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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 Long Of It

Hard to fathom that baseball grapples with a pace-of-game problem when a season that you could swear just started is almost three-quarters over.

It goes quickly, doesn’t it? There are 44 games remaining in this one, not counting anything that gets added on for good behavior. You know it was a veritable five minutes ago that we were counting down the days until Pitchers & Catchers, then the hours until Opening Day. By the end of this week, 75% of that same season for which we waited forever and a day to commence will have been crossed off the pocket schedule

This is a familiar August lament. Summer’s too short. Back to school ads (even for those of us decades removed from the looseleaf binder and pencil case demographic) beckon unbelievably quickly. Fall previews are churning out as we speak. It’s as predictable as it is sickening.

Yet let’s not kid ourselves, no matter our certainty that baseball and life whoosh too briskly by. It gets long out there. It’s a season that goes six months and 162 games and it tends to squeeze every drop of motion and emotion out of its contents.

As evidence, I present the first 118 games of the 2015 campaign.

• Opening Day. Mets win. They haven’t lost, ergo they can never lose.

• The first loss. Well, there goes the magic carpet ride.

• The third game, a.k.a. the first Harvey Day. Harvey’s back! Harvey’s unbeatable! We’re unbeatable!

• Two days later, two losses in the books. Groan, groan, groan.

• Eleven games later, the Mets literally can’t lose. How many World Series tickets should I order?

• Strangely enough, the Mets can lose and often do. Their eleven-game winning streak is snapped and their brand of unbeatable ball reverts to distressingly ordinary for a spell. Not much of a season, huh?

• We kicked the Phillies’ ass! We were swept by the Cubs! We scored ten runs in one inning versus the Brewers! We split with the big, bad Cardinals! We were swept by the Pirates! We swept the Phillies! We’re good! We’re bad! We’re…what are we?

• For a while we can’t hit, except when we can. We pitch like crazy, but what good is that if we can’t hit like professionals? Have you seen these lineups we’re trotting out? And now we can’t win at all. We’ve just lost seven in a row…DOOM!

• We swept the Reds. WE’RE BACK!

• We were swept by the Cubs. AGAIN.

• Oh crap, we have to go to California and play the Dodgers and Giants and that’s gonna be the end of us…hey, we won four out of six and THEN came home and swept the Diamondbacks. Maybe we’re not so bad!

• What a gauntlet after the All-Star break. Lose two in St. Louis, then win a really long game in St. Louis, but because it dragged so interminably, it didn’t really feel like much of a win, so we can’t count it as such. Then our all-or-nothing showdown in Washington, where Harvey (whatever happened to him?) gets lit up early and we split the first two and blow the third, and then it’s home to play Los Angeles and it will be more of the same.

• Until it’s not and we make some moves and we throttle the Dodgers one night and we come back against the Dodgers the next day and we shut down San Diego and everything’s great…except we lose to San Diego and ultimately inaccurate rumors swirl and the press is awkwardly briefed and we look ridiculous and we lose another to the Padres in embarrassing fashion, and what was going to be a good season is rapidly swirling down the drain unless that no-account GM of ours makes another move.

• That no-account GM of ours makes an astounding move just in time for another all-or-nothing showdown with Washington, and this one is real and it’s spectacular and there’s no stopping us, mostly, until the Pirates come to town and beat us two close ones and pull away in the third one, despite the gritty efforts of that Harvey fellow, who’s totally back.

All of these sea changes have occurred in the course of the very same baseball season. The Mets have led their division by as many as 4½ and they have trailed their division’s leader by as many as 4½. Strengths have been weaknesses and weaknesses have been strengths and foes thought formidable have proved flimsy and those we’ve wished to immediately dismiss have revived themselves nicely — same as us when we’ve considered ourselves practical goners.

A long season encompasses so much baseball and, with it, a surfeit of temporary permanents. Sunday the Mets gave little indication they’re a first-place club, but they remain a first-place club. As recently as Thursday they appeared invincible. As recently as Saturday they appeared comparable to the National League elites. It’s Monday and we’re hoping they can pull themselves together when next they play on Tuesday.

This is normal, this is natural, this is the way we are. Maybe the only hitch in our mood swing is that we don’t realize it. Seasons encompass twists, turns, spinouts and straightaways. You’re sure you’ve figured it out only to realize it eludes comprehension because there are 162 opportunities capable of completely baffling you.

The Mets, though, are a first-place club. They do lead the presumed mighty Nationals by 4½ games. The Nationals looked D.O.A. in April and resembled a lock by the Fourth of July. They are, as we speak, the hollowest of logs, the paperest of tigers. The Giants swept them like the Pirates swept us, except the Nats were barely present for their series, whereas the Mets didn’t mentally head for the exits this weekend until the vengeful Citi Field tarp briefly covered the infield with distressingly awful juju.

