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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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Jump Up, Jump Up and Get Down

I happened to be standing when Yoenis Cespedes hit his tide-turning home run in the seventh inning Tuesday night, though I didn’t remain standing for long. In the instant it departed Great American Ball Park, I jumped up and — by necessity of gravity — down. I believe it was just one jump, but one jump is one more than the Mets had elicited from me previously in all of 2016.

This is a very different year now, of course. It’s a year when jumping up seems de rigueur. The Mets have been on a steady jump upward for approximately two-and-a-half weeks, elevating from the depths of about to fall out of it to the cusp of heights unknown. It’s a good direction to be heading in. May it continue.

The prior portion of the season, one underscored internally and externally by moaning and kvetching, felt very familiar. It was the theme of the years directly in front of 2015, to say nothing of an endlessly aggravating chunk of frustration embedded inside 2015. By late May of 2016, the groaning instinct had returned in full force. It was an appropriate response to a season in which as little as possible was going right. We situationally mock and dismiss the team we permanently embrace as a defense mechanism. It’s the emotional equivalent of putting on a shift.

Definitive statements where the Mets and their trajectories are concerned strike me as useless. It’s baseball. Baseball is subject to change. Thus, by late August of 2016, a different instinct began to take hold. Pure, unabated affection for an entity we always loved conceptually but were now licensed to actively adore. Sometimes there’s much to be said for being a weathervane. There’s nothing wrong with knowing which way the wind is blowing and taking it from there. Sometimes you just want a reminder that the entity you love is capable of reminding you what love is. Thirteen wins in seventeen games at the most critical time of the year is an effective reminder.

It’s the circle of life, you might say. It moves us all through despair and hope.

Just as I knew how to be disgusted and disappointed by the team that plunged from 47-38 to 60-62, Tuesday night’s Cespedes-fueled 5-3 victory over the Reds and its attendant rise to 73-66 (closing in on one or both of the Wild Cards, despite the respective unhelpful tendencies of the Pirates and Rockies displayed versus the Cardinals and Giants) provided me an easy cue of how to feel when my baseball team comes through for me. Technically they come through for themselves and I watch, but let’s not pick apart their motivations. We’re fans. We process as we see fit.

The Mets fit in this playoff chase. They have Cespedes, and Cespedes shapes the moment as well as any Met who’s ever been capable of levitating me six inches off the ground with one swing of the bat or one cannon of a throw. Yoenis delivered on offense and defense like UPS’s September Employee of the Month. The home run — his 28th of 2016 and his sixth since simultaneously returning from the DL and instigating this playoff chase for real — left the park in the seventh but appeared to land in the ninth. Yo doesn’t hit too many that leave doubt. Who could doubt the Mets would prevail when Ces took them from behind, 3-2, and catapulted them ahead, 4-3?

Except it was only the seventh, and that sense of “we can’t lose” is probably the most self-defeating of all. The seventh isn’t the ninth. The Reds, despite their recent accommodating ways where we’re concerned, were still capable of coming back themselves. Brandon Phillips, who usually does his killing of us at Citi Field (plus in the offseason when he’s rejecting trades to Washington, compelling the Nationals to scrounge about for a less appealing second baseman), positioned himself to break or at least scratch our hearts when he doubled to the left field wall with two out in the eighth.

Or he would have been had it actually been the double it appeared to be before Yoenis got his arm on the ball. Normally you’d say “his hands,” but Cespedes’s right arm should get the credit for the no-hop throw he delivered to Kelly Johnson to easily nail Phillips at second and generate the vital third out of the eighth inning. It kept the score 4-3, it sucked the night’s life out of Cincinnati, and it all but sealed what became a 5-3 win. Three outs in the ninth still had to be secured, but after the multifaceted Cespedes Show — with key supporting roles filled by the likes of Reyes, Granderson, De Aza, Salas, Reed and Familia — it was almost impossible to imagine a horrible ending.

With Yo on board, you can imagine anything wonderful. He is what Special Sauce is to the Big Mac, what Chemical X is to the Powerpuff Girls, what heaping helpings of Strawberry and Piazza once were to predecessor Mets, except the vital element of La Potencia is potentially more potent even while simultaneously seeming somehow less stable. In his eighth active month as a Met, there remains an air of mystery to Cespedes. He speaks only through an interpreter, and then primarily platitudinally. His long-term contractual status is forever unsettled. He’s inevitably one physical misstep from incapacitation. He doesn’t run hard until he switches gears and runs harder than everybody. He looks awful on outside pitches until absolutely murdering the low strike he likes. He’s indifferent in the outfield except when he’s taking your breath away. He comes across as vaguely distant. He comes across as the happiest guy in town. He golfs and smokes, one or both of which are bad for him, but if it prepares and relaxes him for hitting and throwing, who are we to say?

