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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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Max Scherzer Returns

When Max Scherzer starts, which Max Scherzer will we get? The one who’s hypercompetitive, hyperintense and hyperfocused en route to a stifling mound performance? Or the one who’s all those things to less Met-positive discernible effect? Both, as Scherzer nears 40, exist in our world. We prefer the former. We have, for various reasons that the righthander does his best to explain, occasionally experienced the latter. On Thursday afternoon at Citi Field, it was the former who announced his presence with authority.

The latter Scherzer did make a brief appearance in the first inning, when, despite the competitiveness, the intensity and the focus, the Phillies posted two runs. Based on viewing Max as ace of Tigers, Nationals and Dodgers rotations from afar, along with our earliest exposure to him in our favorite uniform, we conditioned ourselves to believe two runs were two runs more than any team could possibly score off Scherzer on a given day. Then, based on how bumpy the trail has revealed itself since earliest October of 2022, we conditioned ourselves to prepare for the walls to come crumblin’ down at the first signs of trouble.

Former Max entered the scene, tightened the bolts, and shut the Phillies out after the first and clear through the seventh. When a Met starter pitches six or more innings in 2023, the Mets inevitably win. It’s a statistical fact until it’s not. It helps to score enough runs to shepherd the inevitability into reality. It helps to have Mark Canha in the lineup against the Phillies. Shooting the Phillies out of a Canha proves repeatedly effective for the Met offense. Canha homered twice on a wild Sunday at Citizens Bank Park last August, and the Mets won the damn thing. Canha homered on Wednesday night and the Mets won in calmer fashion. Canha homered on Thursday afternoon and the Mets won again. Starters going deep and Mark Canha going deep. As long as he wasn’t managing the Phillies, Earl Weaver might have approved.

Pitching for Philadelphia and taking the 4-2 loss was Old Friend™ Taijuan Walker, whose heart could be reliably found in the right place when he was a Met. Taijuan represented the Mets at the 2021 All-Star Game. My hunch is he will also represent the Mets in the unanswered portion of Sporcle quizzes and the like that ask a person to name every pitcher who has represented the Mets at an All-Star Game. “Oh right, him. I forgot.” It shouldn’t be forgotten that Taijuan did an overall nice job for two seasons, albeit not as nice a job once he made his one All-Star team as Jacob deGrom’s injury (or “needs to rest up”) replacement in ’21, the post-pandemic season, which was still kind of a pandemic season when it began. Taijuan was at his best as a Met when Citi Field and other ballparks were unlocking the turnstiles but capping attendance out of an abundance of caution. He wasn’t part of the 2020 Silent Generation. He pitched in front of people, not cardboard cutouts. Yet he excelled most in front of necessarily limited crowds, for whatever that was worth. I don’t think his comedown in the second half of 2021, when anybody who wanted could come to a Mets game, related to the number of fans in the stands. The whole second half of 2021 discouraged via the Mets’ execution. I don’t mean to make Walker the avatar for that year’s decline. It was a team effort, not unlike the upsurge of 2022. Tai helped make that happen as well.

I do remember one game in the second half of 2021 when Taijuan was removed at the first sign of trouble, and the reliever who succeeded him turned a potential win into an eventual loss, and the starting pitcher grumbled afterward that he should have been left in because he had trained himself his entire career to last seven innings. I cringed when I heard him say that because what happened to nine innings? Then I remembered it was 2021, not 1971. It’s 2023 now. Walker is a Phillie, and we’re thrilled every time a Met starter goes at least six innings because we now know that’s the key to success. That and Mark Canha.

The Mets are currently riding a three-game winning streak, all at the expense of Philadelphia, which makes it extra special since Philadelphia is a primary division rival, but it’s still just three. The three wins were pleasingly taut — 2-0, 4-1, 4-2; each featured starters whose endurance approached or matched contemporary stamina standards — 7 IP for Senga, 6 IP for Carrasco, 7 IP for Scherzer; and none took very long to complete — 2:20, 2:29, 2:32. In that spirit, I’m not taking very long to revel in this latest turn of fortunes before returning to my own private Missouri. Having grown giddy from rises in 2023 Met fortune and comparably grim from succeeding dips, I’ve chosen to live in a “show me” state and, thus, take these three wins in stride. They’re doing well. They are advised to continuing doing well. One Mets. One Max. The good kinds in both cases, please and thank you.

Empathy for the Mets when the Mets aren’t playing as their best selves can be a difficult commodity to produce, but they’re humans and we’re humans. The humans who host National League Town (that would be Jeff Hysen and me) wonder aloud about empathetic fandom on their (our) latest episode. Also on the bill: a beery field report from Denver and what it is we cherish in particular when we celebrate the members of the New York Mets Hall of Fame Class of 2023. Listen in here or on the podcast platform of your choice.

4 comments to Max Scherzer Returns

  • Matt T

    The Mets somehow have the 4th best record in the National League. Amazing what a difference an intact and competent rotation makes huh? LGM

  • mikeski

    I guess I wouldn’t be coming to this site if I wasn’t a Mets fan, but I like to think I would anyway, because of the writing.

    A Max Dugan Returns reference, and West Side Story is my favorite musical. Thanks Greg.

    P.S. I always had a little crush on Marsha Mason.

  • Seth

    I guess it also shows how quickly fortunes can change during a long season. Because they play almost every day, a team that seemed dead a week or two ago, now shows some signs of life and hope. But as Greg says: Missouri.

  • Erez Schatz

    I listened to the podcast and to be honest, I’m not buying it. I have very little empathy for someone who throws a ball for a living and currently can take a week or two off when their depression strikes and still be paid millions of dollars. If I have a depression, I can’t take 2 weeks off. I could probably pull this once, with an empathic doctor, but it will cost me money since sick leave is not 100% compensated and I would probably need to make up a fake illness to explain this, as bosses are not really empathic as we are asked to be towards our players. True, once they would be kicked (maybe physically) back to the field and told to suck it up. That was once. Now they are represented in a very strong union that doesn’t care about killing the game with refusing a salary cap and will strike baseball out of existence if a player is not allowed 2 weeks off because of depression. Maybe if I had such a union and was making a million dollars a year for throwing a ball 2 or 3 times a week for 6 months I’d be more empathic. As it is, I make hardly a tenth of it a year for working 5 days a week for 9 hours every day and no one will strike if I don’t get a week off because my aunt died.