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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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17 Walks of Memory and Renewal

A walker can examine our past and present up close and come to some hazy conclusion over where we might be heading, not unlike Alexis de Tocqueville and Charles Dickens and so many others did when wandering similar byways during another uneasy patch of our history.
Neil King, Jr.

If you took every 90 feet worth of bases on balls gifted to New York Mets batters by Oakland Athletics pitchers on Friday night at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum; stitched them together; and stretched them out across San Francisco Bay, not only would the accumulated distance be enough to reach Oracle Park, but, if directed south, it would proceed to wend its way down the Pacific coast until it touched home plate at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

That sounds too good to be true.
And it is.
But there’s something to be said for mythology.

Far from home, 17s were wild. So were A’s pitchers.

There’s something even better to be said for working out 17 walks and winning a game, 17-6. Those statistics are absolutely accurate. The Mets had never walked that many times before in a single game, nor had they ever won a game by that exact final, meaning they manufactured something we here like to refer to as a Unicorn Score, the Mets’ 23rd in regular-season franchise history. The Mets have won 4,660 games dating back to April 23, 1962. The first 4,659 were not by a score of 17-6. Stay up late and maybe you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.

Had you been awake since June 29, 1962, and been waiting for another night when the Mets walked at least 16 times, grab some shuteye. The Mets set their previous walks record in California as well, the southern end, back when a West Coast swing meant Dodgers and Giants, and a trip to Oakland would have indicated a wrong turn on the road to Candlestick. The 1962 Dodgers lost the pennant to the 1962 Giants by one game in October, part of a trio of contests affixed to the end of the schedule because the Dodgers and Giants ended their first 162 games tied. Losing at any juncture of the season may have been what cost Los Angeles the flag. Losing at any juncture of the season to the 1962 Mets likely cost them sleep. Those Dodgers woke up the day after those Mets drew those 16 walks and beat L.A., 10-4, with renewed determination to not let it happen again…which is a handy way of saying that on June 30, 1962, Sandy Koufax was their starter. Koufax no-hit the Mets (although he did walk five).

If the 2023 A’s are harboring another Sandy Koufax, they are keeping him well-hidden. Their starting pitchers’ collective ERA is 10.22. Their relievers aren’t quite as bad is the nicest thing to be said on their behalf. Let’s just say Friday night may have been the most glaring example of what plagues the A’s, but it wasn’t an aberrant evening. They have lost eleven of their first fourteen and don’t look one lucky bounce from turning things around. It’s awfully early to come to anything more than hazy conclusions over where we might be heading, but if the season ended today, the Mets would be the National League’s first Wild Card. And the A’s would be damn happy to go home.

It’s early, though, remember? Not that we’re going to expend much attention on the Oakland A’s after Sunday, save for checking the out-of-town scoreboard as it affects our potential postseason positioning, which only an unhinged person is doing in the middle of April (present company included). The Mets are playing the A’s this weekend because the Mets will be playing every American League entry in the course of 2023. So will the Braves, so will the Phillies, so will everybody in the NL and vice-versa. That, of course, is affront to nature, at least until we get used to it.

Interleague play has been around for 26 years in smaller doses. It used to be a stray matchup like the Mets and the A’s would summon visions of a lone, perhaps ancient October conflict, like that we and they conducted in 1973. When the Mets previously visited the Coliseum that’s been named and renamed so many times that it’s now going by its original handle, I’d necessarily think of Yogi and Seaver and glaring sun and a lack of Stone and all that. When they took Rickey Henderson Field (it’s called that, too) on Friday night, I thought of last September when we were there. It’s going to be more and more like that from now on. You don’t imagine playing one team from the other league one time for all the marbles and otherwise shake free of your daydream that you’ll ever see a team from the AL play yours for something that counts. You don’t have to imagine anything. Rob Manfred will bring you all the A’s, all the Royals, all the Orioles you could possibly want, whether you particularly want them or not.

The Mets go out for a stroll in the other league. They may still be going.

