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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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A Series Closes, A Closer Returns

If Cole Porter were still with us, I can hear him having a field day with the results of the 2022 World Series.

You’re the top
You’re the Houston Astros
You transformed
Phil bats to disasters

Whoever dug deep for the sportsmanship to declare, before the Fall Classic began, “may the best team win,” got their wish. The best team in the World Series prevailed. They were, by far, the best team their league had to offer and they emerged as the best team in the entire sport. The Houston Astros appeared mighty formidable from a distance all year and only more so up close when we glimpsed their prowess first-hand in June. The Mets played a pair of two-game sets against them in consecutive weeks and came away with four dings in their armor. Two of the losses were by blowout, one was at the wrong end of a pitching duel and one ached for that big hit late that never came. Before our own postseason went to Padre hell, I allowed myself maybe five minutes of projecting potential Mets-Somebody World Series matchups. When I got to Mets-Astros, I fortified my confidence with the notion that when we played them months earlier, we didn’t have Scherzer and we didn’t have deGrom and having them could make all the difference. I also thought, man, I do not want to have to play the Houston Astros in the World Series.

Mission accomplished?

You’re the top
You’re the skipper Dusty
We forgot
Your team was not so trusty

If 2017 is too much original sin to overlook, then you’re not interested that the managerial arc of Dusty Baker has been redeemed, on the off chance it needed to be. The man managed four other franchises into October without ultimate success. He inherited a powerhouse in Houston whose morals and ethics were in question, to put it kindly. They shook out their front office. They churned much of their roster. And they brought in the manager you couldn’t boo if you had a heart. The Astros are still a powerhouse, with a mostly different cast from the one that won the World Series with the help of video monitors and trash cans. A core of those ringbearers is still around from ’17, still delivering big hits. “I sure hope Altuve, Bregman and Gurriel win another trophy” probably wasn’t much of a rallying cry outside Southeast Texas, but Baker the baseball lifer of all baseball lifers — winding through the game for most of the past 55 years — grew into a cause that transcended partisanship. Unless you absolutely couldn’t tolerate another Astros championship or you were a Phillies diehard, Dusty wrapped in a mass embrace at the end of Game Six was worth the price of admission. (If I needed a rooting interest in this Series, this story did it for me.)

You were not
Some mere Wild Card entry
May just be
The team of this here centu’ry

It is fashionable every October/November to dismiss any baseball outcome you don’t like as random. Anybody can win a best-of-three, a best-of-five, a best-of-seven. Yet that, give or take a newfangled bye, is the gauntlet that’s laid out for everybody. Losing along the way doesn’t mean you’re suddenly without merit, but winning it all, I truly believe, attests to your quality as a ballclub. World champs are world champs. If the Phillies had scraped together two more wins, there’d be some twisting worthy of a soft pretzel to make their case as more than winners of an extended tournament on a hot streak, though I’d probably try. But it was the 106-win Astros, the Astros who are in the playoffs every single year, the Astros who keep coming back to the World Series. The Astros whose outfield no longer includes George Springer; and whose infield no longer includes Carlos Correa; and whose rotation no longer includes Gerrit Cole; and whose bullpen no longer includes Roberto Osuna; and the beats missed were negligible. Here came Jeremy Peña to take over at shortstop and Kyle Tucker in right and Chas McCormick in center and Framber Valdez to start and a passel of relievers — among them a fella named Rafael Montero — to seal almost every lead. Few outside of Goliath Heights particularly love Goliath, no matter who’s managing Goliath, yet David’s slingshot doesn’t always find its target. If the World Series ideal is to crown the top team in the sport, the 2022 edition achieved its ancient ambition.

It also provided entertainment upon an otherwise baseball-devoid landscape, albeit in spasms. There was a comeback for the ages in Game One, a power onslaught in Game Three, a no-hitter (combined; even still) in Game Four, a genuine nailbiter in Game Five and a second-guesser’s delight that more or less decided Game Six. That this World Series could be fun in spurts if tedious for stretches was likely attributable to the presence of those ever phascinating Philadelphia Phillies, despite their having joined the 1974 Los Angeles Dodgers as the only National League champions to lose both a season series to the Mets and the World Series. The Phillies are rarely boring. It was only when their ability to make contact went dark that you knew it was time turn out the lights on what was left of the baseball year.

