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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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When It All Goes Wrong

It’s a truism of baseball that no matter what you’re going to win 54 games and lose 54 games, with what happens in the other 54 determining your season.

Which is a pretty good rule, even if the Mets broke it for the first four years of their existence and came within a whisper of busting it in a good way in ’86.

But why stop there? I suspect you could make all sorts of corollaries to that rule, perhaps starting as follows:

  • You’re going to get three laughers and three laughees. The former are easy; you get your baseball merit badge by sticking around for the end of the latter.
  • You’re already signed up for two to four miraculous games in which your team comes off the deck and seizes victory accompanied by shafts of sunlight and Wagnerian orchestration. You’re also signed up for a few games that will leave you muttering during future winters.

We’d have to divide and subdivide pretty far to get to games like Wednesday night’s, though: contests where your team isn’t going to get its brains beat in, exactly, but nothing will go right, a big neon L is flashing from at least the middle innings, and it takes forever and a day for the whole mess to limp to its foregone conclusion.

Jacob deGrom had nothing for the second start in a row — no velocity and no location, two fatal flaws that were masked for a while by some ridiculously good luck: Yadier Molina thought he’d drunk a Daniel Murphy invisibility potion, Randall Grichuk got thrown out at the plate even though I still haven’t seen Travis d’Arnaud touch him, and the Cardinals repeatedly hit screaming rockets right into the gloves of Mets.

We’ve seen deGrom somehow parlay such bad hands into victory — just ask the Dodgers — but on Wednesday he was out of magic tricks, and all that luck meant was he got to hang around while nothing worked, sweating and waiting to be excused further frustration. The Cardinals wound up with 19 hits; it seems like a kindness that they only scored eight runs. Meanwhile, the game’s official time was clocked at 2:55, relatively tidy for modern baseball, but I call nonsense on that one — having watched the entirety of this mess, I recall it taking closer to 20:55.

There’s really nothing else to be said about this one. DeGrom doesn’t know what’s wrong with deGrom and in all likelihood his malady is just fatigue, unhappy random number generation or some of both. Jay Bruce finally got a hit essentially by accident, then departed with a leg cramp; Kelly Johnson continued to look iffy at second base; d’Arnaud unaccountably swung at the first pitch to short-circuit a potential Mets rally.

But all that’s window dressing: this was one of those 54 we were fated to lose, and one of the subset of those 54 that arrived without competitive or aesthetic merit. Some games you endure and hope to never think of again: they don’t make anyone saw on the violin while Ken Burns pans a resonant photo, but they’re part of baseball too.

21 comments to When It All Goes Wrong

  • Seth

    “this was one of those 54 we were fated to lose”

    How do you know this wasn’t one of the “other 54 that determines your season?” :-)

    • Matt in Richmond

      Because it was essentially over from the beginning. The 54 that determine your season are typically going to be the games that swing on one or two plays that could go either way.

  • Jacobs27

    The baseball Gods seemed to be trying to give us a chance there, really. Or like in the game where Bruce was thrown out at the plate to end it–the Tigers gifted us like 5 outs. Who makes the fate of the one’s we’re fated to lose?

    I’m a little concerned about deGrom although there’s no obvious explanation for his suddenly-constantly-grooving-it syndrome. He’s now had 3 starts this year–the last 2 and the one in Miami July 23rd, 5 ER 3.2 IP–where’s he’s had nothing working at all. Is that the sort of thing that’s just gonna happen from time to time or is something wrong?

    For the record, no Mets pitcher has ever given up so many hits in back to back starts. So it’s not your run of the mill rough patch… sure hope he’s OK.

  • Dave

    Funny game, this. Mets starting pitching was the envy of baseball, and going into the latest Most Important Must-Win Series Of The Year, two of the starters are Jonathan Niese and Seth Lugo. Not part of the master plan. And the game where one of the aces pitches, he looks like, well, maybe a slight step up from Niese. 2016 is taking its rightful place alongside 1970, 1974, 1987 and 2001.

    Article in today’s Times about how the postseason was the worst thing that happened to the Mets’ starters. Except two teams play in the World Series every year. Have they always had their pitchers break down the following year? Is the best strategy not to make the postseason? Or should the Mets’ postseason rotation have been Colon, Niese, Gilmartin and maybe they should have gone dumpster diving for Aaron Harang or somebody? The more pitchers get babied, the more fragile they become. This is a PhD dissertation in physiology or something waiting to be written.

    • Steve K

      There have certainly been teams that have played deep into the post-season and returned the following year. And, I’m not just talking about the late-1990s Yankees.

      More recently, the 2011 Rangers lost the WS and came back to make it to another WS the following year. Of course, last year’s champion Royals – lest we forget – had lost the WS the previous year.

      So, maybe it’s more than just pitching a lot of innings. Training regimens? Youth (more prone to fatigue) vs. experience? Personally, I’m stumped.

      • Dave

        Yeah, no one will ever convince me that a professional athlete in his 20’s needs to be handled like he’s made of antique porcelain. Those of us of a certain age can remember pitchers throwing 250 innings a year without even being praised for it or called “innings eaters,” the designation that now shows that they can exceed maybe 190 innings per year. It was just expected that was their job, and they were trained to do it. Stars were good for as many as 300. And these guys are physical specimens…the 4 young studs we expected would all be aces this year average about 6’4″ and about 210, and they’re all, what, between 23 and 27/28 years old? Maybe the emphasis on throwing hard is a factor…young kids attract scouts’ attention by lighting up the radar gun.

