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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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Catch Us, We’re Falling

Precedents don’t necessarily prove anything. All they tell us is whether something happened before, and it’s up to us if we want to take our clues from there.

Here’s the precedent that’s gonna kill us: If we fall out of first place — and, based on the results from Chicago and everything that’s been going on with Washington, it seems a matter of hours before we do — there’s no chance we’re getting back in.

That’s not a prediction. That’s the precedent. It’s not guaranteed; it’s just that there has never been a season in which the Mets (once the season is more than a couple of weeks old) have grabbed hold of a division lead, let go of it and gotten it back.

Think about it through the prism of our five division titles:

1969: The Mets famously took first place (“LOOK WHO’S NO. 1”) following Game 140, the first half of their September 10 doubleheader versus the Expos. They kept first place by sweeping Montreal and they never relinquished it.

1973: You Gotta Believe that when the Mets won their fourth in a row from the Pirates on September 21 — Game 154 — they moved into first place and didn’t for a second move out.

1986: After Game 10, April 22, the Mets were tied for first with the Cardinals. The Mets were off on April 23. The Cardinals weren’t. They played and they lost, ceding the top of the N.L. East to their archrivals in advance of New York’s eleventh game of the season. The only things anybody else saw from there on out were the Mets’ tail lights disappearing in the distance.

1988: The Mets passed the Pirates on May 3, Game 24. Nobody passed the Mets thereafter.

2006: It wasn’t wire-to-wire, but it was close enough. The Mets became a first-place club on April 6, Game 3. They stayed a first-place club clear through October 1, Game 162.

And in seasons when the Mets did take a lead on the East but stepped aside to let somebody else get ahead of them? Those seasons exist, plenty of them. But you don’t see them listed above with the Met division-winners, do you? It’s possible for such a scenario to unfold and not destroy any thought of finishing first. Teams dip out of first place and then climb back in for keeps with regularity. None of those teams, however, has been the Mets.

The 2015 Mets grabbed a piece of first place on April 15 — Game 9 — and gathered in all of it the next night. We are now past Game 35 and the Mets are still the sole occupants of the divisional penthouse. I doubt any of us were expecting to be there at all, so if we’re not ensconced for the long haul, you can’t say we didn’t see it coming.

What we can see coming is the Washington Nationals in our rearview mirror. They were eight back about eight minutes ago (technically on April 27, after both they and we had played 20 games). Pending Thursday night’s West Coast action or rainy lack thereof, the Mets’ lead is down to one game. The Nats have been playing as they were projected to. The Mets have, as the saying goes, come back to earth.

I think we can all agree, based on the last four games’ worth of said plunge, that earth is overrated.

If you watched the Mets lose every game they played this week at Wrigley Field, you’d probably also agree that this is all transitory bookkeeping. If the season were to end right now, the Mets would be in line to be division champs, but it would be one of those deals where the official scorer would use his discretion to award the win to somebody else. Besides, the way the Mets are playing, can you buy the Mets as a champion of even a short season? Or a short-season league? Could you see them prevailing in the New York-Penn right now?

The key phrase there is “right now”. As they say on Avenue Q, being absolutely terrible at most phases of the game is only for now…maybe. When your team isn’t hitting, it’s hard to imagine they ever will again. When your players’ heads aren’t fully engaged in the game, it’s hard to see them getting fundamentals religion. When just enough can go wrong on the mound, it’s hard to take solace in the notion that with pitching like the Mets have, they’ll never have a long losing streak.

They’re in the midst of a four-game losing streak as we speak. Thursday’s starter, Jon Niese, did nothing to halt it at three. This was the game in which the Mets hit for a while — three solo homers and a rare John Mayberry RBI sighting — but it wasn’t enough. We’re in one of those stretches where nothing is enough. The Mets, at the moment, have a surfeit of nothing.

Turning around this prevailing trend would help the first-place precedent immensely. If they don’t stop being a first-place club, well, duh, they won’t stop being a first-place club. If they do, they’ll have to shatter precedent to resume being a first-place club. The way things are going, if precedent is shattered, precedent will wind up on the DL for three months.

