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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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The Boys of This Summer

Meet the Mets. Meet the Mets. Step right up and meet these Mets. These Mets who we didn’t quite know not very long ago, but who are presently playing their way into our hearts and imprinting themselves on our brains.

Meet Seth Lugo. He’s our new somewhere from No. 1 to No. 4 starter. It doesn’t really matter, since everybody’s gotta be an ace on the night they take the ball. Lugo takes the ball, throws it for a bunch of innings, records a bunch of outs and keeps our team in games. He did that Tuesday night against the Marlins, and now the Mets are ahead of the Marlins and essentially tied with the Pirates. If he’s doing this for “our” team, Seth must be one of “our” guys. True, a few months ago I’d never heard of Seth Lugo, but that’s never stopped me from first-person pluralizing.

Every pitcher who was unfamiliar or forgotten is acey enough of late. Lugo. Gsellman. Montero. Throw in the relievers Smoker, who is here, and Ynoa, who is not. Four of them recently picked up their first major league wins as Mets, so we welcome them warmly into our ranks (even if pitcher wins are often misleading and should probably be replaced by a more rational system of merit-based recognition). Oh, and Rafael Montero from Monday night, not new, but still sitting on exactly one major league win back from when he was new.

A few nights before Montero returned from Eastern League purgatory, the Mets distributed to the first 15,000 fans who turned up at Citi Field a Matt Harvey bobblehead. It looked nothing like Matt Harvey, but that’s all right, considering nobody in the rotationlike blob from which our nightly starter is extracted looks like Matt Harvey. Harvey — along with Duda, Wright, Lagares, Wheeler and Niese — has disappeared from view for 2016. To be handed a box with Matt’s name and image in late August was an anachronistic reminder of who the Mets are not at the moment.

A gander at Montero taking the mound 48 hours later felt even more detached from the space-time continuum as we’d come to understand it. Rafael was presumed hot stuff in 2014, revealed lukewarm in 2015, barely a component of our consciousness in 2016. Yet Montero took the ball, threw it for a bunch of innings, recorded a bunch of outs and kept our team in his game. He did that Monday night against the Marlins. He’s back in the minors at the moment, but he left an impression while nudging us a step forward.

Good to meet Rafael again, just as it’s been good to meet or stay in touch with the seven different pitchers who started seven consecutive games between August 23 and August 29 (give or take a Niese). You don’t usually throw a different guy out there every single game for a week unless you’re playing out the frayed end of the string, loaded down with doubleheaders or beset by injuries. You know Lugo and friends weren’t chosen by choice. Too many arms have ached. Fortunately, a few are making us feel super, thanks for asking.

Good to have met Asdrubal Cabrera way back in April and reacquainted ourselves with one of the few indispensable Mets upon his August return from the disabled list. Asdrabsence made our hearts grow fonder, even if Asdrubal’s knee didn’t grow altogether healthier. Like most Mets, he can barely put his pants on one leg at a time. Like many Mets, he’s putting them on anyway and strapping on everything else besides. Tuesday night, last week’s National League Player of the Week answered two early Marlin runs with his 17th homer of the year, good for two runs and a temporary tie. We’d be out in front soon enough and there we’d stay.

Good old Asdrubal. Remember when he was a total stranger? Me neither. Baseball seasons make hail Met fellows of us all, fans and players, especially when the players give us fans what we’d been begging for and dreaming of. Cabrera was pretty much doing that all along, but it was hard to appreciate in the vacuum that was sucking 2016 into near-certain obscurity. Neil Walker and Steven Matz are inches from the wrong end of that hose, the one that pulled in Harvey and all those other Mets who have been Hoovered from our midst. Hang in there, fellas. We need everybody we can get.

We need Jose Reyes. Good to have remet him, I’d say. Conveniently ignore the issue that lurks in the subconscious no matter how well he plays and you can’t believe how well he plays. You should, though. I think we’ve looked at Jose Reyes from a distance all wrong. When he bought whatever snake oil Jeffrey Loria was selling five winters ago, what did we tell ourselves so we could convince ourselves that Ruben Tejada was a reasonable cost-efficient replacement? That Jose wasn’t going to be worth nine figures because Jose couldn’t possibly continue to be the Jose that rated nine figures.

