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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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Age-Old and Unanswerable Questions

If you had to choose, would you rather be hobbled by horrible starting pitching or terrible relief?

Too much bad starting pitching and the air is consistently out of the fan balloon by the third or fourth inning, leaving you grousing about wasted evenings and wondering if there isn’t something else you should be doing, possibly including tapping yourself over and over again in the kneecap with a hammer to see when it crosses the line from annoying to painful. Too much bad relief and you don’t trust anything good that happens early, because you know the middle innings will be brought to you by Frogger: It sure would be inspiring to hop across this busy highway, but you know you’re going to get pancaked by a semi.

The Mets got the bad starting pitching, while the Marlins got the hopeless relief (or most of it — the Mets weren’t exactly immune themselves) and Game 2 — by turns depressing, inspiring and repeatedly wacky — wound up in the loss column. Which brings up another age-old and unanswerable question: Is it better to fall behind by five and quietly expire, or to come all the way back and then face-plant into defeat anyway?

Speaking of face-planting, John Maine was so horrid that the joy I felt at having survived baseball-less Day 2 was snuffed out almost immediately. His location was hide-your-eyes awful, and he spent most of his time on the mound looking like a guy confronted by an overflowing toilet. And this, folks, is our Number 2 starter. Ricky Nolasco, on the other hand, was terrific, with his only sin getting tired and turning over the ball to his incompetent teammates. The Marlin pen was so staggeringly awful that the Met relievers’ poor showings will get lost in the shuffle a bit, but it was a depressing march: Jenrry Mejia looked pretty much exactly like a kid who throws hard but needs to harness secondary pitches in the minors, Sean Green looked like his usual blandly awful self, and if you’ll forgive me a thoroughly unfair comparison based on a tiny sample size, Hisanori Takahashi sure reminded me of the last Takahashi thrown in over his head in extra innings.

OK, there were positives to take away beyond “Hey, there’s baseball on again!” (Which ain’t nothing — hey, there’s baseball on again!) And some of those positives weren’t exactly ones I’d been counting on. Jeff Francoeur can’t seem to resist swinging at that 0-0 slider in the dirt, but he then reined himself in and had a couple of pretty decent at-bats, and has somehow walked in two straight games. Rod Barajas’s OBP makes Francoeur look like a Kevin Youkilis clone, but he some good counts, and has shown pretty good thump at the plate. Heck, even Mike Jacobs had a game if ultimately futile at-bat.

Maybe it’s just that it’s early, but I found myself feeling like this game was mildly encouraging — even though if I’d shown you a couple of key plays and said they were from 2009 we’d all be yowling about being lousy and snakebit. Having Fernando Tatis thrown out at the plate on an insufficiently wild pitch with David Wright up in a two-out, bases-loaded situation was obviously awful, the first baseball kick in the nuts of 2010. But I can’t bring myself to scold Tatis. When that ball bounded away, I was screaming “Go!” and you probably were too. The ball didn’t carom right off the back wall, but ricocheted left, and it took a awfully good play by John Baker to get Tatis. If Gary Matthews Jr. makes a throw that’s slightly more on target, Wes Helms is out and maybe we’re still playing — but if Helms slides decently, that play isn’t close anyway. And I still can’t figure out exactly what Leo Nunez did to constitute a balk.

A couple of finger-lengths of bad luck, and we lost. It sucks, but it doesn’t feel like a curse or destiny or incompetence or anything like that. It just feels like bad luck. For right now, I can live with that.

13 comments to Age-Old and Unanswerable Questions

  • Andee

    This felt like a game we would have won, shitful starting pitching and wobbly relief or not, if Beltran and Reyes had been out there instead of not-Sarge and not-Joey. Heck, maybe even one of Beltran or Reyes might have done the trick. But Beltran probably nails Helms at the plate, at the very least.

    Good news: Not-Joey only gets one more start (Friday, since Tejada’s supposed to start tomorrow), and then it’s Joseoseoseose. Oh man. I cannot wait.

    And Tatis making a run for it probably would make sense in most other ballparks…but apparently, not this one, since the backstop is about a black-cat’s length from the plate. Furthermore, if Mike Jacobs is going to be a bum, I want him to be really terrible; I don’t want him to have one good game and three bad ones, one good game and three bad ones, etc. I want him to suck so hard he can taste Jupiter, the better to get him out of the 4-hole (or maybe out of the lineup entirely) ASAP.

