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ABOUT US

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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Barely Above the Minimum

Late in Sunday’s season finale at Atlanta, Gary Cohen mentioned Braves pitchers had faced two over the minimum. When the 162nd game of 2021 concluded, that count had held. There’d been 29 Mets up and, with the assistance of a couple of double plays, 27 Mets down.

Barely above the minimum similarly described the year of Mets baseball of which we willingly partook. Barely above the minimum synchronized with the mood the Mets had wrought as a rule between the first pitch of the season’s first game and loss, 5-3 at Citizens Bank Park on April 5 (Kevin Pillar took ball one at 7:05 PM), and the last out of the season’s last game and loss, 5-0, at Truist Park on October 3 (Francisco Lindor grounded out, third to first, at 5:47 PM). The hours, days, weeks and months burrowed from one end of the schedule to the other. Flashes of excitement and episodes of intrigue spiced our daily lives, but mostly these Mets went on and on until there was nowhere left for them to go.

I’d call the final afternoon an anticlimax, but there was little climactic about the afternoons and evenings that preceded it. The Mets boosted their record to ten games over .500 on June 16 after winning 14 of their previous 19. It was a pretty satisfying spurt, but it never felt as if the Mets were riding a wave of unstoppable momentum. The Mets led the National League East by five games on June 26. Leading the pack was certainly preferable to being stuck in its middle, but it never felt as if the Mets were preparing to leave those who trailed them in a cloud of dust. They held a good record until they didn’t. They held first place until they didn’t. They finished eight games under .500, falling five games behind the runner-up Phillies and 11½ in back of the yet again division champion Braves.

Continued exposure to these Mets over at least the final two months of this season, maybe all six months of it, renders these results utterly unsurprising. When the club was performing small miracles, it was via the wizardry of understudies to the original Bench Mob. Well, we reasoned, if we can stay aloft on the wings of the Mazeikas, McKinneys and Maybins, just wait until the REAL Mets come back! The Real Mets trickled into the lineup as summer heated up and the Real Mets wilted. Mind you, the C-team that kept us going was not sustainable as a unit. I developed one of those “you know who my favorite player is right now?” crushes on Jose Peraza for a couple of weeks, but Jose Peraza hit .204.

When the stretch of not believing how much we’d gotten out of the contingency corps was over, we drifted toward not believing how little we were getting out of the main cast. So much of August and September, for me, became about inspecting the batting order and wondering how the hell we were doing this badly. Isn’t Conforto better than this? Isn’t Lindor better than this? Isn’t McNeil? And so on. Average out all you could possibly have hoped to have gotten from the backups and the backups’ backups; add in all you didn’t get from the front-facing Mets; and toss in the usual bout of groping for an identity at the season’s start (we were 9-11 as of April 30), and a final record of 77-85 resembles something barely above the minimum you could have expected.

I just looked up the vaunted PECOTA projections for this season. Its formula pegged the 2021 Mets as finishing first, with a record of 96-66. I’m almost done laughing about it myself. Knowing what we know now, what addled algorithm, no matter how catchy its acronym, picks this team to go 96-66? Knowing what we knew then, why did we think these Mets resembled anybody eligible to be playing beyond October 3?

Plummeting 18 games from your high-water mark and 16½ games in the standings tends to disappoint. But it didn’t devastate, exactly, did it? That’s because, as I personally began to come to grips with in early August, these Mets were never that good to begin with, with the beginning of “begin with” dating to our hopes being raised by an invigorating second half of 2019. That team’s core was this team’s core, except this team’s core was enhanced by the presence of Francisco Lindor and, later, Javy Baez. This team’s core, however, delivered next to nothing down the stretch. There were a few bodice-rippers, so to speak, when the walkoffs were wild, the jerseys came off and the stimulation shot through the ceiling for a day or two. But then it was back to the doldrums of what the Mets have been since baseball came out of COVID hibernation in July of 2020.

