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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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They All Hurt

On the way out to Citi Field Thursday night, I tweeted that this was the Helm’s Deep of the Mets’ 2019 season. For those unfamiliar with The Two Towers, Helm’s Deep is the redoubt to which the hard-pressed warriors of Rohan retreat, fortifying it and making a last stand against the forces of evil.

I also tweeted that my choice of metaphor meant Jacob deGrom was Aragorn, and that I was pretty good with that.

Well, tonight’s Two Towers remake was a bleak snuff film when we all needed a soaring epic adventure. Helm’s Deep has been overrun, orcs are rampaging across the land, and the heroes are being led away in chains. The Mets have lost six in a row and fallen five games back of the second wild card. Playoffs? The team is a skinny game over .500, not exactly a breeding ground for postseason fever.

The game started heroically enough, with J.D. Davis demolishing a Jon Lester cutter. We were sitting in the Promenade in fair territory, a vantage point from which left field and most of center are but rumors, but Davis’s drive had a significant-looking trajectory even from above, and the cheers from sections better favored by Citi Field’s architects told us the happy news we had suspected. But Victor Caratini — subbing for Anthony Rizzo — hit a high slider into Soda Corner just a few minutes later to tie the game, and then returned five innings later to hit essentially the same pitch over the same fence, except this time there were two Cubs on base.

That, for all intents and purposes, was the ballgame and most likely the season.

It was a strange game throughout. DeGrom looked dominant for most of the game — he didn’t need to pitch from the stretch until the seventh — only to be felled by two lightning bolts from a backup player. Lester, meanwhile, was battling traffic the entire time, but wound up only surrendering the solo shot to Davis. Things felt off-kilter in the stands too — there were far too many Cubs fans for anyone’s liking, making the kind of joyful noise you make when your team has a chance to sweep, while we Mets rooters were radiating wariness at the beginning and despair at the end. Caratini’s second homer was one of those moments where you can feel the air get sucked out of a crowd, a collective gut shot that leaves 20,000-odd people flattened and silent.

On the subway, my kid gamely worked on constructing scenarios where all was not lost and the Mets have a run to October in them after all. And you know what? He might be right. (And even if he’s not, hope is free.) But the Mets’ situation is not what it was six games ago. Before those six games, they just needed to play well to have a real chance at playing a 163rd game. Now, they need to play well and get help — not just a little help, but a fair amount of it, and in the right combinations. Meanwhile, their list of adversaries has grown to include not just the four teams that need to be caught, but also time — and at this point in the season, time reduces your elimination number each and every night.

The story of 2019 isn’t over yet, but in all likelihood it will come down to a week at the end of August, and a high-flying team that lost its wings. But even if it’s so, I’ll remember this team fondly, from the post-All-Star rocket ride where they were nightly miracle workers to all the young players who made big strides. I’ll still grin like a fool watching Pete Alonso highlights and J.D. Davis’s goofy machismo, and nod approvingly at Jeff McNeil hitting everything in sight and Michael Conforto‘s unexpected shirtless interview and the Mets bench making zoologically inaccurate buffalo horns for Wilson Ramos. All those things happened, and being there to see them was a delight. Watching the team thud back to Earth with five weeks to go has not been a delight, to put it mildly, but it doesn’t erase any of the joy that preceded it.

Heading back across Queens on the 7 train, I was sad in a way baseball hasn’t made me feel in quite a while, hanging on the straphangers’ rail with my head bowed, thinking about chances lost and what might have been. But the vast majority of baseball seasons end with a night that’s sad. Sometimes that night comes in late October, when you barf up a World Series on muffed grounders and sentimental managing and ill-advised quick pitches. Sometimes it all falls apart in late September, for the second straight year with the same lowly team playing the role of assassin. Those sad nights leave a mark — oh, they most definitely do. But sometimes that sad night comes in June, when you realize everything is not, in fact, going to work out the way you persuaded yourself was at least vaguely possible in March. And sometimes it’s something in between those extremes, with a complicated feeling to match.

