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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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The Haunting

The Mets were on YouTube Wednesday. I have no idea how that went, which is probably for the best, since that was a game crying out for some combination of Gary, Keith and Ron to provide perspective and perhaps solace, following the absurd bullshit of Tuesday night. The two factoids that will haunt me: The Mets had taken leads of six runs or more to the ninth inning 806 times in their history and been 806-0, and FanGraphs gave them a 99.3 percent chance of winning going to the ninth.

Yeah, both of those are gonna leave a mark.

I can’t complain about YouTube muscling out our regulars because I was finishing up moving my kid into his dorm room and then driving back to New York from north of Boston. I was done with dad duties a little after noon, so Howie Rose and Wayne Randazzo were my company for most of the trip back to New York — and yes, sometimes a nine-inning game taking its sweet time actually can be a good thing.

Howie and Wayne’s broadcast was a haunted affair — I don’t think there was a half-inning that got assessed on its own merits, as most every baserunner and out came with a reference to Tuesday’s horror show. Which was entirely appropriate: An 806-1 shot coming disastrously home plays havoc with a pennant race, blows apart the foundations of fan expectations, and has to weigh heavily on a baseball team, whether or not it’s fighting for its postseason life.

Fanwise, I found myself in a place that was both strange and yet utterly logical. I listened to the first half of the game grimly and warily, deriving no joy from Zack Wheeler repeatedly dodging bullets, from Juan Lagares‘ surprise homer to tie the game, or from Robinson Cano‘s homer to give the Mets a two-run lead. Surely I was being maneuvered into position for another sock to the jaw, meaning it was vital for me to see it coming and be ready to yank my chin back. These were the Mets and they were going to betray me, and if I wasn’t braced for impact, that was on me. When it happened, I’d want to end the rental car’s journey at the bottom of Long Island Sound, but doing that would be both undignified and pathetic. Here lies Jason Fry, who was somehow surprised by a loss a day after his terrible baseball team blew a six-run lead in the ninth. I know, right? I mean, it’s sad and all, but he didn’t see that one coming?

As has so often been the case in this strange, maddening but rarely boring Mets season, it was Pete Alonso who made me cheer up a little and start listening to the game like it was just a goddamn game. Alonso’s fifth-inning homer was a line drive right down the left-field line, a trajectory initially baffling to Howie and Wayne, and forgivably so because what precedent is there for Pete Alonso? That was No. 45 for the Polar Bear, it gave the Mets a 4-1 lead, and it gave me permission to think that maybe, just maybe, this might not end horribly.

So of course the Mets ran up their lead to six runs (dun dun dun DUNNNNN) and put in one of their two dumpster-fire relievers. Edwin Diaz has gotten the majority of the scathing headlines, but Jeurys Familia‘s year has been equally terrible. Seriously, has any team gone into a season with two guys who were effective closers the previous season — not three or four years ago, an eternity in closer time, but the previous fucking season — only to watch both of them turn into Rich Rodriguez? Anyway, Familia was horrible, giving back half the Mets’ lead and almost causing me to rage out and abandon my car in Waterbury to spend the rest of my days under a bridge screaming at passers-by. (“Why does that angry man keep saying we’re all Armandos and out to get him?”) Luis Avilan cleaned up Familia’s mess, and then it was time for the Mets to figure out some way (any way) to get nine outs.

Seth Lugo got six of them, the consequences of which we won’t know until Friday, and then Justin Wilson was called upon for the final three, which of course had to be Juan Soto, Ryan Zimmerman and Kurt Suzuki, the AKA The Three Nationals of Recent Apocalypse. Wilson walked Suzuki (after making him belly-flop in the dirt, to my childish satisfaction) but retired Victor Robles and the Mets had won.

They won as I was nearing the Whitestone Bridge, leaving me groping for perspective. On the one hand, the Mets went 4-2 against the Phils and Nats, a scenario any of us would probably have taken a week ago. On the other, their two losses both came at the hands of their most radioactive relievers, a problem that isn’t getting solved until winter, and they’re running out of time to overtake the Diamondbacks, Brewers, Phillies and Cubs. The Cubs and Brewers will now play four games, and the Mets should probably root for the Brewers to sweep while they keep pace with them, and meanwhile hope that … you get the idea.

Tuesday’s debacle wasn’t Elimination Day, which is about math, but it was Execution Day, which is about belief. Before Tuesday, in my heart of hearts I insisted the Mets would somehow win through even though that was a secret hope I reserved for myself and wouldn’t admit publicly; now I don’t see a way they can do that.

Still, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Mets had been blown out a day after the horrors of that ninth inning, and I think I would have been more sad for them than angry at them. And that didn’t happen. Maybe it’s a baseball cliche, but they really are a resilient bunch. I’ve counted them out a number of times, and damned if they don’t keep getting up.

* * *

One nice storyline about the 2019 Mets did come to a sad end: Wilson Ramos‘s hitting streak ended at 26 games. But the Buffalo came within a whisper of extending it: In the ninth, Ramos fell behind 1-2 against Sean Doolittle, fouled off four balls and whacked the ninth pitch of the at-bat up the middle, only to watch Howie Kendrick flop on his belly to corral it and throw Ramos out by half a step.

