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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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Ordinarily Enough

The Mets are an ordinary ballclub. They’re definitely not very good, they’re probably not very bad, even if five losses on a six-game road trip leaves you believing they couldn’t be much worse. They could be. They could also be better. It’s a long season. Teams that have yet to distinguish themselves one way or another can waft upward, drift downward or just tumbleweed along devoid of any kind of identifiable momentum.

Maybe the chance to play teams that have been demonstrably worse than them will be their near-term salvation. I heard that a couple of times as the Mets attempted to put their 1-5 jaunt behind them. The resolutely crummy Marlins, the noticeably depleted Nationals and the ambition-free Tigers constitute their menu of tantalizing possibility for the next two weeks. Sidestepping good teams in favor of bad teams looms eternally as the preferred route to respectability for ordinary teams.

During the offseason, the new general manager of the Mets, Brodie Van Wagenen, framed the Mets as some kind of supercontender in the making. The former agent’s core competency was pumping up the reputation of whoever’s cause he was representing. Other GMs might have tempered expectations and quietly worked to significantly improve the product. It did appear the 2019 Mets were likely to coalesce more effectively than the 2018 Mets, even as the roster that was being assembled now seems to have been explicitly built to defy sustained success. Nevertheless, Van Wagenen wanted us to know what he was selling us was something extraordinary.

Hard to buy that now, huh? The Mets are 17-20, suddenly 4½ games out of first place, not a factor in the emerging Wild Card race. Again, it’s a long season. You can scoff at taking remotely seriously a glance at the Mets’ position relative to other National League team not quite a quarter through the schedule, but every game not won in May is a game that can’t be unlost later. All we have for evidence of what the Mets are is how the Mets have played.

Scattered exceptional individual outbursts notwithstanding, the Mets have played ordinary baseball. Sometimes they outpitch the competition. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they hit enough. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they make the plays they need to execute. Sometimes they don’t. On the whole, the personnel Van Wagenen added from outside the organization has been neither disastrous nor transformative. Sometimes some of the new Mets do well. Sometimes they don’t. It’s a very generic assessment of a very generic team.

On Wednesday, the Mets couldn’t have started a less distinctive pitcher. His name was Wilmer Font. It is no knock on Wilmer Font to say that other than having fun with Wilmer’s last name and fondly recalling the last Met who shared Font’s first name, there was very little to say about Wilmer Font in advance of his first Met start. He was picked up because the Mets needed anybody, a description that neatly fits Wilmer Font, a former member of several other organizations who joined this one just the other day.

Font pitched OK against San Diego. Going in, the hope was he’d do just that. Seventy-five pitches was considered his highest ceiling. He threw sixty. One resulted in a home run to left field that Jeff McNeil, not quite a left fielder, couldn’t quite rob. Another was a popup to the periphery of no man’s land in much shorter left field, an outpost on the baseball map to which Amed Rosario (lately “RosERRio” in my pal Jeff’s estimation) neglected to get his passport stamped. That pitch fell in and scored a second Padres run, tying the game at two in the third. You would have signed for four innings of two runs allowed from Wilmer Font because that’s what this season has become.

As the getaway game skated along at its brisk 2:44 pace, Robert Gsellman kept the Padres from breaking the tie for a couple of innings. Matt Strahm (a name that more resembles a typo than a Font) did the same versus the Mets. McNeil and Rosario had linked their offensive capabilities to produce one run in the first. Tomás Nido, a sterling defensive catcher, homered in the second and prevented more Padre hijinks with a sharp pickoff throw to first in the fifth. Unlike McNeil, San Diego center fielder Manuel Margot was able to time a leap in the sixth and take away a home run, a ball Pete Alonso made the mistake of hitting only conventionally deep rather than stratospherically so.

The Mets finally nudged Strahm from the mound in the seventh, fashioning their most golden chance to edge ahead. Michael Conforto walked and stole second. One out hence, Brandon Nimmo doubled, but Margot’s ability to delete extra-base hits left enough doubt to keep Conforto from advancing beyond third. In came Gerardo Reyes. Nido, he of the homer plus a single earlier, struck out. Todd Frazier pinch-hit. Frazier lingers on the roster from the previous regime’s offseason mid-market shopping spree. Once in a while Frazier hits a ball over a wall and we can all feel pretty good about Frazier’s presence. The rest of the time he strikes out. This was the rest of the time. Todd went down swinging to Reyes.

