        But boy after getting swept quite soundly by the team that bounced the Cubs from the post season last year, you can’t help but kind of overreact in the negative direction.

  • Ray

    “Aristophanes……”

  • Matt in Richmond

    It’s what makes baseball, baseball. It’s a total marathon. A war of attrition. It renders small sample sizes virtually meaningless and even medium sample sizes inconclusive. I would just think any long term serious observer of baseball would know better than to throw a hissy fit over a couple of bad weeks, particularly with so many mitigating factors. To be clear, I’m not singling out any commenter or author on this website, and I’ll admit I’m not above throwing a remote or turning off the tv and stomping away looking for strong alcohol to soothe my own frustration.

    • Dennis

      Once again Matt, you are one of the voices of reason who post on here. Great weekend for the men from Flushing. I guess there is no reason to blow up this team as some have suggested.

    • Matt in Woodside

      I used to be more of a pure baseball optimist like you. But over the years I’ve gotten kind of fond of the realism streak among the Mets fan base. I guess sometimes it does veer into unfun fatalism, but I much prefer it to the way some Cubs fans seem to be handling their team’s recent regular season success online. Trash talking the whole baseball planet. On any given July 3, it’s hard to find any Mets fan who just takes it for granted that the team will make it to the postseason.

      This series, man. I’m not usually one for intangibles, but that was like Team Building Exercise 2016. Hope they finish strong before the All Star break. LGM.

  • Dave

    There are franchises whose fan bases tend towards fatalism (it’s not just us). A dear friend grew up within walking distance of Wrigley; before this series I simply told her I hope the Cubs have mercy on the Mets. After this sweep, Cubs still have the best record in baseball, yet I’m trying to talk her down off the ledge because she’s convinced that the Cubs are on the brink of disaster. Those of us who have seen plenty of disasters can be excused, IMO, for assuming that another one can’t be too far off. Doesn’t keep us from enjoying the good stuff though.

    What are the odds that the team record for hits in a game would now belong to two infielders from Venezuela?

    • Matt in Woodside

      Totally. I think it’s mostly bandwagon Cubs fans being obnoxious. They’ve got a great team, and there’s no reason for their fans to be on a ledge. The cockiness of that bandwagon, though. It’s like they skipped the part where you win it all and went straight to being Boston fans.

      Awesome for Wilmer Flores. Wasn’t Alfonzo his favorite player growing up? How cool is that?

      • Stephen Kairys

        I give Wilmer huge credit for having the game of his life (so far) with Reyes’ imminent arrival staring him in the face.

        I hope he (Wilmer) can continue to get at-bats on days that Reyes does not play 3B. I could see Wilmer contributing some big hits in September and beyond…

  • Lenny65

    The 2016 Mets….Refusing To Be Pigeonholed! Just when you’re this close to kicking the season’s hopes and dreams to the curb, they rise from the grave and destroy the vaunted Cubs like it’s the NLCS all over again. Go figure. A four game sweep, no injuries, no back page fodder, HRs all over the place…who are these guys and where were they vs. the Barves and Gnats? You gotta love this game.

  • open the gates

    I’m starting to think that an appropriate name for a Mets blog would be “Feast or Famine in Flushing”.

  • Jacobs27

    This team, wow. It’s less “ya gotta believe” than “ya never know”. But the highs sure are high!

  • Steve D

    Howie Rose spoke yesterday about how Nimmo’s exuberance got the Mets out of their doldrums. If that is the case, that is exactly why I wanted Reyes to return and that will be another shot of adrenaline.

    It also got me wondering…has Collins started to lose his motivational magic? It happens to every manager eventually. He was a steady hand when we were developing a younger team…do we need a Wally Backman type now? Just wondering.

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