When he is larger than the circle of life he approaches the plate to at home and has games like he had Tuesday at Cincinnati and is on the roll he’s been mostly on since August 20, he is as spectacular a Met as you could ever ask for. It wouldn’t have even occurred to us to ask for him. We’re Mets fans. Since when do we have a Yoenis Cespedes to jump up and down over?

28 comments to Jump Up, Jump Up and Get Down

  • Paul Schwartz

    Pay the man! In this,case we should follow the lead of some major college basketball and football coaches and roll over this contract into a new 3 year deal (paying him 30M next year and keeping the opt out and sweetening the back end to 25 and 27.5 respectively ).
    Keep him hungry but pay him appropriately.
    That way there’s no buyers remorse at,the end of an overlong expensive deal.
    We have more good players on this team than I can ever remember but there’s only one Yo and we absolutely need this,guy.

  • Wheaties54321

    Big props to Terry Collins for guiding this team with a few weeks remaining to within one game of the Wild Card game in spite of injuries to many of its best players. And props to Sandy Alderson for acquiring or promoting to plug the holes throughout the season.

  • Dave Singer

    Great piece Greg. After we all wrung our hands for two months, the fire, and dare I say magic, is all too real.

    Though I harbor no illusions of beating the big three should we get to the dance, a postseason appearance would be immeasurably satisfying after all of this seaoson’s injury filled trials and tribulations.

    See you on Twitter and FB my friend…thanks for doing what you do.

  • Mikey

    “Sometimes you just want a reminder that the entity you love is capable of reminding you what love is.”

    dude, that may be line of the year. some people may mock that we have this relationship with a sports team, but those people probably have never experienced true sports fan love. And man do I love this team. I feel like lately I’ve been afraid to watch, sometimes turning the channel for fear of being burned. but last night, I didn’t want to turn it off. it’s starting to feel like we don’t have to expect the worst, like this comeback is on track to complete itself.

    of course, we always have nagging doubt when it comes to the Mets. but we’re in a great position here.

    other random thoughts…..
    *Cespedes HAS to be re-signed. I think he’s the most exciting Met I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been a fan since 1970. Sandy is hopefully bringing Jeffy donuts every morning and today, pulling up FAFIF on Jeffy’s phone to show him what true love is.

    *Josh Smoker will be our closer in a couple of years. or someone else’s closer but hopefully ours

    *scoreboard watching the Cardinals is so eerily reminiscent of 1985 and 1987. I remember feeling like no matter what we did, the Cardinals won. at least they are mixing in some losses, but they have to be the ones looking at the Mets and wondering when the Mets will ever lose.

    *the Pirates have a AAA level pitching staff. they are not going to help us, but hopefully the Cubs will, and hopefully the Giants and Cards will split those remaining games they have against each other (I think it’s 4 games but I’m too lazy to look it up).

    *Yadier Molina, what did we ever do to you?

    *someone needs to go to Atlanta, and offer Freddie Freeman a sample of a new protein packed pre-workout concoction known as Choc-Lax.

  • Jacobs27

    Thanks for another spot-on piece, Greg. (My favorite line: “the emotional equivalent of putting on a shift”. What a great analogy!)

    It sounds like the wonder and awe Cespedes has brought to this team isn’t lost on the man himself. Metsblog quotes him as saying: “The way this team is playing right now is like last year’s team. Last year was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever lived through.”

    You don’t hear ball-players talk like that too often, much less through interpreters. Sounds to me like La Potencia just gets it. And I love how that nickname captures both the power and the limitless sense of potential Cespedes exudes. I don’t think the Mets have ever had anyone quite like him.

  • Dave

    Yesterday we started getting the main floor of the house painted, a kind of disruptive event even when you don’t have two cats, one of whom is rather hyperactive. So last night I had to get up and do something that disrupted my watching Yo’s at-bat in the 7th. Whatever it was didn’t take long, and as I make my way past the paint cans and ladders and dropcloths and back to the TV room, there’s Yo rounding the bases and Gary’s voice appropriately raised. You’d think I’d have learned by now…whatever it is you have to do, it needs to wait if Cespedes is up. Yes, he’s like Straw and Piazza…the guy you have to watch every time he’s up because you don’t want to miss it if he does something amazing.

    I know it’s early yet, but Greg, I second your nomination for September Employee of the Month. Any opposed?

  • LeClerc

    It’s fair to say the Pirates are regretting the Mark Melancon trade right about now. Tony Watson’s blown save left him and Pittsburgh in a puddle of woe.

    Here’s hoping they have enough starch left to drop a loss on St. Louis.

    • Rob E.

      Tony Watson is actually pretty good, I don’t know what happened. But the night before, Clint Hurdle used him in the ninth inning of a game they were losing 12-4, after not using him at all for six days (after he blew a save against the Cubs). Just a glimpse into what one other manager of a team with playoff hopes does.

    • Greg Mitchell

      No sympathy for Bucs. Like Yanks they threw in the towel too soon. Thank god Mets did not. Bartolo would be toiling for Red Sox now.

