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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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Positively 4th Place

The Mets have prevailed. In a battle of the teams with the two worst records in the National League, they are the least worst. In their five-member division, they place fourth on merit.

Take that, Marlins.

The Marlins did. They were outplayed by the Mets for two consecutive games in a three-game series — in Miami, no less. The last time the Mets visited South Florida, it was the Marlins whose ineptitude took a holiday and the Mets who were swept three out of three. The Mets fell to five games under .500 and Mickey Callaway’s job seemed in jeopardy. It’s not quite two months later and the Mets, by dint of their first road series win (not sweep, just win) since early April, have risen to nine games under .500, meaning this will be the first week in a while when a press conference won’t be necessary to confirm Callaway is still the manager.

Funny trajectory this Mets season has taken…funny as a crutch, per the old saying. Yet as fans, we lean on what we lean on. Sunday we leaned on a 6-2 victory with all kinds of little treats embedded in the result. Let us savor each and every mouthwatering bite.

Jacob deGrom racked up five very solid innings despite not looking particularly comfortable. Wished he could have gone longer, but having to throw to Wilson Ramos can take a lot out of an ace.

Wilson Ramos beat out an infield hit, his seventh of the season, according to Baseball Reference. Amazing what putting bat to ball and ninety feet of effort will get a person, let alone Buffalo.

Amed Rosario, who should have offered 180 feet of effort instead of stopping at first Saturday night on his fly ball that didn’t get caught, doubled when he got the chance Sunday afternoon. That chance didn’t arrive until the eighth, and then only after a double-switch in the seventh. Rosario was benched as a message from Mickey…or so we gleaned from the ever helpful Wayne Randazzo, who reported that was the reason there was no Amed in the finale’s lineup. This was news to print reporters, who were told the Amedless motif represented a scheduled day off for the 23-year-old shortstop two days after the four-day All-Star break. Whatever the story, Rosario tried to get out in front of it from behind, taking ownership of it when asked about it postgame (answering through interpreter Alan Suriel, who seems to have the most thankless bilingual gig in baseball) and showing the full extent of his speed via his lone plate appearance.

Adeiny Hechavarria, starting at short while Amed sat and hopefully learned, showed again he is a good ballplayer. Not a great ballplayer; not anybody you wouldn’t trade to a depth-minded contender if the Double-A reliever promised in exchange comes attached to one of those live arms; but a guy who quietly does enough things well that they deserve to be noticed. I noticed a couple: a very pretty pivot when Hechavarria was the 6 on a 4-6-3 DP to end the bottom of the fifth, and a beautiful read of a single in front of him that allowed him to dash from first to third in the top of the sixth, setting up a run. Good ballplaying should always be appreciated.

Robinson Cano, who until very recently wasn’t much more productive than Adeiny Hechavarria, continued to bust out, producing four hits that included his second home run in two games. The batting average that wallowed beneath .230 a little over two weeks ago has soared over .250. From the vantage point of March, that’s not very encouraging. After where he was in late June, it’s cause for another Seaver Way parade. A Robinson Cano hot streak feels a little like the kind George Foster would now and then unfurl after his atrocious introduction to Queens in 1982. I always wanted to believe Foster had regained his Cincinnati touch. I really did. But I was gonna need more than one hot streak. I rarely got it.

• George Foster teammate Keith Hernandez invoked one of his signature bromides from the booth, the one about a ground ball base hit that will look like a line drive in tomorrow’s paper. I know the old chestnut is not exclusive to Keith and I know it means a hit is a hit however it’s hit, yet Keith’s recitation of this phrase made me wonder what paper Keith subscribes to and whether, in fact, the sports editor of that paper will plaster atop that section’s lead page Monday, MIGUEL ROJAS HITS LINE DRIVE.

Jeff McNeil! Leadoff home run! First pitch! The Mets were immediately ahead, 1-0, versus Sandy Alcantra and proceeded to never do anything but lead in this game. That was the Squirrel’s doing. The Squirrel does so much. Jeff also threw out Curtis Granderson at the plate a half-inning after Granderson robbed Pete Alonso at the left field fence. I’ve been known to look the other way and applaud softly when Grandy does something Grand against us, but taking a homer away from the Polar Bear is a skill too far.

Pete Alonso! No home runs! Robbed of one by Curtis Granderson! So why am I shouting? Because Pete also lifted a fly ball deep enough to center to go out of other facilities and it served as a sacrifice fly to pad the Mets’ lead when its protection was in the hands of the bullpen. Sort of like needing to see more from Cano to believe he isn’t Foster (who did hit 99 home runs as a Met), I wanted to feel assured Pete didn’t come out of his Home Run Derby coronation overswinging. He looks mostly fine. He’ll get back to belting balls over walls instead of in front of them soon enough.

• The relievers of the day were, en masse, as effective as they needed to be. Justin Wilson posted a scoreless sixth. Robert Gsellman endured a hiccup but took care of the eighth and ninth. Seth Lugo inherited three runners with one out and allowed none of them to score in the seventh. As for those three runners, they were put on base by Jeurys Familia. He wasn’t effective at all. He didn’t kill us, but it’s hard to say he made us stronger. They’re gonna have to find innings that don’t count to straighten Jeurys out. Or innings that count in a league that isn’t this one. Whereas most Met relievers who implode leave me in a mood of malice, I feel genuinely sad watching Familia not get outs. He was a 96-save man across two playoff seasons that happened not so long ago. He was pretty good for another playoff club last year. I partially blame myself for being happy to welcome him back after his summer abroad. Same for Jay Bruce entering 2018. Mets who leave obviously need longer decontamination periods. I don’t have a slice of Statcast data to support that assertion, I just know it’s true.

