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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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Making the Final Forty Count

If there’s any solace to be taken from the 2021 Mets’ current status of 60-62 after 122 games — the 122nd of them a 3-2 loss to Walker Buehler and the dark blue Dodgers — beyond every game completed bringing us closer to the 2021 Mets no longer having a current status, it’s that good things can happen in a season’s Final Forty games. Bad things, too. And indifferent things, I suppose. But definitely good things. You may have forgotten what “good” is as the Mets continue to sink quicker than a Pacific sunset.

Forty games remain on the 2021 schedule, with little good in the immediate forecast. We’ve got enough bad (six behind Atlanta in the East and six behind San Diego/Cincinnati for the second Wild Card) rapidly turning us indifferent to their current status. So let’s take a look at the good things that have happened when the Mets conquered their Final Forty with élan, with aplomb, with maybe an ability to score more than a run here or there.

Would it surprise you to learn that the Mets who played most like champions in the fourth quarter of their schedule were the first champions in Mets history? The 1969 Mets put on a finishing kick still unmatched in franchise annals, winning thirty of their Final Forty to post an overall record of 100-62 and, of course, set themselves up for a 7-1 sprint through the postseason. The ’69ers had given themselves a running start at Game 114, when they took off on what became a 38-11 tear through the NL East, making up gobs of ground on the presumed invincible Cubs. By the time Chicago knew what hit them, they were looking waaay up at New York. This is all the stuff of legend. There’s a reason it’s legend. What the ’69 Mets did is legendary.

The 1986 Mets won 108 regular-season games overall. In their Final Forty, they won 27. Twenty-seven times four equals 108. Some Mets teams have had phenomenal stretches within their seasons. The 1986 Mets’ phenomenal stretch covered 162 games.

Gary Cohen recently mentioned 1988 in passing, which elicited a groan (as opposed to a sigh) from Keith Hernandez. Whatever was going on in the game at hand was paused in the booth so Keith could mourn anew the misdeeds of Mike Scioscia, Kirk Gibson and the rest of the Dodgers who took the ’88 NLCS from him and his mates. I don’t suppose Keith would be comforted to know that the 1988 Mets constituted the second-best Final Forty Finisher in Mets history by going 29-11 (31-11 in their last 42) to at last blow away the pesky Pirates, the irritating Expos and every lingering doubt that they’d win their second division title in three years. No, it wouldn’t, because a team that finished as strong as the 1988 Mets was poised to go all the way, yet didn’t. But going as far as you can before the dinner plates are cleared and the table is set for postseason is not to be completely dismissed, even if Keith doesn’t fondly remember that year’s main course of 100-60.

Happy fifth anniversary to the first flickers of my favorite Final Forty of the Faith and Fear era, the fourth quarter of 2016. The Mets were 60-62 and 5½ games removed from the nearest playoff spot — kinda like today, except with a Yoenis Cespedes handy to La Potencia-lly change the course of events. Seemed improbable that they were playing out more than the string. But not impossible! Twenty-seven wins ensued in the next forty games, and a Wild Card was hatched. It was almost as if somewhere in the past something very much like it had happened before.

Ah, 1973, the original 2016 (so to speak), when the Mets rose from under .500 and nowhere on the board of likely playoff participants to reel off a Final Forty of 27-13 and utterly defy expectations by passing every Eastern opponent. Only twice in the last fifty years has a late run of this nature paid off in quite this fashion, yet two late runs of this nature are what will keep us hoping for the next fifty years.

Good lord, the Mets were unwatchable for the first 75% of the 2001 season — and I oughta know, having watched them practically every day and night they played. At exactly the quarter pole, however, they went to the proverbial whip, going 28-12 down the stretch; insinuating themselves into a divisional race they hadn’t as much as visited as tourists since April; and, not incidentally, fighting for their baseball lives against an embattled New York backdrop that was too real to be metaphorical. They made their charge from too far back to not ultimately fall short, but if ever a Mets club deserved an “atta boys” for never giving up, it was the Mets who finished 2001 giving it all they had.

