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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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What Counts

In doing my nightly postgame statistical rounds, I noticed that the score by which the Mets beat the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, 11-6, had been gathering dust for quite some time. Until Wednesday, when the Mets exploded with practically unimaginable amounts of offense and it still seemed barely enough to fend off one particular precocious Nat, the Mets hadn’t won, 11-6, against anybody in slightly more than sixteen years, making it the 22nd-least recent winning score on the Met books. Now it’s the most recent.

Perhaps it appeared the Mets would require sixteen years or at least that many pitchers to get out of the top of the first inning at Citi Field when Robert Gsellman, starting for the first time since the Mets’ final home game three years ago, put two runners on and then discovered one more competitive innovation baseball has introduced since September 27, 2017: the advent of Juan Soto. True, he’d faced the kid in relief a few times, but this had to feel different. This was his whole night set out in front of him, a night Gsellman’d been craving in his starting pitcher heart all those nights he found himself reluctantly warming up in the middle innings. Sixty feet, six inches away was Soto, 21 and regularly evoking mentions of Mel Ott slugging — and not just because they both bear nifty crossword puzzle solutions as last names.

In case Gsellman forgot what it was like to be planted in the bullpen, Soto reminded him, as the home run he swatted flew well over it…and everything else at Citi Field. I’m sure the ball got a decent view of everything below its own stitches, though binoculars were probably required. When the 466-foot journey of Soto’s three-run welcome-back-Bob bomb completed its statistical rounds, the ball could be seen bouncing way in the back of the soft drink-sponsored pavilion far above right field. I think it knocked on the men’s room door to the left of the stand where they usually sell cola.

I’m sure Gsellman contemplated a quick trip to the facilities himself. The only thing that got him out of the first was Soto wasn’t due up again right away. And then, contrary to recent home team custom, he was presented with a lead by his friends in the Mets batting order. If they weren’t his friends already, they should be by now. The Mets’ batters, reputed for their courtesy in not disturbing Met runners in scoring position, learned the benefits of rudeness. Brandon Nimmo skipped the whole “runners on” thing when he led off with a homer against ancient Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez, 36, threw a no-hitter in 2006. It was so long ago that it had been only two years since the Mets had last won an 11-6 game; Soto was 7.

Nimmo, who’s too nice to come off as rude, nonetheless set a useful example for the batters who followed him to the plate, most of them turning impolite toward the opposing pitcher.

After Sanchez hit Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso hit Sanchez, doubling in Conforto. Dom Smith, listed as playing some alien position that has no business in National League baseball, doubled in Alonso. Wunderkind Andrés Giménez, who is somehow six weeks older than Juan Soto, singled in Smith. The Mets and Gsellman were out in front. Gsellman didn’t last but two innings as he reacclimated himself to his old role (“Man, I was so nervous,” he said afterward. “I felt like a little kid.”), but the Mets were generous to his myriad successors, adding a run in the third — which was countered by another Juan-ton act of slugging — and five in the sixth. Michael doubled with two on. Pete homered with Michael on. Dom homered immediately thereafter. The Mets hit with runners in scoring position and hit deep with bases clear of occupants. They collected thirteen hits and put them to excellent use to create eleven runs. Soto could produce only four on his own, with his teammates chipping in just two.

That’s how we got to 11-6 in one game. Why it took sixteen years to get to 11-6 since the last 11-6 Mets win is one of those little mysteries that make doing one’s nightly statistical rounds such an enigmatic delight. Historically, 11-6 hasn’t been a wholly uncommon score for the Mets to win by. From 1962 through 2004, the Mets had beaten an opponent, 11-6, eleven times in regular-season play. Maybe not a “normal” baseball score, but not so crazy that you think you’d need a decade-and-a-half and then some to see it again. Hell, Game Two of the 1969 National League Championship Series, wound up 11-6 for the Mets over the Braves on a day Jerry Koosman didn’t quite have his best stuff, but Messrs. Agee, Garrett, Jones and Shamsky blessedly did. It was the second postseason game the Mets ever played and 11-6 already represented half their postseason wins.