True then, true now. But for our purposes, the purposes that involve trying to mold a legitimate contender from spare parts, Reyes didn’t have to be 2011’s batting champ and he didn’t have to live up to somebody else’s absurd/obscene price tag (though who can tell any longer how much is too much on the open MLB market?). He just had to be better than whatever we had handy. He was and he is. Watch him hit from both sides of the plate, watch him run from home to second and occasionally third, watch him field at two positions, watch him adore being a Met, the last of which is a skill you can’t teach. If he’s not the star of yore, he’s a very good ballplayer, the way Cabrera is a very good ballplayer. They know how to field and throw and go mind-to-mind with the opposing pitcher.

You get a couple of guys like that hot, there’s no telling how far you’ll go. And if you get a guy with 20 home runs up to 22 and maybe one outstanding month from him to follow, then you’re really cooking with evil gas. Curtis Granderson is the constant on this team, which seems absurd, considering he wasn’t born a Met the way Reyes was. Yet the man has been active and mostly available every single day since he signed prior to the 2014 season. In the second half of 2016, his bat has been eerily quiet. He hasn’t been hitting within a fifty-mile radius of the clutch.

Tuesday night, in a literal pinch, he did. That was no ho-hum solo home run Curtis delivered to spur the sixth inning. It put the Mets up, 4-2, and gave you the idea Lugo’s fine work hadn’t been an exercise in futility. Grandy stuck around and hit another. There was even a man on base. It’s now 22 HRs and 38 RBIs for the outfielder so diplomatic that he can park anywhere he wants in Manhattan and never get a ticket. The totals don’t balance equitably, but it’s a nice change in the weather for someone who always tries to project professional sunniness. How nice to hear him interviewed postgame and not face one question that boiled down to, “What’s wrong, Curtis?”

Nothing’s wrong when the Mets win eight of ten. Nothing’s wrong when Yoenis Cespedes is on a roll. He didn’t do much Tuesday beside strike fear into Tom Koehler & Co., but oh, Monday, that home run to win it in ten. It was Piazzaesque. It was Strawberryan. It was so very Yo. How is it possible he hadn’t hit a walkoff something or other for the Mets until then? I suppose it felt as if he had, since August and September last year were, experientially, one ongoing Yoenis Cespedes walkoff home run.

What a group, huh? Guys who we know are hurting. Guys who are probably hurting more than we know. Guys we didn’t know but have rapidly grown intimate with in the baseball sense. Guys we want to know and embrace, like Jay Bruce, who had a big hit in the first inning, but otherwise continues to resemble Bay Bruce. Guys we have slowly learned to appreciate, like Alejandro De Aza, who must be the most dynamic .196 hitter the game has ever encountered (ah, batting average is overrated). Guys like James Loney, who has stopped hitting, but sure does scoop at first. Guys like Wilmer Flores, who doesn’t seem allergic to righthanded pitching anymore. Guys like René Rivera, who if blessed by an iota more of speed would be a genuine offensive threat. Guys like Kelly Johnson, who plays wherever asked and hits whenever needed.

They were strays we reluctantly adopted. They’ve managed to form a pack barking at the tails of a flock of Redbirds. Can we keep ’em? Please?

33 comments to The Boys of This Summer

  • Art

    Just need to stay close That schedule down the stretch is absurd, while the Central teams beat up on one another.

  • greensleeves

    This is a late summer gem, Mr. Prince. Here’s to meaningful baseball that might make for a sweet September song.

  • Dave

    Nailed it, Greg. You go to war with the army you have, and at this point we have no choice but to see what the Lugos and Smokers and Gsellmans have got, whether De Aza will make us forget his 0-for-2/3 of the season, presumably whether Conforto has recaptured the swing that made Keith fall in love, if Asdrubal Cabrera really is a superhero. Wasn’t long ago that all seemed lost, now it’s all exciting and fun again. As we used to hear so often and in such melofluous tones, fasten your seatbelts.

  • Tad Richajlds

    I felt this one.

  • open the gates

    Where have you been, Curtis Granderson? Our Met fans give their grateful cheers to you. Woo woo woo.

  • 9th string catcher

    We never never never never do anything nice and easy…

  • mookie4ever

    Love your spot-on take, Greg, as usual. When I think about what this summer should have been, what we built it up in our minds to be, I want to cry. But this team has made me joyful again, just seeing them refuse to quit even as they reel from the body blows that keep on coming. They got a decent shot which is great, but whatever the end result, they have shown us their character. They are who we thought they were. Even the ones we have just met.

