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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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Just Go-Go With It

The Mets are 4-0 in the last four; were 0-5 in their previous five; and were 3-0 in the three before that. I’d say they’re streaky, but that doesn’t seem to cover a team that expertly wavers between exhilarating and exasperating. Are the Mets good enough to take seriously? Are the Mets bad enough to fire everybody? Do the concurrent ups and downs of Met opponents have something to do with the sharp turns in Met momentum? And how is it a whole bunch of Mets who weren’t already hurt get hurt — Lugo, Nimmo, Cano who runs out a ground ball once in his life and see where it gets him and McNeil were assigned this week to an IL that was already accommodating Mets too numerous to identify individually — and the Mets keep winning?

Oh, like any of us can produce concrete answers on demand. The best I can come up with is it’s a baseball season, and baseball seasons “swerve inexplicably,” to borrow a phrase from Robert Caro’s description of the Northern State Parkway at Old Westbury and Dix HIlls…except Caro dug and dug as Caro does and discovered the explanation (Robert Moses was in thrall to robber barons who didn’t want a public highway cutting through their expansive grounds), whereas I have no convincing explanation as to why the utterly hopeless Mets who limped out of last weekend are suddenly the giddily surging Mets hopping, skipping and jumping into this weekend, propelled toward unanticipated heights by an almost random implementation of Quadruple-A outfielders.

Well, maybe I have a convincing explanation for why the Mets have taken to winning one game after another the last time they bat, but it’s in the Washington Nationals bullpen, and my mother always implored me that if I didn’t have something nice to say about people, I shouldn’t say anything at all.

So let’s stick to the nice. Finishing off the Nationals, their relievers and the rest of them at Citi Field, was very, very nice on Thursday afternoon. Finishing off a four-game sweep of a rival on a Thursday afternoon at home is always very, very nice. It’s not a frequent occurrence, but when it transpires, it can live on accessibly in the mind’s eye. This week’s extended brooming conjured memories of a week in June a mere 34 years ago when our previous season’s nemesis, the Chicago Cubs, came into Shea Stadium trying to right their listing ship and found themselves sunk by a Met club that had been taking on water itself. We had the good pitching, the timely hitting and the opponent on the ropes. When it was all over, we had taken two pair from the defending National League East Champions, serving definitive notice that the rest of 1985 was going to look a whole lot different from the way 1984 played out.

The 1985 Cubs were dead. The 1985 Cardinals were another matter, but that was for the rest of 1985 to determine. What mattered on the nights of June 17, 18 and 19 and then the afternoon of June 20 was we took four in a row from the reeling Cubs — George Foster Metsmerized them for good in the matinee finale with the penultimate grand slam of his distinguished career — and the Shea PA blasted Paper Lace’s “The Night Chicago Died,” the second-greatest song of all-time. Brother what a ’noon it was.

The previously daunting Nats are presumed deceased, too, while the Mets are in at least temporary possession of a pulse. It beats through the magical left arm of Long Island’s Own Steven Matz (LIOSM), which scattered baserunners galore and yielded but a lone run over six ten-hit innings. It throbs within the bat of Dominic Smith, a.k.a. Le Grand Dom, who is maybe too young to be a pinch-hitter deluxe but has taken to the Rusty Staub role like nobody around here since Lenny Harris. And, lordy, it races from head to toe and all stops in between where Carlos Gomez is concerned.

Carlos Gomez! CarGo! Go-Go! From 2007! The good part of 2007! Yes, 2007 was a mostly splendid season until the c-word crashed all over us in the second half of September and obliterated the bulk of pleasant associations the followup to 2006 was generating. Gomez was intrinsic to the “maybe we’re gonna be all right” vibe that pervaded Shea that summer. He was lightning on the basepaths and he lit up the dugout. Apparently a dozen-season hiatus from Flushing has changed absolutely nothing essential about our quickest and happiest warrior.

Gomez, No. 91 in your program, No. 1A in your heart this series — alongside Rajai Davis, assuming there’s room in the rideshare — started his second Met tenure slowly. It’s understandable in that staring at him standing still in the present and remembering him perpetually on the move in the past provided you two wholly different images. The Gomez of 2019, when he first reappeared in Miami, looked so much older than I pictured him from 2007, which may have been a function of twelve years having passed. Also, the Mets stood perfectly still in Miami and none of them exuded vigor.

