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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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Not As Dead As We Were

You score 15 runs, what do you get? Enough peace of mind to carry you through an off day, I hope.

The New York Mets, who entered Wednesday tied for first place in the National League East, exited Wednesday a half-game ahead of their closest competition. Not bad for a team declared deceased by a vocal plurality of its antsiest supporters.

Great to have fans who’ll stick by you in thick and thicker, eh?

To paraphrase 1988 vice presidential nominee Lloyd Bentsen as he took his younger counterpart Dan Quayle to debate school, September 2022, I lived with September 2007, I knew September 2007, September 2007 was a bane of mine.

September 2022, you’re no September 2007.

I don’t think so, anyway. I’ll cop to thinking after the most recent Mets-Braves series, the one in which three out of four games were lost, that I briefly flashed back to not The Worst Collapse Ever, but its preamble, the four-game sweep suffered at Citizens Bank Park in late August, a.k.a. the Jimmy Rollins Series. That quartet of defeats delivered a tangible bruising to the lingering sense of Met inevitability that had hung over 2007, but then came calming series wins over the (fading) Braves, the Reds and Astros. At Shea, in the minutes before Pedro Martinez manned the mound for the first time all year, on September 9, DiamondVision played a montage of what had gone wrong in Philadelphia, followed by highlights from the good things that ensued elsewhere, all to the musical accompaniment of “pick yourself up/dust yourself off/and start all over again”. Then Pedro went out, threw five shutout innings, doubled, scored a run and the Mets won once more.

And within a week, The Worst Collapse Ever commenced, serving as a reminder, perhaps, that nothing is clinched until it is clinched — or, perhaps, when one takes into account the ten wins in twelve games bracketed by calamity (0-4 at CBP) and disaster (5-12 to finish) — that nothing is blown until is blown. After the Truist Park stumble this August, the Mets won three of four at Philadelphia, culminating in Damn Thing IV, one of about twenty candidates for Game of the Year this year. An immediate stumble at Yankee Stadium was obliterated by three uplifting victories over Colorado, the last of those wrapped in the emotional high of Old Timers Day. Then they don’t score for two days before picking themselves up, dusting themselves off and polishing off the Dodgers all over again, winning that series and then staving off any hint of a letdown by summarily stomping on Washington less than a week ago.

Losing three games in a row, each by six runs, to last-place teams, was certainly concerning in the moment, maybe concerning as part of a greater pattern of scoring only in dribs and drabs. As a leading indicator of where the entire season was headed, it probably didn’t have enough sample size to it (0-3), nor did it have an adequate sense of near-term memory (85-48 prior to 0-3) let alone institutional memory. You wanna harp on 2007? How about that September night the Mets let a portion of their first-place lead slip away to an also-ran Pirates club, when the Mets were blown out and there was a three-game losing streak, and talk about a lack of hitting — the Mets were no-hit!

Or have you forgotten about the 1969 Mets? They were swept in a twi-night doubleheader at Shea on Friday, September 19, 8-2 (a familiar score) and 8-0, then came back to work on Saturday the 20th only to have Bob Moose shut them down on zero hits. None among starters Nolan Ryan, Jim McAndrew and Gary Gentry could tame the Bucco bats. Cleon Jones was out nursing an injury. The veteran-laden, star-spangled Cubs were picking up ground, inching back to four out with ten to play.

Things worked out OK for the 1969 Mets. Things will probably work out some version of OK for the 2022 Mets. You might question the relevance of taking solace in 1969 vis-à-vis 2022, which is fair, but if you do, you probably also need to ask yourself the point of being haunted by 2007 every time a very good Mets team loses three consecutive games late in a very good season.