I don’t know why some scores simply fall out of fashion, as if there are tastemakers who determine how much a team wins or loses by and whether the combination can be considered chic enough to gain a measure of mass-market popularity. When the Mets beat the Red Sox, 8-3, a couple of weeks ago, it was their first 8-3 regular-season win since the last day of the 2014 season. There’s nothing remotely Unicorn-ish about an 8-3 score — the Mets had won a regular-season game by an 8-3 score 46 times over the first 53 seasons of the franchise’s history, but then more than five years passed before another 8-3 regular-season win. The Mets did beat the Cubs, 8-3, on October 21, 2015, but that was the clinching game of the NLCS (just the pennant, that’s all), so it doesn’t quite count under this exacting statistical umbrella I’m brandishing. And even if it does, that means it still took more than four years, until July 28, 2020, to produce another 8-3 win. An 8-3 win is a lot closer to “normal” than 11-6, yet it was wholly elusive for quite a spell there.

I’d say, “go figure,” but you can’t. All you can do, if you’re so inclined, is record that it happened.

The previous game the Mets won, 11-6, took place on August 5, 2004. I remember it clearly specifically for having not seen it or heard it. I had business in Washington that Thursday afternoon and was on an Acela back to New York when I was able to tune in on my trusty tiny radio the staticky news of what the Mets had done in their matinee in Milwaukee. Victor Zambrano made his Met debut a victorious one (four earned runs in a five-and-a-third innings, but he left with a large lead); David Wright drove in six runs to raise his career RBI total to ten; and the city I was putting behind me probably couldn’t have cared less that the Mets were romping in Wisconsin. In August of 2004, the Washington Nationals were still the Montreal Expos.

That was the last game I missed altogether in 2004, a fact that sticks with me because when the next season began, I wasn’t just watching or listening for me, but for whoever was reading this blog. I wouldn’t miss another Mets game until August of 2006 and have rarely missed one since. Yet at no time until August of 2020 did an 11-6 Mets win enter the current-affairs segment of our ongoing conversation here. Now it has.

I’ll say it: go figure.

In the realm of rituals related to keeping track, I’ve been part of a foursome that has attended the first mutually available and amenable Tuesday night game at Citi Field for ten years. This tradition dates back to August 10, 2010, when my wife Stephanie and I met up with Ryder Chasin and his father Rob to see the Mets take on the Rockies. It was our first game together if not our first time together at Citi Field. About a year earlier, the Chasins had gotten in touch with us and invited us to Ryder’s forthcoming Bar Mitzvah, November 14, 2009. Ryder, 12 going on 13, was a Mets Fan Who Liked to Read; his coming-of-age celebration would be at the Acela Club (now known as the Porsche Grill despite Acela rating two product placements in today’s column); and, well, would we like to join them?

Would we? It was too intriguing to pass up, and that was with only knowing Ryder and Rob from one letter apiece. Long, oft-told story short, Stephanie and I attended, we all stayed pals, and we consecrated our Metsian bond with a Tuesday night game the following August. Why Tuesday night? I don’t remember, but it became our thing. Ten Augusts, ten Tuesday nights, the four of us. Ryder, a couple of years the senior of Juan Soto and Andrés Giménez, graduated everything there was to graduate and is now a professional writer himself, 23 going on 24. Like that pitch Gsellman threw to Soto, time really flew.

Who’s gonna argue technicalities with a cake?

It landed in August of 2020, when there’d be no going to Citi Field for any of us or anybody else. No going anywhere, for the most part. Our Tuesday night tradition could have been pardoned for pausing in deference to These Challenging Times, but Rob and Ryder thought better of it and did the best they could to make it eleven in a row. Thus, on Tuesday night, August 11, 2020, our friends the Chasins arranged to Zoom Stephanie and me shortly before 7:10 first pitch. Rob even had a specially decorated Carvel cake simultaneously delivered to our address to mark the continuation of our indefatigable occasion. As that element was intended as a surprise, I at first opted not to answer when a gentleman bearing frozen gifts rang, because, geez, I’m on a Zoom here, who the hell is suddenly bothering us? Good thing I was clued in so I could run to the door and accept the incredible gesture. Ice cream cakes in August don’t lend themselves to contact-free delivery.

Stephanie and I spent about two hours on our respective screens with Ryder and Rob, catching up about baseball and whatever else infiltrated our collective consciousness. (I resisted the temptation to blurt to Ryder, “My god, you’re like TOTALLY an adult now!”) Our eyes naturally darted to nearby televisions to keep up with the Mets and Nats, though the game wasn’t much more than an unobtrusive backdrop after a while. Still, it was the reason we’d virtually gathered, which led to a perplexing philosophical quandary.

Did this count?

