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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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The Magic Is (Perhaps Temporarily) Back

Baseball isn’t really a team game.

We talk of it as if it is one, but with a couple of exceptions (relay throws, hit-and-runs) it’s really a game of individual acts. The pitcher makes his pitch or doesn’t, the batter hits it or doesn’t, a fielder catches it or doesn’t. These individual acts get strung together into the illusion of a group effort — and we imbue this stringing together with qualities that are either impossible to quantify or don’t exist. Our team is hot, is firing on all cylinders, is coming together, and so forth.

This is one of the key lessons of the sabermetic era, exposing a lot of psychobabble and broadcaster bushwah for what it is. I’ve come slowly to appreciate advanced stats: They help me better understand the game I love, which is reason enough to engage with them. Beyond that, they’re excellent for figuring out which players are lucky and which ones are good, as well as which ones are being sabotaged by performance of those around them. And they’re crucial for figuring out how to construct a roster, something the Mets may decide to get better at one of these years.

But for all the usefulness of advanced stats, games and stretches of games and seasons still have storylines. We insist that they must, and so we create them, searching for meaning and constructing it out of whole cloth if need be. So it is with the 2010 Mets. There isn’t any reason I can think of that the 2010 Mets should be a great come-from-behind team — I’m sure it’s a statistical quirk of this very small sampling of games. But as a fan — which is to say an amateur storyteller — that’s what they’ve become. They’ll hang around until the late innings and then jump on you. Dangerous comeback team, these Mets.

And that’s great.

Come-from-behind teams are enormous fun to root for. Cheering for one makes tie games more sweet anticipation than nagging worry, and early deficits become just part of the dramatic arc. You don’t get too down, because you’ve seen again and again that the bad guys will be laid low, patience will be rewarded, and justice will prevail. The certainty that all of this is selective memory makes it no less fun to watch or listen to.

And it’s even more fun when it’s the Braves. The Braves — once the Globetrotters to our Generals — haven’t really been an outsized factor in our baseball lives since Beltran’s march to the sea, but you can root against laundry as easily as you can root for it. And goodness knows you can still root against Bobby Cox.

Cox didn’t come out of the dugout today, probably because if he had the temptation to throttle someone else wearing his uniform would have been too great. He’s retiring at the end of the season, though for most of this afternoon his charges looked like they were trying to get him to storm away from his desk and throw his ID at the harpy from HR before the cake and the speeches. (What do you want to bet Yunel Escobar is locking himself out of his hotel room in a towel right about now?) The Braves have played two days of stupid, with Chipper Jones not a factor and not playing tomorrow, Brian McCann not particularly damaging so far, Met killer in training Jair Jurrjens mastered today and Jason Heyward not yet embarked on what I’m sure will be years of ripping out our hearts.

Meanwhile, for us it was a (relative) lark: Jon Niese was wild and typically Metsian in his inefficiency, but held the Braves down when he needed to, keeping us down just a run for our (is it too early to call it typical?) late-inning charge. Good eye by Ike, long drive by Frenchy, Jose causing trouble on the bases (he’s got to keep Henry Blanco in the SB rearview mirror, after all), a Jason Bay sighting, and a welcome lack of drama from K-Rod, and we were officially a .500 club.

Mediocre never felt so good.

9 comments to The Magic Is (Perhaps Temporarily) Back

  • I think the Mets weren’t as bad as that first couple of weeks. They aren’t going to consistently win 5 out of 6 either. They don’t have the rotation for that. If they can stay at .500 until June they can start to look for a Beltran return and maybe make a trade for a starter and then look to go on a run.

  • Matt from Sunnyside

    Yeah, man! Pelfrey is up today. We have a legitimate shot at sweeping this series.

