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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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Close Enough

A person might ask another person, “How are you?” or “What’s up?” or “Excuse me, does this train go to Woodside?” (I get asked that one a lot). I’m convinced the idle question asked more than any other of Jon Niese always begins, “Jon, how frustrating is it that…?”

Sunday I watched Niese pitch well enough to win for a team that scores runs but poorly enough to lose for the Mets. As usual, Niese strung together a row of zeroes to match his opposite number — in this case Jordan Zimmermann — and as usual there was eventually a partially self-induced problem (hesitant coverage of first base) that led to a booming extra-base hit (Wilson Ramos’s home run) that led to inevitable defeat (three-zip).

And afterward, when reporters gathered around his locker, I heard him asked, same as he ever is, about his level of frustration. I’m sure I’ve heard that query issued every five or so days for the past several years. And Niese always says nothing I can remember, which is fine. He’s entitled to both his private frustrations and his limited articulations. I wish he’d get to bags quicker or throw to fielders better, but he wishes somebody would knock in a few runs on his behalf.

The other expression that caught my ear in the postgame was Terry Collins declaring his club is “very, very close,” not to the offseason or a breathtakingly large jar of industrial-strength hallucinogenics, but to competing with the first-place Washington Nationals. Those are the same Nationals who have beaten the Mets 13 of 16 times in 2014, home and away; the same Nationals who officially eliminated the Mets from division title contention (on the off chance you were holding out hope); the same Nationals who are comprised of irritatingly superb baseball players.

Y’know what? Sure, why not? The Mets are close to the Nationals. The Mets are close to the Orioles and the Angels and any of the handful of powerhouses baseball has produced this year, too. All the Mets need is Matt Harvey to automatically return to the exact form he displayed before his elbow started giving him problems, and that’s a lock. They need Zack Wheeler to economize his pitch count, and that will happen because we want it to. They need Jacob deGrom to have no hiccups; Noah Syndergaard to burst through the Super Two wall fully matured and immune to injury; every reliever (including sore-shouldered Vic Black) to not regress one bit; Niese to suddenly grasp the ancillary fundamentals associated with his position; Wright and Granderson to reverse frightening declines; Flores and maybe Herrera to blossom on the spot; d’Arnaud, Duda and Lagares to spiral only upward; Murphy to fit in their budget; lawsuits to not cost anybody a dime, Giancarlo Stanton to fall in their lap; and the Nationals to decide they prefer soccer.

If all that happens, they’re close. If a little of it happens here and there, well, it might not catapult them past Washington ASAP, but as a member in good standing of The Middle, maybe a modest Metropolitan step up in class won’t be out of the question in 2015. Instead of super-fringy delusions of contention, maybe actual fringy contention. Instead of exceeding 71 wins, maybe surpass 81 wins. I didn’t scoff as much when I heard Collins project the Mets’ closeness as I did in the above paragraph because there have been legitimate flickers of progress these past few months and, besides, the National League doesn’t encompass that many certifiable worldbeaters.

But the Mets as we know them at the moment are not remotely close to the Nationals as we know them at the moment. The good news is “at the moment” won’t matter in two weeks. The bad news is next year is always next year and we haven’t had a next year worth a damn in close to a decade.

How frustrating is that?

7 comments to Close Enough

  • Lenny65

    Very frustrating. We all know exactly what’s wrong with this team, the big question is: will the Wilpons do what it takes to address the Mets obvious needs or will they be more concerned with whatever it is they worry about? They can’t keep trying to sell us “next year”…or can they? Would you put it past them? Plus we’ve never seen them handle a relative wealth of prospective talent like they have now. Are they capable of that or will they (gulp) squander it away? It scares me, quite frankly.

    And yeah, they’re a few good bats away from being a FRINGE contender, at best. You eke your way into a WC spot and with solid pitching, who knows? But “contending” on a serious elite level? Let’s try finishing a game or two over .500 first, then we’ll talk.

    • Rob

      From where I sit, the question marks are at SS and LF. If we upgrade there and we’re still FRINGE at best, who else do you get rid of out of d’Arnaud, Duda, Murphy/Herrera, Wright, Lagares and Granderson to upgrade? Not so easy, is it? I think there is still a lot of growth here. Yes, a big bat would help, but if a new season started TODAY, this same exact team (assuming a healthy Wright…even a 2013 version) is an above .500 team moving forward, and that’s not even taking Harvey into account, and not even counting Syndergaard or any other prospects (whether they be contributors or trade chips).

      • Rob D.

        I have mentioned this in a previous post. If Wright and Granderson did what they were “supposed” to, this team lands the 2nd WC.

  • Dave

    Yeah, everything will be ok as soon as everything goes right. But a team that goes 50-112 could say the same thing. Problem is that forget everything going right. Since Endy Chavez’s catch, nothing has gone right (big picture right; 6/1/12 was great but it’s not like it brought the team any sustained good fortune).

    There are teams who are already good who will try to improve this winter. Meanwhile we get reminders from Alderson that money doesn’t equal winning. But if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. Unless Matt Harvey has transformed into a left fielder who can drive in 125 runs or a Gold Glove shortstop with a .400 on base percentage, how does he turn things around?

  • Lenny65

    Well, there’s a lot of hysteria over what the Mets “should” do re: trades, FA signings and whatever, but none of it will matter a bit if the Wilpons are mostly worried about the balance sheet. The Mets are not a couple of low-budget stop-gap signings away from anything except more mediocrity. Let’s hope they’ll allow the baseball side of the business to do what they think needs to be done without undue fiscal restraint (sigh).

  • […] a Wild Card these days but the Mets are mathematically eliminated from that contest. And they were never going to catch the Nationals for […]