Sometimes your best effort yields outstanding results that don’t translate to any kind of reward, except the reward of a job well done.

• The 1995 Mets were barely an asterisk in the respective NL East and Wild Card standings when they began to register in bold type. Over the final 52 games of their strike-delayed 144-game season, they won 34 of 52, encompassing a 25-15 Final Forty. For their trouble, they stayed under .500, finished a million games behind the Braves and almost as many out of playoff contention, but playing at a 100-win clip late surely beat getting beat into oblivion.

• The same could be said of the way the 1976 Mets closed out an otherwise middling season. From 52-55 and no shot at the runaway Phillies, Joe Frazier’s suddenly feisty Amazins surged to 86-76…and no shot at the runaway Phillies. Still, a 25-15 Final Forty allowed for pleasant delusions that a deep drop through M. Donald Grantland wasn’t just over the horizon.

• One step down the escalator to nowhere rose the 2018 Mets, who finished their Final Forty at 24-16. It didn’t nab them an overall winning record, but at least it served as a capful of Listerine to wash out the lingering aftertaste (ptui!) of that June’s 5-21 descent into hell.

Could have more been asked of Mets teams that won 98 and 92 games? We certainly made our requests in the aftermath of 1985 and 1987, despite those clubs each going 24-16 in their Final Forty. That extrapolates over 162 games to a lot of wins — just not enough of them. The 1985 Mets had so many dramatic victories down their stretch that it can be forgotten they also suffered some serious September doldrums. Conversely, Terry Pendleton has erased the reality that the 1987 Mets came on like gangbusters in late August and early September, albeit just to position themselves to let us down a touch shy of glory.

A team featuring Michael Conforto and Jeurys Familia not to mention Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard won twenty-four of their Final Forty. Oh, to be able to say that some forty games from now! At least we got to say it in the National League championship year of 2015. The Five Days in Flushing of blessed SNY repetition covered the end of July and the dawn of August, but the Mets kept humming after Wilmer’s homer and Yo’s arrival ceased to be breaking news. That same quartet of 2021 Mets on hand in 2015 was around in 2019 as well. A whole bunch of 2021 Mets were here a scant two years ago, too, part of another invigorating acceleration to a 24-16 Final Forty. Unlike 2015, 2019’s grand finale of 24-16 didn’t earn us a postseason appointment, but it did give us something to feed fondly off of when 2020 offered us no baseball for the longest time. The 7 Line doesn’t make t-shirts commemorating such feats. Maybe they should.

The 2006 Mets posted a 23-17 record in their Final Forty. The 2008 Mets posted a 23-17 record in their Final Forty. The 2006 Mets cruised into the playoffs on the high of an easily clinched division title. The 2008 Mets were considered the authors of Collapse II: The Sequel, which was probably a little misguided, considering that the 2008 Mets fell from a less lofty perch than their immediate predecessors, and they played fairly inspiring ball until, well, they didn’t. You’d still take the 2006 Mets, though.

The 1997 Mets went 88-74 overall, encompassing a 21-19 Final Forty. The 1998 Mets went 88-74 overall, encompassing a 21-19 Final Forty. Both Metropolitan editions have long been consigned to the dusty archives of memory by most, but I remember them clear as Clinton Era day. Specifically, I remember those seasons as markedly distinct from one another. Nobody expected a thing from the 1997 Mets, yet they nipped at the playoff race well into September. It was thrilling. The 1998 Mets added Piazza, amped up anticipation and held the Wild Card spot with a week to go. It was nerve-wracking. Alas, the ’97 Mets were a little light on sluggers and the ’98 Mets needed more than one imported bat to get over the hump (the latter bunch lost their last five games and their ticket to October). I remember each denouement as so different, even if they were statistically exactly the same.