  • Tom from the bronx

    Totally agree with you Jason. I was absolutely disgusted by Maine’s performance and felt like shutting off the TV but to their credit, the offense fought and clawed back for the tie. The odds of that happening last year were like seeing pigs fly.
    Also I’m starting to think Maine will never be a decent player in this league. It just seems every start he comes up with some excuse why he didn’t do well. “I couldn’t get my slider over”, “My fastball was moving too much”, “It was just one bad pitch”. For all the crap Perez gets at least Perez has some starts where he will pitch very well against good teams like the Phillies and Yankees. When was the last time Maine went even 7 innings against a good offense?

  • CharlieH

    And if GMJR coulda gotten a ball out of the infield in the 9th…

    Baseball is beautiful.

  • […] Age-Old and Unanswerable Questions ( […]

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    We can’t really say the offense fought back as much as we can say it showed discipline and took advantage of Florida’s consensus wildness even when behind in the count 0-2.

    So even though I liked what we saw with restraint and intelligent at-bats plus the hustle (it took perfect execution – usually never seen by Florida on the field – to get Tatis out at home) in all honesty, we didn’t mount a comeback as much as Florida mounted a giveback.

    One game does not a season make, so neither does two. So lets hope our pitching goes beyond just Santana, Feliciano and KRod.

  • Dak442

    Why do I feel as though I’ve watched this game many, many times? Crap starting pitching, crap relief, and inability to get the big hit with the game on the line.

    If John Maine is an 87-mph “fastball” pitcher, he is not long for the Bigs, even if he does start locating. Maybe we should send Jennry back down where he belongs and get him ready for a spot in the rotation.

  • Lenny65

    The starters behind Johan were my biggest concern going in to this season. And they still are, I really wish they’d gone out and acquired just one semi-competent major-league arm during the off-season. Like the commenter above stated, Maine always seems to be working through some problem or another. I’ve always liked the guy and it’d be great to see him succeed but after two seasons of woe you have to wonder what he has left. Then there’s perpetual project Pelfrey who’s still a big question mark and of course our pal Ollie, who’s an inning-to-inning adventure. If at least one of these guys (or whoever nails down the fifth spot, provided someone does) can’t emerge as an inning-eater, it won’t matter how good or bad the bullpen is.

    But hey, it’s early, as they say. It’s baseball and you never know. But these guys don’t exactly fill me with confidence. Prove me wrong, guys, prove me wrong….please?

  • “[Maine] spent most of his time on the mound looking like a guy confronted by an overflowing toilet. ”

    I’m still laughing out loud at this, and it’s the fourth time I’ve read it.

    That is EXACTLY what he looked like, even from section 408.

    Well done, Jason.

  • […] Fry at Faith and Fear in Flushing summed this up best:  “[Maine] spent most of his time on the mound looking like a guy […]

  • Unser

    Can’t agree with you on Tatis. A professional MLB player should know when you’re down 3 runs in the late innings, 2 outs, the bases are loaded and your best hitter is at the plate representing the go ahead run, you do not take that chance. This isn’t even debatable – what was the reward if Tatis made it – the lead cut to 6-4? Big deal.

    I can’t even cut him slack for making a split-second decision. He went to third on the Castillo walk and then there was a pitching change: he had plenty of time to think about the situation and do a few “what happens if” scenarios on his own or with the 3rd base coach. Smart ballplayers do this.

    This has been a persistent and frustrating problem with this team and, I can only assume, its coaching staff – they don’t know or don’t teach the fundamentals.

  • […] Age-Old and Unanswerable Questions »    […]

  • […] SEASON: 15 You’re down 6-1, you’re in the process of making it 6-all, yet somewhere in there Fernando Tatis doesn’t score on a passed ball that doesn’t pass very far…discouraging sign en route to a 7-6 loss. Willie Harris dives […]

  • […] Mets began this baseball season by playing the Florida Marlins. They suffered their first loss while playing the Florida Marlins. They absorbed their first serious body blow when they were swept […]