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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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More Saddened Than Aggravated

The Mets will play a game today in San Francisco. We will root for them. They might reverse prevailing trends and win. Perhaps the Cardinals will lose, and the Mets will move back to within 4½ games of the second Wild Card. It’s not inconceivable that this sequence of events will repeat itself on Sunday, at which point the Mets will be 3½ out. On Tuesday, the Mets will begin a three-game series in St. Louis. Should they stay hot and sweep all three — depending on what happens between Miami and Pittsburgh this weekend and whoever they play when they get done with each other, the Mets will have climbed into the thick of the playoff race. At that point, the 65-62 Mets will have 35 games remaining, a load of momentum and every reason to believe they can push toward a return date in the postseason.

“Might.” “Not inconceivable.” “Should they stay hot.” “Depending on what happens.” There are a lot of conditions implicit in the above scenario…and based on every available trace of evidence, conditions are not favorable. In real life, the Mets have lost 17 of their past 25 games, including Friday night’s tower of embarrassment to the Giants, 8-1. As platforms for growth go, that’s not gonna get ya six inches off the ground. By way of comparison, the patron saint of It-Ain’t-Over, the 1973 Mets, went 14-11 prior to getting on their fabled 21-of-29 roll. Those Mets were slowly coalescing in an uncommonly forgiving division. These Mets have continually crumbled while looking up at formidable competition.

What I guess I’m saying here is you play the You Gotta Believe card at your own credulous risk. If you’ve abused your internal clock as I have all this week only to watch the Mets sink from dismal to atrocious, you don’t see anything to believe in.

On Friday, Seth Lugo was splendid as the August version of what Logan Verrett was in April, giving the Mets 6⅔ innings of one-run ball. Seth and the Mets were tied in the seventh with Johnny Cueto and the Giants. There had been some clownish baserunning (Lugo’s, mostly) and other disconcerting blackout sketches delivered in the spirit of Love American Style, but the Mets were in this thing. Then they weren’t. Neither was Lugo, removed in a fit of matchup-inspired strategy after 69 effective pitches. It was as if the manager whispered in the rookie’s ear as he dismissed him from the mound, “Don’t worry kid, we’ll find a way to blow this for you.”

And so they did. Every reliever, including newcomer Josh Smoker, was culpable, as was everybody who wore a glove solely for decorative purposes, as well as everybody who carried a bat to ward off evil spirits, because they certainly weren’t using them to knock in runs. The best you could say about the Mets after Lugo left was they did indeed start to resemble the team we saw in the World Series last fall.

Jeurys Familia was undermined by shabby infield defense in the eighth and Yoenis Cespedes was mindlessly trapped off base in the ninth.

It was just brutal, or of a piece with how they’ve performed almost without interruption since July 26, the first time they played the Cardinals in 2016. They weren’t doing so hot prior to then either, but they were at least sort of holding their own, allowing a person to squint and discern the vague outlines of a contender that might get its act together sooner or later. Later has arrived. The Mets aren’t here to meet its plane.

In other summers when the air has leaked out of a season’s inner tube, I’ve been disgusted. Disgusted was the soup of the day for a half-dozen years before last year. But then came last year, and last year wiped the slate clean in my soul. I no longer know how to stay mad at the Mets. When they’re bad, they’re bad, and brother, they’ve been bad more than they haven’t been the bulk of 2016. I recognize situational bad. These situations suck. Yet the bit where we pile on this organization for knowing nothing and doing nothing and winning nothing?

I can’t do that at this juncture of the franchise’s timeline. They won a pennant within the last year. If it doesn’t quite rate them a pass as they descend down the drain pipe, it should earn them a bye out of the tournament in which we reflexively rank the worst, most godawful Met episodes, calamities and aggregations we’ve ever experienced. C’mon, I think when I serve as blogger-confessor for my fellow fans’ struggles with their faith (which happens a lot lately), this isn’t good, but lord, we’ve seen worse. I have links to six seasons of genuine disgust if your memory is too short to box with mine.

