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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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After sampling slices of the most depressing pair of Mayor’s Trophy Games ever presented, I’ve turned from being cautiously anticipant of the 2020 season back toward my previous state of “baseball amid all of this — they can’t be serious.” That there were no fans at Citi Field on Saturday or at the other local ballpark Sunday was bad if necessary enough in context. The synthetic sound effects applied to make everything seem less abnormal cynically insulted intelligence, while the cardboard cutouts proved only that if we are told something is sort of normal enough times, we might very well adapt.

So here comes the new abnormal, first pitch this Friday at 4:10, deGrom versus incredulity that this is actually happening.

Though we’re in a state of suspended disbelief that Baseball 2020 is a logistically workable therefore good idea, I won’t pretend I’m not a little on board with brand new baseball materializing on TV and radio. I won’t pretend I wasn’t happy to hear Met voices return to an approximation of their natural habitat, even if Howie Rose worked from home and GKR called the game transpiring in one stadium from another stadium. I won’t pretend I didn’t enjoy that a Subway Series-ish game at Citi Field encompassed no discernible cheering for the crosstown invaders. I won’t pretend that Amed Rosario lashing a triple down the left field line wasn’t briefly energizing. I won’t pretend Tomás Nido crossing up a five-man infield with a solid single to right didn’t have me snickering vengefully at a shift gone awry.

But I won’t pretend that Nido pulling into first to the sound of canned applause didn’t kill the moment. I read that MLB has supplied each team with 75 different recorded crowd reactions. By the time these games are no longer labeled exhibitions, maybe some bright technician will mix a 76th for those times when something perfect in its specificity happens for the home team. When the backup catcher gets a hit that figuratively spits in the face of the opposing manager’s defensive strategy, the noise from the crowd is akin to a very knowing “TAKE THAT!” You can’t script it and you can’t fake it.

Yet fake it they will, because there’s no way of creating it for real as it happens. We’re gonna pretend that’s OK and normal. Give virtual reality enough time and not only will the reaction be lifelike, the backup catcher will hit like that regularly.

I wonder if there will be a cardboard cutout usher on Field Level chasing a cardboard cutout of me back to Promenade?


The televised Mets’ offense was moribund, which was a disappointment in the wake of the encouraging developments that took place in intrasquad action last week. Of course any encouraging developments in intrasquad action are always tempered by discouraging developments. Somebody looking great hitting means somebody didn’t look great pitching, and vice-versa. Still, after so much time away, you’d take a .500 record if the Mets could play themselves every day (and nobody takes ill).

Neither of this weekend’s games ran into extras, though the Mets took the field in the bottom of the ninth despite having gone scoreless in the top of the ninth while trailing. They had to get their work in. In Florida in March, you’d shrug. In the Bronx in July, it’s just one more abnomal thing you pretend to treat as normal. The teams opted not to practice the new rule in which every extra half-inning will begin with a runner on second and nobody out. That sounds like a rule right up the Met bullpen’s alley. Met relievers are pioneers in the art of having a runner on second with nobody out.

To paraphrase President Bartlet regarding calls for a flag-burning amendment, is there an epidemic of nineteen-inning games that I’m not aware of? I mean it, man, is there an emergency-level outbreak of marathon baseball no one’s kept me posted on? In 2019, the Mets lost one game in eighteen innings, one in sixteen and one in fourteen. They won one in thirteen innings and lost one in twelve. They played eleven games that went either ten or eleven innings, which are reasonable in the length department, meaning that out of 162 contests last year, you could classify four or five as unreasonably long. Out of a projected sixty this year, that would translate to like a couple. Maybe.

Is slapping a runner on second and calling it baseball really helping anybody? Same for the three-batter rule for every pitcher who doesn’t end an inning. Few Met relievers should face three batters in a week let alone in a row.

Along with the advent of the “nine-hole hitter” in the National League, it all strikes me as dumbing down a game we always took pride in being nuanced. Perhaps that ship (registered as the S.S. Launch Angle) has been sailing for many moons, but now they’re essentially saying the quiet parts out loud.


I don’t want this to pretend this is normal because I don’t want it to feel normal. It’s not normal. I just as soon mark 2020 as a Comma Year, with everybody’s en-dash interrupted. If Elias wants, imply the comma and just keep the continuity cooking, fine. We who were here will know that 2020 wasn’t really there. Future generations can be surprised to discover the details.

