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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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This Is the Hardcover Edition

It’s the faces I’ll remember.

Steven Matz, hunkered down on the mound with his knees bent as Jorge Alfaro jogged around the bases, having authored a grand slam and a 6-0 Marlins lead. Matz’s face was a mask of horror and self-loathing, and for a moment I wondered if he’d be able to get back up.

Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil, standing side by side in the infield at much the same moment, their faces cycling through shock and anger and determination and the rapid-fire realizations that a) at some point determination, however admirable a quality, isn’t enough; and b) that point had arrived.

Brad Brach sitting in the dugout after seeing an inning flip from “over and the Mets are only down 6-4” to “not over, the Mets are down 8-4, and I’m no longer pitching.” All of the Matz/Alonso/McNeil expressions were visible on his face, with maybe one more in the mix. Brach grew up an avid Mets fan, so perhaps this was his Joe Boyd moment. He got to wear his childhood colors, only to be wearing them at center stage during an oh-so-Metsian moment of reversal.

Yes, the Mets lost. And so did the Phillies, which pushes the Mets’ tragic number to a depressingly imminent 2. They’re not dead yet, but their collective head is on the block, the executioner has donned his hood and taken his money, and I’m afraid that whisper of air ruffling the little hairs on the back of the neck was from an ax — not coming down, true, but going up, which is generally preface to a disagreeable conclusion.

And of course it’s the Marlins holding the ax. Because baseball fandom means the pain of your spiritual forefathers will one day become yours.

Though, if we’re being honest, the real executioner of 2019 won’t have been the Marlins, or the Nats or the Brewers, but time. Monday night’s loss wasn’t a killer like the one against the Nats right after Labor Day or against the Dodgers two weekends ago. It was a merely frustrating one, like the one against the Reds on Saturday. Matz’s location was poor and an inning snowballed, Brach was a little slow getting off the mound on a quirky play, and the Mets had about a zillion chances to score runs but limited themselves to one swing of the bat by Amed Rosario.

And, I should add, the Marlins showed resilience and grit and character and all those attributes we tend to reserve for our own team, either praising them for being gallantly employed or lamenting that they were shamefully withheld. Alfaro went deep twice, Jon Berti was all over the bases and center field, and Harold Ramirez busted it to first to beat Brach by the slimmest of margins. Even good teams lose 20-odd games like that each and every year. In May or June, they’re the cause of grumbling. It’s only in the last week of September, when a team’s out of survivable mistakes, that they’re the stuff of tragedy.

But back to the faces.

During one of the weekend’s broadcasts, Howie Rose recalled how Willie Randolph had wound up sharing a cab with David Wright at the end of a season turned to dust, and urged Wright not to wash away what he was feeling, but to remember it — remember it and use it.

Or there’s the end of Davey Johnson‘s Bats, an as-told-to baseball book elevated to something more worthy by Johnson’s lifelong allergy to bullshit. There was a paperback edition of Bats, with a lengthy afterword about the 1986 championship season, but the hardcover edition didn’t have that. It ended with the 1985 Mets coming up just a little short, and Johnson telling Peter Golenbock what he thought and said after it was over.

Johnson thought about his last moments as a 1969 Oriole, when he’d accepted having been beaten by some band of upstart Mets and vowed his team wouldn’t be stopped in 1970. In 1985, now a Met himself, he told his charges that he wanted them to make up their minds that they’d win it all in 1986. And then Johnson retreated to his office and made the promise that ends the book: “Next year, by God, nothing is going to stop us.”

I’d like to think I saw some of that in the expressions worn by Matz, Alonso, McNeil and Brach. That they’ll remember this, and use it, and maybe make a vow or two. And that the paperback edition will be something special.

7 comments to This Is the Hardcover Edition

  • open the gates

    “This is the hardcover edition” sounds a lot better than “Just wait ’til next year”. I hope you’re right. We may be cueing the inevitable fat lady’s performance, but this season ends with a far better feeling than the previous two. We may be on the verge, given some offseason tweaking. (Speaking of which, I wonder if someone could lure Davey Johnson out of retirement. He can’t be older than our current pitching coach.)

  • ljcmets

    Matz, Alonso and McNeil broke my heart. I didn’t want to see any more. I think I will always love this Mets team, even if the paperback (or Kindle!) editions have a happier ending.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Fielding didn’t cost them the game or (maybe) not even the season, what with all the bullpen woes and starters who we hail too much given ERAs (except for Jake) are all over 4.00, plus dunderhead manager. But, painfully, defense will need to be addressed, meaning some hitters we like may have to go or at least be challenged. I love Pete, and of course his job is safe, but he is still an awful firstsacker, latest example that Brach play. Yeah, maybe Brad could get off the mound a split-second sooner but look at Pete’s throw–straight at him ten feet from bag instead of leading him a little–if he had led him even two feet it’s no doubt an out. Major league first basemen have to make better throw, and also not knock down balls headed straight to second baseman time after time. We’ve seen those type of plays all year from various Mets and they add up to the difference between being tied for wild card vs. 5 games out, I am fairly certain. And no errors given for balls-you-don’t-get-to but they still hurt.

    • Jacobs27

      “Awful firstsacker” seems awfully harsh. I agree that he’s got some issues with feeding the pitcher covering 1st and knowing what balls are his. But he was apparently not good at all last year and has looked quite competent this year, especially at scooping. He’s no Keith Hernandez, but he’s shown he can improve. The things he struggles with seem like adjustments that he could make in Spring Training next year.

      Now range is certainly an issue at every infield position for the Mets. Those three groundball base hits before Alfaro’s slam were partly bad luck, partly lack of range. And that’s a painful way to give up runs.

  • mikeL

    thanks jason for employing poetry and perspective and gallows humor to help us through general feeling of malaise.

    yes i agree that this sting will make these young mets stronger and hungrier and more committed. thinking back to wright and reyes, stogies in mouth and champagne in the air after the clinching of the NL east, i can’t help but feel they were becoming ill-prepared for the two awful season-endings to follow…and those awful seasons beyond.

    for the young mets, the best will have to be yet-to-come.
    and they will have become wiser, more patient and better prepared to make sure they don’t come up
    short next time.

    and yes, this mets team has been (mostly) very lovable, and the second half far better than we could have expected.

    stay strong mets and all the way in 2020!

  • Seth

    It isn’t mentioned much when talking about the Mets’ second half, but things were pretty bad up through that disastrous 4-game series in San Francisco right after the all-star break. But after that is when they really took off. A shame — so many missed opportunities.

  • Daniel Hall

    Please don’t encourage our cerebrally challenged GM to make any moves. Any move he makes and any step he takes ends up with a $30-50m of dead money on the books and the team none the better. Let’s start with our improvements there. Sack that sad-sack fiddler first, and the dunderheaded manager second. How about hiring somebody with some sort of baseball sense?