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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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Little Black Clouds on Other Horizons

Let’s get the late news in first: this time the Pirates did the job, stifling the Cardinals to move the Mets into a virtual tie for the second wild-card slot. (It’s virtual because St. Louis has somehow played three fewer games than we have.) Then the Rockies walked off the Giants. Your NL wild-card race is now a hairball, with three teams separated by half a game for two spots.

And somehow, we’re one of those teams. Amazin’!

If Wednesday night’s scoreboard-watching was bliss, Tuesday night’s was agony. We sagged to see Tony Watson get undone in cruel fashion: it was bad enough that Matt Carpenter hit a two-out, two-strike pitch over the fence to tie the game, but then Randall Grichuk and Jhonny Peralta followed with homers of their own. Watson didn’t just look stunned — he looked like a man caught in a nightmare from which he couldn’t awaken himself. A few minutes later, the Pirates had lost their eighth straight, in about as miserable a fashion as one could imagine.

I thought of that game today as the Mets played the Reds under sultry conditions in Cincinnati before a very large number of empty red seats. Not because of what it had meant for the Mets — though that was part of it, of course — but because the Reds were subjecting their loyalists to a different though equally awful form of torture.

If Keith Hernandez hadn’t been on hand for this one the Mets would have had to send the Concorde to get him, because today needed his signature mix of disbelief and disdain. The Reds played about as badly as a team could play, deserving every sublative one could throw at them.

Where to start? In the second, Brandon Phillips was called out trying to steal second. Phillips was pretty clearly safe, but the normally voluble veteran displayed not the slightest interest in arguing his case, trotting back to the dugout. The Reds didn’t challenge.

Scott Schebler then walked, and Tyler Holt seemed to miss a sign for a hit and run. Schebler probably would have stolen the base anyway, what with Noah Syndergaard being on the mound and all, but didn’t slide and was out.

In the third, Yoenis Cespedes hit a bad-hop grounder up the middle with Jose Reyes — he of the very welcome first-pitch homer — on first and two out. Phillips and Jose Peraza got in each other’s airspace and Reyes hustled to third as the inning continued. Anthony DeSclafani then buried a curve ball for a wild pitch. The ball came back to catcher Tucker Barnhart, who whirled for a play on Reyes … and saw DeSclafani hadn’t covered the plate.

In the bottom of the inning, Syndergaard picked off Eugenio Suarez with Joey Votto at the plate. Peraza tried to come home and was thrown out by Asdrubal Cabrera. Syndergaard walked Votto — and Adam Duvall promptly hit the first pitch for a routine fly ball.

The Reds — particularly Phillips — played like they had zero interest in professional baseball. The irony was that they’d picked the right day to oppose Syndergaard: Noah had very little, with all his pitches sailing erratically away from Rene Rivera‘s target. Only the Reds’ serial incompetence kept them from sending Noah to an early shower — and even then, the Mets couldn’t build a big enough lead to make what felt like a laugher look like one on the scoreboard.

I went into the gory details because not so long ago, this was what it felt like to be us. The Mets weren’t hitting at all, they were painfully lead-footed on the basepaths, and if a starter didn’t spring a leak, you figured the bullpen or the defense would. The Mets couldn’t get out of their own way, it was dismal and depressing to watch, and it felt like it would never, ever end.

We take a Metscentric view of the world. Tony Watson has a nightmare game and we fume about his failing our cause. The Rockies make the punchless Giants look like hitters again and we decry their lousy timing. The Reds wander around like it’s already Honeydew Season and we see Metsian pluck and vigor.

It’s the way fandom works, but that doesn’t make it less silly. Our current streak of walking on air will end, sad to say. (Not until next April, one hopes, but still.) We’ll lose games we thought we should have won, maybe even several in a row, and we’ll groan that we’re the only fanbase sentenced to trudge around under its own monogrammed black cloud. It isn’t so. Sometimes it’s raining elsewhere, on other people, in relentless, mean-spirited sheets.

