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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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One in a Thousand

Like the names of Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker, this won’t show up in Sunday’s box score, but the Mets’ 5-1 loss to the Phillies was my thousandth game in a row. Not playing, but witnessing. I’ve watched, heard or attended at least some, usually all, of every regular-season Mets game dating back to July 30, 2010. (I also took in each of the fourteen postseason games from last year, but that should be implicit.)

This isn’t a boast, nor is it a cry for help. My streak is just one of those things I began to notice as it added unto itself. A lifetime enmeshed with baseball has cultivated a sixth sense for streaks and quirks. This is, as these things go, sort of a quirky streak. Baseball is played every day. Every day brings the unforeseen, making a thousand of anything in a row unlikely, yet every day that there is a Mets game, I find a way to see it, generally with my eyes, occasionally only with my ears. I missed the game of July 29, 2010 (but recapped it anyway), then saw the game of July 30, and haven’t since had any slip by me. I’ve been able to catch them all, so I’ve caught them. It wouldn’t occur to me not to.

A few weeks ago, when I was on Twitter offering my observations on how lousily the Mets were plying their craft on that particular night, I was asked by a fellow fan if I’d still be watching game-in, game-out, if I wasn’t blogging about them. I told him I honestly had no idea anymore because I don’t think I know how to not watch or listen to Mets games. I’m hard-wired to tune in. At the low point of the recent road trip west, the Friday night when the Mets almost drifted out of the Playoff Picture graphic, I was miserable, I was sleepy and I was excited because, “ooh, tomorrow it’s a four o’clock start!”

Great broadcasters help immensely, not incidentally. I couldn’t have done this in the days of Fran Healy. It was hard enough settling for Wayne Hagin when necessary. Great broadcasters make just another baseball game more than just another baseball game. They make it one episode after another you don’t want to miss, no matter what they wind up broadcasting on a given night or in a given season.

Also, you don’t instinctively not miss a single game within a thousand if you possess a results-dependent personality. If you can’t see every Mets game, that’s the way it goes. There are myriad reasons a person can’t. The world won’t always cooperate. I’ve been lucky, in concert with obsessed, that I’ve reached a thousand straight and will almost certainly make it 1,001 Monday night. But if you willingly skip Mets games than you can catch because they’re not performing particularly well, I will nod and pretend to understand where you’re coming from, but I don’t. Not really.

You’re a Mets fan who doesn’t want to at least check in on how they’re doing for a batter or two? These are the Mets, our team, we’re talking about. You do know that when they stop playing, they won’t be back for months. You do know you’ll make noises about how you can’t wait for Pitchers and Catchers, yet there are pitchers pitching to catchers right now for keeps. How could you not want in on that by default?

In the thousand games of my streak, the Mets have won 487 and lost 513. It doesn’t sound great, and with 2015 serving as notable exception, it hasn’t been stupendous, but I’d rather have taken in 513 losses in 1,000 games than have missed 513 games. Or any.

Admittedly, the one-thousandth in a row, played quietly on August 28, 2016, wasn’t a great advertisement for never missing a Mets game. Robert Gsellman, 18th on the starting pitching depth chart, acquitted himself beautifully for six innings, encountered a rough patch in the seventh and was not picked up by his bullpen. Also, the Mets — minus an aching Cespedes, Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera once he exited with an aggravated knee in the first — gave Gsellman one run of support. Few cylinders were firing and it showed on the scoreboard. The only saving graces arrived from St. Louis and Miami, where the Cardinals and Marlins each lost. The Pirates, however, were uncooperative.

So in that Second Wild Card race, it’s the Redbirds running a half-game ahead of the Buccos, with the Fish hanging back by a game-and-a-half, then us by two-and-a-half. Don’t mind me saying “us” — after a thousand consecutive games keeping close tabs (to say nothing of 48 seasons overall), it’s hard not to feel proprietary. Anyway, we were, not too long ago, five-and-a-half back and left for dead by someone who observes us every chance he is provided, so progress has definitely been made. Winning series is key, and the Mets won this one, after winning the last one, after splitting the one before it. There’s not that much time left in 2016 for slow, but steady is always welcome.

