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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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Tinted Shades of 1986

As soon as Sunday’s game ended horribly, I thought of a similar four-game weekend road series. The Mets won the first game then, too; everything that had been going great felt even more wonderful. Then they lost the next three in varying shades of excruciating. The dates were July 17-20 in 1986, which should tell you that it all worked out in the end.

In the moment, however, the losses were awful. A Friday night shutout, the first we’d experienced all year. A dramatic Saturday night ninth-inning game-tying rally negated by a two-out walkoff home run in the bottom of the ninth. A Sunday afternoon finale that marched grimly into Sunday night, decided on an irritatingly bad call at the plate in the bottom of the fifteenth, giving the home team, the Houston Astros, three wins in a row at the expense of our previously beyond-reproach Mets.

It’s not a perfect parallel, mostly because between the Saturday and Sunday games thirty-one years ago, four Mets were arrested and spent the night in jail, a.k.a. the Cooter’s incident (with off-duty Houston cops making as bad a call as the one Greg Bonin made to end that series). Also, the Mets were miles in first place more than halfway through the season, so if any enterprise could sustain three vexing losses, it was the 1986 Mets.

Nevertheless, they vexed, perhaps at the same level the three losses the Mets experienced in Miami this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Honest to god, I came away thinking this time around, as conventional wisdom held way back when, “This could be a playoff preview.”

The Marlins looked good enough to echo those Astros, who, of course, we met that October. Houston was still in a race with San Francisco in July 1986, yet you knew in your bones that matchup was coming. I know no such thing about anything in April of 2017. I tend to overestimate the Marlins going into every year and am delighted by my eventually being proven inaccurate, for like everybody else here, I detest the Marlins. But those frolicking Fish looked and played like the essence of indefatigable all weekend, rising from the sixteen-inning canvas Thursday and punching back successfully all weekend.

The Mets, on the other hand, looked like they’d been TKO’d by having to put in overtime on the first night of the series. The manager pretty much repeated the “we’re tired” line every chance he got. Give him points for honesty, I suppose, though you wonder why he couldn’t book a teamwide reservation at the same rejuvenating spa the Marlins — who played the same sixteen innings on Thursday — must have availed themselves of to return to fighting trim. Maybe it was the aftereffects of travel or the lack of an off day or the average age of the starting lineup being old enough to remember the Astrodome. Maybe it was Terry Collins projecting. He doesn’t make excuses. He offers earnest, impassioned explanations. Sometimes you wish he simply said, “Tough game, we’ll go get ’em tomorrow.”

I’m confident they will. Still, it would have been nice to have gotten ’em yesterday and the two days before, even accounting for the silly rule about not winning them all. Sunday’s game seemed maddeningly just out of reach all day, despite the work of yet another Met starting pitcher who appeared plenty fresh. Matt Harvey is an early candidate to win Comeback Player of the Year for the second time in three years. He may have a Bret Saberhagen odd-year thing going (which we’ll take for now and worry about the inverse next year). For six innings, he was very sharp and very unsupported. The Mets avoided scoring for him. Didn’t even threaten, lest they mistakenly help the Dark Knight see daylight. Harvey used to run up against Jose Fernandez in Miami in these types of encounters, and if he came out on the short end, you had to file it under those being the breaks, ace versus ace unfolding as it will.

Matt’s mound opponent Sunday was Dan Straily. Not an ace, but who asks for credentials when you’re no-hitting an opponent for innings on end? Straily Dan rolled along, taking his no-hitter into the sixth, or as long as Don Mattingly would allow him. Relievers entered and the hitlessness continued clear to two out in the eighth. The Mets broke up that nonsense with consecutive singles, but the zero they had in the all-important run column held. They trailed by an insurmountable 2-0 heading into the ninth.