There’s something about a Philadelphia rush through a postseason — and it doesn’t have to be baseball’s — that gets your attention, especially when the Philly team in question is fairly fresh on the national stage. We have conditioned ourselves to be averse to their good phortune (and it’s not like they give us any reason to take their side as otherwise neutral observers), but Philadelphia gets behind its teams when its teams give it something to get behind and roars its approval loudly enough to be heard at least to the northbound entrance ramp to the Goethals Bridge. I wasn’t in the mood for any of it from 2007 to 2011, but perhaps because we finished our season series with them on August 21, I could watch their aspirations crash the gates of reality with a pinch of admiration. We’re definitely better off without them as world champions, but it wasn’t gonna absolutely kill me if they’d pulled it off.

The presence of two once-prominent Met pitchers didn’t have as much to do with my lack of animus as you might think. I wanted Zack Wheeler to acquit himself in Game Six, but I wasn’t exactly heartbroken when the Astros jumped him in Game Two. I would have left him in to face Yordan Alvarez with two on rather than call on Jose Alvarado, but it’s not only the Mets who don’t solicit my advice or consent on pitcher moves. I always liked Zack, but I was never what you’d call from a fan perspective in love with him. Noah Syndergaard…ah, Noah. That was love, for a while anyway. It may have faded when his absence didn’t make my heart grow fonder, but we’d always have 2015 and 2016 and even that afternoon at the tail end of 2021 when discovering he was coming back for a couple of innings to test his rehabbed right arm had me practically racing around the house with glee. I actually called my wife at work to give her the big news: “Noah’s pitching tonight!” It felt momentous enough so that a text wouldn’t do.

That was both a little more than a year and a couple of lifetimes ago. Noah wanted that qualifying offer. Noah rejected that qualifying offer. Noah headed to the Angels (where he suddenly needed an extra day of rest when he was on track to face the Mets). Noah was traded to the Phillies (where a similar bout of fatigue suddenly set in). Noah went from our uniform to another uniform to one of the two or three worst uniforms he could wear from a Met perspective. Noah, I’m convinced, wants to make happy whoever he thinks it’s in his best interest to make happy. Maybe we all do, but Thor is Thor. Or was Thor and was ours and is still capable of grabbing our attention. In his Angels guise, he took a mild jab at the Mets’ combined no-hitter when one of his teammates threw an old-fashioned nine-inning no-no. As a Phillie, before pitching Game Five, he couldn’t restrain himself from praising villain from another autumn Chase Utley to the hilt, as if that were really necessary. Thus, when the Astros needed two at-bats to put one run on the board to open Syndergaard’s first World Series start since Game Three against the Royals, I was like yeah!

But when Noah limited the damage to get out of that first inning and proceeded to retire the Astros in order in the second and third, I kind of nodded and said, all right, good job. He indeed went from Syndergaard to Noah if not back to Thor in the span of not too many pitches. I wanted him to implode. I wanted him to succeed. Perhaps I wanted to get back to a relationship that wasn’t so fraught. Earlier this season, I removed SYNDERGAARD 34 from my t-shirt drawers, as monumental a rebuke to an individual as I can issue. The shirt still fit my torso, but not my state of mind.

Syndergaard wound up with a World Series loss. Wheeler wound up with two of them. The Phillies of Harper and Hoskins and Schwarber and Segura and the rest of them came up two wins short of the whole shebang. That they lasted as long as they did says plenty about the system that provided them the opportunity to come so close. That they came so close says something about them as a ballclub, too.

More has been said in this space on behalf of the Astros and Phillies than is normally said here. Apologies to those who cringe at anything that goes beyond THEY CHEAT and THEY SUCK as pertinent commentary. It was the World Series. I valued its company for six nights. I was satisfied it didn’t include the Yankees. Or the Braves. Or the Yankees. Or the Dodgers. Or the Yankees. Or the Cardinals. Or the Yankees. The Mets were so far removed from the postseason they briefly visited that once the final round got underway, I could take it or leave it on its own merits. I’ll almost always take it. It’s the World Series.

