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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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Of the Mets and Infinite Regress

“Rock bottom” gets thrown around a lot in sports, and is invoked as a good thing. No, rock bottom isn’t a place you want to visit, but if you do find yourself there, at least you can’t go any lower. The only possible direction is up. Throw in a pinch of resilience, a sprinkle of rosy memories and a tincture of optimism and rock bottom starts to seem OK. The team that’s arrived there, you see, has Had Enough. It will pull together, rise up and do other hazy but dramatic-sounding things. Scarred but smarter, phoenix-like blaze and all that.

Thursday night’s Met loss wasn’t quite as rock-bottomish (bottomesque? bottomnal?) as Wednesday night’s, which I realize is praise that’s faint bordering on invisible. Rafael Montero pitched like a guy who throws 84 instead of 94, was horrifically inefficient and soon forced to depart, but you probably saw that one coming. (And Rafael really ought to be going.) The relievers acquitted themselves well enough, with Paul Sewald and Josh Edgin doing stalwart work, and there were no managerial maneuvers to get exercised about.

But that was about all that was passable. The Mets’ hitting was appalling, though some of that blame should fairly be reapportioned as praise for the debut of San Diego’s rather wonderfully named Dinelson Lamet. Still, the Mets put the leadoff man on in the third, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth and converted that into exactly one run, largely because they were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position. The Padres never had a lead larger than two runs, but it felt like 20.

If you actually went to Citi Field on this clammy night to witness the Mets play listless, deeply boring baseball in weather a Scotsman would consider deplorable, I’d like to simultaneously tip my cap and gently suggest you make better life choices. Honestly, the Mets should have paid you — and even then, my first question would be a skeptical, “How much?”

Granted, every team has stretches where you wonder how they’ll ever manage to play tolerable baseball again. Hell, the 2015 Mets looked ready for contraction and then rebounded all the way to a World Series. But the 2017 club sure has a lot of stretches like this — this year the fitful bouts of competence are islands in a trackless sea of ineptitude.

Which gets us back to the idea of rock bottom, and reminds me of the world’s most folksy cosmological argument. (Trust me — this is going somewhere.) You’ve heard the story: a scientist is explaining the solar system to an audience and a listener interrupts to tell him he’s wrong. The world doesn’t revolve around the sun, but rests on the back of a turtle. The scientist, amused, asks what the turtle rests on and is told that it rests on the back of a second turtle. The scientist smiles and goes in for the kill, only to be pre-emptively dismissed with the blithe assurance that it’s turtles all the way down.

In one form or another the anecdote goes back to the 16th century, but in this country its earliest appearance seems to have been an 1838 New York Mirror account of a schoolboy talking cosmology with an old woodswoman. (As one does.) That version is a bit different: the old woman rejects the schoolboy’s explanation that the Earth is round, because it’s obviously flat and sitting on a rock — and, as you may have surmised by this point, it’s rocks all the way down.

Rocks all the way down, hmm. That would mean there’s always another rock bottom.

I’m not a scientist, but my observations of the 2017 Mets suggest the old woman had it right.

28 comments to Of the Mets and Infinite Regress

  • Curt

    Wednesday was a shake your fists and scream at the tv sort of loss. Last night was the sort of loss that leaves me wondering what, exactly, is it that I like about this game?

    I guess if Conforto doesn’t lose the ball in the, er, fog then we . . . Nah, if we knock in a few of the guys in all those innings you mention, different outcome. Everyone’s been high on how well we’ve been hitting with RISP, the stats guy in me would say we’re regressing to the mean. The fan in me would say we suck at that right now.

    Only TC bash is we’ve now used Reed two night in a row in games we were behind. Wed was fine, he hadn’t pitched in a while. But don’t you occasionally need your closer to close when you’re ahead? Or maybe he’s reading the tea leaves and thinks that may not happen for a while, that this year we’re the team other teams right their own ship against. Ugly thought, we’ve been that too often in the 45 years I’ve followed the Mets.

  • Dave

    Yeah, rock bottom definitely has more than two dimensions. Unlike the Mets’ bullpen, it has plenty of depth.

    I find myself not waking to the desired news that Montero has been DFA’d. I guess everybody deserves a 22nd last chance. Only question then is when does he get his 23rd?

  • LeClerc

    Yes. Sewald and Edgin. Then turtles all the way down.

  • eric1973

    If you are going to sub Montero for deGrom when you are in desperate need of a win, this game better be halted after the third inning.

