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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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As The World Turners

What a kick in the ol’ Brian Bohanons that was Monday night in Atlanta. Three pitches in, the Mets lead on a Curtis Granderson home run. Three innings in, the Mets are ahead, 3-0. Zack Wheeler isn’t sharp but he isn’t exactly shaky, either, at least once he gets going. The Mets, per usual, stop hitting, but Zack expertly nurses a 3-1 lead into the seventh. He is succeeded eventually by Josh Edgin, who exterminates a creeping first-and-second terror when he flies out Shea Freeman, a.k.a. Son of Chipper.

What could possibly go wrong from there?

Turner Field is what could go wrong. Can you believe the Braves wish to depart this House of Horrors? Did a Mets fan infiltrate their board of directors? Is torturing us such old hat that they decided it wasn’t worth the upkeep on the oversized video screen and cola bottle?

After everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong and the Mets aided and abetted Atlanta in turning that 3-1 edge into a three-error, four-run home eighth en route to a sadly predictable 5-3 loss, the Mets’ all-time record at Turner Field fell to 52-96. That’s regular-season only. If we throw in the delightful road results from the 1999 NLCS, it’s 52-99, which means that after 18 seasons of visiting the pit presumably on or near Peachtree (everything down there is on or near Peachtree), the Mets sit on the cusp of losing 100 games in that one particular ballpark.

You know where Monday’s loss — the one in which Jeurys Familia fired a double-play grounder straight into the dirt in front of second base, Juan Lagares overran a single and a chopper (of all Tomahawk-tinged things) ate up Eric Campbell — ranks among the 99 to date in terms of pain delivery system?

Probably not even in the Top 20…or Bottom 20, depending on how you score these matters. Maybe if this were September 1997, when the hell was fresh; or July 1998, when it was codified; or the stretch drives of 1999 to 2001, when it carried genuine competitive consequences; or some more recent campaign more blatantly stripped of hope and dignity, it would have truly stung. Maybe if this were last June, even, when Freddie Freeman was rebranding himself as Larry Jones for a new century.

But this? The Mets taking the wrong message from the World Cup and showing us what experts they’ve become at flopping? They’ll have to do better than give away a highly winnable game if they want to simultaneously impress and depress us. We’ve lived through nearly a hundred of these Turner Field debacles.

What’s one more?

The Real Future

The National League East is a mess. In every other division, run differential is a pretty fair predictor of W-L record. In the NL East, the run differentials by place in the standings currently look like this: 0, +39, -5, -1, -40. The 0 squad is the Braves, in first place by the thinnest of margins over the Nats, who run differential would predict would have a substantial lead. The Marlins are at -5, about the same as the -1 Mets, but neither team is as far ahead of the crummy Phillies as you’d expect.

Statistics, obviously, aren’t destiny: The Mets aren’t 41-41 but 37-45, just as the Nats aren’t 11 games over .500.

But it’s asking a lot to imagine destinies that fly in the face of the stats.

Which brings us, in a roundabout way to the 2014 Mets. They lost today because a) Bartolo Colon had one of his off-days when his location wasn’t great and his fastball command wasn’t sharp, making him very hittable; and b) because they went limp when looking at a runner on third and less than two out. Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares, and Ruben Tejada all failed in that spot today; convert those runs, and perhaps the team’s ninth-inning rally results in extra innings instead of lipstick smeared on a pig. (Believe it or not, the Mets are in the middle of the baseball pack when it comes to converting such situations — it only seems like they’re 0 for the last 74,000.)

For all their problems, though, the Mets’ mess of a division makes it difficult to abandon hope of a ’73-style run from worst (or near enough) to first.

But we should. Because trying to thread that needle is a distraction from the real business at hand.

The Mets have solid starting pitching — a surplus of it, in fact. Their bullpen has gone from a horror show to a strength, with Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Josh Edgin and Vic Black all looking solid. (And Bobby Parnell presumably returning next year.) But the offense remains painfully thin: Left field, shortstop, first base and catcher are all question marks if you’re feeling kind and holes if you’re not.

Above all else, the Mets need more potent bats. Help is potentially coming with Kevin Plawecki and Brandon Nimmo and Dilson Herrera, but it’s coming next year at the earliest, and even if those players pan out it will take patience to develop them — witness Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores and Travis d’Arnaud.

To me, it’s clear that the Mets should deal some of their surplus of starters: Next spring, the Mets can expect to have Matt Harvey, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler, Colon, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero as starting candidates along with Familia and Mejia. I think the last two have shown they should stay in the bullpen, but that’s still eight guys for five spots. You don’t want to deal away all your depth — there will be guys who need more time and injuries — but the Mets can still make a deal.

What kind of deal? That’s up for debate, and potential partners would have something to say about it too of course. But I’d listen if the Mets were asked about Colon, Niese, Montero or Daisuke Matsuzaka — and absent a charge into first place, I wouldn’t look at the standings before having that conversation.

The same goes for Daniel Murphy. I love Murph, invisible ninja fantasies and all. If the Mets signed him to a long-range deal that would be great. But if they think they can get more value by moving him, they should do that. (Sandy Alderson’s free-agent picks have been hit and miss, but his record as a summer trader has been pretty good.) And again, if someone has an offer for Murph, the Mets should consider it without wondering why the Nats keep sputtering or whether luck will naturally bring them up four or five games in the standings.

The starters are here. The relievers have emerged. But the bats are still missing. The Mets’ top priority should be finding them, not daydreaming about what might be if everything breaks right. Because it probably won’t. Fantasies are fun; building good realities is better.

Two Beautiful Games

Saturday began with soccer, which is how absolutely none of my Saturdays have ever begun and perhaps will never begin again. I came downstairs to find the Brazil-Chile match on the living room television. Stephanie had it on with the sound off while she was reading. It remained on with the sound off for quite a while, neither of us exactly enraptured by America’s newest favorite spectator obsession.

Eventually, I turned the sound up and grew surprisingly absorbed into a contest gone into extra time. It’s sports — overtime is overtime, even if overtime doesn’t necessarily end a soccer match the way it ends most sports. I found myself rooting for Chile, partly because I almost always gravitate to the underdog, partly because I suddenly remembered writing a report about Chile in sixth grade (they have great sea bass, you know). Some Chilean guy I never heard of hit the crossbar in the waning seconds of OT (ET?) and I could feel my fan heart breaking for a country I hadn’t thought about in nearly four decades.