I’m not aggravated as much as I’m saddened. I’m saddened that the great year of 2015 will not be immediately twinned with a worthy successor. Of all the things 2015 was, it was fun. I literally wrote the book on the 2015 Mets, and I don’t think I fully grasped how much fun we were having while we were having it. It keeps coming back to me. In the “one year ago on this date” derby, we’re racing toward the really phenomenal stuff. The Mets go to Colorado and outscore the Rockies 28-18 over two nights, or by exactly as many as the Diamondbacks just outscored the Mets over three. The Mets go to Philadelphia and whack eight homers on a Monday, do infield acrobatics on a Thursday and sweep both games in between besides. The Mets gear up for September like September matters. September mattered. October mattered. A wee bit of November mattered.

Matters at the end of third week of this August aren’t inspiring. Some injured return. Other injured recede. Health seems irrelevant. Moves are made. Few of them click. Schedules are cited as favorable. Losses mount anyway. 2015 fails to replicate. 2016 fails to ignite. 2017…nah, too soon, if only in the chronological sense.

If Billy Loes were still with us, he might glance at the standings and conclude, “The second Wild Card is a very good thing. It gives everybody a chance. Just like the WPA.” The 60-62 Mets are 5½ behind the presently Wild Cardinals with 40 to play. They’re closer to the 59-63 Rockies and the 57-66 Phillies than they are to 65-56 St. Loo, though. If we weren’t laser-focused on their status and clinging to an iota of that ’15 feeling, there is little likelihood we’d view the Mets as any kind of contender. If I were an impartial newspaper editor pressed for space, I’d delete the New York line from the National League Playoff Picture box without a second thought.

I’m a highly partisan fan and my virtual X-Acto knife has already pretty much made the cut in my mind. But I’ll watch the next game anyway (of course) and I’ll even allow myself a purposeful peek at the out-of-town scoreboard. Even if you’re certain you already know, you never know.

***

Apropos of Justin Ruggiano’s grand slam Thursday night and my assertion that you have no business losing when one of your batters does the most he can do with an at-bat, I got curious and combed Baseball Reference to determine whether the Mets have ever benefited from such a turn of fortune. Have they ever come out ahead despite the other team hitting a grand salami? They have! Whereas the Mets have dropped thirteen games in which one of their hitters has brought home the Hebrew National, they’ve actually won twenty games in which one of their opponents’ hitters notched four runs on one extraordinary swing. Who knew things sometimes break in the Mets’ favor? It’s a helluva list, too, and I’ll share it with you somewhere down the road when I haven’t spent an entire week awake at hours decent people and frontrunners are sound asleep.

38 comments to More Saddened Than Aggravated

  • eric1973

    Man, last nite/this morning was ugly. If this team was a date, I would excuse myself to go to the bathroom and then slip out the side door.

    Oh, the heady days of ‘double unicorn’ 14-9 games, when we were Frank Lary, and everyone else was the Yankees.

    BTW, did we ever get that list of ‘most inconsequential Mets ever?’ If we did, it may need to be updated with this current group. I might have to nominate Grandy for the honor: 20 home runs and 34 RBI? Talk about playing in a vacuum.

    I’m not into all that book learnin,’ so has anyone ever had at least 20 homers and less than 34 RBIs at any point of any season?

    • Dennis

      “If this team was a date, I would excuse myself to go to the bathroom and then slip out the side door.”

      LOL. Have to admit…..that’s a great analogy.

