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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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When Bad Teams Go Worse

They all felt something
But I felt nothing
Except the feeling
That this bullshit was absurd
—Diana Morales, A Chorus Line

There’s your team sucking and there’s your team when they suck. It’s admittedly a fine line, but the Mets have decisively crossed it. The Mets are no longer a team sucking. They’re a team that sucks.

Really sucks.

They played badly often in 2007, but we knew they were better than that. They played badly often in 2008, but we knew they were better than that. There was even a suspicion for nearly two-thirds of 2009 that their prevailing bad play was a temporary condition, a brief malfunction of the we are experiencing operating difficulties — please stand by nature.

The picture’s no longer fuzzy. It’s as crystal clear as it is unfortunate to our cause. The Mets have ceased to exist as we knew them for the past not quite five seasons. The Mets are no longer a basically good club wandering waywardly until they straighten up and fly right. That path has reached its end point. The Mets are a bad club…a bad club with a third of a season left to kill.

It’s hard to believe some of us were monitoring Wild Card standings as recently as the beginning of this week. I sure was. I saw a faint wisp of hope when we won five in a row against “other” Wild Card contenders. I thought we could inch forward and stay plausible long enough to take on San Francisco when they came to Citi Field in mid-August and maybe inch up a little from there. I didn’t really think we were good enough to compete at that level, but I just wanted the illusion to endure as long as possible.

Then came Tuesday night and Albert Pujols in the role of Dr. Kevorkian, mercifully assisting our team’s suicide with his tenth-inning grand slam. I must confess that as Sean Green faced Pujols, I wasn’t just confident he would give up a death blow; I was not altogether rooting against it. I’d felt like a tool for taking these Mets so seriously so late in their decline, at least a month after they revealed themselves incapable of keeping up with the Phillies let alone the Giants. C’mon Albert, I thought after Green hit DeRosa with the bases loaded to make it 8-7. Just pull the plug on us already, you bastard. Just put us out of our misery.

When he did, it was more of a relief than I expected. My team that played badly long enough to undermine the stretches when they played well in 2007 and 2008 (ultimately leading to two toxic Closing Days that have preyed upon my sanity every damn day since) was not going to sap any more goodwill from my being in 2009 with their endless rounds of Tease & Torment. Once Pujols put them behind 12-7, they were certifiable noncontenders for the duration, not even eligible for “stranger things have happened” miracle contingency. I knew beyond a shadow of plausible doubt they wouldn’t be contending for anything more this year than the challenge of placing nine healthy men on the field — never mind that they weren’t doing so hot there either.

Thus, I could go Wednesday afternoon unburdened by any trace of expectation, free to stop deluding myself that a single Mets game meant anything in the grand scheme of baseball things. Let others eyeball an out-of-town scoreboard or perform “if we can win 27 of the 34 we have left with San Fran, Colorado, Atlanta, Florida, Chicago and Houston…” mental gymnastics as prelude to inevitable letdown. That wasn’t our civic duty anymore.

Wednesday afternoon, despite the senseless indignities visited upon loyal patrons in the name of tone-deaf almighty Policy, was fun. Of course it was fun. I was with my pal, the pulled pork was exquisite and it was a summer weekday afternoon at the ballpark. Plus the Mets won. Did they gain a game on anybody? Keep pace? How the hell would I know? I stopped checking.

Thursday night, however, shorn of Dave Murray, Blue Smoke and seasonable humidity, it really sunk in how there’s nothing left to what’s left. The 2009 Mets were now a contemporary version of any number of their hopeless predecessors whose shortcomings we still know by heart and gut if we got here before 2005. They were, as in days of dismal yore, the Mets who couldn’t patch together a useful Dog Days lineup with a Singer sewing machine. Their starter was one of those heretofore valiant veterans whose tank was empty but was taking the ball nonetheless because there was nobody else to do his job. Their opponent, no matter how feeble on paper, was simply better equipped to play than we were, a commonplace occurrence about to get distressingly more common. Thursday’s rather routine loss went quickly yet seemed to drag on for hours. That it began at 10:05 Eastern made it that much worse. You waited all day for this? Surely there’s something better to watch.

There won’t be much good on SNY between now and October 4. There will be more of this: this void, this emptiness, this whole lotta nothin’. This is what rooting for a bad team is like. This is what it will be like for the next 54 games. Every last one of them, even the wins, will be something like this. There will be no larger point to it except that it’s what you’ve always done, it’s what you always do, it’s what you’ll someday say you always did when it’s not like this — when you persevered as a Mets fan no matter how bad things got in August of 2009.

That day of well-earned hindsight can’t get here soon enough.

