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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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Every Which Way But Win

The starter can’t hold a four-run lead in the fourth inning.

Two relievers can’t maintain a tie in the sixth inning, and a third reliever is barred from the mound because of sticky hands in the seventh inning.

The center fielder can’t catch a ball lined essentially in front of his glove.

The five-hole hitter strikes out with two on and two out in the sixth, and three on and two out in the eighth, the latter directly after the cleanup hitter strikes out with three on and one out in the eighth.

The manager, whose team is down by one with two out in the ninth, resists the urge to use either of two power hitters to pinch-hit for a light-hitting backup middle infielder who has likely used up his quotient of base hits for the evening.

Can’t pitch.
Can’t catch.
Can’t make contact.
Can’t catch a break.
Can’t make their own breaks.

How’s that for a five-tool team?

Befitting a squad that finds multiple ways to lose, the Mets lost a one-run game to the Yankees at Citi Field on Tuesday night. Don’t be thrown off by the manufactured heat of the Subway Series or the reputation of the intracity rival. Everybody plays everybody, diminishing the impact of anybody playing anybody. Or as Abraham Simpson wrote so eloquently, “Dear Mr. President: There are too many states nowadays. Please eliminate three. I am not a crackpot.”

This loss from Tuesday could have happened against the Pirates or the Braves or the Blue Jays or the Cubs or the Rockies. We know that because in the past several weeks, losses like these have occurred to opponents like those, which is to say everybody who isn’t the Phillies. It doesn’t really matter who the Mets play. It doesn’t really matter what facet of the sport slinks into the spotlight as a result of the Mets not mastering it. Whatever it is a given baseball club has to do to win a given baseball game, doing it to winning effect is something New York’s National Leaguers cleverly avoid.

About the only thing the Mets are doing well these days is saying some version of, “My bad.” Max Scherzer, he whose sliders altogether ceased working in the fourth inning, told reporters, “You can put the camera right on me.” When the camera was put on Francisco Lindor, whose failure to put the ball in the play in the eighth with the bases loaded and less than two out signaled another opportunity was about to be lost, pledged, “I will be better.” Brandon Nimmo, who let a sinking liner baffle him until it fell under his grasp, admitted, “I just missed it.” The Mets are challenging for the league lead in accountability, if nothing else.

While Scherzer wasn’t getting nearly enough outs; Josh Walker (who put a runner on and wild-pitched him forward before Nimmo didn’t make his catch) and Jeff Brigham (who allowed Walker’s Nimmo-facilitated runner to score on a sac fly) weren’t shutting down a key scoring threat; Starling Marte was personally leaving seven runners on base; and Lindor wasn’t doing any better, there was the curious case of Drew Smith. Smith was curious as to why four umpires inspected his right hand and judged it too sticky to let him pitch the seventh, considering, he swore, it was no sticker than it was any other day when he’s been permitted to pitch. It was all sweat and rosin, he said. Scherzer said that, too, when the umps wouldn’t let him pitch in Los Angeles in April, but at least Max had actually pitched some in that game that day. Drew’s in the Tuesday night box score with zero batters faced. He’ll probably be suspended for ten games without the Mets because able to replace him because a) that’s the penalty, unless successfully appealed; and b) that’s the Mets in 2023.

The Mets’ manager in 2022, Buck Showalter, probably made in-game decisions that didn’t work numerous times, but they were easily overlooked because so much he did and his players did went right. In 2023, Showalter isn’t altogether fallible, even in losses. On Tuesday night, the same manager from 2022 made the right call bringing in Dominic Leone to bail out Scherzer, and he made the right call bringing in John Curtiss after Smith was turned around by the men in blue. The calls proved right, in any case, as neither of those down-the-depth chart relievers allowed any runs. Luis Guillorme starting at second can be said to have been the right call, too, in light of the Mets’ Luis singling in the tying run off the Yankees’ Luis (Severino) in the fifth. Our Luis is mostly up here for his defense. Actually, he’s up here because a roster spot opened after Pete Alonso’s bone was bruised. Guillorme hasn’t hit very much since the middle of last year, but his manager exhibited a little trust in an old hand, and Guillorme rewarded him by getting the Mets back even. You didn’t necessarily think getting back even would be on the Mets’ agenda once they jumped Severino for a 5-1 lead, but then along came Scherzer for the fourth, and 5-1 for the homestanders became 6-5 for the interlopers. Guillorme singling in Brett Baty from second made it 6-6. Nimmo not catching Anthony Volpe’s liner — not the easiest ball in the world, but far from Earth’s hardest — facilitated the Mets trailing again, 7-6.

