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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 Have We Here?

Our club’s in jeopardy of disappearing from the divisional race they led for months on end, so perhaps the appropriate way to sum them up is through a smidgen of Jeopardy.


Who are the 2021 New York Mets?

Correct. Uncertainty has the board.

The Mets of the moment are easy to figure out because at this moment, they are a hopeless case. They pitch just well enough to not win. They field just poorly enough to be of little help to their pitching. They hit not at all, or at least until they put themselves in a position where an impressive power display leaves no impression whatsoever.

For eight innings on Saturday in Philadelphia, the second-place Mets presented no challenge to the first-place Phillies. They also presented no challenge to gravity, as they continued to fall through the floor of plausibility. It’s not that we couldn’t imagine them winning the NL East or the game at hand. Basically, there was no fathoming how they were permitted through a Major League Baseball facility’s players’ entrance.

Then, for the span of three batters to begin the top of the ninth inning — Michael Conforto, Jonathan Villar and James McCann — they tantalized us with not one, not two, but three consecutive home runs. Had they not been trailing by five runs at the outset of the ninth, it would have been an extraordinarily exciting turn of events. Even trailing by four, then three, then two, it was tempting to get excited. The Mets have pulled off the neat trick in recent days of playing games whose scores are close yet whose outcome rarely feels in doubt. Their last five losses have been by three, one, two, two and two runs, including Saturday’s too-little/too-lateathon. Those three solo homers set the stage for essentially nothing. With Philly’s lead whittled to two, two more Met batters reached base around a foulout, so conceivably the next men up, one of them a certified Home Run Derby champion, were poised to complete an epic comeback.

But that was only if you hadn’t been watching the Mets much. If you had, you couldn’t conceive of the runners on base being driven in when it mattered most. Not by Pete Alonso, not by J.D. Davis, not by whoever might have substituted for them in gray pants and a blue top. And had some Met somehow gotten that elusive big hit, it was equally difficult to conceive of the next Met reliever holding a tie or a lead.

Which is no way to approach the potential inflection point of a baseball game as a fan, but we have been watching the Mets much, probably too much. Too much not to know better. Too much not to sense that catching up to 5-3 from 5-0 wasn’t going to be a launching pad for anything else.

They were never that great, except that they won a decent amount of games more than they’d lost when nobody else in their neighborhood could claim something similar. For a while, that’s all it took. If it didn’t make them great, we thought we could count on them being good. Good rarely enters the conversation now.

This bad, though? Every team that seems incapable of winning comes off as the worst and most hopeless accumulation of non-talent ever assembled. Losing six of their last seven and eight of their last ten has left the Mets looking out of their element. Baseball? Try Skee-Ball maybe. Still, teams have been known to snap out of funks. The 1999 Mets, to name one extreme example, lost eight in a row about a third of the way through their season and lost seven in a row during the final two weeks of their campaign. After the latter losing streak reached six, John Franco told reporters the Mets were going to make the playoffs anyway. Gads, that me angry, especially since Johnny’s boys had blown a Wild Card with a five-game losing streak the year before. Don’t toy with my emotions, Franco. Don’t lie to me like that.

You know what happened. Mojo rose. The Mets made the playoffs. The most exciting time this franchise has known since 1986 unfurled. Of course it did. Those Mets had Piazza and Alfonzo and Leiter and Ventura and Olerud and so on. We weren’t in the mood to take stock of the trees when the forest was in flames, but had we stepped back from our angsty abyss, we might have been compelled to admit, yeah, maybe we don’t suck. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing for a fan to admit about his, her or their team. When they suck, as the Mets do right now or the Mets did for harrowing spurts in 1999, we don’t want to be suckered into letting them off the hook.

I’m thinking a little about 1999 not because this 2021 squad is reminiscent of its predecessors from 22 years ago, but because during Saturday’s game, I came across an obituary for Patricia Kennealy-Morrison. The name jumped off the page. Though it was mentioned nowhere in the article, I remembered this woman as an integral part of the Mojo carpet ride that 1999 had been until we hit the wall of late September. The Morrison in Kennealy-Morrison is from Patricia’s relationship with Jim Morrison. Robin Ventura had adopted “Mojo Risin’” as the Mets’ rallying cry after going to see the second Austin Powers movie. Patricia, keeper of her late soulmate’s legacy, found out; was quite charmed; and gave Robin and the Mets her blessing to blast “L.A. Woman” and its “Mis-ter MO JO RIIISE IN” refrain to their heart’s content. The Mets still went out and lost seven in a row, but like Bobby Valentine’s dugout disguise and the Mercury Mets motif, the brief opening of the clubhouse Doors to a little rock ‘n’ roll mysticism contributed to too good a legend to let wither.