  • Greg Mitchell

    No doubt Brandon Nimmo will return and hit .600 and lead them to the Series, the way things are going. Or Plawecki rises from the dead.

    But I hope Sandy is watching the waiver wire, today is last day to do something, I believe.

  • Fred

    De Aza and Wilmer. Yes Grandy last night, and yes Cespy any time he’s on the field, but those two in the past month have been as steady and fun as any two players who spent the first half of the season in Terry’s Sporadic Doghouse can be. I love these guys.

  • sturock

    Well put, Greg. And I am happy to say “I wuz wrong” when I complained about our personnel a couple of weeks back. The return of a regular or two and some unexpected pitching heroics are making this an exciting stretch. Keep it coming, Mets! And what if Grandy or, heaven forbid, Jay Bruce can get hot?

  • Kevin From Flushing

    This season truly feels like a hybrid of 2001 and 2009. But hey, the Nats don’t have Brian Jordan, so there’s hope!

  • nice one greg.
    finally that run terry has portended – and we have been eagerly awaiting!
    are we not the only 8-2 team currently in the NL?
    can’t help but feel giddy that this, yes THIS team has gelled into something special. yes, the new pitchers acey enough, the hitting clutch, the defense tight.
    no time to fret over matz or walker. another game to be played tonite, another game to gain in the standings. whoever we have will step up.
    i dare these mets to prove me wrong!
    LGM!

  • eric1973

    Now we got our 3 bulldogs the next 3 days.

    BTW, how about Teufel waving in Cabrera against Frenchie’s arm. Crazy. Kudos to Cabrera for not even trying to score.

    • Matt in Richmond

      In what has been one of the most brutal seasons I ever remember a 3rd base coach having, last night was Tuff’s coup de grace. I can’t begin to formulate a logical explanation for that one.

      • Seth

        Unfortunately Teufel is a terrible third-base coach. It’s not just this season. I’ve been wondering for a while when the Mets org will catch on to this.

        • Eric

          Shouldn’t Goodwin be the 3rd base coach? Goodwin was an outfielder and good baserunner as a player, which ought to help him make reads on whether to wave a runner home.

  • Pete In Iowa

    Late last night and throughout this morning, I have found myself pondering – for the first time – What are the Giants doing??

  • Greg Mitchell

    Teufel lost his mind, not for first time. Still love him and the “Teufel Shuffle” from ’86, though.

    BTW, Walker just IDed with “herniated disk.” Will try to play but you know how these things usually end.

    Conforto arrives tomorrow, with 3 others. I am hoping Cecchini gets call and we don’t see Eric Campbell. At least Muno and Monell are gone.

  • Paul Schwartz

    As usual Greg P. (and Jason F.) are on the money.
    This will be a September of (hopefully) all meaningful games and I think that’s all we as a fan can hope for.
    Last night watching with faith but amid fear, I came to two conclusions.
    Terry Collins is a great baseball team manager
    Terry Collins is a terrible manager of baseball games.
    The fact that this team plays hard no matter who’s on the field, who’s on the mound and who’s on the bench is a tribute to him. It is this year, it was last year and it was for the four years before when he rarely had 75-win talent but managed 75 wins a year.
    He doesn’t lose players, he has unalterable faith that is sometimes rewarded (see Robles and Grandy last night and Flores for the last month against righties.)
    But on a game by game, inning by inning, pitch by pitch basis, he is just awful, especially handling pitchers.
    In the last week alone, he sent Gsellman out at least 2 batters too far (and it blew up in his face), sent Colon out at least 2 batters too far (that one worked out) and put Robles in a pair of uncomfortable situations he is simply not ready for (one blew up and I still maintain the biggest play of Friday night’s game was Cabrera’s amazing tag play at third or the other one might have too). Robles can not come into a game effectively with men on base. It’s tough for any reliever nowadays to do that (and that’s failing across the board in baseball because of the “clean” inning madness that has infected the game for a decade).
    Terry manages his team wonderfully. He manages games haplessly. Hate to point fingers but Teufel is a poor third base coach for a station to station team (not saying he’s a poor base coach just for this group of running-challenged (and injured) players. And our bench coach, Rick Scott (who he?) — isn’t he there to help TC make in-game decisions? Based on performance he’s not very good either.
    I have no idea whether terry should manage next year because I don’t know what’s more important — managing the team or managing a game? Thoughts? Greg — is it worth a future blog by one (or both) of you?
    In the last week alone

    • Rob E.

