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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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Sunset Is Upon Us

And so it ends.

The Mets will not play October baseball. The last invitation to the dance belongs to the Milwaukee Brewers, who thoroughly deserved it — they lost an MVP candidate and somehow found a higher gear, steamrolling all competition in a magical September. Congratulations to them, and solace to our fellow eliminatees, the Chicago Cubs. Cubs fans still have the afterglow of the unimaginable to sustain them, true, but the Cubs were ejected from a real chance at postseason possibilities in just about the cruelest way possible, swept at home by their arch-rivals.

But that’s baseball, isn’t it? The highest of highs, the lowest of lows, and if you’re the kind of person who feels entitled to the former and can’t abide the idea of the latter, well, maybe this isn’t the sport for you. The Mets gave us both in 2019 — left for dead in early July, but alive until the final minutes of Game 158. Over our years here, I’m said a number of pointed and/or venomous things about the Wilpons, but I’ve never taken issue with Fred’s oft-derided invocation of “meaningful games in September,” because I never thought there was anything wrong with it. Given baseball’s ebbs and flows, variability and luck, I’ll happily sign up to watch a team that plays the final month with a real chance at games with bunting and flyovers and annoying Fox announcers. And a team that has you scoreboard-watching in the last week has had a successful season, even without the pomp and circumstance of Games 163 and beyond.

The Mets will miss the dance by an agonizingly, annoyingly slim margin, but we’ll have time (far too much time) to talk about that later. For now, they followed up Tuesday night’s indignant leap out of the coffin with a laugher. Jacob deGrom closed out his 2019 campaign with a masterpiece, one that happily came without the usual fingerpainting from teammates not inclined to hit or play defense. DeGrom has even given us a last thing to scoreboard-watch — on Saturday, we can root against Hyun-Jin Ryu in hopes that JdG steals away the National League ERA title and, in all likelihood, a second straight Cy Young award.

The other Mets backed deGrom ably. Pete Alonso ended his minor power outage with his 51st homer, a no-doubter deep into the Flushing night; Michael Conforto kept slugging; and Amed Rosario offered further exhibits showing how far he’s come as both a hitter and a defender, combining with Robinson Cano on a balletic double play and then ranging far to his left to make the kind of play we’d decided Rosario didn’t make.

(And, on the melancholy side, Jeff McNeil‘s marvelous season is over a little early, ended by a broken hand.)

Alonso and Conforto have historical milestones and round numbers in possible reach, but I’m going to try and watch these last four games without worrying about them too much. I want to watch Alonso diesel baseballs and Conforto knock in runners without immediately needing to ask for a specific little more. Just like I want to watch Rosario continue to expand his horizons, and see Brandon Nimmo‘s home-run anti-trot again, and hope J.D. Davis does something else that’s endearingly goofy. Maybe Sam Haggerty will get a start and a ball for his trophy case — the Marlins’ Tyler Heineman collected his first MLB hit off deGrom Wednesday night, which has to make an always-sweet first souvenir even sweeter.

And then, when all that’s done, I’ll watch other teams play ball, navigating the highly temporary affections and allegiances of October. No, the Mets won’t be a part of the dance, and that will make me sad. But in 50 years on the planet, I’ve never found a form of entertainment that moves me and fulfills me and makes me as happy as baseball does. Sunset has come for the team we hold dear, but the party will go on under the stars, and there’s no way I’d miss it.

10 comments to Sunset Is Upon Us

  • Harvey P

    Two more consolation prizes to root for. If the Mets win 3 of the remaining four, their all-time CitiField record will be 446-445 for 11 years of play. In addition, three of four will result in a winning record for the Calloway Era of 163-161.

    • Jack Strawb

      In trying to salve the FO’s vanity with a couple more wins, Seth Lugo and his unusual pitching arm were sent out to throw his 79th and 80th innings out of the pen, exclusively. That’s… foolish.

      Tbh I’m just rooting for the regulars except for Alonso and probably Nimmo to largely sit. The last thing that Ramos needs is to try to make Wags look less awful by adding to his new, personal high in games played.

  • mikeL

    so well put jason.
    and yes, last night was a beautiful game unto itself, with milwaukee preventing any more hopes for one more day early on.

    and yes the brewers richly deserved it. and i like them. last year i rooted for them in the post-season as they were the closest thing in spirit and action to the mets.

    that the mets got as far as they did after so much went wrong
    makes me both proud of that outstanding effort and optimistic
    for ’20.

    i was good with all of it but am bummed that mcneil won’t finish out the season that he was such a part of…or his hitting 24 and 25 for a nice round bumber of his own.
    wishing him a speedy and full recovery.

    great season, can’t wait for the next. 3 more to play!


