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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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Halfway to Probably Nowhere

Three series remain in advance of the All-Star break, a break that can’t come soon enough — or last long enough. I picture various Mets repairing to their country estates or wherever they live, clearing their heads at their pools or in front of their sizable video game consoles and then, properly relaxed, forgetting that they’re eventually due back at a ballpark near us. “We did plan to bring you Mets baseball tonight,” Gary Cohen will explain in the cold open from a vacant Citi Field on the appointed Friday night, “but it seems the players have opted to continue their vacations.”

Would any among us truly object?

In the Mets’ 81st game, marking the mathematical midpoint of their lost season, the 2023 Mets played one of their signature games. More like a scrawl. They executed certain elements of their craft adequately, they raised hope modestly, they dropped a couple of balls, they offered not quite enough resistance when challenged, they let a couple of chances wither, and they fell short by one run. These are not limited-edition outcomes handed to merely the first 15,000. Everybody gets to see the Mets do something like this most every night.

The 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Brewers left the Mets’ record at 36-45, an easily multipliable mark if you’re still interested in their 162-game pace. Take 36-45, “times” it by two, as too many teachers said in elementary school (“times is not a verb,” I’d mutter in my head), and you’ve got the 72-90 Mets. For those who’ve already made the connection anecdotally, 72-90 was the final record of the 1992 Mets, known far and wide, thanks to the diligent work of Bob Klapisch and John Harper, as The Worst Team Money Could Buy. Except at the midpoint of 1992, the lavishly budgeted Mets were two games better than the 2023 Mets and within conceivable range of first place (the only playoff spot available in those two-division days).

If you want a numerical match for the 36-45 Mets of 2023, you can go back almost as far, to a season nobody wrote tell-all book about, because there wasn’t enough to tell. The 1994 Mets were 36-45 after 81 games, which wasn’t that season’s midpoint, because that season soon did what we wish this season would do: it went away. The owners and players reached an impasse, a strike was called, and the 1994 Mets lasted only 113 games. It was only two years removed from TWTMCB, but a Mets fan wasn’t actually aching for the 1994 Mets to take their leave. They were already an improvement over the Worst Team sequel — the 1993 Mets were 25-56 after 81 games — and they would play quite competently in what little second half there was, going 19-13 before bats and balls were stored for ’94.

Lousy first-half Mets teams have been known to morph into satisfying squads in select second halves. As recently as 2019, we gave up on the 37-44 Mets only to be charmed by their 49-32 turnaround and spirited samba along the periphery of Wild Card contention. Met history is dotted by, if not jammed with, such dramatic changes of direction for the better. A few abysmal half-years gave way to energizing stretch-run drives or at least a sense that the entire schedule wasn’t for naught. Another recent-past example comes from 2018, a season that saw the Mets with both a worse first-half record than 2023 (33-48) and a worse June than the current bunch’s 7-18 (5-21). We unanimously gave up on those Mets in advance of the second half, and we were not wrong in terms of the big seasonal picture, but somewhere along the way the 2018 Mets stopped performing as if weighed down by lead weights. In the second half, they went 44-37. Catch them in the right light, and you’d mistake them for a legitimate ballclub.

If you still dare to bottom-line 2023 through the prism of the Mets actually going somewhere rather than away, you know there’s only one acceptable answer in the historical precedent files. The 1973 Mets were 35-46 at their halfway juncture, separated from first place by five teams and twelve games. The 2023 Mets trail what passes for first place in their lives — the third bonus playoff position in the National League — by three fewer games, though they have just about everybody and their brother ahead of them. It is often noted that the 1973 Mets won their division with a tepid overall record, a reflection of the flaws of the NL East that year, but it is just as worth noting that in their second half (only 80 games due to a rainout that didn’t require a makeup), they went 47-33. Do the math and realize that’s a team that didn’t just put on a You Gotta Believable stretch drive. The 1973 Mets were playing at a 94-win clip for a full half-season.

Given that when we invoke the 1973 Mets, it is a highly singular invocation, with nobody asking, wait, which astounding comeback from last place to a pennant are we talking about again?, we know we’re in the land of long odds. All the 2023 Mets have going for them vis-à-vis a potential 50th-anniversary celebration for the ages is reputation. The 1973 Mets had too many good players to continue on as bad as they’d been for a half. Several of them were injured, a few had not yet found their groove, and leadership didn’t seem all it had been cracked up to be. Time healed the hurt, progression rather than regression toward the mean lifted the ailing averages (batting and earned run), and somebody instilled the notion that an incomplete schedule indicated room for improvement.

The 2023 Mets have too many good players to continue on as bad as they’ve been for a half. That’s the most generous/valid comparison to the 1973 Mets I can gin up to keep my chin up. I haven’t believed this edition has been outright bad. To me, it appears they’ve mostly fallen short of good. It’s a nuanced difference, but it gives me, if not a meaningful dose of it ain’t over…, then some sense that it won’t get any worse and might get marginally better, which, if they are going to return to the ballpark after the All-Star break, is the best to reasonably hope for if not excitedly expect. Not much of a rallying cry, I know, but the Mets will probably not go home and leave us alone, and it’s not our nature to wish they would.