I wouldn’t mind a new t-shirt to replace Noah’s. When I watched a couple of Astros cavorting on the field at Minute Maid Park Saturday night, each modeling those WORLD CHAMPIONS shirts that go on sale a nanosecond after the final out, I wondered when I’d get the chance to purchase a version tinged in the proper shade of orange and blue, one that would stay in my rotation probably until the end of time, or my time. My 2006 NL East shirt is still on active duty. The pennant is still rising from 2015 in one drawer and another drawer has been warned that the 2016 Mets have come to reign. (Catch me on the right day, and you’ll learn from the words across my chest that I continue to implore the 2002 New Jersey Nets to BEAT L.A.) Maybe Modell’s would still be in business if they’d had more occasion to sell me more Mets championship gear. I don’t know if the shirt of which I dream will be donned by a Met we already know — can’t you see Pete Alonso putting one on only to tear it right off? — or if it’s going to take another generation of Mets to expand our wardrobes. Plenty of Mets have come and gone since October 27, 1986. None who wasn’t at Shea that night has worn a WORLD CHAMPIONS shirt let alone ring.

I don’t need a ring. I just want the shirt.

Our best-case scenario is Edwin Diaz in a year real soon making like Ryan Pressly this year, notching the World Series-winning save and being handed an officially licensed tee in appreciation. On Sunday, we learned Edwin’s being handed a lucrative new contract that will keep him in Met togs for either three, five or six more years, depending on who opts in or out of what exactly. The contract was well-earned. Edwin Diaz was one of the main reasons I dared to project Mets-Somebody World Series matchups a little more than a month ago. Edwin Diaz was why ninth innings in 2022 felt different from ninth innings in all the seasons that preceded it. Allowing for everything that can and often does go wrong with big deals for big names, there’s no one I’d rather have than Edwin Diaz to bring Mets games to a conclusion. Retaining this closer’s services was a brilliant way to begin this offseason and just what we need in order to imagine how we might conclude next year’s postseason.

Hopefully pawing through the boxes of WORLD CHAMPIONS merchandise that they can’t stock fast enough at Dick’s Sporting Goods or wherever one goes in person nowadays to secure such swag.

11 comments to A Series Closes, A Closer Returns

  • Surly Duff

    Uncle Steve’s Shopping List

    ✓ Diaz
    □ Nimmo
    □ deGrom
    □ Contreras
    □ Rodon
    □ Correa

  • Seth

    Aside from being so glad for Dusty Baker, the best part of this World Series was seeing 3 of the 4 Phillies losses go to Wheeler and Syndergaard. I am not a bitter Mets fan, but they so richly deserved it. Happy times!

    • Eric

      Wheeler seems to get deGrom’ed quite a bit with the Phillies.

      I don’t bear ill will to either one-time future Mets ace. Wheeler likely would have come back with a comparable offer from the Mets to what the Phillies gave him. Syndergaard didn’t hurt the Mets by spending his 1st year back from Tommy John surgery rehabbing on another team’s dime. He wouldn’t have been a difference maker for the Mets.

      I wouldn’t mind seeing either and both back with the Mets.

  • Eric

    “Edwin Diaz was why ninth innings in 2022 felt different from ninth innings in all the seasons that preceded it.”

    I still rank Familia 2015 over Diaz 2022 because Familia delivered in the regular season and playoffs. Diaz this season, through no fault of his own, only delivered in the regular season. We don’t know if Diaz would have risen to the higher stakes of the playoffs. But he’s being paid like he did.