It’s not that I’m not a little happy to consume a soupçon of baseball activities. I was actually most moved during this Summer Camp Sponsored by Some Camp Company when I caught video of intrasquad action, regardless of which Mets were beating which. It was Mets in shorts tossing the horsehide around, taking a few swings, nobody acting as if they were coming to society’s rescue. It was close enough to the game I love for a few seconds. Therefore, if they want to get together and play a little socially distant pepper a couple of times a week on SNY while Gary, Keith and Ron chat about the weather, that would satisfy my yearning for something that looks and sounds like baseball. It’s the looking and sounding like baseball that isn’t really baseball but will count as baseball that doesn’t deserve to be processed as normal. We count what we count, so inevitably we will count the sixty-game season if the sixty games are played — with the DH infecting the NL; with a runner intentionally on second to start the tenth; with the cardboard cutouts looking down at their cardboard phones — but it’s hard to want to count this as real or normal or real-lite or normal-adjacent.

It’s not a balm. It’s not a blessing. It’s not a much-needed distraction. What’s much needed isn’t baseball. The staging of a truncated season is not an excuse for public officeholders to point to all the progress we’re making because MLB is somewhat open for business. It’s not cause for a torrent of “but at 4:10, there will be the Mets and the Braves and baseball and all will be right with the world, if only for a few hours” rhapsodizing. Too much is wrong with the world for that.

Still, Gary Cohen sounded very glad to have broadcast the first exhibition game Saturday night and Pete Alonso confirmed he and his teammates were “so dang happy to be back”. I don’t want to begrudge them, so I tried to take a cue from them and get as pumped as the prerecorded crowd noise murmuring behind them. I’ll be danged that I’m not nearly so pumped.

I like that there’s been a break in the drought, but I can get by on the Mets Classics and the One-on-Ones and writing about Tommie Agee and reading about Todd Pratt. I’d understand if that was all the baseball we were gonna get in 2020. This is an aberration transcending all the aberrations we’ve known. This isn’t August 1981 after a strike or September 2001 after a dignified, respectful pause. This isn’t the Astros vacating Houston for a series while hurricane damage is absorbed, assessed and cleared away to a slight extent. The Blue Jays and their American cousins have been told they can’t play in Canada, period. Buster Posey and David Price are among those who won’t play at all by informed choice. There’s an injured list specifically for players who test positive for COVID-19, which despite being wished away hasn’t magically disappeared from these shores. Freddie Freeman’s temperature hit 104.5 (or about 300 points lower than he hits against the Mets), but he’s been cleared to play, thus we’re now in a circumstance where it would be inhuman to not be delighted to see Freddie Freeman. The stands are empty by design, which means we can’t make fun of Marlins fans or the lack thereof.

Following a string of years when the Mets have lost more than they’ve won and they finally start to win, we adapt to the idea that they’re supposed to win. Following a string of years when the Mets have won more than they’ve lost and they unfortunately start to lose, we adapt to the idea that we shouldn’t expect them to win. We root for the Mets consistently, hardly noticing that we constantly recalibrate our perspective on them on the fly. We landed in the middle of 2019 expecting absolutely nothing from them. We ended 2019 palpably let down they didn’t make the playoffs. We keep adapting. We’re probably adapting to this half-assed, half-baked, wholly bizarre return of baseball, whether we’re enthused to do so or not.

You can only grumble “this sucks” for so long before you either stop talking about it altogether or you suck it up and tune in. I don’t seem to have stopped talking about it.


This past Saturday night, in the 2020 the magnetic schedule on our fridge still claims it is, Stephanie and I were going to be at Citi Field. I imagine I would have been out there more than a few times already had this year not become this year, but this was the only game for which I had definite plans prior to the sport shutting down. Our friends Garry and Susan Spector had invited us far in advance to take part in a celebration of their 25th wedding anniversary. They were married in Oklahoma in July of 1995, but they’ve preferred to summer in Flushing since. They even reserved a suite for the occasion.

In the alternate timeline, Stephanie and I boarded an LIRR train to Jamaica, then another to Woodside, then the 7 in the other direction to Mets-Willets Point. The traveling was going to be too hot for my wife’s liking, but there was going to be air conditioning where we were headed and, more importantly, there were going to be the Spectors sharing an extraordinary marital milestone in the perfect place. They’re at Citi Field most every day and night of the regular season. We were gonna toast their anniversary with them and watch the Mets play the Mariners with them along with others who were gonna be thrilled to be there. The Mariners had never been to Citi Field. Now they’ve been to Citi Field as much as the rest of us in 2020.

