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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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Ghost of a Chance

Perhaps they showed up better on TV, but from Promenade at Citi Field, those Casper the Friendly Ghost tribute togs the Mets wore Friday night in deference to Players Weekend marketing concerns were hard to make out. White pants. White shirts. White caps. White numbers. An offensive attack that amounted to a collective white flag. (The visiting Braves wore very dark black; my buddy Kevin confessed he thought several of the umpires had joined them in an elaborate infield shift.) The Mets we’ve come to know and love were also hard to make out. What happened to the players who rally brilliantly at least once per game? Where did our beautiful winning streak slip off to? And as long as we’re posing pertinent questions, when did summer’s heat morph into autumnal chill?

The Flushing Bay breeze, which probably would have felt delightful had your correspondent not been tethered to the idea that shorts and short sleeves are seasonably suitable for August 23, was no doubt amplified by the surfeit of swinging and missing down below. If you liked strikeouts and didn’t care about context, this was the game for you. Mets pitchers struck out Braves hitters 26 times, setting a franchise record, tying the major league mark and cramming the matrix board fronting the Porsche Grill with thinly sliced K after K after K. Such an accumulation would have been astounding to contemplate in a nine-inning game. Instead, it wound up a footnote to a fourteen-inning loss. The Mets batters, who for the most part could not accurately be called hitters, struck out 14 times themselves. They likewise put nine runners on base and drove not a one of them home.

Except for Jacob deGrom. He put himself on all the bases simultaneously via a sixth-inning home run whose only shortcoming was that Jacob (or “deGrom,” per his chosen Players Weekend nickname, bless his no-nonsense soul) couldn’t bat in front of himself as well and therefore couldn’t serve as his own ghost runner. If he could have, I don’t doubt deGrom would have driven in as many of him who were on base as possible. Alas, deGrom’s dinger off Mike Foltynewicz was a solo job, which seems appropriate in light of how much Jacob still has to do for himself with this team.

It could have been 2018 out there at Citi Field. It was a lot like June 2, 2018, to be exact, the night Mets pitchers, led by their leader, struck out 24 Cubs in fourteen innings, establishing a milestone that would last not quite fifteen months. Then, Jacob went seven innings, was responsible for thirteen of those K’s, and the Mets went on to lose, 7-1. The Mets also intended to give out Todd Frazier fleeces that night, but the items the Mets were sent from their supplier weren’t up to their lofty standards, so they gave out rainchecks instead.

Friday, we got the thirteen strikeouts in seven innings again from deGrom. We got the fourteen innings again. We got the one run scored again. Oh, we got the loss again. We could have used the fleece. Seriously, it was chilly up in 508.

The difference between a frustrating no-decision for deGrom from 2018 and a current-year model was the Mets were falling into an abyss last season and have risen high above the one where they appeared permanently mired this season. This made Friday’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of Atlanta both more maddening and less miserable. Of course we who stuck around for all fourteen innings wanted a reward beyond the giveaway POLAR BEAR 20 t-shirts that never comfortably fit us full-figured types. We wanted to continue gaining ground in the Wild Card race. We wanted to win a sixth in a row. I wanted to win a sixth in a row in terms of my personal Citi Field attendance. Our sights are elevated these days. That there’s something substantial to play for might make an individual loss sting worse, but it’s also perversely satisfying to know in your bones that it matters. Losing a fairly big game beats losing a relatively meaningless game.

But losing is losing, and the Braves did the beating, so, really, we’re splitting hairs, which, coincidentally, are what most of the Mets could have used in lieu of bats Friday night. There were a couple of golden opportunities to send the Braves back to the Grand Hyatt grumbling that these Mets are just impossible right now. We loaded the bases off frigging Anthony Swarzak in the tenth; Wilson Ramos, in for a possibly concussed Tomás Nido, stole a bag for the first time in his plodding career…though maybe the official scorer simply thought he saw a ghost. Whatever it was, it was to no ultimate avail. We got Joe Panik to third base with one out in the eleventh, yet abandoned him there. The heart of the order, the guys whose shirts we’ve either seen torn from their torsos in celebration (Conforto, Davis) or whose shirts we were wrapping ourselves in as we sought extra-inning warmth (Alonso), went a combined 1-for-16. We ran through just about everybody we had — every reliever but Chris Flexen pitched, plus Steven Matz pinch-hit — yet all the Mick’s horses and all the Mick’s men couldn’t measure up to deGrom.

A homer hit and more than a dozen hitters fanned. Jacob accomplished those dual feats in Miami in April and he did it again Friday. He passed 200 strikeouts for the season…again. If he’s not a Cy Young winner for a second consecutive campaign, he’ll finish in the top tier. If we’re not playing ball in October, it won’t be because of him.