It was a noble end for a pretty amazing accomplishment. Twenty-six games with a safety is quite something even if you’re a lithe shortstop who burns up the bases; Ramos goes around them like a man tasked with delivering a refrigerator to a fourth-floor walkup. That didn’t stop him; neither did having to keep the streak alive in four games where he didn’t start. Ramos has some deficiencies behind the plate — I wonder if Rene Rivera might help both Familia and Diaz — but after years of catchers as offensive black holes, his presence in the lineup has been a pleasure.

And while I’ll find a way to like most anybody who’s a reliable hitter (OK, maybe not you, Jeff Kent), Ramos goes about his business with a hint of ironic detachment, a glint in the eye and an angle at the corner of the mouth that’s more smirk than smile. You don’t get to be a 32-year-old catcher without having seen some shit, and Ramos carries himself like a man who knows baseball is glorious and wonderful but also cruel and unfair and so takes what comes, because that’s the only way a wise man can play this game and not have it drive him crazy.

24 comments to The Haunting

  • argman

    Ramos goes around them like a man tasked with delivering a refrigerator to a fourth-floor walkup.

    I had kind of given up realistic hope after the six-game losing streak at home, so I tried to rationalize Tuesday’s debacle, but that was worse than awful. And I only turned it on after the first batter of the last of the ninth. So I’m thinking like I’m the worst kind of Jonah.

  • CharlieH

    “Familia was horrible, giving back half the Mets’ lead and almost causing me to rage out and abandon my car in Waterbury to spend the rest of my days under a bridge screaming at passers-by. (“Why does that angry man keep saying we’re all Armandos and out to get him?”)”

    This had my co-workers wonder what the heck I was laughing so hard about.

  • NostraDennis

    Happy to read this recap after That Game The Other Night.

    Spent most of my morning, and some of my afternoon, refreshing FAFIF from my work computer, wondering when we’d read your (or Greg’s) words.

    I honestly thought the emotional whiplash of the last 72 hours might have finally broken both of your brains.

    Glad you are intact. So are we…I think…

  • ljcmets

    Perfect recap for how we all were feeling and though I couldn’t listen to their broadcast at 1PM, I’m comforted that Howie and Wayne also felt that way. I’m sure GKR will have plenty to say about the Game That Must Not Be Named tomorrow night.

    I honestly don’t know how I feel about seeing the Phillies this weekend. On the one hand, a lot of ghosts could be exorcised; on the other, well….I can’t bear to write it. We have no known ghosts that I can think of with the Dbacks, but there he is, the Ghost of Walkoffs Past, and he’s on a hot streak. Psychic payback can work in both directions and it’s kind of making me crazy.

    Like everyone else, I turned off my TV immediately after Tuesday’s game ended and declared that I would not watch a single inning more but who am I kidding, of course I’ll watch, if only for Pete’s run at 50, or even overtaking Judge.

    And Jason, I must implore you as a University of Michigan alumnae and fan my entire life, please don’t ever refer to Rich Rodriguez again, even an entirety different Rich Rodriguez in an entirely different context, lol. Those wounds are just about healed, but I’m still fragile.

  • Bob

    Your writing just keeps getting better & better!

    For me, a daily treat–no matter how badly our Mets did (or how well), you express almost exactly what I’m feeling about the Mets!

    “These were the Mets and they were going to betray me, and if I wasn’t braced for impact, that was on me.”

    Thank you guys!–and all the other comments are just great too!
    Let’s Go Mets!

  • mikeL

    i’m glad jason you are neither under a bridge nor under the water.
    i’m also glad you admit to holding out hope before tuesday, in spite of writing off all hope around here.
    maybe in a few days if the numbers manage to keep things interesting, you’ll admit you still did today, execution day and all.
    i have let go of hope while clinging ever so loosely to the possibility of just one more amazing run. if we get to the post-season, matz or wheeler can work the ‘pen, and in the boldest of roster moves, diaz snd familia can be left OFF the roster.
    because that is the only way this team will roll.

    bolder yet, i’m all for putting both of them on the IL NOW for the sake of clearing bad juju from the mets universe.
    and please may neither ever wear a mets uni again (i’d already felt like like that about famila after WS ’15 and WC ’16.)
    and since teamless, damaged pitchers need a coach, i know of a former pitching coach who could complete the package.

    yes i’m dreaming, of course but right now it’s all about suspending disbelief.

    undead like zombie muthas!

  • Dave R.

    If FanGraphs is right, we have six more blown leads of six runs or more in the ninth inning the next 193 times the Mets have won. I am not looking forward to that.

  • Daniel Hall

    This game left no impression on me whatsoever since MLB kindly decided to lock me out by moving it on Youtube, where it was blocked for anybody not in US/Canada/Puerto Rico. Which seems reasonable, given how Google very likely was able to twirl more hundos into a bigger roll to cram up Rob Numbfred’s rotten bum than I did with my long-time annual subscription. The radio via didn’t work either, and I will rather cut my right arm off and eat it before I subject myself to watch a game in the comically unsynchronised Gameday or whatever it is called these days. I didn’t even last out the second inning, then resorted to screaming and writing an angry letter that will never get sent.

