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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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Pleasantly Warm in Cleveland

I was checking my trusty 2010 Mets pocket schedule and every single last one of the boxes — be it orange, bronze, silver, gold, platinum or road gray — indicates we play OPP. Naughty By Nature notwithstanding, that’s shorthand for Opponent. I don’t care if everybody else’s 2010 Mets pocket schedule says we’re following BAL by playing CLE, or that both prominently feature L in their abbreviation scheme. The point is the Mets play who they play, and since last Thursday when Jon Niese one-hit SD, they’ve been compelled to collect WWW after WWW. We’ll take ’em as they deal ’em.

If we didn’t, we’d be the first team in the history of this grand game (give or take a few crooked Eight Men Out types) to refuse wins we earned. And make no mistake, we earned ours Wednesday night at Progressive Field, even if the earning was simply a matter of handing Mitch Talbot a baseball and our hitting it to various of his teammates who wore, as they used to say of Michael Jackson, one glove for no apparent reason.

The Indians appear to be a supbar baseball team, which is to say they’re better than the Orioles and worse than almost everybody else. Both teams are OPP to us, however. That’s who we are to everybody we play. Last year we were desperately subpar. I don’t recall any of the teams who beat up on NYM in 2009 filing a protest with the commissioner’s office that outscoring the Mets wasn’t worthy of a W or three.

Got an issue with the caliber of the competition? That’s a different OPP: Other People’s Problems.

Yet here I sit, hours after watching the Mets remain pleasantly warm in Cleveland, attempting to come to grips with the notion that we’re hot. Of course we’re hot. We’ve won six in a row, ten of eleven, 17 of 22. You don’t need Paris Hilton to tell you that’s hot. Yet…

Could it be real? Could the Mets really be this good? These Mets over whom we doomed and gloomed all winter and during every previous road trip, including the one directly prior to the current expedition? Or is it just circumstantial, a matter of playing the dreadful Orioles and lousy Indians after a 5-1 homestand which itself only proved so much because we almost always win at home (as if that was pre-ordained)?

How did Angel Pagan become a heads-up baseball player? When did Jeff Francoeur turn into a generally liability-free batter? How has Jason Bay managed to not produce all that much yet seem reasonably productive? Why is it not nonsenscial to suggest Rod Barajas is an All-Star? Whatever happened to that solemn post I came thisclose to writing less than a month ago about bracing for the day we might have to move on from one or both of David Wright and Jose Reyes? Why don’t Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada seem like rookies? And when did Jon Niese become Jon Matlack?

This has been a fun trip to Baltimore and Cleveland. The five wins in five tries have been fun, but more than that, it’s been the height of fun to realize we are so much better than other teams, even these other teams to this point. We’re nine games over .500. Even if it’s based on beating up on teams that are, respectively, struggling under .400 and .300, it’s still lofty territory for a franchise whose final winning percentage last year was a scuffling .432. The O’s and the Tribe are on the schedule, right? It’s when you don’t beat teams like that enough that you become one of them.

It wasn’t so long ago we took the ability of the Mets to lord it over lousy teams as implicit. For three recent seasons we were indisputably one of the better clubs in baseball. We expected to beat teams like these Orioles and these Indians. It was when we didn’t that it was Angst City all night long. Now we beat them, and we beat OPP 17 of 22 times, and it doesn’t quite feel real. Yet the standings say it is. Maybe “real” isn’t the word I seek. Is “legitimate”? Well, the games aren’t fixed, so yeah, it’s legit. Will the Mets cruise less when they play a markedly better brand of OPP, which they’ll be doing beginning Friday and continuing to do for several weeks?

I guess we’ll see. I didn’t see 5-0 on the road, 10-1 since we looked significantly shy of par in Milwaukee and San Diego and 17-5 overall. I didn’t see 37-28 after 65 games, certainly not after the season began with tangible doses of Gary Matthews, Jr., Mike Jacobs and Frank Catalanotto, to say nothing of getting almost nothing from John Maine and less than nothing from Oliver Perez. The 2009 Mets peaked at seven games over .500, and even when they sat briefly at that high water mark, I didn’t believe they were that good. The 2010 Mets are nine games over .500 for the first time and I have no idea how good they could be.

Per the Field formerly known as Jacobs, that’s a happily progressive way of viewing the world when we WIN.

