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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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The Longest Third

Every season includes mathematical milestones that take me by surprise when I look up and notice them. Has this much of the season already flown by? It usually starts at the 16-game mark. We’re barely two weeks removed from Opening Day and, bam, 10% of the season has disappeared. We do this only fifteen more times and it’s over. Twenty games. Twenty-five games. A quarter. The halfway point. It melts away so fast.

Somewhere on the journey, the WHOOSH! slows down. By nature or specific circumstances, you realize everything is running right on time. Wow, this is the same season we were playing at the end of March. The ballological clock ticks with accuracy you couldn’t have fathomed mere months before.

We have now reached the two-thirds mark of this season, 108 games played, 54 games to go. If the last three games in Kansas City are any indicator, the last third of the 2023 season is going to run looong. We should know better than to wish away baseball, because as soon as we do, we’ll be counting down to Pitchers & Catchers, but if ever a season deserved to be nudged toward the door…

Let’s not kid ourselves. We’ve had lots of those. Lots. But this one has made quite a spectacle of putting on its coat, grabbing whatever it still has from when it arrived, and announcing it really ought to get going.

The Mets are in the midst of something of a nostalgia tour. With their trip to Baltimore, they will have dropped by, in their last four road series, four of the five locales where they contested World Series as the visiting team, with “locales” standing in for ballparks since two of the parks (Memorial Stadium and the renovated version of Yankee Stadium) where we carried the National League flag into battle are no more in existence than the pennant-contending 2023 Mets. Interleague has diminished the cachet of the so-called World Series rematches that used to make trips to Fenway Park or the Oakland Coliseum a little more intriguing. Revisiting Kaufman Stadium for now the third time since 2015 elicited almost nothing wistful on my end. Salvador Perez is still lumbering to first base, but otherwise that crew is gone. Besides, there’s nothing about the current Royals or current Mets that suggests Fall Classic.

Though for three days, KC played like champs. Then again, look who they were playing.

The Thursday afternoon finale to one of the most outright depressing recent-vintage three-game sets I can recall wound up with a 9-2 defeat to a team that, judging solely by how they throttled the Mets, could have kept pace with the Willie Wilson- or Alcides Escobar-fueled successes of years past. Bobby Witt, Jr., is the real deal, and he was not alone out there. Of course we don’t care that much about the Royals now that we’re done being trampled by them. We didn’t care at all about them before we got there. That’s Interleague play for ya: three days of convincing yourself to get worked up over an opponent, and then erasing them from your brain until next year.

It’s hard enough to get worked up over who we’re still nominally rooting for. What did the Mets give us to support as the shock of the trade deadline overhaul wore off and the one-third of a season that threatens to redefine near-term misery kicked in? Carlos Carrasco pitched gamely for six innings, holding the Royals to three runs and maybe earning a feelgood seat for a quality start. Buck Showalter left him in to begin the seventh because any inning not given over to middle relief on this team is a small victory unto itself. Carrasco gave up two hits; was visited by Jeremy Hefner; and, imbued by the wisdom of the pitching coach, proceeded to have his very next delivery blasted over the right field wall by Drew Waters. That a ballpark embellished by a fountain display would have Waters make a splash seemed appropriate. That the Mets would be down by six en route to several more seemed inevitable.

It’s easy to pick on guys we’ve never heard of when they suddenly appear in our uniform. I did it after Wednesday’s game when presented the likes of Jonathan Araúz as my starting second baseman. Is it the fault of a professional baseball player who entered 2023 with nearly 200 big league plate appearances that I don’t know him from a hole in the head? I apparently saw him play on television in 2020; it’s on his permanent record that he competed against the Mets in two games inside an empty Fenway right after the pandemic mini-slate got underway. In the fourth inning Thursday, Araúz grabbed a sinking liner and turned into a heady double play. All right, now Jonathan isn’t just a strange name. He’s done something. He’s a Met.