Two years removed from the Mets of 1969 shocking the world, the Mets of 1971 were in need of a late-summer jolt to do something other than stagger to the finish line, having dipped down to a very 2021-ish 60-62 during a startlingly dreary summer. They weren’t in any position to catch the Pirates, but to dawdle along with a losing record so soon after leaving the “lovable losers” tag behind them? There’d be nothing lovable about finishing under .500 in 1971. Fortunately, there’d also be no finishing under .500. A strong 23-17 unfurled (no doubt boosted by Tom Seaver’s determined pursuit of 20 wins) and the Mets poked their heads above mediocrity to end their campaign at an adequate 83-79.

When you think of the Bobby Valentine Mets in their playoff years, you think of all the darkest-before-dawn shenanigans they pulled on their opposition to prevail late or at least postpone their own expiration. The details of their so-so Final Fortys — 22-18 for the 1999 Mets, 21-19 for the 2000 Mets — remind us those beloved teams often made it exceedingly difficult on themselves (and their fans) as September ticked down. But they got done what needed to get done when it needed to get done to allow us to place them on an eternal pedestal. It helped to have built a bit of a cushion ahead of the end of August.

Five Met regular seasons besides 1999 ended on a 22-18 Final Forty. In retrospect, drawing inferences from any of them tells us different stories about what was to come when the next seasons’ stories started to emerge.

• One was an obvious stage-setter: the 1984 Mets were the start of something big, giving us a 90-72 record, Rookie of the Year Dwight Gooden, a spirited run at the Cubs and the innate knowledge that we were only gonna get better.

• One was a subtle stage-setter: he 2014 Mets woke up late and dashed to second place, but with only a 79-83 record and Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom to show for it. I don’t necessarily think we saw a pennant in the offing a little over twelve months later.

• One was a curtain-closer: the 1990 Mets, who had exploded past the Pirates a couple of times in summer yet couldn’t keep them penned in September. We didn’t realize we were watching the last contention of a perennial contender as it fell short at 91-71.

• One was small consolation: the 1972 Mets rumbled out of the gate with what is still one of the franchise’s best starts ever (30-11) before tumbling through an injury-riddled middle portion of their strike-delayed 156-game schedule. Their 83-73 record doesn’t quite reflect how good they looked early or how bad they got after a spell.

• One was an unfinished symphony: the 1994 Mets won 22 of their Final Forty, but their Final Forty covered the season’s 74th through 113th games. No more contests were contested, as a players’ strike (and owners’ recalcitrance) ended the season in the middle of August. The Mets’ more-than-decent performance up to the sport’s halt edged them toward .500 at 55-58. It didn’t much tell us about where they’d go from there because in the middle of August of 1994 baseball stopped speaking to us.

Twenty-seven different times during 2005, the first year of Faith and Fear in Flushing, the Mets’ record for the season stood at exactly .500, from 5-5 after ten games to 77-77 after 154. Natch, when you examine the Final Forty for that year that couldn’t decide if it was about winning or losing, it landed at 20-20. Fortunately for those of us blogging for the first time, we wound up with a winning record to write up when it was over. That 20-20 vision got the Mets to see 83-79 after 162 games. Believe me, whether you’re in your first or seventeenth year of chronicling this ballclub daily, every little bit helps. (FYI, the Mets have now played 2,612 regular-season games since Jason and I began FAFIF; after Friday night’s loss in L.A., their composite record is 1,306-1,306.)

If you are a past Met season and you didn’t hear your name called above, then you did not have at least a .500 record in your Final Forty and we don’t have the heart to delve into your myriad late-season shortcomings. But we hoped for the best and rooted for you to the bitter end regardless. We’ll probably continue to do the same for the 2021 Met season, no matter how bitter the rest of these games turn.

It’s not guaranteed that they will. It only feels like that most of the time.

15 comments to Making the Final Forty Count

  • Jacobs27

    Thanks for putting all this together, Greg. What a wonderful memory palace for Mets fans when we could most use perspective.

    That the Mets are 1306-1306 in the FAFIF era sure has a kind of poetry to it.

  • Eric

    Good stuff.