    • Pete In Iowa

      I don’t think it would take much “book learnin” Eric. I can’t possibly imagine anyone else in the history of the game with 34 RBI on 20 HR. It’s one of things which someone couldn’t possibly do if they tried.
      Think of it. In 463 PA (exclusive of his 20 HR), he has knocked in a teammate a grand total of 14 times!! That’s easily more bizarre than the Mets not winning two straight for 6 weeks, which I thought at the time was the most amazin stat in the history of the Mets.
      It seems this season keeps getting more “amazin” by the day! In a brutal sort of way…

    • Dan Gurney

      Garrett Jones for the 2009 Pirates had 21 HR and 44 rbis in about half a season work. I think when he hit home run #20, it was his 40th rbi. And he was primarily the #3 hitter….on a team that went 62-99.

      Oscar Gamble had 20 HR and 44 rbi for the 1973 Indians, who went 71-91. He hit primarily 2nd that year, although he was used 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I’d be stupefied if anyone had. They’d probably have to be a leadoff hitter like Curt was most of the year, and few leadoff hitters (particularly in the day) hit that many.

    Searching for positives on a tough morning….Reyes continued excellent play, Ces and AC back in the lineup (although both seemed to be elsewhere at times), a meaningful hit from Grandy, there’s 40 games to go.

    The last one is the most important. I know some Mets fans are understandably ready to put this year behind them, but the next month could be important even if the WC race doesn’t materialize. I would think tops on the list would be getting Conforto back in the lineup and seeing if he can establish some momentum for next year.

    It was nice to hear YC once and for all, per his doctors, declare unequivocally that golf had absolutely nothing to do with his injury. Some absurd stories take longer to go away than others. Good to put this one in the rear view mirror.

  • eric1973

    We know that’s what the doctors think, just as we know they have been right all along with this team, right?

    I think we need to rely on common sense rather than any medical staff advising this team. .

    “Sure, Legares can play with a busted thumb, no problem!”
    And that was the most devastating injury of all.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Fortunately common sense supports YC and the doctors in that the tame activity of golf doesn’t put stress on the leg of a superstar athlete. And Lagares’ thumb wasn’t “busted” it had strained ligaments. Everyone knew from day 1 it was a very narrow call.

  • Inside Pitcher

    I was at one of the games that the Mets won despite the opposition hitting a grand slam! Chipper Jones hit one against the Mets in July of 1997 at Turner Field in a game that the Mets ultimately won.

    It was our first big road trips with all three kids. The next day someone from the local radio station was recording questions that fans had for Larry, and my 7-year-old daughter went right up to the microphone and asked, “What does it feel like to hit a grand slam.” I was a good question, and adorably submitted.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I’m sure Billy Loes would have some additional quotes if he were pitching for these Mets. How about “Wilmer Flores has the range of an infielder in a phone booth”. Oh well, you get the idea.

  • Mikey

    I was looking forward to ces and AC and reyes back. And all we manage is one curtis granderson puny blast? Suddenly it feels like we are playing down to our paltry batting average.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Cabrera made that 8th inning error because he heard the fat lady singing. I leave it to someone more clever than me to make a connection between the error and his blond locks.

    I have to say that the home half of the 7th and 8th innings were more brutal than Gary Apple doing play by play.

  • sturock

    Even worse, we’re gonna be subjected to how many weeks-worth of adoring Baby Bombers media stories…

    At least Seth Lugo pitched well.

  • Steve D

    When they’re bad, they’re bad, and brother, they’ve been bad more than they haven’t been the bulk of 2016. I recognize situational bad. These situations suck. Yet the bit where we pile on this organization for knowing nothing and doing nothing and winning nothing?

    I can’t do that at this juncture of the franchise’s timeline.

    You are a better man than I. The lack of ability of this organization to develop a group of young hitters for 55 years borders on embarrassing incompetence. Having a NY team with less payroll than KC and the Twins is an insult to our intelligence. Unless those two things change, you’ll be lucky to achieve one pennant a decade, which is our history. When I was a kid, I would be ok with all this…now I’m too old for it. When I see incompetence, I recognize it. We should also recognize greatness…there should be three statutes outside Shea…Seaver, Gil and Frank Cashen. You’ll never see them with these cheapskates.

    • Rob E.

