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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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Big Wheels Keep on Spinning

One-third of a season. Fifty-four games played. Twenty-seven wins. Twenty-seven losses. Each quantity seems well-earned. They’ve been as good as they’ve looked when they’ve won and as bad as they’ve looked when they’ve lost. They’re having two separate seasons in one. The Mets are the epitome of mediocrity.

Befitting the finale of a series played a mile high in the air, the Mets reached new heights in their signature category Sunday. Ten runs scored! Eleven runs allowed! That offense looked sumptuous. That pitching and defense was repulsive, except it forgot to repel the Rockies. After plastering Austin Gomber for six runs in the top of the fourth inning, the Mets held a formidable 6-2 lead, emblematic of what kind of team they are when they’re winning. Tommy Pham, Eduardo Escobar and especially Czar of the Three-Run Homer Francisco Alvarez all delivered like DoorDash. They overcame an early deficit and asserted Met inevitability. Never mind the Coors Field Game™ the night before. It’s only a Coors Field Game™ when Colorado wins. The Mets were making this a Mets game. Two out of three. Break-even trip. Happy flight. Go home and maintain momentum versus the defending league champion Phillies.

Except this is a mediocre team, and its mediocre starting pitcher Tylor Megill, out of whom you get some pretty good games and some pretty bad games, veered toward the latter, loading the bases and courting doom in the bottom of the fourth. Doom arrived by way of a sinking Ryan McMahon line drive that eluded Starling Marte in center field. Marte was getting his first Met start to the left of right. He’s an accomplished center fielder but also a little out of practice when it comes to something other than the corners. As the liner was sinking, all I could think was, “Nimmo would get to this.” Usual center fielder Brandon was the DH Sunday. Everybody can’t play everywhere they’re most suited daily, I guess. McMahon’s ball falls in, all three baserunners score, and though the Mets are still leading, the game is getting ready to get away. It’s 6-6 once the fourth and Megill’s start are over. It’s 11-6 after Stephen Nogosek has made the least of whatever PitchCom signals Alvarez has sent him in the fifth. The Mets either valiantly fought back to make an 11-10 game of it or were just Coors Fielding the rest of their Sunday away. It was a Coors Field™ Game, after all. The Rockies won, so we can safely say that.

The Mets lost two out of three to a team not considered a contender right after losing two out of three to another team not considered a contender. Their record has settled in at 27-27. After 34 games, they were 17-17. Twenty games later, they’ve won enough and lost enough to make the most of their two simultaneous seasons, being a helluva good team while winning those 27 and hellishly the opposite while losing those 27. Throughout the bumpier segments of what is technically just one season, I’ve heard Memorial Day invoked repeatedly as a potential inflection point. Don’t worry that they’ve just lost and keep losing. Where they are on Memorial Day will give us a much truer idea of how good they really are. When the Mets are off to a flying start, nobody says wait until Memorial Day for their inevitable descent. This year’s calendar-circling struck me as a time-buying exercise to quell the doubts of both the chronically impatient and uncomfortably observant.

Hey, I’m all for time-buying. Who when not having progressed as desired hasn’t wanted more time to prove themselves? Just give me another week or two… Well, it’s Memorial Day and all we know is the Mets have won 27 and lost 27, so feel free to decide that the real inflection point is the Fourth of July or the All-Star Break or September 1. There’s an enormous jumble of teams within reach of the six-seed in the National League Wild Card race/slog. Nobody — not the Cubs, not the Rockies, not the Mets — is out of it. The Mets are a half-game from it. If they have a good week, they clutch it. If they have a bad week, they’re probably still not that far from it. Remember: it’s only Memorial Day.

Thus, if you want to be all realpolitik about 2023 and dismiss the bulk of 162 games as packing peanuts for the handful that will effectively determine postseason eligibility, go ahead. Maybe that’s how it will shake out. Maybe a crummy 2-4 road trip won’t add up to much by October 1. The Mets are playing at an 81-81 pace. A couple of very good weeks down the line can propel a team like this to 87-75, the stuff of also-rans in more merit-driven times, enough to get a random OK team on a hot streak like the Phillies into the playoffs in the current system in 2022. Our team was tearing it up after 54 games last year. We were 35-19. It was awesome. It continued being awesome when we continued the process of winning 101 games, even if that total wasn’t quite enough to clinch the division title. But what’s a division title when the team ultimately capturing the NL flag is a division rival that finished fourteen games behind your awesome record?

When the Phillies won the pennant in 2022, it didn’t feel flukish. It just felt like this — the sixth-best record serving as viable passage past teams with five better records and into the World Series — is the way it can fairly easily be now. If it is, that can be us. It’s not guaranteed we will do that, but it’s Memorial Day and we are 27-27. The season to date still hasn’t told us enough about these Mets other than 108 games remain and they seem capable of winning much more than they have…and seem equally capable of slogging along as they have.

It’s Memorial Day and the Mets aren’t playing today. That should feel like more of shame than it does, baseball having ancestral claim to national holidays in spring and summer — with doubleheaders, even. Honestly, I’m not sorry these Mets aren’t playing today. They play plenty. I seek them out every day they play, yet I don’t need to see them do what they what they’ve been doing this season every single day of my life, even if spring is presently becoming summer and Mets baseball has always been the essential element of both of those seasons for me. I don’t usually feel like I could use a holiday from the Mets. Today might be that day.

6 comments to Big Wheels Keep on Spinning

  • Greg Mitchell

    You are a bit too kind of Megill. He is an AAA pitcher. His career ERA does not lie. Yes, he pitches well occasionally, but so does nearly everyone. Lucchesi can’t be worse. Butto has imploded at Syracuse and Bundy has never gotten untracked.

    More on Eppler is not getting any bullpen arms despite injuries and entire offseason–when even we knew team needed extra help because 1) two geriatic starters 2) Japanese pitcher used to light workload (who can seemingly only go 5 innings and only once a week). Nearly half the pen should be in Syracuse. Just not a major league bullpen beyond top four and of those Otto and Smith have both disappointed. Team is going nowhere without vastly improved pen and starters. Plus Buck’s nutsy lineups and bullpen use.

  • Seth

    I like to think there’s some value in winning those 101 games, or a division title. Then you bring up last year’s Phillies, and I realize the truth. The saddest thing is to see the Mets’ perennial strength, the pitching, fall into such disarray. It’s early to say this, but it will be an interesting off-season.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Of all the adjectives that could be used to describe that 6 to 2 lead,”formidable” should probably be at or near the bottom the list.

  • Joe D

    Another action-packed agonizing episode of Calvinball!

  • Stanley Bielen

    I knew that our season was doomed in March, the moment I realized that it was Edwin Diaz at the bottom of the WBC scrum. Our bullpen is mediocre and our starting pitching is old and maybe not even mediocre.

  • open the gates

    No, I think Greg pretty much nailed it. Some not bad starts plus some not good starts equals “mediocre pitcher.” I would point out, however, that this particular mediocre pitcher is only in his second full year in the majors, and his first was derailed by injuries. I would also point out that some of his better starts include a sparkler of an Opening Day performance, the first five innings of a no-hitter, and the best first four starts of a Met career for any rookie not named Dwight Gooden. Not too shabby. True, he may turn out to be another teaser like Eric Hillman or Bill Pulsipher. On the other hand, he may just need to work a few things out; and if he gets traded now and blossoms on another team, some of the same folks who are down on him now will be the first to blast the front office for giving up on him too early. In short, Megill clearly needs more time in AAA to work stuff out, but I wouldn’t count him out yet.