    Unrelated, this would have been such a nice sweep …

    Also, I’m afraid, the Familia/Diaz problem is not likely to be sorted out this winter. Any team potentially dumb enough to take on the $20m remaining on the Familia deal?

    I know the feeling of just wanting to get out of the car and walk calmly into the woods, though. Alright, society – that is IT! I am living with the bears now! Been there.

  • open the gates

    So this once again proves baseball’s advantage over football, in that when your baseball team loses an epic stinker, they have a chance to go out the next day and push the reset button, whereas a football stinker sits there and festers for a week. And look at that – when the dust has cleared, the Mets are the proud owners of a winning road trip and are still in the thick of the race, bruised egos notwithstanding. At the end of the day, an awful game is just 1/162 of a season long. If memory serves, 2015 featured some of the most jaw-droppingly horrendous Met losses of all time. They still played the World Series that year.

    Of course, to be honest, the Mets almost certainly don’t have the bullpen (or the manager) to make it to Game 163. But they’re still competing. As far as I’m concerned, Tuesday night is ancient history. Just lock Diaz and Familia in their hotel rooms for the rest of September and all is forgiven.

    • mikeski

      Nothing is ancient history for Mets fans; it’s all a seamless web.

      I can still see Terry Pendleton when I close my eyes.

  • BlackCountryMet

    I needed GKR cos watching on YouTube required judicious uses of the mute button and hands in front of my face as they insisted on mentioning the previous nights events every five minutes!

  • Unser

    Putting aside the Diaz/Familia quagmire for a moment, Tuesday provided yet another lesson that today’s game is not your father’s, or even your older brother’s, baseball contest. Balls flying out of stadiums (for whatever reason) coupled with an abundance of poor pitchers on major league rosters, means no lead is ever safe. Throw out your stats from the ‘70s and ‘80s: a six run lead in the ninth is not the same today. I can’t blame Callaway. (Sewald has been effective recently) but perhaps he and other managers should learn from this: avoid your marginal pitchers and win the game.

    On a lighter note, my rallying cry this month? Remember 1999!

    • mikeL

      ^^ yup. before the 6 games swept i thought this team would avoid the essentially impossible path taken to get to the ’99 post-season.
      any similar outcome will require the same tightrope walk/magic act/planet alignment.

      one win at a time and they’re playing ball again tonite!


  • CharlieH

    anyone who tries to outguess this sport will soon make a fool of himself or herself.

    A wise man said this once.

    As for me, I’ll be at Citi Field tonight and tomorrow, yelling my fool head off.

  • chuck

    In the meantime, Jed Lowrie (remember him?), on a rehab assignment in the NYP playoffs (wait, what?), hit a solo home run to help the Brooklyn Cyclones stave off elimination with a 1-0 win.

    I wouldn’t want to talk to a Renegades fan today.

    I figure Jed might as well stay with Brooklyn for the duration of the playoffs.

    • Jacobs27

      Jed Lowrie is amazing. Half urban myth half, half wringer for the NYPL play-offs.

      Good pick up for Brooklyn, though.

      If he ever plays for the Mets, does he now count as prospect we’re calling up from Single A?

  • MikeS

    It’s fascinating how a pitcher can be lights out one day and get lit up the next. And from one year to the next like Diaz and familia. So, I’ve been reading David Cone’s memoir to understand the art of pitching. ( hated buying it with his picture as a yankee on the cover). Cone explains a lot about mechanics, pitch selection, deception and psychology. Along those lines, there’s an interesting article on the site about why Diaz stinks. It speculates either he can’t read batters swings and throws the wrong pitch ( if that’s true why was he so good last year) or he’s not locating his pitches due to speeding up his delivery and changing his arm slot. Why? Because he’s nervous pitching in high leverage situations in NYC. So the Mets need to decide if he’s fixable or tradeable.

  • Harvey P

    Meanwhile, the Cyclones won a due or die playoff game against Hudson Valley on Thursday 1-0 on a combined one-hitter and a long HR by the elusive Jed Lowrie (yes he exists). The deciding game of the series is tonight in Brooklyn with the winner advancing to the League Championship series. The Cyclones have won the NYP championship only once in their first 18 years. That was in their first year in 2001 when they were actually co-champs with Williamsport. That came about when the series was tied with the deciding game scheduled for September 11th. Of course, it was called off.

  • open the gates

    You sure it’s the same guy? Not some 19 year old kid who spells his name Jedd Lowery? (Of course not – the Mets have never had two guys in their system with the same name. Just ask Bobby Jones and Bobby Jones.)

  • eric1973

    Also ask Bob Miller.

    And both were on the 1962 Mets at the same time. To differentiate the two, Casey called one of them ‘Nelson.’

    That’s Casey for ya, and you could look it up.