26 comments to Little Black Clouds on Other Horizons

  • Brian Hutwagner

    Hey, it’s lunchtime here in China so I get to be the first one to comment! Good story, as per uge!

  • Matt in Richmond

    Yes indeed. Perspective is valuable in sports fandom and in all aspects of life. It is all too easy to embrace solipsism, but a wise person is capable of viewing reality through the lenses of others than himself.

    This is why the LOLMets thing was so stupid, and to my mind didn’t even exist. Believing that your team is uniquely inept is in some ways as disgustingly self centered as being an entitled Yankees fan.

  • Lenny65

    So true. That sloppy disinterested-looking Reds squad playing out the string was us, lots of times. I admit, I marked these 2016 Mets as being dead and buried just a few months ago but you just can’t argue with meaningful September Mets baseball so I’m happy to eat some crow and bask in this not exactly commonplace situation. IMO there’s no better feeling than not giving a crap about football because the Mets are still alive. Get a time machine and visit 13 year old me in 1979 and tell me about a future Mets season where they’re within striking distance of a playoff spot on September 8th and I’m all ears even though I’m not buying a word of it.

  • Jacobs27

    I feel for the Pirates fans. Their team’s late season swoon out of contention is something we can definitely relate to, right down to stunning losses for the bullpen. Giants fans, too, have got to be chewing their nails off and kicking objects in frustration as their ostensibly good team continues to struggle mightily. But they’ve won so much lately I can’t feel too bad for them.

    It’s a different story for Reds fans right now. I imagine they’re so disgusted by their team’s general attitude and incompetence that they’re tuning out. We’ve been their too.

    Cardinals fans? Nope. No empathy for them. Though I imagine they must be thinking: “I thought the Mets were done. What the hell happened?! When are they gonna start losing again? My word.” OK, maybe they don’t all say “my word”…

    • Jacobs27

      Probably then they say: “And what’s the deal with all these no-name call-ups pitching gems? And Jose Freakin’ Reyes playing like it’s 2011? Curtis Granderson rising from the dead? It’s not fair!”

      • Eric

        The “no-name call-ups pitching gems” are what I marvel at. Reyes and Granderson at least are established with Major League track records.

        Gsellman, Lugo, and Montero, plus Ynoa, are scraps left over from Alderson’s spending spree last season. They aren’t established – Montero was actually going backwards as a prospect – but they just need to hold the rope and fool MLB hitters enough for 22 more games. And if they’ve opened the way to more starts in 2016 beyond that, they’ll have a chance to etch their names into Mets lore no matter how their careers turn out.

        • Pete In Iowa

          As far as I’m concerned, given what Gs and Lugo have already accomplished, given the circumstances under which they’ve done it, they are already part of Mets lore.
          Gsellman’s debut couldn’t possibly have been under worse circumstances. Warming up in front of more people than he’s ever played in front of, in a game the Mets had to have, it was truly amazing how well he pitched that night.
          Lugo was really impressive on Sunday – not for the fact of his good numbers in that outing, but he didn’t have his good curve and yet, figured out how to get it done. As a 34th round (!!) pick, he was destined to be an “extra” to fill out minor league rosters to give the real prospects someone to play with/against. Really, really impressed at what he’s done considering where he’s come from.
          The Giants are in big, big trouble. Haven’t been hitting at all and the back end of their bullpen is a disaster right now. Lets all root for either them or the Cards to sweep the four games they play against each other.

  • Dave

    Yes, the Reds might be playing as though a homeward-bound cab is waiting for them with the meter running, but we can be pretty sure that the weaker teams in our own division will take much more glee in playing spoiler. TC will keep the Mets focused.

  • Harvey

    Before we get too carried away, remember at the end of April the Mets were 15-7. Since then, even with this recent hot streak, they have gone 59-59. It is amazin’ they are where they are in the race.

