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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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Everywhere You Don’t Want to Be

“I’m not really throwing the ball where I want to,” Jacob deGrom explained to reporters Sunday night. He probably meant in relation to where Brave batters could hit it. I’d add I’d have preferred Jake not throwing the ball on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, which no matter how it’s presented is an inevitable bummer.

I’ll leave it to Jake to figure out where the ball is going in advance of his next start. In deGrom we continue to trust. Our ace said he’s going to watch some video. Too bad. Nobody who roots for the Mets should ever want to watch this one again.

Sunday wasn’t Tuesday, the previous deGrom start that lacked quality. He didn’t get jumped on but he was clearly groping for his groove. For five innings it was out of his grasp, but at least he and it were in the same lane of I-285. DeGrom leaving the Mets in a 3-1 hole at SunTrust Park is not the same as Jason Vargas operating an earth mover, dumping tons of dirt on his team’s chances and skedaddling with 26 outs to go. Jake, however, did need 114 pitches for his five innings, precluding desperately desired length. He struck out nine but walked four and gave up five hits. Not quality, but not disastrous.

Except that in the wake of Vargas & Co. the night before, you’d sure like invincible deGrom to show up on cue and do what we’ve come to define as his thing. Maybe we just wish Jake could always throw the ball in 2018.

The relievers who followed him — Justin Wilson, Paul Sewald and Jeurys Familia — didn’t seem to throw the ball where they wanted to, either, while Met hitters for the most part didn’t hit the ball to too many useful places. Down by three in the eighth with two on, there was a moment of hope. Brandon Nimmo was up, Pete Alonso was on deck, the sense that three-and-a-half hours devoted to this exercise was going to feel worthwhile was palpable. But Brandon fanned, the Braves plumped up their lead and a 7-3 loss (played in a torpid 3:36 preceded by a 27-minute delay) oozed to a conclusion.

For this I DVR’d BillionsBarry and Veep? Well, sure. The Mets are my prime time programming of choice, even when the episode in progress begs to be flipped away from. I appreciate Howie Rose and Wayne Randazzo being more entertaining in sound than whatever was appearing in pictures, yet it’s a little early in the season to be deploying “TV down, radio up”. Early, but on Sunday night, necessary.

Piling on Sunday Night Baseball and the network that broadcasts it is an instinct as old as Paul Sewald himself, which is to say it dates back to ESPN first bringing us baseball in prime time in 1990 (which was when Sewald was born; it only feels like the Mets have been shuttling him in from Triple-A for the past 28 years). Plucking a Sunday ballgame from what we are conditioned to believe is its natural environs — Sunday afternoon — and making us wait around for hours on end plays havoc with our ballological clock. Shifting it from the warm and familiar surroundings of SNY and shoehorning it within somebody else’s platform and making our team fit somebody else’s agenda further dissonates our cognition. And whatever benefit a “national game” has for out-of-market Mets fans doesn’t resonate in the streaming age like it used to as a good reason for going Snighless.

I tried to give ESPN a chance. Before fleeing to WCBS, I listened to Matt Vasgersian set the scene. The Braves, he said, entered this game with a chance to take three of four from the Mets. The Mets, to that point, had taken two of three from the Braves.

Thumb meet mute.

Hank Aaron was a special guest in the booth for a couple of innings. Of course you want to hear from Hank Aaron when in Atlanta. Hank Aaron is the very definition of a living legend. Even if it distracts from deGrom’s (and Julio Teheran’s) pitching, you shrug it off in April. He’s Bad Henry, for goodness sake. But I couldn’t. I tried. Unmuted here and there, but Vasgersian, Jessica Mendoza and Alex Rodriguez together could be distilled into a spray can and be marketed as baseball repellant. Mostly Vasgersian, really, but the combined effect is an ad for silence. It didn’t help that ESPN flashed a photo of what it claimed was Hank with Jackie Robinson from their playing days, Robinson the old Brooklyn Dodger, Aaron the young Milwaukee Brave. Except it was Jackie Robinson and Boston Braves outfielder Sam Jethroe. Jethroe and Aaron didn’t look much alike. They weren’t even on the same Braves club let alone in the same Braves city. To plop a cherry atop the inaccurate Sunday Night sundae, the same photo labeled the same way pinged around Twitter a few months ago and was widely spotted and corrected.

