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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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The ‘If I Told You’ Blues

Early on, it was the kind of game you watched with eyes wide open. By the time the postgame show rolled around, you didn’t mind that you were nodding off to the sounds of Gary Apple and Nelson Figueroa telling you what went wrong. You already knew what went wrong. The Mets didn’t hit enough and Matt Harvey was all too human.

We knew the Mets don’t hit enough. We didn’t think Matt Harvey was just another person, let alone just another ballplayer. What fun is that? Do regular ballplayers get invited onto The Daily Show for a full segment of fawning? Do regular ballplayers motivate lovely young ladies to blow off their senior prom because Harvey Day is the true social event of the spring? Do regular ballplayers encourage in-house marketers to construct a Matt Kave?

Do regular ballplayers take the mound in the top of the first as Matt Harvey did on Friday night and strike out three Marlins on ten pitches?

That’s Matt Harvey. He’s not just another ballplayer. He’s not instinctively eligible for “The If Told You Blues,” the ones whose refrain exists to buck you up when you’re moping the Mets haven’t been ten games over .500 in a month; the Mets are no longer in first place; the Mets no longer have a mammoth lead over the Nationals; the Mets have to scuffle for a Wild Card like almost everybody else; the Mets are getting by extraordinarily well in light of all the Mets they are missing. (Have you noticed no Met ever comes off a disabled list? I think George Theodore is still on the 60-day.)

“If I Told You” imagines you’re Rip Van Winkle emerging from a Hot Stove snooze just now finding out where the Mets are. But you haven’t been sleeping. You’ve been up and around and experienced an adrenaline shot of highs and you’ve developed an allergic reaction to the lows, which doctors would identify as simple regression to the mean, take two deGroms and call me in the morning. Not everybody responds so ideally.

And it’s totally tough to take a dose of “If I Told You” at the end of a Harvey Day in which not every inning he worked resembled the first…or the second…or the third. Through three, Matt Harvey was perfect. Through three, I think it’s fair to say we weren’t wondering if maybe Matt had the stuff and the demeanor (and the opponent) to throw a perfect game. I think it’s fair to say we were expecting it.

Expect nothing, Mets fans, not even Matt Harvey excelling while Matt Harvey excels. The fourth inning went totally awry. A bunt single to and steal by Dee Gordon, who was born to be a Miami Marlin, it turns out. A walk to Martin Prado. A flyout of Giancarlo Stanton, because it’s Stanton you worry about so you’re lulled into thinking, “OK, no-hitter’s gone, but the real fun is watching a master like Harvey disentangle himself from what to other pitchers would be a jam, but for Harvey is a mere bag of shells — and he just got Stanton to fly out!”

Then Justin Bour homers and it’s 3-0, Marlins, and your world is never again the same, at least not on Friday night. You’re pretty sure you hear that across Harvey’s career (which you forget hasn’t been that long) he’s given up only one three-run homer, to Cody Ross. You remember Ross’s home run. You couldn’t believe it then. You can’t believe it now. Who wants to believe anything that evokes Cody Ross?

The Mets get a run back when Lucas Duda blasts a solo job. The Marlins find another run, somehow. Curtis Granderson cuts their enhanced lead with a solo shot. In the ninth, the Mets put on the trappings of a game-tying rally except for the game-tying part. They come up short and lose, 4-3. Harvey has no doubt tried his best but not pitched his best, despite striking out eleven and walking only one in eight innings. Subtract the fourth and he’s a winning pitcher. Subtract the last seventeen games of Septembers 2007 and 2008 and think of the pennants we might have flown.

If I told you that after ten starts, one of the Mets’ key pitchers would be 5-3 with an ERA just a bit over three — and you didn’t ask “which one?” — you would have been as happy as you’d have conceivably been with 27-22 and no further questions. But knowing it’s Matt Harvey…and knowing how Matt Harvey started 2015…and balancing who Matt Harvey is with what Matt Harvey went through to get back to 2015…

You know, if it’s Matt Harvey and not just a hypothetical Mets starter, 5-3 and an ERA of 3.11 doesn’t do it for you on any level, even if you rightfully dismiss won-lost records and figure the earned run average might be puffed up by one really bad start in Pittsburgh. That really bad start came before this one. Then there was this one, which left him with a record comparable to Dan Haren (5-2, 3.03), who beat the Mets on Friday night. Nothing wrong with Dan Haren, nothing at all, but a) wasn’t Dan Haren threatening to retire over the winter? and b) nobody not named Max, Madison or Clayton is supposed to compare with Matt Harvey.

I stirred a few moments after drifting off during the postgame show. I saw Matt surrounded by reporters. He was trying to articulate what went wrong. He wasn’t much more encouraging than he was enlightening with an enraptured Jon Stewart the night before. It was a bad pitch to Bour, but otherwise, “The big thing was trying to keep the pitch count down and go as long as we could. I was happy that I got to eight innings and kind of kept the game somewhat within reach.”

That sentiment is not unreasonable. But it was unHarveylike. It’s what other pitchers say. The whole idea is that Matt Harvey is not just another pitcher.

I hope that’s more than just an idea.