What I think we’ve seen, after 118 games, is that we root for a pretty good team capable of playing some very good ball, but also prone to exposing its flaws, which isn’t a crime, because flaws are inherent in both baseball players and human beings. Their primary rival is one enormous flaw wrapped like a rubber band around a wad of counterfeit hundred-dollar bills. We could’ve sworn the Nationals were legal tender. Maybe they still will be. It’s a long season for them, too.

In the meantime, the Mets could use a little tightening. Get Duda back, because Cespedes without Duda isn’t much better than Duda without Cespedes (and we saw how well that worked for four months). Get Wright back, because Uribe is a helluva fill-in but a little too irregular to be a regular at this stage of his career. Leave Parnell’s name off the travel manifest to Baltimore and beyond if at all possible. One hopes they minimize the flawfulness that’s going to arise in the course of 44 games and maximize the skill sets that set up them up pretty darn nicely across 118 games.

The first-place Mets are a reality. The division champion Mets can be a reality. But there’s still a long way to go.

28 comments to The Long Of It

  • Matt in Richmond

    Spot on Greg. This sweep doesn’t sting nearly as much as it could have with the Nats in full meltdown, but the 2 glaring issues right now are Parnell and lack of Duda. The botched dp garnered most of the attention, but that was pretty fluky. The big problem was walking career .200 hitting Florimon after getting ahead 1-2. Simply can not do that leading off an inning in a tie game. He did the exact same thing with Walker up later in the inning. Got ahead but eventually walked him. He just isn’t able to put away hitters right now. I hope he can figure it out, b/c we really need him when the starters can’t go 7+. It’s funny how he seemed to be more effective when he first came back and was throwing 89-91 and since gaining some mph he’s been less effective. I like Uribe a lot, but he should not be the everyday cleanup hitter. The lineup that was going great guns went pretty quiet against the weak part of the Pittsburgh rotation without Duda. Hope he can DH a couple of games against Balt and be ready to go by the weekend.

  • Dave

    Yeah, to quote/paraphrase Joaquin Andujar, as we were reminded yesterday by Gary, baseball can be summed up in one word, and that’s “you never know.”

    Time for Parnell to be diagnosed with, I don’t know, an elbow strain or neck spasms or turf toe or something. Why on earth TC didn’t have someone else ready to go as soon as he gave him the ball yesterday is a mystery to me.

    • Eric

      It’s a fine line. In Parnell’s previous 5 appearances, he’d allowed baserunners and none of them scored, including a high-leverage inning against the Nationals.

      After the 2 extra-innings games, Collins’s choices were down to Parnell, O’Flaherty, and Torres. Set aside the LOOGY. Collins said the plan was for Parnell to eat an inning against the bottom of the Pirates order and bridge to Torres, who was tasked to go long – at least the 8th and 9th – against the top of the Pirates order in the tied game.

      Parnell got the double-play grounder from the 2nd batter and the plan was for him to face the 3rd batter anyway. It didn’t work, and after that, the plan went out the window.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Interesting stat during yesterday’s telecast. (I think I have these numbers right) Harvey has now had 17 no-decisions in which he gave up only one run or no runs. In Dwight Gooden’s ENTIRE Met career (11 years) it only happened to him 16 times. Even with Cespedes, this ain’t the 86 Mets out there, nor is it the 85 Mets, or the 84 Mets, etc. etc.

    • DanielHall15

      I think it was 16 and 15, but it was not one bit less frustrating.

      The entire game was frustrating.

      Then again, it was the first game that sucked top 1st to bottom 9th in a while. We used to have half a dozen of those every week.

    • Dave

      While Harvey’s number of low-run no decisions is frustratingly high, comparing it to Gooden’s is somewhat apples and oranges, because Gooden pitched in an era in which complete games weren’t so uncommon. Nobody talked about pitch counts and innings limits and the Verducci effect back then, plus Doc was pretty durable, much of his time missed, sadly, had nothing to do with arm problems. You pitch farther into games, you get fewer ND’s. It was Darling who was the king of the no decisions on those staffs.

  • Inside Pitcher

    This reminds me of the song near the end of The Producers musical when Nathan Lane recaps the entire plot up to that point.

    Well done Greg – a great reminder!

  • Steve D

    Parnell should be removed from high leverage situations until he proves otherwise. Mejia is looking like a modern day Duaner Sanchez.

