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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
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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The Other Hall of Fame

Did you know Japan has a Baseball Hall of Fame too? It does — and it’s pretty neat. Here’s a report, including a Mets sighting or two.

Celebrate Me Home

Singin’ to the world
It’s time we let the spirit come in
Let it come on in

Those 2014 New York Mets kept up their end of the minuscule bargain I struck with them in the middle of July. They had just come off a vigorous homestand in which they won seven of their previous eight games, and caught up in the uncommon giddiness of the moment, I made a simple proposal: Win more than half of your games after the All-Star break and you will have my renewed faith. No swirling down a second-half drain; no road trips to total oblivion; no overwhelming sense of “here we go again.” Sixty-seven games remained. All I wanted was thirty-four of those games to be won.

Guess what: the Mets just finished going 34-33. A deal, therefore, is a deal. For all my cynicism, my pessimism and my fatalism, I rise up as my team did between July 18 and September 28 — which is to say ever so slightly — and say, hey, all right, you guys are maybe not so bad.

Not so bad? Hell, they just played .507 ball for more than two months! That could be mistaken for good.

Let us sincerely celebrate what we got from these Mets toward the end of their schedule. On August 28, the Mets completed a characteristically sad three-game set versus the Braves, losing 6-1 and falling to 62-72. A familiar trap door beckoned inches beneath the feet of the Citi Field Mets, a bunch that had never encountered a finish line they couldn’t limp toward. If recent history was a guide, the Mets would crumple up and blow into Flushing Bay within a couple of weeks.

Recent history, however, got rewritten. Over their final month, these Mets, despite losing player after player to injury, won series after series. Two of three from the Phillies, the Marlins, the Reds and the Astros; three-game sweeps of the Rockies and the Braves. In between happier acts, there was a stumble against Miami and the usual annihilation at the hands of Washington. But I never demanded perfection, just competence. They couldn’t punch much above their weight class, yet they prevailed over opponents who through 2014 were more or less their peers. It might even be said that as this season ended, there was discovered an actual layer of National League baseball teams simply not as good as the New York Mets.

They didn’t win 90. They didn’t finish above or at .500. They went 79-83, encompassing a “second half” of 34-33 on the strength of a sometimes ragged sprint of 17-11.

To paraphrase a paraphrase, Game 162 represented a prime opportunity for the Mets to declare victory and go home.

I’m singin’ to the world
Everybody’s caught in the spin
Look at where we’ve been

Of course the Mets could have been on an 0-66 skid and I would have been at Citi Field for Closing Day. I haven’t missed the final regularly scheduled home game of a Mets season in 20 years. That sounds like an estimate, one of those sloppy rounding-offs people who don’t pause to accurately track time spout.

That’s not how I operate. Trust me: I’ve been to lit’rally the last 20 consecutive Closing Days at Shea Stadium and Citi Field, 22 in all. The streak commenced in 1995 and it has yet to stop. It might someday, but not because I’ll want it to.

Every baseball season stops someday, but not because I want it to. Baseball seasons that are magical stop. Baseball seasons that are horrible stop. Baseball seasons like 2014 that aren’t such hot stuff but are also verging on decent when you take the broad view stop, too. It’s the Rule of 162. You don’t bust past it except by extraordinary happenstance or exemplary performance. And even those types of seasons end. Baseball is perpetual in our minds and on our blog, but in Flushing, it expires after six months.

Leave it to me pour out the last drop. It’s what I do.

It’s what I did on October 1, 1995, when I just had to see a 14th game. My personal record at Shea that year was 6-7 and no way could I rest through winter knowing .500 might have been in my grasp. It took eleven innings for the Mets to top the disinterested Braves, 1-0. Atlanta was so flummoxed that they went on to win the World Series that October. My World Series was beating the Braves, 1-0.

As long as I’m cueing up the classics (you have somewhere else you have to be for six months?), my tearjerker ending was beating the Braves on Closing Day 1997, the year Met success was unqualified for the first time in what seemed like a generation but was only (only) seven years. The Mets weren’t supposed to be any good in 1997. They turned out to be very good. They got to the ninth inning of their final game, about to post win No. 88, and it was all too beautiful for me, so I did the only sensible thing. I started crying. I stopped a little while after I got home.

My suspenseful ending was beating the Pirates on Closing Day 1999, which was apparently 15 years ago. Melvin Mora was on third as the tying run. Bringing him home meant not being done with baseball. Brad Clontz delivered a wild pitch. The Mets weren’t done. They earned another game in Cincinnati, then a total of ten against Arizona and Atlanta. Those were the greatest weeks of my life as a Mets fan. They wouldn’t have happened without Closing Day 1999.

My cult classic was beating the Expos on Closing Day 2004. The 2004 Mets surprised some people in the first half, then lived down to general expectations in the second half. But the part toward the very end was positively redemptive. There was a Saturday in September when they spoiled the Cubs’ playoff chances — Victor Diaz! Craig Brazell! — and then eight days later there was that final Sunday that was final like nothing else I ever saw. Todd Zeile homered and called it a career. John Franco emerged from mothballs and wound down a Met tenure that dated back to Darryl and Doc. Art Howe…well, who cared about Art Howe, but he was gone after that day. So were the Montreal Expos as an entity, for gosh sake. And, as if all that wasn’t enough, Closing Day 2004 was also the merged hello and goodbye of Joe Hietpas, the Met catcher who debuted by catching the final half-inning inning of Expo existence and ceased to be part of Major League Baseball at the exact same moment that Montreal did.

My disaster movie and sequel were Closing Days 2007 and 2008. I don’t feel like going into those.

Shea Stadium closed, Citi Field opened. The tradition extended. Pleasant Closing Days (Nelson Figueroa tossing a shutout in 2009). Aggravating Closing Days (Ollie Perez in the fourteenth inning in 2010). Seething Closing Days (Jose Reyes mostly vanishing just as he was triumphing in 2011). Boisterous Closing Days (R.A. Dickey capturing his twentieth in 2012). Closing Day of 2013 had its pomp, with Mike Piazza’s Mets Hall of Fame induction ceremony (a sweet echo of the sendoff we gave him on Closing Day 2005), and its circumstances worth noting (Eric Young swiping a stolen base title, Juan Lagares nailing another unsuspecting runner), but I remember feeling edgy and wanting the game — like the season it was sealing — to be over before it was over.