On a more cheerful note, National League Town this week is devoted to remembering Mets who were good enough to be All-Stars as Mets yet somehow weren’t chosen, so we decided to retroactively make them All-Stars. If you’ve been a Mets fan for more than a minute, this is the podcast for you.

19 comments to Halfway to Probably Nowhere

  • Adam

    1. I agree that this year’s team has, overall, more failed to be good than they have been bad.
    2. There are a couple of players for whom an extended all-star break vacation might be a good idea (for them, I mean).
    3. Nice to know there is someone else who has always bristled at the use of “times” as a verb.

  • Seth

    Maybe they just can’t do what they used to do anymore. Look, I used to bound up staircases 2 steps at a time, but I just can’t do that anymore. This team is only as good as their current record shows. Thus I have little hope for half 2.

    Ya gotta bereave…

    • mikeL

      in ’73 there were seaver and koosman in their primes, matlack a budding star.
      the current staff bears no resemblance.
      nor is this a team comprised of many who had battled together and won it all just 5 years earlier.
      yes, the strike in ’94 (and the snuffing of montreal’s last chance to win the division)…for the past many weeks i’ve imagined the mets forfeiting the rest of the season as a service to the team’s loyal and damaged fanbase.
      i could get behind that.

  • eric1973

    They might as well not show up on Friday, as they are on APPLE+, so even less reason to care.

    And as for pinch hitting Baty with Mendick, analytics probably says the odds are a million to one against Baty hitting another one out.

    Still, a horrific decision, though as Buck stated at the end of his presser a few days ago:
    “You do what they tell you to do.”

    BTW, anyone see those horrific (sorry, that word fits again) uniforms for the All-Star Game? Just another terrific reason not to watch.

    • Seth

      It appears the game is on SNY tonight, so your presence will be required.

      What’s with the ASG uniforms? So the tradition of wearing your team uniform has been scrapped? What’s next, bright yellow baseballs?

  • Joey G

    This year is more reminiscent of 1974 (71-91) than 1973, an extremely frustrating and disappointing campaign coming on the heels of a very successful season. Tug McGraw was so bad that Yogi actually tried him (unsuccessfully) as a starter to get him out of his funk, and Seaver suffered from sciatica. Nevertheless, by force of habit and as two of the aforementioned individuals might say, “It Aint Over Til It’s Over,” and “Ya Gotta Believe.”

  • Guy K

    This franchise has established an undeniable pathology of horrible Junes.

    The Mets have had ONE winning month of June since 2013. That was last year, and, at 13-12, even that was the team’s worst month of the season (except, obviously, October).

    In both of their other post-season years, the Mets went 12-15 in 2015 and in 2016.

    With one game left this month (the second-worst June in the last decade), the Mets’ overall record in June from 2013-2023 is 110-160 (.407).

  • John Lyons

    Good post, Greg.

    My gosh, this is such a strange year.
    I’m a long time Mets fan dating back to the 60s, so I have a decent frame of reference.

    In the Spring, I honestly have to say that I felt a little awkward about the size of the payroll and the star-stacking. It felt foreign, and a tad Yankee-ish. But I was looking forward to the season and was happily committed to adjusting to post-Wilpon Mets life. I had a ball watching the WBC until the Diaz injury, and that’s when things started downhill emotionally for me.

    This team never reached out and grabbed my heart this season. The team feels different from last year, Buck feels different from last year, and the luck or magic factor feels different from last year, and the result for me is a blase feeling that has permeated the whole season thus far.

    I don’t need a winner to be a happy fan. But what I do need is a team that has a character that’s worth rooting for. Play with smarts, grittiness, resilience, and hustle and you have me hooked. That’s what last year’s team had, and it was really fun to watch and root for day in and day out. That’s what made the failures at season’s end such a total bummer.

    This season, I’m still listening to every game, but with an odd lack of feeling or enthusiasm. I’m usually very up for the Subway Series games, but this year it was just blah for me. I feel like this year they’re all trying, players, Buck, & the FO, but there’s something big missing. I wish I knew what that was. Of course, with sports teams and rock bands, the magic is there or it’s not. Riffing on a music analogy, it feels like Scherzer, Verlander, and Marte can’t write hits any more, and I’m afraid the same could be happening to Lindor amd McNeil, and Magill and Peterson are feeling like one hit wonders.

    Weirdly, I feel like the sky-high payroll, expectations and Star power have sucked a lot of the joy out of the season, as seems to happen so often for Yankees fans. I hope that’s not where we’re headed.

    Anyway, just like Keith, I never liked that slogan “the magic is back.” But I sure would love to say that about this team at some point over the next half season, though that doesn’t feel like it’s coming. But they’ve been “Amazin'” in the past, so who knows?LGM!