Now that I’ve got us all in a good mood, how about a precedent that indicates we’re not dead yet? Perhaps it will turn that Chicago frown upside down.

We were swept four games at Wrigley Field. That’s the good news? Not exactly, but it’s not the end of our hopes and dreams, assuming we’re not hoping for and dreaming of only first place. This very month fifteen years ago, you see, the Mets were on another road trip, this one to San Francisco. It was 2000, the first year of Phone Company Park, and the Mets had four games with the Giants on their schedule.

The Mets arrived by the Bay and nearly drowned. They lost all four. They looked horrible in doing so (hard not to). And then what happened? Long story short, the Mets won the Wild Card and happened to beat the Giants in the playoffs en route to making the World Series.

There ya go: proof that being on the wrong end of a four-game sweep doesn’t bury your season in this modern age. Actually, if you look at the trajectory of the last Met team to raise a pennant, you see some similarities to the current edition. After stumbling around a bit, the 2000 Mets surged as April ensued, putting nine consecutive wins together at one point. Next thing you knew, though, there was the beautiful new ballpark in San Francisco and an ugly beatdown at the hands of the home team. The Mets couldn’t have seemed less likely to be playing deep into October.

But they did. They were good enough to have won nine in a row. They were good enough to rebound from a bad trip. A decade-and-a-half later, they could use a Piazza, sure, but they do have a Harvey and they can’t possibly be as dismal as they looked at Wrigley. What’s more, unlike in 2000, two Wild Cards are available these days. The Mets already have a better record than every Wild Card contender in the National League.

And every team in the N.L. East! It’s easy to forget that after what we just saw.

We didn’t solve any of the issues plaguing the Mets but we did have a whole lot of fun talking about it on the Rising Apple Podcast. Listen in here.

12 comments to Catch Us, We’re Falling

  • open the gates

    I think these Mets have an excellent chance to start winning again, and will do so as soon as Wright and d’Arnaud and Lagares and Blevins and Parnell and Black and Wheeler and Edgin and Gee and Carlyle and Montero (not to mention Jenrry Mejia) are off the DL…


  • Daniel Hall

    “The Mets, at the moment, have a surfeit of nothing.” – (sighs)

    Was a delightful game for a while. At 5-1 and the way Niese was going at, yes, finally the brakes are applied to the – oops.

    The bottom 5th. One hit, another, another, another, Niese was visibly hating his very existence, and another hit, another, another, another. Felt like it went for hours. Tied game.

    So, this week:
    * de Grom lost, beaten forcefully by the Cubs’ young stallions
    * Syndergaard lost, constantly missing and was betrayed by no offense whatsoever
    * Harvey didn’t lose but was betrayed by shoddy relief and no offense whatsoever
    * Niese lost, Recker not having his paws in place, but it was mainly a death by singles, lots of those

    They used to say that good pitching beats good hitting, but …? I don’t see it.

    And there, I went all the way without hating on the comically expensive, useless trio of Granderson, Cuddyer, and FLORES. FLORES!! I blinked in confusion when the lineup showed Ruben at third base, but the boy kept his corner of the field clean. BUT FLORES!!! When he sailed yet another throw in the general direction of Idaho, I accepted it. You should not disregard people for the way they earn a living, and Flores earns his by blowing games with airmailed throws to first, if he doesn’t bobble the ball in the first place. I can accept that.

    No, BS. I want him gone. Now.

  • BlackCpuntryMet

    Last night(in my time zone) hurt.Really HURT. From what highlights I’d seen of the previous 3, we could have won 2 abd were only really crap in 1? Went to play soccer just after the 1st inning, got back for top of 7th. % all, okay I though we got some runs and are still in it. Thank God I didn’t watch how we got there, as Garry & Ron explained it during the course of the inning, the horror began to dawn. At that point I knew, just knew we would lose. I sat there waiting for it to happen. It sucks.

    BTW the line up card sucks. How the hell can you play someone for the 1st time at Major League level at 3rd base in such an important game. Why is Flores still playing AT ALL. His D is awful and his offense doesn’t justify his inclusion You play Murph 3rd, RT as SS and Herrera at 2nd. End of!