The Carlos Gomez from the good part of 2007 emerged from the Uber of imagination in the fifth inning Thursday when he singled off Stephen Strasburg, stole second and continued on toward third when Yan Gomes’s throw went awry, though to be fair to Yan, so did one of Carlos’s shoes. Like that was gonna stop Gomez from being safe or scoring on Juan Lagares’s imminent sac fly.

This gave LIOSM the one run he needed as a buffer against a hiccup in his magic. In fact, the magic did burp in the sixth when indefatigable Juan Soto doubled and former Met patsy Brian Dozier (recently 0-for-37 against us, setting a position-player futility record it never occurred to us existed, let alone that it existed under the auspices of eternal Met villain Mike Scioscia) singled him in. Matzie the Magician got out of the sixth like he got out of every inning, by overcoming a proliferation of baserunners. For Steven to pull a win out of his hat, however, the Mets would have to retake the lead on his behalf — and they did in the bottom of the sixth, when Pete Alonso launched a fly ball to the warning track to score J.D. Davis from third; and Wilson Ramos, speaking of speed, beat out a deep infield hit that plated Todd Frazier. Jeurys Familia protected that 3-1 lead in the seventh like he used to protect similar advantages in the ninth.

Ah, but the Mets who were no longer accustomed to losing started to lose. The inexplicable swerves are as much a fact of traffic off the Grand Central as they are on the Northern State. Robert Gsellman drove the 3-1 lead into a ditch and, quite disturbingly, the Nationals went ahead, 4-3 in the top of the eighth.

But that’s why you have a Rusty Staub, a Lenny Harris, a Dominic Smith on the bench. You have them there to come off it and signal that you’re about to change lanes. Smith did just that, leading off the eighth with a double. Smith is a 6-for-17 pinch-hitter in 2019. That’s so deluxe it oughta come with both fries and onion rings. Neither among Frazier or Alonso could steer Smith home with the tying run, and whoever was managing the Nats by the eighth (Davey Martinez got himself ejected before Washington ownership could do it to him) decided Ramos wasn’t going to get the opportunity. Wander Suero was ordered to put Ramos on first and pitch to Gomez.

Gomez was fine with that. Tony LaRussa was fine with Mike Maroth pitching to Gomez on June 25, 2007. Why wouldn’t he have been? It was only the third inning of a scoreless game, and Maroth would give up only one run over seven-and-a-third. The run was to Gomez, who homered with nobody on that Monday night at Shea Stadium, the first time we were seeing the Cardinals in Queens since the previous October, October of 2006, and you know how that month concluded between the two combatants. Not Gomez and Maroth — neither was a member of the ballclubs who fought out the ’06 NLCS — but the Mets and Cardinals. I hated the Cardinals in June of 2007 like I hated the Cubs in June of 1985 and was about to start hating the Cardinals the rest of 1985.

Hate will always pave your parkway, but love always has the right of way, and on June 25, I no doubt loved that Carlos Gomez had just hit his first home park home run for the New York Mets. I say “no doubt,” because, I have to admit that being at Shea that night to inform the Cardinals that they all still sucked, I don’t really remember that home run. I do clearly and lovingly remember the home run Shawn Green walloped to right to end the game as a Mets 2-1 win in the eleventh, an affair that felt it would otherwise go on without end. Green’s swing was an exercise of power Caro might want to examine once he completes working on Lyndon Johnson.

The Mets had three hits that night; two of them were solo shots off the bats of two of the Mets’ three 2007 right fielders. Willie Randolph shuffled among Gomez, Green and Lastings Milledge as the season began to lose its footing the way an older Gomez would lose his shoe. Maybe the Mets needed an injection of the youth Carlos and Lastings encompassed. Maybe the Mets needed the benefit of Shawn’s experience. Willie couldn’t decide. Over the final twelve games of 2007, Milledge started five games in right, Green four, Gomez three. The c-word, already in progress, was more unstoppable that September than Soto (3-for-3 with a walk) was this Thursday. The final pitcher Randolph started in 2007, a future Hall of Famer whose name escapes me at the moment, would leave the Mets soon after. To replace him, the Mets would seek another lefty who also seemed destined for Cooperstown. They found what they sought: Twins ace Johan Santana. All it took to get him was four youngsters who’d spent no or little time in the major leagues. Gomez, 21 years old with 58 Mets games on his ledger, was one of the Minnesota-bound. After June 25, 2007, he never hit another home run at Shea Stadium.

