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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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Like Tom Terrific Said

One of the formative stories for me as a Mets fan comes from 1969. As it’s told in George Vecsey’s marvelous Joy in Mudville, after the Mets reached 18-18 with a win over the Braves, reporters entered the clubhouse expecting “a wild champagne party,” but found the Mets drinking postgame beers and sodas as usual. According to Vecsey, Jack Lang asked Tom Seaver why the team wasn’t celebrating, to which Seaver replied, “What’s so good about .500? That’s only mediocre. We didn’t come into this season to play .500 ball. I’m tired of the jokes about the old Mets. Let Rod Kanehl and Marvelous Marv laugh about the Mets. We’re out here to win. You know when we’ll have champagne? When we win the pennant.”

Even as a kid, I kind of doubted anyone had actually expected a wild champagne party in May, but I knew that wasn’t the important part of the story. The part that mattered was Seaver’s cool, slightly imperious statement, which struck me then as full of wisdom about leadership, expectations and effort, and I suppose still does.

But this year .500 has become a peculiar measure — a mark the Mets just can’t seem to rise above no matter how hard they try. They’ve been above it for all of four days, back in the first week of April, when their high-water mark was a mighty 3-1. They’ve been at it six times. The first three deserve an early-season asterisk: April 2 (1-1), April 7 (3-3) and April 9 (4-4). Those days were followed by a plunge into dark, cold waters, with the lowest sounding at 5-13 on April 20. Remarkably, the Mets then fought all the way back to .500, re-achieving the meh-gical mark on May 20 (22-22) against the Yankees. They didn’t get back there until June 15 (34-34), and have now regained equal footing on June 26, at 39-39.

Don’t get me wrong: To get back to level against the big, bad Texas Rangers is an impressive feat, particularly considering the Rangers bashed seven home runs in the three-game series while the Mets countered with zero, instead bedeviling the Rangers with about a billion singles. Also helping today: well-timed solid defensive play and horrific umpiring, all of which went against Texas. Listening to the game while gallivanting around the city on various missions, I often couldn’t hear Wayne Hagin (rats) over the sustained booing. Later, I was amused to learn that Terry Collins, apparently perfectly happy to look a gift horse in the mouth, had tried to persuade the umps to eject Michael Young after they ran Elvis Andrus and Ron Washington. A guy who’ll push for that kind of advantage when it’s eleventy-billion degrees in Dallas certainly doesn’t need Jeff Wilpon barging into the clubhouse looking for a buffet to overturn because he’s feeling old school.

So the Mets are back at .500, with an off-day before heading to Detroit. I assume there was no wild champagne party this time either, for all the reasons Tom Terrific had to offer 42 years ago. .500’s nothing, even if it does come with the likes of Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda filling in. .500 is a foundation, not a house. Let Jason Phillips and Ty Wigginton laugh about the Mets. I want them to be out there to win.

If they hit .506, on the other hand, I’m breaking out the bubbly. Because that would feel fricking spectacular.

8 comments to Like Tom Terrific Said

  • 1969 Mets reached that .500 milestone after 36 games. By this stage of the season (78 games in), they were 10 above. I’m fairly certain that 1969 team was a tad better than this one. But it was also better than every team it played, ultimately.

    (And we sure do love that anecdote around here.)

  • BlackCountryMet

    Well, what a bizarre three games. Watched the 1st one in full, on Sat afternoon and wasn’t overly surprised, hey they hit, we don’t so sort of accepted this was gonna be that kind of sries. However, Sat and Sunday, WOW!! The sort of baseball we’ve not played in a good few years and Tery Collins can take credit for this. We may not have some of these players for long, so I’m gonna enjoy them whilst they’re here.(Beltran,Reyes) I can see some good players emerging as well(Gee, Tejada,Duda) and whilst there WILL be dark periods in the next couple of seasons, I see the possibilities of a strong line up down the road. Tough series against the Tygs on the way and then the Evil Empire to come, gonna be an interesting week!!

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    What irked me about that comment even 42 years ago was Tom referring to Rod Kanehal and Marvelous Marv. Publicly talking about them laughing about losses was an unintentional put-down and didn’t show respect to fellow professionals. Despite all the losses and bad play, the jokes were made by the sports writers and fans, never the players. In fact, Richie Ashburn put it best about his fellow 1962 originals saying they showed character by taking the field each day with their heads up high.

  • Dave

    Let’s just hope that with a grownup in charge now, .500 and what, about 7th place in the wildcard race doesn’t make them feel like they’re in a pennant race as the trading deadline approaches. Trading prospects for a set-up man or a 3rd tier 2nd baseman is not going to translate into an October ticker-tape parade.

  • dmg

    glad they have a day off. would love to see them gather themselves and push ahead over .500, then go from there.

    two of three from the rangers, with series against the first place tigers, skanks and phillies all coming up. as noted, these are critical weeks. but i want the team to do well — better than well, if possible — to limit management’s ability to make too many changes. i honestly care less about this season than the next few, when there’ll be new ownership with fresh reserves of dough to make the additions that will be needed for the team.

  • Ed Rising

    I thought of Seaver’s remark also with all the fuss about .500. I don’t know if its PR or not, but Cohen and Darling have both commented that this group of players are very level headed and are able to take each new game as they come without distraction of failure or succes. I like our chances if not to necessarily win the division/wild card – but to stay right in it and hope we can add a few pieces rather then selling as the trade deadline approaches. Still I’ll take a little of the old ’69 Mets spirit: Why not the Mets?

  • James Allen

    .500 is too obsessed over. I know it’s a nice obvious signpost, but all it means is the bar is being set fairly low.

    And to comment on something else I saw yesterday; in 2011, 25 years after the Mets 1986 World Championship, we get to see Gooden and Strawberry together again in New York on Old Timer’s Day- in Yankee uniforms. Life sure takes strange turns, doesn’t it? Next thing you’re going to tell me is that Gooden pitched a no-hitter in one of those uniforms… wait, what? Sigh.