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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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Saddled with the understanding that your team is not going to win them all, the best a fan can hope for is an optimal sorting out of the order of inevitable losses. Take the Mets-Cubs series just completed. After competing on a stratospheric high, as the Mets did on their last homestand, they were, because they are human, due for one night of flatness. They plunged back toward terra firma in their first game at Wrigley. Fine. Get it out of the way. Not necessarily scheduled to come next was one of those “tip your hat to the opposing starter” games. They are scattered across any given season, even in this era when starters infrequently stick around to earn such a salute. You wish for them to be few. You prefer they don’t come after the flat games. Alas, the second game at Wrigley became the cap-tipper, as Marcus Stroman threw myriad ground balls that the Met lineup obligingly hit to Cub infielders. If the Mets were grudgingly tipping their caps, Stroman all but threw his in the air Mary Tyler Moore-style after completing his eight suffocating innings. That’s his business. Next time don’t give him the opportunity. This time, tip your cap and move on.

Whatever other kinds of losses is bound to occur over an assortment of 162 games, the one you didn’t want after the first two in Chicago was any kind. That’s the sweep loss, the loss that shows you’re at least temporarily lost, perhaps farblondzhet, which is Yiddish for lost, but so much worse, especially if you’d ever heard my mother drop it into conversation. It’s bad to lose three in a row at any juncture (see the Mets leaving Milwaukee and Detroit emptyhanded). It’s really bad to implicitly announce that all those good vibes from winning five in a row, each in dramatic and satisfying fashion, are now expired. The Mets will lose another game in 2023. They couldn’t do it at the end of their stay at Wrigley.

And they didn’t. Two losses in three games is nothing to text home about, but it’s far more than 33.333% better than what loomed as the alternative entering Thursday night. Behind Carlos Carrasco, the Mets stomped the Cubs, 10-1. In these disturbing DH times, Carrasco had nothing to do with the 10, but was largely responsible for the 1. That’s no small detail. Carrasco has been easy to overlook since he became a Met in 2021. He came over in a trade that was never going to be labeled the Carlos Carrasco Trade, because it was all about getting Francisco Lindor. He didn’t pitch in his first year as a Met until the second half of the season, and most of what one remembers is a string of implosive first innings. He was more dependable in 2022 — 15 wins! — but he also seemed to go unnoticed by those of us who tend to notice everything. We noticed he was left off the postseason roster and also noticed nobody strenuously objected.

Carlos missed some time in 2022, then missed a bunch more after an uninspiring beginning to his 2023. His first start, last Friday night, against his old team, didn’t summon many echoes of his Cleveland glory. When he allowed a game-tying home run to Dansby Swanson in the bottom of the first Thursday, here we seemed to be going again.

Then Cookie found his path back to success and we happily followed. Over six-and-two-thirds, Swanson’s solo shot was the only real damage generated against Carrasco, and we’ve seen enough of Swanson as a Brave to accept whatever he does to the Mets as a cost of doing business. No other Cub bothered him too badly, even in the third, when Chicago loaded the bases and threatened to reduce what had become a three-run Met lead. Happily, Cookie teased a harmless grounder out of Mike Tauchman, and that was it for Cubbie mischief. By the bottom of the seventh, when Carlos exited, the Mets were up by six, and Pete Alonso had widened his lead on the 1980 Mets in the home run column. Pete now has 19 through 51 games; the Mets, at the same juncture of their intermittently Magical season, had 11. There are many entities Pete will be outhomering as he goes along.

Move over, Maris. Alonso’s the one overpowering the 1980 Mets now.

By the ninth, a catcher was pitching for the Cubs, and even Marcus Stroman was probably sitting quietly. The Mets were about to seal a 10-1 win that raised their record to 26-25 at the expense of the Cubs, who were falling to 22-27. That the team with the overall better record and greater expectations had gone 1-2 against a lesser opponent didn’t much matter. In July of 1969, Leo Durocher, whose overwhelmingly favored first-place Cubs had just salvaged the finale of a three-game set against the upstart yet still second-place Mets at Shea (the series that featured Don Young not corralling fly balls and Jimmy Qualls delivering a lonely single), was asked if those were the real Cubs who had just laid a 6-2 beating on the Mets.