Juan Lagares made two putouts. There was nothing remarkable about either. Juan was in for defense late. Juan almost never starts anymore. He hardly bats. But he’s still here, senior Met in terms of uninterrupted tenure, dating to April of 2013. The Mets to debut as Mets just before him: Greg Burke, LaTroy Hawkins, Aaron Laffey and Anthony Recker. They’re all retired. The Mets to debut as Mets just after him: Shaun Marcum, Andrew Brown, Rick Ankiel, David Aardsma. They’re all retired. Lagares was recalled when the Mets sent down Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Nieuwenhuis just retired from the Long Island Ducks. Lagares was chosen mainly because the defensive-specialist center fielder ahead of him on the depth chart, Matt den Dekker, was injured. Den Dekker just retired from the Long Island Ducks. The way Lagares has hit this year makes you think his next team will be the Long Island Ducks (who are actually pretty good). Nevertheless, I was just happy to see Juan out there catching fly balls and reminding us he is still on the team. We collectively fell hard for Lagares in 2013. Still being on hand in 2019 merits a hand.

• Last happy happenstance from Sunday was me watching the whole game and not feeling like a chump for doing so. There’ve been plenty of games like where I’ve been left to wonder “what the hell did I do that for?” this season. There’ll be plenty more. But once in a while, no matter that the only series you win is from the only team your record says you’re better than, you immerse yourself in your team and you don’t wonder what that was all about. You know what it’s all about. It’s about the Mets. The Mets winning. The Mets winning an entire series. Felt good. Do that again sometime soon if you don’t mind.

6 comments to Positively 4th Place

  • LeClerc

    Lugo was the bacon-saver yesterday.

  • Dave

    This is how far Lagares has sunk…we’re applauding him for outlasting Keon Broxton, Aaron Altherr, Rajai Davis and Carlos Gomez. Or maybe that’s just how far the team has sunk. To quote Sandy Alderson, what outfield?

  • Daniel Hall

    Anthony Recker has retired? Nooooooo …!!

    I have this petition here, signed by me and all the Mets starting pitchers, that we’d rather want Recker than Ramos. …even if Ramos’ seven infield singles beat Cano’s output by about … oh… seven or eight?

    Oh, and A Met Evoking Disappointment has sure sat and watched enough. Like, Cano, world-renowned teacher in how to give it your best effort, or the most effort you can arse any given day… There was a sorry grounder in the eighth or ninth inning that escaped into centerfield next to the second base bag. At the bottom of the picture, Rosario casually jogged into view. Seeing him stand somewhere between second and third all the time and making no plays except those hit right at him that he doesn’t bobble right away, I am reguarly amazed when I see other teams with other shortstops that actually make plays more than three inches away from their glove.

    But, yeah, Lagares makes me sad. I rooted for the kid all the way through. So of course he was routinely befallen by stupid injuries. Right now looks like an old pet with chronic conditions that overheard its owners discussing putting it down, and that gives its best attempt to not soil the rug every other day…. with middling success.

    Wheee, the Mets…

  • greensleeves

    Lagares deserves a hand for still hanging around? Please. His gold glove has bronzed. His bat disappeared ages ago, if it ever existed.

    McNeill should do double duty as batting coach, offering pricey lessons on going the other way. Lagares might not be hitting his weight if he could only learn the basics. On rare occasions when he’s singled to right, he looks like it’s a eureka moment. But then the memory fades and it’s back to fishing. Sorry. Juan. Next stop, Palookaville.

    Can we get a CF by the deadline? Will Nimmo ever return to form? I miss his hustle, smile and on OBP when he was clicking. Will Nimmo ever return? Is the invisible guy in the sky watching or does he/she have more important matters to address?

  • Blair M. Schirmer

    It’s hardly Lagares’ fault that the Mets have once again played him into the ground.

    Good teams put limited players like the fragile Lagares in a position to succeed. Bad teams like the Mets overtax those same players and put them in a position to fail.

    Review the playing time the Mets have inflicted on their older or injured players and it’s routinely the same story. This is a team that played the injury-prone Cespedes in 37 straight games to begin 2018, until he broke. He was never going to have a good year, because he was not able to handle the load they were inflicting. They were going to simply play him out of the lineup. They did the same with Bruce in 2018. They played Ramos the first quarter of 2019 at a pace that was actually a hair more taxing than the pace Johnny Bench typically played at when he was in his age 20 to 26 prime. Ramos only began to recover when he sat out a few games.

    Look what they’re doing to Conforto now. Look what they did to Nimmo when he was obviously hurt and clearly unproductive.

    You can dock any Met team projection by 3-5 games at the start of a season just because of how you can anticipate the FO, ordered by the Wilpons, to dispense and mismanage playing time. It’s farce. Year after year, and nothing is learned, therefore nothing changes.

  • Orange and blue through and through

    4th place does indeed seem where we are destined to finish. Nowhere near as bad (close, but not AS bad) as the Fish, but nowhere near as good as the rest of the division (unless Gabe Kapler manages to underperform the Phillies right past us).
    And, a day late but, Keith Hernandez has for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on lately, been pissing me off. His rant about how bad the ’78 Mets were was unnecessary. His elitism at the time of the trade in ’83 (admitting he and the Cardinals referred to the Mets as the “Stems”…cute) was particularly galling. (Maybe Keith wouldn’t have worn out his welcome in St. Loo if he weren’t sniffing coke and ratting on people…but I digress). Keith is part of the best broadcasting team in baseball. The Mets and New York are his bread and butter. If he is to be considered a Met, even as bad as a team he didn’t play for was, he needs to speak as a Met.