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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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Sweet Dread

At 2:37 PM Thursday, 29½ hours before first pitch of Game One, I felt it. I was thinking about Sunday, potential Game Three, and how its start time is up to the dictates of television, reportedly fluctuating between its penciled-in 7:37 PM and its apparently ESPN-desired 4:07 PM, a slot that would become available if the Guardians sweep the Rays or the Rays sweep the Guardians. The uncertainty seemed unnecessary, particularly in a month when everything but the bare minimum of action is couched in terms of If Necessary. I began to think of what it would be like on Sunday if the Mets-Padres Wild Card Series is not settled, and my stomach began to reflect that lack of precision. Make us wait? Push us up? Not tell us? Aarrgghh!!

There it is, I realized. Dread. Postseason dread. Postseason anxiety. Playoff mode. Whatever you want to call it. Nice to have you back, no matter that a person won’t be able to take you anymore by first pitch. The only thing worse than not handling the dread is not having the dread because that means you’re not having your team in the playoffs.

The MLB logo this time of year should feature a batter popping Pepcid. Antacid For All! would be quite the pitch to viewers who understand.

For now, there is Game One, tonight, 8:07 PM. Oddly timed starts, yet rather exact. Max Scherzer will drape himself in Friday night black and face nine Padres batters. Yu Darvish will face nine Mets batters also draped in black. No mourning permitted; black is the new celebratory hue of Mets baseball. It is shorthand to say it will Scherzer vs. Darvish. It is also not wholly accurate. The starting pitcher never faces the other starting pitcher. Especially in the era of the designated hitter (boo, after six months of living with it, Vogie or not), baseball games now encompass two alternating baseball games. We pitch to your guys, you pitch to our guys, we’ll tally up the runs when everybody’s done. It didn’t feel like that before the DH, when the pitcher batted once every nine batters, when the offense and defense organically intertwined. I came to this conclusion in 2020. I’m revisiting it out of antsiness for First Pitch, just now promoted to upper-case institution.

The Mets released their roster late this morning, presumably because Buck Showalter is not allowed to keep it inside his windbreaker. He’d rather maintain the element of surprise at every turn. That, presumably, is why he never lets us see his uniform top. The element of surprise on this roster is the presence of Starling Marte, which qualifies as a nice surprise, assuming Starling is a gripping machine again. We also have Francisco Alvarez active for the postseason one week after making his big league debut. Kid can swing a bat. He is poised — and poised to start Game One on the bench alongside Darin Ruf, back from the IL/dead, and Terrance Gore, who’s hit a little better than Ruf recently but is here for his wheels. Tylor Megill, a paper injured list occupant for 48 hours, has also been resurrected.

Not invited to the ball for round one: Mark Vientos, Tyler Naquin, Trevor Williams, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker. Vientos and Naquin had to fall victim to the numbers game so Gore, Alvarez and Ruf (who has hit some key Padre pitchers well) could be ensured space. Williams took one for the team in the form of soaking up six soggy innings on Closing Day and wouldn’t be available for his intermittent heroics anyway. Back-end starters Carrasco and Walker won’t be needed in a series that will go no more than three games, not with a heartily stocked bullpen of in no particular order except for the name that closes the list Megill, Ottavino, Lugo, Peterson, Rodriguez, Smith, May, Givens and Diaz supporting Scherzer in Game One and whoever starts Game Two.

Yeah, we don’t know who will start Game Two. Buck presumably knows if he’s going to assign that very necessary start to Jacob deGrom or Chris Bassitt, or if he’s going to save Chris Bassitt or Jacob deGrom for Game Three if Game Three is necessary, or is he hoping he can hold deGrom out for Game One of the thus far mythical National League Division Series between the Mets and Dodgers which, as we learned in New Format School, won’t be played unless the Mets take two games from the Padres?

This is good if evanescent obsess-on stuff for the hours before First Pitch of Game One because at the moment I started writing, the only baseball happening was that between the Rays and Guardians and, despite my best wishes by text to my dear old Cleveland-fan friend a couple of hours ago, I can’t say I’m terribly engaged by the progress at Progressive Field other than my ears perking up at the mention of Amed Rosario hitting and fielding. No Rays or Guards or at fault here. They might as well black out all other series while the Mets are on the clock in October (or Clocktober). They don’t register for me while I’m immersed in that sweet dread unique to Met autumnal participation.