  • Bob

    Last night I watched the minute that sums up our Mets so far this season as I watched Scherzer & Alverez crashing into each other as the foul pop up dropped.
    AH-I says to myself-we have +$300 humdred million dollar Little League team with shitty coches……
    Hopefully, the 2nd half will not be as 1992/3-ish.
    Let’s Go Mets!

  • ljcmets

    Sigh…Rinse and repeat. While details of some of last year’s thrillers are indelibly imprinted on my mind, other than the flash of excitement during the Baby Mets week, all of these games are blurring together for me -and not in a good way.

    Was I the only one shocked that last night’s game was actually played? When the announcers are complaining of scratchy throats, irritated eyes, and are openly short of breath at some junctures, how much more will this impact the players, who are Physically exerting themselves (albeit, they are mostly in fantastic shape)? The fans? Ushers, concessionaires, ticket takers, ball- and bat- boys and girls, etc.? A Major League baseball club/game is an entire ecosystem onto itself, and it’s more than just the score.

    Yesterday NYS was passing out free N-95 masks as people left the subway stations. The Governor has said that the air is some degree of unhealthy across the entirety of the state, and has advised that people only be outdoors for short periods of time, yet they were playing baseball. At the very least, fans should be allowed to exchange their tickets for another game, and the Mets should have had a prominent posting on the scoreboard warning those fans who have chronic or acute lung conditions/ difficulty breathing that the air quality was poor.

    But what was really required was postponing the game (and possibly tonight’s too) and making it up down the line if it turns out to matter at all. I guess that doesn’t happen with the Manfred-man in charge, not if there’s money to be made.

    SNY showed a photo of the Manhattan skyline bathed in that weird orange fog -not a beautiful sunset, but smoke/ash/fire. A few weeks ago under similar conditions both the Yankees and Pirates called off at least one of their respective games. Now the Mets are home in New York, and the game was played and tonight’s probably will go on as well. I’d like to know who was involved in making the decision about last night. Was the MLPA consulted, the umpires union, the players, both teams? I will be most disappointed if the Mets organization signed off on this without any protest. Maybe the team is not everything we hope them to be, but they can still Do the Right Thing off the field.

  • eric1973

    Sorry Seth and all, meant to indicate the Friday after the All-Star Break. Now MILLIONS (more) won’t tune in!

    And since I’m here, the ASG uniforms STILL SUCK, and I really can’t believe they are doing this again. Either the people who ran the Focus Groups suck, or the people who participated, or BOTH.

    BTW, who is our All-Star this year, Joel Youngblood?

  • eric1973

    Alan Arkin died today, one of my favorite actors (Freebie and the Bean, The In-Laws, The Fourth Wise Man (starring Martin Sheen—great movie)).

    Only reason I bring this up is to say he was a total lookalike for:
    Alex Trevino!
    No, not the cool Met picture circa 1979 with the moustache.
    Google “Alex Trevino Old” and you’ll see. Hard to believe it is the same guy.

  • Rich p

    Tough team to watch and follow.. old habit viewing is all I can do. It’s sad coming off last seasons 101 wins..

  • Blair M. Schirmer

    And tonight it’s the same again, only with a different opponent.

    I’m only surprised anyone is seriously surprised. Last year an old team significantly overperformed. This year an even older team whose front office forgot that middle relief and DH’ing was a thing, and whose preparation of its minor leaguers to make the successful transition to the majors is sadly lacking, is underperforming.

    It’s especially galling that the FO abandoned improving the bullpen even w/ Correa money falling back into its lap and when Chafin and Hand were still available, cheap—not that that would have solved the problems of the limp lineup or the weak starting pitching, but improving the pen would have them in much better shape to aim for the last wild card slot.

    As for the FO giving up on even that, when instead of trying to pry Hand loose from Colorado for Escobar at the minimum and probably the Mets #29 prospect, they picked up an arm that might eat 20 innings in 2026. Baffling, but as long as Cohen’s playing GM, expect baffling plus missteps plus ongoing confusion.

    It’s only Marte (who had significant offseason surgeries) and McNeil who are underperforming on offense, really. Lindor, Canha, Nimmo, and Alonso are well within their median projections at this point. Pham is a gift, given his previous three years. Alvarez’s rookie year is about as good as anyone predicted, and his defense is significantly better than I recall anyone saying was likely. As for Peterson, Megill, and Lucchesi, who could reasonably have been expected to take 60 starts in 2023, no one who actually looked at their performance and peripherals could have seriously thought the team would do well with that group on the mound, which is where they were likely to be for as much as 40% of Mets starts.

    The 2023 Mets, in short, are producing very much as designed—they were just not very well designed.

  • Cobra Joe

    Somewhere, possibly on one of the beautiful beaches of Southampton, former New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon is enjoying his favorite libation and experiencing a great sense of schadenfreude as he watches his family’s former toy/major league franchise crash and burn even before we’ve reached the Fourth of July.