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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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Ready Already

Earl Weaver, were he still among us, would likely be impatiently reaching inside his custom-made jersey for another cigarette, and not because his successor in Baltimore held out his best reliever in Toronto while the Orioles’ season went up in smoke. Weaver, between puffs of his filthy nicotine habit (having to stressfully rely on Don Stanhouse when he didn’t have a Zach Britton available probably clouded his otherwise Hall of Fame managerial judgment), was famously heard to say of baseball’s rhythms, “This ain’t a football game, we do this every day.”

It’s hard to remember that truism when the National League Wild Card Game has been making us wait around for kickoff like it’s the last week in January.

Going an extended period without baseball between baseball games is already unnatural. especially when it’s not raining. A year ago around this time, we were enduring four sunny Metless days as we transitioned from the regular season to the Division Series. The reward for our patience, however, was bountiful: a best-of-five set to determine who would play for the pennant. When this year began, there was an ESPN-instigated glitch that had us playing on a Tuesday and Friday, yet idling on a Wednesday and Thursday. But that was also ultimately all right, because the Friday in question was the third game of the season, and it had 159 games beyond it.

This thing we’re going through until nine minutes after eight o’clock tonight is off-kilter. We’re waiting around so we can play exactly one game of mammoth consequence and then find out if there will be more baseball in our immediate future.

Weird. We’ll take it, mind you, because we couldn’t get the same see-ya-in-the-NLDS deal as last year, and it’s inarguably preferable to counting down to April 3, 2017. Still weird, though. This ain’t a football game, but after 48 hours exposed to lineup projections, first baseman debates and a little too much starting pitcher mythology, I’m beginning to wonder.

This isn’t how baseball functions, except for whichever Wild Card game they save for second. So I guess this is how baseball functions, at least for us and our San Francisco Giant counterparts. One group of devotees will wait a little less than 48 hours for another three or more baseball games, the other will wait close to six months.

I hear San Francisco is lovely for waiting this time of year. They should go do that there. We should keep playing. That’s a load of should, which doesn’t translate to will. We will know our respective fates tonight.

At last.

As the regular season was winding down, and I was giving Stephanie (whether she was dying to hear it or not) my quarter-hourly update on how the Met/Giant/Cardinal dynamic was unfolding and where it seemed to be heading, my lovely wife said she remembered that one time the Mets were in this situation previously. Ah, I said, 1999 — yeah, that wasn’t the same thing. Well, it was, but it wasn’t. See, the Mets and Reds tied and had to play a one-game playoff to move on to the first round, but now, there’s a one-game playoff, and we have to get there and win it so we can move on to the first round…which sounds like the same thing, but it’s not, even though it is, even though it’s not, mostly because MLB prints and sells t-shirts for getting this far.

I could have Metsplained the differences in greater granular detail, but I realized delineating between a sudden-death regular-season play-in game and a scheduled postseason play-in game was like navigating Penn Station. I know how to get where I’m going, but despite decades of commuting, I’ve yet to develop the language to clearly express foolproof directions to anybody else.

We did win that 1999 game, though, and we did go on to play Arizona for four games and Atlanta for six. Though we would have liked to have played more that fall, it was a representative sample. In eight previous postseasons, the Mets have never played fewer than seven games. That’s a pretty substantial proving ground.

This is one isolated game, which we’ve been told all our lives proves little, but it will have to do. When we were three games in back of the Marlins, three-and-a-half behind the Pirates and five-and-a-half to the rear of the usually unassailable Cardinals, the concept of making it to October 5 loomed as quite attractive. It was just a concept then. The idea that the Mets could host this win-or-go-home one-off, never mind play in it, was practically fantasy. For that honor, we sat seven-and-a-half games behind the Dodgers, who were then the First Wild Card of record.

As you know, we reincarnated the spirit of 1973 and passed everybody in the aforementioned paragraph, except for the Dodgers, who traded places with the Giants, and we passed them, too. Now we have to pass them one more time in order to play three or more games against the Cubs.

Got that? I knew that you would.

My projection for tonight is I don’t know. This ain’t football. We aren’t conditioned to project single games that aren’t flanked on at least one side by something contiguous. Within a series, you can draw conclusions. Without one, you can shoot craps. There’s no such thing as an “upset” over the course of one baseball game, just as there’s no such thing as what’s “supposed” to happen, regardless of the identities of the participants. I’ll have faith in Noah Syndergaard and whoever plays first base and everybody else who’s a Met, and I won’t be frightened by Madison Bumgarner and the tales of postseason invincibility that accompany him wherever he alights on a given October evening.