Everything about baseball is about counting. It’s why we’re watching this short season that in so many ways feels like it shouldn’t be taking place in a pandemic. It counts. The games count. The scores count. Every run. Every run given up. We who can’t miss a game that counts unless we have to be on a train before the advent of apps adhere closely to counting what counts. The 11-6 win on August 12, 2020, counts like the 11-6 win from August 5, 2004 counts. The 11-6 win from October 5, 1969, counts, too, but like the 8-3 win from October 21, 2015, it counts differently. Counting what counts is what separates from the animals who don’t keep count.

I held up to the camera for Ryder’s and Rob’s edification the notebook in which I write down the result of each game I go to. I call it The Log II. The Log was filled with my Shea Stadium games. The Log II covers Citi Field. Every one of our August Tuesday night games are in there. The six wins. The four losses. The starting pitchers. The opponents. It’s all inked in. Despite the spirit of the Zoom and the affection baked into the cake, could I, in all good counting consciousness, pick up my pen and write down the spare but essential details of our eleventh consecutive Tuesday night in August if it wasn’t exactly our eleventh consecutive Tuesday night in August at Citi Field? I don’t count in The Log II games I don’t physically attend.

But The Log II doesn’t track everything about the games I go to. It certainly hasn’t recorded the heart of those ten August Tuesday nights with the Chasins.

Not written down in my spiral-bound steno pad is that we greeted each other heartily outside Citi Field ten times.

That we embraced as people who were close to one another did until 2020.

That we grumbled our way through security; me, mostly.

That once safely within the circular walls of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, Ryder and I immediately wandered deep into “what’s wrong with the Mets?” (or a couple of times the inverse) territory while Stephanie and Rob presumably talked about other, less pressing matters.

That we decided what we were gonna get to eat and, if it differed, where we were gonna meet so we could eat it together and talk some more between bites.

That one time Rob amazingly managed to get us on the field for batting practice and Ryder snagged autographs from Jordany Valdespin and Justin Turner.

That another time we wound up sitting behind some thin blonde woman who never once looked up at the game because she was too busy tweeting literal Fox News talking points at all who dared argue with the positions she steadily tapped out, spectacularly oblivious to the big league baseball unfolding not too many rows in front of her. Shocked that somebody could care that little for the Mets or their foes, I squinted over her shoulder at her phone and deduced the disinterested filler of this perfectly good ballpark seat was Fox News talking head Kayleigh McEnany. I had never heard of Fox News talking head Kayleigh McEnany until then, but I looked her up when I got home and learned she was dating or maybe already engaged to Met reliever Sean Gilmartin, which I guess explained why she was there. They later married despite her apparent lack of emotional investment in his profession (I understand she holds a government job these days).

That last year Rob furnished a tenth-anniversary scoreboard message for the Mets to include among their various midgame Happy Birthday greetings.

That I’d keep score for a stray half-inning if Ryder was racing to and racing back from the concessions.

That Rob, Ryder, Stephanie and I would conduct a version of musical chairs a couple of times per game so everybody could talk some to everybody else.

That even when the score fell in the Mets’ favor, we were a little sad the game was over because we did this only once a year and now it was done, but we were inevitably cheered that we knew we’d be back out here same time next year, more or less.

Much less, it turned out this year, but the Zoom was the next best thing. As we wound down our video meeting, we discussed whether it counted, if it could in fact enter The Log II. The provisional decision reached was maybe in pencil. It’s not ink, but it’s not nothing.

That was Tuesday. I haven’t written it down yet. I don’t know if I will. Really, I don’t think I have to. We know we kept our thing going. Eleven in a row, just like it says on the cake.

Next year? Twelve in Flushing. I won’t count on it, but I will hope.

1 comment to What Counts

  • Daniel Hall

    Lots to unpack in this one! :D :D

    First, you know some good people. I’d also like to know people sending cake to my place at the start of a Mets game. =) With the cake, the game definitely counts. Everything counts in large amounts.

    Yes, it’s an asterisk season. But should it live to see the end of itself in World Series form, you bet the winning team will not put an asterisk on the banner they’ll put up in ’21. You can enter this game into The Log II with an asterisk, but you don’t have to.

    I wonder what a Jordany Valdespin autograph fetches at auction. I mean, they must be rather rare.

    Gilmartin, though, huh? Didn’t know what kind of company he had fallen into, besides the Orioles. (Didn’t even know he still had a job in MLB!) … Oh well, at least you sat *behind* the person that’s now shovelling #45’s droppings…

    Not least of all wonders – the Mets won a ballgame!?