    Another horrible decision by this organization, virtually forfeiting the game before it began.

    I guess if you overthink something, there is at least some thinking going on in the first place.

    Pathetic, at this point, as this team is not playing up to their potential.

  • Bill M

    “No managerial manuevers to get excercised about'”?? Huh? What? The fact that a team made a pitching decision on a flawed weather forcast is just the kind of ridiculous maneuvering to get excercised about. What’s next? Pitching decisions based on astrology readings? “Sorry dear fans, Wheeler’s moon is in Gemini this week and for a Capricorn that means his enemies will be seething with resentment and may take it out on his fastballs, therefore the Mets are pleased to announce that Alejandro de Aza will be making his major league pitching debut Saturday as our team astrologer, Moonray Ramirez, sees nothing but success for Alejandro in late May/early June.”

  • Greg Mitchell

    As I noted yesterday here, as soon as I heard deGrom dumped last night, I checked Weather Channel and another forecast–where they agreed no heavy rain until after 10. Didn’t sound like a game that would not go 5 innings, especially with Pads only trip in and strong push to play. You know the rest. Seems like typical “intel” failure by Terry or Terry-Sandy “brain” trust. So weakest pitcher (maybe in league) goes against worst team in majors that should be a gimme–and best pitcher has to go against a decent team on the road. Yes, Mets should have scored more runs, no guarantee of win with Jake, but the point is they were wrong on the intel, or using their intel, yet again–like sizing up seriousness of numerous player injuries, not requiring a certain MRI, and on and on. And it virtually guaranteed needing 5 or 6 innings from the pen, ahead of the weekend series instead of maybe in the middle of it.

    And as noted above–the absurdity of using your closer two nights in a row when you’re behind when he is already on pace to pitch 100 games, and with no day off the next day. So you save your best pitcher for Friday night–and then blow out your closer for that game? And Reed seems to be showing signs of overwork. It was the usual panicky must-win-tonight move that has led to a stressed out bullpen–in April and May.

  • Gil

    The Cespedes signal has been beaming through the sky over Gotham for weeks now. But the hero is nowhere to be found. He’s taken his sidekicks, the home run parakeet and the rally raccoon with him. The fun, it seems, has also gone.

    Maybe this sounds barbaric or childish, but I think the Mets need a good old fashioned bench clearing, bullpen emptying, baseball fight. You know? Get out there with your guys, get a few headlocks going, get mean, do some screaming, and walk back into the dugout when it’s over like a bunch of guys who have each other’s backs and who care.

    • K. Lastima

      Please no bench clearing fight as the Mets will no doubt be Larry and Curly to the other team full of Moes, no thanks

  • “You know, yesterday, I thought I had hit rock bottom. But today, I found out there’s rock bottom, fifty feet of crap, then me…” — Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Greene, Friends, 1996

  • David S Greenberg

    As of August of last season, my brother and I stopped referring to rock bottom. There always seems to be further to drop with this team.

    If you’ve ever seen that Eddie Murphy “classic,” The Golden Child… well, “There’s a ground, there’s a ground here, Monty…. THERE’S NO GROUND HERE!”

  • 9th string catcher

    DAK442 suggested Papelbon yesterday. I didn’t know he was available – why isn’t he here? Yeah, he’s a jackass, but that never stopped us before. True he’s no Neil Ramierez or Tommy Milone, but…

    • DAK442

      Sadly, the Mets are more likely to pick up Josh Collmenter. His last outing was positively Metsian.

    • Matt in Woodside

      I would not want Papelbon here. He’s one of the few players that I absolutely cannot see myself rooting for, even if he were on this team. Plus, this team’s problems wouldn’t be solved by adding peak Trevor Hoffman, much less a past-his-prime clubhouse cancer like Papelbon. There’s a reason that he’s still a free agent despite the need for bullpen help on several teams.

      • 9th string catcher

        I’ve put up with Reyes and Familia as far as scumbags go. Bring on Palp.

        • Matt in Woodside

          Somehow my brain manages to compartmentalize negative news about lots of famous people. IDK what it is about Papelbon, but I’ve had a visceral dislike of him since he was on the Red Sox (and I barely even follow the American League!) When he choked Bryce Harper in the dugout during the middle of a game at the end of the 2015 season, I thought “yeah that looks about right.” Something about that guy just screams dumb jock a-hole.

  • mikeL

    “But the 2017 club sure has a lot of stretches like this — this year the fitful bouts of competence are islands in a trackless sea of ineptitude.”

