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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 Day the Page Turned

On Tuesday morning, pulling up my email in an idle moment at work, I noted that Mets postseason tickets were on sale — and then I deleted the email that had told me that and went back to work. It wasn’t until an hour or so later that what I’d done — or rather, what I hadn’t done — registered.

Wait a minute. Am I so mad at my baseball team for how they got into the playoffs that I’m … not interested in going to a playoff game? What, exactly, am I proving and to whom?

Emily was a voice of wise counsel. So was the co-worker I half-hoped would tell me that playoff tickets were frivolous. A few minutes later, I’d spent a ridiculous amount of money for nine tickets on three dates. Screw it, I figured. If the Mets are going to stomp on my heart, they may as well also kick the shit out of my bank account. But even then, I felt ambivalent, even uneasy — like the guy at the poker table who’s trying to figure out who the sucker is.

What’s happened since Friday night has been a journey — a journey that continued Tuesday afternoon and evening, as the Mets swept a doubleheader from the Nats and watched their division hopes fade to black when the Braves edged the Marlins to clinch the NL East.

And yet, somehow, it’s a journey that’s brought me back where I’d hoped I’d wind up while fearing I might not.

I’ve forgiven the Mets — or maybe that hasn’t quite happened yet but I’ve at least accepted what didn’t come to pass. The important part is my baseball team is hosting wild-card baseball on Friday, and I’m in.

It helped that my baseball team played the kind of games we’d come to appreciate and then (perhaps unwisely) to expect. The Mets beat the Nats in Game 1 behind sharp defense, capable relief and some impressive hitting from Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil, then obliterated them in Game 2, kick-starting the bottom of the first with back-to-back-to-back homers and hanging seven runs on poor Paolo Espino in a third of inning.

It helped that Francisco Alvarez, alternately luckless and jittery in his trial-by-fire debut against Atlanta, found his footing and then some, blasting a mammoth home run in his first Citi Field AB and following that with a rifle-shot double. It’s not exactly a long-shot wager to say those will be the first of many, with Alvarez perhaps becoming a force as early as this weekend.

It helped watching McNeil slash balls all over Citi Field and out of it too, taking the lead on Freddie Freeman in the NL batting race. McNeil has been a joy to watch all season, erasing his lackluster, uncertain 2021 with a campaign that’s married offensive mayhem with much improved defense. A fun game on our couch this year has been “Why Is McNeil/Scherzer Enraged This Time?” — those two are each other’s bookends, playing baseball like twin kettles boiling over, and it’s alternately hilarious and a little scary to watch.

It helped knowing the Mets had reached 100 wins, which might not have been quite enough this year but was a level they’d only reached in three other seasons. Two of those ended with World Series titles and the third expired in dismay and disarray, but that’s baseball.

All of that helped, and when Kenley Jansen coaxed a flyout from Miami’s Jordan Groshans, I did an emotional inventory and found I was … well, one might even say disappointed but no longer devastated. Yes, perhaps you remember those words in another context. That’s my point — baseball would be the death of us all if we weren’t able to turn the page, to put some healthy distance between past unhappinesses and present possibilities. No dedicated baseball fan ever forgets — there are failings and fizzles that play on repeat up there on the ceiling when we’re fuming sleepless at 4 a.m. — but in remembering, you have to make room for the idea that something good might happen one day.

Maybe even one day very soon.

Plenty of Mets seasons have ended with a little ember we’ve had to convince ourselves is a spark that will grow into a bonfire — think what we would have done with two Game 161 hits from a Francisco Alvarez in 1993 or 2004 or some other dismal campaign that we weren’t actually sad to see breathe its last. But this isn’t one of those seasons, however much it may have felt that way this weekend and during our rainy sulking Monday. Someone I know from Twitter asked how a 100-win season could feel so depressing. This was my response: Wipe the slate clean. Win the next four series — even by just a game each — and they’re all immortal.

That would have been courageous but empty talk this weekend or Monday or even between games Tuesday. But by the end of the night I believed it.

I have a ticket for Wednesday’s game. I’d decided before the Braves series — thanks in large part to some wise words from my blog partner — that I wasn’t a jinx and could safely attend. But today and even tonight, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. After all, the game was likely to be meaningless — not to mention cold and dreary. And, well, there was the fact that I was still pissed off.

But somehow that meaninglessness became a selling point once second place was official. Wednesday’s game will be the only stress-free one played in October. It will be a chance — weather permitting, of course — to look around the park and cheer on McNeil’s batting-champ chase and compare notes about roster construction and play amateur scout and fret and kvetch and maybe even dream a little. How could I miss that?

