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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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All Caught Up

Wayne Randazzo wasn’t wrong Tuesday when he outlined ways baseball could speed up its action. Specifically, he preached adoption of a pitch clock like that used in the minors to get games moving faster and, ultimately, over faster. But his partner du jour, Lee Mazzilli, wasn’t wrong, either, when he asked Wayne in apparent sincerity, “What, are you in a hurry to leave the ballpark?”

Wayne’s cause was aesthetic — a breezier pace, not necessarily a quicker vamoose — and like every fan who has been lulled to the point of nodding off by torpid half-innings that refuse to end, I, too, would prefer a crisper game. Yet I also thought, yeah, I’m kind of with Mazz, at least in spirit. What’s the rush here? Where are we going? Winter? I don’t need to get to winter one pitch sooner than I have to.

It’s the final week of the season. This is not the time to duck away from the ballpark or the ballgame, however one might consume it. Patting ourselves on the back for taking a pass on the Mets on a given day or night has had its utility. We don’t like how they’ve played and how they’ve lost, and we’ve registered our discontent. The Mets haven’t deserved our undivided attention. Duly noted.

But as of Tuesday, seven games remained in the current season. Two were about to be played. The first of them threw its first untimed pitch at 4:10. It was not convenient. Maybe that’s what made it appealing. Baseball sneaks onto our schedule without asking whether it’s a good fit for us. If inclined, we make it work. I was inclined.

The late-September midweek makeup doubleheader is a helluva thing. It was clearly never intended to occur. Much of 2021 was clearly never intended to occur. The Mets have intermittently unanticipatedly cooled their heels going back to the season’s start, the three-game series in Washington that was positive-tested out. Those were games that had to be made up somewhere along the way. Same for a snowout here, a torrent of rainouts there, whatever else went awry meteorologically. There’ve been more Met doubleheaders this season than in any season since 1979, and that was in the era when doubleheaders were occasionally scheduled on purpose. We’ve played 14 in ’21 — 15, really, when you include the continuation of the April 11 suspended game that effectively functioned as half of an August 31 separate-admission twinbill.

Doubleheaders shouldn’t require two admissions. Also, doubleheaders shouldn’t lop off two innings per half. Someone who I trust to keep track mentioned on Twitter that two of the Mets’ 28 official doubleheader games went nine innings, while another four went eight. Plus the night portion of that August 31 configuration went seven. So by my count, we’re owed 50 innings of Mets baseball. And not the crappy kind that sent us all scurrying to other activities.

Tell ya what, Mets, you come back on some nice fall weekend when we’ve forgotten that we couldn’t stand you most of September, bring some Marlins or Nationals or whoever, and play two full games for one low-price admission, and we’ll put aside our overwhelming distaste for how you disappeared from the top of the standings and descended deep below .500.

No? You’re not gonna do that? Well, then we’ll just enjoy that helluva thing we got out of you on Tuesday afternoon and Tuesday night. It was actually pretty good. It had baseball we didn’t originally plan for, and it included a pitcher we totally didn’t plan for. Maybe on some depth chart with some optimistic timeline we thought we’d see Noah Syndergaard pitching in regular rotation for the 2021 Mets. We gave up on that idea by the All-Star break he was supposed to be back right after. I gave up the idea altogether just as a matter of course. I knew he’d been rehabbing. I knew he’d put on his uniform and threw off a mound and faced minor leaguers. I also knew these were the Mets.

But out of nowhere, at 1:38 PM on Tuesday, an innocent-looking e-mail appeared in my inbox. It was headlined “09.28 – NYM Roster Moves”. Oh, who’s hurt now? was my instinctive reaction. Ah, but for the first time in a very long time, it was a roster move capable of making a Mets fan’s heart skip a beat.

“RHP Noah Syndergaard has been reinstated from the 60-Day IL and will serve as the team’s 29th man. He will start the second game of today’s doubleheader.”