The Marlins arrive Monday night for four games, with Rafael Montero, about a dozen notches down from Gsellman, coming up to face Jose Fernandez in what is best thought of in advance as the You Never Know special. Is this set make or break? Losing all of them will probably break our nascent sense of pennant fever. Winning all of them won’t make our reservations guaranteed for October 5. That’s how cookies crumble and seasons disassemble when September is in sight. You can’t clinch anything by making up ground when you’re fourth of four with five weeks to go, but you can surely eliminate yourself from realistic consideration if you fall back from the pack.

Just to be in it clear to the last weekend of August, however, is quite a treat. Saturday, during my 999th game in a row, when the Mets were nailing down their series victory versus the Phillies, the fun was everywhere you looked, especially the out-of-town scoreboard at Citi Field, where I was doing my witnessing. Out-of-town scoreboards should be erected every fifty feet wherever you walk, which I guess would represent superfluous civic planning in the age of the apped-up smartphone, but the communal aspect of the OoTS is galvanizing. We all watched OAK hold off STL and we all cheered. Same for SDP taking care of MIA. We weren’t too thrilled by MIL refusing to lend us a hand vis-à-vis PIT, but sometimes — even on a night when you win by eleven runs — you can’t have everything.

Prevailing by the delightful margin of 12-1 speaks for itself funwise. To do it primarily via the little-known Home Run Cycle created an extra kick. From the near-perfect perspective of Section 513, I saw Kelly Johnson finish off the Phillies in the seventh with his four-RBI four-bagger. I saw the eight-pitch Yo Blow for three runs in the fourth that you knew was coming if you’re schooled in how Cespedes ratchets up the pitch count alongside the probability that he will make a pitcher pay. Cespedes came through an inning after the then-presumed physically fit Asdrubal offered Noah Syndergaard a cushion with a two-run homer. (Bon Jovi would tell us the reason we’re two-and-a-half from “there” is we’ve been we’ve been livin’ on Cabrera, so we really don’t want to live without him.) I saw that, and I saw the after-dinner solo mint new dad Neil passed out in lieu of cigars in the eighth.

I had no idea until a tweet mentioned it that I’d just seen every kind of home run, save for inside-the-park, in one game. I didn’t know until I got home and pieced together a few Baseball Reference Play Index clues that of the three times Elias said the Mets had executed the Home Run Cycle previously, twice it had happened in Flushing, and once I was there. On May 20, 1999, Robin Ventura launched a grand slam that became enduringly famous because it came in the first game of a doubleheader, ultimately won over Milwaukee in tried-to-give-it-away fashion, 11-10. Robin also hit a grand slam in the second game. A salami sliced during each end of a twinbill? Nobody else had done that! Of course it became famous. Lost in the excitement, from the opener, was Benny Agbayani’s solo and three-run jobs and Mike Piazza’s two-run shot (how often did Piazza going deep wind up a footnote?). I was on hand for that doubleheader and I was on hand Saturday night. Two of three Home Run Cycles in home games for me. Crazy, right?

The third was chronologically the first, from July 20, 1985, a 16-4 socking of the Braves headlined by Darryl Strawberry grand-slamming and three-run homering, and supported by Howard Johnson belting a two-run home run and Danny Heep and Clint Hurdle each going solo. Craziness is embedded in this one, too, for the guy I was with on Saturday night in Promenade, my old pal Joe, was at that game 31 years before. Thus, between the two of us, we had now witnessed in person every Met Home Run Cycle ever rolled out at Shea/Citi.

The one on the road was four years ago at Wrigley, July 27, 2012, featuring Scott Hairston with the grand slam, Ike Davis with the three-runner and Daniel Murphy on the solo and two-run tips. It accumulated into a 17-1 triumph, a game I heard through earbuds (making it No. 298 in a row for me) because it was a weekday afternoon, and sometimes you can’t watch every pitch but you can do your best to listen in, and I wouldn’t have thought of not doing my best where the Mets were concerned. On a foundation of such commitment are thousand-game streaks built.

