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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 Winds of West March

April has arrived only in name. We are living in West March, akin to the section of the Florida panhandle referred to as Lower Alabama. It’s too cold for baseball, but baseball insisted on showing up anyway. Six games were scheduled ahead of anything that feels like spring, five of them have been put frostily in the books — and snow is in the forecast for Saturday in Washington.

Bundle up and play. Better yet, bundle up and win. The Mets have done both to the extreme, shivering out to a division-helming 4-1 record and building a pretty sweet snowman on the day it was sensibly decreed too wintry to do anything else at Citi Field. They have just swept the Phillies. The Phillies didn’t appear ready for baseball. Among new managers getting the hang of their responsibilities, score one for Mickey Callaway in the realm of preparation. Perhaps Gabe Kapler could use another few weeks in the Clearwater sun.

I don’t know that the Mets have looked splendid in fashioning a splendid start, but they haven’t looked bad. They’ve looked and performed better than their competition, which is all that matters in nine-inning spurts. They are alert to possibility. Asdrubal Cabrera, who has batted in four different spots across five games, seems headier than ever. Perhaps the moving him around has kept him on his toes. Balls in the dirt regularly advance him a base. Two-out situations sit well with the entire fluid lineup. These Mets are delivering more efficiently than UPS (UPS made me schlep two towns over to pick up a package this week, so I’m projecting).

The big blows in Wednesday’s rain-delayed, Facebook-confined matinee came off the bats of Yoenis Cespedes and Amed Rosario, each facilitated by encouraging examples of Mickeyball. Brandon Nimmo led off the first with a walk and sprinted to first. I’m not sure if that’s really a Callaway club trademark, but it seems refreshing and brisk, like those Citi Field gales. Then Yo stepped up and crushed through the wind whatever Aaron Nola threw him to deepest, highest left.

Noah Syndergaard didn’t take it from there. It was cold and he’s from Texas. He’ll have more and warmer starts to last beyond four, assuming there’s no more lat-grabbing in his immediate future. Thor threw too many pitches and was partially undermined on a first-to-second-to-first rundown gone awry, resulting in a steal of home for the Phillie who wasn’t being run down. We’re at the stage of Syndergaard’s career where we expect 2-0 leads to hold up interminably. With these winds, it’s hard for anything to stay stationary.

No worries, for the Mets have an airtight bullpen, and a manager who deploys it deftly. Under another skipper, we might interpret using a quartet of relievers in a quintet of innings as overworking the pen, but Mickey Callaway is savvy and sharp, so this must be a positive development. Robert Gsellman, like Seth Lugo, is no longer a fringe starter but a deadly weapon. Hansel Robles has morphed from reclamation project to promise reclaimed. Gsellman struck out three in two innings. Robles struck out the side in his return from purgatory. The Mets struck out fifteen in Wednesday’s game and sixty-one since last Thursday. No wonder it’s so windy around here.

While the relievers were providing relief, the opportunistic Mets and the ill-prepared Phillies matched core competencies. Cabrera, on first from a walk in the sixth, did indeed move up to second on a ball the catcher couldn’t handle and ultimately couldn’t throw correctly. Asdrubal later took third from a groundout, and was then joined on the basepaths by Wilmer Flores, who also walked. With two outs, young Amed Rosario was up and played by Kapler’s analytic dictates like a Little Leaguer. Rosario responded as grown folks will, tripling to deep right to put the Mets ahead, 4-2, the score by which they eventually salted (and peppered) this one away.

If a season that’s five games old can have a microcosm, this was it. The Mets’ pitchers were striking out batters, the Mets’ batters were taking advantage of opposing pitchers, the weather was being relentlessly unpleasant. Oh, and a win, or should I say another win. We are indeed alone in first place. We are indeed the champions of the five-game season. That, the accelerated activation of Michael Conforto and a sturdy pair of galoshes will prepare you for no more than a trip to the District to play the Nationals — presumably a step up in NL East class — but Mickeyball is all about preparation.