No. 29 in your bookkeeping, No. 34 on your scorecard, and the No. 1 reason to be beyond excited as a late-September midweek makeup doubleheader — between the Mets and the Marlins — approached. THOR IS BACK! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!?!?!?!? THOR! A REAL MET! A MET I DON’T FEEL I’M MERELY PUTTING UP WITH BUT A MET I KNOW! I MEAN REALLY KNOW! A MET FROM 2015 AND 2016 WHO HASN’T DONE ANYTHING WRONG LATELY!

I spent about half an hour of what had been a productive afternoon running around like Ed Grimley imagining what it would be like to meet Pat Sajak. That’s how excited I was by the news that RHP Noah Syndergaard had been reinstated from the 60-Day IL, would serve as the team’s 29th man, and start the second game of the day’s doubleheader.

I swear, it doesn’t take much.

First, the first game of the seven-inning doubleheader, started by Marcus Stroman, as I’m pretty certain all first games of seven-inning doubleheaders have been. Five-foot-seven Marcus Stroman starting all these short games…nah, I’m not gonna go there. Height, you may have heard, doesn’t measure heart, and no Met starting pitcher has stood taller than Stro in 2021. Jacob deGrom was state-of-the-art for half-a-season, but has been absent for the other half — and will sadly remain so. Taijuan Walker was a substitute All-Star, yet is now a first-team opposite of an All-Star. Tylor Megill, who joined us in June, ceased to be a stealth Rookie of the Year candidate as the year grew long. Rich Hill, who joined us in July, has hung in there, which on this team is pretty good. Carlos Carrasco (first-inning ERA: 14.73) needs to join games already in progress.

But Marcus Stroman hasn’t strayed from starting just about every fifth day and has almost never not provided winning pitching. The winning hasn’t always been there — he pitches for the Mets — but 33 starts adding up to 179 innings in 2021…those are impressive measurements. The man’s ERA is two ticks above 3. The victory total is double-digit at last. You know how it goes with pitcher wins these days. Marcus Stroman has been more than a 10-13 pitcher. (Also, he stole a base, which didn’t lead anywhere, but, whoa!)

Tuesday, he was a winning pitcher, nurturing a lead for five innings and handing it off to sometimes reliable Seth Lugo and trustworthy again Edwin Diaz for the 5-2 decision. Brandon Nimmo tripled to tie Pete Alonso for the team lead in a category Pete Alonso should not have been leading. Francisco Lindor homered for the eighth time in September; three of those came in one game against the Yankees (he had us at “against the Yankees”). Javy Baez connected for two more hits and made one of his slick tags to nail a stolen base attempt. The sharp throw was from Tomás Nido. It’s hard to notice anybody else when Javy Baez is involved.

The Mets guaranteed they wouldn’t be swept. Fifteen doubleheaders, actual and de facto, and the Mets were never swept in 2021. Lone games must’ve been the problem. And games that were supposed to go nine innings. It’s nice to know there was something these Mets were good at.

The nightcap brought forth Thor. THOR! THOR IS BACK! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!?!?!? Oh, wait, I already did that. Anyway, Noah Syndergaard ambled out of the bullpen, just as he did with regularity for five seasons, most recently two years minus a day earlier. That was the final game of 2019. We didn’t know it would be the final game of Thor for what felt like forever.

Noah climbed up on the mound, toed the rubber, threw a fastball, put on strike on the scoreboard and proceeded however briefly to keep doing that. He threw ten pitches in one inning. He struck out his first two Marlins and got the third on a groundout. Noah Syndergaard had become a 2021 Met at last. We won’t hold it against him. If anything, it makes us love him a little bit more. I mean, seriously — he came back to be a part of this.

This went back to being a struggle between mediocrities. No Cardinals surging. No Brewers clinching. Just the Marlins being no better than the Mets for seven innings, but, unfortunately and unsurprisingly, no worse. The 1-1 game exceeded regulation. It went into an eighth inning and came out of it tied. We got a ninth inning, just like the people partaking of regular games do. In the bottom of the ninth, with Javy Baez on second, we scored Javy Baez. Javy was on second because Rob Manfred put him there. Alonso grounded him to third. James McCann’s nubber, mishandled by Marlins, enabled his scamper home for the 2-1 Met win and doubleheader sweep. Really, though, Javy Baez kind of scored himself. Like I said, it’s hard to notice anybody else when Javy Baez is involved.

