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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 Downside of Prophecy

When the Mets finish up with the Cardinals they will play their next 19 games against the Braves, Cubs, Phillies and Yankees, bringing them to the All-Star break. Those four clubs have a collective winning percentage of .572. You never know in baseball, but those 19 games may provide a decisive verdict about who, exactly, the 2019 Mets are and what’s possible for them.

That was me back on June 15, after the Mets dropped both the completion of a suspended game and a regularly scheduled one against the Cardinals, and oh, how I wish I could write that the Mets made a fool out of me, as well as the Braves, Phillies, Yankees and Cubs. Baseball is refreshing in that you want to be proved wrong in your pessimism, hoping and perhaps even praying that you will be mockingly reminded of your lack of faith and derided for seeing little black clouds everywhere.

But I wasn’t wrong.

In those 19 games, the Mets went 6-13, which I would indeed call a pretty decisive verdict. The Mets began that day of baseball with a chance to go over .500; they never got there and now that less than lofty goal appears far out of reach.

Which means we’ve moved on to all-too-familiar Mets territory for the summer, asking not, “Can we make the playoffs?” but “How quickly will the Mets admit they aren’t going anywhere and start thinking about the future?” In past lost summers they’ve been depressingly slow to work through the psychological stages of that, stalling somewhere between denial and bargaining. Maybe it will be different this year under Brodie Van Wagenan, but so far nothing much has been different about his tenure. (Not really a surprise, since all Met roads lead to the BRIDGE OUT AHEAD signs and hazard blinkers that mark the dead end of Wilpon Gulch.)

The Mets won’t see the Phils again until June, at which point if Rhame’s logged more than a couple of weeks away from Syracuse, something’s probably gone pretty seriously wrong. Maybe in that series Hoskins can get mad at Drew Gagnon.

The final game before the All-Star break proved me a prophet once again, also to my dismay. Jacob Rhame has indeed proved a threat only to minor-league batters since his tete-a-tete with Rhys Hoskins back in April, but the Mets and Phils remain PO’ed at each other, with hit batters a-plenty, spates of warnings issued and all-too-much chest-thumping clubhouse bravado. (Which is all the bravado the Mets can muster, having just dropped six out of seven to their neighbors down 95.)

The final game was another disaster, marked by Jay Bruce firing more thunderbolts at his hapless former mates, the Mets not collecting a hit until the sixth, and the usual non-relief and inept defense. The only flaw with my prediction was that the target of Hoskins’ (perfectly justified) ire was Wilmer Font, not Gagnon, but does it particularly matter? The Phils won by five, and the game never seemed that close.

It’s another lost season, but somehow not one without its pleasures. The Mets’ first hit off Aaron Nola was a home run from Pete Alonso, struck off an 0-2 curve that was a little higher than Nola wanted it. It was Alonso’s 30th homer of the season, leaving him standing alongside Dave Kingman as the only Met to hit 30 before the break. (Happily, Alonso stands apart from Kingman in being a far better hitter, fielder and human being.)

The story of the second half is clear: We’ll watch Alonso try to outpace Kingman’s twice-achieved 37 (back in ’76 he landed on his thumb and missed five weeks) and take aim at Howard Johnson, Mike Piazza and Carlos Delgado (38), Darry Strawberry (39), Piazza again (40) and finally the unlikely duo of Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran, the Met co-record-holders with 41 homers.

Polar Bear Pete is somehow one of three Mets All-Stars, alongside Jeff McNeil and Jacob deGrom, who has a permanent berth on the All-Star-Crossed roster. You’d think a team with three All-Stars would be better than 10 games under .500, but here we are. I’m going to cheer for Alonso in the Home Run Derby, for all three of them in the midsummer showcase, and then we’ll see if the season can bring us something heartening beyond a home-run chase.

Maybe Alonso can top not just Hundley and Beltran but also Christian Yelich, sitting atop the NL ranks with 31 homers. Maybe McNeil can top John Olerud‘s .354 club mark, win a batting title while playing the entire last game, or both. Maybe deGrom can actually get a win now and then. Maybe Amed Rosario and Tomas Nido can make progress, Michael Conforto can get healthy, and Noah Syndergaard can shake off the cobwebs of a weird season. Maybe we get a Brandon Nimmo sighting — or even a glimpse of Jed Lowrie! Maybe the bullpen can be something other than a raging inferno. (Dare to dream!) Maybe the likes of Zack Wheeler, Todd Frazier and other tradeables can yield more inspiring than interchangeably crummy right-handed relievers.

I’m not making any predictions, particularly not ones that might be viewed as optimistic. But there’s baseball left to watch and maybe even enjoy, within our once-again reduced horizons. And despite it all, that’s good enough for me.

14 comments to The Downside of Prophecy

  • MetFanMac

    Some stats for the Break:

    JEFF “FLYING SQUIRREL” MCNEIL

    2018
    63 games, 248 plate appearances
    20 hitless (out of which 4 with at least one walk and 6 were 0-for-1)
    23 one hit
    20 multi hit
    8 with at least three hits, out of which 3 with four hits
    .329/.381/.471, .852 OPS
    24 strikeouts, 10.7% rate
    Struck out more than once in 2 games

    2019 (pre-All Star break)
    76 games, 318 plate appearances
    21 hitless (out of which 6 with at least one walk, 4 were 0-for-1, and 1 as a defensive replacement with no plate appearances)
    19 one hit
    33 multi hit
    9 with at least three hits, out of which 4 with four hits
    .349/.409/.509, .917 OPS
    38 strikeouts, 13.1% rate (12th MLB, 6th NL)
    Struck out more than once in 7 games

    A full season of this would give McNeil the second best AVG, sixth (tied) best OBP, 22nd best SLG, and 20th best OPS by any Met in a single season.