Our potential playoff absence will likely have something to do with the rest of what transpires on nights like these, when magic isn’t so easily conjured by a lineup that usually seems naturally supernatural and when the bullpen can hold and hold for only so long until it is bound to break. Our pitchers were clever enough to wear black caps to offset the brightness of the rest of their Players Weekend ensemble, so hats off to not only their fashion sense, but all the relievers did to keep the Mets’ collective pulse beating from the eighth until the fourteenth (7 IP, 13 SO). Edwin Diaz and Paul Sewald, unusual suspects when it comes to confidence and competence, deserve special praise for not imploding on contact. I also have to hand it to the fans a few sections over who urged on our deposed closer with a non-sarcastic chant of “ED-WIN DI-AZ!” Everybody’s a beloved Met when the Mets are going well.

Not so beloved when all was said and done: Jeurys Familia, lately pretty good, Friday night not so much. A leadoff walk, a ground-rule double that wasn’t an RBI triple thanks to a helpful center field fence crevice that caught one of the few balls Juan Lagares couldn’t (whacked, natch, by a predictably vengeful Adeiny Hechavarría) and a lousy little single just past a drawn-in-infield created all the havoc the Braves required. Familia keeping it 2-1 headed to the fourteenth-inning stretch was a small miracle, one destined to go unappreciated on the Rotunda stairs, where a clever man announced to all who involuntarily overheard him this Players Weekend:


Yeah, I suppose, but the overall tenor emanating from those filing out of Citi Field wasn’t really angry as all that. Mostly, it was quiet. The last five times I’ve exited the ballpark, it was raucous, LET’S GO METS! and the like blanketing most attempts at conversation. Perhaps I was hearing raucousness’s inevitable inverse. We — Mets and Mets fans — have generated a ton of noise of late. Friday, the Met motif was ghostly uniforms, invisible offense and eerie silence as the clock neared midnight. Saturday is Fireworks Night. Maybe we’ll explode once more.

23 comments to Ghost of a Chance

  • ljcmets

    Perhaps Jake was the only Met on the field who knew who and where he was. Those uniforms were beyond awful. On the SNY broadcast you could tell that Gary Cohen was quietly and professionally furious, not only from an esthetic point of view but also because it made his very difficult job of play-by-play (although he’s so good that he makes it look easy) nearly impossible. On TV, when the Braves were at bat, at times their uniforms blended right in with the home plate umpire’s, making it look like one big black blob.

    I don’t mind the nicknames that much, although deGrom, as in all else that he does, is too much of a pro to give into the gimmick. But for all that is holy, stop messing with the uniforms. First we went through the black shirt phase and then the blue shirt phase (both of which look just awful with the lighter-colored pin-stripe and solid pants), then the thankfully short-lived orange shirt phase. We then moved on to pink and blue bats and socks and hats (although for a good cause -to raise cancer awareness), followed by camouflage and stars-and-stripes and who knows what is next? I don’t mind some thoughtful tweaking with the uniforms (like our beloved 1986 racing stripes or matte helmets instead of shiny) but I want the Mets to be recognizably the Mets.

    If you get to a lot of games, maybe this isn’t as annoying, but I kept thinking about families like mine as a child (or even as an adult) who are devoted fans but rarely made more than one trip a year to Queens, because we didn’t live locally. Logistics become difficult and costs add up when you can’t just hop on the 7 train, especially for a family of five. We watched every game and looked forward to our weekend excursion to Shea every year. I saw my first game 50 years ago this month, and I was breathless with excitement and anticipation for weeks beforehand. I can only imagine how I would have felt if I had walked into the stadium and saw that monstrosity of a uniform. Where were the Mets? Even now, I can hear my Dad demanding his money back for disappointing his little girl. He would have been as furious as Gary Cohen (and we do share the same last name) but certainly not as quiet!

    I feel for anyone for whom last night’s game was his or her first, not only because the Mets couldn’t hit (honestly neither could the Braves) but because the whole exercise didn’t seem like a Mets game at all, but rather some weird video chess game.

    I wish the Mets would follow the Yankees’ (yes the Yankees) lead on this and just refuse to participate in most of these cynical “tributes” which are just money grabs to sell more hats and shirts. You usually don’t see them with any silly “alternate” or every-other-Tuesday uniforms. And yet MLB won’t let the Mets wear the 9/11 tribute caps, which were an authentic tribute that grew organically from genuine emotion ( and incidentally began with the Mets) and, rather than some soulless corporate exercise that all teams must fall in line with, honor true -and local – heroes? I might have been a little disappointed if at my first Mets game the blue hat and orange intertwined “NY” were missing, but after my father had explained why, I would have understood and felt genuine pride.

    • otb

      Thank you for this slant on the uniforms, which we all agree were awful. But your post, in particular, I think, is up to the standard maintained by Greg and Jason on this blog. Well done.