It was still 1-1 after 120-plus minutes of play. I’d gone from casually glancing at the screen and gently mocking the fuss raised worldwide over a game that is not my national pastime to wondering if maybe Brazil had some version of Keith Hernandez (Hernandinhosa, he would be known as) challenging a teammate to a fistfight should he call for anything but the soccer equivalent of a slider. This thing was surely going 16 innings…or to a shootout.

After five kicks apiece, to put it in terms I’m equipped to understand, the Brazilian Orosco struck out the Chilean Bass and the announcers were going on Astro-nomically about how the losing side could exit the tournament with its head held high. For someone who not 24 hours earlier was bonding with his dad over how freaking pointless all this World Cup nonsense was to our American sensibilities, I reveled a little in finally comprehending what all the fuss was about.

I’ve attended exactly one soccer match in my life. It was April 1982, the closing weeks of my freshman year of college, the Toronto Blizzard visiting the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Student tickets at the University of South Florida were severely discounted and a free orange-sleeved 98 ROCK baseball shirt sweetened the deal. I spent most of the game chatting with the two guys from my floor who convinced me to go. With no warning whatsoever, the conversation would get dropped because an unforeseen commotion overtook the sparsely filled stands. Something akin to action was actually happening down on the Tampa Stadium grass. I couldn’t discern anything that looked anything different from the moment before, but a GOOOOOOOAL! was developing right before our eyes.

It was? It was. The Blizzard or perhaps the Rowdies scored. I saw it but I couldn’t see it, you know? I just didn’t have the properly honed vision for it. It all just looked like guys endlessly kicking a ball back and forth when I should’ve been back at the dorm studying for finals.

Baseball, on the other hand, is something whose intricacies I came out of the womb recognizing. Right after my first words of “Metsie! Metsie!” the next thing I said was not mama, not papa, but “maybe Casey shouldn’t get too comfortable with Larry Burright in the leadoff slot.” And because I’m so sophisticated when it comes to baseball, I can see everything unfolding infallibly and project exactly what course any given game will take.

Yeah, sure I can.

The latest episode of the more I watch baseball, the more I know how little I really know took place Saturday in Pittsburgh, after Chile and I parted ways until the next World Cup/sixth-grade report. The Mets and Pirates dressed up as the Royal Giants and Crawfords — I always thought the most effective Negro League tribute would have been offering major league uniforms to black players prior to 1947 — and had me, like keeper Claudio Bravo on one too many Brazilian penalty kicks, guessing wrong.

I guessed the all-blue Mets were in trouble when I saw a lineup that had Ruben Tejada batting second and David Wright batting nowhere. But the Captainless Mets lineup was quite effective in the early going against Gerrit Cole, starting with Ruben singling, continuing with Lucas Duda doing the same and cresting when Wright’s replacement Eric Campbell doubled Tejada home and Duda to third, from whence Lucas would scamper home on a wild pitch. There were three Met and Royal Giant runs in the first plus two more in the second, thanks to Eric Young stealing twice and Daniel Murphy driving in two.

I guessed the Mets were going to build their 5-0 lead to one of blowout proportions in the fourth when Young was on again and stealing again and Tejada reached base and Murphy was coming up, but instead Cole squirmed out of trouble.

I guessed Jon Niese was going to cruise to an easy victory regardless, given how dependable he’s been for so long. Yet the Pirates started pecking away and Niese completely lost the strike zone and here came the Buccos and there went Niese’s command, and it was 5-1, then 5-2, then I braced for the PNC walls to come down around the Mets as they do with annual regularity.

I guessed Niese was screwed, but he got a strike three call from Toby Basner that was as generous to the Mets as the one the night before that said Josh Harrison was permitted to flop on the grass in a rundown was to the Pirates. Somehow Niese righted himself and went a solid six, giving up just three runs and maintaining the Met lead.

I guessed when Stolmy Pimentel — presumably no relation to any Primanti Brother — totally shut down the Mets for four innings (two hits, seven strikeouts) that the Pirates were destined to make them pay for never adding on to a run total that had stayed stuck at five since the second. But it turned out the Mets fought bullpen fire with bullpen fire very effectively. Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia combined to retire the final nine Pirates on 20 pitches over the last three innings and the Mets monochromatically prevailed, 5-3, baffling me at every turn…which I was fine with, because I don’t have to understand everything about a sport to appreciate what an Amazin’ spectacle it can be.

Under the prevailing rules of MLB, both the Mets and Pirates advance to the Round of Sunday.

***

I’m proud to announce an edited version of my 2010 FAFIF essay on Comiskey Park is included in a new book paying tribute to my favorite ballpark ever. There’s a lot of great stuff in this volume. Please check it out here.

Hello Again, Little Black Cloud

Welp, the little black cloud is back.

This was a 2014 Mets game concocted from all-too-familiar ingredients: The recipe calls for mostly good starting pitching, a pretty good bullpen, no offense, some fundamentally dumb baseball, a dash of tragedy and a pinch of farce. Stir for nearly four hours and you get an aggravating, annoying loss.

I said a dash of tragedy, but for all I know it could be a bucket: David Wright was scratched from the lineup with a sore shoulder, which he’s apparently been dealing with for a couple of weeks. He’s headed to New York for an MRI; I’m going to tentatively assume all will be fixable with a cortisone shot and a couple of days off, largely because Wright’s been hitting well recently. On the other hand, David’s a Met, so it’s entirely impossible the team doctors will strap him to a gurney and accidentally push it into an elevator shaft.

Without Wright, one was struck by just how threadbare and miserable this lineup is. The hitters did next to nothing, and further reduced that miserable output by a) hitting the ball to Andrew McCutchen; and b) making dumb mistakes. The first is going to happen; the second shouldn’t happen but all too frequently does with this bunch. There was Chris Young getting picked off first, Daniel Murphy taking the bat out of Lucas Duda‘s hands with one of his chronic “WHEE I’M AN INVISIBLE NINJA!” delusions and Jacob deGrom short-circuiting an inning with a terrible bunt.

On the mound deGrom acquitted himself pretty well, as did Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia (more on him in a bit). But deGrom failed to cover first on a ball that Duda knocked into foul territory. That gave the Pirates an extra out, and Jordy Mercer took advantage with a two-run single that tied the game and turned it into a bullpen battle.