29 comments to Pleasantly Warm in Cleveland

  • Andee

    I didn’t see 37-28 after 65 games, certainly not after the season began with tangible doses of Gary Matthews, Jr., Mike Jacobs and Frank Catalanotto

    Meh. I knew those guys were going to last about as long as Dick Tidrow and Mike Torrez did on the ’84 team. Most teams will go with the Proven Veteran over the Untried Rook, especially if doing so delays the latter’s service time. Also, Mike Jacobs wouldn’t have made the team, in all likelihood, if Daniel Murphy hadn’t been injured. Certainly he wouldn’t have been starting. And Matthews was only there because they thought Beltran would be out for only a month. I figured there’d be big-time roster turnover this year, and there has been. Yay.

    Now, all they have to do is figure out where they’re going to stash Maine and Perez. The latter will probably manage to stay injured for a while, but Maine has to be activated after 30 days in rehab. Hoo boy…

    • One kewpie doll for prescience on your part. Nevertheless, I just looked at a box score from a few weeks ago and “Matthews” stuck out like a sore thumb. Not that somebody else won’t be a sore thumb eventually, but it’s nice to have five delightfully unsore fingers at the moment.

  • Andee

    I think they were playing Matthews hoping he’d temporarily catch fire long enough for some other team to accept him in a trade. It wasn’t necessarily a bad idea to try to showcase him…if he had any sand left in his hourglass, which he didn’t. He sure got a nice payday for one hot year, though.

  • I wouldn’t even say we’re hot. We’re not that hot, collectively, as a team. we’re very warm, and the pitching is hot, but a lot of it’s just that these teams are not good. San Diego, if your pitching is hot that’s all you need. These last 5 games the Mets temperature could’ve been slightly elevated and they would’ve won.

    Which just means they could still play _better_

    • Andee

      Don’t forget that 2 of 3 from the Padres is part of this streak; maybe the Padres are a mirage, but for a mirage, they sure have some sick pitching. And the Marlins…well, they might not be world-beaters, but this time we swept them. The first series of the year, at home, they got us two out of three.

      I’ll take 5-4 against the Stinkees, Tigers, and Twins, and I think that’s completely doable considering the latter two series are in our yard.

  • March'62

    Oh it’s real baby!!! This team is a great example of what chemistry can do in the clubhouse. Minaya always went out and got great athletes but they always seemed to lack maturity/baseball smarts/enthusiasm. Uptight was the demeanor of the team and not where the pitchers were throwing. Now we have a relaxed, happy team that still has loads of talent. Watch out! Cause here we come!!

  • SJGMoney

    We continue to do what we are supposed to do in beating these bad teams, rejoice!!! We have been playing good for a while, even during the previous road trip when you factor in that two blown saves by KRod reversed what should have been a 4-2 trip.

    This team is infinitely more likable than last year, the young blood, the hustle, the easy to root for underdogs like RA Dickey. Players like him, Pagan, Barajas are our roots along with promising young guys like Tejada, Davis and Niese. This blend is our history and why I am actually excited about this year. I don’t know whether we are simply this good or simply this hot and don’t care. This team is fun to watch!!! Bullies!!!!

  • Craig Swandive

    I can the Mets are streaky. How else to describe the rise from last to first, then the unxplainable drop back to last, then this rise back to the top? But this time the streak is lasting longer.

  • CharlieH

    I have a lot of hope in this squad. I can’t yet say “confidence:” I need to see where they stand around the All-Star break to get a better read, AND I want to see what happens when they finally get ULTIMATELY smart and send Jenrry back to the minorrs.

    That being said, all they need to do to win 90 games is play .550 ball the rest of the way — that’s only going 11-9 every 20, which is eminently doable.

    Meanwhile, this is a lot of fun right now, and I did say this weeks ago: 2005, man…2005.

    • March'62

      I think the level of play in the NL East will require at least 95 wins to win the division.

      The claim that the Mets envision Mejia as the closer of the future (or maybe by the end of this year if Oy-Vey Rod continues with his Benitez impressions) is still no excuse not to send him down. Let him be the closer in Buffalo for a few months. I think Jerry will agree to let him go down now.

      • CharlieH

        He should be a starter. Send him down now and he can be Opie’s replacement next year.

      • no way it takes 95 wins. If the Mets get to 95 wins they’ll be able to relax that last Nats series and set up the playoff rotation any way they want.