        We need more Bartolos, obviously.

  • Jacobs27

    Also, props for the Daniel Murphy invisibility potion. Brilliant!

  • Greg Mitchell

    Since you mentioned that important NY Times story, here is the link, without comment:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/25/sports/baseball/mets-pitchers-world-series-injuries.html?ref=sports&_r=0

  • Matt in Richmond

    Yeah, nearly everyone has a theory, no one has an answer.

  • eric1973

    I was struck by 2 things as Jay Bruce walked off the field:—

    ——-What position does Rey Ramirez play, because he seems to be on the field for every game.

    ——- I was sad, but then suddenly not unhappy, as De Aza appears to be playing with a certain pep in his step.

    • Matt in Richmond

      And happily, De Aza made you look prescient! For a guy who most of us left for dead a couple of months ago, he has played some really good ball, at the dish and in the field.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Madison Bumgarner in 2014, age 24 (turned 25 in August) threw 217 innings, followed by FIFTY FOUR postseason innings on his way to NLCS and WS MVP. This ruined him so badly, that in 2015 he threw 218 innings on his way to a record of 18-9 with an era of 2.93. We can talk about mechanics, off field preparation, genetics, pitch counts, training, rehab, diet, physical makeup, whatever. The end result is nobody knows why a Mark Prior with perfect mechanics and the ideal pitcher’s body gets hurt and never recovers and Madison Bumgarner is (so far) invincible.

    • Dennis

      So true…..if someone could definitively figure out why and how certain pitchers break down and some don’t, all the while figuring out how to prevent it, that person would be very wealthy.

  • mikeL

    well a point that has been made about mets pitching since last season’s post-april hangover. and pretty much this season’s post-april hangover – is that it almost always needs to be perfect.
    as with neil walker carrying the team on his tightening back, there *must* be some correlation between stingy offense and pitching woes.
    look at the ridiculous stretches our young studs have endured, pitching effectively, yet getting no decisions – or worse losing a game in which they bettered their low ERAs.
    frustration mixed with over-production of adrenaline – and a feeling of carrying the team on one’s violently outstretched arm – can’t be healthy or sustainable.
    the whole pitching-first model, especially when thrust upon such a young staff, can’t be a good thing in a sport that demands strength on both sides of the field.
    as for our hitting future, what a great move getting jay bruce at the headline…i mean deadline! even if he were raking and carrying the team for a stretch, would that really be worth leaving conforto w/o a position on the major league team?
    is it possible that – with murph gone and wright (hopefully) rehabbing – ray ramirez has appeared in more games than any active met?
    are young elite atheletes bound to fall apart as often and as devastatingly as they seem to on the mets?
    i’m sure this is part of the answer as well.

  • eric1973

    Starting Pitchers don’t need to go deep in games anymore because the relievers are so much better nowadays.

    Used to be, they were generally failed starters, and unreliable.

    However, this 7th inning reliever BS began with KC in only 2014. And I would still take a good SP than most any ‘7th inning’ guy they could put in there. Let the SP get out of his own 7th-inning mess.

    • Dennis

      Great points eric, especially about relievers back in the day. And not only are they better in this era of baseball, they’re getting paid a ton of money as well, so they have to be used to justify their salary.

  • Paul Schwartz

    My theory has always been. More Pitchers throw harder than ever before and fewer pitchers pace themselves. I wish more pitchers were like Bartolo Colon (only younger).
    Just because you can throw 95-99 doesn’t mean you have to throw it every time. Don’t know why more pitchers aren’t taught that — Command and control is usually better than sheer speed and force.
    See: Maddux, Greg — even Koufax, Sandy after 1961 spring training. There’s a famous story involving Koufax and Dodger backup catcher Norm Sherry riding either to or from a spring training game in which Sherry told his landsman (I’ll let Greg translate :)) that he just needed to throw a little less hard and a little more to the glove (paraphrase). Before Koufax was 36-40 — after 129-47.
    Now of course he was out of the game at 30 — but 1192 innings in 4 years plus 48 in 3 world series might have been a touch too many (and he missed the last 6 weeks in 1964!)

    • mikeL

      …reminds me of advice i received from a (far more accomplished) musician regarding drumming: if you want to play faster, play lighter.

    • Dave

      You’re both so right. Radar guns weren’t a thing when I was a kid, or if they were they were something only scouts used and they certainly weren’t showing the speed of every pitch on the scoreboard and on TV. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tom Seaver occasionally hit the upper 90’s but I doubt he did frequently, probably sat in the low 90’s most of the time. But he had command of every pitch in his arsenal (and it was quite an arsenal). Species adapt to their surroundings to survive…including major league hitters. The more 99mph fastballs they’ve seen, the better they’ve adapted to hitting them. The worst hitters look nowadays is when their timing is thrown completely off by off-speed stuff. If some of the Mets fireballers suddenly developed 65-70mph changeups, I’d be thrilled.

      And Mike, I was taught something similar as a keyboard player…it’s not what you put in, it’s what you leave out.

  • eric1973

    You said it, Matt.

    Everyone’s got to contribute now.