Watching Wednesday’s game also required prep steps. Wednesday was the dreaded Facebook game, the one that was sold from the friendly confines of subscription television to the inane terrain of social media. No SNY if you’re a local subscriber. No MLB.TV if you’re an out-of-market subscriber. No ESPN, no Fox, not even the official baseball network that was contracted to produce the elusive telecast. You had to go to Facebook, which would have been a really rad idea around 2010. (I’ve lived long enough so that invoking the first year of the second decade of the twenty-first century is shorthand for the implication of ancientness). Facebook has always shaded toward grating. Now we keep learning it’s rather shady. What a surprise.

What a surprise to find the Mets and Phillies playing nowhere else in the video sense. Not a shock, considering they warned us this game would be shifted to our smaller screens, but it definitely landed on the side of the fence you’d prefer to not climb over to get your ball back. I tried to be empathetic, thinking of otherwise blacked-out Mets fans somewhere who were delighted they could see the game via this vehicle. Not everybody has SNY. Not everybody has MLB.TV. Facebook has roughly 2.2 billion members. People in far-off lands who clicked on the MLB Live icon Wednesday had to be impressed by Nimmo’s hustle.

Instructions on how to watch the Facebook game were widely disseminated Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. That’s a bad sign. Getting to see your Mets shouldn’t require homework. Not that it was difficult. It was just unnecessary. And a downgrade from what we’re used to. We’re used to Gary and some combination of Keith and Ron. Instead, we got not them. I’d welcome Cliff Floyd onto a Mets broadcast in other situations, like one that MLB didn’t unilaterally decide I needed to see. I subscribe to cable not solely for SNY, but it’s the one channel I wouldn’t want to be without for the bulk of 162 games. Why make it superfluous for a day? Why tell baseball’s most loyal viewers — the constant ones — they are superfluous?

That it was a midweek afternoon game made it less of an imposition on certain well-formed habits. Prime time is different. SNY is No. 1 in prime time in my personal demographic, exponentially bigger than any Roseanne reboot. Afternoon games I have to pick up on the fly, in the background, generally speaking. Sometimes SNY becomes de facto radio, with me turning toward the screen only when Gary’s voice rises above the din of my keyboard clacking. Then I do as Howard Beale commanded and get out of my chair, albeit to poke my head at the TV to see what Yo just crushed and where it wound up.

Sometimes radio is my radio for afternoon games. I turn on Pete McCarthy at noon, who becomes Wayne Randazzo at 12:30, leading into Howie Rose and Josh Lewin. Their word picture doesn’t lack for sharpness and clarity. I listened to the Mets on the radio before I’d ever heard of cable TV. It’s a skill I’ve retained and embraced.

Point is, that should be up to me, the fan and customer. Don’t just tell me it’s Facebook or nothing. Alas, that is how these winds blew, so I did peek in on my tablet at this old-fashioned baseball game transmitted by relatively newfangled means. It’s not like I haven’t watched a game on my iPad, and it’s not like social media is particularly revolutionary. The part where we’re informed it’s our only visual option was the twist.

I went with Facebook’s telecast (Facecast?) for about an inning. The picture didn’t freeze. The announcers weren’t Gary, Keith or Ron. The graphics veered toward overbearing. The reminders that I could follow Todd Frazier on Instagram like Adrian Gonzalez does were excessive. I could make out Cespedes’s bomb just fine. Soon, my eyes were off my tablet and on my computer, where they were supposed to be in the midday hours. Mostly I heard voices I didn’t choose babbling on at a sub-GKR stratum, and I thought, “Why do I have this on?” I quit out of Facebook and turned up WOR on my AM dial. Always happy to listen to Howie and Josh describe the machinations of hot dog wrappers as they swirl and Jeurys Familia as he closes, just as I was always happy to listen to Bob Murphy and Gary Thorne in those days when SportsChannel existed but cable in my house didn’t.

Then I got cable, and TV is TV. Still is, cord-cutting and all. Strange that somebody somewhere decided TV is no longer the thing this year, at least not for one MLB game once a week. As ever, the fans baseball seems to value the least are the fans who cherish baseball the most.

14 comments to The Winds of West March

  • Dirk Lammers

    Every once in a while I’ll turn on the away feed in to get a taste of that team’s broadcast crew just to remind myself how incredibly lucky we are to have Gary, Keith and Ron.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    How ironic was it that the MLB.TV Ad behind home plate was visible for the whole game but you couldn’t watch the game there.

