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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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Cruel To Be Kind

The 2016 baseball season began approximately ten minutes ago and is now more than half over. It has tied the major league record for how quickly time flies, set in every other baseball season. Even the ones that drag zip by before you know it.

Embroidered in the fabric of the baseball season to remind us how much we value every second of it and how we can’t have a second more of it than it is willing to give us is the All-Star break. It is here and we can’t do anything about it.

The All-Star break is cruel. Four days, no Mets games. Boo.

The All-Star break is kind. Four days, no Mets games. Still boo, but maybe just a little all right, let’s regroup.

The team we watched Sunday needs a break. It scored two runs on solo home runs (both off the bat of the guy it’s still weird to see here) and nothing else. The team it faced won primarily because it has the guy it’s still weird to see there — plus they were facing a Mets team in need of a spa visit if not a full-blown vacation.

Three consecutive losses to the Nationals closed out the first “half,” or 53.7%, of 2016, diminishing the shine from the seven wins in eight games that preceded the present mercifully interrupted comedown. 2016 has been a lot like that. There’ve been some wonderful stretches encompassing games that prove how great these Mets can be. Then they end and are replaced by spans in which you can’t imagine the Mets getting from home to first without a medevac copter, except one isn’t available because it’s being used to transport somebody’s bone spur to the nearest MRI machine. When they’re playing like that, even the wins — layered with runners abandoned on base and the .158 batters who left them to wither — seem somehow at odds with the concept of winning.

When the Mets look good, we are reminded why the overriding question entering 2016 was “World Series or bust?” Ah, April hubris. There is so much space in between World Series and bust. The Mets are occupying the upper echelon of the squishy middle. They’d be in some sort of playoff if the season ended today (it doesn’t; it only feels like it has). They wouldn’t automatically be in the playoff we’d want, the one where they naturally go on to capture the little bit of reward they missed out on in 2015. Reward doesn’t come so easily for our Mets, though to be fair, twenty-nine other teams’ fans would swear the same circumstance befalls the objects of their affection.

Perhaps the Mets’ dead-arm/strained-quad period will cease when play resumes Friday night, setting up the second “half,” or 46.7%, as an invigorating sprint to the finish. Or perhaps things will lurch forward with bursts of joy punctuated by potholes of angst and it won’t seem long at all before I’m writing pieces in, say, 2022 swearing that 2016 wasn’t all bad — seriously, Cespedes had a monster first half and Colon homered and Familia had that streak and Thor was amazing, and that was just before the All-Star break.

I’m lousy at pretending to know what comes next, let alone knowing what comes next or insisting what should come next (agendas make me allergic). Steve Winwood would categorize me as a roll-with-it type of fan. When the Mets win, I’m going to express excitement. When the Mets lose, my irkedness won’t be particularly well-concealed. Perspective I can always sprinkle in on the other side of the semi-colons. I suppose I could use a break, too, but what I’ll want by 7:10 tonight is another Mets game I can react to accordingly. Like you, gentle reader, I shall just have to wait a few days.

***

• I was a guest on WFAN’s Talking Baseball With Ed Randall Sunday morning. The hook was my book, Amazin’ Again. We spoke primarily about the 2015 Mets, with jaunts into the present club’s situation. I even took listener calls, including one from a bright fellow referring to himself as “Jeff from Maryland”. The spot developed quickly, so I didn’t have a chance to let you know about it in advance, and unfortunately the station didn’t post audio from the program on its site. But, quite frankly, there’s no chance that, as a no-time caller/long-time listener, I’m going to let the opportunity to say “I was a guest on WFAN” slip by without making note of it here. My thanks to Ed for having me on and my thanks to those who did hear it for telling me they liked it.

• We’re a week past the annual commemoration of the July 4-5, 1985, game in Atlanta, but after 31 years, what’s a week? I recall a couple of moments from the marathon that ended at 3:55 in the morning for Vice Sports here.

• If it’s All-Star break time, it’s midseason roundup time for the guys at On The Sportslines. I join them at the 6:00 mark here and sound relatively optimistic about our Mets, so you know this program was taped before the Nationals series really kicked in and kicked us.