The point is that they all hurt, and that hurt is part of the game. That sugar high you get from a pinch-me reverse-gravity ninth-inning comeback or the improbable victory you stayed for when the rest of the section left? That rush wouldn’t be anywhere near as sweet without the grinding lows of fifth innings that take half an hour and 10-2 losses that never felt that close. And those very occasional trophies hoisted amid arcs of Champagne and plastic sheeting over lockers? They’d be cheap without all the seasons that ended in silent and somber clubhouses, however much you wanted the story to end differently.

25 comments to They All Hurt

  • Jacobs27

    Oof. Well-said, Jason.

    One of the nicest parts about the brief Mets Renaissance was how much better Amed Rosario looked in the field. He’s looked… much less good the last couple of games. I really hope the strides he took aren’t going to vanish with our Wild Card dreams.

  • Daniel Hall

    (rises to applaud politely at the conclusion of the wide-girthed contralto’s concert)

    Nah, that’s it. They played the good teams like they’re dead from the waist up all year long; nothing ever changed. They just happened to run into a month’s worth of bottom feeders at some point, romped them, and the second they faced proper teams again they folded. And nothing *did* ever change. The only import of substance was Stroman, who has yet to pitch even a decent game. It’s not like the cavalry arrived with Ces, Johnson, Uribe, Reeder, and everything else they shelled out for in ’15. It’s essentially the same team as in May. And boy, did May suck. The fringe faces keep changing, but I see no difference between the charred remains of Rajai Davis and the charred remains of Carlos Gomez. They still play an entire outfield out of position, their shortstop is still a bottomless pit, they still can’t get a man in from third with less than two outs.

    They still pretend that Jed Lowrie does actually exist.

    An Adeiny here, a Tejada there, Nido, Panik everywhere. The mix didn’t work in May and we can’t expect it to work in August.

    “On the subway, my kid gamely worked on constructing scenarios where all was not lost and the Mets have a run to October in them after all. And you know what? He might be right. (And even if he’s not, hope is free.)” – The parenthesis here made me laugh (in despair, of course) more than they should have.

  • otb

    Hear hear. Well said, Jason.

  • Tyler Reeh

    Well written, fair and nuanced take. Thanks!

  • Greg Mitchell

    Meanwhile, our old friend Wilmer looking like another Justin Turner giveaway for nothing–now hitting .326 for Arizona. Robles still closing, and well, for the Angels. D’arnaud (another pure giveaway after paying him) has cooled but still major piece for Rays. I might add the Kelenic already in AA after barely turning 20–and has smashed 26 homers this year, his alleged weakness. Anthony Kay at 1.93 in 3 starts in AAA. Other trade pieces also doing well after Brodie guts the system, which was already one of the worst. Meanwhile, the weak argument for keeping Wheeler has collapsed–you even now WANT to sign him for required $18 million to get an extra draft pick after he “spit the bit” in crucial part of season? Three weeks of August fun hardly makes up for no 3B, CF, or pitching prospects to look forward to.

  • open the gates

    What makes it worse is that it seems like our team is owned by Saruman and managed by Grima Wormtongue.

    • otb

      Is there a Gandalf somewhere in the offing?

      • He got the day off in Syracuse and so arrived late. Back in the day at Allen & Unwin, a wise editor frowned at that proposed plot point and wrote “FUCK NO” on Tolkien’s story treatment.

        • Actually no editor ever reviewed any of Tolkien’s story ideas, which is how you get Frodo learning he’s in terrible danger and moving a couple of towns over to do nothing with any particular urgency, and two villains with essentially the same name, one of whom is a giant eyeball that never interacts with the protagonists. (Among other things.) But never let pesky facts get in the way of a good metaphor.

          • Jacobs27

            So true. The film version of Fellowship does an admirable job of bringing urgency to the start of Frodo’s quest in a way the book doesn’t at all.

            The Hobbit films were a mess, but the book has its share of dubious story-telling choices. Gandalf does basically take a day off in Syracuse, the main antagonist is felled in one shot by a side character with a silly name and the main character is unconscious for most of the battle at the end. To name but a few.
            As a writer of fantastical fiction for young people, Jason, do you think could get away with that sort of thing?

          • For Jacobs, since our nesting seems to be behaving strangely.

            An editor would definitely guide me in some different directions than those, and every book of mine has been sharpened by other people nipping and tucking plot elements and helping with the structure.