Or so we can tell ourselves, knowing full well the 1999 Mets recovered their Mojo after that second losing streak.

Because of the passing of Patricia Kennealy-Morrison, Mojo and 1999 were kind of in the air when Conforto led off the ninth with the home run that got the Mets on the board after eight innings of deep void. A thought dared flitter across my mind. The Mets had also been losing without an ounce of resistance to the Phillies on Sunday afternoon, May 23, 1999 — 4-0 at Shea Stadium. Curt Schilling was cruising toward a complete game. There was no reason to believe he wouldn’t get his shutout. Except Mike Piazza singled to lead off the bottom of the ninth and Ventura homered to make it 4-2. Window dressing? Maybe. But maybe not. The 1999 Mets weren’t yet “the 1999 Mets,” but the pieces were in place. Long story short, Schilling stayed in (Phillie bullpen problems are not new) and the Mets scored three more runs, winning in what Gary Cohen rightly referred to as “a REMARKABLE finish!” From the moment Roger Cedeño slid home under Mike Lieberthal’s tag, punching the air as he was called safe, the 1999 Mets became “the 1999 Mets” as we’d forevermore know and love them.

Nah, I said Saturday when it got to 5-1 on Conforto’s homer. It’s not Ventura redux. It’s just a coincidence. But then Villar homered and McCann homered and, well, wouldn’t this be quite the parting gift from Ms. Kennealy-Morrison? Except how much Mojo can you ask of the same source in one lifetime or afterlife?

I didn’t really believe we were gonna come all the way back. I allowed myself a smidgen of credulity, however. That had more to do with the Mets of 22 years ago than it did the Mets of this moment. In this moment, I have no concrete idea who these Mets are. Other than that they are losers of six of seven, eight of ten and a once secure grip on first place. More than two-thirds of a season has gone by, with a nice up, a horrifying down and approximately seven-dozen roster adjustments, and I still don’t know who or what the 2021 Mets are.

I knew the 1999 Mets were something special. Two years ago, I was learning the 2019 Mets were something special. They hadn’t been for most of four months, but by early August, they were rampaging their way from depths much like those in which we’ve wallowed for weeks. The 2019 Mets had their own brand of Mojo, and once it began to rise, boy did it take off. The 2019 Mets won 15 of 16, barged into a playoff scramble previously inaccessible to them and had the damnedest barrel of fun while doing so.

I bring them up now because I think what the 2019 Mets did in late July and August redefined our expectations overall for the Mets to follow. It did mine. My default assessment of the 2021 Mets (and the 2020 Mets until last year’s empty stadia made everything too bleak to take to heart) is that we’re still on that roll or at least its residual momentum. Maybe not from a won-lost perspective, but as an identity. To me, if I don’t dissect too many moving parts, the contemporary Mets are still the shirt-ripping, death-defying, spit ‘n’ vinegar crew that recaptured our fancy after two-and-a-half years of stumbling in place. Lindor replaced Rosario, McCann replaced Ramos, and the pitching was in flux, but deep down we were still the team of Alonso and McNeil and Conforto and Smith and Davis and Nimmo.

I suppose that’s still true. Those fellas were all out there on Saturday at Citizens Bank. But it doesn’t feel like 2019. We have a record two games better after 110 games than we did two years ago, yet that feels temporary. The 2021 Mets are on a stretch of southbound highway with no exits and signs prohibiting U-turns. Maybe there’s an off ramp over the horizon. It’s hard to see at present.

Putting aside the declining fortunes of the 2021 Mets or even the chance that a reversal of form is within their skill set, I keep wondering who or what these Mets are exactly and whether the Mets of the youthful core I celebrated as a harbinger of an era to come not so long ago are extinct as a going entity. I thought Alonso and the rest were the future. The future seems to have whooshed by in the left lane. Maybe not getting a proper building year in 2020 hindered their progress beyond easy repair (though “my baseball team lost its momentum thanks to a global pandemic” seems a pretty petty complaint when one widens one’s contextual lens). Maybe the injuries that have sidelined everybody in this specific cohort this year except Dom Smith shouldn’t be dismissed casually. Maybe, like the Mets whose nucleus we thought they formed, these players weren’t that great to begin with. But I can’t believe they are this bad. Or, more precisely, this ineffectual.