• New Jerseyans! Mark Monday night, August 8, 7 PM, on your calendar for my rescheduled first appearance in the Garden State. I’m coming to Little City Books in Hoboken to discuss Amazin’ Again and related Met matters. The original date had to be postponed because — no kidding — an adjacent establishment plans to challenge the record for most guitars played at once. It’s hard enough for one voice to be heard above the din most nights as is. Anyway, if you’re in the neighborhood (or care to be), I hope to see you there. And, yes, it is an off night on the schedule.

• As long as I’ve brought it up, thank you to everybody who has bought and/or read my book on how the 2015 New York Mets brought the magic back to Queens. If you haven’t, well, of course I urge you to buy/read it, but I wanted to get in a plug for those who have already done the Wright thing. Your actions are most appreciated.

***

Whether you’re seeking a copy of Amazin’ Again or, if you’ve got that one covered, you’re looking for something else to enhance your life, I’d recommend supporting the folks that have supported my efforts. If it’s convenient for you, please consider directing your business toward one of the following fine establishments:

Bergino Baseball Clubhouse in Manhattan. (An entire National Pastime experience.)

Foley’s in Manhattan. (For your baseball-immersed drinking and dining pleasure.)

Turn of the Corkscrew in Rockville Centre. (Books and wine.)

WORD in Greenpoint.

Little City in Hoboken.

• My sister’s and brother-in-law’s eBay shop (specializing in signed copies of my book).

31 comments to Cruel To Be Kind

  • Pete In Iowa

    There’s been so many comments on Murph lately, I wanted to take my chance to chime in since he did it to us again on Sunday.
    Truly, no one could have seen what he is doing now last winter, but there is one obvious point which everyone has overlooked: Murphy HIMSELF never saw this coming.
    If he had, the ONLY choice he would have had was to have taken the $15.2 million qualifying offer. Way more than he’s making this year, and can you imagine the payday he would be set for at the end of this year given what he’s doing? Likely short of $100 million, but damn close to it.
    Not really interested in all the scuttlebutt (you know, Flores vs. Reyes; bone chips, injuries and on and on). All I want to see in the second half is more consistent winning baseball, unlike the roller coaster first half. This past homestand was a great example – they went a respectable 7-4, but in the end, it felt more like 2-9.
    I don’t care who plays, who sits or who pitches. Just do it!! LGM!!!

  • Ken K. in NJ

    The Mets are now 0-3 with The Catalyst at the top of the lineup. I don’t care if he hits 50 solo home runs (will that put him in the team lead??)I still don’t know what he’s doing here.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Great point Pete. I’ve been so focused on looking at it from a fan or GM point of view I never even thought about that, but you’re absolutely right. Even Murph himself never saw this coming.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Time will tell if Jose can be a solid contributor or not, but calling him out for the Mets recent record is totally bogus. In a couple of those games he’s been the entire offense. So far he’s done everything that could be asked of him. He’s said all the right things, fit in with his teammates and been productive.

    • Eric

      Granderson looks better batting 2nd, too. If the Reyes experiment peters out, when Conforto comes back, I’d like to see him bat lead-off and keeping Granderson in the 2 hole. Also partly to keep Conforto focused on getting on base rather than trying to hit for power.

  • Dennis

    Excellent point Pete about Murphy taking the qualifying offer and anticipating a huge payday by knowing he would be this good. Never looked at it that way.

  • Eric

    “World Series or bust?”

    It’s hard to get there and get back there even as a dominant regular-season division winner. I am, and before the season was, fine with the wildcard game. Give us a winner-take-all game with deGrom, and I like those odds.

    Before the season, my view of getting back to the World Series was if it happens, good, but I wasn’t pegging my season expectations to that. I was most looking forward to the Mets young stud starting pitchers maturing into an all-time rotation trading off the lead in the Cy Young race every night with Familia in the conversation. That didn’t happen, and with Harvey’s career at risk with the TOS surgery in a way that it wasn’t with the TJ surgery, the all-time rotation might never happen. Not what I wanted, but they’ve still been solid, good over-all. Colon is somehow better this season than last season as a better-than-5th starter. In the bullpen, Reed has been a pleasant surprise. Familia has been putting runners on like John Franco and K-Rod, but like them, he hasn’t allowed them to score. He’s matured mentally as a closer.