A bullpen battle that the umpires crashed, but don’t be fooled: The real villain was Ruben Tejada. In the 10th, Tejada thought he’d tagged Josh Harrison trying to steal second. Unlike last week, Tejada signaled aggressively that the Mets should challenge the call. Progress! Unfortunately, Tejada was wrong and Harrison was safe. Beat head against wall! Harrison then got too frisky on a grounder to Mejia and was caught in a rundown between second and third. Runners aren’t allowed to depart from the basepaths by more than three feet, but Harrison’s journey to third resembled something out of the Family Circus crossed with the Israelites in the desert. The umpires, in their modernist wisdom, ignored niceties such as Harrison having taken a detour onto the infield grass and ruled him safe. It was a ludicrously bad call even by 2014 standards, but the Mets were accessories to the crime: The rundown was a disaster, a  1-6-5-6 farce that ended with Chris Young waiting for a throw at third that never came because Tejada decided Harrison was out of the baseline and waited for the umps to call him out. Ruben was correct, but that’s not the way you do things, and it’s high time someone told him that.

That bit of wacky hijinks left Mejia facing second and third and none out, but he went to work, fanning Travis Snider and Neil Walker and getting Russell Martin to fly to right. It was impressive and heartening and inspiring … and mattered not at all about 10 minutes later, when Vic Black allowed a walk and a walk-off double to Harrison.

Harrison was out of the baseline again while getting dogpiled by his happy teammates, but the umps didn’t call that one either, and so it goes.

It's a Long Way to Tipperary

The baseball season gives the fan 162 opportunities to reach definitive conclusions — or a million or so snap judgments that are subject to change. Take the one I came to during the 79th game of this Met season as you will.

Watching Thursday night, as the recently hot Mets receded into coolness versus Gregory Polanco’s Pittsburgh Pirates, tumbling back into last place and plunging seven games below .500, I was reminded of an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show from forty years ago. It was the one in which producer Lou Grant gathers his WJM news team — associate producer Mary Richards, news writer Murray Slaughter and anchorman Ted Baxter — and expresses his concerns over their newscast’s recent unimpressive track record:

“For the past three years, our ratings have been, week in and week out, absolutely terrible. But lately they’ve started to slip.”

Lou’s solution is to hire a consultant named Bob Larson to shake things up around the newsroom. Nobody trusts the outsider, everybody resents his input, yet he seems to make a genuine difference. Practically overnight, The Six O’Clock News’s ratings shoot up an entire point. That’s a big deal — as Lou explained at the outset of the October 12, 1974, episode, a single ratings point is worth $125,000 (a.k.a. “a quarter-of-a-million bucks,” by Ted’s swift calculation). Given this indisputable improvement, the previously wary Mary comes around to fully appreciating Bob’s impact:

“Y’know something, Murray, I still might not agree with some of Bob’s ideas, but, boy, it sure feels good to be a winner.”

“Yeah, you can say that again.”

“Y’know, yesterday, I opened a charge account, and for the first time, when the girl asked me where I worked, I didn’t mumble.”

“I know what ya mean. For the past two mornings, I’ve been leaving the house humming. Marie thinks I’m fooling around.”

Yup, everybody’s excited and assumes more good times are ahead…which is why it comes as a terrible shock when Bob immediately announces his imminent departure. Lou demands to know why the consultant all of a sudden wants to leave:

“Well, I just figure my work here is over.”

“Whaddaya mean over? We got the ratings up one point, let’s keep goin’, let’s get ’em higher.”

“Well, frankly, with the budget you have and the facilities and the personnel…I don’t think it’s possible.”

“Are you tellin’ us this is as good as we can get?”

“Well, I’m afraid so. I mean this is a nice, friendly, little station. But I’ve done all I can here, and I just feel I’m ready to move on to bigger things, y’know?”

With that, Bob exits and the staff is left to wonder if that’s all there is to their professional existence — until Mary thinks fast and invents a story about a letter the station manager might very well have received from Eric Sevareid. According to Mary’s tale, the CBS Evening News commentator had been in Minneapolis a few weeks earlier — before Larson began consulting — and let it be known he thought the WJM newscast was “the best-written, best-announced and best-produced show he had ever seen locally.”

Their self-esteem properly buoyed, everybody decided to be happy with being a nice, friendly, little station whose ratings were never going to climb a whole lot higher.

Tonight, after the 80th game of this Met season, perhaps I’ll be reminded of something else.

We Lost, But...

It’s dangerous to saddle wins or losses with caveats. Wins are good, losses are bad. You depart from this simple equation at your peril.

The Mets put themselves in an eight-run hole tonight against the A’s, as Zack Wheeler had no feel whatsoever for his curveball and iffy location with everything. (He also claimed the A’s had his signs.) Brandon Moss hit a ball into the Pepsi Porch that wound up bouncing up to the plaza above it, which I don’t believe I’ve ever seen at Citi Field before and don’t particularly want to see again. Then Yoenis Cespedes whacked a three-run double and Wheeler was done as soon as his spot in the lineup came around. The Mets didn’t do much against reclamation project Brad Mills until it was too late, and that was all she wrote.

Except I detected silver linings – or at least aluminum alibis — in a hopeful number of places.

  • If you’ve been paying attention, you know Wheeler’s a young pitcher who’s still learning his craft. He’s going to have nights when he throttles opposing hitters and nights when his mechanics are a mess of popping springs and grinding gears. When it’s the latter, a team as smart, aggressive and good as the A’s will do cruel things to him. Nothing to see here but the learning process.
  • The Mets lost, but they hit in a fashion we aren’t used to, particularly not at Citi Field. Lucas Duda clubbed a home run. The beleaguered Chris Young hit his third in two days. Ruben Tejada — who hasn’t been bad at all for a month now — collected a pair of hits. Eric Campbell had two, which probably means his exile to the bench is nigh. (Though with Wilmer Flores sent down to make room for Juan Lagares, Campbell’s our only backup shortstop. Yipes.) Oh, and Curtis Granderson had three, which would have been extraordinary a couple of weeks back but now, happily, is not.
  • Met relievers acquitted themselves rather well. Dana Eveland did his bullpen mates a service by soaking up three innings. Gonzalez Germen worked out his issues over two innings of so-so work (hey, that’s what blowouts are for), and Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia were solid for an inning each. Familia’s frame was particularly fun, highlighted by his successful duel with Cespedes, which he won by moving 97 MPH sinkers in and out and mixing them with the occasional slider. There’s talent there to be harnessed.
  • The A’s are the best team in baseball, but tonight they were also pretty lucky defensively. Josh Reddick made a circus catch at the perimeter of the stands and survived a misadventure in right. Dan Otero‘s deflection turned a Daniel Murphy single into a double play. Moss corralled a popup that had disaster written all over it. Add an inch here or subtract one there and the Mets could easily have had four or five additional baserunners, and then who knows.