We have Thor. We will cede nothing when it comes to starting pitcher mythology.

Otherwise, there is no sign to guide us. There is no precedent worth the pixels they are typed in. Al Leiter shut out the Reds in 1999. The Jays, wearing blue caps in their own ballpark, turned away Wild Card visitors clad in black and orange Tuesday night. Encouraging examples, but probably not useful, certainly no more telling than 2016 being an even year and what that is alleged to imply where Giant patterns are concerned. Nobody’s eliminated the San Franciscans from the business end of October since Luis Castillo’s Marlins in 2003. Maybe we should invite him to throw out the first ball. Or catch it for a change.

Mets in one. Wrigley on Friday. Or, at worst, t-shirts on discount at Modell’s on Thursday. All I know for sure is it’s good to be playing ball tonight.

49 comments to Ready Already

  • Sam

    As always, a terrific piece to prepare for tonight. I find myself more nervous about tonight than any of the 2015 postseason. I don’t want to wait 6 months for more baseball in Flushing after tonight. I want at least a little bit more. LGM.

  • Tim H.

    I was extremely fortunate last year to have been able to attend one game each of the NLDS, NLCS and World Series.
    I intend to extend that count this postseason starting with tonight’s Wild Card game. Then it’s NLDS, NLCS and World Series, again. Only, this time, with the Mets being crowned 2016 World Champions!

    Ya Gotta…y’know…BELIEVE! (Thanks, Tug.)

  • Fodder for obsessing: The Mets have released the roster for tonight, which is just for this one game. If/when they are the NLDS, they start over.

    Notable inclusions and exclusions:

    Edgin instead of Smoker.
    Colon and Gsellman, but not Lugo.
    Plawecki as third catcher.
    Campbell and Kelly, no Duda or Reynolds.
    Conforto over Nimmo.
    Lagares in.

    • Eric

      I’m surprised at Edgin over Smoker. It must be a numbers decision because by eye test, Smoker has better (like pre-TJ Edgin) stuff. Edgin’s command&control isn’t better than Smoker’s to compensate.

      Plawecki says d’Arnaud’s righty bat will be on call to pinch hit.

      Campbell, righty bat, less rusty glove at 1B. I would have kept Duda’s HR potential over Campbell. Kelly works the count better than Reynolds. I believe Kelly has played some outfield, too.

      With no Duda, Conforto can hit a HR. Close call because Nimmo has hit better off the bench.

      Lagares, gold glove and speed.

      Does TJ Rivera’s righty bat slot in 5th between Granderson and Bruce? Or does Collins bat him 6th and stack his lefty power bats in the middle of the order?

  • I stressed need to start Loney but Duda off roster suggests he is feeling poorly.

    Glad Terry didn’t go overboard on pitchers but depending how trigger happy he gets he may wish he took another lefty and dropped Colon with Gsellman as the long man. Third catcher may pay off.

    I’ll be in section 418.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Not entirely concerned with the bench, it seems to be a lot of to do over nothing. If Syndergaard and the Three Amigos play well, we’ll win. If they don’t, we won’t. That’s how I’m looking at it.

    I’m just hoping Bumgarner is baseball’s newest Cliff Lee: absolutely positively unhittable in the postseason until one day he’s entirely hittable. Make that tonight. Our season ain’t over!

  • Mikey

    ugg Eric Campbell. UGGGGGGG

    I don’t get the logic behind 3 catchers. it’s one game. I’d rather have Lugo just in case

    • As long as we don’t have to be burdened by an outsize bullpen, being able to use Td’A as a PH is a bonus, I think.

      • Rochester John

        Agree, Greg. As bad as D’Arnaud had been, we need another experienced right-handed bat on the bench.

        • Rob D.

          The fact that Campbell and Kelly were the first two PH off the bench tells you all you need to know about how far TdA has fallen in the eyes of management.

  • mikeL

    yes a long time to wait but a way to suspend time a little longer til our season as fans – and the mets’ season as players – is on the brink.

    happy we’re here. will be happier if/when here is chicago on friday!

    that play-in game was tense, but also connected to the momentum of the season and todd pratt’s blast. leiter on short rest. game 163.

    the waiting after the quick NLCS dispatch of the cubs was excruciating, an all-star-like break after we were riding so high – and all the stories about how sweeping a CS works against the victor.

    well, the mets ended on a mildly meh note. post celebration ‘B’ squad loss.

    i hope the mets have spent this time visualizing a compelling path to chicago. momentum begins tonite.

    visualizing pandemonium at citi, home team celebrating on the mound…or at home plate if we need more tension than that.