Then again, much as you have to reluctantly rest your most vital players if their backs or quads or knees are balking, sometimes you have to do what’s best for the team, including yourself, yourself already having established yourself as a component of the enterprise. Take Friday night, Game 998 in my streak, the first of two consecutive games in which the Mets managed a grand slam. I was watching the bases load in the bottom of the fifth inning from my living room. The escalating tension of the moment (Bartolo Colon had doubled and had been standing on third base for about 20 minutes, for gosh sake) was competing with my need, perhaps intensifying my need, to dash to the bathroom. With the Phillies in a mound conference, I decided to give my bladder the green light and run. At worst, I figured, I’ll miss one pitch, and who knows, maybe if I’m not dancing around anxiously in front of the screen, it will somehow bring Wilmer Flores luck.

Luck showed up conditionally. “Hey,” Stephanie informed me when I returned from my incredibly brief pause for station identification, “there was a grand slam!” Mission accomplished, I suppose. I missed one pitch, but it was the pitch. Perhaps my voluntary absence karmically facilitated Wilmer’s big swing. More likely, the timing of my trip was immaterial because my bathroom-going decisions don’t honestly have a whit to do with the actions of two baseball teams one county away. I was 99.9% elated, for sure, maybe 0.1% dang, I couldn’t have waited? Instant replay and the rewind feature on the DVR certainly came in handy, but the thrill wasn’t quite the same.

There were still plenty of more pitches and innings to come in that game, then the next game, both of them walloping wins. That’s the beautiful thing about Mets baseball. If you miss a little, they eventually make more. And if they didn’t win today, they might win tomorrow. I can testify to that from vast personal experience.

45 comments to One in a Thousand

  • Dave

    Well, I don’t even remember what bright and shiny material is supposed to accompany each milestone anniversary (if someone knows what it is for 30th, please tell me in the next few weeks), but there’s got to be some appropriate bling for 1000 consecutive games. Nice job. And to think my wife thinks I’m nuts because I’ve probably seen/listened to/attended 950+ of those 1000.

  • Paul Blackwood

    I live in Scotland and i’ve probably listened, watched or recapped every game too. Except in 2014 where I attended 3 – Phillies in May and two times AstroTurf in September (including closing day).

    My wife just thinks I’m nuts. Period.

  • Paul Blackwood

    Haha Damn you autocorrect!

    ‘Astros’ that was!

  • Matt in Richmond

    Just A quick response to Greg Mitchell’s post on longevity and a supposed correlation to 5 man rotations and lower work loads. Professional athletes have longer careers across the board these days. This is due to several factors, chief of which is probably advances in nutrition, medicine, injury rehabilitation and the overall year round fitness of the athletes.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Yes, David Wells and Bartolo Colon, just to cite two examples, are prime examples of your point on this, I suppose.

      • Matt in Richmond

        That’s your response? Every rule has it’s exceptions. Warren Spahn and Nolan Ryan would be two of the many exceptions to the notion that pitchers of previous eras didn’t have long careers. Do you dispute that modern nutrition and medicine prolong the careers of modern athletes? Do you dispute that injuries that were career ending decades ago are now handled with surgeries that have become routine?

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Exactly how did we get from Harvey/DeGrom/Syndergaard to Gsellman/Montero/Lugo?

    Kudos on your 1000th. Sometimes I can’t thru 10 without pulling my hair out.

    • Dave

      All too often, the value of a rotation isn’t how good your number 1 through 5 guys are, it’s how good numbers 6, 7, 8 and 9 are. Or how lucky they are. For a little while, Logan Verrett looked destined to take his place alongside Terry Leach in the Mets Spot Starter Hall of Fame. As a regular member of the rotation, he was throwing batting practice. Some of these guys might turn out to be valuable pitchers, but I still hope we don’t have to rely on them for very long right now.

      And as I’m going to tonight’s game, I’m not exactly pumped to see Montero in place of deGrom. I thought Montero was already on the “where are they now?” list.

  • Steve K

    Greg: Great post. And, thanks for the references to those previous HR cycles. In 1985, I was at the game….the day AFTER the cycle. Mets won a wild one that day…15-10, meaning they scored 31 runs in two games!

