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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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Truth to Polar

You can’t, as the saying goes, script baseball. You can’t necessarily script baseball players, either. If you could, I would have tried last Sunday when, at the conclusion of the Mets’ moribund weekend in Philadelphia, Pete Alonso met the press to attempt to explain what the hell was going wrong. Pete, I might have advised with all the communications consultant credibility I could muster, maybe try something like, “We got beat, I gotta do better, we all gotta do better, but we’re not giving up.” Such sentiments delivered by the slumping slugger on behalf of his spiraling squad, I believed, would have been accepted by the lot of us in solidarity with the team and with empathy for the players. It would have come across as honest.

Except Pete Alonso harbors his own truth, and he delivers it as Pete Alonso does. After bemoaning the fates that had hard-hit balls turning into outs, our Polar Bear concluded his darkest-before-the-dawn remarks by reassuring us, “We got this. Just smile and know that we got this.”

At that moment, what we had was a four-game losing streak and the sense that first place had been nothing but a summer rental. All was going wrong, and no amount of Florida sunshine, whether authentically sourced or fabricated by the Tampa native, was going to make us feel better about our straits. “We’re all in this together,” Alonso insisted as he directly addressed Mets fans, but if he really felt what we were feeling, he would have known he’d swung and missed. Together, we were in misery. Can you at least wallow urgently with us for a minute before climbing back into the cage?

By comparison, Zack Scott’s Tuesday appraisal that “we’ve played very mediocre baseball for most of the year” and that “this recent stretch has been much worse than mediocre [and] unacceptably bad” was a breath of front office fresh air. Though the first baseman acknowledged that the current situation was “frustrating,” his dismissal of a potentially season-slaying skid — we were 2-9 since July 29; 21-30 since June 17; and oh-for-deGrom until further notice — didn’t buck us up. It pissed us off. The back page of the Daily News summed it up in classic tabloid style:

Instead of wasting
time with happy
talk, free-falling
Mets gotta say:

Funny thing, though. Ever since the OG LFGMer countered crisis with his customary dose of New Agey positivity, the Mets have gone undefeated. Granted, it’s only three games, and they were against the gone fishin’ for the foreseeable future Nationals, but three wins are three wins, especially the third win…which was won on a walkoff homer by relentlessly upbeat Pete Alonso.

Upon reflection, why shouldn’t he be relentlessly upbeat? He’s got his own comic book!

Thursday afternoon’s temperatures theoretically sweltered too heavily for someone whose chosen persona invokes Arctic climes, but Pete doesn’t shrivel from heat. He doesn’t always respond as we wish (at the plate or at the mic), but he does take his cuts. Ironically, had the Mets stayed warm to their very recent form, he wouldn’t have to have swung one final and ultimately dramatic time.

A seven-inning game had already been played and won without a surfeit of drama, ursine or otherwise, before the day became mostly about Pete. Marcus Stroman had to battle dehydration — he revealed he gets too nervous to ingest requisite amounts of fluids on days he pitches — but otherwise easily dispatched Nat batters to the shade of their dugout for five-and-a-third silky smooth innings in the opener of the rain-arranged twinbill. Brandon Nimmo drove in four runs (three on one mighty swing, one of them carried by Stroman after the pitcher reached on a two-out bunt), Aaron Loup and Edwin Diaz finished up, and a 4-1 victory was put sedately in the books.

A couple of hours later, the exact same set of numbers loomed for our ledger via a 4-1 lead after six innings, a.k.a. eight Manfreds. Trevor Williams, in the role of 27th Man, neutralized the Nats with little problem for the first few frames. You have to congratulate a 27th Man just for getting into whichever end of a doubleheader he is added to the roster for. Usually the 27th Man is a spare reliever who doesn’t see action. But at least he gets to see a game. On Wednesday, the Mets designated reliever Geoff Hartlieb as their 27th Man for the regularly scheduled contest that was to follow the completion of the suspended game left over from Tuesday. Except a tarp was spread on the field while it wasn’t raining and the game was called before Citi Field got appreciably wet, thus necessitating Thursday’s doubleheader. Williams got the nod to start the nightcap. Hartlieb got a ticket back to the taxi squad.

Geoff Hartlieb being activated as the extra player for a shortened game whose start was delayed by rain when it wasn’t raining before getting rained out and then being optioned before the next day’s pair of shortened games began may go down as the quintessential 2021 Mets transaction.

Trevor Williams, the 59th Met of this season and the 1,149th Met ever, wasn’t just activated. He was inserted and he was effective, allowing only a run over four-and-a-third and temporarily recasting the deadline deal that brought Javy Baez to New York from Chicago with much fanfare as the Trevor Williams Trade. Seth Lugo continued to keep the Nats at bay while Jonathan Villar extended an existing Met lead with a two-run homer. Two 4-1 wins would have been terrific for a team whose sleeves feature a 41 patch.

Alas, the yeoman bullpen work that had provided the spine for this series since Rich Hill took over for Carlos Carrasco in the resumption portion of the suspended game carried an expiration date. Met relief went sour in the seventh inning of the nightcap, when neither Trevor May nor Jeurys Familia could shut the stubbornly ajar door on the suddenly pesky Nats (literal storm clouds looming conjured images of Familia at his Uptonian worst). The visitors notched three runs in the top of the seventh, the third of them when an awkwardly positioned Jeff McNeil couldn’t flag down an Andrew Stevenson grounder that moseyed into right field and brought home Gerardo Parra. Washington did all its damage before Juan Soto came to the plate. That Familia clotted the bleeding from there — intentionally passing the prodigy, then striking out ancient Ryan Zimmerman — represented a small victory unto itself. A very small, perhaps transitory victory.