    LGM!!

    **edit: wow edgin over smoker??**

  • dmg

    will be there, along with 42,000 other folks who, as jim bouton might put it, will be so tight that you couldn’t pull a needle out of our collective ass with a tractor.
    let’s go METS!!!!!

  • eric1973

    The only one old enough to remember the last time The Captain had a good season is Terry Collins. Hopefully he can inspire somebody to do something good.

    Tonight is a night reserved for those who are actually playing.

    And that’s no BA-LONEY!

  • Ray

    “Well, certainly you’ve made your opinions known on the fans’ questions about baseball, Buck, but let’s get to something else. Alice Sweet from Norfolk wants to know the best time to put in a tomato plant.”

    “Never before the bottom of the [expletive] twelfth inning! That’s about it for Manager’s Corner. Go [expletive] yourself and the [expletive] with your show coming up next on the Baltimore Orioles baseball [expletive] network.”

  • Pete In Iowa

    Unlike past Met postseason forays, I find myself this year mostly at peace and more confident than ever. I have all the faith and no fear — we will make it to Friday in Wrigley. After that, I still like our chances with a couple of hurlers the Cubs have never seen before.
    Moving on.
    My sympathies to Orioles fans everywhere. I truly feel the immense pain you are feeling today.
    To play in an elimination game that close and NEVER use your best pitcher has to be just devastating. Duensing and JIMINEZ in the 11th??!! And leaving Jiminez in with first and third????? I’m sorry, but if you don’t believe first and third with one down in the BOTTOM OF THE ELEVENTH OF AN ELINIMATION GAME calls for using your best pitcher (and one who throws nothing but GROUND BALLS FOR GOD’S SAKE) then please tell me what situation does?? Oh, right, “The BOOK” says you have to keep your closer in moth balls for a closing situation WHICH WILL NOT COME AGAIN until April, 2017. In this case, ol’ Earl Weaver would have sucked down a full CARTON watching this mess!
    And Showalter is supposed to be a Mensa on the order of a Joe Maddon. Just goes to show you how the game has changed. FOR THE WORSE!!
    LGM!!!

    • Eric

      I understand holding Britton in reserve for a save chance. I understand holding Britton back after the 1st hit. But tie game, 1st and 3rd, 1 out in the bottom of the 11th, Britton has to come in there. There’s nothing to criticize with that move. From there, if he has to pitch until he’s out of gas and gives up a game winner 1+ innings later, then so be it.

  • Curt

    I’ll be very happy if after tonight’s game the Giants have had one more turn at bat than us. There can be no predictions but I have this strange feeling one of the pitchers is gonna yank one out tonight. I hope it’s Thor.

    Greg, I have never thought about it before but your comment on waiting gave me this brilliant thought – 3-game wildcard series! Lot of flight time with a 1-1-1 schedule and have to move both Division series back to start Friday but why not? (Don’t answer that – there are at least a dozen but it’s more baseball)

    And after what I think will come to be known in Baltimore as “The Extra-inning Elimination Game When Buck Showalter didn’t use The Best Closer in Baseball,” Terry leaving Matt Harvey in to pitch the 9th doesn’t seem quite as bad.

  • Eric

    Bumgarner cemented his big-game reputation by beating the Royals in 2014. Well, in 2015, Syndergaard beat the Royals, too, and with a few inches worth of changed plays, he might have beaten the Royals again in WS game 7.

    MadBum makes me nervous. He’s Mike Scott scary. But it’s also knowing that when this ride ends, the other side isn’t bright.

    Last season, Mets fans could look forward to 2016 with the Mets staff of aces, starters and closer, coming into their own. Questions about Wright, Murphy, and even Cespedes were minor worries compared to the security from knowing Harvey, deGrom, Matz, eventually Wheeler, and Familia would carry the team in 2016. Colon’s return only added to the cushion.

    Not this time. Once this ride with these patchwork Mets is over, next season is murky. Who knows about the pitchers, both the hurt aces and the scrapheap saviors. Who knows whether Cespedes returns again and the fate of the other playing hurt and DL’ed 30-somethings. There could be significant turnover.

    When this unlikely, fascinating gift ride ends, there won’t be the hope looking ahead of last season. So I don’t want the ride to end abruptly tonight.

  • eric1973

    Yup, shrewd move keeping Plawecki as third catcher so you can PH TDA.

