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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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An Evening Well Spent

While watching Tuesday night’s game against the Rockies, I thought of a good idea and immediately decided I wanted nothing to do with it for a while.

The idea came from the shame bell in Game of Thrones, which you may know as an Internet meme even if you’re not familiar with the show. I was wondering how many games the 2019 Mets lost through terrible bullpenning, horrid defense or managerial dipshittery (shame shame shame for them all), and if listing those games might a) be cathartic; and b) show how close the Mets came to a postseason berth, and where improvements might be most profitably made in pursuit of not missing one next season. Now, a disappointed fan’s hindsight is a lot sharper than 20/20 — confirmation bias and bemoaned what-ifs make for powerful lenses — but I’m pretty sure the shame bell would toll a lot more times than the number of games separating the Mets from the wild-card teams.

And yet, I quickly decided to put this gloomy project aside. Because the Mets were playing the Rockies and I wanted to enjoy the game, even if it was highly unlikely that its outcome mattered the way the outcome of games mattered only last week.

And the Mets gave me a lot to enjoy — not just for 2019, but possibly for 2020.

There was Marcus Stroman riding an improved cutter — with which he’s apparently been tinkering — and a sharp slider to seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball, which would be impressive even if it hadn’t happened at Coors Field. I would have considered Stroman an upgrade over Jason Vargas no matter what he did, because I detested Vargas as both a pitcher and a person, but Stroman has proved easy to root for, demonstrative and energetic whether finishing pitches, hustling to cover first, or just cheering his teammates on from the dugout.

There was Amed Rosario breaking up an unlikely scoreless pitchers’ duel with a tomahawked home run in the sixth. Rosario has evolved from an unsteady fielder with an oversized strike zone to an adequate shortstop with much better judgment at the plate, raising his average from .255 at the close of June to .289 now and committing just four errors during that span, compared with 12 earlier in the year. It’s tantalizing to imagine what his 2020 might look like if he can be the player we’ve now seen for two and a half months.

It’s also tantalizing to imagine 2020 with a full measure of Brandon Nimmo, who also went deep in the sixth. Nimmo has had a very strange season. It’s easy to forget that he looked hopeless before running into a fence, starting off with bushels of strikeouts, then making a valiant but ill-advised attempt to play through his neck injury. When he returned in September it was somehow as if his weird April had never happened. Almost from the jump, Nimmo was back to providing the mix of power and plate discipline he’d shown a year earlier. Being able to count on a full season from Nimmo would also make one of the Mets’ offensively potent but defensively challenged outfielders an interesting trade commodity, but that’s another thought and post to consider later.

And, of course, there’s Pete Alonso. The Polar Bear awoke from his home-run slumber to club a ball 467 feet into the Denver night, his 48th of the season. The club RBI mark is probably out of reach, but 50 homers is not, and “I’m disappointed Alonso won’t also break the single-season RBI record as a rookie” is a complaint deserving a truly microscopic violin as accompaniment. Even Alonso’s overly enthusiastic moments make me like him more — for the last play of the game, he fell on a ball that was headed for Robinson Cano, turning a play of average difficulty into a more complicated one. (Luis Avilan‘s expression at finding himself involved in the resulting play at the first-base bag was entertaining.) But asking Alonso to forbear in such situations would be like asking your golden retriever not to wag its tail when you come home — sure, you might mourn the occasional thing swept off the coffee table to its demise, but is a broken tchotchke or two really too high a price for a little joy in your life?

Those three homers in the sixth proved more than enough for the Mets, as Justin Wilson navigated the eighth and Avilan completed the ninth, with a Charlie Blackmon moon shot the only blemish in the box score. The Mets even made up ground on the Cubs. It’s almost certainly too late for that to matter, but an evening watching your team win a baseball is always an evening well spent. Too soon — all too soon — we’ll have to get our baseball joy from the heroics of other teams and the attendant, highly temporary loyalties of October. And too soon after that, there will be no baseball joy at all. What we bank now will have to sustain us, until spring comes around again and hope blooms anew.

