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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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They've Got to Be Somebody's Patsy

When it's a particularly positive development that the Mets have beaten the Padres, it can mean one of two things:

• The Padres are very good.

• The Mets are pretty bad.

The Padres haven't been very good all that often in their forty big league seasons. They've notched as many as 90 wins only three times. When they're not reaching for glory, they're usually wallowing well south of the National League West border. Beating the Padres when they're very good is a fine thing, but it hasn't been a possibility since 1998.

It was a particularly positive development for the Mets to beat the Padres Sunday because the Mets have been pretty bad, particularly in San Diego. When Daniel Murphy ranged far into foul territory to catch the final out, Wayne Hagin treated the feat the way those of us who have watched the Mets for more than two seasons reflexively greet a series win at Turner Field. Wayne said the Mets can finally enjoy the wonders of San Diego, having broken their streak of eight straight losses at Pitco. True, they'd be on their way to the airport 45 minutes hence, but it's Wayne Hagin, so you have to grade perspective on a curve.

Whoever, whatever, the Mets won where they hadn't been winning and they won behind Johan Santana, who earned it on both sides of the ball. A starter's W-L is an often misleading thus fairly useless barometer but even with Santana's ups and downs, he was gypped out of a win his last time around, the game K-Rod put in a Goodwill bag and Sean Green kicked to the curb. The Cardinal loss was his eighth of the year, more than he had in 2008, the year he was ND'd within an inch of his sanity. This year's Santana isn't being haunted by no-decisions. It's inconsistency hobbling his stats. Johan's a 13-8 pitcher by the numbers, but that doesn't seem right. So often, as on Sunday, he performs up to his 18-1 ace standards. When he's not on top of his game, he feels like some 9-14 non-entity of the latter-day Jeff D'Amico variety.

He's Johan. We expect him to be Johan all the time. We have so little left to expect besides the worst. Thanks to him for coming through. Frankie, too, who didn't have a save opportunity but made the most of a chance to make up for his recent shakiness. Third star, one supposes, goes to the Padres for not coming off like the divisional dynasty Braves and sweeping us despite Pitco mysteriously behaving as Turner West.

It's a fact: The Mets and Padres aren't good simultaneously all that often. We and they had winning records together in '84 and '85; '88 and '89; '98; and '05 to '07. It took them ten seasons to achieve a .500+ year. Their first pennant, 1984, felt like a fluke — a welcome fluke considering how much we hated the Cubs heading into that October, but a fluke whose luck ran out against the big-time Tigers. They were a juggernaut in '98, but you wouldn't have picked them over the Randy Johnson-enhanced Astros in the NLDS or 106-win Atlanta in the next round. But they beat both and their reward was a sweep at the hands of the Yankees. Since then, the Pads have been primarily an undercover operation. Their making the playoffs in '05 and '06 was big news in Mission Valley, likely nowhere else. They choked a Wild Card away in late 2007 and almost no one took note that they committed maybe the second greatest collapse in baseball history. Then they went back to their customary wallow.

With a profile that low, it's no wonder the Padres wear camouflage.

This little detour into Friar inertia was taken to demonstrate what a downer they almost always are, making it extra frustrating to watch them exert themselves only mildly en route to three consecutive victories over the Mets. We don't have many franchises to look down on, traditionally speaking. We can't look down on the Phillies anymore. No matter how embarrassing the latest name of El Sacko del Soilmaster and no matter how empty it is 78 dates in any given year, any team that was racking up two world championships while we were racking up none — and ending our last two seasons to boot — has something over us, so there go the Marlins. The Pirates, whose last winning season was clinched when Barack Obama was 31, have blocked too many chip shots for us to get all high and mighty on them. Whatever's wrong with the Nationals, it hasn't stopped them from nipping at our anatomy at all the wrong times the past couple of Septembers.

The Padres? Now there's a Padres curse? We're supposed to be relieved that we finally won a game in San Diego? Like that's a monkey off our back? You have to respect all your opponents and take 'em one game at a time and all that, but somewhere in this league, can't we have a gimme? I know we had a good run in Arizona for a while, but pending this week's set, that's currently inactive. We've won a lot of games at home against Colorado, but they were in the World Series when they weren't supposed to be two years ago while we weren't when we were due in Detroit three years ago.

We seem to have not lost a season series against the Reds since 2001. And they have no great recent success against anybody else. Plus we beat them when it really counted in 1973 and 1999. But we gave them Tom Seaver and they stuck us with George Foster, so it's kind of a wash. Hard to think of the Reds as our patsy. Not that I really thought of the Padres as our patsy, but if we were going to have one, you'd kind of think a franchise with less overall success than us; with no head-to-head body blow against us; with no playoff spot picked from our pocket; with not even a no-hitter on their ledger could be a little more cooperative and lose to us a little more. We beat the Padres eleven out of twelve in '69 and ten of twelve in '86. When we beat up on San Diego, it usually means we're very good.

We're not now and haven't been lately. They swept a cringeworthy four-game series at Pitco last June. They opened Citi Field by taking two of three. Then the first three of this series. Finally we beat them. It shouldn't feel like an accomplishment. It should feel like business as usual. But it's the Mets who have been in the patsy business in 2009.

And haven't they taken care of business efficiently?

When the Diamondbacks close the roof, you can open the pages of Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.

2 comments to They've Got to Be Somebody's Patsy

  • Anonymous

    From this point on, if the Mets can “pull a 1969” and go 39-12 the rest of the way, they would finish 91-71 and probably win the division. Can it happen again?

  • Anonymous

    I'd be more concerned with not finishing last. We're only 12-1/2 games ahead of the Nationals who've played much more inspired ball than we have the last couple of weeks.