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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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Death in the Tea Leaves

If a team starts the season 1-1, the third game is a Rorschach test. It usually determines whether you’ve won or lost your first series. It always determines whether you’re 2-1 or 1-2.

It’s undeniably true that the third game also determines whether your winning percentage will be .667, which is the stuff of awestruck recollections a generation later, or .333, which calls for a self-protective case of amnesia.

You probably see the flaw in the logic — that the difference between .667 and .333 means everything after 162 games, most everything after 150, a fair amount after 100, and so forth and so forth, until you get all the way down to three games, at which point it means zero. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Bupkis. Fuck all.

You see the flaw in the logic, but plenty of people on talk radio and in the comments sections and on Twitter don’t, or more charitably do but were left so overwrought by a lousy Wednesday afternoon that their forebrains short-circuited long enough for them to dial a phone or tap at a keyboard and vomit up some bile. It’s always this way — this is the time of the season when you can remember every game easily and every at-bat if you furrow your brow, when everything seems absurdly magnified, and the smallest thing is a harbinger of gigantic shapes taking shape in the mist. These games and series are Rorschach tests, and after an ill-spent afternoon whose verdict is .333, everything looks like a skull and crossbones.

The beverage that left these particular tea leaves prophesying doom went down like this: David Peterson looked overamped in the first inning, giving up four runs, but then did a commendable job harnessing his emotions, settling in and pitching effectively. (If you’d like to plot the location of horses vis-a-vis their barn, please do, but know that your findings will not be a revelation to your chronicler.) The Mets drove Aaron Nola‘s pitch count steadily up and booted him from the game after four innings, but couldn’t collect the big hit that would have got them back in the game. Any chance at doing so evaporated when Jacob Barnes relieved Peterson and gave up a three-run homer on his first pitch delivered as a Met, a badge of insta-futility not donned since John Candelaria‘s debut as a Plan H or I starter in the cursed ’87 season. Barnes also settled down, though by now the barn was in flames and the horses weren’t even bothering to flee but insouciantly hanging around to light cigarettes from the embers. Dellin Betances made his 2021 debut and looked pretty much exactly like he did in 2020, then mercifully left further duties to Joey Lucchesi, who looked fairly impressive, though by then if you were watching with more than fitful attention I salute you as a better fan than me.

Not the way anyone wanted to spend a warm spring afternoon, but the Mets will be fine. Promise.

They’ll be fine because they’re getting reinforcements, with Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard and Seth Lugo not so far from returning and pushing whichever pitchers prove marginal off the roster. (Including, if need be, Betances — given Steve Cohen’s source of income, he’s one owner who ought to understand the sunk-cost fallacy.) They’ll be fine because luck evens out, and often does so with a vengeance. (Jeff McNeil, for instance, will go something like 11-for-16 after the BABIP gods forgive whatever they think he’s done.) And most of all, the Mets will be fine because that lineup is deep, talented and relentless. They arrive on a given night with the likes of Brandon Nimmo and James McCann hitting eighth, they work counts and spoil pitches, and they zero in on balls they can damage. That’s a recipe for devouring other staffs’ 3-4-5 starters and the soft underbelly of bullpens, and it will be a path to success on plenty of nights. How many? Couldn’t tell you, but it will be a lot more than one out of three.

Those better nights will come. You know better than to let three games convince you otherwise. Tomorrow we get a new cup and new tea leaves we can study after whatever happens. Stop screaming about hemlock, take a sip, and let the game come to you.

5 comments to Death in the Tea Leaves

  • Eric

    How can the Mets be so good at putting men on base and also so bad at plating them?

    • Daniel Hall

      I have a very scientific explanation for this:

      The Baseball Gods love to torture every team’s fans, but they love torturing some teams’ fans a lot more than others’. The Mets are very high on that list. So even if the Mets get 11 hits, they are also stricken with batting negative three for umpteen with RISP.

      Which is why the Mets always get undone by the Marlins in the most stupid ways. The Marlins have no fans, so the Baseball Gods can ONLY torture the Mets’ fans.

  • Matt in DE

    I had the pleasure (maybe the wrong word) of being at the game, a short 33mi drive. A spontaneous trip to feel almost normal for a few hours. It was also my son’s first Mets game, which I would have preferred take place at Citi Field, but it is what it is. Though, he is now a fully indoctrinated Mets fan, spending the walk to the car and half the drive home complaining about how the Mets played. As you said, there will be sunnier days ahead once the Mets can get a hit when a teammate is in position to score.

  • open the gates

    I remember one year when the Mets had a horrific spring training and came out of the gate 2-3. Everyone was calling for the manager’s head. Remember 1986? Awful year, for the first week or so.

  • Seth

    Hopefully there’s some middle ground between drinking the hemlock and complaining about people who complain. Getting off to a fast start would have been ideal, sending a message and setting a tone for the season. Fans’ disappointment is understandable.

    Phils: 5-1
    Mets: 1-2

    Yes, there are 159 games left, but which start would you rather have had?