    Would have liked to see Smoker. Think he’s good enough. Guess Campbell is ok, he seems to be swinging the bat well lately. Like choices of Conforto and Legares. Good roster for tonight.

    Go get ’em.

  • Dave

    LGM. Exciting. Nimmo hs been hot and has that magic feeling. Would have Liked him on roster.

  • Gil

    Have a blast tonight, boys. Game 163. Keep the faith. We got this. LETS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO METS!

  • Dave

    (not the same Dave as above…I’ll lay claim to being the usual Dave, but a name many of us must share, wasn’t just my parents’ idea)

    The roster has many of us scratching our noggins, but hopefully tonight we’ll get a stress-free enough game that Terry doesn’t have to play chess master…and he’ll remember that he doesn’t have the 72 players he had at his disposal during the month of September, in which he knew he could always go to Pat Tabler or Jason Hardtke for a bat off the bench, and Julio Machado or Grant Roberts could eat up some innings out of the pen. They were all there last month, right?

    • Eric

      The roster choices with Campbell and Kelly emphasized versatility, so there is a real possibility that Collins over manages. I wonder how much the AL WC game affected the roster decisions.

  • Eric

    Good point raised by Coley Harvey at ESPN. Mets fans waving Let’s Go Mets orange rally towels, but Mets orange is for the Giants.

    Glad the game is at home.

    • Paul Schwartz

      Hit it on the nose Jason. But even though I’m upset now I can’t wait for next season.
      And Jeurys Familia is a standup guy and doesn’t deserve to be booed.

      • Eric

        I felt for Familia facing the media after the game, more so with English his second language and reporters fishing for his pain.

    • Jacobs27

      I guess there’s really no good way to lose a Wild Card game, but that was a punch the Gillaspie. Oof.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I was choosing to believe the booers were directing their frustration at the Giants, because otherwise I’d be forced to have a great deal of disdain for an awful lot of fellow Mets fans.

    Bumgarner is a true son of a bitch and I mean that with the ultimate respect.

    • Mikey

      yep that’s exactly right Matt, the boos were definitely directed at the guy who hit the home run. at least I hope, as well. and MadBum is definitely a bulldog son of a bitch. Noah was god-like last night…wow. he’s now our #1 in my eyes even when Harvey and DeGrom come back.

    • Dennis

      Tough loss but absolutely loved this team and the fight they showed down the stretch with the injuries they had. Noah was brilliant, but Bumgarner in the postseason is like a modern day Sandy Koufax. If everyone is back (and most important) healthy, then they should be right in the thick of it again next year.

  • rich porricelli

    money pitcher like Bumgarner tough to beat in a big game.. that lineup wasn’t going to do it.. Senior sinker on the big stage cant get it done again..

  • Steve K

    Grandy’s catch at the CF wall goes down with Endy’s catch in an eerily bizarre set of parallels:
    – Winner-take-all playoff game.
    – Sixth inning, with the result of the play “inning over”.
    – Tie game.
    – One runner on base.
    – Mets lose on tie-breaking HR by unlikely player in 9th.

    Proud as anything of this team. Can’t wait for ’17.

    #LGM

  • Paul Schwartz

    rich
    you mean like last year when duda and murphy made game losing errors on routine groundballs?
    or maybe you meant last year’s nlds and nlcs where senor sinker as you call gave up exactly 5 baserunners in 8.2 innings 0 runs and had 5 saves in 7 tough games including a 5 out save in a winner take all on the road against the dodgers? you mean that guy?

    • Steve K

      Paul – Thank you for being a voice of reason. :)

    • Dave R,

      I think it was a six out save in the NLDS, but your point is well made. And for any anti-Familias out there, I’d like to know exactly who this Mariano Rivera-like replacement is that they have in mind. I’ll take my chances with Familia, recognizing that he allows too many base runners.

      As for Bartolo, I’m sure we all hope he’s a Met next year. Considering the fragility of the rotation, do the Mets have any choice?

      Thanks, Mets. My favorite six weeks as a Mets fan (since 69).

  • Eric

    Now we get to find out, if we didn’t believe in it already, whether even-year Giants is real baseball magic.

  • 9th string catcher

    One hell of a year. Wish it could have gone longer. But got to admire how well they did under really adverse circumstances. My random thoughts:

    Would have liked to see TDA as a pinch hitter instead of Campbell. Then again, would have preferred him over Ty Kelly, and look who got the hit.

    You have to be nuts to rag on Familia. We are not in the playoffs in ’15 or ’16 without him. He didn’t have it last night. Happens to everyone. You challenge the #8 hitter – sometimes they win.