The older saying, about not trusting what you see in April or September, may not have as much validity to it as it once did. The September part, at any rate. We don’t expand rosters the way we used to, so the games of September are pretty standard. The Mets were, you’ll vaguely recall, playing for their playoff lives for about half of the month. Baez was producing then. He’s producing now. He’s been the best player the Mets have had in the final month of the season. Granted, there hasn’t been much competition, but since his return from the IL and whatever he did to shake off his habit of swinging at everything, he’s been everything you could have dreamed of, minus the public relations for a couple of days (and we have a company for that now).

What I’m saying is — deep breath — I kind of want free agent Javy Baez back. I also definitely want Noah Syndergaard back in 2022, because one September inning is not enough of a hello to determined whether we should say goodbye. And Long Island’s Own Marcus Stroman, whose 33 starts aren’t a lock to be replicated by a single starter. Sign him. And throw a qualifying offer at Michael Conforto, who I swear was on the verge of superstardom twelve or thirteen months ago.

Mind you, if somebody can produce a plan in which the Mets aren’t entertaining us in late September only by breaking a losing streak, then bring in other guys and I’ll love them and decide I can’t live without them. I wasn’t expecting to feel anything remotely akin to love for any Met before Tuesday. Maybe Jake in absentia. For everybody else, presence had made the heart grow bitter.

Ah, I don’t know. Five games remain. Twilight of the season. Twilight doubleheader. Twilight of the god of thunder, Thor, too? Of that guy who makes ungodly plays? Of that guy who sells his own line of merch on the side? Of the eternally slumping right fielder we’re sure is a helluva player even if he hasn’t been much of one in 2021? Too much to think about right now.

We had two games in one day. We had two wins. We had our 156th and 157th game find their lines in the books, meaning we finally caught up from all the postponements. We had a touch of Syndergaard. We had Lee Mazzilli standing in fierce opposition to leaving the ballpark. What, with five games left I’m not gonna listen to Lee Mazzilli?

5 comments to All Caught Up

  • Seth

    Best line of the day: “Much of 2021 was clearly never intended to occur.”

    Yeah, Keith and Gary have gone on and on about how they really like the 7 inning DH’s. For Keith at least, I am sure he just wants to get home earlier. And Gary is suspiciously supportive. I still love them though.

    I want Javy, Stroman, and Noah back too. After 6 months of this, soon it will be Steve Cohen’s turn to step up to the plate.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Yup, I’ve been leaning to the I Want Javy Back camp for several weeks now. It may wind up to be a legendarily wrong-headed signing from, oh, Day Two or so, but it also has a decent chance of making the Mets defensively and offensively Strong Up the Middle for years. That’s tempting.

  • Eric

    We are saying good-bye to this season and perhaps members of the likeable, homegrown, but disappointing core of the team.

    In contrast to the Mets and other also-rans like the now sub-.500 Padres who fell and kept sliding, I admire the contenders like the Cardinals who’ve climbed from their season lows to snatch playoff spots from the competition. The Yankees are doing it. The Mets-laden Mariners are on the verge of it.

  • Iowa Pete

    yeah i hear you Greg on the prospective returnees for 2022.
    Me? For the first time in my 55 years of Mets fanhood, I find myself not really caring who they may or may not bring back (or delete or add). I’ll take whoever they may decide.
    As long as they win.

  • open the gates

    I don’t know. I wasn’t so excited about Noah being brought up to pitch one inning at the end of a lost season. It smells a little too much like bringing back David Wright for that one useless at bat, or bringing back Ces for that one game and plonking him right back on the injured list. Bottom line, Steve Cohen needs to root out the folks that have made the Mets organization a laughingstock, and by and large that does not include the actual players.