Not all Closing Days are created equal.

We’ve been runnin’ around
Year after year
Blinded with pride
Blinded with fear

In rough chronological order, here’s what I take away from Closing Day 2014:

• One Casey Stengel bobblehead that is a splendid tribute to Vice Principal Woodman from Welcome Back, Kotter, but doesn’t look a whole lot like the Ol’ Perfesser, a.k.a. the man who invented the Mets. I’d complain that somebody dropped the ball that contained the picture the bobblehead company was supposed to work from, but I still find it Amazin’, Amazin’, Amazin’, Amazin’ that the ahistorical Mets of the 21st century bothered to attempt to honor Casey Stengel.

• One magnetic schedule. How odd to make the change on the side of the fridge in September rather than April.

• One MURPHY 28 t-shirt discounted from the Minneapolis All-Star Game. Investing in a player garment an hour before what could be his final game as a Met…well, tell it to the ALFONZO 13 t-shirt I bought in December 2002 and endures in my drawer to this day. Whether he gets a raise commensurate with his status from the Mets or is sent to seek his riches elsewhere, Daniel Murphy will always be the Mets’ 2014 All-Star. So the shirt’s OK by me.

• One “TRUE NEW YORKERS ARE METS FANS” towel under glass in the high-end merchandise section that bridges the team museum and the team store. That was a marketing slogan in April. It’s #NOWSTALGIA in September. Great how the homegrown 7 Line towel became the linen of choice across Metsopotamia in 2014. Astounding (even if it was precedented) to watch and listen to the 7 Line Army anchor the outfield for a third consecutive Closing Day. Great job, ladies and gentlemen. You were hailed from Excelsior.

• Two guys in Astros gear in the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, paying their respects to the Polo Grounds portion of the Mets ballparks exhibit (not pictured: Ebbets Field; that’s because you’re soaking in it!), which moved me enough to approach them heartily and welcome them “back to the National League”. They worried their pitcher wouldn’t know how to hit, proving the MLB brainwashing has been getting to them. Their reaction should have been, “Thank you! We want back in full-time! Whither the Toy Cannon?” Points for them agreeing with my indisputable statement that the pitcher hitting is a small but essential part of “baseball how it’s supposed to be”. (I was going to say “baseball like it oughta be,” but why rub 1986 in the faces of Houstonians who aren’t Charlie Kerfeld?)

• One Mama’s of Corona turkey & mozzarella; one Daruma of Great Neck special sushi; one Box Frites sweet potato fries — all shared with my lovely wife for our last luncheon of 2014. “You can’t go wrong with the classics,” I said of Mama’s and Daruma, both of whom, like us, date to Shea.

• One gracious visit to our seats in 326 from Brian of Bayside, a FAFIF reader and social media correspondent whom I’d never met before and have spiritually kindreded with forever. Every time I meet a Mets fan whose experiences more or less align with mine, there is very little “getting to know”; we already know. Brian of Bayside sent Rusty Staub a get well card when he hurt his shoulder in the ’73 NLCS. Rusty sent Brian a thank you note. I send a thank you note right here, right now to all the Brians from Bayside for reading this blog and reaching out across the virtual world to say hi at Citi Field this season. I appreciate your friendship and your kindnesses.

• Several stops & chats with people I have met before and are now essential to my fandom. Sunday it was Matt, who not long ago witnessed deGrommian history with me; and Rich, who will find us another shortstop if it’s the last thing he does; and Coop, with whom I stepped around what appeared to be the unscrubbed blood of a fainted Mahomie from Saturday night; and Ed, who carried a “record” seven stuffed bears, and if Ed says it’s a record, it’s a record. Another thank you note to those who provide a comfortable backbeat to my season and my offseason. It’s always a pleasure.

• One speculation that in an alternate reality, David Wright annually records a message telling Mets fans that they’re simply the worst. In this reality, though, I watched him dutifully top off the Mets’ thank you video, as has been the Captain’s chore since Dennis Ribant handed it off to him in the mid-’60s. Players we’ll never see again and players who never spent a moment in close proximity to us expressed their gratitude to us while positioned in front of green screens. I suppose it’s a thoughtful gesture. Except for the “thank you” from David, which I’m convinced is thoughtful.

• One “goodbye and adios,” to use his smiling words, to Bobby Abreu, long ago an über-Phillie who tiptoed whenever confronted by an outfield fence, lately a beloved Met sage. I had the privilege Friday night of sitting in on the press conference during which Abreu announced his retirement. I was genuinely moved by how a well-compensated athlete teetered on tears in saying this was going to be it. I wanted to applaud his news, but I was in credentialed media mode (thanks to the Mets PR staff for that) and had to demonstrate quasi-professional reserve. Sunday, when I was back to being a no-strings-attached Mets fan, I stood and applauded Bobby’s first at-bat and his final hit. It had been ten Closing Days since Zeile went out with a flourish. It’s nice to see it can happen around here every decade on the four.

• One impressed nod of approval as I followed the progress of Jordan Zimmermann toward what became the first no-hitter in Washington Nationals history. That’s ten seasons exactly (if not to the day) since the last day there were no Washington Nationals in the major league scheme of things. The Washington Nationals have inflicted ten consecutive L’s in my Log, so I’m not in the habit of exulting in their successes, but I had to clap for a no-hitter.

• One batting crown achieved for Jose Altuve. I remembered to clap for him at some point. Perhaps I was just clapping for myself for recognizing an Astro.

• Several glances at the out-of-town scoreboard to ascertain the hardening of the playoff picture. There was excitement Sunday morning that three Game 163s might occur. I figured none would, and none did. It just seemed too silly. I miss being part of a playoff picture.

