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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 Inevitability of Nope

Thank goodness for Monday’s off-day, for it gave us another 24 hours to test the limits of mathematical optimism. Once the Mets were no longer playing the 2017 Giants, our dreams of seeing them ascend to contention were revealed for what they were and the audacity of hope crashed headfirst into the inevitability of nope. And, for approximately the 6,893,355th time since 1993, the wake-up call came from a not-good-but-better-than-us Marlins team in a near-empty stadium in Miami.

There was no shortage of things terrible and typical Tuesday night — mush-brained at-bats, poor fielding, inept relief, bad luck and ill health — but one sequence summed it up. To set the stage, in the top of the seventh the Mets had tied the game on a Travis d’Arnaud homer but saw a rally snuffed out thanks to a nifty, improvised play behind second base by new Marlins annoyance JT Riddle.

In the bottom of the inning came a flurry of mistakes that would prove fatal:

  1. The Mets continued to allow Neil Ramirez near a big-league roster, then compounded that bizarre decision by letting him pitch in a situation that mattered. Ramirez’s first act, predictably, was to walk JT Realmuto.
  2. Up came Riddle, the guy who’d made the good play to deny the Mets. He hit a one-hopper a step to Lucas Duda‘s left — not a routine play, but one a first baseman needs to make. Duda didn’t make it. The ball clanked off his glove, and instead of two outs and nobody on the Marlins had runners on first and third.
  3. Jerry Blevins came in to face Ichiro Suzuki, who slapped a ball into the 5.5 hole, two steps to Wilmer Flores‘s left. A good third baseman maybe dives and corrals it, helped by quick reflexes and sound instincts. It’s not news that Wilmer lacks both those things, but this was an extraordinary misplay even by his standards: his first step was towards third, away from the ball. What in the world was he doing? Who knows? At this point, what does it matter?

That essentially was it — the five minutes in which the Mets lost thoroughly and irrefutably.

I could linger on other moments that made you shake your head or stare into the void — there was the five-second period where the Mets lost a hit, a run that would have tied the game and Robert Gsellman to the disabled list — but you get the idea.

And yet you know what? This morning, a few hours removed from this latest debacle, I found myself feeling sorry for Wilmer, stumbling away from the ball he was supposed to field, and smiling at the memory of the four days where we’d decided the Mets were winning it all and just barely managed not to shout the good news from the baseball rooftops.

As Mets fans we get caricatured as a woebegone fanbase waiting for the roof to fall in again, and that’s not wrong. But it’s only half of it. The other half is we play three games against the Giants and spend one day playing no one and extrapolate from the lack of losses that we’re going back to the World Series. And whether we disguise it with silence or with irony, we fucking mean it. That’s the flipside of being a Mets fan: an inextinguishable, irrational hope that roars back to life at the tiniest opportunity.

Which reminded me, inevitably, of Anthony Young. By now you’ve read Greg’s fine tribute to AY. Hearing of Young’s death at a mere 51, I of course flashed back to the end of his 27-game losing streak and the removal from his back of what AY admitted wasn’t just a monkey but a whole zoo.

I was living in D.C. but back at my folks’ house in St. Petersburg, Fla., for reasons I now can’t recall. I had to step away from the game, for reasons I also now can’t recall, but set up the VCR to tape the end of it. In the long-ago world before phones and Twitter, all I had to do was not watch SportsCenter when I returned to the house sometime near midnight with no idea what had happened. Standing there in the darkened house, I rewound the tape to find out.

1993 was the year the Mets had a tail on the front of their uniforms and a kick-me sign on their backs — an utterly miserable campaign in which every light at the end of the tunnel was the next in a line of bigger trains. But not that night. You can see the final pitch from that night on YouTube, and watching it again I was happy to find my memory and history hadn’t diverged.

The Mets have — as usual — betrayed AY with some lousy fielding and other horrors, but then sprung to life against the newborn Marlins. Which brings us to Eddie Murray. Murray doubles down the line, sending Ryan Thompson streaking around the bases as the winning run.

The focus turns almost immediately from the jubilant Thompson to Young, who starts off on the edge of the celebratory scrum but quickly becomes its center. There’s Todd Hundley putting an arm around his shoulders, and gigantic Eric Hillman reaching down to offer what for him was a low-five. (Aside: Wow what a terrible team this was.)

Young at first looks slightly annoyed by the whole thing, which you can understand: the streak existed in large part because of buzzards’ luck and his teammates’ betrayals, and this win has as little to do with him as most of the losses did. But he can’t stay stone-faced, not with big, bluff Dallas Green coming over to fold an arm over him and the fans at Shea cheering madly. Which they really are doing — they’re going nuts for a pitcher who just ran his record for 1-13. Which is what I was doing that night, albeit on tape delay — I was running around my parents’ living room hurdling furniture and laughing like an idiot.

The cheers are genuine, and so Anthony Young finally throws his hands up and surrenders to them. It’s a little bit comic and, OK, maybe it’s even a little bit pathetic. But it’s heartfelt. It’s real. In that moment no one at Shea Stadium could think of anything better than being a fan of the New York Mets — the 35-65 New York Mets. And at least for a moment, I bet every one of them was certain the 1993 Mets would ride Anthony Young’s 15-13 campaign to end the year at 97-65.

Next time Wilmer Flores stumbles thisaway instead of thataway or Lucas Duda looks dolefully at the ball that should have been in his glove — which probably means tonight — I’ll make sure I remember that.

