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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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Summer (The Last Time)

In Lost in America, after Julie Hagerty as Linda Howard gambles away the family nest egg at the Desert Inn, her husband David — Albert Brooks — tries to convince the casino manager, played by Garry Marshall, that the house should really give them their money back. We’re not really Las Vegas people is the crux of David’s argument, putting aside the inconvenient fact that they are people in Las Vegas. Marshall’s character indulges Brooks’s for a while, right up to the point where David, an advertising agency veteran, excitedly suggests the casino would reap a public relations bounty by featuring the return of the Howards’ funds in an ad campaign, geared to positioning the Desert Inn as a “Christmas place to be”. With that, the casino manager expunges any trace of a smile from his face and announces, “We’re finished talking.”

I could hear Garry Marshall telling the Mets, and by extension me, the same thing during the first night of their visit to Boston. How many games are we behind Atlanta? How far out are we for the Wild Card? What if we come back here, sweep tomorrow, go to Milwaukee and stay hot, all while the Braves and Phillies begin to lose? Wait, hear me out, I have an idea that just might work!

“We’re finished talking.”

Fenway Park was the Mets’ Desert Inn, as close as they had to a definitive last stand in 2021. It was not a pennant race place to be for the team in gray pants (as opposed to the one in yellow shirts). It probably wasn’t going to be regardless of the outcome of the two-game Interleague set, but there had been, until summer was turning to fall, no indisputable expiration date to their status as a contender. You could still throw ditzy scenarios at the wall because the teams in front of them hadn’t completely escaped our sights and we hadn’t completely disintegrated. As recently as Sunday the Mets won a baseball game — against a team ahead of them no less! Sure, we’d been swept by St. Louis in alternately agonizing and embarrassing fashion the week before, and the Cardinals are suddenly unstoppable, but we took the finale from the Phillies, so if we could pass them, and just pull to within three of the Braves when we go to Atlanta, the Braves aren’t so great.

Yes, throw ideas at the wall, at least until the wall is 37 feet tall, as it is in left field at Fenway. Then just run into it. The Mets lost Tuesday night. They were demolished Wednesday night. Chris Sale. Kyle Schwarber. The Monster. The calendar. Everybody and everything took their measure, 12-5. Once the Mets had dutifully completed yet another 210+ minutes of meandering through their motions, there was no reason to check the Braves-Diamondbacks score unless motivated by bystander’s curiosity. What the Braves, the Cardinals, the Phillies do is no longer intrinsic to our agenda. Not that we have much of an agenda left. Even the perfunctory postgame media questions that have led with the polite supposition that “you’re not giving up, of course” morphed into courtesy nods toward the 73-79 Mets wanting to “finish strong” before getting real.

“The Mets,” Roger Angell has written, “offered almost innumerable late-summer chances to move up to the lead in their division, lost most of their crucial games.” Roger Angell wrote that in 1975. Roger Angell recently turned 101. Roger Angell is a strong finisher. The Mets weren’t in 1975 and I don’t suspect they will be now. Our record, if not dampened by rainouts, will fall somewhere between 73-89 and 83-79. It will take a heckuva strong finish to reach the nominal winner’s circle of 82-80 (where we landed in what Angell termed “disappointing” ’75). Connoisseurs of the unprecedented might want to keep an eye on 75-87, 76-86, 78-84, 80-82 and 81-81; each is a record the Mets have never put in the books. Or feel free to go on a 10-game winning streak and deliver us the most respectable line possible for our all-time ledger. A team that spent three months in first place ought to have a winning record. I didn’t think it would require a strong finish to ensure one.

The one number I’m proudest of here in the fourth week of September is not the 35 homers launched by Pete Alonso or the 1.00 ERA compiled by Aaron Loup, but 10. I’ve been to 10 games in 2021. The tenth was Sunday night, marking the 24th consecutive season — excepting ineligible 2020 — that I’ve reached double-digits in home attendance. I didn’t think I’d see as many as 10 games in 2021. I didn’t know if I’d see one game in 2021, what with the world being what it was last winter and not being a sure thing as we arrive in autumn. But there I was, in late June, at my first game of the season, and there I was again, in middish-September, taking in my tenth. Going to games in 2021 had become close enough to routine that I didn’t insist I had to write about it immediately thereafter.