• One “OH YES!” or something like that when Lucas Duda blasted — and I mean blasted — his 30th home run of the season. One final swing, one round number. That’s a Closing Day marker to savor. Like Olerud surpassing 100 RBIs in ’97. Like Dickey winning that 20th in ’12. Beyond the numbers, I turned my attention to the Met dugout and saw each of his teammates had hidden so Duda’s “car wash” attendants were limited to Murphy, who couldn’t duck out since he scored ahead of him. These rituals go over so much better with me now that they’re a 17-11 powerhouse.

• One very satisfied fan in 325, one section away from us, who started a commanding “DOO!” and received “DUH!” in return every time Lucas batted. Duda’s 30th home run was that guy’s grand slam.

• One home run ever hit by Ruben Tejada at Citi Field and it happened Sunday afternoon, shortly after Duda went deep. Note to self: check the night sky for Comet Kohoutek before going to sleep.

• One sad realization that the supposedly offensively inept Tejada batted 10 points higher than Granderson. And Ruben never saddled anybody with “True New Yorker” nonsense that, no matter how innocently it was uttered, yielded bad-taste loyalty oaths and towels that went straight to display case.

• One sighting of an authentic vintage item: a “1…since 1984” logoed shoulder bag in the men’s room on the third base side of Excelsior. Fans of a certain vintage will know what I’m describing. In 1989, Met marketers who couldn’t have been more fully full of themselves commissioned a competition for a graphic representation of the fact that the Mets had just completed five years with the best record in baseball. Not five straight world championships, mind you. This was the era of “excellence, again and again,” when it was impossible to imagine the Mets would ever backslide into the misery that preceded 1984. Yeah…anyway, you don’t see this logo much 25 years later, so I compliment the carrier of the bag, once he’s done washing his hands. He tells me that he’s had it since a particular night in 1990 when he was awarded it as Sharp Broadcaster of the Game and he got another one later that same season when he was chosen Sharp Broadcaster of the Year. I knew exactly the contest he was talking about and remembered each game he mentioned. Also, I agreed with his assessment that “1990 was a lot of fun.” Give or take a bag, he was me and I was him. (If he doesn’t regularly read this blog, something’s terribly wrong with the universe.)

• One last-inning infusion of beverages. Stephanie had gotten up at some point late but not that late and asked if I wanted anything. “A Diet Pepsi if you can find one,” I said. Citi Field vending in September is always a crapshoot, and it took her a while to hit paydirt. While she was gone, I paid top dollar (five of them, in fact) for a bottle of water from the guy who almost every game I’m at crosses my path and sells “PepsiWater…Agua.” Eventually Stephanie came back with a souvenir cup — featuring man of the hour Lucas Duda — filled to the rim with sugar-free cola. The season was almost over but it was time to start drinking in earnest.

• One tied-for-second finish with the formerly high and mighty, they think they’re so great but they’re not Atlanta Braves once L.J. Hoes flied out to EYJ in left field. (“It all comes down to L.J. Hoes,” I had informed Stephanie, post-soda shopping; “It always does,” she replied.) The Mets were a winning team from the All-Star break forward. They were a .500 team in my Log for the year, going into my spiral-bound notepad for ’14 at 14-14. Not a bad bounceback from 1-6 for me, never mind where the team was in late August. No, not bad at all. Good, even.

Singin’ to the world
What’s the point in puttin’ it down?
There’s so much love to share

These were Terry Collins’s best Mets yet, and all they accomplished across 162 games — each of which counted — was the very same record to which Jerry Manuel piloted his club in 2010. Manuel was let go. Collins was hired. Four years later, no winning seasons (though 4-0 on Closing Day, I must add). If this really is the 1983 we want it to be…even if it’s just 1982-and-a-half and prosperity proves no more than a couple of city blocks away, we’ll retroactively enshrine 2014 as the necessary next step, the foundation for the wonderful mid-decade renaissance that truly turned New York orange and blue.

I don’t totally buy that, but when Hoes flied out to EY, I was practically ready to run to the parking lot and start building a bandwagon. I couldn’t have been more charged up over a Closing Day win on top of a penultimate walkoff win on top of a solid, solid month of results. I didn’t exactly want 79-83 2014 to keep going but I couldn’t stand the idea of waiting for 0-0 2015.

We’re a few pieces and too many millions of dollars short of shattering the grass ceiling. We’re still prone to National sand being kicked in our face. The Mets played seven of the ten teams who will be proceeding to the postseason. Versus Washington, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Los Angeles of Anaheim and Oakland, the Mets compiled 17 wins and 36 losses. There aren’t quite enough Houstons to compensate for such a shortfall.

But I didn’t care after the 27th out of the 162nd game. The Mets had won. The Mets were reasonable facsimiles of winners. The Mets had played baseball on a Sunday when I didn’t need long sleeves. The Mets opened their gates to me on 28 separate occasions in 2014. The Mets were about to close their gates behind me.

Thus, I lingered. I let Closing Day wash over me. I watched the handshake line. I listened to Abreu answer Steve Gelbs’s queries. I stepped down a few rows to take in whatever was going on to my right, my left, my directly below. Then I repeated the process before pulling myself and my stuff together.

I’m singin to the world
Don’t you see it all comes around?
The feeling’s everywhere

The 7 line — the train, not the army — is my inevitable postgame destination if I’m not getting a rare ride home. But not this postgame, I decided. C’mon, I said to Stephanie, let’s take a walk. Let’s go to the park. Flushing Meadows park, I meant. My official reason was it was a nice day and I’ve still got this rather voluminous amount of soda in this souvenir cup. My real reason was I did not want to put a lid on Closing Day.

It has to last. It’s the last ballgame on my docket until sometime in April. Probably Opening Day, the home version, on April 13, maybe a little after. That, according to my math, is a million years from now. New bats. Fresh arms. Healed shoulders. We hope. But it’s not happening on Sunday, September 28. Sunday, September 28, just happened. I don’t want it to slip into the past tense just because there’s a connection to be made at Woodside. My connection to Citi Field, which six seasons in I can’t quite love but I’m willing to acknowledge as preferable to anywhere else in my milieu, is too vital to me in the wake of Mets 8 Astros 3.

