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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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A Small Stuffed Bear Is Still, Technically, a Bear

Jason Vargas headed into winter in style Thursday night, allowing three hits and no runs over seven innings as the Mets beat the Braves. In fact, Mets starting pitchers allowed the Braves exactly zero runs in the two teams’ final series of the year.

Asterisk time! Vargas may have shaved nearly three runs off his ERA after finally finding a rhythm in August, but that ERA still ended up at 5.77. With a division title captured, the Braves were resting their regulars and their mental faculties before the next game that matters. The Mets’ four runs all came on home runs by Devin Mesoraco and Kevin Plawecki, yet you won’t find 2019 spring training thick with suggestions that Jerry Grote, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza make room in the pantheon.

But consolation prizes are still prizes, even if they’re not the ones that brought you to the fair. The Mets’ bedrock strength — which might lead them to a 2019 title and might lead them to halfheartedly chase the illusion of one — is their starting pitching, and every indication that the starting pitchers could be healthy and on point next spring is a reason to hope.

I collected one of my desired consolation prizes when Jacob deGrom ended his season with a flourish on Wednesday night before me. Greg and the rest of a small but rapturous crowd — the baseball descendants of the hardy faithful who showed up at the end of 2012 to see R.A. Dickey seek and attain a 20th win. (Followed by a Cy Young, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.) I’ll be in the park Saturday night to see David Wright say farewell, a bittersweet consolation prize, to be sure, but one I immediately knew I needed for so many reasons, starting with the fact that 14 summers ago I discarded my plans and hurried to Shea Stadium because Wright was making his long-awaited debut and I had to be there. And I have one more consolation prize in mind, one that’s neither secured nor scripted and so will go unmentioned.

Another consolation prize, now that I think about it, has already been delivered. The Mets were bad in May and really bad in June, sinking their season. (Perhaps you’ve heard.) But their revived, reignited play in August and September has cushioned the blow, and as the season dwindles to nothing I find myself, to my surprise, wanting more. That hasn’t been true in previous wrecked seasons — it’s often been a mercy to be spared further bad decisions and ownership double-talk and losses, losses, losses. But this season has redeemed itself. These Mets aren’t winning anything, and their last packed house is a sellout for the saddest of reasons, but I’ll miss them when they’re gone. And I’ll make room on my shelf for that.

5 comments to A Small Stuffed Bear Is Still, Technically, a Bear

  • Matt in DE

    “…which might lead them to a 2019 title and might lead them to halfheartedly chase the illusion of one.”
    “But their revived, reignited play in August and September…”

    It is these thoughts that concern me the most; is that the leadership/ownership (mainly ownership) of this club will cite the recent winning ways as a reason for sitting in their hands come the off-season, or worse, just pick up some more veteran cast-offs. One hopes that they realize that this was done with the kids they have in house, and just let ’em play!

  • dan in RI

    Good to see Vargas close out the season with a run of very good performances. I hated to see him out there earlier in the year–what a waste! But if he can keep up his recent level of performance next year–or at least pitch close to it–he will be a very solid 5th starter. Obviously, Jake, Zach and Thor are a fantastic threesome to anchor the rotation. If Matz can stay healthy (a huge “if”, given his history), he is an above-average 4th starter. And if Vargas pitches like the September ’18 Vargas (or the 2017 Vargas), we will be absolutely solid.

    Lugo is good insurance if any of them go down with injuries–I’d rather have him trot out there to start than send Oswalt out there.

  • joenunz

    “And I have one more consolation prize in mind, one that’s neither secured nor scripted and so will go unmentioned.”

    I think we all want to see him get to 30 home runs…

  • mikeL

    yea i too find myself wanting more. the baseball has been really good for a good stretch now – and having been used to doomed hopes since that 5-20 stretch – that’s pretty good.
    of course had the offense been awake for jake (yes, holy crap 3 runs a night and we’re likely coasting to our own postseason).
    there’s joy in from out-of-nowhere jeff mcneil evoking a departed 2B but with a glove that seems to match his bat…and yes conforto turning a seemingly lost season into something special.
    saturday will be sweet and sad and like all mets fans, i’m hoping david can do something special if for only one day, and leave the game smiling and satisfied with his too – short punctuation on his still mighty career.

    yup, most lost seasons feel lost for months. this one feels like we just ran out of games.

  • Dave

    Like Matt, I have worried about the later season improved play lulling ownership into believing that they’re good as is. What could save us though is a new GM coming in and just looking at the results over 162 games. There is definitely something to work with, but all too familiar holes to fill. Then it comes down to how much cash said ownership is willing to pony up.