The picking up, dusting off, starting all over again that occurred Wednesday afternoon and evening wasn’t only about five runs in one win (5-1) and ten runs in the other (10-0). It was about pitching. At night, it was about The Ace, Jacob deGrom, throwing seven shutout innings without prime command of his deadly slider. Good thing Jacob can kill with any number of pitches. By the time he handed matters over to a cobweb-gathering Adam Ottavino and the fresh, violent left arm of Alex Claudio, the old wives’ tale of the Mets never scoring for Jake had gone upstairs to bed, at least for another five or six days. The Mets notched 17 hits, six of them doubles, none of them homers. Toss in seven walks and a non-injurious hit by pitch, and you saw the Mets successfully stringing together rally upon rally as if that’s something they have some experience doing.

DeGrom was building upon the fine work compiled by The Stealth Ace, Chris Bassitt, the persnickety rock upon which the 2022 rotation has been built, even if his name is planted below the title on the Met pitching marquee. Since the middle of June, this guy has been mostly marvelous: 14 outings, a 2.32 ERA, 11 Mets wins and at least six innings consumed 13 times. You could do worse than turning to Chris if you have to turn to one pitcher with something heavy on the line the rest of this season or what lies directly beyond it. Bassitt had only half as many runs lavished on him as deGrom did, but those were plenty. Three came on one swing from Tyler Naquin, whose offensive capabilities, like those of Eduardo Escobar and James McCann, suddenly aren’t as defunct as once thought.

Because no day featuring two wins should lack for something to bring a Mets fan down to Earth (as if the gravitational pull of contemporary Mets fandom would allow for floating even a half-game above the ground), the Braves won again. But they played only once, hence we’re in first alone. Also, the IL claimed another Met, The Co-Ace, Max Scherzer, which seemed more a procedural move in deference to letting an extremely valuable left side rest up than a signal to panic. An abundance of imaging on Starling Marte’s right middle finger has revealed Starling absorbed a non-displaced fracture when he was hit by a Mitch Keller fastball Tuesday night. Meaning? I’ll let you know as soon as I complete my orthopedics degree, but the consensus seems to be it’s not that bad, unless we find out otherwise…which could describe any interval along the Mets’ journey if we want it to.

Superstition, Stevie Wonder once made clear, ain’t the way, but if you’re a baseball fan, you can’t help yourself from thinking one wrong move on your part might lead to a dozen missteps by your team. That’s the crux of this week’s discussion between Jeff Hysen and me on National League Town, the podcast devoted to Mets Fandom, Mets History, Mets Life. You can listen to it here. Just press pause should you find yourself walking underneath a ladder while doing so. Not that I’m superstitious or anything.

13 comments to Not As Dead As We Were

  • open the gates

    Guys, if we can’t trust this Mets team to take us to the postseason, we can’t trust any team. The team has literally never had a four game losing streak all year. They won most of their series. They’ve got Jake. They’ve got Buck. They’ve got Steve Cohen’s gazillions. They’ve had a few hiccups, but they’ve been extraordinarily resilient. I’ll take my chances with them. To paraphrase The Piano Man, they can have my heart to break.

  • ljcmets

    The way I remember 2007, and its evil twin 2008 (which resulted in a Phillies world championship) is that the deadly spirals started when those Mets teams started piling up injuries, the bullpen started imploding (thus putting even more stress on the older aces of the staff – Pedro, El Duque, G&@!*ne), hitters who had been having great years started swinging at pitches clearly out of the strike zone (except for Daniel Murphy, forever stranded on third base with nobody out), uncharacteristically poor defense, and finally the Mets stumbling around in a fog, and clearly unable to right themselves.

    This year’s team was starting to look like those teams, which is why the more devoted ( or perhaps the more cynical or both) fans among us were sounding the alarm bells. Yesterday’s sweep didn’t clinch anything, and the Mets may not win the division, but I saw enough yesterday to bring me out of my despair about where this team seemed to be headed. The fog has lifted, the proof of life I asked for yesterday was provided and then some, and I Believe again that this team will not go down quietly, if at all. As fans that is all we can ask for.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Little-noted positive for Mets (because negative for Braves): Both Strider and Wright facing very real “high innings load” questions. Strider still going strong but now is very much in danger zone. Wright suddenly blew up in his last start so you have to wonder. Still, their hitting–with the two rookies, plus Albies coming back–is so out of this world one has to be cautious….