    While the injury-riddled offense certainly proved costly yesterday, I think Terry must shoulder some of the blame.

    Why leave Gsellman in to give up three hits in the seventh? You have to take him out after the first two hits. And, then, why bring in a struggling reliever (Robles) when you have other options?

    The Mets had no margin for error in this game. And, little margin for error in the wild card race. Under such circumstances, the manager needs to show better judgment.

    • Curt

      Except for Reed & Familia every Mets reliever has been struggling – and even those two have shown cracks lately. There is no good 7th inning option right now. I don’t blame Collins for that, or for hoping that Gsellman might get a dp ball. I can’t figure out whether to be happy that the thin bullpen predicted before the season started didn’t hurt us until the last month, or be sad that it’s shown up lately. Pretty sad to say that I’m hoping one or more of the September call-ups can help, that never works.

      What bothers me even more is the thought that the bats may go back to sleep. When a team’s given up the 3rd fewest runs in baseball, pitching isn’t the problem. When a team’s scored the 3rd fewest, hitting is.

      Don’t like skipping DeGrom today if he’s healthy. He should be able to adjust his release point without missing a turn.

      • Dave

        Robles is turning into Aaron Heilman before our very eyes. I was very high on him, thought maybe he’s next year’s 8th inning guy, I hope he snaps out of it.

  • Paul Schwartz

    I thought yesterday’s game was the biggest of the year and I hate to pile on Terry — This was on him.
    First as to Cespedes and Walker — if they couldn’t go they couldn’t go BUT and this is a big but. if they said they were okay to go and Terry (and/or Sandy) said no — take today off — then I have a big problem.
    Our chances for winning today are slim with the Fernandez-Montero matchup so why not rest them TODAY if the option was there and go after yesterday against a weaker pitcher with a better lineup.
    Then if you’re in a 1-1 game in the 7th, thank Gsellman for a yeoman effort and mix and match Reed and Familia to get nine outs yesterday because neither pitched Saturday and neither is likely to pitch today.
    I’m afraid (and the last week of Mets baseball is the exact reason this blog is the best named blog I’ve ever seen) that despite the best week in four months, this week will be the week our season is buried. At 66-62, we could have survived a 3-4 week, at 65-63, we need at least 4-3 and I don’t think we’re going to get it.

  • LeClerc

    I too am puzzled regarding current general and field management decisions.

    Montero must start in place of DeGrom because of fatigue? If DeGrom started and couldn’t establish command, then why not bring in relief at that point? What are the odds that Montero beats Fernandez? It almost seems like a forfeit.

    Cespedes, Walker, Cabrera and Matz are day to day for the rest of the season? Really? There’s something amiss in communicating the medical and psychological condition of the team. Granderson and Bruce are hitting at levels below Conforto and Nimmo. In post game remarks yesterday, the manager said that Bruce was probably uncomfortable in his new surroundings. Really? Should that be taken into consideration when assessing the performance of a highly paid professional athlete?

    Just at the point when the Mets can overtake Miami and move to the wild card, the offense, SPs and RPs are all out of gas.

    I’d like to hear Sandy Alderson speak to this very weird state of affairs.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Again, I point out that Bruce is merely returning to his level of past three years–minus first three months this year. He is a .230 hitter. His average will keep falling and he will likely hit a few dingers but wind up at .230 this year–again. That’s who he is at mid-career. And below average fielder (everyone says). And yet another lefty. Not the ideal pickup when what they needed was a 5th starter–or terrific reliever. Other teams picked up top relievers–Chapman, Miller, Melancon, the list goes on….

    • Curt

      One of my complaints with the DeGrom decision, based on his velocity being good and his saying he isn’t tired, is that I’d like to see him start tonight and if that doesn’t work skip the next one. With September call-ups you don’t need to make a roster move and potentially be short-handed as could happen tonight (unlikely, but still possible). I haven’t seen who we’re sending down for Montero. Based on last night I’d be happy with Robles but that still leaves us a man short in the bullpen – but with Cespedes, Walker and Cabrera all questionable we sure can’t send down a position player.

