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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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Inadvertent Design of a Decade

A few years ago, Howie Rose suggested to Josh Lewin that if they were to go down to the field from the broadcast booth at Citi Field and ask the players warming up for that night’s game if they knew what day it was, most would have little idea because, Howie explained, ballplayers never have any idea what day it is, mostly because it doesn’t make any difference to them. Howie’s assertion was supported by Nationals beat writer Jesse Dougherty in the Washington Post this past summer. “The challenge,” Dougherty wrote, “is playing a 162-game schedule, with few breaks, while traveling between cities and time zones. The hotel rooms start to look the same. So do the plane rides and bus trips to the ballpark each day.”

Even though we who are watching have to keep track of the days of our lives, the perception described from the inside of baseball seems to make sense. For ballplayers and those who follow them around, the season is simply one day after another. Or night. The mostly infallible Gary Cohen’s only persistently recurring mistake is regularly referring to yesterday afternoon’s game as “last night,” which drives me a little crazy, but I’ve come to understand that tic, too. There’s a lot of blurring over six months. Wednesday. Thursday. Night. Day. None of it materially affects the outcome of winning and losing.

Besides, whenever Mets baseball is happening, I will most likely bear witness to it.

On Friday night, July 30, 2010, after sleeping through the previous day’s matinee from Flushing, I watched the Mets top the Diamondbacks, 9-6. It was a home game, so it wasn’t a challenge to stay awake. If the Mets were in Arizona, and it was a night game, it might have been. Mountain Standard Time, which isn’t a whole lot different from Pacific Daylight, can make keeping up with the Mets a bit more of a challenge than it is in zones closer to home. Usually not impossible, though. I’d have to be pretty tired to miss an entire Mets game.

For hundreds and hundreds of consecutive regular-season games, I was never quite that tired. Nor was I that distracted or disgusted or otherwise engaged so that every pitch of a given game escaped my notice while those pitches were progressing from the pitcher to the batter or catcher. I had quite a streak going. A handful of times it flirted with an end, but from July 30, 2010, through the eight seasons that followed and into the one beyond it, I always managed to stick an ear into the action just long enough to say, OK, I’ve heard if not seen or gone to today’s or tonight’s game. Streak’s still on. The closest I came to streak snappage occurred on August 18, 2014, when I mysteriously scheduled a Monday afternoon colonoscopy that coincided with a 12:10 first pitch between the Mets and Cubs. Fortunately, the medical people got to the bottom of things that afternoon before the bottom of the ninth of what became my 672nd consecutive game witnessed in one form or another.

My streak intact from that day forward, I wasn’t going to take another chance like that when my next colonoscopy came up. I set it for a Monday morning in May of 2019, with the Mets safely ensconced on the West Coast. As Sean Doolittle told Dougherty, “Every start of a series is a Monday, no matter what.” Actually, sometimes you get a wraparound series that goes Friday to Monday (like that one in August of 2014), but what the Mets were about to embark upon wasn’t one of those. They were indeed starting their next series that Monday, May 6, in San Diego. It was just another night game to the host Padres. It wasn’t going to start any earlier than 7:10 at Petco Park, 10:10 back in New York.

Colonoscopy 2.0 went fine. The procedure is never the issue. The preparation is where they get you. I had to start the prescribed regimen early the Sunday morning before, and that was on the heels of an eighteen-inning game in Milwaukee which felt like it ended five minutes earlier. I missed a bunch of that game from being sleepy. Thanks to Twitter and the MLB At Bat app, I was able retrace some steps I snoozed through and write the whole thing up without resorting to the dreaded WW (Phil Rizzuto’s scorecard notation for Wasn’t Watching). If “I missed ‘x’ number of innings” had seemed like an angle that would have optimally entertained, enlightened and informed you, I probably would have detoured from the main storyline and mentioned it. But an eighteen-inning game doesn’t need necessarily need angles imported from dreamland. Therefore, once I was more or less awake overnight that Saturday into Sunday, I filled in blank portions of the Mets’ 4-3 loss to the Brewers by availing myself of the archives on my iPad; pieced together the irritations of the long evening from commonly tweeted grievances about Angel Hernandez; and wrote up the game, not my fatigue. I figure if re-creations were good enough for Les Keiter in 1959, one posted here at 5:49 AM was good enough for me.

