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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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Disabuse Your Illusion

And the summer went so quickly this year.
—Joe Raposo, “There Used To Be A Ballpark

Michael Wacha was on the verge of a complete game shutout, 24/27ths of the way there Tuesday night. Having observed him and his opposition in varying degrees of action and inaction for eight innings, I calculated as nil the chance the spirit of Steve Henderson would inhabit the batters he was about to face. Thus, I rooted for Wacha to, as Eric Carmen would have advised, go all the way. You see so few complete game shutouts these days that we are compelled to identify them by their full name, à la “single-admission doubleheader”. There was a time when shutouts were assumed to be complete games. Wacha suddenly going nine innings without getting relief help or giving up a run wasn’t going to stem the tide of bullpen by force of habit, but it did seem like a blow struck for baseball like it oughta be. Or used ta be. Or, at the very least, something you hardly see anymore.

That Wacha was approaching his and every starting pitcher’s goal at the expense of the Mets barely bothered me. In 2016, it would have been a problem. In 2015, it would have been a major inconvenience. But it’s not 2016 and it’s not 2015. It’s some year when the Mets are not quite in late July and they’re nowhere near a playoff race. That lingering sense that one solid hot streak might propel them into contention vanished in advance of the ninth inning Tuesday night. Maybe it disappeared Monday. Maybe it evaporated Sunday. Probably it never existed at all this year. A pair of wins out of the All-Star gate breathed a gasp or two of life into the delusional illusion that maybe…maybe the Mets could pick up ground, maybe a few injuries would heal, maybe the best trades made would be the ones that never were, maybe I should check how the Rockies are doing, seeing as how if we win and they lose, we’ll be only…

But, nah. That’s over. That’s done. Those are instincts attached to previous seasons, perhaps seasons to come, surely not this one. This one is done except for games and stuff. The stuff will take care of itself. The games get played regardless of circumstances. The Mets’ circumstances are a little unfamiliar after two summers spent legitimately chasing fall. They’re not even in sync with the pre-2015 standards of a team not expected to go anywhere, so you relished the baby steps toward progress when you encountered them. 2015’s immediate predecessors produced a trail strewn with banana peels. That was OK, though. We were used to slipping. Learning to get up and figuring out how to avoid further hazards was part of the process, we were pretty sure.

In 2017, the only forward Met motion involves days on the calendar. Days until the non-waiver trade deadline. Days until the most obvious of callups. Days until the waiver trade deadline. Days until the rest of the callups. Days until it’s all over. Otherwise, the days loom as hollow as the leftover chocolate Easter bunny you probably shouldn’t have taken a bite of all these months later. No chewy center. No delicious caramel filling. Just innings of space and a taste that is decidedly off.

For a night, the void the Mets have left in their aspirations’ wake was taken up by Wacha and the Cardinals. Matt Carpenter (4-for-5, 2 2B) whacked everything in sight. Wacha mowed down every Met in his field of vision. They should have been Ralph’s guests on Kiner’s Korner. That’s how much Carpenter and Wacha starred in Tuesday’s game. Rafael Montero pitched for the Mets for six innings, constructing one of his better outings. Of course the bar he cleared was so low that somebody would have to have created a slew of coal miner jobs in order to dig it up. The defense behind Rafael aggressively expressed its support for open borders. No ball hit by a Cardinal batter would be stopped from going wherever it liked. Yet even had his fielders built a beautiful wall, Montero still would have been outpitched by Wacha and whupped up on by Carpenter.

The Mets fell behind by a run in the first, then four in the second, then the score stayed in place until one of Montero’s successors — does it really matter who? — gave up a fifth run. It was unearned, having been manufactured via another Met miscue. Lucas Duda didn’t catch a foul pop. He also didn’t intensify demand for a Lucas Duda trade on the open market.