“This wasn’t the real Cubs,” the skipper who eschewed excursions to the UN on his trips back to New York sniffed. “It was the real Mets.”

We’ll see about that in a few months, 1969 Leo, but never mind 54 years ago right now. With the Cubs safely ensconced in the NL Central and not presently any more of a factor in the Wild Card derby than anybody else, I’m not worried if “now pitching, the catcher, Tucker Barnhart… represents the real Cubs (though let it be noted Barnhart threw a scoreless frame). I don’t know if I’m convinced the team that executed all facets of baseball as if it knows what it’s doing is the real Mets, but I’m willing to accept it as prima facie evidence, mainly because I’m in the mood to be in a good mood.

Alonso’s towering home run total has me in a good mood. Jeff McNeil’s three hits have me in a good mood. The four consecutive two-out singles that built the Mets’ lead in the third inning — from Jeff, Pete, Brett Baty and Starling Marte — have me in a great mood. Baty was in the middle of a bunch of scoring, whether from the position of batter or baserunner. I love his and his fellow youngster Francisco Alvarez’s confidence out there. Why shouldn’t they be confident? Baty is the starting third baseman on a major league team with legitimate postseason aspirations; he’s nudged a competent professional named Eduardo Escobar to a utility role. Alvarez? He’s the starting catcher on the same team. Gary Sanchez, an idea that might have been worth trying out in a practical sense if there was no better option behind the plate or in the lineup, was designated for assignment Thursday. By the time he got a few reps in 2023, the position he played belonged to the much younger man. Tomás Nido is back in good optic health, and Omar Narvaez will squeeze into the picture soon, but they, too, need to get in line to the rear of Francisco Alvarez for crouches.

At last Friday’s 10-9 barnburner (seriously, you could see the barn smoldering all the way from Astoria), it was clear we as fans have moved on to Baty, Alvarez and, when we get glimpses, Mark Vientos, with Ronny Mauricio on deck in the emerging imagination. Succession, whether planned or organic, is occurring, and it’s working more than it isn’t. There was much joy in the crowd whenever the Mets were storming back versus the Guardians, but the sound the crowd made for the kids boomed stronger than anything generated on behalf of any other Mets, even Pete with the grand slam. There’s something about living with the names of prospects circulating in your subconscious until they have ascended to your field of vision and then proving they deserve a chance to maintain that front-and-center spot right before your eyes. Nido’s seeing better, thankfully, but the de facto starting catcher from 2022 didn’t need eye inserts to read the writing on the organizational wall as it’s developed in 2023. “I’m just ready to help in whatever they need me to,” Tomás graciously said prior to a game where he’d be asked to perform his own mopup duty, catching the ninth so Alvarez could rest up with a nine-run lead. Since rising to the majors in 2017, Nido has probably repeated some version of that sentiment in deference to starting Met catchers from Travis d’Arnaud to James McCann (to Narvaez). This time, it sounds like more than lip service from a good teammate. This time feels like Alvarez time.

But let’s not eschew experience altogether. Let’s circle back to Carrasco, and who waits to pitch next. As in the Cleveland series, we’re looking at Carlos, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in succession. That’s Carrasco with 105 career wins, Scherzer with 204 and Verlander with 246. If their presence doesn’t viscerally stir our Mets fan souls the way the core of younger rotations did, that may be our DNA talking. Seaver to Syndergaaard and so many live arms in between, all of them confounding hitters and rising to prominence…that’s how we see ourselves winding up when we look in the mirror. At the moment, however, we glimpse success that’s already occurred and desire it to be replicated. On this staff, at least half the time, pending five/six-man rotational iterations, we’re relying on credentials rather than potential.

When Max takes the hill tonight and Justin follows him on Saturday (pending all the things that can upend probable-pitchers probability), it will mark the 64th time in franchise history that the Mets have trotted out three consecutive starters with at least 100 wins in their respective back pockets. The 63rd time was last weekend. Before that, you had to return to the halcyon days of Pedro Martinez, T#m Gl@v!ne and Steve Trachsel, specifically May 20-23, 2006. We’ll call them halcyon since the ’06 Mets had already taken over first place for good and the Mets’ trio of venerable starters had a great deal to do with their astounding break from the gate. Six times in April of May of 2006, those three village of Flushing elders pitched in succession, stabilizing an element of the Mets that would become modestly, then glaringly unglued as the year continued. Soon, we’d be cycling through journeymen and neophytes, just yearning for five healthy arms, albeit from that first-place perch.