  • Gil

    I thought it was Jelly Johnson at 2nd who was on the receiving end of the laser beam that came from The Terminator in left field?

    I was laying on the couch when Ces hit it and I think I got 6 inches in the air too. What a couple of weeks for the team.

    How about that Pirates game. Man alive.

    • Jelly it is! I’ve watched that play several times and mentally insinuated Wilmer for some reason. Will correct. Thanks.

      • Gil

        Could have been Joey, Chandler, Or Ross, too…. hard to tell on such a bang bang play.

        I’ve watched it a few times as well. Cespedes truly is a freak of nature. He was throwing it before he really turned to look, and he threw it on the fly into the glove a foot off the ground, directly above the bag. I mean….. its video game stuff. If only he played for my beer league softball team.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Fun fact: Matt Reynolds, 81 ABs, 13 RBI

    D’Arnaud, 219 ABs, 14 RBI

  • Steve K

    Off-topic: Watching SNY for Mets-Reds matinee and Keith is squirming about Reds’ lackluster play, bad strategy etc. He just said something like “I flew from New York for THIS?” I love it!

  • Pete In Iowa

    Marooned out here in the Midwest as I woefully am, I not only get to see every Cardinals game (if I choose, which lately has been far more often) but I get their announcers too. Ugh!
    Last nite, just after our beloved Mets wrapped up yet another amazin win, I quickly flipped over. After trailing 5-0, the Buccos are now up 6-5, 2 outs in the ninth and TWO FRIGGIN STRIKES (OH AND FRIGGIN TWO) on Carpenter. I looked over at the wife and my daughter – “One strike to get and we’re all tied up!!” Well, well, well. Need I say anymore…
    And then I caught the end of the Giants on MLB live look-ins scoring in the eighth and ninth, to tie it up and win.
    Oh, the life of a Mets fan.
    And now I see (on play-by-play @ – playing hookey @ work) that through four frames, we have thrown out three would be Cincy base-stealers! WITH THOR ON THE HILL!!
    I can’t take it anymore. It gets more Amazin’ by the second!!

  • Paul Schwartz

    Of all the myriad stories of ups and downs and highs and lows of this team the last 2 seasons, has there ever been a story quite like Wilmer Flores?
    I really hope fans appreciate him for what he is and don’t expect him ever to be what he’s not.
    He’s a gamer and a winner and I hope he stays for a long long time.

  • Paul Schwartz

    Today’s 8th inning is,why you pitch Reed and Familia when you have a lead.
    Why on earth would you hold a tryout camp in a playoff race?
    And then put Reed,under enormous stress instead of starting him fresh.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Disagree, unless you want them to pitch 90 games and be wasted for the final week of season. The problem was, as you noted, Terry bringing in a mediocre minor leaguer who had pitched once in ten days and has shown nothing all year. At least Smoker has shown something. You’re right–it was like a “tryout” to pitch down the stretch. How’s this for novel idea: ask Blevins or Robles to pitch more than one inning? Neither pitched last night and tomorrow’s off. And by the way, it’s already back up to 6-3 and with two on.

      • Greg Mitchell

        Got to give my man Terry props, however, for pulling Noah after 5. He clearly had nothing–possibly because pitching on 3 1/2 days rest when he’s been used to 5 lately. Normally TC would have put him out there for one more inning but wisely sat him down. Lot of season to go.

  • Paul Schwartz

    Robles pitched 1 2/3 today with a 3 run lead. Agree Blevins should have started 8th. But Reed in a clean start with a 5-0 lead with a day off tomorrow is fine.
    Familia to pace to throw approx. 78 games this year.
    Last year 76
    Year before 76
    See no problem with him. Maybe he should get a rest next year in late July. Put him on DL on July 16 for a hang nail and bring him back on August 1. His,only slump 2 years in a row is in late July.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Yes, I missed fact Robles did go 1 2/3 but why Blevins for 1/3? You really rather have minor leaguer Ynoa for the 8th than Blevins? And as I’ve noted: Blevins pitching far better against righties than lefties this season.

  • Matt in Richmond

    For multiple reasons. Ynoa was getting sort of a “tryout” for a potential start. Just as you don’t want to overuse Reed or Familia you don’t want to overuse Blevins…he came in to get the big out (Votto) with men on, but no need to have him start the 8th up 5 against a team that has shown virtually no life.

    How about the Grandyman? It’s like every week we have a different MVP and often its someone a lot of fans have previously buried.

  • eric1973

    TC tried ‘The Plan,’ and good for him.

    Luckily, trying it with a minor leaguer didn’t blow up in our faces.

    This team is a pleasure to watch, and hopefully Ces will leave some money on the table and come back to us.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Cards lose, Mets tied!

    Duda swinging bat and Lagares running.

    Let’s hope Ces can survive a big golf day on Thursday.

  • Art

    When Cespedes was at bat, I turned to my son and told him Ces was hitting one in the upper deck. A minute later he looked at me and said “wrong again.”