  • Dave

    Well, at the risk of sounding like a stereotypically maudlin Mets fan, by this time next week we’ll be nervously looking over our shoulder at how close behind us the Marlins are and we’re looking at 3rd place. And the most painful part is that the crashing back to earth all started by losing 2 of 3 to the evil empire.

  • Michael G.

    Another way to look at history is to consider the four previous seasons in which the Mets won 11 in a row — 1969, 1972, 1986, 1990. The first and third of those speak for themselves. In 1990, the Mets won 91 games. Only in 1972 did they not live up to the promise of that streak, winning 83 games in a strike-shortened season. If they played 162 games that year instead of 156, let’s say they end up with at least 86 wins. The 2015 Mets should win at least 86 games. And that should put them very close to a Wild Card berth, with a real chance to secure one.

  • BlondiesJake

    TY Michael Gee. Was going to say this team is still on pace to win 93 games. While that likely won’t happen, if/when d’Arnaud and Wright return, the team will likely score more runs and get close to the 90 wins I predicted.

    And let’s not kid ourselves, this division has always been the Nats for the taking and they will likely win 95 or so games, a number the Mets likely wouldn’t have reached completely healthy. So it’s always been about the WC and it still is. It just feels rougher because of the early win streak and now the lousy stretch with little offense.

    I do agree the Flores experiment needs to end. Let him play 3B while Wright is hurt and be a bench bat when Wright returns, platooning with Murphy.

  • Rob E

    It’s cliche, but it’s absolutely true: you’re never as good as you look when you’re winning, or as bad as you look when you’re losing. The goal of “playing meaningful games in September” doesn’t mean you have to be in first place wire-to-wire; this team has sort of become a victim to their own 11-game winning streak.

    Just take a step back. We’ve had a good stretch and a bad stretch and we’re 5 games over .500. The Nationals had a bad stretch and a good stretch, and they’re TWO games over. The Tigers are 1 game better then the Mets. The Royals are 2 games better. We’re in good company here…it’s a marathon and this is the way it works.

    YES, they have flaws. We knew that coming in. These last two games were horrible to watch, but these guys have played pretty gamely, through a ton of injuries, and facing a lot of really good pitchers. I’ve lived through enough hopeless Mets teams to know that this team is NOT hopeless. A little bump in the road doesn’t erase all the good things on the horizon.

    • Dennis

      Once again Rob you describe things perfectly! And this weekend is a good time to hopefully get back on track with the Brewers coming in. LGM!

  • Rob E

    JASON…I’ve been a staunch supporter of Jon Niese, but I concede that your criticism is valid. Games like yesterday just can’t happen to a guy with his experience. I also noticed it in his previous start against Philadelphia. There was an error behind him and you could see that he was visibly rattled and started pitching differently. If you’re going to be a “go-to” guy, you have to rise to the challenge, and Niese doesn’t seem to do that. I still think he is over-criticized, but I understand your “infuriation” with him.

    • Dave

      Niese has a major league arm, he doesn’t have a major league spine. He’s been around the block enough that he should know how to suck it up when shit happens, because it’s going to happen. Compare him to a Colon, who lets nothing phase him, or a Harvey, who gets better when he’s angry. Niese gets thrown off his game way too easily for a guy who’s spent this much time in the major leagues.

  • BlondiesJake

    Rob E, thanks for voicing what many in the Niese camp refuse to admit. While I also probably criticize him too often, it’s out of frustration because he doesn’t appear to get the most out of his abilities. It doesn’t help that when he speaks it usually comes out poorly.

  • 9th string catcher

    OK, gang, everybody breathe. Losing streaks happen, and winning in Wrigley is not easy. The Cubs were due for a big series and the Mets were bound to slow down a little. The games were all competitive, and they’re doing well despite a cascade of injuries. Granderson can still be a capable lead off guy, and Flores still has offensive potential. I would not write him off yet. Cuddyer is pretty much what we all expected, so offense will be a challenge for the foreseeable future. But I very much expect a rebound starting tonight as the Mets are in the same place as the Cubs were at the beginning of the week – overdue for some Vs.