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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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Mets Loss Considered Mildly Surprising

The Mets used to go down to defeat pretty easily. At best, they practiced a form of passive-aggressive behavior that dared otherwise reluctant opponents to remain on the field long enough to incidentally vanquish them. It often manifested in 15- or 20-inning episodes of offensive ineptitude, but you didn’t leave those losses feeling that if not for this, that or the other thing, they might have won. You knew in your bones they were going straight to L.

Your relatively new and slightly improved Mets have learned to inject doubt into their outcomes. Tuesday night on the side of Chicago where they hadn’t ventured in eleven years, you honestly couldn’t tell whether the Mets were going to win or lose until they actually lost. I wouldn’t call it a moral victory, but it made for a more suspenseful, entertaining setback than the kind we grew used to in the days of Cowgill, Ankiel, Laffey and whoever else is suddenly long gone.

Come to think of it, the predictably vagabond aren’t the only ones whose deletion from the blue and orange tableau have coincided with the club’s recent quasi-winning ways. We’re temporarily deprived of presumed staples Tejada, Duda, Davis, Niese and Turner, yet we’re having as close to a blast as we’ve had in ages. No offense Ruben, Lucas, Ike, Jonathon and Justin. We’re fairly certain we’ll need you in the long term and that the journeyman types with whom we’ve grown modestly infatuated lately are going to wear out their welcomes as their key stat lines plummet intolerably, but…um…hey, get well, you familiar fellows! I’m sure it’s not your fault that I’ve come to associate each of you with the morass of dull and constant losing and I don’t miss any of you at the moment.

In the meantime, the Mets of Eric Young, Josh Satin, Andrew Brown, David Aardsma and Carlos Torres, to name five contributors who weren’t much or at all on the radar when June commenced, are getting it done or nearly getting it done or deluding me into believing they’re nearly getting it done. How can you not love the once-lethargic Mets of 2013 morphing into the Go-Go Sox of 1959? OK, the Mets struck out as much against Chris Sale as Nellie Fox did against the entire American League the year the Pale Hose won the pennant, but when we occasionally got guys on, they wreaked a little havoc and somehow scored four runs.

The fourth run, after Sale mercifully departed, was the doozy of the bunch. David Wright — who has fit snugly with every group of Mets dating back to the one that included Shane Spencer, Richard Hidalgo and current White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing — was on second after singling and stealing, the Mets needing one to tie in the ninth. Marlon Byrd (who earlier made a catch Ron Darling correctly compared to Ron Swoboda’s) didn’t drive David in. Nor did Satin, who had brought Wright home in the first. The last chance the Mets had was Daniel Murphy, pinch-hitting as you imagine he might if he ever lands on a serious contender. Murph seemed poised, in my mind anyway, to deliver big off the bench.

Well, he didn’t. He delivered high, though: a mighty pop fly a shade southeast of the mound. Sox closer Addison Reed…and how the hell is there an “Addison” in Chicago not pitching for the Cubs?…pointed toward the sky, confirming for his infielders that, yes, a ball was up there somewhere. It wasn’t much in the way of guidance, but how much was necessary? Somebody simply had to call it, catch and put it in the wrong set of books.

That somebody was an amalgam of third baseman Conor Gillaspie and second baseman Gordon Beckham, which is to say Gillaspie called it and Beckham tried to catch it but instead transformed from a middle infielder into a free safety, tackling Gillaspie around the ankles and allowing the ball to touch U.S. Cellular grass. Wright ran his All-Star legs off and crossed the plate. Son of a gun, it was a tie game.

Then it was a loss in the bottom of the ninth for the third time on this trip, when LaTroy Hawkins did what one generally expects LaTroy Hawkins to do, which sounds rather pessimistic but really means that when he exceeds expectations it’s quite the joy. Alas, there was less joy in Soxville than there could have been Tuesday had Sale not fanned 13 would-be hitters over eight innings. The Mets were walked off upon again and rookie sensation Zack Wheeler strangely resembled some 23-year-old pitcher making his second career start (the nerve of him).

