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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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We Inevitably Pass This Way Again

The Mets lost to the Brewers at Citi Field on Saturday night, 8-6, in an ugly game made briefly attractive before it reverted to hideous. Noah Syndergaard pitched badly, Travis d’Arnaud caught badly and Jeurys Familia thought badly. In between, Pete Alonso provided a powerful antidote to the mounting blahs, but nothing anybody did well could overcome everything everybody adorned with dollops of ineptitude.

And now the Mets are a .500 ballclub, 13-13, steadying the record of the franchise since the founding of this blog at 1,147-1,147, thus marking the 53rd time Faith and Fear has, whether from above or below, reached .500 in its lifetime. It should be a familiar sensation to us, because the team we root for calls itself a .500 enterprise at some point every year of its life, save for a handful — not counting 0-0, wise guys.

In 1985 and 2007, seasons that ended a couple of hairs shy of thick and luscious, the Mets soared above .500 to start and were never pulled back to flat ground, not even for a day. The rest of Met time, .500 has proven either a way station or, early on, an elusive aspiration (though, strangely enough, never an 81-81 destination). Our pioneers spent all of 1962 through 1965 yearning to have won as many as they lost, but otherwise all Mets sans ’85 and ’07 have pulled in at 1-1 or the like as they began to fill their 162-box bingo cards.

Perhaps the current year, fueled by Alonso Unleaded, struck you as containing the potential to be one of the aviating outliers. We launched 2-0, then 5-1, then 9-4, then hung in clear to 13-12. Alas, 2019 will consistently defy gravity no longer. For 25 games, these Mets were nothing but winners in the winning percentage sense of the concept. Eventually, though, 50-50 odds catch up with you. It happens every spring. Or summer, in the case of 1991, when .500 didn’t track the Mets down until August 15 (57-57). The 2018 Mets, it will be recalled with minimal memory strain, shot out of the gate like a house on a fire until they went down in mixed metaphorical flames. The team that ascended to 11-1 and maintained a cruising altitude of 17-9 at this very stage of last season, finally discovered itself .500 after 50 games: 25-25. Two games later, they were 26-26; two games after that, 27-27. Then…well, let’s just say .500 looked pretty darn desirable by the halfway mark.

Conversely, teams we remember for extending their years joyously experienced a moment or more of stumble and humble. Your October-bound heroes from 1986 and 1988 bottomed out at 2-3. The 2015 club not only held that same drab five-game record but were no better than break-even after 84 games. The 1999 and 2000 Mets each dropped their Openers and reluctantly revisited territory beneath .500 somewhere down the road. The indomitable 2006 edition missed out on claiming wire-to-wire distinction by pausing at 1-1 (and sitting a half-game out of first for a blink). Our most recent playoff entrants, from 2016, not only lost their first regular-season game but found themselves looking up at .500 deep in the heart of August. Their spiritual ancestors, the 1973 Mets, famously climbed to first place and .500 simultaneously, hitting 77-77 on September 21 in a National League East that was more comfortable shopping at Korvettes than it was Saks.

There was this one April ages ago when the New York Mets were doing what they were known to perennially do: lose more than win. After engineering the modest self-esteem boost of a 2-1 start, those Mets slipped to .500, then below it, then characteristically far below it as quickly as they could. Those Mets were, at various plot points on their graph, 3-7, 6-11 and 9-14. It was a huge historical deal when they proceeded to win nine of their next thirteen and scaled their way to the highest peak commonly imagined for them: .500.

Oh, those 18-18 Mets were hot stuff in the eyes of their traveling press, the members of which had never seen a literally not bad edition so late in a Met season. Witnesses to the big clubhouse celebration were few, however, because most of the Mets weren’t celebrating. A winning percentage of .500, their best player scolded the media, was nothing to celebrate.

After which, the Mets lost five in a row to fall to 18-23, ha-ha.

After after which, the Mets won eleven in a row to rise to 29-23, and whether because you already knew the salient details or you’ve been paying a scintilla of attention all your life, you know I’m talking about the 1969 Mets, currently our fiftieth-anniversary darlings, forever the avatars of anything being possible. There was a time, however, when they weren’t “the 1969 Mets” yet, except in name. They might as well have been any other Mets to date based on their sub-so-so record. But records are forever subject to change while a schedule plays out, and a whole lot of games are waiting to be won beyond April. Tom Seaver, the Met who advised reporters to go find another story, knew that. Gil Hodges, who’d been convincing his charges since St. Pete that not bad wasn’t their ceiling, knew that. Soon, the whole world turned savvy.

Not every Mets team that touches .500 uses the most level of platforms as a trampoline — and three losses in a row maybe has us fearing we’re about to excavate rather than elevate — but let’s have faith that 2019’s next bounce takes us sky high and keeps us suitably aloft. What goes up can always come down some other year.

