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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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Natlessly We Roll Along

What’s red and white and available for dinner the rest of October? Your National League East Champion Washington Nationals, who I have to say aren’t doing a very good job of representing our division on the larger stage. As is their custom in this decade, they went to the NLDS. As is their more noted custom, they did not advance beyond the NLDS.

Not that many of us were rooting for them to carry the NL East banner ever upward, but c’mon, Nats. You’re making us look bad. We lost 92 games this year. We can make ourselves look bad without your help.

There doesn’t seem to be much inclination in baseball to get behind “our” champion if we are not involved in the playoffs. It’s a romantic notion that we would. NL EAST OR DECEASE! Or something of that nature. But it’s not like that. It’s not remotely like that.

Familiarity breeds so much contempt. Were you delighted for the Atlanta Braves when they were winning East after East? Did you Phlip for the Phillies in the midst of their divisional dynasty? I’d invoke the Marlins here, except they’ve yet to win a divisional title despite having socked away two world championships before their eleventh birthday. (Gads, the Marlins are weird.) It’s hard to recontextualize your enemy of six months after six months of active hostility. Nor does it much occur to you to try.

It’s not just the Nationals who’ve been bringing down the average. National League East champions are pretty lousy at going forward. Since 2002, most of them have lost their Division Series. The Braves are 0-for-5. The Nationals are 0-for-4. The Phillies, when they had a heyday, went 3-for-5. The Mets, however, played two and won two, in 2006 and 2015. Give us the right context, and we are selectively unbeatable.

Yet the Nationals’ contemptible familiarity is nevertheless familiar. Of all the teams to have entered this postseason, they’re the ones I knew best, so there was something compelling about their presence. Their players are well known in our circles. Daniel Murphy is estranged, but not so long ago one of us. Oliver Perez holds a special place in our gut. Ryan Zimmerman might as well be the name the David Wright brand is sold under in certain Middle Atlantic markets. We’d know Harper’s resting Bryce face anywhere. We’ve been adding “less” to “Werth” for a generation. We took pride in loudly declaring Harvey better than Strasburg. Scherzer’s eyes. Rendon’s flow. The Lobaton Galaxy of Stars.

I didn’t root for them, exactly, but I was prepared to deal with the idea that they’d be sticking around. And I thought they would be. The Cubs seemed very much like last year’s news, extras in somebody else’s narrative. When Washington went up by three runs early in Game Five, I thought the result was Nat accompli. Their near-death experience was Game Four at Wrigley, the whole Strasburg mold contretemps, wherein the pitcher suspected of being soft threw the bleep out of the ball for seven robust innings and Michael A. Taylor redeemed the whole effort with a grand slam in the gloaming off Wade Davis. That should do it for the Cubs dynasty, I thought. The two teams’ll take this thing back to Nats Park, we’ll make jokes about the last Metro pulling out before the last out and our nominal archrival — or as close as we have to one at present — will move on to Los Angeles where somebody would notice Murphy dueling Turner for the pennant.

But it didn’t happen that way. It never does for the Nationals. Four times in the NLDS in six years, four heartbreaking exits. Maybe not our hearts, but objectively horrifying to watch if you consult your heart a little. You feel sort of bad for certain players after a 9-8 loss like that which ended this postseason’s Washingtonian exercise in futility. Upon further microscopic review, you feel sort of bad for Dusty Baker, who you remember having it in for in 2000 when he managed the Giants and it was our job to snarl that the opposing manager was no Bobby V, but is otherwise considered one of the game’s all-time good guys. You feel bad for the fans who haven’t directly pissed you off or who haven’t gotten on the nerves of your Mets fan friends who live in and around DC and swear to you that, no kidding, Nats fans are the worst. You feel bad more in theory than reality, but the reality was right in front of you: another elimination loss wherein Washington falls ever so short ever so late and the train is pulling out of the Navy Yard station bound for the NLCS without them…again.

That’s pretty bad baseball reality.

Who’s talking Mets in the middle of the playoffs? Gary McDonald and I are on his wonderful podcast Mets Musings. Listen in here.

17 comments to Natlessly We Roll Along

  • Skill Sets

    But boy did the Nationals Mets things up!

  • DAK442

    Am I the only Mets fan who was rooting for the Nationals? I still love Murph. it’s not his fault Alderson pooped the bed.

    Now what? I find it hard to pull for the Dodgers despite Grandy’s presence (and Turner’s) since Chase Utley is still in their employ. And I’m already sick of the Cubs and their fans. I guess – Lets Go Astros!

  • Kevin From Flushing

    I found myself INSTANTLY rooting for the Cubs, though wouldn’t have been troubled if the Nats advanced. I have yet had to deal with an a-hole Nats fan so for the moment my heart goes out to them. Here I was thinking you couldn’t have a worse Game 5 than 2012 (with a healthy Strasburg watching at home, no less), but baseball always proves it could somehow be worse. That was utterly brutal.

    The Astros are the only team left in which you could invoke drought justice for winning a WS while we were sitting at home. Everyone else, get behind us, you’ve already had one or five since 86, don’t be greedy pigs. There has been some solid work done recently, let’s keep it in that particular spirit of fairness.

    I’d like to see a Dodgers/Astros World Series, taking comfort in knowing either Beltran or Curtis will get a ring. But really, go Astros. They’re the least AL team in the American League!

  • NostraDennis

    So glad that the end of the Mets’ year does not mean the end of your pithy insights and witticisms, Greg. You too, Jason. Bad Met seasons are somehow more tolerable through the filter of FAFIF.