This isn’t to say the Mets are suddenly good; they still have a bevy of problems. But they’ve been playing without the little black cloud of doom that accompanied them earlier in the season. That makes them a heck of a lot easier to watch, and to root for. Even after a loss, that seems worth noting.

Out On the Edge of Darkness

Now I’ve been happy lately
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be
Something good has begun

Perhaps it’s because once Marcell Ozuna threw out Kirk Nieuwenhuis at home plate to end Friday night’s game one brick shy of a tie, the baseball gods had simply run out of quintessentially Metsian ways to saddle the Mets with losses. “Tying run cut down at the plate on a sure sacrifice fly, we’re not gonna top that one for a while,” they reportedly said before going on a well-earned vacation.

Nieuwenhuis was improbably out and the Mets had predictably lost, yet from that moment forward, it’s been Mets 25 Opponents 6. Amazingly, the 25 runs have been wisely distributed so it wasn’t like there was a 1-0 loss tucked between a couple of 12-run blowouts.

The Mets have won three in a row, five out of six. That doesn’t sound all that impressive, but it sure feels like something. They pounded the almighty Oakland Athletics, they of the best record in baseball, the best run differential in baseball, the best storylines in baseball on a recurring basis.

The Mets are 8-1 in the village of Flushing against the Oakland Athletics since Game Three of the 1973 World Series, when Tom Seaver’s 12 strikeouts couldn’t keep the Mets from losing, 2-1, in 11 innings. Don Hahn couldn’t feel his way around Shea Stadium’s desodded warning track, Jerry Grote couldn’t hold on to strike three from Harry Parker with Ted Kubiak on first…yes, there was more to not winning that World Series than not pitching George Stone four days later.

So where was I? Oh yeah, we’ve been beating Oakland at Shea and Citi pretty consistently ever since even though some regrets refuse to fade with time. We took the next two in 1973, all three in 2007, two of three in 2011 and Tuesday night, too. We’re not just regular hot; we’re cosmically hot.

Take that, Charlie Finley, wherever you are.

Now I’ve been smiling lately
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be
Something good has begun

There is little daylight to be found streaming through the Tuesday night box score, cluttered as it is with heavy Met hits. Everybody who started, including Bartolo Colon, put a dent in Oakland pitching. There was a homer from Travis d’Arnaud, who offered more proof for my new theory that the most consistent offensive weapon the Mets maintain is Whoever They Called Up Just Now. There were two from Chris Young, who made an excellent case for Being Threatened With Removal From The Premises. Word conveniently leaked out that Young’s salary wasn’t going to save him, so he’d better get to belting ASAP. By some crazy coincidence, he belted a whole bunch.

Absorbing most of the Met pounding was Johnny Narrative, a.k.a. Scott Kazmir. George Stone’s got nothing on Scott Kazmir when it comes to Met lefties whom hindsight insists should’ve been handed the ball. We’re about a month away from the tenth anniversary of being reminded (again) the Mets mindlessly traded Scott when he was a lad full of hiss and vinegar. For what it’s worth, the Mets made the playoffs two unrelated years later anyway. Also for what it’s worth, Victor Zambrano pitched a handful of good games for the Mets before his aching left elbow got the best of him.

It was still an insipid trade and nothing like it should be repeated late this July, but the transaction deserves maybe a touch of forgiving revisionist history if only for accuracy’s sake — and just so it doesn’t need to be dredged over when the Mets visit Oakland in August.

Besides, I’ll need that time to dwell on George Stone being skipped some more.

Get your bags together
Go bring your good friends, too
’Cause it’s getting nearer
It soon will be with you

Hey, how about those towels? Kind of silly, kind of super, I’d say. Nice to detect a note of enthusiasm from our occasionally detached millionaire heroes. Waving towels (even if they are mostly surrender-white) strikes me as good, clean high school jock behavior. It’s even kind of creative.

“Mets towel waving party after hits has turned into towel waving car wash after home runs,” tweeted the Star-Ledger’s Mike Vorkunov, who wrung from Curtis Granderson a perfectly sensible elaboration on what else they’re doing with their Terry cloth:

“Once you finish, you gotta get dried off.”

These rituals are all a matter of taste. By my reckoning, waving the towels beats giving buzzcuts. It’s not quite as excellent as that business with the claw or the spotlight or whatever they were calling it when Jose Reyes and Justin Turner were instigating a fleeting whale of a time in 2011. I’ve always liked the dancing and the curtain calls and such. I like anything that indicates the Mets are winning.

If the Mets keep winning, they can stage The Nutcracker between innings for all I care.

Now come and join the living
It’s not so far from you
And it’s getting nearer
Soon it will all be true

Cynicism will not die easily if at all around here. As I watched the homers fly and the towels flutter Tuesday, I could picture the Mets marketers, quick studies that they are, scheduling a Rally Towel Night for August 28 or thereabouts. Branden and Alexa and possibly Christina would crank up their collective charms and excitedly inform us that “there’s nothing better than coming to the ballpark and waving a tow…” before SNY’s automated brain cut them off in favor of a Cambridge Pavingstones commercial (pavingstones are not to be confused with George Stone). By the time Rally Towel Night finally arrived, the Mets would be umpteen games under .500 and umpteen-and-a-half games out of the second Wild Card and nobody would remember that night in June when Chris Young was still on the Mets, let alone hitting home runs. Grumpy Guest Relations staff would be handing out sad, sponsored towels to handfuls of patrons who wondered what any of this had to do with baseball.

On the other hand, I also allowed myself to think that whatever has gotten into this team over the past week — Ozuna’s temporarily deadly peg notwithstanding — is utterly fantastic and I’m giddy as hell and what fun it is to be a Mets fan when five of six have been won, including three in a row that have been taken by four, six and nine runs, respectively. There were so many long, awful games for such a long, awful time until very recently. Now we win by a ton and it takes no time at all and you wouldn’t mind evenings like these lasting into perpetuity.

Maybe we’re not so great just yet. Maybe we’re just that crappy team that happens to give a much better squad inexplicable fits. That’s not unfun, either, y’know. However this train rolls, what’s the point of a baseball season if it can’t carry you away now and then?

