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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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They Sang to Me This Song of Hope

With one swing, Jay Bruce saved and screwed us all Thursday night. The National League RBI leader — with three crucial Met runs batted in on top of eighty from Cincinnati that do us no good whatsoever — blasted a three-run homer over Yankee Stadium’s center field fence to ensure Bartolo Colon’s vintage pitching performance would not go for naught. It’s called hitting with runners in scoring position, a discipline that has escaped other Met batters throughout 2016. Bruce put the Mets up, 4-0, en route to a rather routine 4-1 win over a rather routine opponent. Jay’s jack came off Nathan Eovaldi, who I should detest on sight for being a Yankee. A ballplayer being a Yankee doesn’t much ruffle my feathers these days (though I’m always willing to grandfather in a few old-time offenders). I detested Nathan Eovaldi on sight last night for having once been a Marlin.

The win wasn’t extraordinary in an artistic sense, but it kept the Mets from descending just a little more in their quest to continue operating as a playoff contender. By beating the ho-hum Yankees, they moved to within one game of the Cardinals and Marlins — or perhaps the Carlins, a team that wryly points out the absurdities of the sport it plays vis-à-vis other sports — for the final N.L. Wild Card spot. This is what we’re reduced to reaching for, but that’s all right. It wasn’t too many Augusts ago we were reaching for next year.

Thanks Jay. Now we have to keep taking your new team’s chances no less than semi-seriously, just when we were collectively ready to dismiss them…though that’s all right, too. It’s better than all right, really, considering the alternative.

Two-thirds of the season is complete. It’s inflection point time. I’ve watched several Mets teams teeter on the brink of de facto elimination at this juncture of the schedule and teeter hard. Their current record of 56-52 evokes numbers from summers past that were about to go hard or go home.

1975: 56-53 9½ GB
1989: 55-51 7 GB
1991: 57-50 5½ GB
2002: 55-51 4½ GB (WC)
2005: 57-54 3 GB (WC)
2011: 55-51 6½ GB (WC)

When next you enter Citi Field and examine the postseason banners affixed to the Excelsior level down the left field line, you won’t see any of the above campaigns represented. A couple of those years expired immediately. Others kept our ultimately illusory hopes up into September. In retrospect, most were wishes at best. But wishing as late as the first weekend of August beats giving up in early April.

The 2016 Mets’ record is comparable to all of the above, but the margin between us and whoever we have to catch, thanks to the expansion of the Wild Card in 2012, is smaller than any those previous Mets teams faced. And though there’s been dizzying roster fluctuation since Opening Day (only nine players have been active each and every game of this season), this version of the Mets still carries a World Series pedigree into battle every night. It doesn’t mean they won’t pay $2.75 for a subway ride, but one is willing to believe that somewhere deep down they know how to win.

That’s not a very analytical statement, yet I kind of believe it. It might not carry these Mets another third of the season into the postseason, but in the short term, it means taking them reasonably seriously. Despite the lack of hitting with runners on second and/or third. Despite the bone spurs. Despite the backs and necks and quads and thumb ligaments and intercostal strains and thoracic outlets and whatever else is ailing us. Despite the golf tempest in a teapot. Kelly Johnson lines one into bandiest section of the Bronx bandbox. Alejandro De Aza reincarnates himself as Tommie Agee. Jeurys Familia continues to rise from his annual late-July visit to the ashes. Like my eldest cat who’s been sluggish from the effects of a urinary tract infection, they were up and around a little more yesterday than they were the day before. Hozzie’s suddenly looking a little better and so are the Mets.

I’m not giving up on anybody.

I’ll throw this in as well: we owe the Mets a little faith after 2015, pending their ability to string together a pair or more of wins ASAP. Yeah, they suck often and it destroys us inside when they do, but tell me this Subway Series didn’t feel far different from all of its predecessors clear to last September. Did you hear anybody talk about these games against the Yankees as any kind of proving ground? Were the Mets framed as trying to measure up to the mighty Yankees? Was there any of that “the other team in town” BS floating around?

No. The Mets did away with all of that last year, and despite their inability to win more than two of four from their downsizing neighbors, it didn’t return. Sure, the Yankees have helped by attempting to commence their version of a Houston Astros tank-and-rebuild, but to listen to those with no pre-1996 memory of New York, the Yankees were supposed to be an eternal impenetrable fortress of municipal affection. Big brother, little brother, et al, as if 1969 and 1986, to name two extreme examples, never happened.

If I may contradict another Bruce, that’s not the way it is. The Mets did some substantial winning; the Yankees didn’t; the Yankees stopped automatically mattering on a grand scale.

To those who will reflexively respond, “I never cared what the Yankees did” — and there’s always a couple in every crowd — good for you and your evolved sense of perspective. I found their overbearing presence on the local baseball scene irritating and then some. I find them incredibly irrelevant in the present. Trading a couple of ace relievers for prospects at the deadline is the least of it. The Mets, despite a current record all of two games better than that of the Yankees, exist without apology or unflattering comparison in their city for the first time in a generation.

That’s worth a few more days or weeks of solidarity with our ballclub. That and being one game out of something with 54 to play.

I recall a social studies textbook from sixth grade that included an illustration of how Europeans saw the world pre-Columbus. The earth was flat in their estimation. At the edge of the ocean were monsters, ready to devour whoever was fool enough to sail too far from port. I’m sure it made sense to them. It makes no sense to believe that if we believe in our Mets, the same emotional fate will befall us. Let Us Believe! We might find a new land, revel in new treasures, plant our flag amid new experiences!