17 comments to The ‘If I Told You’ Blues

  • Daniel Hall

    I was sure they’d lose from the moment Bour went deep until that ball fell between Yelich and Hechavarria as they took each other out. That’s unprobable-rally stuff!

    Unfortunately, the Mets’ no-rally-ever stuff was greater.

    Other than that one bad pitch I found His Aceness most dazzling, and a team with a little more Harrumph going for them would have dug him out of that hole. Btw, it’s thrilling to see how he owns both of the two most dangerous hitters in at least this division: Stanton, whose faceguard looks overly ridiculous, and the capitally obnoxious smurf, whose name must not be mentioned, down in D.C.

    And let’s put it this way: we will soon forget that night, however, if the only base runner to reach base would have been Dee Gordon on that hideous bunt, we’d talk about this forever…

  • Michael G.

    He’s still learning. You don’t relax after Stanton.

  • 9th string catcher

    Hey, while we beat up on the Marlins pretty good – we’re not going to beat them every time. 8 innings, 11 Ks, 4 runs is a perfectly fine outing – you can’t expect perfection every time out. Ok for Harvey to be human. They were also facing a pretty good pitcher in Dan Haren – let’s not forget that either. I expect the Mets to take the next two and keep putting pressure on Washington.

  • metsfaninparadise

    Hey, Greg, how’s your dad doing? Mine’s coming along. Unfortunately, last night was one of the few times he’s had the chance to see Harvey pitch, because the only games he sees are Marlins games or those on national TV. Hopefully the next two will be more conducive to recovery.

  • Fred Page

    I don’t normally question reality but seriously… Has the DL become some sort of vortex that players go on and we never hear from them again? The Bermuda Triangle, or better yet the Queens Triangle? It’s like the Twilight Zone episode where the little girl disappears into the living room wall…a portal into a parallel universe!

  • Eric

    At this point, isn’t Jacob DeGrom the ace of this staff?

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I am sick of Michael Cuddyer. Almost as sick as I am of hearing Michael Cuddyer is “starting to heat up” every time he hits a meaningless home run or every time he gets a couple of useless singles mid-game.

  • Dave

    My research indicates that if a team gives up 4 runs, but then scores more than 4 runs in that same game, it counts as a win. This has happened, in fact it’s not even very rare. The Mets should consider compiling a roster possibly capable of doing this. It is unfortunately impossible as the team is currently assembled.

  • eric1973

    Hey Metsfaninparadise—— Hope you and Greg’s Dads are doing fine, of course, but if you are counting on this team to keep them alive, you may as well start calling the mortuary right now. Pound for pound, this is the most pathetic Mets hitting team in memory, and I go back to 1973. I’d rather have Duffy Dyer than Michael Cuddyer. What a ripoff. It figures he’s David Wright’s friend. Twin ripoffs. They should donate all their money to the pitching staff, the only members of the team who are earning their salary.

    • Dennis

      David Wright a ripoff? Why? Because he’s injured? One of the greatest Mets position players in their history and people who have no idea what it takes to play this game ready to throw him under the bus. Unbelievable.

      • sturock

        I would never, ever call David Wright a “rip-off,” but at this point we do have to wonder whether David will ever come back. His absence has left a– cliche alert!– huge hole in the lineup that management may not be able to address in-season. It would really help if Cuddyer began hitting, ’cause this might be the lineup we’ve got.

  • Lenny65

    Jonathan Niese, man. Does his contract state that he simply must forever be a part of the starting rotation no matter what? Five spots, six guys…logic would dictate that you bench the worst of the six, right? But not in Flushing, oh my heavens no. In Flushing you simply make the rotation bigger to accommodate the lousiest pitcher because removing him from the rotation might, uh…make him worse, I guess. And we wouldn’t want to see his delicate psyche get damaged lest he ends up pitching the team into eight run holes instead of his customary five.

    Six-man rotation…(sigh). How about a lineup with six guys who might actually drive in a run with a freaking hit when it matters? Eight guys would be ideal, of course, but six would be nice. Hell, two would be an upgrade.

  • Dave

    Lenny – but you see, 6 starters means keeping them all healthy. The Mets know how to protect their investments by handling each pitcher like a delicate piece of Ming Dynasty porcelain. And as a result, none of them have ever gotten hurt or, say, missed an entire year at the age of 24-25-26 years old. I mean, the proof is right there.

    I think it was Branch Rickey who said he’d rather trade someone a year early than a year late. Niese is up to about 3 years too late by now.

    • Dennis

      Well, the Mets aren’t the only team who handles pitchers that way and they also aren’t the only team who have had pitchers injured or miss complete seasons.

      • sturock

        The six-man rotation is expedient for now because need to showcase Dillon Gee. He has no value on the trade market unless he proves he’s injury-free and can pitch deep into games. I’m no doctor but David Wright’s injury looks really scary and I don’t expect him to be back. So the Mets will need a major-league third baseman before the season is over, and they have to be able to find value for Gee and Niese (gonna be a bit more difficult there).

  • open the gates

    Funny thing. They’ll bend over backwards to protect their delicate starters, yet they’ll throw their middle relievers out there every day until their arms fall off. It’s not about protecting their pitchers. It’s about deniability. “Hey, we went to a six man rotation – is it our fault we have 45 pitchers on the DL?”