***

Though you suddenly can’t wait for first pitch, there are suitable diversions to help occupy you between now and 7:10:

• Monday night I returned to the Rising Apple podcast, where host Rich Sparago, John Coppinger of Metstradamus renown, Mets Musings’ Gary McDonald and I swapped recipes and gardening tips. No, actually, we talked about nothing but the Mets for an hour. Listen in here.

• In March, I took part in a wonderful event that explored Storytelling as Good Medicine, the kicker being that all the stories were baseball stories. A second edition is coming to Bergino Baseball Clubhouse on July 17. Learn more about attending here.

• The best time to induct Gil Hodges into the Baseball Hall of Fame is right this very minute. Wish it was that easy. If you believe the manager of the Miracle Mets and the cornerstone of the Boys of Summer — and by all accounts one of the greatest gentlemen the game has ever known is worthy of enshrinement — there is a petition you should know about right here.

• If you’ve worn out your copy of A Year To Remember, there is a new movie coming together about your 1986 World Champion Mets. Learn more from filmmaker Heather Quinlan here.

• And you’ll want to play this little ditty from 45 Adapters at least 45 times today. As the band in question advises, Let’s Go Metropolitans!

New York State of Should

The Mets recorded 17 hits on Sunday afternoon. I didn’t know they had 17 players. They also won their fourth game in their last five. At that rate…nah, I’m not gonna pin my hopes on .800 ball played across the final 91 games of the season working out to a win total of 103.

Though you’ll notice I did just go to the trouble of doing the math.

It was a fun day in Miami, a fun day to filet the Marlins (do those piscatological puns ever get old?). We were overdue for an 11-5 Fish fry (no, apparently, they don’t), the kind where the Mets score early, score often and score after ever-so-nearly allowing the Marlins to score a few too many themselves. First it was 7-0. Then it was 7-3 with the tying run at bat. Then it was no problem whatsoever, something you never hear yourself say deep in the heart of Loria.

When we look in the mirror, we see a team that we believe should be immune to the teal terror that lies beneath all that black & orange angst. On some level, we can live with overall sucking — and we sure have — but the part where we inevitably find a way to have our tying run thrown out in the bottom of the ninth versus the South Florida Pisces People goes against our core conception of self.

Remember Baseball Like It Oughta Be? Well, we oughta be taking three of four from the Marlins. And we just did. We oughta not be getting swept by anybody, and we cleared that minimal hurdle versus the Cardinals. Thus, we’ve reached at least a temporary State of Should. We’re gonna need to stock up on Should, however. Winning a little more than we lose at home is a Should must, though a two-game Citi Field series against best-team-in-baseball Oakland might not be the ideal proving ground. Sneaking up on so-so outfits like 37-38 Pittsburgh and 38-37 Atlanta is another Should must when we hit the road again. And when the next lengthy homestand commences…

Ah, the biggest Should is taking ’em one game at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time. I’ve been preaching this, mostly to myself but occasionally to others, for the past 34 years, dating back to that five-game series against the Phillies I imagined the 7½-back Mets sweeping at Shea in August of 1980 as prelude to bigger and better things. Instead, as I am required by law to point out annually, the Mets were swept, their previously promising season was in ruins and I swore I’d never again get ahead of the schedule in my thinking. I still do sometimes drift forward a few games, but I try my darnedest to stay in the moment when I’m not vacationing in the 1980 of my selective memory.

(I’m also required by law to annually invoke Steve Henderson’s home run that beat the Giants, the 47-39 record from May 13 to August 13 and how real The Magic Is Back felt, I swear it did.)

I doubt too many of us are hitting refresh at Mets.com/Playoffs because we’re a robust 4-1 in our last five, but I have an inkling of insight into how the Metsopotamian mindset operates. We just received routinely stellar starting through one full turn of the rotation. The bullpen has stopped looming like a final resting place for lost leads. Granderson is no longer a colossal misallocation of resources. Duda’s bursts of power almost make up for his unfamiliarity with the nuances of his sport. Wright is in full Davidocity at last. Murphy’s playfully tapping coaches’ faces. The rejuvenated D’Arnaud and the exalted Lagares are slotting back into the band imminently. EY isn’t without his assets. Even Tejada the Uninspiring doesn’t quite make one long for his eternally unproven replacement so much some days.

Hell, the endlessly depressing manager, whom I tend to consider the endlessly depressing personification of this most endlessly depressing era, got some genuine use out of his No. 8-hitting pitcher’s bat-handling skills and put the squeeze on at a juncture in Sunday’s game when it truly mattered. Niese bunted, Nieuwenhuis scored, nothing went seriously awry thereafter. It was a Mets kind of day at the end of a Mets kind of weekend, perhaps kindling the notion that a Mets kind of year could gather steam, given that they’re only five back in a slack division and…

You do remember that a reasonable facsimile of these very same Mets won 15 of 23 to end April, don’t you? They were so hot that True New Yorkers everywhere were asked to commit blood and treasure to their cause. Next thing you know, the Mets went out and captured 16 of their succeeding 45 contests, leaving what’s been an almost irrevocable deposit on the cozy basement apartment they are currently graciously sharing with the Phillies.

Now they’ve taken four of five. It could be a hint of brilliance to come. Or it could represent a few decent days from a team that hasn’t been above .500 since May 5. Almost every team finds a way to win four of five in the course of 162. What you gotta do if you’re 35-41 is find a way to vault over the break-even point, take up permanent residence above a couple of your divisional neighbors and get not just plausibly close to the top, but actually close.

Also, 17-hit outbursts notwithstanding, take ’em one game, one inning, one pitch at a time. Trust me — it works better that way.

Here Comes Summer

Summer and Jacob deGrom’s first big league win each arrived in good stead on Saturday. Summer, as the artificial-lemonade commercials used to tell us, is only here a short while. DeGrom, one hopes, will stick around so long that the length of his career will rival the length of his locks. Paradoxically, time of game for Jacob deGrom’s entry into the legion of Winning Pitchers was 2:38, much quicker than baseball usually takes in this century. That means one of the shortest games of the season occurred on the longest day of the year.