  • kdbart

    The Reds had spent the previous weekend taking 2 of 3 from the Cards and have been an above .500 team since the All Star Game break.

    • Jacobs27

      OK, maybe things are actually looking up a bit in Cinci, just the Reds happen to have money on the Mets to win the Wild Card. How else to you explain no argument from Philips after being called out when he was clearly safe and no challenge, etc.?

  • Mikey

    I work from home with a 65 inch TV in my office/man cave. yesterday I turned the game on. Reyes hits one out on the first pitch and I realize there is no way I’m going to get work done if I have this on, and I’m terribly swamped. I turn it off and check for updates every so often online, and I’m glad I did based on what I’m hearing. we could have easily lost that game and would have if our opponents were just about any other team. but it feels good to keep winning regardless of opponent or how we get it done.

    what’s really odd is that I could swear I checked the score of Rocks/Giants before I went to sleep and that it said 5-3 final. When I read Jason say “walked off the Giants” I had to see for myself. Damn, we are not 3.5 out anymore, we are right freaking there. and maybe the best part is that the Giants and Cards play each other….that gives us a potentially huge advantage and maybe makes that tie less virtual.

    two things I noticed the last couple of days watching the Pirates broadcast of those games. one, the announcers are just so vanilla and sleep inducing. also, the Cardinals do not look like they are having any fun. Matheny hovers over them like a strict dad and they either have serious game faces or are pissed that the Mets have basically caught up to them and feel like they are entitled to a playoff spot. the Mets have a cast of characters that blend very well together and though winning is what mostly helps, they seem to have a blast in doing so. Maybe I’m wrong but that’s all how it seems and I like it. I want my team to have personality

    still, I know all of us have tempered expectations. it would be painful to finish one game back, and no one wants to be left out….so it will be a dog fight for three more weeks. let’s keep the pedal to the floor!

    • David Bowser

      I watched the 2nd and 3rd game of the Pirates-Cards series and I must agree. The Pirates broadcasters were acting like it was a funeral. Even when they were winning, they were subdued.

      I was SHOCKED to watch the Cards players. They were barking about the strike-zone and I swear one Cards player made the 3rd base coach repeat the signs 2 or 3 times during one AB and yelled at him because he was talking to the runner on 3rd. I don’t watch them often enough to know if that is normal.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Minor point (but not to Keith): Phillips did not trot back to the dugout after the CS, he walked back, slowly, further setting Keith off into a dither.

    Speaking of Keith, Gary Cohen did all he could to get Keith to back off his comment that he had just taken 4 painkillers. Keith was clueless that this could be a problematical statement. The only clarification he made was that it was only Advil, and even there, he almost sounded like he conceded that point just to end the discussion.

    Hey what’s a GIRL doing in the dugout…..

  • Greg Mitchell

    Those of us who were there in 1973–I was in the park for all the playoff games, including Buddy vs. Pete–know this is not the strangest September at all. As you know, Mets barely finished above .500 and nearly won World Series. Will never forget final game of regular season bringing 9-inch TV to Crawdaddy office (Monday makeup doubleheader vs. Cubs in rainy Wrigley) and many crowding around. And after we won (victory 83?) they called off 2nd game. Much drinking afterward.

  • Eric

    2 fewer games … the Mets now only 1! game back in the loss column of both the Giants and the Cardinals. And today, a day off to bask.

    How charmed has this run been? I was disappointed the Marlins won to blemish the night’s scoreboard. Tracking the Cardinals and Giants losses last night had the familiar feel of the Mets chasing down the Nationals last year and the glee of closing in the standings, percentage points, loss column, and then cleanly pulling ahead.

    Yet with 22 games left to play, the naysayer in me is nervous the Mets have caught up too quickly and wonders if whatever magic is bonding this patchwork of worn out, hitherto slumping, playing wounded, scrapheap pick-ups, and leftover pitching into the hottest team in baseball will dissolve if the Mets become front-runners. Then again, while the Giants and the Cardinals’ reputations are still formidable, these revived Mets are the defending National League champions. And maybe some of the 2015 Royals magic rubbed off on the Mets in the World Series after all.