      Again, they were in the World Series LAST YEAR with all those same “incompetent” people in place, the same history of hitter development, and a LOWER payroll. The question to ask is HOW did they get from the World Series to 60-62. The ONLY key guy that was on the World Series team that is NOT in the organization today is Daniel Murphy, and they replaced him with Neil Walker. As great a season as Murphy has had, the difference between him and Walker is NOT the difference between the World Series team and 60-62.

      Not saying the Wilpons haven’t done a lot of terrible things the last 30 years, but on Opening Day, most of us (and most of the media) thought this team had a good chance of repeating. So tell me what YOU think went wrong between then and now, and why that is the Wilpons’ fault.

      • Steve D

        They went to the World Series in 1973 too…so freakin’ what?

        I have said my piece and don’t need to explain it to anyone. Fifty years of mostly suffering gives me the right to say what I want, as our kind hosts allow.

      • Pete In Iowa

        As I’ve said before here, if you look back over the past two years, this club has had a total of 3 good regular season months – April 2015, August 2015 and April 2016. The rest of the time they have been what they are right now – a .500 club. Of course, this month has been the one truly putrid month they have had in this span.
        They went to the WS last year because they got hot at the right times, putting away the East in August/early September, then topping the Dodgers and sweeping the Cubs. In reality, their play in the WS was pretty much just like their play for most of the 2015 season.
        It’s the new reality in baseball. No longer do WS teams have to be legitimately great (or, very good at the least) and win their League (prior to 1969) or even their Division (’69 – ’95). The fact is the bastardization of the regular season by adding wild card teams has made possible a run by a pretty good team (or even just slightly better than mediocre) to be WS participants or champs. Just look at the 2006 Cardinals – 83 wins and they win it all!! Preposterous!!
        As Steve D says “lucky to achieve one pennant a decade” is now possible for all teams. Just get hot at the right time – never mind being consistently good. And, most bizarre of all – if you are consistently good over the grind of 162 games (like the 2006 Mets), it means nothing anymore.
        All made possible by Bud Selig and his ridiculous ideas and the idiots (players, management) which bought into all of them.

    • Matt in Richmond

      You have the right to gripe and moan all you want. Rob E makes a reasonable point and asks a reasonable question though. I would also add that when you say something like “fifty years of mostly suffering” it makes me wonder if you’ve perhaps lost a bit of perspective. For a relatively young franchise, we’ve made a lot of playoff noise. There’s maybe around 10 or less than a third of all franchises in baseball that wouldn’t trade places with us when it comes to getting to the postseason, and postseason success.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Disagree with claim that Terry pulled Lugo too quickly. The guy hurled 1 1/3 innings in relief just two nights earlier. Terry had said he’d throw no more than 5 but because pitch count relatively low–for a starter, that is!–he let him throw the 6th and then 3 batters into the 7th. I presume Seth begged him to stay in. That usually works.

    On the other hand, since Sandy picked up no relievers (except Niese!) and no starters (except Niese!) I guess you could in this case feel some sympathy for TC.

    And come on, Sandy, you missed out on Carlos Gomez last year, you can sign him easily now. But perhaps he has picked up his .225 outfielder for this year (actually Bruce needs to go on a tear to reach that number as a Met).

    Re: the “Baby Bombers.” Unfortunately we have to live with this. The Mets cast their lot with young pitching which in this day in age in incredibly risky, as we’ve seen, and not just with them. Compare our studs to, say, what the Cubs–who stated out front they were taking a different approach–look like today (they have so much everyday young talent no one even talks about their young catcher, a likely all-star by next year). And now the Yanks. Injury risk to position players is so much less than with pitchers–not that they don’t get hurt but it’s usually for much shorter spells. I remember when so many laughed at the notion of dealing Matt Harvey for Mookie Betts–even after Harvey first got hurt. How does that look now?

  • Steve D

    Bruce will never hit more than .225 as a Met…I have followed him for years and guarantee it.