Will Jake check in at the starter’s desk for Game Two? Only if the Mets lose tonight. I think. I don’t know. Buck does, and as long as he tells the pitcher who needs to know and maybe the catcher, all will be cool. My imagination has meandered to wonder if the Showalter-deGrom relationship is all one wishes it to be. Buck steered a Met ship to the top of the division without Jake. Every manager who had deGrom between 2014 and 2021 (there were a slew if we count Beltran) seemed over the moon about having deGoat at his disposal. Showalter never seems particularly impressed by that. He does seem to enjoy chatting with Max on the bench when Max isn’t pitching. If there’s such a thing as being a Scherzer Guy or a deGrom Guy, the sense I get from listening to Showalter take questions of the “wasn’t Jake amazing today?” nature after deGrom’s better starts is he’s not a diehard deGrom Guy, that deGrom isn’t one of his guys, the way managers have their guys whether they’d ever admit to it or not.

I may be seeking soap opera entertainment where there is none. Yet Buck’s not starting deGoat in Game One of a postseason series, which, recent Jake outings and careerlong Max pedigree notwithstanding, rubs me ever so slightly the wrong way. I know Max is Max, and I love that Max is a Met. But Jake was one of us when nobody else on this staff was anywhere near us. I’ll always veer to the most authentic Met available if given a choice.

Side note: on the rosters of Wild Card Series clubs: deGrom, Matz, Syndergaard and the heretofore missing from October action Wheeler. Pride in Met pitching pervades a little piece of me, regardless that three-quarters of that quartet pitch for teams I’d shove off a cliff if I could. A slightly littler piece of me wonders how Matt Harvey is doing these nights.

Then again, Buck (and whoever collaborates with him on vital decisions; this is 2022, when even established managers aren’t left solely to their own personnel instincts) shook up the rotation enough to start Jake in the first game of that last Brave series, which actually gave me bad vibes despite being a deGrom Guy of the first order, because it reminded me of the pressure put on Davey Johnson — from telegrams sent by fans, which was something that actually used to happen — to switch Darling and Gooden for the big series in St. Louis the last week of 1985. Popular sentiment swelled in Doc’s direction for the opener because Doc was never more Doc than he was in 1985 and Darling, scheduled to open that series at Busch Stadium, simply wasn’t Gooden. Nobody was. The Mets were three behind the Cardinals with six to play. How could you not go with your best?

But Darling was Darling, who was very good himself usually. Johnson kept the rotation intact. Ronnie threw nine shutout innings, and the Mets won; Doc pitched the next night, and the Mets won; and had Rick Aguilera been a little more seasoned or Tom Seaver not been lost in the compensation draft…let it go, it’s 37 years already. And had the Met rotation of Bassitt, deGrom and Scherzer rotated as previously rotating before Atlanta and produced results in the first two games like Darling and Gooden did in 1985…let it go, it’s a week already.

Or maybe Jake just needs to take care of that blood blister.

You’re listening to my interior monologue. Clocktober is coming up on five hours to First Pitch. Scherzer will throw it. I will cheer him with all the gusto I would deGrom. Nine Mets will attempt to hit. I will cheer them similarly. Marte is eligible to be one of those nine. I’m cheered by that. A whole lot of professional relievers will be on high alert. Forty-three thousand fans in the ballpark and who knows how many more (this correspondent included) watching/listening away from Flushing will be the same.

The dread. The anxiety. The need to go up 1-0 or tie 1-1 or come out ahead however many games it takes.

It’s a day since I first felt it. It’s increased quite a bit.

11 comments to Sweet Dread

  • Funny you should mention anatacids. I have a vivid memory of me and my Mom chewing little pink Pepto-Bismol tablets in our loge seats before Game 5 of the 1973 NLCS. Postseason anxiety is a thing.

  • mikeski

    There it is, I realized. Dread. Postseason dread.

    Dready’s back. Back again.

    And, as Martha would say, that’s a Good Thing.

  • Curt Emanuel

    Yes. It begins. Hope Marte can restore our offense. If he plays. Has he been doing any simulated stuff down south?