McNeil led off the bottom of the ninthish seventh with a chance to erase the Stevenson affair from our memory. No such luck was in evidence, though, as Jeff grounded out. Alonso, however, came to bat next carrying a big stick and a new script. He got hold of a Kyle Finnegan pitch and sent it high into the air, so high that it took a beat to discern if it was going to carry the requisite distance to send everybody off into the air conditioning.

It did, just over the left field fence. It was the second walkoff home run of Pete Alonso’s still young career, the first he’s hit in front of fans. There weren’t a ton of them in the stands after nearly six hours of baseball, but the Mets put on their usual show of mutual appreciation for a game-ending RBI, tearing away the jersey of the hitter who brought them victory. The bare-chested Polar Bear, as he had promised as spokesdude for his team days earlier, had this. We had a 5-4 victory, our double and series sweeps and revived viability in a divisional race we were ready to all but give up on after Philadelphia. We’re a half-game out now, nestled between the Phillies and the Braves. The Dodgers are coming to town with the potential to blacken our skies once again and the big, bad (as in very good) Giants await ominously on the Coast. Yet the Mets have forgotten to go away or, for that matter, let us off the hook. We still apparently root for a contender. Attention, therefore, must be paid.

“To be able to stick to the same approach and to be stubborn enough to stick to a good game plan and approach,” Alonso said of his homer, “that’s the key.” Hopefully Pete and pals will remind us of the perks of staying true to the orange and blue this weekend when we’re taking on the defending world champs and next week when we’re fighting sleep and the NL West leaders. Besides sticking to the same approach and being stubborn.

6 comments to Truth to Polar

  • 9th string catcher

    Ya gotta play the games. No getting around it. Basic logic tells us 13 games against two of the best teams in baseball (and three really tough pitchers to start with) while the Phils and Braves have a cupcake schedule is a recipie for disaster. Might be. Could be 5 games out in the next two weeks. Or worse.

    But baseball is a weird game. Watching the Yanks come from behind to take the field of dream game only to cough it up miserably the next half inning reminds us all that anything can happen in this crazy game.

    I’ve noticed the three game win streak happened directly after Pete’s optimism and Zack’s criticism which tells you that the truth is the truth, and it’s all about what you do with said truth. Pete said “We got this” and Zack said “prove it”. There’s room for more than one interpretation.

    Get the popcorn. I predict it’s going down to the wire.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Well, for one thing, Pete Alonso has been a Met for like 2 years, we’ve essentially been Mets for 50+ years. He’s probably only vaguely aware of 2006, not to mention 1994, 1987, 1979, and 1962. He’s also only 26 years old. I don’t even blink at what he says at press conferences, win or lose or conspiracy speculation.

  • open the gates

    Yet another reminder that ballplayers are hired for what they do with their bats, not their mouths. It’s not Pete Alonso’s job to talk us off the ledge. It’s his job to hit home runs and win ballgames, both of which he did yesterday. I will say, though, that if the Mets turn this mini-surge into a charge back to the top, Alonso’s “We got this” may become this decade’s version of “Ya gotta believe.” Here’s hoping. LGM!

  • Paul

    Yes, I was very relieved after the Mets were able to sweep yesterday’s doubleheader against the the depleted Washington Nationals. Next up, the Mets’ 2021 version of the crucible, with the World Series defending champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Steve Somers’ boyhood favorite team, the resurgent San Francisco Giants.

    Speaking of WFAN radio personalities, the great Joe Beningo, a diehard Mets fan, is reunited with his former radio broadcasting partner, Evan Robert’s, today on the ‘FAN. It’s great to hear “Jersey” Joe schmoozing with Evan on the New York Mets. Joe Beningo should have never left WFAN in the first place as far as I am concerned.

  • Richard Porricelli

    This is it! This upcoming schedule against LA and SF.. Do badly and you will never recover. Do well and you may have a really fun September.. But from what we have all been seeing- its not very likely to happen..Don’t get me wrong I hope the home runs fly out. I hope they get the timely hits. I hope all our starters are back , healthy and productive. I hope the bullpen is reliable..
    Lets start it with a win tonight..

  • Eric

    The well-executed Stroman 2-out bunt paid off with the Nimmo 3-run HR was satisfying baseball.

    I wonder if McNeil’s tender hamstring, which is most evident when he’s on base, caused him to misplay the ground ball.

    Alonso’s HR was odd in that its launch angle looked like a deep fly ball out compared to a good number of deep fly ball outs off Mets bats this season that looked like sure HRs off the bat.

    Half game out, tied in the loss column. Nationals are a shell of what they were just weeks ago. Still, credit to the Mets for doing what they needed to do to reset their footing and enter this make-or-break stretch against the NL’s best as a feasible contender.

    Trade deadline rental Baez on the IL. Lindor still out indefinitely. DeGrom pushed back another 2 weeks, which means his earliest possible return — with short starts — is moving perilously close to the end of the season.

    I enjoyed listening to Mets fans Evan and Joe back together, too.