On May 23, 2019, however, after an odyssey that stretched from Minneapolis through Milwaukee, Houston, Arlington, St. Petersburg and Syracuse, the prodigal son, as Gary Cohen was in the process of tabbing him, blazed around the bases, having just hit his second home park home run as a Met, his first in home blues at Citi Field. He thoughtfully brought Smith and Ramos along on his come-from-behind sprint to make it 6-4 for the rejuvenated Go-Go Mets. When Carlos Gomez homers in a Mets uniform for the first time in twelve years, you can be assured he does not trot.

Suero, not Gsellman, was now the pitcher of record on the losing side. Edwin Diaz, not the first dude off the street the Nats could find who’d look acceptable in red, would come in to nail down a save in the ninth. The Mets, not the Nats, would call it a very, very fine afternoon. Nobody who won or lost would be certain what would happen next. Nobody ever can be, not in life, not in baseball.

Robert Caro’s long-ago editor at Newsday advised him, “Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every goddmaned page.” Our next chapter commences against the Tigers at 7:10 tonight. All we know in advance is nothing.

7 comments to Just Go-Go With It

  • Pete In Iowa

    I beg to differ Greg.
    I DO know in advance that the home plate umpire, whomever he may be tonight, tomorrow night, a week from next Thursday, will undoubtedly miss many, many ball and strike calls. I feel for Kendrick and Martinez — let alone the check swing — calls were missed early and often behind the plate yesterday.
    If you don’t believe me, just ask Jason.

    • I believe you. Like many fans, I would welcome electronic calling of balls and strikes. But I’m not overly bothered by the interpretive strike zone. It’s just not one of those things that registers with me as a game goes along. Perhaps if the Mets had lost in excruciating fashion at the discretion of the home plate umpire, I would be for a while, but then I’d probably forget about it and move on to the next game.

      What I took away from yesterday is the joy of the series sweep. It’s still with me.

      • Pete In Iowa

        The problem goes much, much deeper than an “interpretive” strike zone, not that that is legit.
        Fact is, these guys consistently miss pitches all over the place — high, low, inside, outside. It just doesn’t seem to matter. Maybe since the pitches are now so consistently faster than they used to be the umps just can’t get balls and strikes correct at an acceptable rate anymore. That said, no excuse can change the fact that too many are missed game in, game out.
        While I am no proponent of instant replay, what I will say is that if baseball “wants to get it right,” they must start with the most basic call of them all — balls and strikes.
        And agreed Greg. The joy of the sweep does indeed linger!!

        • I wouldn’t expect a solution tomorrow, but I hope MLB is figuring out how to at least incrementally fix this issue and perhaps, after a fashion, we (or our successors) will be enjoying a game in which home plate umpiring is, as Keith Hernandez would put it, on point.

  • Dave

    Don’t look now, but the Mets have a new all-time leader in home runs by players with a uniform number in the 90’s. Sorry Turk, your previous record of zero has been eclipsed.

    Gomez patting himself on the head while rounding 2B made that trot. And now do we have the last-ever Met who played at Shea? Unless we get an old net negative guy back, I’m not sure who else is left.

    • The last currently MLB-active Shea Mets are, in chronological order of their debuts, Ollie Perez, Joe Smith, Carlos Gomez, Jason Vargas and Daniel Murphy. Jon Niese recently signed a minor league deal with Seattle. Jose Reyes has not officially called it a career, but I think that’s kind of been done for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody else with a Shea pedigree is still haunting the Atlantic League or staying loose in Mexico.

      Endy Chavez is working as a coach for Brooklyn this year, but never rule him out.

  • eric1973

    I would love to have that old ‘net negative’ guy back, to replace our new ‘net negative’ guy.

    Getting rid of him after 2015 was equivalent to getting rid of Ed Charles after 1969, and Ray Knight after 1986. He was our true team leader and the heart and soul of the team.