    Frustrating to waste another sufficiently well-pitched game when we reasonably expected worse. It’s games like last night’s that make wonder if the Mets might have won with Beltran as manager, as much as I want Rojas to succeed.

    Bad Mets baseball is always better than no Mets baseball, and 40 games are precious few remaining to enjoy.

    Setting aside the Phillies, the Braves have a tough stretch coming up that much overlaps with an easier Mets stretch. I’ll hold onto my hope through the 2 respective stretches. If the Mets haven’t closed to arm’s reach of 1st place by the 9/11 20th anniversary series vs the Yankees, then I’ll leave behind my postseason hope. Then I’ll just enjoy the remainder of the season and look forward to Cohen going big to reconstruct the team for 2022.

  • Bob

    Thanks for the very through history of Met endings.
    You stirred many memories–of 1969, I do recall vividly a DH
    Mets played VS Bucs late in year when Mets won both games 1-0 and the Met pitcher (Don Cardwell was one)got winning RBI in both games.
    Was camping with family at Lake Tackanic in Upstate NY and listened to Bob Murphy/Ralph Kiner & Lindsay Nelson on car radio.
    On the other hand, the way 1998 season ended was awful.

  • Paul

    1971 may have been Tom Seaver’s greatest season as a Met with his 1.76 ERA. And, the Mets had a superlative bullpen with lefty Tug McGraw and righty Danny Frisella.

    The late, great Jane Jarvis would play the Irish jig whenever Tug entered the game and the Tarantella whenever Danny entered the game.

    I recall that Sports Illustrated, in commenting on that season, wrote that the muscle was lacking from that Mets team. And, with Tommie Agee’s 15 homers and Ed Kranepool’s 15 or so, the Mets certainly did need some muscling-up. I think Cleon Jones hit around 12 or so long balls that season.

    This anemic Mets lineup necessitated the spring training trade for Rusty Staub and the extremely ill-advised winter meetings trade for shortstop/third baseman Jim Fregosi. The less said about that awful trade of positively Wilponian proportions, the better.

    The team featured some superior glove men, with Jerry Grote at catcher, Bud Harrelson at shortstop and Tommie Agee in center field. I think they were all “1s” in Strat-O-Magic.

    Sadly, this was the great Gil Hodges’ final season as Mets manager.

    Requiem aeternam, Messrs. Hodges, Agee, Seaver, McGraw, Clendenon, Frisella, Sadecki and Marshall.

  • Lenny65

    I think we all know exactly what happens next. Sometime in early September the Mets will torment us by catching fire and winning games in wildly unlikely ways, but they’ll end up falling short. This will renew our optimism going into 2022 and, well, you know how that’ll go. The 2021 Mets are a really, really tough team to love.

    • There are some serious plummeters in the Final Forty ranks, Mets teams that made no bones their season was over. Feels more like we’re heading there.

      But if the scenario you suggest comes to pass, 1) I’ll be all on board and 2) I’ll remember it probably overly fondly in this space years from now (live and be well).

  • Paul


    Yes, the late Ed Charles provided the 1969 Mets with both veteran leadership and an outstanding glove at third base. The Mets foolishly released the light-hitting Mr. Charles during the off-season and then in a precursor to the Jim Fregosi third base fiasco, they sent young center fielder Amos Otis to the K.C. Royals in exchange for third baseman Joe Foy. Yeah, Amos Otis, whatever became of him?

    Joe Foy, who had had a decent 1969 season for the expansion Royals, proved to be as big a flop at the hot corner as Jim Fregosi did two years later. The Mets ended up releasing Joe Foy and he quickly disappeared from the big leagues. Sadly, native New Yorker Joe Foy died several years later as a result of a serious drug problem.

  • […] muted. So would be the Mets’ ability to win more games in 1980. The other day I told you about the best Final Forty finishes in Mets history. The worst belonged to 1980: 9-31, which was just around the corner and down a […]

  • Kevin from Flushing

    2 out of every 3 Met season finishes are .500 or above?! That’s wild.