    Add some fundamentals, and this team is eerily reminiscent of the 1969 Mets…young pitching…early 11 game win streak…early summer doldrums…key acquisition…August surge. Does the manager really make a big difference? That may determine our fate.

  • Eric

    It looks like the Mets refuse to make the regular season boring, no matter how hard the Nationals are trying to giftwrap the division. As has already happened several times this season, a 4.5 game lead can be flipped in short order. The Nationals are still too talented to take for granted and those 6 head-to-head games loom.

    Parnell’s season has been like the Mets’ rollercoaster season: good stretches crashing into memorably awful clusters.

    It seems like another season, but Parnell had a 0.73 ERA over his 1st 13 appearances. For a moment, it looked like he, Mejia, and Familia could lock down games with a trio of proven closers. Then Parnell spit the bit in Washington on July 22.

    Then after jumpstarting the bad loss to the Padres, Parnell followed with 5 scoreless appearances, including a high-leverage inning in the big series against the Nationals, though none of them were clean (no hits, no walks).

    Then he spit the bit again and lost games 1 and 3 in this weekend’s Pirates sweep.

    Parnell is under the spotlight because the Mets don’t score enough and the starters don’t give up enough runs consistently to hide him in the back of the bullpen. Like Alex Torres, Parnell probably shouldn’t be with the big-league club at this point.

  • sturock

    Something is off with Parnell, who just can’t be trusted in tight spots right now. Who do they have in the minors? Logan Verrett has been effective in Las Vegas so far. That’s after throwing 12 innings of a 2.14 FIP (0.73 ERA) and 0.65 WHIP with the Mets earlier in the season. He looked great at the time, 12 K’s in 12 IP. Why not give him another look?

    The announcers were talking about Erik Goeddel returning too (23 K’s in 23 IP earlier this season). The Mejia-less pen needs reinforcements.

    But…yeah, first place!

    • Eric

      The odd thing about Verrett not relieving for the big-league club is we assume he was sent down to stretch him out for spot starts. Yet while the Mets keep talking about innings limits, we’re past mid-August and they haven’t done anything about the innings limits post-Matz. At this point, it looks like the Mets will wait until September call-ups and go with Matz if they go to a 6-man rotation at all.

      Which seems like a waste of the innings Verrett could have provided out of the bullpen for this part of the stretch run.

  • Mikey

    I agree with most of the Parnell sentiment. I am looking at his stats right now….his season whip is 1.86 and era is 5.59 with 24 hits allowed, 12 walks and just 10 k’s in 19 innings. Thats not major league level and it should not be an option. In a tight game for a contender. Bring up Logan verrett right now. Its a long season as greg chronicled nicely but we need to win more of these close games

  • Lenny65

    This is the weirdest Mets season I can remember and speaking as a lifelong longtime Mets fan, my prediction is that it’ll get way, way stranger before it’s all in the books. One weekend they’re enchanting us, the next they’re enraging us. It’s impossible to predict what they’ll do next. They might tear off nine in a row featuring six shutouts or they might lose ten of eleven and have half the team hit the DL after a conga line mishap. They’re all over the place. Right now I’m kind of afraid to get too emotionally invested in them, as I know full well what they’re capable of but still, you can’t deny there’s SOMETHING brewing in Flushing right now. And it beats the hell out of pre-season football.

  • Gianni Privacio

    If anyone’s here (given this is yesterday’s post) Rubin just reported that they are bringing Verrett to Baltimore. Getting ahead of myself, thinking they might DFA Parnell. Or maybe there’s a trade happening with the Orioles?

    Management seems to be making smarter moves this year, notwithstanding the recent headscratcher of sending down Plawecki and bringing Recker back up. Strike 3, yer out!

    If they don’t make any oddball trades and / or hold off on activating Captain America until Sept 1 when rosters expand (and disrupting chemistry by reducing Uribe’s playing time, not to mention Conforto’s going down in that move) then I’m getting really excited. Important phase here for roster management, they will need the best 25 to stay ahead of the Nats who have an easy schedule the rest of the month.

    Also saying it again, Schmets could be tough next month, the 40 man gives Terry all sorts of options down the stretch. Someone please weigh in here with better knowledge of the other teams, who else will be bringing up a decent set of spare parts (Neuwy, Muno, Campbell, Plawecki, Monell, maybe Reynolds), the fastest guy they have (Herrera) for baserunning and guys like Black, Goedell, Alvarez, Rice, etc. to pad the pen?

    • Dennis

      Unless there is any setback, Wright will be up before September 1, as he easily becomes part of the best 25 players to hold off the Nats. I don’t think there is anything to worry about with chemistry…..he’s been around the club. As far as cutting into Uribe’s playing time, he’s only hitting around .170 since he’s come over from Atlanta, so it’s not as if he’s bumping someone who has been incredibly hot.