Though we can all agree the crediting of individual wins isn’t the definitive metric by which to measure a pitcher’s effectiveness, a win is a win is a win. A win lasts forever. When young Jacob accepted a stream of congratulations from his teammates after the decision he’d been waiting his entire life went final, it wasn’t for improving his FIP. Kid’s a winner, just like Rick Wise was 50 years earlier to the day. Wise notched his first W on June 21, 1964, at Shea Stadium against the Mets. One assumes Rick Wise, then 18, never forgot it, even though 187 more wins (plus one in legendary Game Six of the 1975 World Series) awaited him, even though at his moment of triumph, the 18-year-old Phillie was the embodiment of an afterthought.

See, Wise’s first win came in the nightcap of a Sunday doubleheader. In the opener, Jim Bunning threw a perfect game. The regular season hadn’t seen one since 1922; there had been none in the National League since 1880. It couldn’t help but trump Rick Wise’s welcome to the win column, could it?

The cellar-dwelling Mets, 20-47 and 21 behind front-running Philadelphia by the close of business, weren’t much competition most days — “People would say to me it didn’t really count because it was against the Mets,” Bunning later acknowledged — but 27 up, 27 down, was something to behold. That the pitcher seeking perfection was wearing a visitors’ uniform didn’t much bother the 32,026 at Shea. They sportingly (or perhaps fatalistically) took Bunning’s side once history neared. As Bob Murphy observed during the ninth inning that sealed this result for the ages, “They’re Mets fans, but they appreciate a great performance.”

Talk about a win that lives forever.

Ten years later, summer commenced in conjunction with a much more common occurrence. The sagging, last-place, 26-39, defending N.L. champion Mets beat the resurgent, first-place, 35-32 Phillies, 3-1, Tom Seaver defeating Steve Carlton (for whom Wise was wisely dispatched to St. Louis a couple of years earlier). Tom winning was nothing out of the ordinary in the annals of Metsiana. This was the 139th victory of Seaver’s career. Winning was what Tom did as a matter of course. But that comfortingly familiar course was all askew as of June 21, 1974, when Tom entered the game at the Vet with a most unTerrific mark of 3-6. Even on this particular Friday night, something had to go wrong. Tom asked out after five innings, the sciatic nerve in his left buttock strained. “It hurts like hell,” he put it postgame.

Seaver’s path to the Hall of Fame, after seven seasons, had been littered by few obstacles. In his eighth season, though, little was going smoothly. His first 15 starts had produced a 3.80 ERA, and if there were interior numbers that revealed he was pitching better than his record indicated, nobody who might have devised them had yet disseminated them. A 3-6 pitcher was a 3-6 pitcher, even if he was Tom Seaver. A Shea crowd saw fit to boo him in a 7-0 loss to the Pirates in April. He opted not to speak to the press after losing a 4-3 complete game to the Giants in May. Now, having won his first game in three weeks and four starts, an injured, 4-6 Seaver couldn’t enjoy it in the least.

Literally and figuratively, 1974 was a pain in Tom’s ass.

The summer solstice emerged amid much cheerier Met cosmos on June 21, 1984. Whereas a decade earlier the Mets were on the verge of falling apart for a very long time to come, the Mets on this first summer day were coalescing as they hadn’t since the moon was in the Seaver house and Jupiter aligned with McGraw. By chance, the Mets were again playing the Phillies, this time at Shea. At stake was the top of the division. Philadelphia (37-29) owned it coming into this Thursday matinee. But it belonged to the Mets (36-27) when nine innings were over.

New York’s starter was Walt Terrell, who carried a 6-1 lead into the seventh. But the Phillies awoke and began to rake. Terrell was chased, replaced by Jesse Orosco, who allowed the Met lead to be erased. Suddenly the home team was down, 7-6. Yet just as suddenly — keyed by a run-scoring single Rusty Staub stroked when he pinch-hit for Orosco — the Mets returned fire with three in the bottom of the frame. They led, 9-7, turning the game over to Doug Sisk for safe keeping (which you could do during the first half of 1984). The Mets won, 10-7, taking over first place by a half-game and setting the tone for the first of several scintillating summers at Shea.

The winning pitcher? Because he had been on the mound directly before his club rallied, Jesse Orosco, the Met who gave up three hits, a walk and three runs in his one inning of work.

Now that what’s I call a nondefinitive metric!

Fast-forward another decade, to June 21, 1994, and you’ll find the last-place Mets (32-38) playing not the Phillies for a change, but the first-place Braves. And they’re winning, 3-2, going to the bottom of the ninth on a Tuesday night in Atlanta. Thus, this should be the heartwarming story of Mike Remlinger, making his second Met start, going six-and-a-third and edging toward his first win in a New York uniform, his first in the majors since going 2-1 for San Francisco in 1991.

Ah, but perhaps you’ve forgotten how the Mets of the 1990s attempted to secure most leads. They tasked the assignment to John Franco, who certainly piled up his share of saves, but also had a knack for allowing a few to slip away. True, every closer shares that knack on occasion, but if you lived through Franco Follies, you’re sure it happened at an alarming rate. At Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium, it happened like this: with one out, Franco walked ex-Met Bill Pecota; Bobby Bonilla made a two-out error at third; two singles ensued. The Braves won, 4-3. John Franco was the losing pitcher. The winner was Atlanta reliever Mike Stanton.

Ten years minus one day later (the Mets were idle that June 21, so we’re gonna have to use June 20, 2004, as our benchmark), Stanton was Franco’s teammate in New York. John didn’t pitch in that Sunday series finale versus the Tigers, but Stanton did, which I probably wouldn’t remember, except Stephanie and I were in the process of moving into our new home. It was that day I discovered we lived a few blocks from a street known as Stanton Avenue.

Hey, I said, look — maybe it’s a good omen.

True, I wasn’t much of a fan of Mike Stanton, given his Brave and Yankee pedigree that had never quite worn off to my satisfaction, but he had just helped Steve Trachsel and the third-place Mets sweep Detroit and reach .500 (34-34), and if we can’t live on Trachsel Terrace, Piazza Plaza or Wigginton Way, Stanton Avenue will just have to do.

Then, as we approached our tenth anniversary of living in what is now the old homestead, summer dawned at 6:51 AM on June 21, 2014, and first pitch was to be televised from Marlins Park at 4:10 PM. Usually the latter is enough to sew me to my couch for the duration, which can go on forever, but here it was, the longest day of the year, and it was nice out, so Stephanie lobbied me for an in-game walk around the neighborhood. Somewhat surprisingly, I agreed to her request, even with Jacob deGrom and the Mets clinging to an unfamiliar 1-0 lead, even with, you know, the game on TV. What the hell, I thought, it’s only the first day of summer once a year.