So we walked through the station formally known as Mets-Willets Point, past the LIRR and down into the park. We snapped some pictures. Stephanie frolicked in a fountain for a few minutes. We explored some ruins. I thought of my father taking the IRT east with his grandmother from Jackson Heights the summer he was 10 years old. He’d go to the 1939 World’s Fair every chance he got. He recalls it fondly 75 years later. A time capsule is ensconced at the edge of the park from that fair. I’ve never needed to open one. I’ve had my dad.

The park kept me near Citi Field but gave me other things to think about. Then, when we turned around and made our way toward public transportation, I saw the stadium rise over the horizon. “I wish it had a better name,” I told Stephanie, for I wanted to be excited that I’d found a new view of where the Mets play ball but I was just vaguely disdainful that I couldn’t see past the omnipresent corporate logo.

Yet I manage 28 times a year. I’ve managed to not be turned off by branding 182 games since the first official one I attended on April 16, 2009. I’ve spent the equivalent of an entire baseball season (when you factor in the off days) inside Citi Field. No. 183 feels far off, but it will arrive before we know it. No. 155 — Opening Day 2014 — arrived before we knew it 182 days ago and now it’s ancient history.

One thing in Citi Field’s favor despite it forever trailing in the adoration column behind its predecessor, the one whose passing occurred six years ago Sunday, on a Sunday (CitiVision’s “this date” feature skipped 2008). In 2014, I noticed I and others phasing out differentiation between it and Shea in terms of our stories. I started doing it in July, telling the fellow I was with about this game or that game from before 2009, yet pointing to a section of Citi Field as if that’s where I was for Mora or Zeile or 1997 or 1973. Maybe it’s just easier to explain in those terms.

Conversely, few were the games I attended in 2014 when I didn’t overhear a conversation that went something like this: “This place is great, but I miss Shea.” It struck me again and again how Shea has clinched its sentimental division into eternity, that Citi Field — particularly as it remains devoid of winning baseball — can’t catch up among the generations who grew up in the place next door. The generations growing up at Citi Field will have a different story, which is OK. My dad had the 1939 Fair. My sister had 1964’s. I had Shea, where I started going the summer I was 10 years old and kept going every chance I got. Billy Joel once told me we all need a room of our own.

We’ve been closin’ our eyes
Day after day
Covered in clouds
Losin’ our way

Still didn’t want to go home after the park. I called one more audible. Let’s take the train to 74th Street. Let’s go to Jackson Heights. Let’s try that Indian joint we walked by in May after we tried that other Indian joint. We tried it and we liked it and we were stuffed. Then, instead of climbing back on the 7 to Woodside, we opted for the E to Jamaica, hooking up with the LIRR there. We walked in our front door in the dark. I turned on the kitchen light and, for dramatic effect, declared that as soon as I put my bag down on this stool right here, the season is irretrievably over.

I put it down.

Hey, but it’s daybreak
If you wanna believe
It can be daybreak
Ain’t no time to grieve

I mentioned some names many paragraphs above in the context of Closing Day. I’d have to multiply by 28 to do the concept of thanking everybody who makes my life as a Mets fan a joy, and it appears I’ve already gone on for a while. Maybe those necessary six months have already passed while I’ve been sitting here writing.

Nope. Still dark outside.

Listen, thank you. Thank you if I’ve never met you but you read this. Thank you if I have met you and you read this. Thank you if we’ve shared innings and hours and words. Thank you to my eloquent partner in blogging of suddenly ten seasons. Thank you to my partner in everything else of more than twenty-seven years, right up to and including listening to me issue dramatic proclamations about plopping bags on stools. Thank you, 1969 Mets, for showing me how great all this could be. Thank you, 1970 Mets through 2013 Mets, for proving over and over how constant all this could be. Thank you, 2014 Mets, for being just good enough at the end to make me not consider leaving you one pitch sooner than I had to. Thank you, 2015 Mets, whoever you’ll be, wherever you finish.

I plan to meet you when you get there.

Said it’s daybreak
If you’ll only believe
And let it shine, shine, shine
All around the world

Seasons of Mets

One hundred sixty two games, figure three hours per game on average…

Twenty nine thousand
And six hundred minutes
Is about what we cover
In the course of a year
Twenty nine thousand
And six hundred minutes
Eventually wind up
Blogged by Faith and Fear

The rallies, the replays
The walkoffs, the West Coast start times
With Howie, with Gary
With overpriced beer
Those twenty nine thousand
And six hundred minutes
We write them all up
We write them right here

Twenty nine thousand
And six hundred minutes
Trying to track
Every strike, every ball
Twenty nine thousand
And six hundred minutes
How many deep flies
Are caught at the wall?

In rookies who show
And veterans who’ve left
In promising pitching
In offense bereft

It’s time now
I head out
To that place that’s next to Shea
Then contemplate
How it always ends
On a Closing Day

Lucas Duda Is the King of NutraSweet Pop

The Mets and Astros combined to throw 266 pitches tonight at Citi Field. For 265 of them — that’s 99.62% of the game if you’re mathematically inclined — the results were pretty much unbearable for Mets fans.

The preteen girls in the stands, most of whom were waiting to watch someone named Austin Mahone, unleashed 266,000 shrieks tonight at Citi Field. All 266,000 of them — that’s 100% if you’re mathematically inclined — were unbearable for everyone except besotted fans of Austin Mahone.

The original plan was for Emily, Joshua and I to go tonight. We didn’t for the usual bourgeois reasons — soccer game, looming deadlines, busy day tomorrow, plus not particularly wanting to be caught in a hormonal supervolcano. For 265 of the pitches thrown, it seemed like a good call. The Mets looked flat all night, unable to do anything — as seems to be so often true — with a 31-year-old roster-filler of a pitcher. Sam Deduno was great, I suppose, unless he was just pitching against a Mets team that looked ready for the far-from-the-bright-lights version of October.