    I’m thinking deGrom only pitches this series in an elimination game (for us). There’s the blister. There’s actually setting him and Scherzer up to pitch games 1 and 2 vs the Dodgers. You kidding me? Playing the WC round with the same rotation that was positively mediocre in Atlanta?

    And there are the numbers. I don’t recall them precisely but on 6 or more days rest Jake transforms from one of the very top pitchers in recent memory to some sort of mythic ball-throwing beast. Death to opposing hitters. A less than 1 ERA. I’m down with that.

    Anxiety is here. Watching Phillies-Cards now. Can’t do a thing about the outcome so why do I worry?

  • Greg Mitchell

    Why is Gore on the roster? He has contributed exactly ONCE in the past 3 weeks as a pinch runner–and it’s possible that’s all Marte should do until the L.A. series. I’m sure it’s a sign of how bad Naquin has been. We are left with no lefty pinch-hitters (Luis G will likely start most games until Marte can play) for Ruf or Nido or McCann. But Naquin may be no better–another deadline flop.

    And why Megill on roster? They burned the far, far better Nogosek the other night. I guess with Trevor out then Megill is the long man–except they have not ramped him up for that. Egad.

    Given recent Max and Jake struggles the red-hot Padres starters are at least Mets’ equals if not more so. But they have the same 1) mediocre hitting past top core and 2) mediocre bullpen past top two guys…..

    Still not confident that Alvarez can take a good AB against a quality pitcher. Has not done so yet. Ruf, somehow, still will get a few key ABs. The deadline failures looming ever larger, even if short series.

  • Seth

    Would that be Grateful Dread, then?

  • mikeL

    yes, the post-season stress!
    i the near daily nausea that accompanied october 15 (as opposed to the stunned shock of game 163 ’16.
    may we all steel ourselves for a long stretch of stress-inducing days.
    i’m ok with jake being the ace in the hole here.
    i actually had both jake AND max being saved til LA, with trevor on the mound…til i he started 162.
    vert excited to see marte on the roster. may he grip mightily and stir this drink we call the mets offense!

    not antsy yet, but soon!

  • Paul from Brooklyn

    Those three little words you long to hear…..Marte is back.
    Let’s Go Mets!!!!!

  • Eric

    I’m nervous about Marte starting. I had expected McNeil in RF and Guillorme at 2B tonight. Marte will be rusty, but the sooner he plays, the sooner he’ll work off the rust. The surprise activation doesn’t necessarily mean he’s healed up, though. Just healed up enough to try. If Marte is switched out this round because he’s still too handicapped, he won’t get to try again until the NLCS (or next season).

    I’d feel better with Carrasco, Walker, or Williams on the roster instead of Megill. However, Carrasco and Walker started on Oct 4 versus the Nationals and Williams pitched a starter’s load on Oct 5. Their next availability on regular rest is Oct 9 or Oct 10. Carrasco or Walker, possibly both, will need to start in the DS, perhaps as early as DS game 1, so it makes sense to not include them on the roster for the WC series.

    Megill did not audition well as a reliever. And as Greg Mitchell points out, he’s not stretched out as a long man either. Presumably Peterson will fill the long man role in place of Williams if needed. Besides the possibility of a starter getting knocked out early, remember, no extra-inning ghost runner in the playoffs.

    Keeping deGrom in reserve for WC game 3 or DS game 1 if the Mets win WC game 1 makes sense. Given deGrom’s last 4 starts of the season, he may not be a much better pitcher than Bassitt right now anyway. Also, deGrom may benefit from an extra day, or two or four, of rest more than Scherzer and Bassitt would.

    Higher-seeded, home WC teams 1-2 so far today. It’s on. Anxious Mets playoff baseball is a lot better than no-more-until-spring Mets baseball.

  • Thomas Tuba

    Everyone called him a pitiful boomer and an old man yelling at clouds, but Seinfeld was 100% right about that Timmy Trumpet nonsense. Nothing has gone right since that night. The Mets are still stuck in their September swoon, and the team’s star players are all coming up short. No power, no rallies, bad starts, it’s been painful to watch. Now we have to hope that they’ll just magically come back to life out of nowhere, but it seems really unlikely to me.

  • greensleeves

    Why me? Why me? cried Job.
    Why not you? Answered the baseball gods.

  • […] to Game One, I dealt with the usual postseason emotions (“usual” a questionable word to use when your team usually absents itself from the postseason […]