    I’m not in either TC is a genius / TC is incompetent camps. I think he’s had a very uneven year, has pushed a lot of the right buttons and has kept the clubhouse harmonious; something that would have been useful in ’07 and ’08. I would hope that he asked his players to work the count against Bumgarner – if he did, they weren’t listening. (Easier said than done, of course).

    Ces was pretty terrible last night. Rene was not at his best behind the plate.

    How great is it to have Syndergaard? If we get our pitchers back next year, we will win a lot of games.

    Have we seen the last of Bartolo?

  • open the gates

    Familia did not deserve to be booed. He shattered the all time Met record for saves in a season. That was only the second home run he gave up all season. I hope he stays in orange and blue for a very long time.

    Tough end to the season, but wow, Thor and Bum going mano a mano like an Old West shootout – that’s what great baseball is all about.

    I’ve been hearing about how TC shouldn’t have gone to his closer in a tie game. Ridiculous argument, as it was the ninth inning at home, so there were no save situations. And I bet a lot of the people riding Collins for putting in the closer were the same people riding Showalter yesterday for doing the opposite.

    All in all, an awesome season. Just having the Mets play 162+ games, with all their injuries, was truly amazin’. Let’s see what happens next year when all the troops are healthy.

    LGM.

  • Nick

    What a misery. If… if…. if… ! If he had just gotten Panik! he had him 1-2, right? Then, with two outs and first base open, you walk the #8 guy and either take your chances with Superman, or force them to pinch hit for Superman and at least get the damn guy out of the game.

    So frustrating. Two years in a row to watch a bunch of visitors jump around on our turf.

    Will Ces be back? This business is still unfinished. #StillUnfinished!

  • sturock

    The ball/strike umpiring was not the greatest, but what are you gonna do? This team got to the playoffs despite all the injuries– and that was a great game last night. I’ll take Familia in the 9th inning anytime.

    Just take a minute and be happy and thankful the Mets made it so much fun down the stretch. And then let the off-season analysis begin!

  • mikeL

    yep lots of ifs.
    reed got badly squeezed – allowing a walk that should have been a K.
    i’d hoped it would be a moot point after a clean top of ninth.

    yea also troubling that rivera was so uneven behind the plate.
    passed ball made sound of air leaking from our magic balloon.

    indeed if the game plan was to make madbum work, memo was not read til the 3rd. too late to force bochy into to the pen!
    reyes, loney seemed most guilty – the former, inexplicably late in the game.

    yea, a depressing end but one hell of a ride over these last 6 weeks. thor was thor. granderson nearly saved the season.

    if there’s any silver lining here: key guys can get surgery/rest starting today (looking at you, cabrera!) and we can hopefully have everyone healthy and ready in a few short months.

    the long ’15 post-season took its toll on ’16.
    hopefully the mets will finish their own, unfinshed odd-year budiness next year with the team we once expected much more intact.

    sorry though to see lugo and gsellman not pitch iin this pist-season. it would have been interesting. mets need to hang on to them and bart.
    ces may stick around like he still has something to prove.

    rooting for the giants to win it all. best for the mets to have fallen to the best.

    LGM 2017!

  • Jestaplero

    Greg? You OK there, buddy?

  • Ces is gone, news today that almost certainly will opt out and someone will give him $120 million for 4 years. The Mets won’t, fearing the kind of leg injuries he had this year and barely survived, and then failing in key final week of season–and the one game playoff. Yes, unfair, given what he accomplished, but as you know, final impressions are the strongest.

    I was at the game and best crowd in many, many years–for one reason, not the “corporate” World Series, 500 to 1000 dollar ticket folks. Place would have exploded if up 1-0 in final three innings, or if pushed across run late in 0-0 game. So, while easy to say, feel good that team went that far, it would have been amazing to be there for end of different outcome last night.

  • Steve K

    Bottom of the eighth: What if Caberera’s liner to Baumgarner with two outs and Kelly on second had between three (or even two) feet higher?

    The above was inspired by the two Peanuts comic scripts from the 1962-1963 offseason, in which Charlie Brown laments about the end of the 1962 World Series vs. the Yankees. Giants (ironically per this thread) had runners on 2nd and 3rd, two outs down 1-0 in Game Seven. McCovey hit a line drive that might have gone through for the game, and series winner, but the ball was hit at 2B Bobby Richardson.

    Months later, Charlie Brown had not gotten over it…

    https://giantspologrounds.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/browncrop.jpg