  • Urban Nightwear

    I just re-watched the top of the 5th with schadenfreudeian delight! Wieters trying to pull his glove back from the interference after the two passed balls and the throwing error was great! Here’s to hoping that the yanks and Dodgers can lose a series at least half as painfully soon!

  • Dave

    While unlike Yankee fans, Nats fans cast reflections in mirrors, and their knuckles are more elevated than those of Phillies fans, but some have become kind of condescending towards us, so glad to see the streak stay alive. I’ll be in DC for a while next week and have some friends there, so might be good to just watch some neutral baseball over a few beers rather than see the city going nuts.

  • Eric

    I remain a Murphy fan when he’s not bullying the Mets and hope he moves back to the Mets when his current contract is up. That said, I was rooting against the Nationals like a crab pulling his fellow back into the bucket. Which is to say, a division rival that moves up at my team’s expense, by pulling down and climbing over my team (even if it’s mostly my team falling down on their own) should be punished ASAP, not rewarded for their transgression.

    Sharing a division isn’t like electoral politics where if I lose my primary to a fellow Democrat or Republican, I still benefit to an extent as a party member if my party rival wins the general election. It’s all zero-sum competition, wild card aside. The Mets gain nothing from a Nationals championship except to be memorialized as a stepping stone to a rival’s championship.

    The Nationals had everything they needed on paper. The star pitchers and hitters, and the manager and relievers they’ve missed in the past. They just didn’t win their NLDS on the field. They should have beat the Cubs. They just didn’t. The Cubs are playing with house money now.

    I’m not rooting against or for any of the remaining teams. Now, it’s just appreciation of play-off baseball.

  • eric1973

    I was rooting for the Nats, mainly because I hate Theo, as well as Maddon’s tired ‘intelligent man’ act. He was the opposite of that last year in his use of Chapman, and lucked out in the end.

    I can abide Bryce Harper, as ‘That’s a Clown Question, Bro,’ is a classic for the ages, and how can you not have a soft spot for a guy who wanted to punch out Papelbon. And then when he charged the mound last year with bad intentions, rather than just debating the pitcher and catcher after being hit with a pitch.

    Dusty, a harmless sort, has been in over his head for years, ever since he took out his pitcher against the Angels and blew the WS. Lucky there is no IQ test to become a MLB manager.

    And Houston and Milwaukee ought to switch back to the leagues they belong in, to make things easier.

  • dmg

    when the twins, and then the indians, spit the bit, the number 1 priority for my postseason enjoyment as a mets fan was the nats losing, and in such natstacular fashion.
    the rest of the path remains admittedly narrow: cubs must lose, because of ancient rivalry; dodgers must lose, because of prehistory. it goes without saying the deed must be done by the astros, our expansionary sibling. this would also be a postseason first for me: rooting for the a.l.

  • eric1973

    ‘Soda Tax’ Madden would have been the first one to challenge if he were on the other side of that play, so cry me no crocodile tears on that one.

    The true criminal is Joe Torre, and society in general, a society so soft that it made him turn baseball just as soft as he is.

  • Jacobs27

    Sweet Jesus it was fun watching Verlander mow down all those Yankees and go behind the Matt Harvey line. I don’t know if it was the right move leaving him out there, but the result was sublime.

  • mikeL

    yup, verlander was killing it!
    years after he was looking washed up.
    dodgers v astros is my pick for the ws.
    astros in 7.
    at this stage i’m happy to watch baseball…and well played no less. sort of forgot what that felt like in ’17!

  • Lenny65

    If the f****ing Y*****s win it all this year I might need to step away from baseball for a spell, as I’ve seen that program way, way too many times before. The fact that they’re forcing me to root for the Houston Astros and possibly the (gulp) Dodgers is galling enough. I’ve already seen the Y*****s win the WS SEVEN TIMES in my lifetime, seven times too many IMO. They’re like a billionaire who buys a winning Powerball ticket. After the 2000 WS I vowed to never, under any circumstances, talk baseball with a Y****e fan again and I’ve stuck to that for seventeen years, as the way I see it we have nothing whatsoever in common anyway. Sure it’s jealously…bitter hateful jealousy too.

    That said, it was pretty funny to see the Gnats fail yet again. I’d pull for them if they were battling the Y*****s in the Series, but that means nothing, as I’d be pulling for the North Korean All-Stars if they were playing “them”.

  • 9th string OF

    Ugh – these guys are the walking dead. But I have a response. I’ve already started saying to Yank fans “Congrats – you guys are the 2015 Mets. Glad you finally caught up. Sorry you’re going to lose in 5 games, but good season…”

  • K. Lastima

    Somewhere in China they are already sewing new #29 on Girardi’s jersey since WS championship #28 is all but official. I’ve seen this script play out before and much too often. Second time around the Yanks will pound Verlander to move on to the WS and you just know that the Dodgers will spit the bit vs. the Yanks in the WS, as is their history with the few exceptions when they rode the arm of Koufax or Fernando – but Kershaw is no Koufax and will revert to his playoff yips vs the Yanks and Darvish in the role of Drysdale will be out-pitched by Tanaka. And so it goes, the NY baseball universe is back to its normal setting with the Yanks on top and the Mets in the toilet, where they will remain as long as the Wilpons own them, with the occasional 1 to 2-year run of semi-success in every 15-year cycle. As a 59-year old Mets fan, I’ve become exhausted and frustrated with it all. I have zero expectation that the Mets will win another title in my lifetime, never mind how many additional Yankee titles I will have to endure. I hope I’m proven wrong, but I think not.