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I don’t have the data extraction skills to figure it out, but I’m wondering if any first place team ever lost 3 straight games by 6 runs or more to any last place teams in September, Divisional or not.

  • Bruce from Forest Hills

    If you want to walk through Panic City, I would offer not the 1969 Mets, but the 1969 Cubs. The manager runs out the same line-up day-after-day until the players wear themselves out of the pennant race.

    A mid-week road trip to play a last place team is the very definition of when you rest your players.

    It’s all well and good that Lindor and Alonso want to play every day. But it’s Buck’s job to protect them from themselves a little.

    Hopefully, Buck will find another opportunity to rest his stars against another sub-.500 team sometimes, soon.

    What’s that? Did you say Marlins and no Alcantara?


  • eric1973

    “…except for Daniel Murphy, forever stranded on third base with nobody out…”

    I was at that game, where the moment was too big for David Wright, and he struck out on 3 pitches that were a foot out of the strike zone.

  • eric1973

    mikeski, I think you are right, but I need to check my ticket stub. I am sure it is still dripping with vitriol, and what might have been.

  • Eric

    Nationals beat the Cardinals again, 11-6, splitting the series 2-2, and very nearly winning the series 3-1 but for a 5-run 9th inning rally by the Cardinals to win 6-5 in game 3.

    So that helps explain the 2 ugly losses to the Nationals — they got hot — if not the equally ugly game 1 loss to the Pirates.

    The 2022 Braves caught up to the Mets a lot earlier than the Phillies caught up in 2007. Maybe switching mindset from holding off the Braves to a neck and neck race will clear their heads for better play down the stretch.

  • Eric

    Missing Alcantara seems like a lucky break, but he’s been lit up with frequency of late. So maybe not.

    Tied in the loss column. Season down to short sample size. Braves not slowing down but also now in the toughest stretch of their remaining games outside the Mets series.

  • Eric

    Add, speaking of Alcantara, the Marlins, and the Braves: I was heartened by the Phillies losing last night despite scoring on Alcantara coupled with the Brewers doubleheader sweep over the Giants because it raised the danger of the Phillies losing their wildcard slot, which should raise their motivation against the Braves. The difference between the 2nd and 3rd WC is negligible. The difference between the 3rd WC and elimination is big.

    Also, Cardinals losing to the Nationals was good. They’re 6 games behind the Mets for the 2nd best league record and the bye week. Obviously, beating out the Braves is the priority, but if the Cardinals sneak into the 2nd best NL record, the Mets can win the division and still drop into the WC round.

  • Eric

    Last comment (which was supposed to be in my 1st reaction comment, but I forgot): I wish deGrom threw into the 8th inning and gone over 100 pitches just to put those benchmarks behind him in his ramp-up. At the same time, I accept the game situation, that he wasn’t going old school with an 115-pitch CG SO regardless, and there’s still time in the regular season for deGrom to ramp up to a full starter load.

  • eric1973

    mikeski, found my ticket stub, and you are right, the Cubs, and, yes, I am right, it is full of vitriol.

    WED SEP24/08, 710p, Mets vs. Cubs.
    And this is what I wrote on my ticket stub:

    My final game at Shea ever.
    Mets lose 9-6 in 10 innings.
    2nd place 1.5 GB, tied with Mil for Wildcard.
    Blow 5-1 lead.
    David Wright Chokes Again!!
    Murphy no-out triple in 9th and do not score – Wright K, and Church ground out.
    Church 0-5.
    Delgado Grand Slam (38) and 2 Bases Loaded Walks.
    Time – 4:02
    Att – 54,416