- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Good Teams Don’t (But Ours Does)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An ace walks onto a pitcher’s mound. Throws a great game for like seven innings. Gets almost everybody out, gives up maybe one run. Somehow, by the eighth, he’s on the losing end of a one-nothing score. His team isn’t doing anything for him and his manager takes him out even though he hasn’t thrown that many pitches. By the end of the game, despite performing as basically the best pitcher in baseball for the entire season, he loses, his team loses and everything is terrible.

Yeah, you probably have heard that one or something very much like it before, many, many times in 2018, for it’s how Jacob deGrom [1] rolls…or how 2018 keeps rolling Jacob deGrom. Approximately every five days a sheath of “can you believe this spit? [2]” statistics are widely disseminated contrasting deGrom’s relentless excellence with the paucity of positive results they produce when processed through the offensive and fundamental dysfunction of those who surround him. DeGrom was excellent again on Wednesday afternoon in Atlanta: seven innings, one run. The Mets were not: nine innings, no runs. Somewhere in there, M-M-M-Mike Soroka had the knack [3] for getting Mets out, and the Braves’ young starter probably deserves a share of credit for the 2-0 decision that tilted in the Braves’ favor [4]. But since something along the lines of the Mets scoring little to nothing and their starting pitchers having little to no margin for error happens repeatedly, we can reasonably conclude good teams don’t lose like this daily.

But ours does.

We have trained ourselves to look past deGrom’s won-lost record, which fell to 4-2 despite his having pitched well enough to be, if you’ll excuse the expression, 11-1. You can’t ignore, however, what the Mets are shall we say accomplishing while feasting on Column ‘L’ and ordering sparingly from Column ‘W’.

• 0-2 in the two-game set in Atlanta, which seems mostly incidental, save for the concept that the fourth-place Mets are nominally in pursuit of the first-place Braves (the pursuit may be losing steam; the Mets are 9½ out — and 8½ behind the Nationals for the closest available Wild Card).

• 1-10 dating back to the beginning of their most recent homestand, a homestand traditionally considered an excellent opportunity for the home team to enhance its fortunes at the expense of visitors.

• 3-15 since the last time I had the apparently rare pleasure of writing up a Mets win (the game of May 24, three freaking weeks ago [5]), though given the prevailing proportions it’s not like I can accuse my blog partner of presciently hoarding a bounty of victories for himself when we divvy up these assignments in advance.

• 4-17 following the most recent Mets “winning streak,” whatever that is.

• 11-27 once April became May and continued into June, which also coincides with their record since the day I sat down with a well-meaning public radio reporter who was doing a story on Mets fans enjoying life in the wake of the club’s still semi-fresh spectacular start. We talked on a Monday. By Friday, when the report aired, the Mets had dropped three going on six in a row and the tenor of the piece had morphed into some familiar variation on those lovable losers and the people who are into them [6] despite the possibility of better judgment.

• 16-34 after last being Ten Games Over .500, a breadcrumb along the trail I point out because, as noted recently [7], it was unusual to stumble into a Mets ballclub that had risen that high only to fall Three Games Under .500 later in the same season. Well, the Mets are now five games below Three Games Under (a.k.a. Eight Games Under), and should they pause at a net of -1 loss at any time from here to the end of the season, they will have made Metsian history. No edition of the Mets that had been Ten Games Over has ever plunged to as many as Nine Games Under within the confines of the same schedule. Ya think it’s coming? I wouldn’t rush to New Jersey and bet against it.

• 17-35 on the heels of 11-1. “11-1” threatens to gain iconic status in our numerical lexicon, positioned to assume a place of perverse pride alongside 40-120 and 7 Up With 17 To Play. So there’s that.

• 28-36 overall, which resides on the outskirts of near-respectability and perhaps indicates a team that — had it made itself a few more breaks, gotten itself a few more hits and prevented itself a few more injuries — coulda/woulda/shoulda been hanging in there at the break-even point, where everything would appear not so great, but also not nearly as bad.

We here at Faith and Fear in Flushing know from that, for we have chronicled a team that has performed at exactly such a level across more than thirteen seasons. Wednesday’s loss in Atlanta, you see, tipped the Mets’ record in the thus far 2,170-game FAFIF Era to 1,085-1,085. That’s 1,085 regular-season wins since April 4, 2005, and 1,085 regular-season losses since April 4, 2005.

To paraphrase the visionary baseball analyst Madonna from her landmark 1984 study [8] on playing with one’s heart, borderline, feels we’re going to lose our mind.

Feels like we’re going to lose more than we win in light of how little we win and how much we lose lately, but as you can tell, that’s not necessarily the case into perpetuity. A long-term .500 record hasn’t been the case in an overarching FAFIF context since July 4, 2015, when eternal Mets fan darling Matt Harvey was bested by Zack Greinke and the Dodgers, 4-3, dropping that year’s team record to 41-41 and the franchise’s record since we came along with our blog to 851-851. From there, the Mets rose, at first fitfully, then resoundingly. By April 13, 2017, the night the Mets needed sixteen innings to reel in those pesky Marlins, the FAFIF Era record had ascended to 994-960, implying a certain immunity to gravity’s whims. I mean, c’mon, we’d won a pennant, we went to another postseason, we were lousy with momentum…

And then we were just lousy. Since April 14, 2017, the Mets have compiled a mark of 91-125, pulling us right back down to where mediocrity’s red glare dazzled us three Independence Days ago. In the last not quite three years, we are 234-234. Good ol’ .500 just keeps finding us.

We are accustomed to the ebbs and flows of the franchise we have chosen to track, which has certainly prepared us for this particular notch on the cumulative growth chart. The Mets lost their first five in our inaugural season of 2005, then won their next five and we were .500 for the first time, yet hardly the last. In the course of ’05, the Mets settled in at .500 on 27 separate occasions, eventually poking their heads securely above break-even at 83-79. The next three autumns yielded plenty of first-world problems, but finishing with a winning record was a given in every year that remained in Shea Stadium’s life. Extremely early in Citi Field’s tenure, things stayed resolutely above the borderline; by cresting at 28-21 on May 31, 2009, the FAFIF Mets record peaked at 385-312, or 73 games above .500.

Beginning June 1, 2009 and running through June 13, 2018, it’s been 700-773, or (as should be quickly discernible without a calculator) 73 games below .500, making the whole of our existence once again .500. It was actually distressingly below .500 in the midst of 2014. On July 5 of that year, we were 38-49 in-season and 769-776 overall, our low-water mark on a going basis. Then began the deliberate climb to not so terrible in real time (79-83 for 2014) and precisely middling for a decade’s worth of blogging [9] (810-810 from the crèche of 2005 to the doorstep of 2015).

What goes up must come down, huh? And the opposite sometimes. Maybe. Eventually. Who knows? Score a few runs for Jake first and then we’ll talk.