There’s been plenty of splendid pitching since the first third of the 2006 season, but for seventeen seasons until 2023, there were never three 100+ game winners staring in a row (discounting youngsters potentially or eventually on their way to triple-digits, à la Nolan Ryan and the total of 324 earned mostly after his first 29 as a Met). Before 2006, for a few years, it had been a fairly common phenomenon. Pedro, T#m and Steve did it on five occasions down the stretch in the renaissance campaign of 2005 (Trachsel was out until August). In 2004, the wizened trio in residence was Gl@v!ne, Trachsel and future Mets Hall of Famer Al Leiter. They pitched in succession 21 times in 2004. All that winning in their past…and 71 wins in all for the 2004 Mets. Sometimes experience isn’t everything. Or were you not watching in 2003? That was the year when not only did you have Leiter-Trachsel-Gl@v!ne in succession eight times after Steve posted No. 100 on August 7, but you had the only instance in Metropolitan annals of four consecutive 100+ game-winners going consecutively. From April 20 through April 24, Art Howe called on T#m Gl@v!ne, David Cone (in his brief Recidivist Met stint), Al Leiter and Pedro Astacio (before his shoulder gave out). Trachsel was a few months from notching his 100th win. The Mets were lousy with pitchers who’d been winning practically forever. Also, the Mets were lousy, finishing 66-95, but you can’t say their starting pitchers didn’t know how to win.

Funny how that works. Before 2003, the previous season featuring three 100+ game-winners working in succession was 1993. That was the year the Mets lost 103 games, despite ten times throwing at opponents Dwight Gooden, Frank Tanana and Bret Saberhagen. No matter what order Jeff Torborg and Dallas Green threw them, the fates seemed to throw it all back in the Mets’ faces. Still, pretty good backs of baseball cards with which to console ourselves.

The first and only other year when the Mets had a trio so specifically distinguished was otherwise middling 1976. Eleven times, Joe Frazier was able to deploy Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Mickey Lolich in one order or another, but definitely consecutively. The first of those threesomes unfolded between April 21 and 24, the last of them September 8 to 11. Koosman broke the 20-win barrier in ’76, Seaver pitched well enough to go there had the offense supported him (it didn’t, so he didn’t), and Lolich, whose sole New York legacy is the muttering about trading Rusty Staub his name tends to inspire, had one of those classic “pitched better than his record indicated” years. Lolich won eight games in thirty starts as a 1976 Met. We used to get pretty hung up on pitcher wins. Now we point to peripherals for a truer assessment of performance. But wins, if a pitcher can get them, are fun. Carrasco winning on Thursday night in Chicago was fun. Scherzer and Verlander helping the Mets do the same in Denver will be fun, too.

May the real Mets of 2023 be real fun. We could use it more than once every three games.

National League Town offers a view from late-spring turnarounds past, a look at a game from inside the Citi Field press box, and enough staring at a tall stack of pancakes to fill your day off. Give the pod a listen.

5 comments to Succession

  • Seth

    When Nido returns, there won’t be a dry eye in the house. But wait! Do you think the Mets, with a 10-1 lead, were really unable to hit any of those 46 mph curve balls in the 9th inning last night?

  • Michael in CT

    If Pete can hit 60 homers, as he is on a pace to do, it will be the first time a National League hitter has reached 60 legitimately. As far as I am concerned, Bonds, McGuire and Sosa can take a back seat to Pete in that eventuality. And if he can hit 63, then he is the legit single-season MLB leader. He hit 53 to beat Judge’s rookie mark of 52, so maybe he can exceed 62 by one.

  • Joe D

    No dry eyes for me either, just tears of laughter thanks to Seth’s Nido joke.

  • eric1973

    Joe D beat me to it, in recognizing the sheer brilliance of Seth’s Nido remark.

    This, on top of Greg’s every word, makes this thing worth it every single time.