    Me, I didn’t like this Facebook Thing a whole lot, but I’ve read a couple of books on the advent of Baseball on the radio and TV and kind of wished I was there for those things (except that would probably mean I’d be dead by now) so I was glad to be in on this “Historic Broadcast”.

    But really, after about 6 minutes I had had enough of the 12 year old kid who was doing the Play by Play making inane comments with his pals Cliffie and Krukie. Not to mention Betty Boop or whatever her name was.

  • DAK442

    I’m generally the crusty old guy yelling at clouds, but I didn’t mind the Facebook thing at all. I was at work, in a Manhattan office building that doesn’t get good WOR reception and won’t put the TV on for a random Mets game in April. So I got to enjoy an afternoon game I otherwise wouldn’t have. The random popups were at times overbearing and the broadcast team certainly wasn’t GKR, but it was still better than an ESPN game. The commercial-free between inning spots were interesting, and Alexa is fun and lovely to boot. I wouldn’t want this to be how every game is broadcast, or even one a week, but I wouldn’t object to more of these on weekday afternoon games.

  • Pete In Iowa

    “As ever, the fans baseball seems to value the least are the fans who cherish baseball the most.”
    100 percent correct Greg. Just play the games and leave me alone. No automatic runners in extra innings, no pitch clock and good Lord, don’t make me have to sign up to info sponge facebook just to watch. No thanks. Radio works just fine for me.

  • I really like Facebook, and I’d welcome a simulcast of the SNY broadcast, and If that moves the needle for Facebook, great. This though was a poorly thought out stunt,

  • Was Proxy

    Facebook ? Good lord no, not even for the Mets I’d rather litsen on the radio.

  • Sonicnewman

    The commercial-free aspect was the only part I liked. I wish would do something similar. I’d rather hear Keith spout into a hot mic he’s unaware of than hear the damn clip of Prince Fielder eating someone’s nachos for the 100th time. Still only 5 games in and my optimism is slowly starting to grow in its recklessness.

  • Dave

    I was home on Wednesday waiting for a scheduled furniture delivery to be rescheduled to Thursday, so at first I’m thinking great, afternoon Mets game. Then I remember it’s the game that would be on The Face Book thing. My wife offers to log in so I’ll be ready to go, but like DAK, I’m busy yelling at clouds, and tell her thanks, but radio will work just fine.

    Whether things like this draw in more of these kids nowadays with their smart phones that they never put down and their Instant Gram, who knows. But given the choice between social media streaming and starting an 11th inning with a runner on 2nd base, bring on Facebook. Only problem is that you just know the Yankees are the team that Cambridge Analytica would be helping.

  • BlackCountryMet

    Given that 13 10 games are the best games for UK Mets to watch (18 10 our time) I was very annoyed it was not on MLBTV. However, having undergone a mildly frustrating time to get on FB(borrowing log on, discovering it wouldn’t stream on my TV, reverting to iPad and taking 10 mins to get rid of the comments)I thought it was tolerable. I liked the commercial free sections and whilst the comms weren’t on a par with GKR (who the heck IS?) they were reasonable and made me laugh from time to time. Pleased the Mets aren’t scheduled again though

  • Left Coast Jerry

    I have no desire to become part of the Facebook community. I listened to Howie and Josh on the At Bat app until it was time for me to leave to umpire a high school game. Then, I listened on XM in the car. Unfortunately, the game was still in the botom of the 8th when it was time to get on the field for my game. I was sure Familia was going to blow it in the 9th. Under normal circumstances, I would have DVRed the game and watched when I got home from the high school contest.

  • Cleon Jones

    Lets go Mets!!! 5-1 .good win against the hated Nats. Lets do it again tomorrow. Mets have to stay healthy!!

  • dmg

    ftr, i pretty much listen to a greater portion of the mets schedule on the radio with howie and josh than watch it on sny, espn, facebook or whatever video feed is available.
    baseball remains mostly a gallery of painted-word pictures in my mid-20th century world.

  • Daniel Hall

    I resent social media enough to have skipped the game entirely. Don’t even have an account; although technically I could have created one named ‘Rob Manfred Smells’… that guy, in bed with Suckerberg, and instantaneously all your worst nightmares come true. Like the Mets playing an afternoon game and you can’t watch unless you sell out your soul. Every year, this world becomes a little worse.

    No, I’m not ‘old’… I’m just grumpy.