Stephanie and I went on Sunday night because there was no game on Sunday afternoon, thanks to ESPN. I’d love to tell you we schlepped to Flushing simply to avoid A-Rod and Vasgersian, but we’ve gone on the final Sunday of the season every season in which the gates are opened since 2012. Often it coincides with the shuttering of the season or home slate. Usually it’s in daylight, sometimes with dinner in Jackson Heights afterward. In 2020, none of this was available to us. In 2021, no matter how miff-making our team has been, we were willing to let them miff us up close again. The Mets weren’t altogether out of it by Sunday, but they were spotted gathering at contention’s exit

Still, we were on hand, because despite the hassles and indignities…

• young loud dolts on the LIRR giving off that “my dad’s got a dealership” energy;

• a 7 that had to wait around at 74th St. for hitchhikers to be cleared from the roof;

• digital tickets that wouldn’t load properly at the Rotunda’s doorstep;

• a QSR code masquerading as a magnetic schedule substitute and passed off as a premium;

• and a strained back that needed to be soldiered through (not mine, either; my wife, who insisted on going, is more of a Mets diehard than she is generally given credit for)

…we like going to the final Sunday game at Citi Field every year. We like our tradition. We like our team even when we can’t stand their results, though Sunday they did us a solid and won for us. They probably won for themselves, but let’s pretend they dedicated the win to the couple in 326.

After they schlocked up all over Fenway Wednesday night, I thought we might be best served had the Mets arranged to stay over in Boston, face a pitching simulator or some such marvel of virtuality in the wee hours, and register their remaining 258 outs with nobody else being bothered by their inevitable futility. Two-hundred fifty-eight outs are all that’s left to our 2021, give or take unforeseen oddities (never count out unforeseen oddities). The Mets are to play eight regulation-size games and two Manfred-minis between this Friday night and next Sunday afternoon, meaning a mere 86 innings remain in this thing you may not remember us looking forward to six months ago, but we did. There might be wins. There might be more wins than losses. There will be, however, no finishing strong, not when we’ve been effectively finished off in advance of the last three series.

Big talk from me about wanting these final games, innings and outs to be over and done with, but not in my heart. I’ll keep watching. I’ll keep listening. I’m going to a football game this Sunday afternoon — a good friend invited me, and there’s a bit of a tradition there, too — but I’m bringing a radio to sneak listens to a baseball game between downs. As if the Mets haven’t given us a surfeit of downs. Four nights later, I’m pretty sure I’ll be at my eleventh baseball game of the year, sans distractions in my ears.

I’ll let go of this season when there’s no more season to hold onto. The Mets don’t have to be good. They just have to be there.

20 comments to Summer (The Last Time)

  • Seth

    So, now what? If you gut the team, it can take years to rebuild. You have to have a core to build around — the Mets have something like a core, but can they make the necessary changes to be successful next year, or the year after? Is it lack of talent, or is it dysfunction somewhere deep within the bowels of the Mets organization?

    I for one am tired of being sold a bill of goods every year — that this is a talented, World Series-bound team. Come and get us. And then they consistently disappoint. It’s not only this year. (I’m still working through the anger stage.)

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Ugh, yeah, there are better things I could be doing a week from tonight, but all of them can be put off for another day. A home closer cannot. See you somewhere along the Say Hey Arcade, I’m sure.

  • open the gates

    I still think that it’s a management/ coaching/ conditioning/ front office issue, not as much a player issue. I’m convinced that this group of players could and should have done far better, and would have if they hadn’t been constantly injured, miscoached, mismanaged, and misused. There’s a franchise-wide toxicity that has not yet worn off from the final Wilpon years. Or maybe Steve Cohen, having been a minority owner in those years, is still relying on the same rotten infrastructure. I truly hope not. Hedge fund guys tend to learn from their mistakes and move on, which is how they generate those 9-digit yearly salaries. Here’s hoping that Steve’s a fast learner.

    • mikeski

      My recollection is that there was some talk before the purchase that the other owners were concerned that Cohen would be a spendthrift, driving up prices for everyone, and that Alderson’s retention was part of selling Cohen to the other owners (“don’t worry, Sandy’ll keep him in line, it’s okay to approve him”).

      Given this season and all that hasn’t happened on the field and all that has happened off of it, my hope is that Cohen finally says “f*ck those guys, I’m doing what I want to make my team win.”

      I hope he starts by kicking the useless lump of protoplasm masquerading as our manager to the curb, stat.

  • Harvey

    The Mets have used 16 starting pitchers not named deGrom or Stroman. Combined those 16 have won 13 games. Here are the records this year of 3 pitchers the Mets let go for essentially nothing. Wheeler 14-9 2.79; Flexen 13-6 3.52; and Matz 13-7 3.84. Oh, and don’t forget reliever Sewald whose 9-3 with 9 saves and a 2.83 ERA. Brilliant moves by a dysfunctional front office of a dysfunctional team. Have fun at the closer. The Mets will gladly take your money and the money of the other suckers who buy the kool-aid year after year.

  • Rob D

    Anyone who saw Chris Flexen and Paul Sewald as actual, viable major league pitchers is a better person than I am.