Four innings later, Araúz undermined a 5-4 putout when he received a throw from Brett Baty in the neighborhood of second base. The baserunner he thought he’d forced was initially called out, but the Royals, using eyes, challenged and got it overturned (the umpire must have not been in the vicinity of the neighborhood). It wasn’t one of those plays they had to show from myriad angles to determine if the fielder’s foot was off the bag. The fielder’s foot might as well have been on the bus to Syracuse.

Yeah, he’s a Met.

At that point, the Royals were ahead, 8-0, which is to say it didn’t matter a whole hill of beans that Araúz made one of the more unforced errors a fielder can make — he took his foot off the bag to make the catch and never put it back on before relaying without results to first — but, man, when the season’s rapidly racing down the tubes, you don’t need to give it a shove and you don’t need to produce a play that serves to encapsulate how bad things are going.

Then again, you could forget about Araúz’s blunder pretty quickly, because once the Mets were down by eight, Buck was bringing in infielder-outfielder Danny Mendick to pitch. Danny Mendick was considered something of a get when we signed him in the offseason, a capable utilityman available after rehabbing from ACL surgery. The resource-laden Mets could stash an actual major leaguer at Triple-A, let him play his way back into shape and then come up to be a weapon off the bench for the postseason push sure to come.

Not sure to come: pitcher Danny Mendick. Also not sure to come: the Mets utterly unspooling while playing out the string with a full third of a season to go. For the record, Mendick allowed a runner he inherited from Josh Walker to score and gave up a couple of long fly balls, but otherwise wasn’t Royally strafed. Also for the record, Mendick didn’t perform any worse from the mound than Walker, who at least on Thursday didn’t balk any winning runs home before throwing a single pitch as he did on Tuesday.

Francisco Lindor prevented the Mets from being shut out by finally coming through with a runner on base in the ninth. His Estée Lauder home run couldn’t have been more cosmetic. The final might have wound up 9-2, but if ever a series-sweeping score deserved to go into the books at 9-0, it was this one. Spiritually, these Mets have forfeited.

7 comments to The Longest Third

  • eric1973

    Good to see Lindor up to his old tricks.
    Home Run while down 9-0.
    Pad those stats, buddy.
    Never seen anything like it.

    Still need to keep up, though, as the storylines affect what happens next year. The progress of the Baby Mets, Was Alonso just a 2 month terrible blip after getting hit on the hand and coming back too soon, which was obvious by looking at his swing followthrough, and the development of Peterson (or Magill?).

    Mendick pitched yesterday, and sadly, he is probably being considered for relief specialist for the rest of the season.
    What an embarrassment.

    Finally, how we finish could determine Buck’s fate.
    If the team can have an average to strong finish, MAYBE he will be brought back. Or perhaps the future has already been determined, with a hearty welcome to David Stearns and Craig Counsell.

  • Cobra Joe

    I wonder if even the late “Doris from Rego Park” and the late “John from Sandy Hook,” WFAN’s two greatest Mets callers of all-time, would be turning off New York Mets broadcasts on SNY and WCBS-880 AM during this truly woeful Mets 2023 season?

    No doubt, such current, frequent Mets callers as “Harvey from Dix Hills” and even the unfailingly optimistic, the glass-is-always-half-full, “Joe from Clark, NJ” will soon be opting to watch repeats of “The Closer” and “Little House on the Prairie” rather than the remaining games of this moribund Mets season.

  • Seth

    As someone else pointed out, this is completely on the players, including Pete, and Scherzlander. Had they performed differently and commensurate with their pay, we’d be in a different place today. Any Mets fan has a right to be angry, but what good will it do?

  • Lenny65

    I think it’s time to dismiss Buck, find the most disagreeable, player-unfriendly manager available for the interim, and tell the players “you did this”. Make them run laps, do push-ups, take away the clubhouse spread and the free sunflower seeds and make these chumps earn it until they sulk away in shame in October.

  • JoeNunz

    For the record, the “quarter pole” is a quarter mile (or in the Mets’ case, about 40 games) from the finish line.

    So after about a dozen more games of this nonsense, we will be at the quarter pole.