So there was little predawn sleep Sunday morning. Or postdawn. There was barely enough will to make it between colonoscopy prep steps to get to the 2:10 first pitch from Milwaukee. I curled up in my office recliner, watched about an inning-and-a-half of Jason Vargas dueling Zach Davies before conking out. When I awoke, I learned Vargas predictably dropped his pistol first, and the Mets lost, 3-2. I wasn’t writing up this game. I just wanted to be able to say I had seen some of it.

That, on May 5, 2019, was Game No 1,390 in the streak that stretched back to July 30, 2010. Game No. 1,391, live from San Diego, would come the next night. Except it didn’t. Following the aforementioned procedure, I didn’t nap. I was tired, but I was up. As the SNY studio show threw the broadcast to Gary Cohen and Todd Zeile, I was up. While I was up, I decided stretching out on the couch was a good idea. I wasn’t recapping this one, either, so I just had to get to the game’s beginning to satisfy my streak’s requirement. Catching a pitch would do it. Just one pitch. Hell, even if I nodded off, I just had to not stay nodded off for the entirety of the game ahead.

I saw Gary and Todd do their setup. I heard Gary promise they’d be back after this commercial break. During the commercial, I closed my eyes for a minute…

The next thing I saw was the postgame show. The streak that touched every season of this decade was over, bowing out at 1,390 games in a row: 671-719, but no longer counting.

For the record, the first Mets game I missed in nearly nine years was the temporarily infamous Chris Paddack Game. I guess that’s what it’s known as. I didn’t see it or hear it, so how the hell would I know, except for catching up to its details in the minutes thereafter. Apparently, the Padres’ young ace was steamed that Pete Alonso was named the National League Rookie of the Month for April rather than Chris Paddack. This was a private war Paddack was waging, one he brought to the mound this Monday night. Having found all the motivation he needed in a slight that was an issue probably only to Chris Paddack, Chris Paddack struck out 11 batters in seven-and-two-thirds innings, limited the visitors from the East to four hits and, with Craig Stammen, shut out the Mets, 4-0.

Not only did this Paddack fellow whom I’d never heard of throughout what he considered his stellar April exact revenge on his imagined rival, he got me good. Paddack and Stammen required only 2:14 to complete their victory. Had the game meandered like most games meander, I’d have been up and sufficiently at ’em in the wee hours to keep the streak going.

Nope. No dice. I couldn’t even pretend in my head that the Mets and Padres had somehow filtered into my subconscious. The Mets fell on the Coast and it didn’t make a sound to me. The best-laid plans of a man told to lay flat on his stomach the previous morning had gone awry.

I could do only one thing in response. The next night, I started a new streak, still in effect at 127 games. Why wouldn’t have I? Except for May 6, 2019; July 29, 2010; and maybe one game earlier in 2010 when I wasn’t keeping quite such close tabs on my diligence, I’d seen or heard or attended some if not all (but usually all) of every Mets game played in the 2010s. It was — out of some combination of obligation and passion — what I did. The Mets played, I was there for it. The streak was a thing for me in the way the snub was a thing for Chris Paddack. It didn’t really matter, but it added a little spice to what Chris Paddack and I would be doing on a given day or night anyway.

Because I absorbed live virtually every bit of the Mets decade that has just passed — and because I wrote up a whole lot of it as it went on — I feel I’m reasonably qualified to look back in something less than anger at these ten years, the 2010s, and put them in what we’ll loosely call perspective.

You didn’t ask me to, but it’s part of the service.