Then the surmounting at last commenced. Travis d’Arnaud singled with one out. With two out, sneaky fast Wilmer Flores singled and then hustled to take advantage of a Stanton flub in right and the Mets had second and third. Asdrubal Cabrera pinch-hit and drove them both in. The Mets tied a game they’d barely been in. More Amazin’: a Miguel Rojas double to deep left with Marcell Ozuna on first in the bottom of the ninth did not end the game. Yoenis Cespedes — let’s call him Yoarmis — brilliantly barehanded the ball off the wall and fired it to Cabrera, who had stayed in the game to play short. Cabrera lasered the ball to d’Arnaud, and Travis, for the second time Sunday, expertly (and legally) blocked the plate to successfully tag an onrushing runner. Three innings earlier it was Cespedes to Jose Reyes to d’Arnaud to nail Justin Bour, who victimized himself with one of those slides where the entire body bounces as if the dirt surrounding home is a trampoline.

Momentum doesn’t turn any faster than a 7-6-2 putout…unless it’s rookie J.T. Riddle turning on Addison Reed’s two-out delivery and sending it over the Marlins Park wall to end the game an eye blink later. The Marlins won in jubilant 4-2 fashion, the second game in a row there was much walkoff celebrating by the wrong team, the third game in a row when the ninth was the cruelest frame.

Noah Syndergaard was solid on Friday. Jacob deGrom was spectacular on Saturday. Matt Harvey was somewhere in between on Sunday. The Mets lost every one of those games anyway. The eight-man bullpen featured nobody who could record a definitive out. The lineup took most innings off in order to reflect. Catnaps were grabbed in plain sight. The sizzling winning streak the Mets extended upon hitting town has been replaced by a nagging losing streak that requires reversing Tuesday night at Citi Field against the Phillies. I’m willing to chalk the whole thing up to a case of long season/good club/bad weekend.

But what a bad weekend. Thank God It Isn’t Friday, Saturday or Sunday anymore.

23 comments to Tinted Shades of 1986

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Fun fact (Do I sound like Sheldon Cooper?). Syndergaard, deGrom and Harvey have a combined ERA of 1.76, and the Mets are 5-4 in their starts. On the other hand, Wheeler and Gsellman have a combined ERA of 8.41 and the Mets are 2-2 in their starts.

    Seems to me the success of the team is more dependent on how the bullpen and the bats perform on a particular day than who takes the mound in the 1st inning.

  • LeClerc

    13 games in and it’s time to discard a bad habit from 2016, and time to institute an iron-clad rule going forward:

    Play the hot hand.

    This means Conforto now bats lead-off against right-handed pitchers, and Granderson sits unless Bruce needs a “personal day” (if Bruce slumps, and Grandy and Conforto don’t – then it’s Michael in CF and Curtis in RF).

    Lagares or Granderson play CF vs left-handers, depending on who’s hitting and who’s not.

    If Conforto cools off – he goes back to the bench.

    If Reyes starts hitting consistently, move (the still hot) Conforto down in the line-up.

    Collins’ respect for veterans makes sense as long as they contribute to winning baseball. If they’re not hitting, his respect becomes perverse.

    The theme of 2017 = winning the NL East and beyond. “Beautiful Losers” is not the title of this story.

  • Gil

    The off field stuff has to be bothering Reyes.

    Thank goodness for the day off.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Normally I’m annoyed by all the extra off days in the early season. Not this time.

  • Dave

    I’ve never seen a more needed day off in the middle of April. Why do the Mets have to play the Marlins 178 times a year? Or is it 214? Whatever the number, I hate every game.

  • eric1973

    You know who’s tired and needs a few days off?

    You guessed it. TC.

    Don’t tell the world we are tired, even if it is true. And if it’s not true, the team then beieves it.

    Makes the organization look weak.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    … I tend to overestimate the Marlins going into every year

    Probably because when you think of them, it’s in the context of them playing the Mets.

  • Ken

    Do you remember when the Montreal Expos would routinely beat the Mets many years ago with Andre Dawson, Ellis Valentine and Warren Cromartie in the outfield for the Expos?

