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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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The Faintest Idea

It will never supplant “cripes” at the top of the charts within the Terry Collins lexicon of frustration, but I’ve noticed another revealing phrase creep into his postgame repertoire of responses lately: “I haven’t the faintest idea.” He said it during the last homestand in regards to which pitcher was going to start the next game. He said it Friday night when asked to analyze what went wrong with his most recent starting pitcher’s unsatisfactory performance.

If we were in the heart of his managerial tenure, particularly one of those years during which his Mets had yet to win more games than they had lost in a given season, I’d find this type of #TerryTake discomfiting. You’re the manager, I’d grumble, you’re supposed to have the most substantial idea of anybody. But all evidence indicates we are at the ass end of TC’s time, so all I can do is shrug along with the skipper, shake my head and admit that when it comes to the specific nuances that distinguish this ballclub’s myriad setbacks from one another, I haven’t the faintest idea, either.

With a little more probing by a traveling press corps that can’t seem to believe it has to ask another question about another loss any more than he can’t believe he as to keep answering them, Terry said something about Rafael Montero throwing too many pitches. At least I think he did. I was so dumbfounded that I had stayed tuned to listen to these exchanges that it kept me from processing the gist of what the manager was saying. The whole of Friday night’s Mets’ 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Braves somewhere outside of Atlanta worked that way. I had the game on from first pitch to last (save for quick flips to monitor my alma mater’s first-ever conquest of a Big Ten opponent), I offered my own customary intermittent commentary to whoever would receive it (my wife, my cat, Twitter, the television) and I now and then could feel myself instinctively emoting to this play or that, yet when it was over, I could barely retain the details of what exactly had happened.

For example, after Montero was removed with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth, Collins brought in Chasen Bradford. Bradford extricated the Mets from Rafael’s jam, albeit after they had fallen behind by one. I saw that, I knew that, I remembered that. I also saw, knew and remembered Jerry Blevins pitching at some point. What completely escaped my notice was the participation of Tommy Milone and Paul Sewald in this very same game. Milone rescued Bradford with a double play ball in the sixth. Sewald pitched one of his cleanest innings in ages in the eighth. I saw them in the box score of the game with which I had engaged for more than three hours, yet I didn’t remember they’re having been involved whatsoever. And, I assure you, I have a pretty good Mets memory.

Dominic Smith went the other way against a lefthanded starter to knock in a run. Brandon Nimmo dove and caught what appeared off the bat to be a double in waiting. Asdrubal Cabrera continued to stroke base hits. Gavin Cecchini actually played. These events happened as well. Some of this stayed with me clear to 10:51 PM, when the final out of the Mets’ fifth consecutive loss was recorded. Yet if there’d been a quiz administered at eleven o’clock, I doubt I would have gotten any better than a C on these current events…though if graded on a curve based on how closely the rest of the world was watching these Mets in this game, I imagine I would have rated at least an A-.

I have more than the faintest idea that I will miss my nightly routine when it evaporates along with the rest of the lousy 2017 Mets in a couple of weeks. I could end here with something cute like, “I haven’t the faintest idea why,” but that would come up false in the true/false portion of the aforementioned hypothetical quiz. Even after the post-elimination, 21-under-.500 Mets have long ceased to be compelling — and, really, they were never compelling this year — I am compelled to actively stick with them. I don’t have a better reason than I’m a Mets fan and they’re the Mets and discernment has thoroughly eluded my skill set.

During the Cubs’ three-game thrashing that reminded us what a playoff contender does and doesn’t look like, I heard Gary Cohen suggest that once the Mets were done providing pennant race cannon fodder at Wrigley Field, Collins would find more opportunities to play his less proven players. My god, I thought, you mean who he’s using now is the best the Mets have to offer? The best the Mets have to offer at present were beaten by five, then twelve, then eight runs in Chicago. The best the Mets have to offer at present couldn’t hold a battery-operated candle to any lineup any hungover division champion would deploy the day after clinching. The best the Mets have to offer at present would be rejected by the Florida Instructional League. Sorry, we’re here to cultivate talent that has a chance to effectively compete at the highest professional level.