      Who do you think is a better in-game manager and why?

      You cite two instances…1) Gsellman cruised through six, and pitched to three batters in the seventh. You say he was left in “at least two batters too long.” So after cruising for six innings, the leadoff hitter gets on base and the pitcher should be taken out? Why? Should we just put a hard six-inning cap on all pitchers, no questions asked? What if the same thing happened in the sixth or eighth inning instead of the seventh? Is that still bad managing? Not being able to see the future does not make a guy a poor in-game manager.

      Second, you mention Colon…he had a 9-1 lead and Collins was trying to save the bullpen. I don’t see what damage was done here.

      They have won eight out of 10 games. Whatever influence managers have on outcomes, it applies to wins as well as losses.

    • Jacobs27

      Revisting this a bit after the fact, but I agree with you, Paul, about that Gsellman/Robles 7th inning. Below is my rationale.

      As Jason so eloquently reminded us the other day, baseball is a game of patterns. Any manager will have his. One of Terry’s is sticking with his starters. Sometimes it’s great that he shows that confidence in them and saves the bullpen. But other times… well, what’s frustrating about it is that it doesn’t seem to be calibrated to put the pitchers (starters and relievers) in the best position to succeed.

      Case in point was that 7th inning. Gsellman had pitched pretty well through 6, really giving the Mets all they could have hoped for from a pressed into duty AAA call-up. Terry Collins logic was they he was cruising and probably wasn’t tired, so he would try to get another inning out of him.

      In his quoted words, “[Gsellman] was cruising along (…) He had a pretty low pitch count (…) and I thought he was pitching pretty good. Unfortunately, he gave up the three hits.”

      That makes it sound like there were no good reasons to pull him earlier. He just didn’t execute. 20-20 hindsight, oh well, it happens.

      I don’t think that’s an accurate assessment. There were several good reasons to at least have Gsellman on a very short leash to begin the 7th.

      First, there’s the fact that he’s an AAA call-up making his first MLB start. That’s a reason in itself to expect trouble as hitters make adjustments the 3rd time through the order. You’re rolling the dice to some extent every additional inning Gsellman pitches.

      As for Gsellman “cruising along”, I actually think that’s over-stating it. It’s true he had retired the Phillies in order through in the 5th and the 6th. On the other hand, though, the last out of the 6th was a well-struck bullet towards the gap. Before that, in the 4th inning, he only escaped without further damage because after giving up a double to Paredes (due up in the 7th inning) the Phillies proceeded to get a runner thrown out by mile at home for the second time in the game. In other words, the Mets and the Gs man were lucky the game was only 1-1.

      Those are, in my view, good reasons to be at least wary of Gsellman in the 7th. For pen-saving reasons, I’m fine with sending him out there. But if he gives up a well-struck base-hit, he probably should come out. And if he gives up two, no question. He ended up giving up three very hard hits (all with exit velocities over 100 mph http://wap.mlb.com/nym/news/article/20160828198145074/). The second hit was on a hanging curve that could easily have been hit out of the park.

      Part of Terry’s reticence may have been due to lack of confidence in his contingency plan. But if a struggling Robles is who you’re planning to go to, it makes no sense to wait until the bases are loaded. That’s basically setting him up to blow the game.

      Honestly, Robles has been so wild and inconsistent that you’d rather not bring him in at all with the game on the line at the moment. But if you’re going to, it’s gotta be to start the inning or at most with a runner on first. If he’s already in a position where a base-hit gives up the lead, that’s the worst both for trying to get him back on track and for winning the game.

      But what other option did Terry have? Well, no great ones. Robles to start the inning or with a man on first may not have fared any better than Gsellman, unfortunately. But that’s on Robles, not Terry.

      The point is, Robles’ best shot was clearly not with the bases juiced. But if he’s warming up at all, then the plan is to bring him in to a dicey situation. And I think that’s a mistake. There’s a fine line between showing confidence in your pitchers so they can pitch through their difficulties and setting them up to fail. The latter is what Terry inadvertently did to Robles (and to much lesser extent Gsellman, since he put him out there with a flammable safety net). I think the right (well, least bad) call was some combination of Blevins and Henderson, which is what Terry ultimately was forced to do. Blevins is used to coming in with runners on to get a DP, so he would be my guy once Gsellman faltered, even against righties. Not great, but still better, I think.