  • Seth

    I haven’t seen any prognosis for McNeil; I assume no surgery is required and he’ll be 100% by spring training? Sure hope so…

  • Rudin

    I was at the game, and it was a nice evening with most of the focus on what a solid nucleus they have for 2020. But still, is there any reason Callaway couldn’t have either let deGrom bat in the 7th inning or at least sent him out to the mound to start the 8th. Robbing him of a richy deserved ovation and the fans of an equally deserved emotional release was further proof of how little situational awareness he has. Two years have showed us that as a manager, Mickey Callaway is a very nice guy.

  • 9th String Catcher

    Pretty interesting year. Underachieved badly. Then overachieved. Then achieved. Then underachieved again. Ultimately better than last year and a lot more hopeful, but critical moves need to be made to get to the next level. Not many, but the right ones need to happen.

    And, let’s face it, at least we’re not the Phillies. Talk about a dumpster fire!

  • Dave

    A unique season…wrapping up with 2 Mets as the favorites for major postseason awards. We have the thrill of watching young players exceed our expectations…how many of us would have been thrilled if we had been told that Alonso would hit 30 homers or that McNeil would maintain everyday player status? Instead we got much more. JD Davis barely registered on our radar screens in March, and many of us probably assumed that Rosario was being given one last chance before the “call up Gimenez” noise started. We got a lot more. Oh, and we unquestionably have a top 3 or 4 rotation in all of baseball.

    Then there’s the bullpen, and we have to turn to whatever numbs the pain. When we’re down, we’ll spend our winter debating how many more wins we would’ve had…could this have been a championship caliber team…had Diaz and Familia at least have been, if not lights out, just good? Will MLB consider shortening games to 7 innings? 7 inning games, I’m thinking this team would’ve won minimum 105 games. Something to hope for…

  • eric1973

    Nah, Dave, then Mickey would have taken the starters out after FOUR!

  • Jack Strawb

    Interesting season. Watching Alonso, McNeil, deGrom, and Conforto play was marvelous. Seeing JD Davis and Dom break through at the plate was heartening. Watching Wheeler continue to resurrect his career was a pleasure.

    The regulars and the 25 man roster in April, though, deserved a better shot. The frontline talent, the Mets best dozen, if surrounded by nothing more than AAAA talent, ie 0.0 WAR, replacement level talent, should have won around 88 games. Add the productivity of the next tier, in this case guys like Davis, Dom, Nimmo, Stroman, Hech, and even Cano’s minimal contribution, and the productive guys made up about a 94 win team if surrounded by nothing but AAAA talent, the Kirk Niewenhuises, Paul Sewalds, and Bob Gsellmans of the baseball world.

    But van Wagenen never seemed to understand how to build a baseball team that would send 50 to 55 guys onto the field over the course of a 162 game season (the Mets have used 53 players to date), and planned so poorly that Syracuse had no one with upside to offer when the need arose–and barely anyone who qualified for the AAAA moniker.

    The front line talent was there, this year. The secondary talent wasn’t great, but it was decent, a pleasant surprise in several cases. The worst 20 players the Mets put on the field, though, killed them. As much as a GM might try, the worst guys on your team, the guys below the 0.0 WAR level, always cost you a few games, but as much as anything a GM’s job is to limit the damage those players do. Van Wagenen never grasped this. He never talked as if he had any sense of how much sub-replacement level players can sabotage a team.

    Awareness of that would have meant getting Lagares off the field as much as possible instead of playing him into the ground. It means realizing the need for a guy like Billy Hamilton instead of losing games with Lagares, Altherr, and Broxton; it means not building your AAA team so casually that as early as May you have to deal a live young arm for a talent as modest as Wilmer Font, or that your big OF ‘get’ is pulling Aaron Altherr off the waiver wire playing him in centerfield most days for a month. Van Wagenen also got lucky with the team’s bad players. By mid-season the worst 20 players the Mets had used combined for (negative) -8 bWAR versus -8.8 bWAR for all of last season. They ended 2019 with -9 bWAR. Add to that the pitching hitting well and chipping in about 2 bWAR with the bat, and these flukes had a lot to do with letting the Mets fake contention.

    I’ll be keeping a weather eye on the margins of what the Mets do this offseason, but I’m not optimistic. The GM doesn’t seem to get it; ownership certainly doesn’t get it; and Callaway, if they keep him, seems to be clueless on how to get the most from marginal performers. We’ll see, but it gets late early in Queens.

  • Daniel Hall

    Well, the pragmatist says that if you gotta have your paw broken by a fool’s pitch, this was the best time for it…