  • chuck

    The unis were beyond awful, they were actually offensively racist. It’s as if Stephen Miller cane up with them.

    I’m of a mind to go to the MLB office on Monday to lodge a protest. It would be lovely if I could be joined.

    • ljcmets

      I too wondered if MLB understood the not-so-latent message they were sending with all-white vs. all-black. I’m going to assume they were clueless.

  • ljcmets

    Correction: in looking around the scoreboard this AM, I see even the venerable Dodgers and Yankees have been brought to heel in the Age of Manfred (which also features the wave-of-the-hand intentional walk and the mound-visit clock). I thought at one point the Pinstripes had an exemption from all of this, but if they ever did, it’s gone now.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Conversation in the Oval Office.

    Director of National Intelligence: Mr. President, we have incontrovertible evidence that the Russians hacked into the MLB design computers and caused the fiasco of these uniforms. They were attempting to get America to lose faith in baseball since they were mostly unable to read the players’ nicknames.

    The President:
    Well, I spoke to Putin and he assured me very strongly that he had nothing to do with it. Why wouldn’t I believe him.

  • Joeybaguhdonuts

    Keith said Conforto “looks like a guy painting a house.” He wasn’t picking on the players.

    The Braves are very good, but the Mets showed they are capable of beating them. In the 10th, two out, Darling talked about the enormous gulf on the left field line, so Ramos hits it there. Lagares on first is rounding third as the ball is picked up. He’s held and the throw in misses cutoff and is far wide of home and bobbled. That’s where the game was not won. You can’t give a playoff team like the Braves another life in the 10th inning. I obviously applauded Ramos stealing second and removing the force out. Good base running wins ball games and bad choices lose them.

  • Harvey Poris

    Another tidbit in this homer-happy year. In their first 56 years through 2018, Mets pitchers hit a total of 58 home runs. This year they have hit 6. All-time Leaders-Gooden-7; Seaver & Syndergaard-6. Two in one game: Walt Terrell (1983) & Syndergaard this year.

  • Lenny65

    That loss wasn’t on Familia, can’t win if you can’t score and the Mets blew numerous opportunities. You win some, you lose some.

    Yeah, those uniforms were GHASTLY. The Mets whites were horrible but those things they made the Barves wear almost made me feel bad for them. MLB players should NOT be wearing yoga pants.

  • Bob

    Not sure what was the worse, looking at the grotesque unis or watching our Mets try and score a runner from 3rd base!
    DeGrom was superlative/outstanding!
    I was getting all kinds agiata watching the game.
    Noted in talking about awful unis, either Kieth or Ron mentioned they they suspected MLB “Marketing”
    of being behind the unis and when Gary asked if Kieth would be buying any, Keith snapped–“NO!”
    Hopefully the Mets will shake themselves and get back on track tonight VS Barfs!
    Let’s Go Mets!

  • Eric

    Yep. I can’t decide whether a textbook wasted CyGrominant start is more frustrating when it happens in a lost season like last year or in a play-off chase where every opportunity to win is precious.

    Right now, the 2-game deficit in the wildcard race feels like the chase of .500 before the Marlins double-header, which is to say, a mechanical rabbit that’s tantalizingly close but always just out of reach.

  • eric1973

    I thought they should have sent Lagares.

    Whether he ended up being safe or not, it would have made sense. There were 2 out, Lagares is still kind of speedy, and the Mets could not hit a lick all nite.

    Something is really off with Alonso. He got fatter pitches last nite than in the Home Run Derby, and he could not do a thing with them.

    Funny to hear Keith complain about Alonso hogging all the grounders, when he did the exact same thing in the 80s, with the same results.

  • ljcmets

    @otb: That is very high and flattering praise, and I thank you. Greg and Jason are so talented and knowledgeable and their work is always a pleasure to read, and sometimes instead of muttering replies to myself (or worse, my husband) I reply, knowing I am among friends. I look forward to their posts every day.

  • Fitz Cave

    It’s always the little things…win or lose. In the fateful 11th, Panik advanced to third on a wild pitch that also struck out Alonso. While he should be taking off for first, Pete elects to wave Panik to third. If Alonso takes off for first, he’s going to be safe as the catcher threw to third. Instead of 1 out and a runner on 3rd, it’s no outs and runners on 1st and 3rd. Three chances instead of two to get the runner home. The little things.

    I’ve only seen Star Wars once (not a fan) but I felt as if the batters should have used lightsabers instead of bats with those horrid uniforms.

  • […] at Citi Field, it had better come in an urn. There should be nothing but ashes left from those ghastly ghostly getups that we never need see again. They weren’t pleasant to squint at as you tried to figure who was […]

  • Kevin from Flushing

    The Braves don’t always make it fun, but it IS always a pleasure to pick your brain for 8.5 or 14 innings.