    Ike Davis, the Met poster boy for organizational hitter development, is available also. We really developed him, huh?

    • Matt in Richmond

      Yeah, he’s a low average high power hitter. Did anyone not know this? I mean, .225 might be setting the bar a tad low, but nobody thought he was a .300 hitter did they? But then again, he has more homers the last 5 years than anyone.

      • Greg Mitchell

        As I’ve noted he has hit .225 for three solid years except for first two months this year. So bar IS .225.

        Top HR hitter? Hardly. He has only finished in top ten for MLB once in his career, and that was back in 2012, when he finished…10th. He has even slipped out of the top ten this year after hot start. That’s called “returning to the norm.”

  • eric1973

    If Ces needs to do something during the day to relieve tension, there are some printable and unprintable suggestions we can make.

    I would suggest meditation, but the way things are going, he would probably wind up on the DL getting into the lotus position.

    • Dennis

      “I would suggest meditation, but the way things are going, he would probably wind up on the DL getting into the lotus position.”

      LOL…..you’re on a roll eric, keep em coming!

  • LeClerc

    Seth Lugo pitched a great game.

    The pre-game plan was 85 pitches. After 69 pitches in 6-2/3 fast, efficient innings he was yanked.

    Then the fire brigade arrived and burned down the forest.

  • Rob E.

    I’m not going to say that this was a good year, because it wasn’t, but I can’t fault the thinking behind the team they constructed or the way it was managed. We knew Wright would get hurt, and we knew d’Arnaud would probably get hurt, and I think they knew that too and had that covered reasonably coming out of spring training (Flores and Plawecki were the backups). They ponied up for Cespedes, made Murphy a QO, traded for Walker, and signed Cabrera.

    Of all the other injuries, and all the underperformance, and all the guys who regressed, there was not one player I thought was a big risk to be a perpetrator of their ultimate crime. You couldn’t have foreseen Duda’s or Harvey’s injury. There was no reason to think Granderson and Conforto would be negatives. Sometimes shit just happens. And for whatever crappy history they have, the starting point in March was a team that could reasonably be expected to compete. That was not questioned by ANYBODY. You can’t blame ownership or management for what happened between game 1 and game 122. Absolutely NOTHING hinted at this. How could they have known? What could they have done? And this DOES happen to other teams (’15 Nationals, ’16 Royals).

    Again, I’m not saying the Wilpons haven’t made mistakes, but this team isn’t one of them.

  • Sassey Macker

    At this point, I’d be entirely non-plussed by Grandetson having 20 home runs and 14 (sic) RBI. It’s 2016. Anything is impossible.

    • Dennis

      “I’d be entirely non-plussed by Granderson having 20 home runs and 14 (sic) RBI.”

      LOL…..the one good thing about the Mets recent play is that some of you guys are coming up with some great lines!

  • Dave

    Imagine being in some parallel Mets universe in which 2015 and 2016 had been flipped. After the 2009-2014 stretch ranged from frustrating to mind-numbingly boring, .500 would have been pretty satisfying last year, then leading to 1st place and a pennant this year. So the Mets just got these two years ass backwards.

    Somebody do the math. Take away the homers, and where does Granderson rank in a plate appearance/RBI ratio as compared to Mets pitchers? I remember once Mike Jorgensen finishing a season for the Mets with 3 HR’s and 4 RBI’s, but that was probably either a September callup or several rides on the Flushing-Tidewater express. 20 and 34 is ridiculous.

  • MetFanMac

    Sorry Greg, I’m still more aggravated than saddened, because the Mets’ ill fortune have less to do with… ill fortune, than they have to do with continual incompetence at the craft they are paid to ply.

    • Matt in Richmond

      How would you go about substantiating such a claim? To me the evidence all (or at least predominantly) points in the other direction.

  • Gil

    Cespys broad shoulders 1-1!

    Don Bartolo as cool as you like. LGM!

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