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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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Same Time, This Year

Losing by the same score as a forfeit is just too on-the-nose as Met-aphors go, but there’s no compelling reason to leave room for interpretation after a 2018 Mets loss so dismal it would have fit snugly inside the disaster known as 2017.

Ah, remember 2017? Probably and probably not, I’d reckon. Sure, it was only a year ago, and you can’t have possibly forgotten how for six months we’d seemingly only lose and wallow in the mire. Yet the way this season has crumbled has likely overshadowed just what a disappearing act Terry Collins’s final crew pulled. One of the themes I keep revisiting of late is that while, yes, this right now is unquestionably awful, no, it is not unprecedented for awfulness. I don’t need to hark back to 1962 or 1979 or 1993 to make that point. I need merely take only one quick step in reverse.

The differences may appear subtle to the naked eye, but what materially separated the dregs of 2018 from the depths 2017 until Sunday, to my thinking, was something Mickey Callaway continually references. It’s not to his credit, but I honestly see what he’s been getting at. Over and over, when the Mets are doing and scoring nothing, he says they’re really and truly in the games they’re losing. I want to rinse and spit every time he goes there, but he hasn’t been wholly incorrect. Saturday’s 3-0 loss, for example, was a lot like many 2018 losses. They weren’t blown out. They stayed close. Hell, they led off with a baserunner in seven different innings en route to being shut out. Had something or other gone right (or not gone wrong), maybe they’d have won (or not lost). Same could have been said on numerous fairly well-pitched, relatively razor’s-edge occasions.

It’s not much to cling to — in my harsher moods, I’d call it loser talk — but I can understand why a neophyte manager who has watched his team fall short over and over might want to grab for the slightest of twigs on the slimmest of branches. Callaway’s job is to figure out how to turn those agonizing losses into wins. They’re so close he can taste victory. It’s gotta be killing him that he can’t get them across the line.

Sunday afternoon at Citi Field obliterated the vague sense the Mets were missing just a little something here or there. Sunday afternoon at Citi Field they missed everything by a mile. Most damningly, Sunday afternoon at Citi Field could have been most any Sunday afternoon at Citi Field in 2017, the year when the Mets practically never won a Sunday afternoon home game and were habitually steamrolled Monday through Saturday wherever they played.

The Sunday business last year could be chalked up as anecdotal or coincidental, but what was consistent among all days of the week in 2017 was the Mets landing on the wrong side of lopsided scores. There was always an 11-4 bashing waiting around the corner, with a 12-5 mashing lurking in the shadows behind it, and a 14-3 trashing waiting in the wings. How apropos that 2017 ended with an 11-0 beatdown.

Twenty Eighteen seemed to pick up in earnest where 2017 left off on Sunday, as the Rays stomped the Mets, 9-0, a no-contest marked mostly by Nathan Eovaldi carrying a perfect game into the seventh, but also noteworthy for Tampa Bay facing the minimum number of New York batters until the ninth. Throw in mediocre outfield play by each of its components and an ill-advised start by 2017 desperation days alumnus Chris Flexen (three innings, five runs, ERA up to 12.79), and whatever edge in style points this year had versus last year fully dissipated. Not that 2018 was exactly being heroic by comparison otherwise. As putrid as 2017 was, the Mets briefly hinted at competence as the first half slogged into the second. They won sixteen of twenty-six between June 25 and July 25, keeping lit the faintest ember of hope for anybody who figured if they could rise from the doldrums in 2015 and 2016, maybe the third time could be a charm, too.

Illusions of contention never gained a ton of traction, but the 2017 Mets did hover within four games of .500 with a little more than a third of the season remaining. They weren’t fooling anybody, but — and here’s something I wasn’t planning on saying in the present — they weren’t this bad. They would get this bad and perhaps worse in August and September, but they kept one fingernail on respectability’s outer edge for longer than it seemed they were capable of doing.

These 2018 Mets haven’t done anything remotely as impressive since May became June. These 2018 Mets haven’t been four games from .500 since June 5. Not that being four games below .500 should be a goal for any professionally owned, operated and managed big league baseball team, but this edition has plummeted faster and farther than its immediate predecessor. I didn’t think being better than the 2017 Mets was something that was going to be aspirational, but, as of now, the 2018 Mets are four games worse than the 2017 Mets were at the same point in the schedule. The 2017 Mets ebbed to 39-47 after 86 games; the 2018 Mets have sunk to 35-51. It’s not even our first time sixteen games under this year, whereas last year’s Mets needed 124 games to flail that far from break-even.