      • Eric

        Baseball-wise, the player who ought to go when Wright comes back is Cuddyer. Wright replaces Cuddyer’s tailor-made DP-hitting RH and there are better options in the field. But that’s not happening – Cuddyer’s not going away unless hurt again.

        It helps the roster balance when Wright returns if Uribe or Wright can fill-in as an RH at 1B, too, like Cespedes has unclogged the OF by playing CF.

        The downside of Wright’s return is the likeliest candidate to be demoted for a week until roster expansion: Conforto.

        • Matt in Woodside

          I’m not a superfan, but while playing hurt in July, Cuddyer went 9 for 29 with two home runs (.310 average). He’s played in four games since coming off the DL last week. I’m excited with Conforto’s potential as well, but it would be impossible to justify moving Cuddyer off the roster for a week just because he seemed to be hitting into a lot of double plays two months ago.

  • Gianni Privacio

    Thanks, all good points. My concern might be some sort of misplaced attempt to sell tickets via adding Wright to the active roster perhaps before he’s ready to contribute.

  • dmg

    my big fear is that the mets had their chance to break open the race this weekend and whiffed. they were home, and the pirates weren’t throwing their big arms against them.

    yet i can’t kill the team: friday and saturday were playoff intensity games. sunday was a throwback to, say, may or june, where one inning destroys.

    we all know how quickly a 4.5 game lead can melt. unless it doesn’t. which makes these last weeks of a crazy season hold-your-breath fascinating.

  • eric1973

    Considering Cuddyer’s horrible season, it is almost impossible to justify his roster spot, talentwise, for any reason, except this one:

    I love Conforto, but he just has not hit enough to keep him over Cuddyer —- but it would be bold if they did!

    Gary just suggested possibly Legares — that’s the true ideal choice!

    After all, I hear that’s why Duda couldn’t hit for most of the season — bad hitters (like Cuddyer and Legares) around him.

    • Matt in Woodside

      IDK, I mean, Cuddyer is hitting around .250 with eight home runs and an on base percentage around .300 That’s not a horrible season, it’s an average season. Certainly not what the team hoped for based on 2013, but they got him because he was supposed to be a complementary player, not carry the team. I do remember he seemed to hit into lots of double plays a couple of months ago, but it’s not like you can tell him to pack his bags and head to Vegas for a week at this stage of his career, two years after winning a batting title. Comments about him being terrible are just kind of overblown IMO.

  • eric1973

    They signed him for 21 mil for 2 years to be a starter, and he’s since been benched. 22 year old rookies hitting .210 are playing instead of him. And Zero clutch hits. No word more appropriate than horrible.

    • Matt in Woodside

      His stats are his stats. They’re average stats, and he’s on a very reasonable contract for a veteran outfielder with his pedigree and his age. The argument that Cuddyer is so bad this year that he’s somehow to blame for Duda’s slumps earlier this season is unfair and kind of weird. I understand how protection works in a lineup, but I could make same argument and say that Cuddyer would be having a much better season if he had been surrounded by a higher level of talent (such as uninjured Wright, or Duda performing from the beginning like he did in the second half of 2014).

      As I wrote a bit upthread, I’m not a superfan, but it’s not like the team broke the bank hoping that Cuddyer would be the second coming of Ted Williams this season. I am sort of baffled by the haterade some fans seem to be drinking.

  • eric1973

    Haterade. Funniest thing I ever heard. :)

    I was actually poking fun at other commenters who used the other Mets’ lack of production as a reason for Duda’s lack of hitting. Partially true, but I don’t buy it overall.

    Duda’s at-bats have become so predictable that last night, SNY threw on a bunch of commercials while he was batting. It was ‘most likely’ a mistake.

    • Matt in Woodside

      Oh! That makes a lot more sense. I didn’t realize you were poking fun at that. When everyone is hitting well, or batters bunched together in a lineup are hitting well (whether consistently or in some temporary streaky tandem) I have no doubt that it affects the psychology of the game. Pitchers are more cautious/concerned about giving walks AND giving up a hit, so they try to do too much and are more prone to mistakes as a result. And when the guy in front of you and the guy in back of you is doing well, it’s easier to be loose at the plate. But I do think it’s weird when sportswriters and talk radio start to blame one player’s poor performance on another one’s mediocre performance. That’s straight up irrational favoritism, IMO.

  • eric1973

    Yup, that is weird. As you say, partially true, but overall, hitters need to take responsibility for themselves.