But Young speedily manufactured a run in the first and Brown homered in the fifth and Torres and Josh Edgin effectively held the fort and Jordany Valdespin and a repositioned Young each made nice plays at second while Murph rested and Wheeler probably has at least one more career start to prove himself worthy of immediate official t-shirt distribution. The Mets continue to be highly watchable and somewhat plausible. When your team is 30-43, faint praise beats no praise at all.

As long as we’re trying on our old optimism to see if it still fits, come join me at Manhattan’s conveniently located Bergino Baseball Clubhouse (E. 11th St. between Broadway and University Place, just south of a multitude of Union Square subway stops) for a discussion of The Happiest Recap at 7 o’clock tonight and stick around to watch Shaun Marcum earn his first win in a New York Mets uniform. OK, I can’t guarantee that result, but I’ll go out on a limb and declare that if you drop by, you’ll have a good time in good company.

12 comments to Mets Loss Considered Mildly Surprising

  • Steve D

    An amalgam of Luis Castillo also…and they still managed to lose.

    The odds of Wheeler being as good as Harvey has been in his first 25 starts are astronomical. He looks like an unfinished product by comparison. Marketing them as equals is a desperation move that may even backfire and affect the kid. The Mets are going through a relative hot streak (for them) into the All-star game, but it would be a mistake for Met fans not to expect a typical terrible second half from this team…and be pleasantly surprised if we don’t get it.

  • Richie

    I have very little confidence in Mr. Hawkins right now. I have to admitt, due my tempered expectations in off season personnel moves, I was excited when we signed him. I think I prefer the spectacular blow ups of a Manny Acosta to the tourtourously workmanlike foul ups of Latroy.

  • Dave

    Knew a loss was inevitable as soon as the unjustifiable LaTroy Hawkins reported for 9th inning duty, but I was just happy to see the Mets on the good end of an unbelievably stupid play for a change. So it’s not just us.

  • dmg

    let’s not forget, hawkins was his own worst enemy (and the team’s). that stupid error on the sacrifice gave the sox the extra out they needed to win the damn ball game.

  • March'62

    You knew in your bones they were going straight to L.
    I can’t believe I’ve never thought of that before.
    When you expect so little, moral victories are nice. Of course, once Wally and his staff take over, moral victories won’t hack it, but for now they help us get thru the season. Remember how in ’84 we promoted our AAA manager to help guide all of the young players that he had managed in the minors? Guys like Wheeler and Davis and Satin and the catcher (can’t be bothered looking up the spelling of his name) will feel at home next year. Now if we could only trade Neil Allen for Keith Hernandez, Mike Fitzgerald for Gary Carter, and Walt Terrell for Howard Johnson we’ll be on our way. Nu Sandy?

  • Joe D.

    If the Mets hung on to win this game after getting a Castillo-type gift, then I would think the team is onto something and could perhaps salvage something for the season other than just looking beyond it for hope.

    As far as Zack goes, no matter how much the hoopla the Mets are trying to make of him, no matter how high he has been ranked, he still is wild and all over the plate. Doesn’t matter what stuff he has – it is indeed electric – because in his near four years of professional ball he has not learned to control his stuff consistently enough to make him more than just a thrower and reach the potential so many predict for him.

    Some progress should be seen but the pitches that were non-strikes quite often were way off the plate. Still plenty of time for him to master his control more but it needs to be done in order to become the pitcher he could rather than that thrower. Again, it’s not so much the walks and pitches thrown as it how off the plate many of his pitches can be – not even on the black.

    That is a legit concern.

    • March'62

      From Wikipedia: Nolan Ryan ranks high on the list for four “negative” records; he ranks first all-time in walks allowed (2,795), first in wild pitches (277), third in losses (292—most in the post-1920 live-ball era), and ninth in hit batters (158). He often had trouble throwing strikes, [and] he wasn’t any good at fielding his position”. Ryan’s .309 on base percentage against wasn’t even close to being in the top 100.

      Maybe we should be a little patient with Wheeler.

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