Naturally, I brought my radio, because I always bring my radio. And just as I was getting acclimated to Howie and Josh — and just before David Wright extended deGrom’s lead to 2-0 — a lady stopped us on the sidewalk to comment on the commemorative t-shirt I just happened to be wearing.

“1986 Mets,” she said. I nodded, expecting I’m not sure what next. “The Mets won the World Series in 1986,” she offered enthusiastically.

Yup, I was thinking, that’s what the shirt says.

She went on to tell us that she was in high school then, and when the Mets won, everybody yelled and screamed and was so excited, and just seeing that reminder emblazoned across my torso made her think of all that. She seemed extremely happy to have thought of the 1986 Mets for the first time in a long time. I didn’t mention that I think of the 1986 Mets several times a day. It makes me extremely happy, too.

Our walk proceeded without further pedestrian interjection. When we had to decide just how far we were going to stroll before turning for home, I set our boundary as Stanton Avenue. “Do you remember,” I asked, “how ten years ago almost to the day we first drove down Stanton Avenue? Mike Stanton was pitching for the Mets. And now the Mets are playing a team with Giancarlo Stanton, who used to call himself Mike Stanton.”

Stephanie didn’t remember any of that, but that’s OK. That’s what I’m here for.

Elevated by heretofore unremarked-upon historical significance, we took a perfectly lovely walk across that perfectly lovely thoroughfare that is named for neither Met nor Marlin. Then we got home in time to see the fifth-place, 34-41 Mets go up on the Marlins, 4-0, and ensure Jacob deGrom (1-4) would find two game-used baseballs in his locker when the contest was over. Presumably one of them was thrown by Jenrry Mejia to record the final out that made deGrom — who pitched seven shutout innings against G. Stanton and the Marlins in his eighth career start — what we on the sidelines like to call a winner at last. But the man of the hour couldn’t be sure.

“I don’t know which ones they are,” Jacob admitted to reporters, but as long as the MLB authentication sticker was on each of them, that meant they were most certainly from his first win, and “that’s fine with me.”

A little over forty years earlier, as Seaver the veteran was negotiating his unprecedented struggles and nobody had yet thought to apply official stickers to any of the equipment, Jerry Grote saved another Met rookie pitcher a ball from his first win. Craig Swan, 23, had lasted six innings in the rain at Wrigley Field and earned a W on May 11, 1974, when Ray Sadecki didn’t give back too much of the lead the Mets had built when Swannie was the one instigating the action. It wasn’t a Seaver-style shutout let alone a Bunningesque burst of perfection, but a win was a win was a win. Pitchers have always cherished everything about them and — no matter how many advanced statistics surface to better illustrate the depth and breadth of a given pitching performance — probably always will.

Especially the balls they came in on. “I’ll keep it,” rookie Swan promised after grizzled Grote handed him his. “I’ll keep it forever.”

Forever’s an intriguing concept on the day we call the longest of the year. As the lemonade commercials and every schoolkid will attest, summer doesn’t last nearly long enough. Yet the way it starts now and then has every chance of lingering in the mind’s eye.

Take ’Em All, More or Less

Each Mets game lately seems to come preordained with a finite number of runs. Friday there was no way there were going to be more than five altogether. Pity, then, that the Marlins got to three first.

The tiny glint of optimism I still allow myself told me this was going to be a more productive weekend. Here are the Marlins, a team that has thus far surprised the league by maintaining a legitimate finhold in its slow-motion playoff scramble, showing off some of that young talent we hear about every spring and persevering over .500 despite the loss of their Harveyesque ace Jose Fernandez. If I’m a Marlins fan…well, mostly I’m extremely lonely, but then, when I get used to being all myself, I’m thinking that we — the Marlins — are on the cusp of making hay. We’ve got the Mets coming in and, hell, we always beat the Mets, right?

Perfect setup for the Marlins fan(s). A setup for a fall. The presumed patsy instead makes like the dog in those Coppertone ads, immodestly wrapping its teeth around the bottom of that child’s bathing suit and exposing those heretofore sizzling contenders as the pale-ass pretenders they really are. It’s a perfect theme for a team that plays somewhere near South Beach and a satisfying outcome for us psyche-battered snowbirds.

And my slightly optimistic theory was working for one night, thanks to Zack Wheeler and David Wright, who combined to assure the one-run maximum was deposited and defended safely in the Met column. But then came Friday, when the arm of Marcell Ozuna delivered not one but two messages maybe urging us we should take these Miamians a little more seriously than we usually do.

Listen, we’ve spent too many evenings watching the tasteful lime-green walls of the Loriatorium come crashing down around Met hopes to disrespect the Marlins’ mischief-manufacturing capabilities. But that was when we viewed the Fish as a definitively lesser life form. They, not we, are the ones hanging legitimately close to the Braves and Nationals these days. We’re in last place, clinging to no more than sad “you know, they’re only ‘x’ games out” numerology. The Marlins are, until they start sinking, as real as they need to be.

And the Mets are the Mets. The Mets are the team that can’t score a third run because twice that third run is gunned down at the plate. The first time David Wright was out by a mile, and all attempts to litigate his way to a safe call came up against a wall of sound judgment by way of murky interpretation. This was in the eighth, when David attempted to tie the game on Eric Campbell’s pinch-hit. He was doomed as soon as left fielder Ozuna’s laser beam beat him home. But wait…was Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s tiniest toe blocking David’s sliding lane? The Mets challenged (the out call, not the Marlins’ pitching) and, no, there was no overturning to be had.

Nor should there have been. A noble concept about keeping catchers from crumpling into Pinky Tuscadero at the hands of an onrushing Malachi Crunch has revealed itself, in practice, as ludicrous. Nobody knows how to slide. Nobody knows how to block. Or if they should slide. Or if they should block. It’s not baseball. It’s touch and feel and maybe somebody will phone somebody at the home office and ask if the scoreboard should change.

So the Mets found a way to not tie in the eighth, and they soon found another way to not tie in the ninth. This time it was Kirk Nieuwenhuis getting the tease party started with a pinch-double in his first at-bat back from the minors. Have you noticed how well the legion of marginal Mets perform the moment they’re recalled to the majors and then never again? Surely the geniuses in the front office can manipulate the system to keep a shuttle of Nieuwenhuii coming and going, squeezing from each that first precious drop of adrenaline that inevitably sparks instant if fleeting offense.