    Like I said, I’m fine with the wildcard game. I’m not less enthusiastic about the wildcard race than I am the division race (and yes, that’s partly a defense mechanism for the hurt inflicted by Murph, one of my favorites since he was a rookie). The wildcard race is tight and no gimme, of course, but even with the Jekyll-and-Hyde season, frustrating offense, season-ending injuries, and walking wounded, I’m confident these Mets will stay in the thick of it. I don’t see them catching Murphy and the Nationals for the division, but I don’t see this team folding like lolMets, either.

    I expect Conforto will be a boost when he comes back. I look forward to the team grinding their way to the wildcard game, where deGrom will reaffirm he’s the staff ace no matter who has the best numbers. Then I’d like a post-season date with the Nationals in the DS or CS where they’ll decide who’s really the best of the division.

    • Dennis

      I agree……obviously prefer to see them win the division, but the 2014 SF Giants didn’t do too bad with being in the wild card game….and on the road no less for that 1st game.

      • Eric

        Or on the flip side, last season, where the Cardinals dominated the regular season then were promptly knocked out in their DS vs the 3rd place Cubs.

        Duplicating the Royals narrative of returning to the WS and winning Take 2 is the one we want, but duplicating the Cubs narrative of getting in as a wildcard and then knocking out the division-winning rival wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize.

  • eric1973

    Yep, Pete has made the point of the year. And Murph could have also tried the 1-year and opt-out thing, but no team would have thought him good enough to go for that.

    Maybe even an opt-out on the OWNER’S end, if anything, choosing to emphasize the downside to include the ‘net negative’ talk, and the fielding/baserunning mishaps.

    I think we all wanted him back mainly because he was ours, and we really really liked him.

  • Steve D

    Congrats on the WFAN appearance Greg!

    I take the Murphy issue from several unique angles, not just his current batting average and what he is doing to the Mets:

    1) Didn’t anyone in the organization note Murphy had a new approach in the playoffs that helped explain why he crushed several of baseball’s elite starters? That his run could not have been pure luck?
    2) What if Murphy had extended his run 5 more games and the Mets had won the World Series? Would they have HAD to sign him or risk a fan revolt?
    3) Met ownership is still cheap. They were willing to go into this season with De Aza as a starter and no Murphy, despite all the added revenue from appearing in the World Series and becoming relevant again. Would the payroll be that exorbitant with Murphy and Cespedes?

    In 2008 the Mets were second in payroll with $137 Million. Today they are 19th with about $100 Million…the same as the Rockies and Brewers! Obviously being second guarantees little, but the Mets should really be around $135 right now…we are in the biggest market in the world. You can see the payroll changes through the years…scroll up and down:

    http://www.stevetheump.com/Payrolls.htm#2015_payroll

    • Eric

      Keep in mind that a reason for the lower payroll is cheap contracts at the team’s strongest points, the premiere positions of starting pitching and closer. Reed, a pleasant surprise, has also been a very good cost/benefit in the 8th inning role, which is also a key position.

      That being said, in hindsight, they should have ponied up for Murphy and paid Cespedes when he came back available to the Mets as a FA.

      • Steve D

        If I were running the team, I would use the fact that we had cheap contracts at strong points to spend some extra money to upgrade other positions, thus having a powerhouse team…at least until I had to start paying fair value for the strong points.

        If your analysis is right, the Mets payroll should go up as we sign the young pitchers, if hopefully they stay healthy. I am willing to bet that doesn’t happen and they wind up losing half of them to keep the NEW YORK Mets 20th in payroll. This is not the MILWAUKEE Mets. We have to be top five in payroll if the ownership was competent and well funded.