    I hope that the Marlins’ current outfield does NOT repeat the hitting feats of that great Expo outfield of the late 1970s.

  • eric1973

    With Foster, Kingman, and Valentine in the middle of that lineup, I thought we couldn’t be beat.

    • Lenny65

      LOL me too. Turned out I was way, way off. Then again, I was the only kid in my junior high that had stones enough to wear my “The Magic Is Back” T shirt to school, so there’s that.

      It’s a) those horribly annoying team-wide multi-game slumps and of course b) the bullpen follies, plus a little “f***ing Marlins” thrown in for flavor. As said above, the Marlins played 16 innings too and THEY didn’t seem too “tired”, at least not as beat as we were. Of course this has been a trend in recent years, the early season “God the bullpen blows” blues we seem to experience every April/May. But these are division games and we NEED to come out of this stretch at least a few games over .500.

  • Harvey Poris

    As I said before, no hitting. Team BA is now .223, 25th in the majors. Leadoff batters are at .086, last of course in the majors. They hit HRs, but not much else.

    • Daniel Hall

      ‘Leadoff batters are at .086, last of course in the majors.’ – so that is why Yoenis Cespedes has six dingers and three doubles, but only 10 RBI…..

      • mikeski

        Brook Jacoby famously hit 32 HR with but 69 RBI in 155 games for the Indians in 1987.

        He batted behind Cory Snyder (.273 OBP and 166 K, 89 OPS+) and Mel Hall (.309 OBP, 96 OPS+).

  • LeClerc

    Righty Eflin starting for Philly tonight.

    Granderson: AB = 46, BA = .174, RBI = 4, OBP = .235

    Conforto: AB = 17, BA = .353, RBI = 6, OBP = .409

    Bonus question: who has the stronger throwing arm ?

    It follows that Conforto leads off tonight. Am I correct Mr. Collins ? (If not – why ?)

  • Matt in Richmond

    LeClerc, nobody has been a bigger fan of MC than me. But it’s worth remembering that last year he hit almost .400 in April, getting himself inserted in the 3 hole and causing many fans to question why he wasn’t starting against lefties since he appeared to be our best hitter. Of course then they got what they wanted, he started vs a lefty and proceeded to go into the ugliest tailspin I think I’ve ever seen. I don’t say this to suggest history will repeat itself, only to support the notion that going slow is not such a crazy idea and that ultimately this team will be at its best when it uses all it’s parts. It’s way to early in the season to be panicking. Believe me, if MC keeps raking he will get plenty of ABs.

  • Greg Mitchell

    For those who have pooh-poohed Noah’s blister/nail issues: Latest to suffer is another fine pitcher, Aaron Sanchez, who has already missed time due to a blister–and just got part of a nail removed to alleviate that and will miss at least two more weeks. Rich Hill, who missed half of last year due to blisters, already missed starts due to that this year and is out again now with same. The list goes on. We also so effect of blister/nail with Thor struggling at end of starts when he was bedeviled. No need to be doomsayers but also not by Pollyannish about it. And again: where is the starting and bullpen depth so much needed? No tell me Gilmartin and Goeddel. Other teams are signing decent RPs even today–Blaine Boyer, for example.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Blaine Boyer career ERA 4.17 career WHIP 1.384
    Sean Gilmartin career ERA 3.72 career WHIP 1.280
    Erik Goedell career ERA 3.45 career WHIP 1.150

  • Greg Mitchell

    Blaine Boyer 2016: 3.95 (year before–2.49)

    Gilmartin 2016: 7.13

    Goeddel 2016: 4.54

    The latter two were so good they were in the minors most of the year. Boyer pitched 66 innings in the bigs.

  • I repeat, start Thor and the rest of the aces in the 3rd inning and let them pitch the 8th & 9th! Even if the pen gives up a couple in the 1st or 2nd, you have the rest of the game to catch up, not just one shot in the 9th. Like the shift, watch how fast everyone copies it. Tell the agents tough luck if they whine about the W/L record.