    The lineup is solid. No one can deny that. I mean, Wright has not looked so great, but he has a history of crappy Aprils. The middle of that lineup, though? Reyes, Wright, Bay, Francoeur, Davis? It’s seriously tough. It could be streaky as hell, but it’s Reyes in front of three proven extra base threats and this new left hander who is looking really good so far. Pagan is no joke at leadoff, I’m one of the few remaining members of the Castillo is a really good #2 hitter fan club, and Rod Barajas hasn’t been much of a threat, but that “I swear to God I will start this lawnmower” swing probably does strike some fear into pitchers prior to the pitcher’s spot.

    It’s already something to contend with, and when Beltran gets back, they’ll really start to do some damage.

    Niese is young. He’s looking good and will figure out how to be more efficient. Pelfrey is looking awesome, and Santana is Santana. Maine has to get healthy and figure it out, but the team has decent options if he can’t get it together. Perez will probably have another season where he strikes out 12 Yankees in a game and gives up 15 runs to the Pirates in two others.

    I’m not saying this is THE season, but it could be a good season. Fun to watch. Lots of likable players. It’ll definitely be better than last year.

  • Steve

    I like the direction of this team, but NY should have signed Piniero (who would have been awesome in Citi!).

    Niese, Maine, and Perez need to go deeper into games to prevent burning up the bullpen though.

    Future INF (next year!)? : How about Davis, Tejada, Reyes, and Wright.

    Future OF?: Bay, Martinez, Francoeur.

    Next year’s rotation should be Santana, Lee, Pelfrey, Niese, and Mejia (send him down soon!).

  • There is no coincidence that with Jose Reyes on the roster and beginning to contribute the rest of the troops begin to bounce a bit and step in line. I think it has certainly helped psychologically as well that Ike Davis came in and has done his thing. Keeps it loose to see another guy come in and enjoy some success I suppose.

    Steve…why would Piniero a ground ball pitcher have been awesome in CitiField? Pineiro pitched for the Mariners in the very spacious SafeCo field, he did not do very well. The guy has had ONE good season in the last six years, signing him would have been the final marker of doom for Omar Minaya, another mediocre guy riding high on one recent success into a hefty contract. The Mets cant afford could be with the next pitcher they acquire, they need will be. Waiting for another front line starter was and is the wise move. If the Mets can keep in the race through the early part of July, they have the pieces and financial capacity to add a difference maker. Just as you list Lee for next year, that is likely the plan, a Butch to Santana’s Cassidy. And if they can add that type of veteran pitcher and Mike Pelfrey keeps it up, he suddenly becomes the best number three starter in the NL.

  • Andee

    For what it’s worth, Piniero got pasted by the Yankees yesterday. So far, it looks like he’s had two good starts and two blecky ones. IOW, if we want some of that, there’s always Dillon Gee.

    I can’t believe the rocks the Braves have pulled in the last couple of days. Never would have happened 10 years ago, at least not against the Mets. (I always thought the Braves in the old days saved up all their energy to beat us, because they always seemed to lose the series they played right after they were done with us.) At least these Mets aren’t beating themselves much this year, which is some kinda improvement.

  • CharlieH

    I think a huge difference is that the Mets are really CATCHING that ball, if not neccessarilly knocking those homeruns over the wall.

  • Steve

    You guys might be right about Piniero. I guess I’m not sure Gee or Dickey is the answer if Maine and/or Perez are not.

    I am sold on Lee (if healthy) for a killer rotation next year.

    But why are the Mets wasting Mejia in the pen? Maybe they think that Gee will be the answer next year!

  • Tom in Sunnyside

    Regrettably the Mets recent run has coincided with a period of time where I’ve been too busy to catch more than an inning or two of a game. Predictably the Mets have done poorly during those few innings and better the rest of the time.

    I am now accepting offers of cash and other favors to not watch Mets games on days when people are going to CitiField.

  • Joe D.

    Something defying all logic must be going when 1) Pelfrey allows a multitude of baserunners yet still comes away with five innings of shutout ball and 2) we lead the league in walks yet are fourth in team ERA.