  • UpstateNYMfan

    Perfectly said. Houston deserved to win, they were just, top-down, the better team. And good for Dusty! But if the magic had extended to two more Philly wins, I wouldn’t be too terribly twisted up about it either; “good for them,” I’d sincerely concede. I can’t really hate on these 22′ Phils. Easier to feel magnanimous, I guess, when your team nearly triples up on a division foe for the regular season series. As far as Wheeler and Syndergaard, my sentiments mirror Greg’s; I’d just add that for Wheeler, and I don’t know why, but I always got the vibe that he wasn’t exactly “enthralled” with being a Met. Probably just me “over-reading” his somewhat taciturn nature. Sort of left me always feeling kind of lukewarm towards Zack. Noah on the other hand, was admittedly my favorite of the vaunted ‘young guns’ of that 2015-16 era, at least after his sandwich-scarfing-in-the-clubhouse faux pas was adroitly ‘Wrighted’ early on in 2015.^^ There’s the menacing look and equally imposing production on the mound; the wispy, golden locks fluttering in the wind; the droll humor and wry wit he exhibited when not directly engaged in plying his trade; and the firm avowal to the tetchy Royals that “they can meet me “six feet, six inches away;” that quotable quote will always be on the top shelf of my most cherished of Metsian memories. And of course, we’ll always have that Game 3 win with Noah, and that valiant effort in 2016. Nevertheless, hat’s off to both Wheeler and Syndergaard for their capture of the ’22 NL pennant. May they continue to enjoy relative degrees of success, notwithstanding any ill effects they might have on their old ‘Orange and Blue.’
    I laughed at the comment about it at least not being the Yankees… Or the Braves/Yankees/Dodgers/Yankees/Cardinals/Yankees in this World Series. Those are the very same teams (and yes, I will double, triple, quadruple count the Yankees too!) that I also least like seeing in any Fall Classic these days!
    As an aside, does anyone else sense the absurdity of the skyrocketing levels of money that’s being offered up to players these days?! Or at least slightly miffed, particularly at your own favorites, when they “opt out” of multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts for MORE money? First, aren’t contracts supposed to be, in some way, binding? Or is that too quaint of a notion anymore? I don’t know, perhaps I’m just too crusty and am “not with it,” but this aspect of the game is really turning me off. Just my two cents. Yah, I know, it’s a business. I’ve heard that old saw. Just wondering to what end this can/will all go? Oh well, whatever, never mind; let’s Go Met$$$!

  • eric1973

    “I was satisfied it didn’t include the Yankees. Or the Braves. Or the Yankees. Or the Dodgers. Or the Yankees. Or the Cardinals. Or the Yankees.”

    I hate these 7 teams, too, but I also think Noah is a big A-hole. Remember when he refused the Mets request to take the MRI, saying nothing was wrong and that he knows his own body.

    Then he damaged his arm, the big dope.

    • Eric

      Syndergaard blew off the MRI regarding a lat injury in 2017. His Tommy John surgery was in 2020. Are you saying that a physical change or perhaps a mechanics change due to his belatedly diagnosed lat injury eventually injured his elbow ligament?

  • Curt Emanuel

    Out of the two alternatives, I’m glad it ended up going to this one. Then again, beyond the Yankees and maybe the Braves, any of the other playoff options would have been better than those two. This was a year where all the teams I have strong negative feelings against were in the playoffs for some reason. Though we were in it long enough for a cup of coffee ourselves.

    Seeing hammerless Thor and Wheeler with losses the last 2 games isn’t the worst thing either. Though no hard feelings with Wheeler. Syndergaard? No real hatred but glad he’s an ex-Met. He and Matz were two I was happy to see leave.

    Diaz was evidently the easiest FA “get.” Somewhat risky – how many relievers are great one year and suck two years later? Or, as in the case of our very own Sugar, the reverse. Still a good and necessary move and I still don’t know what the right deGrom move is. The guy I know I want back is Bassitt. The guy was an innings-eating anchor for us. Can’t overstate the importance of that. 3 years at about $20m per, maybe a bit more. Sign him Steve.

    There have been boring offseasons for us. This won’t be one.

    • Eric

      Bassitt was awful in the season-deciding Braves and Padres series when we were counting on him to compensate for the failed aces, though. (I’ll let his Cubs loss slide, though all the bad September losses made a difference.) How much do you downgrade him for that?

      • Curt Emanuel

        I’m not under the illusion that being a good pitcher means he’ll be outstanding every time out. If I was docking a pitcher for a game or two out of thirty starts then I’d sure be getting rid of Scherzer – he was awful, 7 runs in 4 innings. Bassitt giving up 3 in 4 wasn’t great but not awful.

        Not giving him ace money either but I wouldn’t do that based on one game even if he threw a no-hitter against SD.

  • Dave

    OK, so you’re confirming that there were baseball games being played after October 9th? Here in America? I had read something about it. Whatever.