Deduno’s teammates didn’t do much to support him except have luck on their side: In the sixth Dexter Fowler hit a ridiculous little roller up the third-base line, by which I mean that it rolled absurdly back and forth on the actual chalk, like some spheroid version of the CGI feather in Forrest Gump. Daniel Murphy — who looked amusingly disgusted all night — waved his hands halfheartedly at it, and the historically minded part of me desperately wanted Murph to hit the deck and try to blow the ball foul, a la Lenny Randle. He didn’t and the ball stayed fair — if untouched it would have somehow hopped up on the third-base bag and then rolled along the line to the outfield wall, possibly absorbing chalk like some kind of lunatic snowball until it threatened the life of Eric Young Jr.

Eight pitches later, inevitably, Jason Castro whacked a double to right and the Astros were up 1-0.

It sure looked like that would be it, and Rafael Montero would head into the offseason with his final memory a weird little game where nothing particularly bad happened except one thing that was enough to beat him. The shrieking escalated as the Mahomies — who are not, sad to say, a preteen tribe dedicated to searching out YouTube videos of former Met Pat Mahomes — got closer to their appointment with their idol.

I had despaired of seeing the Mets win, and the game was easily one of the most boring ones of the year, so I started rooting cruelly for the Mets to tie things up so the Mahomies would have to wait in the stands while the teams played four or five more hours of similarly wretched baseball.

Unless they decided the concert had to go on, which gave me an idea: A while back my friend Will and I went to a Brooklyn Cyclones game that went long enough so the postgame fireworks were going to bump up against Coney Island’s curfew. The rather amazing answer someone came up with was to begin the fireworks show during the game. Fireworks started exploding directly over the batter’s eye, sending clouds of smoke over the field, while the poor players tried to do something that’s difficult even when artillery isn’t bursting right behind the pitcher. I figured the Mets could do the same thing, wheeling Mahone’s stage into the outfield between the 13th and the 14th and then continuing the game, with music blasting and preteen girls screaming and outfielders doing their best to maneuver around or across a stage full of musicians. (“Sorry, Fowler — the bass player’s in play.”)

I did allow myself one happier fantasy, but it seemed like even more of a reach: Back in May 2001, Greg and I were in the stands at Shea for Merengue Night against the Marlins. Greg recently recalled this one for his own purposes — it featured Brad Penny hitting Tsuyoshi Shinjo, after which Todd Zeile hit a game-tying three-run homer and told Penny to “suck on that for Shinjo,” leading to a bunch of milling around and yelling. Timo Perez would then win the game in the 10th on a walkoff double.

It was fun eventually, but before that I mostly remember an unpleasant buzz in the stands all night. A large chunk of the boisterous crowd was interested in the music to come and not in the Mets, whom they regarded as an unwelcome warm-up act. An equally large chunk of the boisterous crowd was interested in the Mets, and regarded merengue as an unnecessary add-on, something between an annoyance and an alien invasion. There were partisans on either side of this divide who became less and less shy about broadcasting their opinions, and by the late innings too many of these folks were actively interested in finding someone to disagree with.

It was a tense scene, with nasty racial overtones threatening to boil over, and I was not excited about what might happen if the game went 14 or 15 innings. Timo’s hit made all the bad stuff vanish in an instant, like releasing a balloon. Timo was Dominican and he was a Met, so everyone was delighted. Someone in the crowd threw him a Dominican flag, which he ran around brandishing with an enormous grin. Dudes who’d been ready to slug each other a batter before were high-fiving thunderously, and as Greg and I headed for the ramps I screamed at everyone I passed that TIMO PEREZ IS THE KING OF MERENGUE!

Now, I doubt anyone at Citi Field tonight was worried about a massive brawl between Mahomies and Methomies. But as the Mets’ frustrations continued, I thought wistfully back to that night 13 years ago. Young tripled with one out in the ninth, but Murphy flied out to left and even the speedy EY had to hold. Up stepped Lucas Duda, who hasn’t hit much in September and was facing a lefty.

“Walk ‘em off, Lucas,” I said, but it was rote — there was zero conviction behind it. Tony Sipp threw a slider for ball one, the Mahomies shrieked for the 265,999th time, and then Sipp missed badly with a fastball slider.

Most of Duda’s home runs are big majestic things, high arcs destined for the front of Pepsi Porch or that indeterminate Citi Field neighborhood between the right-field stands and the Shea Bridge. Not this one — it was a screaming liner bound either for Utleyville or the visibly vibrating uvula of a Mahomie in foul territory. Duda’s blast banged off the screen on the foul pole, causing Methomies and Mahomies to greet the shared victory with delirious shrieking unison. The man himself skipped happily around the bases like some kind of terrifying mutant fawn, flung off his helmet to reveal his oddly muffinlike hair and leapt on the plate to be engulfed by his jubilant teammates.

And of course then I wish we’d gone. Perhaps I could have seen Lucas circling the field holding up a massive Austin Mahone banner. Or, failing that, I could have medium-fived 40 or 50 13-year-old girls, greeting each of them with the news: LUCAS DUDA IS THE KING OF NUTRASWEET POP!

Their Departures

Each year I find a page in a notebook and write the name of the year and METS at the top. If Opening Day is on TV, I sit there and write the players down in order of their appearance.

If the Mets hit first, the players go in the book in the order they bat, and it doesn’t count until you’ve come to the plate. If the Mets are in the field, said order (of everybody or the guys who didn’t bat already) goes like this: Pitcher first, since the game starts when he throws the ball. If the first pitch is put in play, the fielders go in the book in the order they touch the ball. If the first pitch isn’t put in play, the catcher is next, then the fielders in scorebook position order. (So shortstop after the third baseman.) One way or another, this process yields the first nine of the season. I put the date of the game to the left of the first Met of the year. Each Met gets an (N) if he’s new and a (D) if he’s a big-league debut. (If you’re keeping score, this year has yielded a relatively paltry 16 Ns and six Ds.)

That first game generally yields a few relievers, a pinch-hitter or two, and a defensive replacement. Five days or so into the season you’ve got a shrinking number of names per date and just a few players from the Opening Day slate of 25 yet to record. The backup catcher sometimes has to wait, along with a middle reliever or two. Sometimes the fifth starter has to twiddle his thumbs — or there’s a player being carried on the roster who’s not ready for duty but not on the DL. Sometimes there’s already been a roster juggle or two.