The only thing the 2018 Mets have going for them in this mythical battle versus their former selves is the 2017 team would eventually roll downhill as if shoved by an avalanche. They were 53-62 on August 13 — certifiably lousy, but garden-variety crummy, all things considered — yet finished 70-92. That’s a 17-30 tumble into the abyss. There went Collins. There went coaches. There went a season to its deep, dark, deserving resting place. Hardly anybody was healthy, hardly anybody was hitting, hardly anybody was watching. When it finally ended, we all said roughly the same thing: thank goodness that’s over.

Little did we know what the sequel held in store.

19 comments to Same Time, This Year

  • Left Coast Jerry

    In 2017, I saw the Mets play in 4 different cities. The Mets went 2-2 in those games. In both losses, in San Diego and Houston, Chris Flexen was the starting pitcher.

    I have come to the realization that if I go to the bad place when I die, I will be forced to watch Chris Flexen pitch over and over again for eternity.

  • Dave

    You’re getting dark Greg, I thought you were Jason.

    Liking day games and having vacation days to use up, I’m going to today’s doubleheader. I anticipate being able to stretch my legs a bit, but only because I figure Phillies fans are less likely to schlep up the Turnpike for a 4pm Monday start. What I also don’t anticipate is seeing this team play well. The Dog Days of Summer came very early. Do we plan crops around that?

    • Jacobs27

      Indeed, a straight repeat of yesterday seems far more probable than a well-played game of any kind, especially given who’s pitching for the Phillies. You are a brave man, Dave. Good luck to you.

  • Gil

    Break it all down. Everyone needs to go. Not just deGrom, but the entire pitching staff. We need a new team to root for next year. I can only hope Cespedes gets packaged into a deal, but its hard for me to imagine anyone wanting him. This sucks.

    • DAK442

      deGrom and Noah are the only two guys on this team I have any interest in seeing. Not coincidentally, they’re the only guys we could trade for anything useful. Problem is, I don’t trust the front office to acquire decent prospects in a deal. The current “talent” evaluators drafted can’t miss position players like Dom Smith, Rosario, Conforto, Cecchini, Nimmo. Flops and mediocrities.

      You know who we should trade for? Theo Epstein. Or Brian Cashman. A GM who can identify talent, and actually come out on top in trades.

      • Michael in CT

        I’d take Nimmo off that list of flops/mediocrities. He’s 11th best in NL in on-base (.386) and slugging (.515) –– though he’s been slipping in both –– and can catch the ball.

  • Dave

    Jacobs27 – does it matter who’s pitching for the Phils? Far as I can tell, the Mets are facing Koufax every day, or at least turn of the millennium Pedro.

    • Seth

      This is my one problem — I’m tired of hearing the broadcast team spin every loss as a “masterful” pitching performance, when really it’s just an inept hitting performance.

    • Jacobs27

      True, this line up will pad any pitcher’s highlight reel. If 2018 Pedro came out of retirement to face them, they would probably struggle. It just seems like when they face legitimately good pitchers they’re an automatic no-hit risk. Honestly though that might be a reason to go. At least you would get to see some history.

    • Jacobs27

      Dave, you’re a genius!

  • mikeski

    only lose and wallow in the mire

    Heh. Nice. Of course, when the music’s over, as it is now for the Mets, you turn out the lights.

  • MatthewA

    I know I shouldn’t take live baseball for granted, but i’ve lately found myself looking forward to the offseason, counting down the days to next season in pure, blissful denial about whether recent results are predictive of future performance.