The only thing left for a traditionalist do is to revel in the American League ramble when applicable, especially if the hosts graciously clear a path for our enjoyment. Seventeen walks issued will glide your path just fine. It would probably take a grump to note the Mets left a dozen runners on base and that their starting pitcher, Kodai Senga, did not earn the win despite being furnished with a dozen runs by the middle of the fifth inning. Kodai can be pardoned for going cold and not quite qualifying (he went 4⅔), given that he had nothing to do for the longest time in the top of the fifth except attempt to stay warm in the bullpen — as the starting pitcher — while his teammates stood by, accepted free passes, and jogged from base to base. When the Dodgers walked the Mets sixteen times in 1962, our staring pitcher, Jay Hook, was part of the batting order. Jay walked three times himself en route to going the full nine, a much better method to keep a pitching arm engaged. Thanks again, American League.

Every member of the Mets’ starting lineup walked at least once. At least one didn’t think a walk was as good as a hit. Francisco Lindor found the bases loaded for him in the second inning and socked a grand slam to vault the Mets ahead, 6-0. Oakland starter James Kaprielian had walked the four previous batters. As with his hair, Francisco simply wanted to make sure he stood out in a crowd. The three-run double he delivered off Hogan Harris in the fifth, that one following four walks and a hit-by-pitch and giving him seven RBIs, added to Lindor’s distinctiveness.

Harris was making his major league debut. He wore No. 63. His career ERA is much, much higher than that: 162.00. A charitable interpretation would suggest Hogan was making his case to play every game of the season. But you didn’t have to be a raw rookie to miss the strike zone and then pay for it. In the first direct Old Friend sighting of 2023 (not counting rubbernecking what half the ex-Mets in captivity are up to in San Fran), Jeurys Familia pitched the eighth and a portion of the ninth for Oakland. Familia, arguably the best pre-Diaz righty closer the Mets ever featured, handled the eighth with aplomb. It was that portion of the ninth that certified him authentic Athletic material. There was a walk; then a walk; then a walk; you get the idea. Familia walked four Mets and was charged with four earned runs. To be fair, the last three were allowed to score by the next pitcher, Carlos Perez. In the interest of full disclosure, Perez is usually a catcher. Then again, before we started seeing them annually, the A’s were usually pretty good.

When we saw them in September, the A’s were on their way to losing more than a hundred games. That didn’t stop them from inflicting what I’m comfortable considering The Worst loss ever on the Mets. We took two out of three. As if the two are what one remembers most from facing an opponent whose management’s actions strongly imply a lack of interest in competing. Like the 1962 Dodgers, the 2022 Mets fell one notch short of the title they thought was theirs. The 1962 Dodgers, despite mounting an impressive 101-61 record and leading their circuit most of the year, went to a three-game playoff to settle the NL pennant. The 2022 Mets lost their division on a tiebreaker formula that would have not entered the equation had they swept the A’s…or won any one game they lost when not winning their own impressive 101. The Dodgers really shouldn’t have walked so many Mets on June 29, 1962. The Mets really shouldn’t have played their absolute Worst last September 24.

That uneasy patch of our history is water under the Bay Bridge, I suppose. Except that as the Mets were walking and walking and walking some more — if this were forty years earlier, some bright producer working for Warner Wolf or Len Berman would have spliced all the Ball Fours together and set it to Fats Domino — all I could think about (besides the Unicorn Score possibilities) was how much it would suck to lose to this A’s team in either, let alone both of the games remaining in this series. Because although these Mets are a quality outfit and these Athletics can’t even defeat a possum on their press level, we all know the scoreboard clicks back to 0-0 the next day, no matter that last night it read 17-6.

4 comments to 17 Walks of Memory and Renewal

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Immediately upon waking this morning, when checking the final score, I thought, “unicorn?”

  • Seth

    A 3+ hour game! Just like days of yore… Yes these kinds of series are dangerous. You almost feel like the Mets aren’t allowed to lose.

  • Daniel Hall

    Everybody: The Coliseum is such a dump!
    The Coliseum Possum: (takes a dump in the press box)

    How poetic!

    Also, Ron Darling: “The scorecard looks like a crime scene”

    Meanwhile, in SF, Michael Conforto is already out of the lineup with some sore thing or other. Watched them blow a 6-1 lead against the Tigers before today’s game. Miguel Cabrera hit a pinch-hit walkoff single in the 11th inning. Each of these could be the last one, since Cabrera’s body is very much and visibly done with baseball. Lindor had a bushel of RBI in the A’s opener, but how many more years before we have to say that last sentence about him…? -.-