Not unlike days of the week, decades don’t exactly exist in baseball. There are innings that add up to games. There are games that add up to seasons. There’s a compressed postseason. And that’s basically it as far as determining who wins and who loses. Everything else is a matter of how we opt to organize. “The 2010s” holds no particular meaning for baseball any more than any other decade unless we decide it does. Those stats you occasionally run up against — most home runs hit in the 1950s (Duke Snider); most wins by a pitcher in the 1980s (Jack Morris) — are interesting, but hold no more significance than the most home runs hit in a ten-year span that crosses decade borders…and there’s no particular significance in who did what from, say, 1995 through 2004.

But we do get these decades every ten years, and we are stuck with these baseball voids every offseason, so what the hell? Thus, in the days and nights ahead, Faith and Fear in Flushing will bring you The Top 100 Mets of the 2010s, considering the 247 players who played as Mets between April 5, 2010, and September 29, 2019, and ordering what we shall refer to the “best” of them from 100 to 1, countdown (or countup) style.

The parameters aren’t too arduous. Rankings will be based on recollections and research, leaning on impressions and accomplishments more than stone statistical rigor. We’ll take into account what a player did and if it made us as Mets fans sit up and take notice for at least spell, maybe no longer than a given day or night during the 2010s. Worth noting in this process: thirty Mets from this decade began their Met tenures prior to 2010, but we’re not allotting points based on anything anybody did before this decade began. Also, we’re not actually “allotting points”. Plenty of thought’s gone into this exercise, but there is no discernible Statcast-approved formula at work. Take the rankings as seriously or as frivolously as you like.

I’d love to tell you whittling down 247 players to 100 was a tough task. Honestly, it was more the other way around. Almost everybody seems to rank 30 to 50 places higher than you would intuit before delving into the ten-year roster. Still, I don’t mean to strike a dismissive tone. These 247 players were our guys within these ten years. If you missed no more than a couple of games over this period, you’ve come to think of them as extended family.

I was reminded of their status in our lives (certainly mine) the other night when I found myself watching a Mets Classic: July 20, 2011, Cardinals at Mets, the 157th game of my 1,390-game streak. SNY likes to rerun it all out of proportion to its competitive implications for the home team, I think, because it showcases SNY as much as it does the Mets. It was the first time that the channel sent Gary, Keith and Ron out to the Pepsi Porch to make their call. Two Met home runs would be hit in their direction, including the one that won the game for the Mets in the tenth, but the real fun emanated from interludes like watching Keith Hernandez tipping Orlando the hot dog vendor for his goods and services.

Yet rewatching it, I was taken by the familial aspect of the lineup. Cousin Jose Reyes leading off, leading the league in hitting and peaking as a major leaguer. Cousin Justin Turner batting second, playing second and beginning to show he belonged as a major leaguer. Uncle Carlos Beltran, his bags packed for the trade we understood as inevitable, around in right. Hey, it’s Daniel Murphy before he was fully Daniel Murphy to us! And look, it’s Angel Pagan all over again!

Angel hit the walkoff homer that fell just a little shy of the broadcast position in right, but the real revelation was remembering those nights and days when what Angel and an unproven Lucas Duda and a last-legs Willie Harris and an endlessly slumping and aching Jason Bay and a theoretically developing Josh Thole and that beguiling pre-celebrity knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and everybody else involved did mattered so much to us. Eventually, everyone from Reyes to Murph would morph into ex-Mets, and what the players who took their spots as Mets did would matter just as much to us. The successors to these individual 2011 Mets, whenever they showed up, whether or not their work was classified Classic, became the new members of our baseball family. That’s how being a fan works. You pull for the laundry, sure, but you get attached to those who pull on the shirts and pants of preference every night and day and toss them somewhere near a hamper afterwards. Decades and eras and seasons and games and innings are full of these Mets. You spend most nights and/or days with them half-a-year every year. They add up.

We’ll add up a hundred of them in this space, relive what made them relatively special to us, and maybe do a few other 2010s things as well before we get to 2020. I hope it’s as much fun as watching the Mets has been for these past ten years.

Check that. I hope it’s more fun.

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