I mock the team for whom I reflexively carve out a sizable block of time every evening. Preoccupational hazard. Defense mechanism. Also because they’re highly mockable, but you have to know intimately to mock intricately. I know these Mets all too well even if I forget who the hell just pitched.

The best answer as to why I continue to do what I do vis-à-vis these Mets is not, “I haven’t the faintest idea,” but, “It’s what I do.” Except for the Mets losing a lot with players incapable of winning much, I like it. I’ll dislike it when they’re gone. Not this particular edition of the team at all, nor these particular players necessarily, but the act of the Mets being the Mets and the act of me spiritually shepherding them to their final destination. It will be toward the bottom of the standings and probably south of 90 losses, but I don’t have it in me to let them plummet alone. I like sticking with them.

Cripes, I really do.

7 comments to The Faintest Idea

  • Harvey Poris

    Playing out the string, in this case the Bataan Death March continues. It’s not fun for me.

  • Curt

    It would be much more tolerable if the games weren’t so flippin’ looooong. Tough week where I was on the road a lot – I pried my eyes open one last time in the top of the 6th, realized it was past 9:30, that we were 2 hours into a 3-2 game that still had more than 3 innings left to play and gave it up. I’ll do better tonight, I hope.

  • Vilos

    The reason I keep watching and maintain interest, is next year and how they plan to go about it. The way the Mets baseball corp goes about its business.
    I’ve been a fan since early 70s but near the end of the Minaya era, I discovered this aspect of the game.
    I don’t really take sides between minaya and alderson, but I feel the owners are really responsable for not having a better team on the field. Their madoff problems and general financial situation of Mets corp has affected. A sports franquise is a business, but it can be argued that it’s a special business because of the emotions in brings out in their respective areas and the monopoly type restrictions involved. The Mets owners have been borderline for a while now because of financial issues and the Mets have payed the price.
    Anyway back to the present. In this Mets corp world, I don’t get what front office is thinking with respect to Collins. As you say so well, it seems he doesn’t have the faintest idea on issues he should. He seems like he’s making the motions and playing out the final two weeks, but is the Mets future his main focus? Doesn’t seem like it. So why is he still there?
    Regards and thanks for your daily articles

  • Inside Pitcher

    Yes, it’s what we do….

  • Eric

    Wayne Randazzo informed on the radio broadcast that the Mets staff ERA entering the game was 5.02, seriously challenging the all-time worst Mets staff ERA of 5.04 belonging to the 120-loss 1962 Mets. So that’s a historic benchmark for Mets historians to track the rest of the way.

    I’ve accepted this team will lose. My interest is watching for the individual progress of the younger Mets plus deGrom. Thus, I’m most frustrated at this point by Cabrera, Reyes, and Aoki sucking developmental playing time from their younger teammates. (That being said, Aoki’s skill at not striking out is appealing. Over-all, he seems like a solid 4th outfielder on a good team.) With Rosario out, Reynolds, Cecchini, and Evans should all have started the game. At most, the Mets should play one of Cabrera or Reyes if they must have a veteran out on the infield, but not both of them.

  • Greg

    In simpler times, (before 3 divisions, 2 wild cards, and games in November), I enjoyed the optimism of September baseball. Teams out of it played for pride and you got to see the young prospects being showcased. There was something gentle and serene as the shadows in left field lengthened. A great example was September 1983, a losing ball club yet you could feel something good was coming. That final day Rusty got his pinch hit record in the 2nd game of a doubleheader and my family was cheering as though they’d won the pennant. I want that feeling again. It’s missing.

  • Dave

    Greg, are you sure the Mets have only lost 5 in a row? I look at the standings, which come with some sort of an air of official, MLB-verified accuracy, and it says they’ve won games in 2017, but I’m not convinced that I remember any such events. I am not sold.

    As far as veterans playing, I can see getting a good read on Aoki for a utility OF’er role for 2018, and they do have to make a team option call on Cabrera, although seems to me they should be pretty familiar with his work by now. Play Cecchini, play Evans. As for Reyes, he says he wants to retire as a Met. To which I reply, “OK, how about tomorrow? Does tomorrow work for you?”