      Now, this is one isolated incident when Terry had no good options, granted. And very often Terry doesn’t have good options (the 9th inning of game 5 notwithstanding). Yet I do think there is a pattern in strategy to be analyzed here. My issue is not with the results, it’s with the logic.

      I guess this is less a criticism of Terry Collins than advice I’d like to give him, although, admittedly, I’m no baseball professional. It just seems like these in-game strategy issues are correctable, which would be nice to do, given Collins’ other qualities as a manager. Not only has he been a steady presence through hard times this year, but his closed-door meeting after the 9-0 debacle may well have given this team a much-needed jolt.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Well, well, well. A little health. A little luck. A little ascension to the mean in terms of BARISP and underperforming players picking it up, and we’ve got a playoff race. I don’t know how to say this without seeming smug, but this is exactly what I and a few others have been saying for a couple of months now. It’s why it was so ridiculous for folks to be jumping ship in July. I mean, sure, we can welcome you back now, but you have anointed yourself a fair weather fan. Coming on the heels of essentially the same thing happening last year, I never could fathom the lack of confidence exhibited by so many Mets fans this year. But here we are. Despite all the injuries and bad luck. What a group.

  • Mikey

    Tomorrow is september 1 and the mets are right in the thick of it. Not only that but back in second place. Lets hope we are 3 up on the marlins by friday morning….but i will be happy with 1 game.

    Its funny seeing all of the comments here, win or lose. Some are extremely optimistic and some are polar opposite and think the sky is often falling (i am both depending on the day and yesterdays score)

    The bottom line is this….we all so desperately want this team to win. Lets hope they do more of that tonight….in september….and in october.

  • Lenny65

    Weirdest season I can remember, I’ve wanted to just turn my back on them so many times this year but I gotta admit, they’re still keeping things interesting. As far as the injury parade is concerned please, Mets training and medical staff, do the exact opposite of whatever you’re doing now until the season is over, OK? Not that I’m blaming them or anything here but geez, it sure is galling. You can bet that once Japan introduces robotic MLB players the Mets will get a few dozen of them that constantly need updates and software revisions.

    “Oh my, Gary, looks like #387 is down…looks like a blue screen…”

  • Eric

    The current patchwork, limping edition of the Mets is truly a wild card. The last 30 games can go any way, regardless of the W-L records of the opponents. That the Mets will enter September having clawed their way back into the thick of the WC race – 4 back in the loss column from the Giants, 3 back of the Cardinals, and 1 back of the Pirates entering play today – is already an achievement.

    Kudos to Alderson for scrounging the parts on the fly (Reyes, Johnson, Loney, Rene Rivera, plus the kids) that have kept the team in the running while the planned version of the 2016 Mets has fallen apart by the day.

    Just add it to the pile: the hot-hitting starting 2nd baseman has now been diagnosed with a serious, likely season-ending back injury. (Are back injuries to position players, at least Mets position players, what elbow injuries are to pitchers?)

    Having no expectations or even conception of a team in the thick of a pennant race in the stretch run of the season is an odd position to be in as a fan. But whatever happens, with all that’s gone wrong this season, meaningful September baseball is a gift.

  • Greg Mitchell

    At least with Walker down we can now call up Herrera…

  • eric1973

    On the bright side, now maybe Wilmer the Great can now play full time and earn himself a starting position, wherever that may be.

  • Love this team. Love their grit. I wasn’t saying this a few weeks ago–the until-very-recently-unbelievably-atrocious offense made this team unwatchable–but now I can’t wait for the game every day, can’t wait for the excitement that their competitive nature brings, can’t wait for another much-needed WIN!….You get the feeling, watching them, that even if they struggle to score they’ll eventually break through and the pitching will refuse to surrender anything and they’ll win the game. We are all witnessing a thrilling testament to the power of perseverance. Yes, Terry may not be the best strategist, but for this team, he’s been the eternal optimist they’ve needed in the midst of half the team being injured. As long as they keep on bringing the intensity like this, they’ll stay hot through September and we’ll see our Mets playing baseball well into October!