The Mets weren’t much good last year, when Fred Wilpon owned them and Brodie Van Wagenen ran them. In case you’ve forgotten, they weren’t much good before that thrilling finishing kick in 2019 propelled them to a winning record and the shores of Wild Card contention under the dugout stewardship of Mickey Callaway. Come to think of it, they were mostly godawful in 2018, which is relevant in 2021 because Callaway’s first campaign — when the previous Sandy Alderson-helmed regime was winding down — landed at 77-85, just as Luis Rojas’s legitimate first (and only) full year did on Sunday. The Mets played only 60 games in Rojas’s initial go-round; he and they managed to finish eight games under in 2020, too.

77-85.
86-76.
26-34.
77-85.

In a span of four seasons, we’ve gone nowhere fast. Managers changed. General managers of a permanent, interim and de facto nature cycled through. Ownership was transferred to an entity sporting deeper pockets. Players streamed in. Players streamed out. But there was that core of players that began to coalesce a little in ’18 and seemed to forge something genuine in ’19. You look at it, you still wonder how the hell it did so badly in ’20 and ’21. Maybe it’s because the core was, in fact, never that good to begin with.

Oh, also Jacob deGrom missed the second half of this season. That will take the starch out of your PECOTA not to mention dim your prospects every fifth day. It will also inevitably tumble dominoes upon the four days between would-be deGrom starts. Let’s not overlook the absence of the world’s greatest pitcher in explaining why preseason expectations missed being Met by a long shot. Maybe deGrom’s stable health and presumed continued brilliance would have lifted the Mets higher than 77-85 and third place. Maybe? Probably. How high it could have lifted them, however, cannot be pinpointed. But even while Jake was still striking out most comers, the Mets were already slipping from their modestly impressive peak.

When you can’t convince yourself that even Jacob deGrom could have saved your season, your season probably wasn’t capable of being saved.

___

So that wasn’t as much fun as we wished it to be. Except for it being Mets baseball and all that implies to Us. Not to Them. To Them, which is to say not Us, Mets baseball is likely something to dismiss lightly. To Them, Mets baseball must appear to be a perennial exercise in mediocrity, punctuated by spates of embarrassment. If the They who make up Them haven’t laughed at Us lately, it’s probably because They’ve forgotten about Us altogether.

The hell with Them, of course. We’re not here for Them. We’re here for Us. We’re here for each other, Mets fans for Mets fans. We understand the mediocrity. We understand the embarrassment. It’s Ours. We are compelled to own it if not endorse it. We advocate for a time it no longer defines the going state of affairs.

But the downside isn’t why We’re here. And maybe the upside is too conceptual at the moment to say that’s why We’re here. We’re here for Mets baseball. The constancy. The familiarity. The occasional shocks to the system. The commonality of it to Us. This is what We do. If it wasn’t, We wouldn’t softly mourn the passing of another season, even it was quite obviously a season that needed to go away ASAP.

Faith and Fear is Flushing is what we here do. Jason and I have blogged seventeen seasons of Mets baseball. As a point of comparison, Lindsey Nelson announced seventeen seasons of Mets baseball. Lindsey Nelson was a part of the Mets forever. Still is. Yet seventeen seasons was it for him.

Seventeen seasons sounded like a lot when Lindsey left for San Francisco. It sounds like a lot to me right now, but for someone who has just completed chronicling the same baseball team through every series it has played through seventeen seasons, it really doesn’t seem to have taken that long. I sat down in the spot where I’m sitting as we speak and started typing on February 16, 2005. I haven’t stopped since. Except to, you know, watch the games.

This is what I do, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t know that I would know how to have it any other way. Bob Murphy broadcast the Mets for 42 seasons, Ralph Kiner for 52. They probably would have understood where I’m coming from.

Nelson noted in his memoir that the last bunch of Mets he covered, the 1978 Mets, weren’t very good — they finished last, with a record of 66-96 — “but I had done their games when they had played worse.” For him, it was just time to move on. Me, I’ve written about and rooted for the Mets in far more morose years than this one. Better ones, too. I’m not going to say it doesn’t matter how they do. I’d be loads happier speculating about the Mets’ postseason chances today than I am simply saying goodbye to another sub-.500 regular season. But I’m here no matter what. So, yeah, maybe it doesn’t matter.