  • Joey G

    I find that reading some Roger Angell is the “break glass in case of emergency” cure for the baseball-less off-season. He is a true national treasure.

    Greg: A word of warning about your pending trip to MetLife Stadium. I was there for a Giants game two weeks ago and the bus trip from the Port Authority turned into a loud, passionate debate on personal liberties under the Constitution between a masked young lady and a youthful mask-less lout — so the perils of gameday travel are unfortunately not limited to the LIRR and the 7 train.

  • Bob

    With 58 Mets seasons that I have behind me now, I’ve learned seasons ending like this are never fun.
    No surprise this season for me (the stench was strong). I told a pal back in July -after DeGrom went down again, that this Mets team would finish 76-86.
    Sure wish I was very wrong, but now it seems maybe I’ll be sadly, close.
    So now I’ll just root against the team in the Bronx and root for Wilmer Flores & his team!
    You folks are way smarter than I am-but I hope that next season will be better with less crippling injuries to our pitching staff and perhaps a lineup that can actually hit & score runs–what a concept!
    Let’s Go Mets…..sigh…

  • eric1973

    Lindor and Baez poisoned a clubhouse that had comraderie last season, when they were lead by the likeable Alonso, Davis, McNeil, and Dom.

    They had a great relationship with themselves and with the fans, and then these 2 slugs showed up and changed everything, especially Baez, who after 5 minutes developed a healthy hatred with the fans.

    Hopefully, they will dump Baez, and then that grinning phony Lindor will have a productive 5 years before the inevitable dropoff for the final 5 years.

  • mikeL

    even if lindor himself wasn’t poisonous himself, his contract surely was. hell, steve philips knew not to sign Arod. a guy who makes 35million a year had better have a big, team-carrying back or it’s bound to be ugly.
    gotta wonder what the team would have become with home grown rosario still at short, and maybe jimenez at third…with all of that money *not* spent on lindor comforto might have gotten an extension – and might have had less on his mind than where he’d be playing in 2022…what ifs abound.
    i’d might been open to signing baez only if he carried he team to thd WS – and even then! we saw the pumkin yo’ turned into, before the WS was even over.

    sigh.

    (and confession: was bummed tonite was an off-nite)

  • Guy K

    Nobody has mentioned yet that Taijuan Walker allowed a home run to Kyle Schwarber his first time up. It was Schwarber’s 4th home run in nine AB vs. Walker. Schwarber’s next time up, runners were at second and third, first base was open, and Luis Rojas let Walker pitch to Schwarber, who proceeded to hit his 5th home run in 10 AB against Walker to make it a 6-1 game.

  • Eric

    Tragic number 1 for the 2nd wildcard. With the various winning pedigreed executives’ names tossed around, is there a Cardinal Way guru available? I want some of that winning culture grafted onto the Mets.

    Even with that we’ve reached the point of the season we need the Mets to almost win out while the Braves and Phillies lose out, I could still hold onto the nagging hope it could happen. Part of me will do that regardless until the tragic number, now at 4, turns to 0.

    Complicating my sliver of hope is we need the Phillies to beat the Braves before the season ender, but unless the Phillies lose to the Pirates and Marlins, that most likely would mean the Mets knocking the Braves out of 1st place in the season ender would deliver the division to the Phillies. Which is worse.

    The other hope dasher is my memory of last season’s letdown when the planets aligned to give the Mets a gift last chance to win their way into the expanded playoffs … and they lost their way into last place instead. The Mets’ 2nd half run fell short in 2019, too, unlike the underrated 2016 wildcard run.

    Which is to say the Mets of homegrown Smith, Nimmo, McNeil, Alonso, and adopted Davis are likeable, but they were setting a losing track record before Lindor and Baez arrived to boo us.

    As for the Lindor trade and signing, right now the trade itself looks suspect and the decision for a shotgun wedding instead of a 1-year engagement looks worse. Now his decline is a trend and the big contract hasn’t actually started yet. He wouldn’t get his contract now.

    As for Baez, booing us, top-prospect rental cost, and pending free-agent expense aside, I like him as a player, more so since he’s been getting on base with regularity. He’s a special talent. If the Mets had not married Lindor and Baez had been rented for Crow-Armstrong and performed as he has, I’d support signing Baez long term. (Maybe not 10 years, though.)

    Yet the Mets have Lindor. It’s Cohen’s money, but all the money in the world can’t buy an extra roster spot or position on the field.

    Is Walker tired or did scouting catch up? Either way, I’m fine with pencilling Walker into the rotation next year to find out.

  • Seth

    Maybe Taijuan is tipping his pitches. Was there any whistling heard in Fenway?

  • Eric

    Cardinals won again, so the tragic number for the 2nd wildcard hit 0. I imagine Padres fans are feeling a lot like us.