We got what we were destined to get from Kirk. Then we got a sacrifice bunt from Ruben Tejada, which, all things considered, wasn’t the worst thing to ask from him. It put Nieuwenhuis on third with one out and brought up Chris Young, whose task became the hitting of a deep fly ball to brink Kirk home.

You know that old proverb that warns, “never depend on Chris Young to do anything to help you win a ballgame”? Technically it’s still true, but CY did his job. He lifted that fly ball, and it was indeed deep. Perhaps it wasn’t as deep as it could’ve been, but it sure seemed sufficient. Though the longer that ball hung in the air, the less deep it appeared to be. And when Ozuna caught it with a little forward momentum and Clemented it home at the instant Kirk tagged up and took off…

In another season, Nieuwenhuis would have crashed into Saltalamacchia and consonants and vowels would have flown hither and yon. But in this season, when even the best of baseball instincts have been muted between third and home (and, let’s face it, Nieuwewnhuis already runs like he’s trying to inch his field goal kicker a little closer to the hashmark on third down), all it took was a phenomenal throw to end the game. Make no mistake, it was a phenomenal throw. Vladimir Guerrero, Dwight Evans and Joel Youngblood would all tip their caps to Marcell Ozuna, even if they fired their rifle-arms from right rather than left. The ball couldn’t have soared to the plate on a more deadly trajectory had it been sent by drone.

That said, I thought Nieuwenhuis could’ve slid a little more effectively, even in 2014 when no one knows how to slide anymore. Maybe he could’ve tailed to his right, tried to grab the plate from the outside. Maybe he could’ve sprinted instead of trundled. Maybe Wright could’ve been held up by Teufel the inning before. Maybe Tejada, who also made a phenomenal capture of a grounder, could’ve cleared his throat and protested, “I GOT HIM!” and set a replay review in motion when Jake Marisnick came off the bag on a stolen base attempt that instigated what proved to be the winning Marlin rally in the seventh. But like I said, five runs had already been scored, so, as with my idea that the Mets were going to deflate the Marlins’ ascendant balloon from below, it’s all just another theory for theory’s sake.

As long as we’re exploring the theoretical, let me lay an exercise on you. I thought of this before the Mets’ recent heady two-game winning streak, directly after Monday’s incredibly dispiriting loss and the resultant “what’s the point?” round of reflection I posted Tuesday morning. My Met mood was dour enough that a concerned friend was compelled to ask me, “Are you OK?”

I was fine, but the Mets were the Mets, so I wasn’t as fine as I could’ve been. In the hours after Monday night’s game ended, I found myself thinking that if there was some mechanism by which the Mets had to lose a player — they just couldn’t have him anymore — honestly, I wouldn’t care who it was. Take one, take ’em all, I decided.

In the light of day, I revised my outlook a little and framed it this theoretical way:

Let’s say Major League Baseball holds a draft every June. Besides the amateur draft, I mean. It’s something of a random affair. Every June 21, in honor of the onset of summer, MLB chooses one franchise out of a hat and subjects it to provide one player from its current active 25-man roster to another franchise, also chosen out of a hat. The deal is whoever’s chosen to give up a player doesn’t know who’s going to get to pick a player from them, so there’s no telling in advance whose needs you might take into consideration. All that the providing franchise knows is it won’t lose a player to a division rival or its so-called “natural” Interleague rival. It’ll hurt, but it won’t sting.

The other elements of this draft are if you lose a player, you gain the first-round draft pick of the team that takes your player plus a sandwich pick next June; and you get to protect exactly ONE player from your 25-man roster.

For our theory’s sake, the Mets, given their Metsian luck, are chosen to be this year’s summer piñata. Somebody — and it could be anybody but the Braves, Nationals, Marlins, Phillies or Yankees — gets its choice of 24 current Met major leaguers. No minor leaguers are involved; nobody on the disabled list is involved. Names like Matt Harvey, Juan Lagares, Travis d’Arnaud, Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell and Noah Syndergaard are immune to all of this.

But from there, the Mets can only hold one player back. Everybody else is ripe for the picking. Mind you, the Mets will lose but one player as a result of the Summer Solstice Roulette Draft (sponsored by Caesars), but it could be anybody…except for the one player you are entitled to string a velvet rope around.

And you don’t know who is going to be doing the picking. You don’t know if you are going to have to give up a pitcher to a team that needs pitching or a position player to a team with a specific glaring void.

So, who do you protect among the 25 current Mets?

Here’s who I don’t hesitate not to protect: Almost everybody, even after that heady two-game winning streak.

Here’s who I do have to think about:

Jon Niese: Never exactly a personal favorite, but he’s finally rounded into what we’d hoped he would be. He’s got a favorable contract, he’s entering his prime, plus he’s lefthanded, which is one of those things you always have to emphasize when you’re discussing a pitcher who isn’t righthanded.

Zack Wheeler: According to Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog, I’m a fount of wisdom regarding Wheeler’s development. We were chatting during BP one night last month when I said to Matt, in so many words, don’t worry, Zack’ll be fine. Now I’m a prophet, too, at least since Thursday night’s 1-0 shutout. Despite not being lefthanded, Wheeler’s young, he’s talented, he’s been part of your master plan practically forever and who wouldn’t grab him if given the chance?

David Wright: No longer quite as over the hill as he was rumored to be heading earlier this week. Even in the most stubborn slump of his career, he’s never been less than the second- or third-best Met player on the field at any point this season. Now he’s emerging from his slump, it seems. And he’s David Wright, who slots snugly in the batting order of all that is Met-sacred between mom and apple pie. He’s the franchise player (and losing your Franchise player is never any fun). He’s the first and only Met of extraordinary note to have a chance to play an entire lifetime as a Met. If he’s not quite our Tony Gwynn or our Stan Musial, he’s in that realm for us. He’s almost all we’ve ever asked him to be. Then again, he’s 31, is due a ton of money and has been quoted on the subject of loss more than anybody since Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

That’s it for the active roster. Yeah, Josh Edgin has shown wonderful progress, Jeurys Familia has closer written all over him, Daniel Murphy pounds out hard-earned hit after hard-earned hit, Bartolo Colon is a reborn five-tool player…but this team, mired in mediocrity, is giving attachment a bad name. I’m still mostly where I was the other night. Take whoever you want, mystery team who gets to take away one Met in my theoretical draft. I can get by swimmingly without most of these Mets.

But I get to protect one. Which one do I save?