11 comments to We Inevitably Pass This Way Again

  • Pete In Iowa

    I awoke this morning with complete disbelief that Travis d’Arnothing remains on a major league roster. Last night was about as unprofessional a performance as I can recall.
    On Grandal’s “stolen base,” it seemed as if d’Arnothing was completely asleep behind the plate, his squatting, kneeling, rolling, flopping attempt at a throw a true embarrassment. Shortly after, a completely lackadaisical effort to corral a pitch a little outside was a complete whiff as the pitch bounded to the backstop as runners advanced to second and third. Here’s a hint — slide your body over and actually BLOCK the ball, rather than trying to nonchalantly back-hand it. Of course, to do that, one has to be mentally ready to do so on each pitch. Finally, getting thrown out at second — on an OVERSLIDE!!!! — with no one out and trailing by four runs late in the game is something which I have advised Little Leaguers against doing. Especially when it is your second hit OF THE SEASON!!
    I ask: how could we be any worse off with Nido — or (gulp) — Rivera serving backup duty these days?

  • Michael in CT

    We seem to be able to score runs thanks to folks like Alonso, McNeil and increasingly Cano who were not seen in these parts a year ago. If our pitching was even close to its previously vaunted self, we would not be looking at a .500 record today. Yet I have to believe stalwarts like Thor and Jake will revert to prior norms and vault us above equal wins and losses. LGM!

    And yes, what a wonderful description of the ’69 Miracle Mets: “the avatars of anything being possible.” Which is why that team – and everyone on it – has a lock on baseball immortality and a fond place in the heart of any human who yearns for better times.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    As Casey said, you have to have a catcher because of you don’t you’re likely to have a lot of passed balls. After watching the recent exploits of both Wilson Ramos and Travis d’Arnaud, it’s obvious that the Mets simply do not have a catcher.

    • Bob

      Choo Choo Coleman–where are you? Jesse Gonder?
      Hobie Landrith, Mackey (throw the freakin’ ball!)Sasser?

  • MackieW

    Long-time reader, first-time poster. The writing this season has, as always, been stellar, guys — even after putrid performances from the team, one can still find enjoyment in your well-crafted descriptions of the debacles.

    I’m personally starting to get quite alarmed at the downright wretched starting pitching; Jake and Noah are both carrying gargantuan ERAs, especially in light of their talent and past exploits; Wheeler and Matz have been very inconsistent; and it hardly bears mentioning that Vargas’ starts are almost automatic losses at this point.

    On the flip side, though, the lineup remains surprisingly potent and could carry us far, if the starters would only revert back to the mean.

  • JoeyBaguhDonuts

    Last night, Todd Zeile theorized that “the catcher” was tipping deGrom’s pitches with his setup. Todd said deGrom’s pitches were as good as ever, but batters were expecting them. Both Ramos and d’Arnaud have caught him over the last three bad outings so that would be a systemic catching problem that only intermittently occurs.

    If your batting average falls to .050 or .087, have you left the interstate and taken a county road?

    Last Thursday, I walked down a staircase in a hotel in Rochester with a guy in a bright new Mets hoodie. “Yeah, I’m a Met fan,” he said. “I’m a masochist.” We have our own vernacular. “Ya gotta believe” is in our vernacular, too. I’m glad I learned that at eight years of age, rather than “masochist.”

  • This just in: d’Arnaud has been DFA’d. Nido up.

    Can’t say they pussyfooted around.

    • JoeyBaguhDonuts

      Hate seeing a younger man’s career in jeopardy, but there was no reason to bring him back. Sandy traded for him, so that explains his excess of patience in 2018. Someone else would have insisted on one more try this April, passed up
      Mesoraco (money?) and then agreed it’s over. That’s the story I want to read.

    • Pete In Iowa

      Certainly good news on the DFA. Too bad $3.5 million was wasted in tendering him. Brodie’s first big gaffe. I truly hope he just needs a change in scenery, but he has been just brutal in his entire stay with the Mets, save for a couple good months in 2015. To think HE was the leading light in the RA Dickey deal…

    • Daniel Hall

      First reaction when I saw that yesterday: Good riddance!

      No, that’s actually still my reaction. I was done with him probably as far back as 2016 (so-so hitting catcher with no arm whatsoever that could legitimately have his primary position described as the DL…), but definitely already before this game. His what-gives approach to catching, throwing, and running in this game incensed me enough that when he was thrown out at second and crawled off the field like a wet and beaten dog I indeed hollered a couple o’ “BOOOOO!”‘s.

      I am honestly more concerned with Ramos, who I remember as a pretty capable backstop from when he was playing against the Mets…

      How about having Dominic Smith play catcher? It can’t hurt the SB rates. And it would get an actual bat into the lineup. Sorry, sour times make me sour…