    So we’ll put.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    A few observations about the game:

    I’m not going to blame management for holding deGrom back. After all, weather predictions are never 100%.

    The Padres had guys named Yangervis and Dinelson in the starting lineup. This is a team that previously employed guys named Jabari and Odrisamer. You gotta love it.

    Chase d’Arnaud made 2 outstanding throws last night. That’s 2 more than his brother has made in the past 4 years.

  • DAK442

    I was one of the unfortunates at Citi last night. Why? Because my sister’s friend got free tix at work and I had promised to go with them. We were covered in Section 327, so the game was worse than the weather.

    Remember a few years ago when management would treat games like that as a rainout and offer people another ticket for free? They should go back to that, because it’s a main reason I refuse to buy tickets in advance anymore, and I doubt I am alone in that reasoning. At minimum, they should hand out vouchers for free tix to everyone who stuck around till the end of the game.

  • Matt in Richmond

    The whole point of holding Jake back was precautionary. It wasn’t as if the team was claiming any certainty that the game would be rained out or delayed….they just didn’t want to take the chance of wasting one of his starts with the current state of the rotation. It was a thoroughly plausible and sensible move and was wholeheartedly endorsed as such by Ron Darling at the start of the broadcast. Too bad Montero was victimized by Conforto losing a ball in the fog as well as his golden sombrero and the rest of the lineup minus Duda and Reyes doing next to nothing.

    • Pete In Iowa

      As bad as the pitching is, I can’t possibly see how any start by deGrom could possibly be classified as wasted.
      Montero was “victimized” by his 2,389 pitches in the first inning, not by Conforto by any stretch of the imagination. Conversely, he clearly failed to pick up Conforto by subsequently giving up a base hit on a 1-2 pitch with 2 out to allow that run to score. I’d say it was Montero who victimized Conforto. Bottom line — Montero victimizes the Mets every time he takes the hill.
      Now that I think about it, I suppose there IS a way to “waste” a deGrom start. It is exactly how the Mets pulled it off last night.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I keep hearing from just about everybody on Radio and TV that things will turn around when we get (insert names here) back. Always included in (insert names here) is Seth Lugo.

    To paraphrase Frank Robinson from many many years ago: “Who the F*ck is Seth Lugo..”

    • LeClerc

      The “who” Frank Robinson was asking about was Rod Gaspar.

      Frank got his answer when Gaspar made one of his pitch-perfect throws from deep left field to nail an Orioles base runner at home plate.

      Rod’s Mets took the ’69 World Series from Frank’s Orioles in five games.

      • LeClerc

        Correction:

        After consulting the SABR website, I realized that Gaspar’s “last laugh” answer to Robinson’s condescending question came as a result of Rod scoring the winning run in game four of the ’69 WS.

        It was, however, Gaspar’s defensive OF play that made him such a valuable piece of the 1969 team. During the regular season he recorded 12 assists and a league-leading six DPs – the most famous of which was occasioned by him picking up Willie McCovey’s XBH in deep left field and throwing a strike to Jerry Grote to nail the runner who the Giants thought would be the game winner. Then McCovey was thrown out at third base. The Mets would go on to win the game.

  • K. Lastima

    Unwatchable. I just turned down free club seats for Tuesday night, free eats and all. Some other masochist can go and enjoy himself.

  • Greg Mitchell

    As for Mets “uncertainty” on weather so wise to pull deGrom–they might have been the only ones uncertain in the metropolitan area as every forecast I saw said no real rain until after 10–even if it came a bit earlier you’re still talking about a halt after about 6 innings, and no Mets starter goes longer than that anyway….

  • Matt in Richmond

    Sorry Pete, thought you understood that. If Jake were to take the mound and say pitch the first inning, then have to sit through a 2 hour rain delay he probably wouldn’t be able to take the mound again, thus wasting his start. Of course Montero has been terrrible all year and sucked in the first inning last night with all the walks. But bottom line, only 2 runs were really his fault so in terms of winning and losing the game, which is kind of the point after all, can’t really blame last night on him. The offense though (other than Lucas and Jose), feel free to blame them….and that pesky pop fly double

  • eric1973

    I still can’t believe they started Montero instead of deGrom when the forecast said rain for 10pm. Has to be one of the worst decisions since……. bringing in Neil Ramirez with the game on the line!

  • We have all been missing the point for five hundred years. The turtle is _swimming_.