One way or another everyone gets recorded and pretty soon each new player has a date to himself. (This year’s book has an odd exception — May 15th saw the arrival of Jacob deGrom and the return of Juan Centeno and Josh Edgin.) The last Met on this year’s list is Dario Alvarez, who arrived on Sept. 3 and has logged a whole 1 1/3 innings since then. (Whatever happened to Wilfredo Tovar, anyway?)

It’s a fun ritual in April and dutiful recordkeeping after that. But in recent days I’ve been struck by the idea that there are goodbyes to go with all of these hellos.

This has been a September to dismember, with Met after Met hanging it up early because injuries became too much. David Wright is done. So is Vic Black. And Dana Eveland. And Juan Lagares. And Dilson Herrera, just when we were starting to fall in love with him. And deGrom, because he’s out of innings.

And now Travis d’Arnaud, because he needs elbow surgery.

Add in starting pitchers making their last appearances (barring, I suppose, some 28-inning catastrophe) and you’ve got fewer and fewer Mets with anything to add to their 2014 CVs. Opening Day starter Dillon Gee is done, disappointed in how things went. Zack Wheeler is done, with big steps forward to celebrate even as he knows he has stuff to work on. Jon Niese had to depart early tonight because of a racing heartbeat, which he says isn’t serious. I hope he’s correct. (I also hope he’s traded, but we’ve covered that.) Fill-in starter Rafael Montero will wrap up his year tomorrow, and then the starters will be down to Bartolo Colon.

And with Colon on the mound we’ll be down to other lasts. Middle relievers who come in and depart will be done not just for the day but for the year. Same for pinch-hitters, and guys subbed out for better defenders. Bobby Abreu‘s final act that day will be his final act as a big leaguer. Eventually, 2014 will have shrunk to a final nine. If the Mets are hitting, there will be a final batter. If the Mets are in the field, there will be a final play, a last ball thrown that matters. Maybe it will land in Matt den Dekker‘s glove. Or be secured by Lucas Duda. Or wind up nestled in Anthony Recker‘s mitt.

Whatever happens, the season will have shrunk to nothing. There will be no more records to keep. Until after the dark and the snow we find ourselves here again, to start anew.

Enjoy That One

Enjoy that one. The nightcap saw the Mets do absolutely nothing against entitled annoyance Gio Gonzalez, a little Daniel Murphy parachute aside.

Enjoy that one. They finished the season 4-15 against the Nationals. Go a mediocre 9-10 and they would have been over .500.

Enjoy that one. Zack Wheeler‘s final start was a letdown — he was throwing 98, but melted down (with some help from bad defense and bad luck) in the fourth.

Enjoy that one. Matt Harvey ensured a new cycle of sports-talk annoyance by attending Jeterfest. Worse, he tweeted about #RE2PECT like a hyperventilating Belieber.

Enjoy that one. Oh’naud, the concern about Travis d’Arnaud is related to his el’baud.

Enjoy that one. Did you see what happened in the Bronx? It was simultaneously epic and annoying. No I’m not fucking linking to it. Go check any other site.

Enjoy that one. The dream of a .500 season went down the toilet tonight, leaving nothing left except the pursuit of a meaningless second place.

Enjoy that one. Second place would be neat, but fourth place is still very possible.

Enjoy that one. We’re down to three with the Astros, a concert by someone I’ve never heard of who looks 12 and a bobblehead that looks nothing like Casey Stengel.

Enjoy that one. Soon David I. Pankin, the paving-stones guy with his Armortec secret weapon, Cindy from Lee’s Toyota and Roscoe the bedbug-sniffing dog will be gone.

Enjoy that one. Kevin Burkhardt’s already gone. I already miss him.

Enjoy that one. On the plus side, Alexa can soon stop blinking SAVE ME FROM THIS HELL in Morse code on those painful Mets QVC ads.

Enjoy that one. Football will soon rule the land, offering nonstop concussions, abused children and unconscious fiancees, appalling coverups and lying commissioners.

Enjoy that one. We’re down to unexpected plans, previous engagements and the like wiping out not a tiny part of the season, but a third of it.

Enjoy as many of these as you can, as best you can. Because there aren’t enough of them left.

Enjoy This One

Enjoy this one. There isn’t much time in every sense of the concept.

Enjoy this one. There’s another game in a couple of hours.

Enjoy this one. There’s only four more overall.

Enjoy this one. Wright’s shoulder issue sounds vexing, to say the least. Let’s enjoy baseball news that isn’t solely injury news.

Enjoy this one. D’Arnaud’s absence is a bit of a concocted mystery (it doesn’t have to be so mysterious), but at least we got another look at the flexibly pronounceable Juan Centeno.

Enjoy this one. Maybe we’ll find something to say about Wilfredo Tovar and Erik Goeddel before this weekend is done.

Enjoy this one. Dillon Gee balked, the first Mets balk of the year, and there was no ultimate screwage from it.

Enjoy this one. Curtis Granderson is hot. It probably won’t carry over into April, but he seems like a swell guy.

Enjoy this one. We beat the Nationals. We almost never do that and not too many others do, either.

Enjoy this one. Gee faltered, but our bullpen picked him up.

Enjoy this one. Lots of hits, a decent amount of runs and a neat double play salvaged from a bad throw home.

Enjoy this one. Gary and Ron. Howie and Josh. It doesn’t get better.

Enjoy this one. Wilmer Flores looks kind of real. Try to not think what kind of license that gives the front office for not trying to find a legitimate shortstop.

Enjoy this one. It’s baseball on a chilly, rainy day en route to baseball on a chilly, rainy evening and we get to watch it on TV or listen to it on the radio without getting wet and cold.

Enjoy as many of these as you can. There aren’t enough of them left.

The Neighbors

Good news yesterday, even with the rainout: I heard the neighbors aren’t throwing their annual October party this year. Actually, this is the second consecutive year they’re skipping it, making those affairs no longer annual events, I suppose. I didn’t think they were gonna have their party. I know they ordered in a bunch of expensive supplies last winter like they always do, yet I hadn’t seen any sign lately they were preparing for anything to happen in October. Still, you can’t be too sure with these neighbors. Better to get it confirmed before kicking back and relaxing.