      • Guy Kipp

        I don’t think it will take 95 wins to take the division precisely because of the top-to-bottom competitiveness of the division. Which of these teams can win 95 games? None, I don’t think. I doubt anybody in the division will lose close to 90 either.
        In 2005, the Nationals finished last with an 81-81 record. That’s what the division is shaping up as this year.

  • Gary in the UK

    So we’re in one of two camps, this is great but it’ll turn to poop sometime soon or this is great, hope it lasts. Who wants to start a third? This is great and it’ll stay great because we are a TEAM – a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Join me!

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by You Gotta Believe!, Greg Prince. Greg Prince said: The #Mets are downing all OPP, making it pleasantly warm in Cleveland. […]

  • Joe D.

    Unlike the talented players of past seasons, these guys have baseball smarts and play together as a unit, an essential ingredient often over-looked and not found in the statistics. For eight years the Yankees proved one could have the best players but not the best team. The Oakland As of the early seventies proved one might not have the best players but still the best team.

    Of course, one dilemma is what happens when Beltran returns from the disabled list. Pagan has been playing a great centerfield and has proven he can hit, coming off last year when his average was .306 and again now for last I saw his bat was worth one run per game (runs scored plus RBIs minus homers). He is also going on 29 whereas Beltran is already 33. And other than Wright and Reyes, the overwhelming majority these guys have played alongside Angel and not Carlos. Does one break the links that are holding the team together so well?

    One more aspect of the Pagan/Beltran question has to do with that other intangible ingredient necessary to produce winners – the combination leadership, character and guts. Beltran is still part of that group that had little of either come those two past Septembers when we fell apart. Today’s group (other than Wright and Reyes who are younger and maturing) does not have that (as of yet) appearing on their resume.

    What is usually a good problem for managers (having more good position players than necessary) might not be one that Jerry can resolve so easily unless being out too long means Carlos would not have the strength, stamina and timing to perform to full capacity down the stretch.

  • Eric B.

    Skepticism/caution is part of what it means to be a Mets fan. We’ve seen this team (the 2010 Mets!, not even last year), have two sustained periods of awfulness already this year. To assume that’s over because of “clubhouse chemistry” requires an act of will that most Mets fans, myself included, are not going to be able to muster. After collapses in ’07 and ’08, a disaster in ’09, and a rollercoaster so far in ’10, the notion that it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out just sounds ludicrous.

    Basically, it comes down to whether or not you believe in the pitching. Santana is the closest thing we have to sure thing. Pelfrey certainly seems to be in the same category thus far in ’10 (but do we believe it?). After that, it’s anybody’s guess. I mostly believe in Jon Niese, kinda/sorta hopefully believe in R.A. Dickey to be at least decent….and have little faith in Maine/Perez/Takahashi. If 4 out of 5 of our starting pitchers went south over the remainder of the year, I wouldn’t be shocked…(and almost expect 2 out of 5 to). For that reason, consumer confidence cannot be at an all time high.

    • March'62

      I think you need to have a long talk with Gary in the UK

    • Joe D.

      Hi Eric,

      I was thinking more in terms of this group playing as a team and executing the fundamentals. No more players standing at home plate admiring long fly balls only to be thrown out at second base or hold up at first. No more running to third on a groundball hit to short. No more intentionally missing the cut-off man. No more fielders not calling off the other and bumping into each other. In other words, no more “swagger”. That takes working as a unit and holding each other accountable inside the clubhouse – something the previous few years we failed to do.

      It might not be enough to sustain a drive to post-season but at least we’re no longer beating ourselves.

      • Eric B

        Things like “chemistry” and “fundamentals” are subject to critique and anger when the team is losing. When they’re winning, everything seems fine. I think the “winning” and the “losing” come before the chemistry, not as a result.

  • dmg

    the mets have been streaky before, but not like this: a bipolar season.

    are they as good as this? are they as bad as they’ve shown? the answer, to both questions, is yes.

    they take us high, they bring us low; in this streaky year, i don’t think that changes. still, we might as well enjoy this irrationally exuberant run for as long as we can get away with it.

  • […] Mets won and I skipped giddily upstairs to write about it was after the game of June 16 when it was Pleasantly Warm in Cleveland. That was a very long time ago. Until Sunday, I’d been stuck, by nothing more than luck of the […]

  • […] of the Mets who were once 2010 contenders. Didn’t hurt that the visiting Pirates reminded me of the Orioles and Indians from that same distant period when we were steaming […]