In a rare moment of precise prescience a couple of innings before, because I’ve seen a few getaway games from Petco Park, I thought to myself that a) Tyler Bashlor would come in eventually; and b) Tyler Bashlor would give up a possibly decisive home run. Bashlor I predicted because I figured he was due to pitch. The home run didn’t take more than an educated guess. Hunter Renfroe made me a prophet. I could have done without the honor.

The rest was an ordinary conclusion to an ordinary afternoon, better because there was baseball, not so great because there was a Mets loss lurking in the offing. The Mets strung together a hint of a two-out rally in the ninth, with J.D. Davis singling off the glove of Ian Kinsler, who I sometimes forget isn’t Ian Desmond; otherwise forgotten Juan Lagares pinch-running and grabbing second on a wild pitch; and Nimmo walking. Nido was due up. Only Wilson Ramos sat on the bench as an alternative. Nido was having the game of his life, not that there have been a slew to choose from to date. Ramos is an established hitter who isn’t hitting. Like Frazier. Like several Mets. Mickey Callaway, whose second season at the helm is no more inspiring than his first, stuck with Nido, which I was fine with. Nido struck out, which I wasn’t fine with, but that was an ordinary enough outcome for an ordinary enough team losing an ordinary enough 3-2 game. Even the score was ordinary.

13 comments to Ordinarily Enough

  • Gil

    Liquid to the top! Come get us!

  • LeClerc

    If they’re under .500 at 54 games, somebody has to go.

    If this season is about fighting for third place with the Nationals: we might as well watch Nickelodeon.

  • sturock

    Bashlor, Flexen, Oswalt– same lousy call-ups this year as last. We expect a different result? The definition of insanity.

    Good point, Greg, on Brodie. He’s great at hyping others in the short term. Also at acquiring and holding former clients Cano, Lowrie, and Frazier. Not so good at building a deep organization and preparing for the inevitable pitching injuries.

    I don’t feel good about the 2019 Mets right now and, given who’s in charge, I don’t think that feeling is going to improve.

  • oldbackstop

    The pluses: deGrom, Wheeler, Matz, Diaz, Ramos, Alonso, Smith, Conforto, JD, McNeil

    The minuses: Rosario, Syndergaard, Nimmo, Broxton, Familia

    To take just one guy, if our leadoff guy Nimmo was slashing last year’s .263/.404/.483/.886 instead of .200/.333/.336 amidst the league leaders in Ks, we’d be a few more games in the black right there.

    If Rosario didn’t have twice as many errors (10)as the next two leading NL SSs combined, we might have a few more wins.

  • oldbackstop

    We have 16 games coming up with teams currently under .500. Time to man up.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Big decision day. Lowrie to be activated and, they say, play 3b every day and bat second. Someone must go. Broxton is the worst but may need OF (still should go and try Gomez or anyone). Frazier should be cut but more likely Davis sent down, has options. God help us if they decided they didn’t need 9 RPs in pen, more than half worthless (thanks, Sandy). Your thoughts?

  • LeClerc

    Matz now on IL.

    Smith back from Syracuse.

    Frazier’s a ball and chain – but they’ll keep him.

    Flush Broxton – Retain Davis. Please don’t bring up Oswalt and/or Flexen again.

    Needed: An English language interpreter for Mickey’s pressers.

  • Jonathan Nemzer

    I would say the team is “OK” akin to those commercials where the moving company deconstructs the neighbors piano. How many years must we settle for just OK? While the new Font is was neither Helvetica, or Comic Sans, It was not nearly as bold as I’d hoped

  • Jacobs27

    This post reminded me of Monty Python’s “Science-fiction Sketch”, the beginning of which goes like this:

    “It was a day like any other and Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Brainsample were a perfectly ordinary couple, leading perfectly ordinary lives – the sort of people to whom nothing extraordinary ever happened, and not the kind of people to be the centre of one of the most astounding incidents in the history of mankind … So let’s forget about them and follow instead the destiny of this man … Harold Potter, gardener, and tax official, first victim of Creatures from another Planet.”

    Spoiler-alert, after the events involving Harry Potter before Harry Potter and Creatures from another Planet, that perfectly ordinary couple comes back at the end to do something extraordinary. Perhaps these Mets will do the same.

  • […] offseason. After a few big initial hits, Ramos has been one of the reasons the Mets have seemed so stubbornly ordinary when not playing the Marlins. Not that games against the 10-30 Marlins don’t count, but if you […]