Remember those awful parties they used to throw with disgusting regularity every October? Geez, sometimes they’d go on till November. They’d make such a to-do over every little thing. (You should have heard them going on about their jewelry; it was “ring this” and “ring that”. It took me a couple of years to realize they weren’t talking about bells.) All their bleating made it impossible to think. I really prefer October without the neighbors making any noise.

Now and then somebody will ask me, “What do you care what the neighbors do? You have your own house to tend to. Just ignore them.” That sounds very reasonable and all, but it never works that way in October. They are impossible to ignore when they get going. It’s not just October, either. Always with the bombast. Always with the pompous self-regard. And the drama! I grant you we have our share of drama on this side of the fence, but we don’t bother everybody else with it.

Take this week. Even with the neighbors making it clear there’d be no party this October, they haven’t shut up about what they’ve been up to this month. This whole year, actually. What I thought was supposed to be a nice, simple going-away dinner for somebody has turned into a neverending extravaganza. That’s their business, but when they can’t stop going on and on about it, it becomes everybody’s business.

I can’t fault the neighbors for wanting to do this thing — in theory, it’s a nice idea — but ohmigod, they’re making it sound as if anybody who isn’t interested in it or doesn’t think it’s the greatest thing in the world is some kind of enemy of the state. The guy at the center of it certainly earned a bon voyage or whatever, but that’s not enough. First it was like “we’ll do one”; then it was “we’re gonna fit another one in”; then it was like “we have this big blowout planned, and it’s gonna be awesome, but oh no, what if we don’t have super special moments? How can we choreograph super special moments to make sure it’s super special because nothing can ever just ‘happen’ with us? And what if there’s another one after this and we can’t go? And what if it rains?

If anybody who’s not into it dares to suggest it’s too much or they’re not up for swooning over the guest of honor…and believe me, the guest has been honored plenty…they act so offended! “Don’t you know how great this guy is? It’s history! History!” Or, get this: “HI2TORY”. It’s so over the top.

These neighbors of ours. I can’t wait for October when it’s completely quiet over there.

So You've Decided to Finish Second

As a service to New York Mets fans who find themselves encountering an unfamiliar concept, Faith and Fear in Flushing provides the following helpful primer.

Welcome to the battle for second place!

Yeah, I thought I heard something about that. Can you explain what this is exactly?

With Monday night’s loss by the reeling Braves to the Pirates, the Mets moved into a second-place tie in the National League East. Though the Mets lost per usual in Washington Tuesday, the moribund Cobb Countyans continued to struggle versus playoff-bound Pittsburgh, so the tie remains in effect. The Marlins, it should be noted, have surged to within in a half-game of second place, so it could be any of these three also-rans grabbing runner-up honors.

I feel I should’ve heard of this “second place” before. Why does it seem so strange?

That’s because it is. Though the Mets have finished second eleven different times, they haven’t spent any appreciable time in second place for more than half a decade.

Is it good to be in second place? I’ve heard of “first place” and how teams try to finish there, but what’s the deal with second? It doesn’t seem to get as much publicity.

Second place can be great. Or it can be kind of a bummer. Sometimes it’s somewhere in between.

Whoa! Now you’re confusing me even more!

Let’s start with the first time the Mets saw second place. It was on June 3, 1969, when the Mets were in the midst of their historic eleven-game winning streak that marked their coming-out party as a franchise.

So they were trying to get into second place in 1969? That was the “miracle”?

Early on, they were just trying to win more games than they had lost, and as it happened, the Mets rose above .500 for the first time in their lives on the same night they moved into second. They would spend all but a few days there until September 10.

Then what happened?

Then they climbed into first place, where they stayed en route to winning the World Series.

Is that what’s going to happen now if the Mets stay in second place?

No. It’s too late for that.

Then what’s so great about second place?

Ideally, second place is a stepping stone to first. The first time the Mets finished second was 1984, allowing Mets fans who were used to finishing last or next-to-last to sincerely believe first place would come the following year. When the Mets finished second again in 1985, it was disappointing, but it also meant first place was getting even closer. 1986 and another world championship indeed came next.

You’re telling me that all the Mets have to do is finish second and wait a couple of years and their winning it all is a done deal?

Not exactly. Not every second-place finish is a cause for celebration.

Why the hell not? You’ve been making it sound so appealing.

The Mets finished second in 1987, which felt a lot different from 1984 and 1985 because instead of it representing another upward rung on the ladder, it was a letdown from 1986. Same thing could be said for the Mets’ next two second-place finishes in 1989 and 1990, when being a runner-up paled by comparison to finishing first in 1988.

Second place, then, can be a double-edged sword?

Hey, that’s pretty good! Some years, actually, second place can be a platform unto itself.

What do you mean?

All those years between 1984 and 1990, finishing second could have been interpreted as good or bad but ultimately it precluded the Mets from going to the playoffs. Yet when the Wild Card was inaugurated in the mid-1990s, finishing second didn’t necessarily mean your season was over.

It didn’t?

It didn’t. Although Major League Baseball never billed it this way, if you had the best second-place record in your league, you won a playoff spot.

Did the Mets ever accomplish that?

A couple of times, in 1999 and 2000.

The Mets finished second and it meant more than healthy self-esteem?

You’re catching on. By winning 97 games as a second-place team in 1999 — they needed a special “play-in” game to win the 97th — and 94 games in 2000, the Mets won the Wild Card, proceeded to the postseason and experienced some incredibly memorable success.

“Some incredibly memorable success” sounds like a euphemism for “could’ve done better”.

You’ve got me there. The 1999 Mets won one playoff series, versus Arizona, before succumbing to Atlanta just shy of the World Series. The 2000 Mets won two playoff series and a pennant before going to the World Series and losing to I forget who right now.

But finishing second was to their benefit?

Those years, yes.

So it was their goal?