    • Dennis

      Regarding deGrom skipping a start, Keith Hernandez said something interesting the other night. He was with David Cone recently, and Cone said that during the dog days of August, skipping a start and allowing himself 8-9 days off between starts rejuvenated him and gave his arm strength the rest of the way. Of course he did say it was after he had pitched for several seasons and was older. Not saying the same will occur for deGrom, just another perspective on it.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Nope. He’s a .247 hitter with a .784 OPS. Not elite, but certainly useful. And definitely not a liability defensively. As too pitchers…if someone wanted to just give us an exceptional bullpen guy I think we’d have taken one, but it’s not as simple as just taking what you want.

    • Greg Mitchell

      As I noted–actually I gave him far too much credit:

      2014: .217
      2015: .226
      2016 July: .218
      2016 August: .165

      • Matt in Richmond

        Sure, if you think cherry picking his worst numbers is an accurate representation of his totality as a player. But, that’s a pretty bizarre way to evaluate someone isn’t it?

        • Greg Mitchell

          Bizarre? Hardly. And not “cherry picking”–using his most recent track record, not a career number. Which most talent evaluators would do. A guy hits .217 and .226 for an entire season–his most recent full seasons–means a lot more than one two-month hot streak.

          • Matt in Richmond

            It certainly is cherry picking. Why do those numbers count, but not 2012 or 2013, or the first half of this season? It’s totally arbitrary. On balance he is roughly a .250 hitter with above average power. Not quite an All Star, but certainly useful.

  • Matt in Richmond

    So that’s it folks? One loss, after such an impressive week, and we’re back to the sky is falling and the management is incompetent? Look, the playoffs are, have been, and will continue to be a long shot. Teams that suffer the absurd amount of injuries the Mets have don’t typically make postseason play. I choose to be proud of how long they’ve stayed in the race, and how they have recently proven (once again) what they are capable of when reasonably healthy. Just think what they could do with a full lineup plus a healthy Harvey and Wheeler! The future is bright in Mets land, and in the meantime, we are still lucky enough to be in a race! How many Mets seasons of recent vintage have we been fortunate enough to say that? Be of good cheer.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Interesting stats:

    D’arnaud slugging pct .343, Thor .396.

    D’arnaud RBI: 14
    Rivera (in 2/3s of ABs): 24

    • Matt in Richmond

      Rivera career avg .213 (31 points below Trav & Bruce). Career slugging .336 (65 points below Trav 130 points below Bruce).

      Interesting stats

      • Greg Mitchell

        And this year, which was the point?

        • Matt in Richmond

          I don’t know. What was your point? Trav is having a down season numbers wise, although he has been raking for the last month or so now that he is totally healthy. Rivera has outperformed his career track record so far this season. Good for him.

          It seemed to me that you were making a case for Rivera being better than Trav, and I just wanted to make it abundantly clear that he isn’t even close. He is a solid backup.

  • Rob E.

    Jay Bruce is a flawed player for sure, but he’s not useless. He was leading the league in RBIs when they traded for him.

    You make it sound like the Mets had a chance to get Mike Trout and decided to go with Bruce instead. It wasn’t like that. The options they had were limited to the players who were made available. I am a fan of Herrera, so it’s not fair to say they gave up nothing, but they are clearly trying to sneak in this year and they got Bruce at no cost to the 2016 team. They were missing Cespedes at that point, and without Duda they essentially had no middle of the lineup. The alternative to NOT getting Bruce was to keep throwing the Kellys and Confortos and Nimmos out there, and that certainly wasn’t working either.

    It hasn’t worked out (YET), but they tried to address a need in a completely reasonable way. I don’t see what the criticism is here, except that they player has slumped. But the thought behind it was sound.

  • Gil

    Greg, you need a day off, my friend!

    Key series here. Montero dusting off the big league uni. Hope he brings it tonight.

  • Early in the Faith and Fear era, the Mets were facing the Marlins under impossible circumstances. They were sending Josh Beckett, then at the top of his game, to the hill. We were countering with emergency starter Aaron Heilman. Heilman threw a one-hitter and the Mets won, 4-0. (And to bring it back around, I followed the game on my tiny radio of yore from a concert venue because we had tickets for something — yet I don’t miss Mets games, dammit.)