It’s a shame Garry and Susan didn’t get to host their party on Saturday night, just as it’s been a shame that I don’t know how many people haven’t gotten to do what they’d planned to do since March, a spectrum of events that expand well beyond the missed frivolity of a ballgame that never got played and a suite that never got occupied. One shudders to think about how much of life in 2020 isn’t what people had reason to assume it would be. And that it’s not over yet.

Ballparks are for celebrating. I hate to see them used as soundstages. Friends are for toasting. Happy 25th, Garry and Susan. Fingers crossed and masks on, we’ll see ya soon enough.

7 comments to Adaptation

  • Lenny65

    It’s probably just my Mets fandom showing again but I have the very uneasy feeling that in the not-too-distant future we’re going to look back on this and say “goddamned 2020 season, it ruined ____’s ____ and he hasn’t been right since”. I do genuinely hope that no one involved, from superstars to towel managers, ends up becoming ill or worse from this.

  • eric1973

    Greg, just have the cardboard ‘you’ give the cardboard usher a cardboard dollar, and then he’ll let you stay, like back in the good old days!

  • Daniel Hall

    That sports can be played in the time of the plague has been shown by a bunch of entities. NASCAR’s been going for two months without major incidents. Formula 1 started. Granted, the drivers are a bit more distant from another than runner and shortstop on a potential 4-6-3, but sports can work if you eliminate outside contacts, and soccer leagues in Europe have restarted and/or are finished. Granted, this all came about *after* the curve receded towards the X axis, which it hasn’t in the U.S. for reasons that are equally depressing and infuriating for somebody six to nine time zones away who can’t fathom how it takes your liberty away when WalMart makes you don a face mask when –

    But I digress and I will cease with the digression immediately.

    My body is ready for baseball. Even the tainted form of baseball on offer with stupid rules all over the place, either borrowed from the AL or a troubled mind entirely. I don’t live in New York, obviously, but I’d even shelter an exiled Blue Jay on my couch if it helps facilitate bubble baseball of some sort. I’m even willing to teeth-gnashingly tolerate the fake position if it can bring baseball about. It’s an asterisk season for sure, why not in that regard, too. And the Mets have no shortages of DHs either!

    But next year the damn thing be gone! I can’t fathom how people are advocating for it. Last night I played my fictional league in OOTP. Tight game, and then my team finally gets three on with nobody out in the sixth… and next is Bryce Sparkes, pitcher by trade, batting a hundred. Pinch-hitting wasn’t an option thanks to a dead bullpen. Not then and not once before did the thought cross my mind, man, if only I played with the fake position! I could have Rich Vickers batting here and at least he knows which end of the stick is up! Nope. At best I wished that this was Ottie’s start. Jared Ottinger at least hits like a defensive-minded shortstop. Sparkes struck out. The top of the order came through. We won. All was well. And all would have been well if we hadn’t. My league’s never getting the fake position! (angrily shakes fists)

    I’ll take it for 2020 MLB. It won’t even make me as mad as the free runner on second in the 10th. You know, if both teams score that guy and nobody else, nothing’s been gained. And the game has been spoiled.

    But I’ll take that, too. I’ll take the canned noise, and the cardboard cutouts (let’s see whether all MLB teams have their eyes open and don’t put Osama Bin Laden in the first row as an English soccer club did), and the dollar-menu schedule. Because all those stupid, horrible things mean baseball’s back. And my body’s ready for it.

  • Seth

    I have a cardboard cutout of myself that I’ll put in front of the TV, while I re-watch the 1986 World Series in the other room.

  • Bob

    Greg/Jason & fellow Met fans-
    Thanks for –Great writing-as usual-
    At least we are still around to kvetch about the universal DH and other stupid changes for this truncated season.
    Agree with Greg-this season is not a balm or blessing-but at least it’ll distract me and maybe help lower my BP..
    as always–
    Everyone stay safe-
    Let’s Go Mets!

    Bob in LA.

  • Dave

    I just don’t know how this is going to feel. One of the things baseball traditionally provides me with is a sense of order; the season starts in the spring and it’s a rebirth. 162 is a number that applies to nothing else of significance, but in the context of baseball, it gives me a perfect symmetry…not too long, not too short. And that’s all on top of the empty stadiums and matchups we won’t see and 10th inning designated runners…and all of the normal stress of being a Mets fan. Oh yeah, and everything else going on in the world being 110% upside down.

    Time, as it always does, will tell.