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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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The Oldest Rorschach

It’s one of the oldest questions for a baseball fan who lives and dies with his or her team: If said team is fated to lose, how would you prefer that fate to unfold? Meekly and with minimal fuss? Or loudly but with the same outcome?

The Dodgers are a quarter-billion-dollar baseball death machine. Their lineup is studded with hitters who grind enemy pitchers into a powder by controlling the strike zone, then hit mistakes to distant precincts; their rotation and bullpen is an assembly line of fireballing monsters. (And for all this, they’re still a second-place team — reminders, if you need them, that baseball is capricious and other teams get injured too.)

That quarter-billion-dollar baseball death machine ate away at Tylor Megill, scratching him for single runs in the first, third and fourth and elevating his pitch count to levels at which further duty seemed ill-advised. Meanwhile, the black-clad Mets were being inoffensive against Julio Urias, with their biggest accomplishment getting him out of the game after five — though that was actually the result of an odd mistake by the Dodgers, with pinch-hitter Matt Beaty standing in the on-deck circle as a decoy and heading to the plate without hearing his own dugout yelling for him to come back. (You really do see something new in baseball every day.)

Even the fiercest machine throws a rod now and then, though: In the seventh, the improbably named Brusdar Graterol allowed a two-out double to Michael Conforto and departed in favor of rookie left-hander Justin Bruihl. Dom Smith singled, Bruihl walked Brandon Nimmo, the Dodgers intentionally walked Pete Alonso, and Jeff McNeil hit a little parachute that found grass in center field. Enter Blake Treinen to face J.D. Davis, and here came a passed ball through catcher Will Smith. Alonso scored and the Mets had somehow tied the game.

Tied it, but wouldn’t be the ones to untie it, despite the Dodgers’ odd streak of having lost 11 straight extra-inning games. In the tenth, Jeurys Familia (in there despite a heavy recent workload and Aaron Loup as an alternative) gave up the still-ridiculous two-run lead-off homer to Smith thanks to the ghost runner. Against Kenley Jansen, the Mets cashed their ghost runner but no more, with Tomas Nido flying out to end the game. Was 6-5 in 10 better than 4-0 in a conventional nine? I’ll leave that one to you.

I said not so long ago that I figured this stretch of 13 against the big bad Dodgers and the somehow bigger and badder Giants would result in the effective end of the Mets’ season, and I won’t be surprised if that’s true. But the factor I’d forgotten about was the weakness of the competition: The Phillies and Braves have their own gauntlets to run, and I doubt any rooter for those flawed/battered clubs has a lot of confidence in their ability to do so. So if the Mets can stagger out of the California wringer with a record no worse than, say, 5-8 or even 4-9, perhaps they can outlast their underwhelming rivals, get healthy in time for October and try to surprise a few folks, starting with us.

Ya Gotta Survive! Not a rallying cry to launch a thousand t-shirt printers, perhaps. But when facing off against death machines it might be good advice.

14 comments to The Oldest Rorschach

  • Iowa Pete

    I hear you Jason.
    Perhaps September 1973 all over again. Problem is, I would doubt a replay of October 1973 is possible without any semblance whatsoever to the pitching which made the 1973 run possible. Even with deGrom — which seems unlikely anyway.

  • Steve

    Full disclosure, I was out like a light after 5.

    Yesterday’s loss was in a way more uplifting than the 2nd win of Thursday’s DH. I think that’s a reflection of how broken I am after the last 35 years and little more.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    There is an eerie, but unhappy, precedent to all this. May 1962. The Mets were coming off thier high point of the season, having won a Doubleheader from the Braves. They were 12-19, playing over 500 ball since their 9 game debut losing streak. They were in 8th place and only 4 games out of first division. I was 13 and I was ecstatic.

    But danger loomed ahead. After 2 losses to Houston, (is this the only other time this ever happened?) 13 straight games against the Dodgers and Giants. Great for attendance, not so great for The Mets. They lost all 13.

  • eric1973

    What a crushing defeat. I would rather lose heartbreaker after heartbreaker than not have a chance. That’s what made gut-wrenching 1987 a more fun year than, say, a 1979.

    Last week Keith said the Washington rookie should take on 3-0 and he immediately blasted a double. Last nite, Ron said all that movement ALSO makes the pitches uncatchable, and then a Passed Ball on the next pitch. Great stuff.

    I don’t know that any teams have too many starters who go deep into games these days, so maybe our porcelin pitchers are just as bad as those guys.

    We really do have no bullpen, as most all our guys, especially Familia and Diaz, both really suck. They made a big deal how Familia was pitching 3 days in a row, but he also sucked on the 2nd day in a row, so repeating that comment over and over was utter nonsense.