Lindor and Marte’s back-to-back strikeouts versus Clay Holmes in the eighth, leaving the bases loaded as they did, tends to detract from one’s confidence in credentialed hitters. Still, if fatalism hadn’t overtaken your faith, you might have wanted somebody like lefty Daniel Vogelbach to take a crack at righty Michael King when Guillorme was due up as the Mets’ last hope in the ninth. Or, if you didn’t care about experience (or were worried about who was gonna play where in the hypothetical tenth inning of a game in which versatile Eduardo Escobar was burned as a pinch-runner for the unleaden if not unleaded Francisco Alvarez in the eighth), maybe you send up Mark Vientos and roll the dice that his bat has defrosted while he has sat. But Vientos hits about as much as he plays, and Vogelbach is emitting serious 1983 Dave Kingman vibes from the portion of the season when Keith Hernandez rendered his gloomy presence superfluous, except I don’t think we’ve lately traded for Keith Hernandez. When they put the camera right on Vogelbach, he’s in the dugout, and he’s in a warmup jacket that never has a reason to be removed. Daniel was last designated to hit in the middle of the Atlanta series, two series ago. One could ask what he’s doing on the Mets if he’s not asked to do the one thing he was brought to the Mets to do — go to town on righthanded pitching. Even if that town continues to be Doomsville (population Mets), it might be worth a trip to find out.

Or not. It could be I’m just groping for a fifth tool to tear into so my “five tools” construct will stand, however flimsily. I doubt I’m all that upset that neither of the V&V Boys batted for Guillorme. Still, I was pretty sure Guillorme didn’t have another big hit in him, and the moment did have that “do something!” urgency to it. Showalter didn’t do much to make the Mets’ own breaks in that spot, which doesn’t seem like the Buck for whose persona we (certainly I) swooned over last year. He also didn’t say much discernible when he was asked about it in the postgame presser. Perhaps his players and the scoreboard said all that needed to be said.

(Mike Puma has since reported Vogelbach is being granted something of a “mental break,” which might explain why he hasn’t been used at all for five consecutive games.)

Late in the SNY-produced Channel 11 telecast, a clip from The Matt Franco Game was shown. The clip, specifically, the one that explains why the game is universally recognized as The Matt Franco Game. It was from the Shea segment of the 1999 Subway Series, the Saturday game. The bases were loaded. Two were out. The Yankees led, 8-7. Franco was pinch-hitting for rookie Melvin Mora. Gary Cohen’s Hall of Fame play-by-play took it from there.

Now Rivera brings the hands together…runners take a lead at all three bases. One-two to Franco…LINE DRIVE base hit into right field! Henderson scores! Here comes Alfonzo…Here comes O’Neill’s throw to the plate…Alfonzo slides…he’s safe, the Mets win it! THE METS WIN IT! MATT FRANCO WITH A LINE DRIVE SINGLE TO RIGHT AND HE’S BEING MOBBED BY HIS TEAMMATES! Matt Franco, a two-run single off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Mets win it, nine to eight!

I don’t know how many weeks it required for me to get my full voice back after shouting and screaming and shrieking from almost the top of the Upper Deck at Shea Stadium when The Matt Franco Game went final. Beating the Yankees on July 10, 1999, especially by one run in the bottom of the ninth, was of paramount importance to this Mets fan as life stood that Saturday afternoon. To paraphrase Noah Syndergaard recently on wishing he could pitch he like used to, I would have given my hypothetical first-born to have beaten the Yankees that day.