I suspect on some level, no matter how you huff and puff about how you can’t take this team anymore, you feel the same. You’re here, after all. You’ve made yourself an essential part of Mets baseball, same as I have. There is no “Mets baseball” without Us. We’re not the ones who leave the runners on base, but We continue to take the shortfalls to heart. We’re not the ones who go on the injured list, but We ache for any Met who ails. Our voices rising in support or occasional derision of the players doesn’t go unnoticed. They tried to have Mets baseball without Us in attendance in 2020. It was as dreary as it was silent.

Somehow in the lingering aftermath of a pandemic, We got all 162 games of Mets baseball in this year. More of the games let us down than lifted us up, but as Lindsey and I already said, what else is new?

We had 162 chances to be Mets fans, 162 instances of not knowing at first pitch what We would discover by last out.

We had Us through travesties of truncated doubleheaders and inanely executed extra-inning affairs in which a guaranteed runner on second base did not necessarily guarantee a runner would cross home plate.

We had Us with Quadruple-A substitutes lighting up the scoreboard and marquee names flickering like bulbs in dire need of replacement.

We had Jacob deGrom start only three games more for Us than Rich Hill did; no more often for Us than David Peterson did; and three games fewer for Us than Tylor Megill did.

We also had Us ready to root no matter who pitched, or who didn’t; who scored or who didn’t; or how long it took to discern if We were gonna win or We were gonna lose.

In the case of this blog, We had Us ready to write. And We had you, a part of Us, ready to read.

Mets baseball doesn’t always work optimally or function logically, but We do have this and I have you. It’s no small thing to me.

Thank you for the seventeenth season. Thank you for all of them.

15 comments to Barely Above the Minimum

  • Greg Mitchell

    Breaking: Rojas gone. Hallelujah.

  • Roger Tusiani-Eng

    Thank you, I’m not sure how many years I have been reading your blog, but it goes quite some time. It’s never dull. It’s always insightful, even when the Mets give you almost nothing to write about, there is some angle that is beyond entertaining. Enjoy the off season! When do Pitchers and Catchers report?

  • Dave

    We learned this year that Anthony Banda is the Geoff Hartlieb of Stephen Tarpleys, and that Wilfredo Tovar is the Cameron Maybin of Jake Hagers. Am I doing this right? And I dare anyone to look me squarely in the eye and say “Yes, I distinctly remember Dellin Betances pitching for the 2021 New York Mets.”

    Seventeen years is a nice run at anything, but especially something that you both do so well (and wow, comparing yourself to Lindsey Nelson, that’s bold LOL). Can’t say exactly when I learned of this blog and said “yeah, I’m a Mets fan who likes to read,” but it was fairly early on; I don’t even know how I found it, but I’m glad I did. I don’t go to lots of games and rarely know anyone else there when I do, I never go to sports bars or any kind of fan events, and I’m probably not unique in those respects, so there are some of us for whom this is the ideal type of Mets fans community. And compared to Mets Twitter, it’s, well, more sane.

    But as spring training and Opening Day help us measure the passing of time, so do the (usually disappointing) season finales. And so we have another one. I look forward to learning the midpoint between yesterday’s final out and the date pitchers and catchers report (or the 1st pitch of spring training), because I know you’ll let us know. That’s a major part of the holiday season. #LGM #LFGM

  • Seth

    Thank you for helping us through this season, and every season. I’m transplanted out of market, so I haven’t even seen a live Mets fan, much less spoken to one, in a long time. That might indicate how much this blog means to some of us.

    Despite everything, for the next 5 months I will really miss hearing Gary say “…and we’re underway!”

  • Inside Pitcher

    Thank YOU Greg (and Jason!) <3

  • Bob

    Thank you Jason/Greg for the way you understand our Mets and understand US!(and you understand me, a 58-year long Mets fan)

    As Casey Stengel (or Yogi) might say–We are US–Metsies, Metsies..