  • Seth

    Gary or Ron mentioned that with the black jerseys, out of the corner of one’s eye you could mistake them for umpires. I never thought of that, but it’s a good point. No more black, please — it doesn’t seem to work out well for the Mets.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Total Rojas loss. First, putting Pillar (who has not hit for months) and Almora (our sub-sub-Mendoza) in starting lineup. Then use of Familia over Loup with the the “Familiar” he-gets-better-when-tired-and-sinker-sinks line. Has not been true for years and actually has gotten worse each succeeding day in this three-game span. The problem with Familia, as always–after his good run a few years back–is that batters figured out that his sinker is good but it sinks out of the strike zone,almost always. So take a pitch or three, get ahead and he will lay a fat one in there. Which he will do, and does. As Loup watched last night. Though again I also blame the front office for not picking up a good reliever at trade deadline, given no one can throw more than 5 innings or so. Not one.

  • Eric

    Jason, I’m surprised you didn’t comment on a Dodgers run scoring on a sac fly after a routine ball return to the pitcher went awry, allowing the runner to move up to 3rd. Which meant the Mets later only tied the game.

    “But the factor I’d forgotten about was the weakness of the competition” could make this now 12 of 13 game stretch fascinating. I expect the once-upon-a-time league-best but now-mediocre starting staff and worn-down relief corps to regularly give up at least 4-5 runs a game versus the Dodgers and Giants. I don’t expect the Mets’ marginally better but still too-weak offense to outhit the weakened Mets pitching against the top teams.

    It would be fascinating to watch the Mets fall back to and below .500, feeling upset that the team is falling out of the race, yet tracking the scoreboard to see the Mets keeping pace with the Phillies and Braves losing enough to stay in arm’s reach like how the 1st place Mets only limped ahead of the NL East.

    Looking ahead to the Giants I expect Flores to do damage, maybe even Murphy level damage.

    • ljcmets

      What you describe is 1973 exactly – “I don’t want it, you can have it!” I believe it was Roger Angell who described that August and September as five teams treading water side-by-side or something similar. Which is what made October so exhilarating and then finally, so heartbreaking. No one expected the Mets to do a thing in those playoffs, as they just barely squeaked by with the division.

      As for the Giants, I fully expect – and am dreading – what must be the inevitable Wilmer Walkoff. But Wilmer is not Murphy; rather than shaking his fist, I expect him to be just a little bit sheepish about it.

  • Joey G

    Jason: Many thanks to you and Greg for collectively documenting the “Full Monty” experience of Mets fandom. You guys complement each other so well: the Poet and the Pragmatist. It is the pain and disappointment chronicled by Jason’s Yang that fuels and enriches Greg’s poetic Yin. We all have to avert our eyes at times to preserve our sanity, it is a healthy exercise for those of us who (unfortunately) have our feet firmly planted in reality, but of course the MLB score updates can still sting. Sometimes, Mets baseball is not as Bob Murphy used to bleat, “the best buy for your entertainment dollar.” There is a lot of life out there and the Mets will always be waiting (at least until the end of September) when you are ready to return. This is a flawed yet lovable team. Things are on the upswing, maybe not this year but soon. Presenting regularly the figurative equivalent of the Liza Minelli version of “New York, New York” is not the short stick, it cathartically expresses how much we all care, and are passionate about our Mets. Please keep doing what you do, since the “unhappy recaps” serve to make the “happy recaps” that much sweeter. You definitely gotta believe, but a better, more realistic slogan would, to borrow from Mel Brooks, be “hope for the best, expect the worst.”

  • Bruce in Forest Hills

    It’s a weird schedule that has the Mets playing the Giants and the Dodgers for 2 straight weeks. And even weirder, when that’s done, the Mets will play the Nats and the Marlins for 2 straight weeks. So there’s a chance for things to balance out, as long as everybody, including the general manager, takes it a day-at-a-time.

  • Richard Porricelli

    I agree with the above post , the scheduling is weird , and that’s a nice way to put it!!
    I didn’t care for those nine Rojas ran out there yesterday.. The hits came from , however , Conforto , Smith and Mc Neil!! So maybe it was a good idea to sit them? Perhaps I’m over thinking this one.. I don’t know , the season hangs in the balance here..These guys gotta preform , not much margin for error..

  • eric1973

    If those 3 would have played the whole game, odds are that things could have turned out differently.

    BTW, watching Joe and Evan interviewing Rojas on SNY bordered on the disrespectful, with Evan’s gestures and such. But Rojas deserved it. Rojas said that Dom had a scheduled day off, and Joe and Evan said that he is 25 years old. They made Rojas look like a fool.

  • Eric

    Performance staff outranks all and overrides all other considerations.

  • […] two nights of at least looking competitive against the Dodgers, AKA the quarter-billion-dollar baseball death machine, the Mets got macerated. Lacerated. Defenestrated. […]