13 comments to The Inevitability of Nope

  • LeClerc

    It’s on Collins and Warthen that Ramirez took the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning.

    It’s on Alderson if Ramirez is not DFA today.

  • Gil

    Ronnie is correct – our training staff and the way we handle and get our BASEBALL PLAYERS NOT WEIGHTLIFTERS OR SIX PACK WEARERS (whatever that means) ready for a season is an embarrassment. Walk behind a damned bird dog and drink beer in the offseason for crying out loud. I’m sick of season after season of these meatheads going down and not having an inch of flexibility. F%$K the bowl of doom and 900 lb leg presses. For crying out loud Ray Ramirez has spent more time on the field than most of our starting rotation. ARRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

    • LeClerc

      Yes! Thanks for the candor of Ron Darling.
      I’ve watched Olympic gold medal weight lifter Cespedes pull a hamstring while base running.
      Ditto Olympic silver medal weight lifter Walker.
      Ditto Olympic bronze medal weight lifter Gsellman.
      Don’t forget shot put king Syndergaard.

      PS: Tequila shot glass lifter Harvey.

      Barwis anyone?

  • Andrew in Boynton

    So perfectly written Jason.

    A clunker of a game…just like the ball off of Duda’s glove: CLUNK. Or maybe CLANG.

    What is it about the Marlins? They suck, yet I still despise them. Yes, they are not far from me physically. But they are not omnipresent because they have such a meager fan base.

    And still, their play-by-play announcer Rich Waltz still found the opportunity to stick a dagger in my team by stating that the Marlins have regained their (putrid morgue) stadium because the Cubs just left town. This despite the fact that there were largely cheers when d’Arnaud hit his game tying home run.

    Maybe my hatred of all things Marlins is simply because THEY think that THEY are a really big deal.

  • Eric

    To be fair to us, the Mets came from behind to win the East and make an unlikely run to the World Series, then they followed that up by rising from the (less) dead (than now) and climbing over a slew of teams to improbably take the 1st WC slot.

    So this edition of the Mets has earned the stubborn kernel of illogical hope. But as much as the baseball gods were generous to us last season, they’re taking payment this season by shoving the team 2 steps back whenever they take 1 step forward. It’s not enough to lose a sloppy winnable game to a near peer in the division, they lose a hitherto reliable health-wise (if not pitching-wise) starting pitcher to an injury on a normal baseball play.

  • Seth

    If 100 years from now someone asks “What happened to those 2017 Mets,” play them a tape of this game. It was a microcosm of everything that’s gone wrong this season.

  • 9th string catcher

    My initial thought on watching Gsellman run to first like a 6th inning little league right fielder was, god, this guy doesn’t know how to run to first base. He’s not sure where to gauge the foot plant and…boing, he’s hurt. Not that I know for sure, but I am gathering the following watching this team: 1) no one can bunt. 2) no one can run fast or accurately (Granderson and Legares possible exceptions). 3) Have any of these guys ever heard of stretching? Jean Claude Van Dam can do a split between two moving tractor trailers, but these guys can’t run 90 feet. Seriously. Try some yoga. Grab a band. Head for pilates. It’s swell if you can bench 800 lbs, but it won’t keep you off the DL.

    You have a bunch of people on this roster who can’t move fast, can’t get to ground balls, can’t steal bases and can’t stay healthy. They can hit home runs though. Lots and lots of them. I have a feeling this is all connected.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Pitcher’s getting injured from pitching related activities is one thing. But these guys getting hurt from RUNNING is ridiculous. They are supposed to be professional athletes. Im about as far as one can get from a professional athlete, but I do play tennis two to three times per week. That also involves some standing around followed by quick movements and changes in direction. I’ve never pulled a hamstring or any other muscle my whole life. (Knock on wood). These guys should figure out what Granderson does and emulate it. Say what you will about the guy, but he’s available l150+ games/year. Year after year after year.

  • Matt

    Martin Prado has now earned ‘vampire’ status in my mind. How is he still around? It seems like a decade ago he was on the Braves and torturing us.

    Oh, wait. It has been a decade.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    …his first step was towards third, away from the ball.

    So, not only do we have in common with the 1962 Team an ERA of 5+, but the second coming of Felix Mantilla at 3rd base (Mantilla observation courtesy of Jimmy Breslin).

  • Curt

    Before the crazy started I was asking why Bruce and Duda were next to each other in the batting order – they’re the same batter. Same tendencies, same thing gets them out – talk about letting a pitcher find a rhythm, I have no idea why Flores wasn’t between them.

    Speaking of Flores, OK, he wasn’t getting to that ball. But going the wrong way? Inquiring minds want to know.

    While Terry was pulling him, I checked Ramirez’ stats. His ERA was 6.66. Honest.

    There is one single positive to take from last night’s game. At least Gsellman didn’t get hurt as a pinch runner. He’s been used there. Can you imagine what the press would be saying if THAT had happened?

    • Eric

      I cringed when Seth Lugo was used as a pinch runner and not so smoothly dived back into 1st base with his pitching fingers on a pick-off throw.

  • eric1973

    That’s what happens when you have 13 pitchers on the team. The 4 man bench is so valuable that you cannot easily use them on pinch runners, and you have to gamble that the pitchers used here won’t get hurt.

    Because they do not train pitchers to throw complete games like they used to, you need all these minor league pitchers clogging the roster.