14 comments to When Bad Teams Go Worse

  • Anonymous

    You've hit the nail on the head.
    I'm a Met fan to the bitter end. I'll watch all remaining games – if for no other reason than as you said – when future season are better, I can say 'yeah, remember '09 and what a horrible season that was?'

  • Anonymous

    Masterpiece, Greg. I often wonder how you can burnish such miserable content to such a golden, literate sheen. Bravo!
    2009 can now take its place in the Futility Gallery beside its closest cousins, 1963, 1967, 1979, 1982, 1993, and the Howe twins '03 & '04.

  • Anonymous

    we've been walking into the desert since june of 2007. maybe this team really wasn't that good at all. maybe we just got lucky for a season and a half.
    fire everyone please.

  • Anonymous

    I was running around transporting kids to and fro, dentists, gymastics and what not that I barely turned on the Red Sox game (God, is THAT stadium a joke) and totally forgot the Mets were playing on the left coast; I didn;t know the score of the game until I logged in to THIS site, saw the post and said “Wow, they must have gotten their asses kicked last night”. One less thing for me to worry about, unfortunately. As a (former) season ticket holder, a year like this pains me to no end. I'd rather the angst, the owrry of a pennant or wild card chase, than this…..nothing-ness. As the saying goes, the opposite of love isn't hate, the opposite of love is indifference. I am now officially indifferent to the 2009 Mets.

  • Anonymous

    With the talk in today's Daily News about the Mets considering trading Wagner to a contender, I think even management is about to unfurl the white flag. Reluctant as I am to concur, they looked listless and defeated last night. It's very hard to see us putting together any kind of playoff push.
    Well, hopefully the front-runners will be unloading their tickets for pennies on the dollar on Stubhub and Craigslist. There are stil a couple of food concessions I am eager to try. The Daruma stand next to the pressed sandwich counter looked awfully inviting. Despite Greg's enthusiasm, I've been skeptical about ballpark sushi, but I'm gonna have to give it a try.

  • Anonymous

    It's going to be nice to enjoy a closing day, isn't it?
    So would you say the Pujols grand slam is this year's “done” moment? I still say it's Castillo using one hand.

  • Anonymous

    I'd just like to say that while the team on the field is not really worth watching anymore, Gary, Keith, and Ron are more than worth listening to. Maybe it was just me, but I felt Gary and Ron were terrific last night. “He operates with E's” made me actually laugh out loud. On the bright side, the more blowout losses we endure, the more we get to enjoy listening to GKR unburdened by having to talk about the ballgame.

  • Anonymous

    HAHAHAHA i was dying for a half inning over that comment

  • Anonymous

    I think you're right. The Castillo game put us into a tailspin we were never able to pull out of, next day's victory notwithstanding. The Pujols slam was just the exclamation point to kill the hopes of even the die-hards.

  • Anonymous

    I have one complaint regarding our otherwise enlightening and entertaining broadcasters… will someone tell Keith to stop breathing into the mike?

  • Anonymous

    Hit it on the nose, Kev.
    Although a case could be made for the Church-missed-3B play, as well…

  • Anonymous

    The sushi remains recommended. Should we find ourselves knowing at the same game, the rolls are on me.
    The one compelling moment in last night's game was Gary's pointed observation about how through it all this season no one in the bullpen has complained about their roles (with Ronnie agreeing, from his brief bullpen demotion experience, that relievers gripe about being used too much/too little). He gave loads of credit to K-Rod for changing the culture of complaint, which seemed a rather implicit slap at Wagner's whining and undermining from the past few years. So yeah, if you can get Billy on the next truck out of town for something, do it.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    Yes, this team sucks but I think there is one obvious point that everyone seems to be missing: this is NOT the 2009 Mets. There is no Beltran, no Reyes, no Delgado, no Maine, no Putz, etc. This WAS what the 2009 Mets was to be like (not a patchwork lineup of other teams' rejects and career minor leaguers) and if healthy enough that's what the 2010 Mets will be like come next April.
    And if Santana and Wright were to have off-years (David is the most unproductive .330 hitter I've ever seen) let it be this year with the season written off. It's just a shame that injuries have also prevented the young kids like Martinez and Niese from showing us some of their stuff since they would not have such opportunity with a pennant race going on.

  • Anonymous

    I don't think anybody's missing that point, Joe. The frontline injuries have been front and center. But it's still a bad team and there is no proof that a team that topped out, when relatively healthy, as falling just short for two years, is suddenly going to be robust come 2010. Putz and Delgado may very well be gone and Maine could be non-tendered. In the meantime, the fellows who carry on in their stead have been overmatched and undercoached.
    Looking forward to the rebates those who bought tickets to see the 2009 Mets will be receiving if this somehow didn't count.