    ALL STAR FACTOIDS:
    Jeff McNeil leads the league in batting average and is eleventh in hits, sixth in doubles, third in OBP, fifteenth in OPS.
    Pete Alonso is second in home runs and extra-base hits, third in RBI, fourth in SLG, fifth in total bases and OPS, seventh in doubles, seventeenth in OBP. He also currently has the highest single-season SLG in team history, ahead of Piazza’s .614 in 2000. Piazza is the only Met to crack .600 in a full season — twice. Right behind at .599? Bobby Bonilla. (Alonso also currently has the team’s best AB/HR rate — 11.1 — leading Carlos Beltran’s 12.4 in 2006.)
    Jacob deGrom is eighth in ERA and WHIP, tied for second in strikeouts.

    EXCEPTIONALLY RANDOM FACTOID:
    Wilson Ramos leads the majors with a 2.56 groundout/flyout ratio. For context, the gap between him and second place is as big as the gap from second to fourteenth.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Nice (ouch) NY Times story today and Dunne and Kelenic both in Futures games yesterday. Dunne pitched a scoreless inning. Kelenic hailed as certain future all-star and on pace for 30 HRs in minors (supposedly his one shortcoming). I am always super skeptical of starting pitchers due to injuries etc. but Kelenic trade may rank up with the Nolan for Foy trade or worse–considering the shackles of the Cano contract. Brodie should already be gone.

    Note: With more bad pitching lately by Thor, Matz and Wheeler there is no question that Vargas has been team’s 2nd best pitcher. And yet some still moan about possibly dealing one or more of those three….

    • MetFanMac

      Hating on Vargas (as a player) has reached memetic proportions. It’s still undeniable that he’s the only starter besides Jacob deGrom with an ERA under 4 and the pitcher with the third-most WAR on the team behind deGrom and Zack Wheeler (whose FIP is over a full run lower than his ERA).

  • Henry J Lenz

    As a fan since day one in’62, I take pleasure in the small victories you describe. No way are they going approx 48-24 the rest of the way to a WC spot. BWV needs to shake a lot up or he will be an agent again in a couple years.

  • Dave

    Team is reminding me of the 1996 team. A handful of guys had amazing seasons and the rest if them were awful. I’ll save everyone a minute, 96 team finished 71-91 despite Lance Johnson’s 227 hits, 21 triples and 50 steals, amd two guys with 30+ homers and >110 rbi’s. That added up to 20 games under .500.

  • mikeL

    ^^ henry J : given how bvw cleared so many (other teams’) bad contracts that’s assuming he’s not essentially an agent now, one that is also a major league GM. assuming the mets aren’t a de facto agency fronting as a pathetic ballclub. (who would ever catch on, since they’d been doing the pathetic ballclub part so well for so long?)

    BRIDGE OUT AHEAD indeed jason.

    maybe when bvw does leave the mets he’ll take with him not only the contracts of cano, diaz, familia, lowry but the wilpons too…let them start something new.

  • greensleeves

    I love your sense of detachment, Mr. Fry. It’s how diehards stay centered in a lost season, that got late early.

    Idiot that I am, I’d love to see the second half see the second coming of TJ Rivera, who once upon a time 2 eons ago, seemed to spray the field with the aplomb of a Squirrel McNeil. Boy, it’s a cruel game.

  • LeClerc

    They might want to stop thinking about the playoffs and start concentrating on winning the one game that they’re playing.

    The “very good plan” didn’t work. Just play baseball.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Bobby Wahl
    Will Toffey
    Franklyn Kilome
    Ryder Ryan
    Jacob Rhame
    Drew Smith
    Gerson Bautista
    Jamie Callahan
    Stephen Nogosek
    Eric Hanhold

    These are the returns the team received for all the players with expiring contracts who were traded away the last 2 seasons. Not a Gleyber Torres in the bunch. Can we expect anything more when the likes of Wheeler, Vargas and Frazier are dealt. I think not.

  • Mark Mehler

    Not that it’s any consolation, but I just got back from Denver where I witnessed a team with FOUR all-stars at the top of the lineup playing only slightly less crappier than the Mets. Otherwise, it was a great trip.

  • Daniel Hall

    Yeah, we have three All Stars. We also have about a dozen bodies that suck the life out of every game in Cano, Ramos, Rosario, Lagares, and the 8-man bullpen of the day. Also, I do not consider Jed Lowrie a Met. I do not even consider him real. It’s one of those elaborate jokes that is supposed to keep your head up.

    Oh yeah, I was angry the entire game, because it basically started with Cano’s half-assed, spiritless “pursuit” of a lazy pop that oughta have been caught. Also, two hands. What are the chances the Mets can trade him on to an even dumber Team while retaining a few bucks of the $17m/y they somehow owe him?

    Also, Brodie Van Chairflingingen can trade Rhame and Flexen for Scherzer and Trout (with WAS and LAA retaining 90% of the salary) all he wants at the deadline – I will still never stop hating him for that Mariners trade…

    • Orange and blue through and through

      Surely Mets and M*A*S*H fans will remember Captain Tuttle. Jed Lowrie is our own Captain Tuttle! (I was just playing catch with him an hour ago.)

  • NostraDennis

    So, hooray for Alonso. But I got an uneasy feeling in my gut with each dinger he hit, and a voice in my head wondering “is this the one that’ll mess up his swing when the home runs actually count”?

    I’m sure I’m fussing needlessly. At least I hope I’m sure.