11 comments to An Evening Well Spent

  • open the gates

    Your headline says it all. When someone is simply upset that their team didn’t make the playoffs that year, they will be disappointed most of the time. It’s ok to just relax and enjoy each game on its own merit. And as you pointed out, there are a number of Met players to be excited about moving forward, none more so than young Mr. Polar Bear. (Will he break the all time rookie HR record? Let him be the Judge…) And as you pointed out, Rosario is finally coming into his own, and Nimmo is back to being Nimmo. And if we can look forward to a 7-8-9 punch of Avilan-Wilson-Lugo for next year, maybe even the relief situation may be OK in 2020. And of course, as Wayne R. pointed out last night, 4 out with 12 to go aren’t great numbers, but things can turn around in a hurry in a pennant race. And we’re still in a pennant race in mid September, with a winning record. These are all good things. Ignoring stuff like that and just bemoaning not winning the World Series every single year – well, that’s what Yankee fans do.

    • SeasonedFan

      Yes. No use in shouldas couldas &/or wouldas. . Here’s hoping we get to spend at least a few more such evenings before Season’s end.

  • 9th string catcher

    Three great things at play – analysis of how the Mets could have won more games, enjoying the long awaited promise of our newest starter and just the trendiest hope of sneaking into the playoffs. Great stuff, and hope to see your analysis eventually. LGM!

  • Matt in NH

    Tallying all the “what ifs” that would have flipped losses to wins is the road to madness…

    But imagining all the 2019 mistakes being fixed in 2020 is what gets me through the winter and keeps me hopeful. In 2020, Edwin Diaz will be fixed. Familia will be fixed. Rosario will play an entire season like he played these last two months. Nimmo won’t get hurt. Thor will get comfortable with his catcher(s). Cano will have one more great season as a hitter. Infielders will play in the infield. Outfielders will play in the outfield.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Yes, nice that Cubs lost but…surely most noticed that Brewers now tied with them, so need TWO teams to collapse while we win, say, 10 or 11 out of 12 (and hope Phils don’t do same). Well, we did that not so long ago….

    Last I saw, Mets were bowing to Thor request and giving him Nido today even though he just played Mon. and would be Ramos game. Obviously they think there MAY be something to Thor’s complaint, unlike announcers and fans who have mocked that. Yes, Mets could be saying “put up or shut up”–but unlikely in a Wild Card race.

  • MikeS

    I remember a stat at the all star break that the pen had lost 20 leads. If we had won 10 of those, we’d have 88 wins chasing the braves for the division and be comfortably the first WC team. Also, anybody notice last night Gary Cohen telling the “sun bear” story and saying he’d call Davis the solar bear. Hmmm, Could’ve sworn I read that solar bear comment earlier in the day.

  • mikeL

    ^^ ha, yea i caught that – and wondered if gary gets some of his best material here ;0]

    yup, likely too late but yes many reasons to be cheerful here first among them that the team was not parted out for other parts. we’ve been treated to meaningful -and sometimes exasperating – ball since pete returned to the team as HR derby winner.

    and we can still hope for a synchronized collapse by the cubs and brewers until that’s impossible.

    and yes we have a couple more weeks to watch our young and talented team that doesn’t quit…after so many seasons watching promising teams circle the drain while the days are still long.

    seemingly suddenly the mets look like a team a free agent or two would *want* to join…and that might be all it takes.


  • open the gates

    I have no issue at all with Noah going the “personal catcher” route. The splits are undeniable, and in the end, it’s about winning games. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see Ramos go to the AL to DH next year and have the Mets go with Nido and Rivera. Ramos had a great season at the plate, but at the end of the day catching is primarily a defensive position. Maybe the Mets need to be thinking less Mike Piazza, more Jerry Grote.

  • mikeL

    wow! glued to gameday at work, was preparing myself for the queazy feeling of virtual elimination in the top of the ninth…and then something very impressive followed.

    on to re-b’cast/scoreboard watch.