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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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No Mercy, No Quarter

To get us rolling, a sample of my strongly held opinions that make people either smile politely until I shut up or quietly back away from me when they think I’m not noticing:

  • The American League is a jumped-up beer league, the National League should never have agreed to treat it as an equal, and John McGraw is a hero for standing against the tide and refusing to sully titles his team had already earned with an unnecessary exhibition against some upstart alien outfit.
  • If February/March and October exhibitions against said beer league are accepted as a vaguely necessary evil, National League teams at least shouldn’t besmirch their regular-season schedules with further intrusions. Let alone swap league affiliations like poker chips when it suits someone.
  • Yogi Berra‘s public persona as a cuddly gnome beloved by fans of baseball and language alike is a con that approaches Verbal Kint/Keyser Söze levels. Berra was a shambling ignoramus whose overthinking (not that he was a whiz at the regular variety) cost the Mets the ’73 World Series against the A’s. (Pointless exhibition games, perhaps, but you still ought to win them.) Berra also should never have been named Mets manager when Gil Hodges died. The job should have gone to Whitey Herzog, the architect of the ’69 Miracle Mets, and by making the wrong decision the Mets short-circuited what could have/should have been a dynasty.
  • People paid to take part in guerrilla marketing for horror movies should be ejected from seats in which they’re a distraction for viewers watching at home, or at least they shouldn’t be spotlighted by regional sports networks whose trucks are full of people who take justifiable pride in being masters of their craft and so ought to know better.

(OK, that last one’s a new addition to my pantheon of grumpiness, and also probably not particularly controversial.)

This is an odd way of getting to my point, which is that the Mets playing the Oakland A’s will always feel strange. Friday night’s game was only the 24th against Oakland that counted — the first, played back in 2005, sent Greg back into childhood memories that weren’t particularly pleasant. (That post was also one of the early markers that our oddball blog would become something a little different than most baseball destinations, but that’s a whole nother post.)

Combine the West Coast with the American League and one’s first through fifth reactions to “Mets at A’s” will be something along the lines of, “Was this trip really necessary?” Particularly when said trip comes inexplicably in the season’s final sprint. A Mets-A’s evening tilt in May or June? I suppose, if we must. But when the rest of the schedule fits on a single easy-to-read SNY graphic, it’s bizarre. At least this weird part of the season comes sprinkled with off-days, which every team could use at this point and a team with its collective pedal on the floor trying to stay ahead of a relentless pursuer could use even more.

Ah, about that relentless pursuer. I was busy and didn’t get to catch up on what was happening in Philadelphia until shortly before game time, then needed a moment to process that the scoreboard did indeed say PHI 9 ATL 0. So the Mets had an opportunity all but secured when they took the field in cavernous Whatever It’s Called Now Coliseum against a thoroughly anonymous A’s team — looking at the enemy lineup, I recognized Stephen Vogt, though I doubt I could pick Vogt out of a police lineup and I had to double-check the ph/v thing.

Granted, I’m not sure I could have picked Chris Bassitt or Mark Canha out of a police lineup when they became Mets in the offseason. (American League + West Coast again.) Their homecoming was a little connective tissue at least, not that it registered much with the crowd, though there are a number of caveats there: a) a lot of visiting Mets fans; b) not a lot of A’s fans hardy enough to care about a lost season; and c) the fans in the Coliseum are so far from the field that you barely register them, unless of course they’re wearing highlighter-yellow shirts and creepypasta expressions.

Ah, the Coliseum. My one visit there left me with respect for A’s fans, a cheerfully ragtag bunch who’ve armored themselves with ironic detachment above a stubborn bedrock faith, and rage at MLB for how it’s treated this franchise and its fans. Here’s a sample from my writeup, which gets even more vicious from there: “[T]he struck me as a Mad Max version of Shea. Instead of Shea/Citi’s tangle of chop shops and unpaved streets and rumbling els, you get caged walkways leading over industrial yards. Eventually, the caged walkways dump you in the vicinity of an ugly gray concrete pile that rises from a weird hill of xeroscaped dirt, which you search for entrances a la Tomb of Horrors.”

I wrote that eight years ago; the stadium’s still there and the A’s are still imprisoned in it, victimized by the twin plagues of sewer backups and piously vaporous statements about their future from MLB. One of these plagues is a nauseating health hazard; the other features shit coming out of drains. A’s ownership has been campaigning for a new stadium at Jack London Square, an odyssey that’s melded corporate blackmail with the toxic NIMBYism of the Bay Area Eloi, while playing a showily indiscreet game of footsie with Las Vegas. Given that baseball is now engaged in constant frottage with the disgraceful sports-betting industrial complex, I’d bet that the A’s head for Vegas. That will be another example of MLB defining deviancy down and rightly unleash a flood of outraged commentary, but not enough of it will be about the fanbase and city that deserved better.