Twenty-four years later, there was Guillorme, and there was King, and there was a one-run game in the balance, and Guillorme made the last out, my hypothetical offspring were in no danger of being bargained away. I wanted the Mets to win. I wanted the Yankees to lose. It wasn’t urgent urgent from where I sat, so who am I to knock Showalter for not desperately swapping out suboptimal options? Interleague overkill along with substantial personal mileage — fan passion that raged at 36 some nights merely simmers at 60 — can be pointed to for not life & deathing a 7-6 loss for the team I love most to the team I hate most. But mostly, it’s the team I love most not meriting very much voice-raising in 2023.

14 comments to Every Which Way But Win

  • Guy K

    Daniel Vogelbach has not played in a week because he is being given “a mental break.” So mental breaks mean no pinch-hitting, either?
    Why is someone the Mets have such little faith in taking up a roster spot while he’s undergoing his “mental break.”
    You know where’s a good place for mental breaks?
    Another good place for mental breaks?

    • A four-man bench may not be the place to give a player a five-game break.

    • Lenny65

      I read this earlier today, and I was just dumbfounded. They’re giving Vogelbach a “mental health” break in the middle of June? Not to be all overdramatic and hysterical about it, but hearing this news makes me seriously question the competency of those running this mess of a team. If Vogelbach can’t do the one thing he was acquired to do, he’s less than useless and needs to go. Right now, he is literally a waste of space.

      In hindsight, the mid-season deals they made last season were totally catastrophic. And they’re still reverberating today.

  • mikeski

    Some a**hole Yankee fan (pardon the redundancy) behind me was yelling VOH-GULL-BACK last night during the bottom of the 9th.

    Some other d**che Yankee fan (pardon the redundancy) was strutting and preening 2 rows in front of me. I leaned over to my wife and remarked that I’m not a bad person, really, but if that guy fell over the railing and crashed down at Field level, I’d laugh loudly and point.

  • Seth

    I feel like my mental is about to break, as well.

  • Rudin1113

    The organization would be laughable if it wasn’t so tear-inducing (and yes, let’s tear it up). Honestly, how is it that Billy Eppler still has a job? I lived through the Castillo drop, and yet I can’t remember a more depressing vibe surrounding one regular season game.

  • Joe D

    Well, at least Drew Smith accomplished something…. He found a loophole around Manfred’s 3-batter minimum.

    I’ve always hated that rule.

    • Guy K

      The umpiring crew spared Drew Smith the ignominy of hanging another slider and having it sail over Shea Bridge. I don’t see a problem here.

  • mikeL

    i saw a headline describing the game as heart-breaking.
    i’ll have to take writer’s word that this game broke mets fans hearts.

    50 years after i first became a fan of this team i struggle to care beyond occasionally monitoring this dumpster fire of a season. that could explain why my mets heart has gone so black.

    it’s like a cruel joke: the team now has all the money in the baseball world yet reproduces the worst of those dumpster-diving seasons of the steve philips era.

    aren’t there any minor league arms that could give up leads like the brothers 43M – but actually be a part of the team’s future?

    and with the 85M saved find a good everyday player or ten.

    so when will we see METS WE GOTTA PLAY BETTER tee shirt night?

  • Dave

    And as if losing an ineptitude-ridden game to *that* team, their fans at least sonically outnumbering us in our own building, wasn’t bad enough, tonight’s game is on ESP f’ing N. I might get caught up on a few more episodes of White House Plumbers, or practice the piano, or find a book to read or something.

  • Seth

    I get that maybe we want to take our anger out on Buck or Steve, but really? You have highly paid players out there that are simply not doing what they once were capable of doing, completely aside from what they’re paid. How is it Buck’s fault when his players have turned into quivering masses of inability?

  • Lenny65

    It’s been one of the most demoralizing seasons in memory. We had real, no-fooling expectations going into 2023, and here we are in June, with the Mets playing like it’s 1980 or something. There’s no one to blame, because they’re all to blame. Well, not everyone, but certainly most of them.

  • Joe D

    Uncanny analysis by Lenny65:

    After 67 games, our 2023 Economical All-Stars a.k.a. NY Mets are a spritely 31-36.

    At the same juncture, Joe Torre’s hapless 1980 edition stood at…