    Hopefully, next Mets season will be a winning season, I hope!

    Would be nice Orange & Blue touch to see Wilmar Flores get a World Series ring!

    Let’s Go Mets!

  • Paul from Brooklyn

    Thanks once again to the two of you for an inspired year of reading about the Mets! It was not the outcome that we wanted or deserved but it is always great reading about it here.
    As we look forward to next year…. there is a glimmer of hope that Joan Hodges who recently turned 95 will get the Christmas present that we have ALL been waiting for……..and the Seaver Statue? And a pennant?

    Let’s Go Mets!!!!

  • Eric

    On the nose, as usual.

    Reading FaFiF the next day (sometimes later on the same day) is part of the ritual of watching or listening to the game. It’s essential context.

    This assembly of homegrown Mets, including Rojas, is likeable. It’s too bad they’ve set a losing trend that calls for a breakup.

    Cohen didn’t buy the team to be lumped in with the Wilpons. Starting with today’s news about Rojas, I expect a lot of change to come, plus the CBA.

  • eric1973

    Greg and Jason,
    Thanks for all you do!
    Both of you are terrific, and we love all this on a daily basis.

    So Rojas is gone.
    In actuality, he did this all to himself. If he would have made the right moves and they did not pan out, we, and Sandy, all would have known it.

    But he put Almora and Mazeika in as pinch hitters in critical situations, he put in crummy minor leaguers to relieve the starters, in critical situations that gave us no chance to win, when the starters should have never been taken out in the first place.

    Next to go: Zack Scott.
    Come on, Sandy, announce it tomorrow, please.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Thanks guys for another great Blog Year, if not actual Met Year. So you’re now tied with Lindsey Nelson at 17 years. Congratulations! I guess Kranepool at 18 is the next milestone, although he did a couple of Minor League stints along the way.

    Sorry I didn’t do the math, but I’m guessing your 17 year Won/Lost record is better than Lindsey’s was.

  • Rob D

    Long time reader, occasional commenter. I must be honest. I had these guys at 95 wins. So much underperforming.

    No Jake cost 5 wins. Lindor and Conforto unremarkable seasons 5 wins. Rojas 5 wins. That’s 92.

  • Matt

    Thank you, Greg and Jason. Your soothing perspective felt extra necessary these past three months.

  • eric1973

    They are trying to compare GKR’s 17 years (next year) to the 17 years of the great Lindsey Nelson / Bob Murphy / Ralph Kiner.

    WTF?
    Those guys were there EVERY SINGLE DAY. Maybe Lindsey took off some Saturdays or Sundays in September to do some Notre Dame or ‘NFL on CBS’ games, and Ralphie took 1 day off a year to go to the HOF ceremonies.

    GKR is off every time you turn around. Keith and Ron only do around two thirds of the eligible games, and Gary takes off for the boring NL games and the Interleague Games.

    No comparison, so don’t even try.

  • Lenny65

    I’m usually all melancholy about the season ending, but this year I’m really kind of relieved. Caring about the 2021 Mets was an act of total futility. I can’t immediately remember a Mets team I believed in less. 2021 will forever be defined by two things: losing deGrom in the midst of an unfathomably great season and 3-2 losses where they got the first two batters on in the 9th then went down meekly and feebly. “Oh, they have 4, 5, and 6 batting in the 9th…this one’s over”…that was pretty much the story of 2021. Unless it was one of those “they’re up 4-0 and Rojas is pulling ___ after 68 pitches…here comes another 5-4 loss” kind of nights.

    I don’t even know where they go from here. If everyone is really as bad as they looked this season, the Mets have an awful lot of holes to fill and past history is any indication, it seems highly unlikely that they’ll somehow fill them all in one off-season. Sigh. Remember the last game of 2019, when we were all full of optimism and hope? Sigh.

  • SeasonedFan

    Don’t remember exactly when or how I found you but I’m glad I did. Reading FAFIF (posted here once in awhile) has become a part of my daily routine during the Season.
    Thank you, Greg & Jason, for your reality-based commentary, insight, & humor.