  • BlackCountryMet

    I LOVE Mets Baseball

    I LOVE Baseball. I’ll watch most day games featuring other teams when I can’t watch the Mets live, as day games are 7pm games UK time

    I DESPISE the All Star Game. Am never going to bring myself to cheer for players I normally want to do badly. Mind you, can see the benefit of 4 days off for us at the minute

    Read you book, really enjoyed it

  • CBaron

    Another great post, Greg! I also appreciated the links you included – I plan on checking out both Foley’s and the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse when visiting NYC for the first time in just a couple of weeks!

  • Lenny65

    The 19 inning game in Atlanta…still the zaniest regular season baseball game I’ve ever seen. I’ve always wanted to witness a game that just kept going and going forever and that night my fantasy almost came to pass. I’m proud to say I made it all the way to the end, too.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Three years ago today, my brother, Lou, a Mets fan since the beginning of the franchise, passed away. Two days earlier, he and I, from his room in a hospice in the Bronx, watched Zack Wheeler mow down the Giants. Though Lou’s body was shutting down, his mind was still sharp and we discussed what’s wrong with the All Star game, and how it can be fixed. What follows is much of that discussion. How much of this is Lou’s opinion and how much is mine, can’t really be determined, as we usually landed on the same side of an issue.

    First of all, the designated hitter belongs in the All-Star Game, and nowhere else.

    Second, move the game off Tuesday nights. By the time all the hype is over the first pitch isn’t thrown until about 8:45 PM EDT. Kids on the East coast are asleep by the third inning. A solution would be to play the game on a Sunday afternoon, with the first pitch thrown about 5 PM EDT. MLB is losing generations of kids because they can’t stay up to watch showcase games. But the owners are slaves to the almighty dollar, and won’t lose weekend games in 15 cities.

    Third, home field advantage for the World Series is horse manure. If the fans are allowed to pick the starting lineups in an allegedly competitive game, I want to be able to pick the Nationals’ lineup for each game the rest of the season. Murphy and Harper would start each game on the bench. This rule only came about because Bud Selig was embarrassed that the teams ran out of players in the 11th inning. Bud needn’t have worried. That game was so dull that nobody was awake when the game ended.

    Finally, we have the home run derby. This is a 3 hour commercial for the named sponsor every year, interspersed with power hitters taking batting practice and sideline reporters asking inane questions. Unfortunately, it’s not going away so the only solution for this is to change the channel or turn off the TV. Of course, the broadcast could be repeated every day at 2 AM along with all the other infomercials. This would provide a great service to insomniacs everywhere.

    Please understand, that the above is opinion. You commenters have every right to disagree with anything I wrote. If you have better ideas, let’s hear them, and maybe we should let Rob Manfred hear them.

    • Dennis

      “Third, home field advantage for the World Series is horse manure.”

      I always thought that gaining home field advantage for the WS from this was one of stupidest decisions baseball ever made.

      • Steve D

        While gaining home field advantage from the All Star Game is not a great system, it actually makes more sense than alternating every year, which is actually a random result based on which year you make the Series.

        They can’t make it won-loss record, because each league plays different teams. The fairest system would be to do won-loss record adjusted for strength of opponent, but I think a lot of fans would not embrace all the math involved. What they could also do is make it record vs. common opponents, since with inter-league play there will definitely be common opponents. That could add excitement to games at the end of the season.

        • Dennis

          They could use won-loss record….it’s used for determining home field advantage in the NLDS & NLCS, and with interleague play not every club is playing the same teams either. Record vs. common opponents would be actually be OK……better than this system. I don’t think it will be changed though.

    • BlackCountryMet

      Wise words from Left Coast Jerry. Was a pleasure to meet you at Petco the other year fella, I’m going to the series next yr so maybe we’ll meet again?

    • I love Mercedes Lackey and also by Tamora Pierce. Also both YA authors who you and your daughter might enjoy Linda. I have so many authors I enjoy right now in dirfefent genres I could not pick just one. LOL

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Black Country, thank you for the kind words. It’s quite likely that I’ll be at Petco next year when the Mets come in. Due to other things happening this year, I was only able to make one game there and I picked the wrong one. I was at the Friday night game and missed seeing the Colon home run by 24 hours.