I wouldn’t say that exactly, but it got them where they needed to be. Not every second-place Mets team could say that, not even in the Wild Card era.


The Mets finished second in 1998, 2007 and 2008, each time very close to making the playoffs.

But they didn’t make it?

No. It was a case of “close, but no cigar.”

What do cigars have to do with anything? Does the team that finishes second have to smoke a cigar? Do I? Those things are disgusting.

The part about “no cigar” is an expression. The point is in 1998 the Mets had the inside track on the Wild Card as the National League East’s second-place team, but they kind of choked down the stretch…

Like choked on a cigar?

…and didn’t make it. In 2007 and 2008, they were in first place in September, but then slipped into second and eventually behind some other second-place team and missed the playoffs altogether.

They didn’t win a Wild Card then and they didn’t win a cigar — did they win anything?

It used to be the team finishing second, even when there was no playoff spot for it, would get a small piece of the postseason bonus pool. When player salaries weren’t so high, it could mean an extra thousand bucks a man, which those guys didn’t sneeze at.

Sneezing because of an allergy to cigar smoke?

Going into the final game of the 1970 season, the Mets and Cubs were tied for second and playing each other. The Mets had Tom Seaver, their best pitcher, in rotation to take the start, but his shoulder was stiff and they went with Jim McAndrew instead and lost. Hence, they had to settle for third-place money, which was measurably less.

No thousand bucks and no cigar then, huh?

In essence. There was also the nearish-miss in 1976 when the Mets were on a serious roll during the last two months and, despite being way out of the race, pulled to within two games of the Pirates in the last week only to lose their last five and settle for third.

Lining player pockets aside, why should I care how far the Mets finish out of the money? I mean they’re not going to the playoffs this year, correct?

Correct. The two best non-first place records in each league win a Wild Card these days but the Mets are mathematically eliminated from that contest. And they were never going to catch the Nationals for first.

So what’s the upside? Is this just about giving the Wilpons an excuse to not search for replacements for Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins? I see they were both confirmed as back next year. Is that because they’ve got the Mets competing for what seems like a fairly insignificant prize?

Alderson and Collins would probably be coming back regardless of where the Mets finish, though I think you’re right. This late move up in the standings makes them look pretty good even if their record isn’t that much better than last year’s.

Then what’s so great about the Mets maybe finishing in second place in 2014?

I suppose it’s a matter of what you make of it. In 1995, the Mets had wallowed in last place most of the season. They were stuck there as late as the final week. But then they got hot, swept their final six and, with a little help from the Marlins beating the Phillies, finished tied for second on Closing Day. Granted, it was with a sub-.500 record of 69-75 in a strike season and they wound up 21 games behind the Braves, but it was still second place, which felt so much better than any other place besides first, probably because they hadn’t finished as high as second since 1990.

Um, what does any of this have to do with anything at the moment?

You look at the Mets maybe finishing in second this year and you realize they’ve gone even longer — six years — since they finished that high. No, it’s not much in the scheme of things, but it’s something. Maybe it’s something to build on, maybe it’s just a better looking version of not going anywhere. But the season’s nearly over and the Mets are still sort of aspiring. It’s nice to go out that way if we have to go out before October.

You sound like you’re trying to convince yourself second place is a big deal.

Maybe. We’ll see if they get there and I’ll let you know if it is.

Well, good luck to our team, then! I hope if it’s still a race this weekend that Jacob deGrom is in rotation to pitch. He’s the Mets’ best pitcher, right? You’d want him in there one more time, especially if a little something is on the line, right?

Yeah, you’d think.

Other People's Collapses

The Braves are out of the playoffs — and their cause of death was the Mets.

The Pirates beat the Brewers, and the Mets finished the deed with a 10-2 decimation that didn’t seem as close as that score suggests.

Let us therefore now observe a moment of silence … whoa, I seem to have badly misspelled “round of high-fiving while cackling with an unseemly glee.”

Seriously, fuck the Braves. Fuck them for all the horrible things they did to us in previous baseball generations, when they were the car and we were the dog barking and snapping uselessly at the bumper. Fuck them for their entitled fans who took a dynasty for granted and wouldn’t fill the stadium for a playoff game. Fuck them for holding up taxpayers for a new stadium when there was nothing particularly wrong with the old one except they could get a better deal elsewhere. Fuck them for Bobby Cox and Chipper and Andruw Jones and John Rocker and Michael Tucker and Steve Avery and Chief Noc-a-Homa and the cheating with the catcher’s batter’s box. Fuck them for those horrible red tops. Fuck them for everything I can think of and everything you can think of and then let’s ask some more people and come back and say fuck them for all of that too.

I’d add fuck Fredi Gonzalez, but I think he’s pretty fucked as it is. After a gag job like that, the question isn’t who should go but who, if anybody, deserves to stay.

The Braves played horribly yet again today, with no one looking more bored and limp while losing than B.J. Upton. They got eviscerated and embarrassed, and they didn’t seem either devastated or disappointed by it. (Oh yeah — fuck T@m Glav!ne, no matter what uniform you picture him in.) As we all know, the Mets have their problems. But there’s something hollow and broken about the Braves. Good luck fixing it, by which I mean I hope they never do.

On the winning side of the romp, here’s a potential last shake of the shaggy mop for Jacob deGrom. Ideally, deGrom’s season would end with a happy sendoff at Citi Field next weekend and a 10th win to cement his Rookie of the Year credentials. Ideally, but more likely that’s it for deGrom, felled by the dreaded innings limit. Whatever the case, in an odd way it was one of his more impressive outings in a most impressive season — he fanned eight of the first 11 Braves, then dialed his fastball down a few ticks to conserve energy for when he needed it. DeGrom’s thunderbolt arm is marvelous, of course, but he also has the head to go with it.

The Mets are now a skinny half-game behind those Braves. A rational person would say it’s mildly in the Mets’ interests not to finish ahead of them, because of draft picks and slot money. That rational person is undoubtedly correct. But I don’t want to be rational. I want my team to finish ahead of the Braves, and then I want to look back at them and laugh. And then next year I want it to happen again, but with a lot more distance between us.