Jesus Fucking Christ, 900 words that read like the kind of screed you’d normally find wrapped around a brick and we haven’t even gotten to the game yet! What is wrong with you today, Fry?

I dunno, but you’re right, there was a game in here somewhere. Alrighty then. Bassitt was his usual indomitable self, picking from his Saberhagenesque arsenal of pitching and sending balls plateward with the ax-thrower motion I find more and more delightful each time I study it. Brandon Nimmo looked thankfully none the worse for Milwaukee wear (though Starling Marte remains distressingly far from returning), Eduardo Escobar hit his first-ever grand slam, Jeff McNeil and Mark Vientos added to the barrage, Drew Smith followed his disastrous return in Milwaukee with a clean inning, and even Darin Ruf got a hit.

The A’s deserve better and I’m angry at a host of entities that have done them wrong, but once the game starts baseball is a zero-sum endeavor, which means no mercy and no quarter. The Mets offered neither, moving to two and a half games up on the Braves Phillies (ed: Jesus) and reducing their magic number to nine. I doubt we’ll make a big show of that countdown in these posts, as you’ll find a season chronicled in our archives where zero never arrived, but the number exists and is in single digits, so pretending otherwise seems like taking it a bit far.

Anyway, it’s nine. Hopefully the Mets and whoever’s playing Atlanta will swiftly reduce it further, leaving us to delve into the new math involving tiebreakers and how a game between the two teams entangled in magic-number computations can reduce a magic number by three instead of two, which is the way mathematics worked until MLB screwed that up too.

Deviancy defined down, once again. I’m telling you, it all started with agreeing to admit the American League exists.

12 comments to No Mercy, No Quarter

  • Seth

    Slight correction, the Mets are two and a half games up on the Braves, not the Phillies (I know, ’07 PTSD).

    Everything you say about Yogi is 100% true. As a young Mets fan in 1972 and 3, I remember Yogi being none too popular. He was not a good manager, but may he RIP (and I wish 90% of his “sayings” would also RIP).

  • JJJ

    I think they’re a lot more than two and a half up on the Phillies.

  • dmg

    I am here for all of this.

    Ever since I schooled at Cal, though, I have been a fair weather fan of the A’s, and fondly recall baseball at the Coliseum (once saw Jerry Koosman pitch for the Twins against the Billyball A’s, if we’re talking bout eventual New York managers who criminally mishandled their pitching staffs).

    Almost went out for this series bc I assume the days are numbered for the old tin can of a stadium. But it really makes no sense for the Mets to be out there at this point of the season.
    Anyway, screed on!

  • Curt Emanuel

    On the tiebreaker. I read at some point in the not-so-distant past that so long as Atlanta doesn’t sweep the last series we’ll have it.

    Long way off but it’s very possible there will be a game that series where one win is worth two.

  • Dave

    Thank you. As much as I yearn for all people of the world to live and learn from each other in peace and harmony, yeah, the leagues shouldn’t intermingle. They do nothing to make our lives better, plus they changed the rules and eventually we had to play by their stupid rules, so screw them.

    As for the A’s in particular, I’ve always liked the color combination, if for no other reason, just because no other team said “yeah, let’s go with bright yellow and kelly green.” Fans who keep coming back, albeit in small numbers, knowing they’re likely to be tortured…natural infinity with them. Our blood brothers and sisters. But Oakland has fewer people than Omaha, Albuquerque, Fresno and Virginia Beach, among other cities we give no thought to. How does it wind up with a major league franchise? So why does this franchise even exist?

  • Reality Chuck

    Yogi Berra was hardly considered a managerial type while he was playing. Thinking changed when Newsday columnist Stan Isaacs — a noted joker — spread the rumor that the Yankees were going to trade him to the Giants, where he’d take over as manager.

    No one up to that point considered Berra as a manager. The rumor spread and eventually, the idea took hold and Berra was named to manage the Yankees.

  • Eric

    “a Mad Max version of Shea”

    That’s what I like about the Mets visit to Oakland, though I agree the Oakland series should have been earlier than September. The A’s park recalls the multi-use stadiums of my childhood, particularly Shea. Football-quantity seating. Utilitarian structure. Bullpen located in spacious foul ground. Dugouts with no protective fencing. It’s like what the Gen-X field of dreams would look like.

    The Athletics are a storied franchise. Montreal should have a team again. I wonder how wedded Montrealers are to the name Expos.

    I knew of Stephen Vogt as one of the AL all-stars in deGrom’s 10-pitch strike out of the side in the 2015 all-star game. Beyond that, I knew less about him than I knew about Bassitt and Canha before they became Mets, and I had to google them.

    The Mets are 2 up in the loss column with 10 to play. That’s not a safe lead, less so with the 3 in Atlanta looming. But it’s encouraging to see the Braves stumble and the Mets gain a step — 2 steps — in the division race. Their scary offense has hit a dry patch that’s familiar to us.