Or the monsters will swallow our hopes whole. I didn’t say it couldn’t happen. The Mets have left themselves with just the one option this year. Watching what Washington does is pointless at this point. I tuned into one of their games recently and I felt like Rudy in Rudy when the title character is told to get off the bus his high school has chartered for prospective Notre Dame students. The Mets don’t have the grades for Notre Dame, a.k.a. the division title. They barely have the grades for Joliet Community, a.k.a. the second Wild Card, but they haven’t been ruled academically ineligible yet.

It’ll take some doing. It’ll take some healing. It’ll take some hitting, pitching and fielding. All we on this side of the ball have to do is believe a little. I will until I can’t stand to anymore, which will probably be five minutes after we’re somewhere in the middle of that monster’s digestive tract.

That moment hasn’t arrived. Come sail away with me.

If you’re still on board after Sunday, come join me Monday night, 7 PM, at Little City Books in Hoboken when we either draw inspiration from or grow nostalgic for 2015 as I discuss, read from and sign copies of Amazin’ Again. Hoboken’s hMag was kind enough to conduct a Q&A with the author, which you can read here.

14 comments to They Sang to Me This Song of Hope

  • Kevin from Flushing

    I’m with ya pal. The Kevin from 1996 or 2004 or 2012 would be so disappointed to see my face all sourpuss at this stage in the game (but then his teams hit better with RISP)

  • Ken K. in NJ

    And, Mark Teixeira, apparently having nothing left to accomplish on a baseball diamond after making a Major League Pitcher look and act like a 9 year old, will be announcing his retirement in about an hour.

  • eric1973

    Mets are the Big Brothers now, Yankee fans, and ya gotta believe it!

    LOL, Dennis, when you said that you can barely tell players these days what to do AT the ballpark.

    I liked Keith’s comment last night, saying you have to TELL Ces to not play golf, and you don’t say ‘please.’

    Bit of a public disagreement there, regarding the golf. It matters to Sandy, but not to TC. Uh-oh.

    Tonite we got Thor 1.5 on the mound, bone spurs and all.

  • Frank from Jersey

    Enjoyable read, thank you. My earliest Mets memories are from the mid 70’s and are foggy since i was only around 8-10 yrs old at the time. In that time, however, i’ve seen enough MLB to know that something very extraordinary will have to happen for us to even take the second WC spot. The injuries have been too much to overcome and the hitting with RISP will continue to kill us. All it will take is for 1 of the 3 other teams going for the second WC to get hot and we are done. Yes, we *could* get hot but with these injuries we are a .500 team at best and that won’t cut it. I hope Sandy does some major offensive retooling in the offseason because this one dimensional offense will never cut it.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I didn’t read it as a disagreement between Sandy and TC per se. I took at as neither one of them believe it to be a real issue, only Sandy acknowledged it wasn’t good optics. TC rightly said he doesn’t care about optics, only reality.

  • Pete In Iowa

    Given how we have played up to this point, being one game out is simply….
    AMAZING!!
    LGM!!!

  • mookie4ever

    I’m with you too, Greg. As an older than dirt Mets fan who witnessed both a miracle in 69 and believed harder than ever before for anything in 73, I’ll believe until the stark mathematics don’t allow. This is our beloved team, who amazed us in 2015, and they deserve at least that much faith. Given the tough breaks of this year, it is truly against all odds that they are still in it, a hot streak away from a real run at it. Or at least a warm streak away from a WC game with deGrom on the front lines. If the FO and owners still willing to invest in the 2016 Mets, can we really be done with them? I believe! When do we pull up anchor?

  • dmg

    while every game matters, i always feel that it’s the five weeks of post-all star game to mid-august that determine a team’s fortunes. (how they do after the asg determines whether the front office is buying or selling; how they do after the trade deadline determines whether the moves have made any positive impact.)
    it’s a long haul, and i think that’s part of what we love about the season. and yes, the mets need to catch fire in a way that’s improbable, right at the same time other teams have to lose traction.
    but it can happen. and it’s a lot more fun rooting than it is bewailing suckitude — hell, it’s fun doing both at the same time. it’s within this team’s skill set to get into the playoffs, and as long as de grom is healthy, i’ll take its chances from there.

  • Dave

    With the exception of 86, virtually all Mets success has been during a season when they easily could have been left for dead (and even that happened more than once in the 86 postseason). Plenty of teams, including the reigning World Champs and the team that feels as though they have first dibs on all such titles, would gladly trade places with the Mets right now. Maybe it works, maybe not, time always has a way of telling, better than any of us can. And we all signed up for this.

    And to anyone who even says the word “golf” from this point forward, delete your account.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I’m loving the faith people! I’m also loving the perspective and appreciation for what these guys have accomplished through monumental adversity. Much better than the childish whining and cynical sarcasm. Here’s to a fun and exciting 2 months!

  • Eric

    I check the standings everyday, yet I still do a double-take that the Mets are only 1 game out of the WC.

    Given the downgrades the team has suffered, I’ll take it.

  • Jacobs27

    It was incredibly gratifying to see Thor bounce back after that hellish 30-pitch inning tonight, throw some wonderful curveballs and keep the score where it was through the 6th, even as he tired. Goeddel also looked great in relief.

    Less gratifying? That run the Mets carelessly gave away in the first. It’s the little things in these 1-run losses.

  • sturock

    Big picture: Mets are still in this thing, albeit on the outside edges. Now if only they could get a little winning streak going instead of win-one, lose-one.

  • eric1973

    Mets should have a better record than they do. The hitters and the pitchers are underperforming.

    I expect to make the playoffs, as we still have a better pitching staff than the Carlins. Should pick up Uribe, DFA’d by Cleveland.

    FORE!