Friday will be different. The slate will be clean — erased of accomplishments and shortcomings alike. And I’ll be all in, both eager and anxious to see what’s written. You should be too.

14 comments to The Day the Page Turned

  • Seth

    I guess we play the cards we’re dealt, even if not ideal. At least it isn’t over, so let’s hope for playoff success – it’s a new season.

  • Eric

    If McNeil sits today — and he’d be justified considering he’s not an ironman, the short turnaround to the wildcard series, and he played 18 innings in wet, cold, windy weather yesterday — Freeman would need to go 4 for 4 to beat out McNeil for the batting title.

    For fans, no bye week means no interminable wait for the next game. For the players, no bye-week rest means no bye-week rust.

    Assuming the WC rotation will be the same as the Braves series, deGrom, Scherzer, and maybe Bassitt will have 6 days off for their WC starts. That’s already pushing too much time between starts. If the Mets had won the division, the three would have had 10 days off, which is too much time.

    If the Mets win the WC series, they won’t be able to start deGrom or Scherzer in NLDS game 1, but Walker or Bassitt, if no WC game 3, is an acceptable alternative.

    Likely no Marte for the WC series. But Marte may not be back for the NLDS either. And he’ll be rusty when his finger allows him to come back.

    Canha needs to step up to make up for Marte’s absence.

    I look forward to finding out which Mets will become unlikely playoff stars. Vogelbach and Escobar fit the type.

    I wonder if the Mets would consider replacing McCann with Michael Perez as the 2nd catcher, assuming Alvarez will be primarily a righty DH/PH and an emergency catcher only.

  • eric1973

    As much as I dislike McCann, is soneone really going to tell him to stay home, for a nobody (Perez) after he’s been with us the whole year?

    And do the same to Taijuan and Carrasco, just because they are not starting?

    Maybe McCann, but the other 2 deserve to be there with he team as middle relievers, as the hook is always short in the postseason.

  • Curt Emanuel

    Tonight will make a good game to watch the prospects. Figure Alvarez will catch, Vientos DH unless they want to take a chance and plug him in at 3rd. Some sort of mix-and-match pitching. Hope the weather isn’t too miserable for you.

    I know next to nothing about the Padres. Manny Machado, Juan Soto took his weak start to the season from the Nats and continued it on the West Coast so I hope he doesn’t find himself starting Friday. They have Yu Darvish. Most importantly, they have to come East.

    Hoping the individual awards hold up. McNeil should have it. Would have been nice for Pete to tack on a couple of more RBIs so he can lead all baseball though a tie isn’t bad.

    For me 100 wins moves it from a good to a great season. Unfortunately Atlanta’s greaterness takes away a lot of the meaning.

    • Eric

      The 5-time defending NL East champs with the freshest World Series stamp set the standard.

      The Braves are MLB royalty, our version of the Cardinals.

  • Dave

    Being plenty old enough to remember the 1988 season, the milestone of 100 wins lost its luster for me quite some time ago. Like, I’m reminded, age, it’s just a number. 2022 has been leaving me waiting for a similar shoe to drop, but I keep looking to old NY lottery marketing slogans for inspiration. So…hey, you never know. You gotta be in it to win it. Or I can edit the lottery slogan in my home state and come up with “because anything can happen in Flushing.” And that’s actually true. So try to ignore the trolling Braves fans on social media, thank goodness this weekend’s series won’t cause Phillies fans to drive up the Turnpike, and play ball. #LFGM!

  • Rumble

    Absolutely adore your writing.
    Met fan since the mid-60s and haven’t had this much fun combined with frustration watching the team in a long time.
    Which Met team will ultimately show up for the playoffs: the indomitable team with all the magic in the world making you believe they were never out of any game or what felt like the just above 500 September team that showed up in Atlanta last weekend with lackluster hitting and eminently beatable Jake, Max, and Chris?

  • ljcmets

    I don’t know about McNeil, as I’ve never noticed real anger -more like petulance-from him, but I will point out that Scherzer’s anger is almost always righteous and justified. I believe he got thrown out of a game earlier this year in which he was still on the IL but sitting on the bench, for challenging a very bad call in the first inning. I think that call was by Angel Hernandez, and Scherzer was absolutely right about it.

    He was right last night too. The umpires should have called the game during that monsoon. I understand letting Mc Neil having his turn at bat, but the game meant absolutely nothing to either team after that, the Mets had Syracuse and benchwarmers on the field (save McNeil and Canha I believe), the field was already in terrible shape from three days of steady rain, almost no one was left in the stands, and the Mets are playing games that matter in a mere few days. ( The Nats out there also have careers to worry about). What if someone were badly injured?