    On the other side of the coin, credit to the Nationals for taking care of business and maintaining their cushion in the NL East during the Mets’ hot streak. The Nationals are out of mind right now because the Mets wouldn’t face them until the NLCS anyway. If the Nationals catch the Cubs, which is possible if unlikely, to set up an NLDS match-up, then they become interesting.

    Kudos, and thanks, to Tony Watson for getting back on the horse after blowing up the night before. But I hope he promptly falls off again. The Pirates and Marlins have fallen back far enough for a cushion, but they’re not out of reach of the Mets.

  • sturock

    The Mets are riding some hot hitters right now and I feel a stability to the lineup that was lacking over the summer. The IF rotation features Loney, Flores, KJ, Asdrubal, and Jose. And in the OF, we have Ces, Grandy, Bruce, and De Aza all contributing (somewhat in Bruce’s case). It’s weird, it just seems like the offense has finally fallen into place after all this time, that the team has taken until September to actually gel.

    I worry that Gsellman and Montero will turn into pumpkins shortly– I have more confidence in Lugo– so that makes it all the more crucial that we keep scoring runs and playing good defense.

    The playoff system favors the hot team in September, so let’s keep it going and take advantage. It sure is fun watching the Mets right now!

    • Eric

      The Mets need to hit because the pitching can’t be relied upon. Besides crossing our fingers with each Lugo, Gsellman, and Montero start, Syndergaard’s escape of a start is a sobering reminder.

      I worry about the bullpen. Smoker and Salas are welcome additions, but the season mainstays are worn down and hittable, including now Reed. He’s still better than he was last season, but he’s regressing to that level. The 3 8th inning runs didn’t go on Reed’s ERA, but the Reds came awfully close to tying the game off him.

      Familia is the exception. He’s overworked, too, but still appears to be strong.

    • 9th string catcher

      Very true, sturock. Everyone has a specific role and they know how to play it. I think a big part of the success comes from a properly balanced lineup: having Reyes leading off and Cabrera in the 2 hole makes sense. Dropping Granderson out of the leadoff spot means that the Mets could manufacture runs and Grandy has the opportunity to drive them in. While losing Walker is disappointing, it does help Flores who now has a much clearer role and can get ABs against lefties (who he kills) and righties (which he’s improving at). The defense is also improved by not having Cespedes in CF, and having DeAza back up Granderson. The 8th and 9th guys are set, and a lot of good options for the 7th. One thing Lugo and Gsellman bring to the table is that few teams have batted against them before. The unfamiliarity might just last long enough to get to October.

      • Eric

        Watching highlights of Lugo’s last start, against the Nationals, it was striking that in the clips he was missing the C’s glove and the balls were down the middle, but his movement fooled the Nationals hitters enough that they made weak contact. The league will catch up to that.

    • Pete In Iowa

      “The Mets need to hit because the pitching can’t be relied upon.”
      If someone would have made such a comment in March or April, I’m pretty sure that Greg and Jason would have shut off all comments — out of civility concerns — shortly thereafter.
      Truly, an amazing 180!!

  • Rob D.

    I was making the outlandish comment at work that this run proved to me that, if healthy, the Mets are the best team in the division. Had the offense held up its end earlier in the year, they’d be coasting to a 2nd straight NL east title.

  • eric1973

    If anyone would have said the team would be doing this with all their five pitchers injured and infirmed, I would have taken that bet and would be living under the bridge right now.

  • Shawn B

    LOOK WHO’S NO. 5!

  • Mikey

    yeah baby!

    to put emphasis on what I said above about the Cardinals, check this out….

  • Mikey

    also, thank G-d for the Brewers last night. they had I think 17 hits off STL