    Means nothing in terms of what Rafael Montero might do tonight, but it also reminds us that not a single pitch has been thrown yet by either pitcher.

  • Pete In Iowa

    Top 7. Game tied at 1. Bases load. No out. 2.5 back in WC race. 4th of 4 teams in that race. Cards and Marlins BOTH trailing.
    Would any reasonable baseball fan have any doubt whatsoever the game is clearly ON THE LINE right here? Not to mention the importance this specific game holds.
    It seems to me, I would want the absolute best option I have available to pitch in this spot, given all that is on the line. Would it have been so unreasonable to put in Reed, or even Familia (egads!!) in this spot. I don’t think so. These two stand heads and shoulders above any other option available. Why “save” them for, as it would turn out, a situation (the 8th inning “hold”, or 9th inning save) which never occurred?
    Please don’t misunderstand. This is not an indictment of Terry Collins specifically, since I am virtually certain that 29 of 29 other managers would have done the same exact thing. And with the same result, I might add. Gotta bring in that 8th inning guy ONLY in the eighth and the closer ONLY in the last half-inning. No matter if the game is on the line in the 7th.
    Just doesn’t (and never will) make sense to me.
    For all the naysayers about Montero v. Fernandez tonight, remember, stranger things have happened and a win (as in most any random ball game) is a 50-50 proposition.

    • Matt in Richmond

      Ehhhh, maybe. Was there even time to get them ready? One thing I don’t know if you guys (proponents of using your best relievers in the biggest spots regardless of inning) take into account is, it’s not like you can keep a guy ready for 4 innings just waiting for the perfect spot to bring them in. Gsellman is a sinkerball pitcher who’d been getting tons of grounders, so it was reasonable to hope for a double play. Regardless, we weren’t going to win that game with 1 run no matter what the bullpen did.
      And, just for the record, TC has brought Reed in the 7th and JF in the 8th in certain scenarios.

      • Pete In Iowa

        Fully aware they have been used “early” before. All the more reason for using one of them in this particular spot in the 7th. If not in a spot like this, with huge game and WC implications, then when?
        Getting one of them ready would have been no problem – Gs’s first ML start entering the seventh in a 1-1 game would be reason enough to me. Leadoff single would have been another cue to get one of them ready. If there was enough time to get Nobles ready, then why not for Reed or Familia?
        Hard to say one run would have been the game. No logical reason to think the final 2.5 innings would have played out exactly the same way with a different score. And the Phils may not have scored at all off of Reed or Familia.

        • Greg Mitchell

          Giving Gselman one batter in 7th–no problem. Giving him 2 batters–very questionable. Giving him 3–absurd.

          On lesser scale, reminds me of Terry’s Harvey decision in 9th inning of WS last year. I was among the many who was okay with giving him one batter, although many disagreed even with that. Giving him two was insane. So maybe a Terry pattern–some logic, to a point, but one batter too many.

          • Matt in Richmond

            Nah, Gselman was cruising up to the 7th and the bullpen (Reed included) has been spotty lately. Trying to get deeper with him was perfectly justifiable, particularly with his penchant for inducing double plays. I’m not saying you’re flat our wrong Pete, bringing in AR would have been a defensible move, I’m just saying there’s no clear cut right or wrong here….as is usually the case.

  • Pete In Iowa

    Agree that there is no absolute right or wrong (as always). My only point is that in that spot, with SO MUCH on the line, I’d want my best option from the bullpen in there and let the chips fall where they may. At least I’ve fired my best available shot.

  • Another option: Robles could get a couple of outs for a change.

  • eric1973

    Greg, that is NOT an option….. Not lately, and that’s too bad, because I (we) had thought he had turned the corner.

    Past couple weeks I’ve seen Familia/Reed warming up next to one of the scrubinis, and my heart almost burst with joy, as I thought they might come in. Was only a tease, however, as the gas-can crew came in every time to put the game out of reach.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Woooooohoooooo!!!