Eventually, Wacha got to the ninth, gave up a leadoff single to Michael Conforto and allowed Conforto to reach second on a wild pitch, yet Mike Matheny let him be. Go ahead, his manager said sans trip to the mound: go the route, go the distance, go all the way; it’s your game, kid. So it was. The next three Mets were retired, preventing Conforto from crossing the plate. When Wacha struck out Jay Bruce for his 27th out and the Mets hadn’t scored a run, I felt my right hand curl involuntarily into a fist. It was for light pumping, not bashing in anything. I was generically satisfied a starting pitcher had completed an old-fashioned three-hit shutout. That it was unfortunately achieved against the Mets didn’t faze me. I’m a few too many losses past the point of fazing with this team.

A better night of baseball than this one is coming Monday to the Varsity Letters series in Manhattan, where I’ll be one of the authors reading from and talking about his work, in my case, Piazza: Catcher Slugger, Icon, Star. The event takes place at Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St. Details are here. I hope to see you there.

11 comments to Disabuse Your Illusion

  • Dave

    I heard that next year the Mets will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 2015 National League championship team. The math doesn’t quite work out, but it sure feels like 100 years ago.

    Thanks Greg, for the first-ever column to feature the Mets, the Raspberries, and empty presidential campaign promises. At least 2017 Mets fans have that. We can laugh to avoid crying.

    • mikeL

      At this point I’d be ok with the mets taking next season off to clear their heads, re-set, find themselves….maybe they need to tour europe by bike. Then mental and physical exams before anyone dons the uni again.

      Yes, 2015 feels like a short lifetime ago.

      And yes, in times like these, excellent writing trumps fan-angst;0]

  • Kevin From Flushing

    I see what you did there…

  • Pete In Iowa

    Maybe it’s just me, but I have a different feeling watching these underachieving Mets than their underachieving brethren of the past. It’s like a mixture of anger and resignation when I watch. A little bit different in some ways than in the past. I just can’t seem to put my finger on it precisely.
    Last night was one of the poorest examples of baseball this team has played this season. Poor pitching, porous defense, plays just not being made, lackadaisical at-bats inning after inning. How did they NOT turn the double play on Wacha’s sharply hit grounder right at Cabrerra? How did Duda NOT EVEN GET A GLOVE on Molina’s mile-high foul pop?
    Complete game shut-out for Wacha? Good for him. WHO CARES?

  • Gil

    Day 91. Mood in camp has gone from bad to worse. The natives have started shedding their team gear in favor of caps and tee shirts they’ve purchased on vacations. Viewership is down. Attendance is down. NetFlix reports a 13% uptick in viewership in the tri-state area. Doctors are identifying a sleep disorder amongst Met fans they are calling “Monterism” where Mets fans wake up in the middle of the night uncontrollably screaming “MONTERO!!! MONTERO!!!!!” A similar disorder called Roblism has also been reported, in slightly fewer numbers but with more harrowing effects. The only cure that has been identified is by watching reruns of Antiques Roadshow instead of the ballgame. Truly, only the grittiest of natives are hanging in and watching these contests. Hope, it seems, amongst some of these seemingly indefatigable Mets fans, truly springs eternal. For some of them, those who in their hearts believe that David Wright will play another inning at third base, one must assume delusion or pure insanity.

  • eric1973

    Tell me, who is this David Wright that was mentioned above? Did he ever actually play for the Mets?

    I think all our worst nightmares are coming true regarding Ces. We wanted him signed, but knew in our hearts that he would become injured, old, overweight, and disinterested. However, we did not really think it would happen beginning with thr first month of the season.

  • greensleeves

    “Forget it. Jake. It’s Mudville.”
    THANKS for this superior post, Mr. Prince.

  • Jacobs27

    I was a bit torn in the 9th. But once Wacha started reaching back for something extra, I was impressed and pleased in an impartial baseball way that he got it done. At 5-0, with the Mets having played an ugly, ugly game, the CG SHO had the aesthetic appeal going for it. At least something about the score was earned.