    Scherzer speaks for his team in so many ways and I think he is respected by everyone. He respects the game and how it should be played and he knows the line where rules cross over into nonsense and he isn’t having any of it. I recall last year when the umps first started checking pitchers for sticky stuff and he was asked to remove, I think, his belt -and he began to remove his pants, thus showing up the absurdity of some of that farcical behavior. I don’t think I’ve seen any pitcher checked this year beyond his hands which is about as far as that process should go -at least out on the field.

    I sometimes think Scherzer’s steam-out-of-ears routine is part act, whether to fire himself or his teammates up. Many have commented on his Jekyll and Hyde routine and when you see him on the bench between starts, checking in with teammates, smiling and joking; or during interviews, thoughtful and composed, it’s hard to believe anyone short of a psychopath can shift gears that quickly. Max is no psychopath (at least to this layperson) but when is is truly angry, pay attention, because he is teaching us and everyone else some aspect of the game, and it’s probably important.

  • Seth

    It’s the last day of the baseball regular season, the Mets are guaranteed at least 2 more playoff games, and yet I am filled with sadness.

  • Eric

    A benefit of losing the division to the Braves is the axiom that failure is a vital developmental step to success. For a contender that kind of failure usually means elimination, wait ’til next year, and start over at square one.

    The Mets suffered an elimination-like failure by losing the season-long race for the division in an undeniable manner in Atlanta. In the pre-wildcard era, that effectively would have been a playoff series, and as Nimmo said, the Braves shoved it in their face. Except we have wildcards now, and the Mets gained the vital lesson of failure without actually being eliminated.

    It was apparent the month leading up to the second disastrous Braves series that the Mets were in a rut. If the Mets had scratched out a win in Atlanta, they might well have won the division and finished the season while still stuck in the rut. Add bye-week rust to the rut and the NLDS may have looked worse than the Braves series.

    Instead, the undeniable failure against the Braves hopefully broke the Mets out of their rut, and they apply the lesson to the Padres, then the Dodgers, then maybe the Braves in an NLCS revenge match.

    Then we get to watch the deGrom World Series start that we got robbed of by Wright and Duda’s misplay 7 years ago.

  • Bob

    What you wrote today is almost exactly what I’ve been feeling since Friday.
    Being a Met Fan since my first Polo Grounds DH in 1963-and Mets won both games!
    Over 60 years, there are seasons/games I love to remember and games that haunt me for decades–no need to go into details.
    But this season our Mets did-
    Win 100 games
    Get into post-season
    Finally had Old Timers game that brought together our Mets for the 60s till now.
    Finally followed thru on Mrs. Payson promise to Willie Mays when he came home in 1972 to retire his #24
    retired Keith’s # 17! (Heal quickly Keith!)
    So here we are, and as Casey said-“Why, they’re just The Amazin Mets!”
    Lets Go Mets!–for ever and ever!

  • greensleeves

    No joy in Mudville. Gotta tip our hats to the Braves.
    “Also Ran Appreciation Nite” in Flushing, Attendance: 27
    Also, thank you Squirrel.

  • mikeL

    i’ve gotten over my disappointment/not devastated stance (bravo! jason) with my potentially hair-brained recommendation for buck:
    start trevor williams game one. win.
    start bassett game two. win.
    get an extra day off via the swep. start jake and max (either order) to start series v. dodgers.
    what good’s the wild card if your big arms can’t start the NLDS in style. (yes, jake and max must have something better left in those arms)

    i take comfort remembering how awful the post-cubs-sweep days off impacted the WS in ’15.

    mets: you’ll rest in november should you choose to grind to the end!

    i choose to believe! for now…


  • Lenny65

    Well, 101 wins…the second-best regular season record in Mets history. Too bad how their, uh, “lackluster” September kind of put a damper on that remarkable accomplishment. But it doesn’t matter anymore. By Monday, our angst could very well be totally forgotten. Or it might be wildly amplified. I’m going into it with high hopes, realistic expectations and an open mind. I know…I KNOW…what this team is capable of. I saw it 101 times. Remember the wild comebacks vs. St. Louis and Philly? Nick Plummer? The no-hitter? Scherzer stomping around after a K, Jake coming back without skipping a beat, Diaz being unhittable…they have it in them to beat anyone. Let’s hope THOSE Mets show up this weekend.