Later, when I saw a highlight package devoted to the fiftieth anniversary of the 1969 Mets, I unmuted again. Tommie Agee was referred to on screen as Tommy Agee. Vasgersian proceeded to read from a script that said the Mets had gone “from the pinnacle to the pit” in seven years, as opposed to what they actually did. Howie Rose…take me home…

ESPN does many things well, including posting and archiving the AP recaps we’ve linked to for just about every game the Mets have played since 2005. But experiencing ESPN televising a regular-season baseball game — especially one involving a team you care about — leaves the impression that the last thing ESPN wants to do is televise a regular-season baseball game anybody cares about. Me, I’ll always look forward to a regular-season Mets game. Just not that much on a Sunday night or at all on that channel.

13 comments to Everywhere You Don’t Want to Be

  • Daniel Hall

    “The Braves, he said, entered this game with a chance to take three of four from the Mets.” – He … what?? … Listen, Mr. Verdashian, if you struggle counting to three like normal people, use your fingers. Please. Do they do any research before going on air or is it literally the producer guy shouting into the three numbnuts’ earphones: “Alright, you’re on in three, two … by the way, you’re doing Mets-Braves!”…?

    I am baffled. More by this than by deGrom appearing almost… (gulp) … m-mortal.

  • 9th String Catcher

    Incredible. It’s not only the lack of planning and the laziness, but what about just common sense? They asked Hank, “where do you think this photo was taken? Milwaukee or Atlanta?” The guy was wearing a Braves uniform with a B on the hat. Seriously, man, how much do these guys get paid to broadcast?

  • Gil

    If you’d like to know what hell is like, it was last night. deGrom not being an ace, the Mets bats mostly quiet, and the ESPN booth being its terrible, identity politics self. Listen, I know you have a legend in the booth, but when you go to split screen, the game has to be the bigger screen.

    The phoniness of A Rod is palpable and visceral. It almost has a smell.

  • K. Lastima

    Up next for progress in broadcasting: a former Olympic curling great will provide “expert analysis” for NHL hockey

  • Michael in CT

    I did love seeing the great Hank Aaron. I’m glad A-Rod got a glimpse of what a Hall-of-Famer looks like – someone whose 755 HRs are all legit, not the juiced-up total that Alex has. So when Bad Henry talked about having one of his old lockers on display at the Hall, A-Rod, unless I’m mistaken, made some awkward crack that his locker will not be appearing there. Let’s hope so.

    When the ESPN folks talked later about the ’69 Mets, it would have been appropriate to mention how the Mets clobbered Aaron’s Braves in the playoffs, but no such luck.

    • DAK442

      I loved when the broadcast team said “Let’s break down Hank’s swing here” and then proceeded to do almost nothing of the sort.

      No way did Aaron know Vasgerian’s or Mendoza’s names. He called Rodriguez “A-Rod” repeatedly, and barely acknowledged the other two.

      I find A-Rod almost kind of endearing at this point. He realized he’s made mess of his life – destroyed his legacy, tainted his career, wrecked his marriage – and just rolls with it. That crack about his locker not being in Cooperstown was hilarious.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    After listening to Gary Cohen pronounce the pitcher’s name as See-wald every time they brought him out of the bullpen, I was irritated when Vasgersian kept calling him Soo-wald. Regardless, I’d rather not see either See-wald or Soo-wald enter the game.

  • Bob

    Bad enough having to MUTE ESPN –and being in LA I can’t get Mets Radio.
    But worst of all–seeing that lying, drug cheat, ex-skankee low-life A-Roid in the same booth as Henry Aaron.
    A-Roid could not lick Henry’s boots…….
    Raises my BP–not good….

    Bob in LA

    Let’s Go Mets!

  • Jacobs27

    ESPN should be ashamed of themselves. I would say it’s reached a level of self-parody now, but parody would suggest that there was something even vaguely fun going on.

    You know things are bad when the the Braves radio feed — the only one I could get on– seems like a véritable oasis of baseball commentary by contrast.

    Good grief.

  • JoeyBaguhDonuts

    You coined “ballological” and it wasn’t a double entendre. Impressive.

  • I can definitely feel your pain with M$ESPN and Sunday Night Baseball. I started muting back when Morgan and Miller would prattle on about everything and anything…except the game, during the broadcast.

    What finally did it for me (not watching them anymore) was a few yeas ago during a game featuring Matt Harvey. The booth proceeded to spend at least one solid inning talking about Tommy John surgery and not one second was actually devoted to the game being shown.

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