  • Every decade, in the years ending in 7 and 8, the Mets have put up seasons with similar outcomes easily thought of in pairs. ’67 and ’68 were bad, but not 120-loss bad. ’77 and ’78 were the beginning of the banishment from respectability. ’87 and ’88 were entertaining but ultimately underachieving and huge disappointments (albeit in very different ways). ’97 and ’98 were near-miss contenders which paved the way for greater heights. Of course, there were the twin collapses to the Phillies in ’07 and ’08 (though the first one was worse). Following the toilet flush of ’17, as you’ve noted Greg, is it any wonder, then, that we’re seeing more of the same this year? This organization gives new meaning to Flushing. I’m not a numerology guy, but there is a strange pattern here. We can only hope that ’19 will be more like ’99 and less like ’09, but it’s looking like it’ll be similar to the latter. What did we do to deserve being stuck with these owners and this franchise?

  • Gary

    The problem I have with this year is accountability. Callaway was going to insist on that, and in that, he’s fallen flat.

    About a month ago the Mets were in Arizona, and nearly managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory after Nimmo and Cabrera both homered to put them ahead. This was done by Dominic Smith showboating and turning a routine first-out-of-the-ninth inning into an error by transferring the ball from his glove to his hand through his legs. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t replaced by Callaway then and there. I mean, Gil Hodges once replaced Cleon Jones in 1969 for a lesser transgression.

    And we have rookies who need to be taught how to bunt – at the major league level!

    Anyway, my point is they need to blow up the entire organization – spend more money on scouting, spend more money on player development – develop a “Mets Way” of doing things (not the current Mets way), and trust their young players.

    End rant. It’s so hard to watch this year.

  • Richard Porricelli

    funny how we look back at those crummy years and now smile…while in progress however, its a whole different matter..
    I still watch, casually, I love our broadcast team and ignore the numbers..Hell its summer and its baseball and I think of the upper deck at Shea and smile..

  • eric1973

    Hey Richard, I miss Shea as well.

    The ‘new’ place, from the outside, looks like an unfinished building or a finished parking garage.

    Very unattractive inside and out.

  • Daniel Hall

    I didn’t plan on it but I got sucked into the FIFA World Cup for the last three weeks and safe for the box scores and scant highlights didn’t see a lot of Mets games, maybe four in three weeks. Those I saw were all losses. This one was the most entertaining for their rank ineptitude, and because it was exciting to maybe, just maybe witness a perfect game as it was unraveling.

    Note that this “unraveling” is a different sort of “unraveling” that the Mets are doing, day by day, night by night.

    Worst thing is, they make me pull for the Phillies and/or Barves to keep the Gnats out of the playoffs.

  • Prodigal daughter

    Not a habitual comment-maker on any blog (and never before on this site), but our team has driven me to taking the plunge. I’m a Mets fan over pretty much this entire decade because circumstances have provided me the time to return to the indulgence and requirements of fandom.

    Brief history: I was a Queens girl, rabidly committed to the Brooklyn Dodgers Boys of Summer, but impending busy adulthood plus the Dodgers’ decamping to the West Coast left me little inclination to continue following baseball.

    Over the years, the combination of raising a family in South Jersey and having a husband whose baseball attachment was to the “local” Phillies found me sporadically joining him in his loyalty. I felt somehow displaced amidst this turncoat decision.

    Now a truly empty-nester (my husband died in 2002) I have retired and have filled a lot of leisure time reclaiming my erstwhile habit of following New York baseball.

    It should go without saying that no former Brooklyn Dodgers family could bear that Bronx team, which left me embracing the Mets.

    I have survived the Willie Randolph years and barely hung on through the Jerry Manuel disgraced, and can hardly find words to describe the mostly disappointing Terry Collins/Sandy Alderson
    teasers, drunk champagne to celebrate going into 2015 post-season thrill, and held my head up in pride even when discussing the Matt Harvey 9th inning fiasco.

    I pondered my grim attachment to the Mets despite 2017 (the ill-conceived Cespedes resigning always at the top of these musings – what’s that about 20/20 hindsight?) while enduring 2018 thus far.

    I cannot proclaim any true pleasure in beholding any one of these folks who are currently cluttering the Mets lineups, but they’ve brought me to some philosophically interesting examination of the nature of fanhood, its attendant loyalty and even why people are sports fans to begin with.

    It’s too bad that a team’s descending to the depths of crumminess can drive its adherents to look beneath the surface of simple acceptance of all this game seems to offer. It’s worse than bad when GKR

  • Prodigal daughter

    Tree leaving a comment that would like to edited for length. Perhaps there’should still a chance to do so. Sorry.