            That said, I love the shagginess of Tolkien’s detours and oddities. It’s part of the charm — and Bilbo is a character in way over his head and just trying to get through everything alive. I’m trying to let my own books be a little shaggier, instead of buttoned-up and rigorously structured.

            But there’s a difference between potentially charming detours and missteps that sap the story of momentum and urgency. I get why Jackson et al cut Tom Bombadil, but I’d call it a potentially charming detour. Frodo moving a couple of towns over and doing nothing, OTOH, is something an editor should have asked JRRT to reconsider.

            (This has nothing to do with the Mets, but after last night that’s not a bad thing.)

          • Jacobs27

            Thanks for your thoughts, Jason! I totally agree.

            I think what makes Tolkien so inimitable is how roundabout and unformulaic his writing is. Chock full of details and detours that don’t necessarily serve the plot or character arcs but give an incredible amount of texture and whimsy to the world. Or at least sometimes they do. Shagginess is a good word.

            Sometimes it feels like he’s struggling to adapt his historical knowledge of Middle Earth to the format of a novel — like, don’t look at me, dear reader, this is just how it actually happened — but that’s also part of the charm.

  • mikeL

    thanks jason.

    yup, it was great fun while it lasted.
    for a few weeks ours looked like a team of destiny.
    i was imagining all or the ripped jerseys that might accompany a trophy somewhere.

    that 14 inning gut punch last week was the anti-mojo.
    still wishing rosario had been thinking walk against swarzak.

    but the failure to come back from that game a week ago is on the entire team

    they all looked so sullen last night. the run indeed over.
    (though i’ll dare the mets to prove me wrong, of course)

    meantime i’ll stop waiting til ballgames are over to get my bike rides in. that only works after a big win, with giddy, nervous energy to displace. this has been a week of dejected crashings on the couch.

    oh well…

  • Seth

    For some reason, the Mets have not won since J.D. Davis screamed “We did it again!!”

    • mikeL

      rookie over-enthusiatic pre-mature celebrulation

      and yes i totally bought into it.

      reminds me of a young wright and reyes, cigars in mouth and champagne on the field to celebrate clinching the division.

      despise the yankees as i do, they tend to favor acting like they’ve been there before, and keep the pot boiling.

      i always wished a willie, or better, a respected veteran had told the young stars to save some of that for the WS.

      the baseball gods and karma in general can be very cruel and ironic.

  • SeasonedFan

    It was a fun ride while it lasted although nagging doubts persisted. Meanwhile, maybe now Management will quit using “Come Get Us” to sell Tickets. (Talk about bad mojo.)

    • mikeL

      “come get us” would go well on a commemorative tee.
      would include thor the night before last, diaz when he almost decapitated the chisox catcher – and every other met pitcher not pulled before it was much too late.

      thanks brodie.


  • 9th String Catcher

    Well, it’s pretty dark at this point, but I’ve been surprised too many times this year, and am not giving up hope. I can see them taking 5 out of 6 from Phillies and Nationals and being right back in the mix. They are a very streaky team, and they are primed for another good run. And getting out of town can only help right now. LGM!

    • From your fingertips to the baseball gods’ monitor, but I think they already handed the Mets their shot and they missed it.

      • mikeL

        the baseball gods gave the mets how many?? innings/chances a week ago tonite.

        the mets used ’em all up and all they got was a fully depleted ‘pen (that totally overperformed per baseball gods’ *really* wanting a mets miracle)

  • eric1973

    The day they put on those crappy uniforms is the day it all started going down the tubes.

    At least that’s how I’ll remember it.

  • mikeL

    ^^ no shit.

    and why not alternate those crap uni’s at the very least!?
    mets: good humor man / house painter – uni as kick me sign
    braves : ninjas, special ops, cartel kingpins – violently bad-ass

  • A good piece of writing to puts perspective on the season (and the sport) — thank you.

    Yes, a very disappointing series of games, but they came after a thrill ride that felt like it might not end this way. I am still a hopeful Mets fan and like a lot about this team. Maybe some upgrades in the off season will give them the turbo boosters they need for 2020.

  • Steve D

    Seth makes a good point…they may have gotten some swelled heads over there. In addition, I felt Alonso was not as humble as he could have been after breaking the Met record in a loss. Perhaps this brings them back to reality, but I also would have to look at the manager if this in fact is the case.