What I really don’t know is where we and they go from here. What are the ceilings, individually and collectively? How quickly does youth become baseball middle age? Are we the Polar Bear Club for the foreseeable future? Do we remain eternally attached to Dom and Squirrel? Is J.D. utterly dispensable? Is Scooter worth more than a perfunctory qualifying offer? Can we do better for a leadoff hitter than smilin’ Brandon Nimmo? Are we now instead Francisco Lindor & The Mets, regardless that Lindor the Leader hasn’t hit much and won’t play for a while more? Eff the DH with my last NL breath (Tylor Megill, when not advised against swinging the bat, doubled Saturday), but how does the presumed-likely universality of product dilution impact personnel decisions? And does anything truly mean anything if Jacob deGrom isn’t pitching? Jake hasn’t pitched in more than a month, in case you’ve lost track.

This is more an existential survey of the Mets fan soul than a search for concrete solutions or a request for scouting reports out of Brooklyn or Binghamton. Answering in the form of a question is perfectly acceptable when the Mets are in jeopardy. Still, who are we exactly? And whoever we’ll be, will we be any good and will it be as much fun as it was there for a spell that now seems to be over?

11 comments to What Have We Here?

  • Bruce in Forest Hills

    I think this Mets team goes as far as Francisco Lindor can carry them. Outside of the not-small fact that he isn’t hitting, Lindor has had a very good year. More importantly, Lindor’s mere presence in the line-up seems to raise everyone else’s game. (I know that’s not 21st-century baseball analysis — where if I can’t quantify it, I’m not supposed to say it’s true.) But I think the Mets need Lindor back in the line-up more than they need deGrom back in the rotation.

  • Richard Porricelli

    The healthy have just not performed. Even as they won, they couldn’t put any real separation out there, and take there place amongst the better NL teams.. I always had the sense that it was shaky success at best, and that it would all at some point come tumbling down.

  • Michael in CT

    If they continue to not score with the bases loaded and nobody out, their prospects are dim.

  • James Preller

    I think they aren’t that good, when it comes down to it.

    All season long, they’ve appeared destined for a collapse and yet, showing grit and resilience, managed to defy expectations.

    Yet here we are. I think the collapse is real. Soon: 13 straight games against the Giants and Dodgers.

    Looking at 75 wins.

    I hope I’m wrong.

    Without Jake, this is just a mediocre team w/ a lot of nice complementary players.


  • sturock

    I wonder the same thing. Smith and Conforto just aren’t developing into the consistent stars I hoped they would. Besides Alonso (when he’s hot), does anyone in this lineup scare opposing pitchers? Where is our (when healthy, of course) Acuña, Soto, Harper, Freeman?

    We don’t have that player, especially with Lindor on the shelf.

    We still have a chance if the starting rotation can find its second wind– and if deGrom can pitch again– but I don’t expect much help from the hitters.

  • greensleeves

    As always, your daily word churn touches all the bases. Thank you.

    The Kenealy-Morrison reference reminds us that each FAFIF column of late is tantamount to not just a morning/mourning chronicle of their free fall, but a definitive and ongoing obituary for this 2021 team. Death by a thousand cuts.

    Classics like “Helplessly Hoping” , “Can’t Find My Way Home” and “Freefallin'” provide my soundtrack. I’m sure there are dozens of others. The dissonance, cognitive and musical, is deafening.

  • Seth

    It’s taken until August, but they’ve finally achieved some consistency.

  • Eric

    It’s striking that after 3 solo shots and a single, the offense shut down in the 9th as soon as Pillar became a RISP. Alonso and Davis promptly became helpless, like Kennedy was peak Chapman.

    According to Rojas, the problem is trouble hitting fastballs. What the heck? Hitting fastballs is the basic thing a big-league hitter is supposed to be able to do. Also, how does the problem with fastballs correlate with their problem with curveballs?

  • Stephanie Pianto

    Great and thoughtful pondering of the mysteries of the Universe are all we have left.
    Since when has any Mets team of yore had all the right pieces and a guaranteed winning season? The Mets have always either been the dark horse, or the scapegoat for those that think they know the answers.
    In hindsight we can say of the postseason Mets that we knew all along, but that’s the only 20/20 we can hope for. Personally, I enjoy the ride either way.

  • Cleon Jones

    Rojas better NOT come back next year. Alderson needs to go!!! Our strength and conditioning staff needs to be shared up. Conforto needs to go!! Our offense is terrible all year. There is NO fight in this team. Truly sad…….