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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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Average Is Awesome

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 New York Mets, just a bump here and a dip there from being the most average team in existence.

They’re 22-22. They’ve scored 180 runs and given up 180 runs, making their Expected Win-Loss record 22-22. They’re 10-12 at home, 12-10 on the road. They’re 9-8 during the day, 13-14 at night. On turf they’re 0-0.

Boy are they average. And boy are we excited about it.

Yes, the Buffalo Soldiers rode to another improbable victory, knocking off the Yankees (swiftly becoming a much more expensive version of average) in a 2-1 affair that seemed more sluggish than taut, even with the Sturm and Drang of playing for THE FATE OF THE UNIVERSE. As happened with Greg, this year’s Subway Series snuck up on me, and after proclaiming that I didn’t particularly care I of course wound up firing middle fingers at the screen, screeching obscenities at random fans on TV and running to Twitter to call Lee Mazzilli a hideous godless traitor for consorting with Brian Cashman. I know I’m finally back in psycho kamikaze Mets fan mode when I note the all-time Subway Series record, scowl and immediately calculate how many years of sweeps it would take us to even things, followed by a slightly more realistic calculation that includes a bunch of 4-2 years with a handful of 3-3s. (Answer: Gonna be a little while. Hang in there.)

I kept waiting for R.A. Dickey, Freddy Garcia or both to implode — neither looked particularly impressive to my eyes, though I admit I know so little about knuckleballers that I can only judge how they’re doing by the percentage of knuckleballs that wind up nestled safely in gloves. (I suppose this is a veteran fan’s version of waiting until it stops rolling and picking it up.) Neither the Mets’ nor the Yankees’ hitters looked terribly sharp, either: There were cheapies falling in all over the place, from Mark Teixeira’s hometown special of a homer to infield hits to bunts to safe calls on outs to Justin Turner’s parachute double, which Nick Swisher was fortunate to swat into the stands while eating dirt. I devoutly hope Turner is buying Lotto tickets at every newsstand he passes — he’s having that kind of stretch, and please nobody pinch him lest he wake up. Happily, the Mets’ brief flurry of critical hits were all thoroughly legitimate: back-to-back doubles by Fernando Martinez and Turner, and Daniel Murphy’s golf-shot homer down the left-field line. (Not that we would have minded dinks and dunks and other less impressive ways to win.)

Impressive too was the work of Mike O’Connor (who looks vaguely like an accountant out there but so far succeeds), Jason Isringhausen and the suddenly utterly reliable model citizen Francisco Rodriguez — that vesting option is still ludicrously stupid, but it would take a really determined effort at bitterness to complain about it right now.

For sentimental reasons, though, the performance that made me happiest was Izzy’s. Izzy was a Met in 1997, when interleague play began, but he was on the shelf and never faced the Yankees that inaugural year. In 1999 he faced the Yanks once, in a 6-3 loss at Shea I remember nothing about, racking up 1.1 innings in relief. But that was it for him in the Subway Series: Soon after that he was gone to Oakland, we assumed never to return.

That Izzy was the young, dumb Izzy of Generation K. You remember: He was the one Bill Pulsipher warned us was crazy (which was something coming from Pulse) and who more than proved it, whether it was airing out his pitching arm making long throws in the outfield, attempting drunken climbs between apartment-building balconies or playing for a strip club’s softball team while rehabbing one of his many injuries. It was cute at first, then less and less so, until finally it didn’t matter. I thought of that Izzy tonight as I watched the man who had replaced him, an Izzy who’s thicker (it’s OK, so am I) but also has become a thinker.

The fascinating battle was with Alex Rodriguez, whom Izzy moved around the plate until he’d poked a hole in his defenses that was perfect for the knuckle curve. When a veteran pitcher has command of his arsenal and knows what he’s doing out there, you’re reminded that baseball is designed for the hitter to fail most of the time. A-Rod may be the greatest player I’ll ever see on a field, but he was playing catch-up, and for him to succeed he needed Izzy to make a mistake, which Izzy didn’t do.

On some level all of us who were Mets fans in the mid-1990s will always mourn that the hurler we dreamed would be Tom Seaver turned out — like Pulse and Paul Wilson — to be Gary Gentry instead. But Gentry, pitching before Tommy John surgery, could never really return from a wrecked elbow. Medical science gave Izzy that chance, and to our surprise he took it. He grew up and thrived elsewhere before coming home — not as the prodigal son, but in a smaller but still critical role. And tonight he succeeded on the biggest, brassiest, silliest regular-season stage we have.

It’s not the stuff that gets your number on the wall or a day in your honor before the trip to Cooperstown — those possibilities dissolved for Izzy long ago. But it’s pretty nice anyway.

9 comments to Average Is Awesome

  • Will in Central NJ

    After the torment of 2009 and that of the 2nd half of 2010 (not to mention 2007 and 2008), Average can certainly feel Awesome, Jason. And, why not? Any physicists among us (is Jay Hook in the house?) will verify that our vector has magnitude and direction, and it’s pointing upward. Let’s enjoy it. Let’s go Mets!

  • I have to admit I went into this game with a ” hey, its just another ballgame attitude”. However I found myself acting in quite a different way as the game shaped up as it did..I cant lie, it ment more to me to be playing in the Bronx and winning in the Bronx..Bless you boys!
    Rich P

  • harv sibley

    Is it me or was the Text message homer contestable? Was it fan interference? Would Collins contest it? i need to see it on replay…….

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    Its always a great day when you beat the Skanks, especially in the Bronx. Just fighting for a little respect here!

    It seems that the luster of interleague play has worn off alot. There is almost a ground swell going against it! If you had told me that once Met/Skank games started that they would not even come close to selling out I would have never believed you.

    As you lead up up it sounds like “Just another game”. But once you see them on the field, if you are a true Met fan, you have to take your fandom up to the next level!


  • Joe D.

    Felt great seeing Dickey come back, especially against all those left handed hitters with the short porch in right which we saw work for Texada (would have been a short fly to right at Citi Field — Murphy’s shot might not have made it in Flushing, either though it was hit close to the line so it evened out). Notice R.A.’s reaction after the great play by Reyes? Can’t recall ever seeing him let it hang out like KRod does.

    Talking about KRod, he was booed tremendously by those of us in the stands on opening day (not by me, though I wanted to – I more or less just let out a groan). Don’t think any one of us would do the same today while biting out tongues wanting the Mets to dump him last August.

    We’re obviously not going to be able to score just six runs in three consecutive games and win all three, however, we are hanging in there until Davis returns next week shortly followed by Pagan and David.

  • […] We get no more than a nugget here or there to keep us going — an obscure achievement; a middling milestone; a face in the crowd that makes us smile for a night or two at most. What I’m coming to […]