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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 Hated Get Captured by the Hateful

“The moon belongs to everyone,” a wise man once informed a hallucinating man, though the subject could have been the playoffs, and that would have been wise, too. They’re here for all of us every October that isn’t October 1994, even if the best things in life include the Mets playing in them, and that’s not going on this October.

Rare treats being what they are, the Mets’ playoff involvement doesn’t go on most Octobers, so a Mets fan oughta be practiced at this type of adjustment. A Mets fan watches two non-Mets teams and picks a side, sometimes consciously, sometimes just pulled in one direction or another by the moment. You didn’t have to be a Mets fan to enjoy the National League Division Series elimination of the Braves. That belonged to everyone. For anyone reflexively pointing out that at least the Braves made the playoffs, nah. It’s too late for those who advocate on behalf of an ousted playoff team to take out their frustrations on the snickering peanut gallery far removed from the action. You’re on the big stage, you stumbled, we get to guffaw. The best things in life are free.

Enjoying Atlanta’s exit from the postseason necessarily meant being in favor of Philadelphia’s advancement therein, which is akin to a person beset by nut allergies digging into a tin marked Planters. Except it’s October, and we can be inoculated against the usual impact of our chronic allergens if we wish. We just have to forget how much we can’t stand one half of a postseason series’s participants, either because we are smitten by a fleeting storyline or we really can’t stand the other half of that postseason series’s participants. For Phillies-Braves, we had a practice round. We had Phillies-Marlins. The Phillies — who we can’t stand for getting in our face — eliminated the Marlins — who we can’t stand more for getting under our skin — in less time than it took for the Marlins to have been declared losers of a suspended game at Citi Field the week before. That’ll buy a hated foe a cup of goodwill that comes with free refills.

Once we got to the Phillies and Braves, neither were the Mets’ hated foes. They were each other’s problems, and we were so there for it. When Philly pulled out in front, I know I was there for it. The Braves lost only 58 times in the regular season. It wasn’t enough. Them losing in ratcheted-up circumstances felt too good to not want to see more. Ahead in the series and with universally acclaimed ace Zack Wheeler on the mound (Zack Wheeler…where have I heard that name before?), I was frothing for the Phillies putting their foot on the neck of the Braves. The Phillies? Really? Honestly, they had me at “…foot on the neck of the Braves”. I wasn’t going to ask too many questions regarding the color scheme of the pants leg above the foot.

Then Travis d’Arnaud hit a home run (Travis d’Arnaud…where have I heard that name before?) and the Braves eventually pulled ahead in the second game, sealing it when Bryce Harper, who has been known to use the postseason to remind everybody of his all-timer status, got caught off first base in a somewhat understandable fashion, as an 8-5-3 double play had never before been turned in a postseason, let alone to end a postseason game.

Then the Phillies clobbered the Braves in Game Three, as Bryce Harper returned to using the postseason to remind everybody of his all-timer status, though by that measure, every Phillie was an all-timer, as they were all clobbering the Braves. The chef’s kiss aspect, of course, was Harper’s pair of glares at the Braves’ shortstop, Orlando Arcia, who thought it was a hoot that Harper had been caught off first base to end Game Two and let it be known volubly and de facto publicly, then acted all hurt about his precise sentiments getting out. Atta boy, indeed.

By Game Four, as the TBS cameras made me wish I had the maroon and powder blue concession at Citizens Bank Park, I’d forgotten that I normally hate the Phillies; forgotten that they’d employed Chase Utley longer than and before the Dodgers ever did; forgotten that I can’t look at Citizens Bank Park in sunshine and not see Brett Myers striking out Wily Mo Peña to end the 2007 regular season, which clinched eternal darkness in my soul where the 2007 Mets were concerned; forgotten that I chronically cackled harder than Orlando Arcia ever did at whatever missteps or misstatements Bryce Harper made in a Washington Nationals uniform in 2015. Gotta say, in the nighttime moment, I was all in on the Phillies.

Because I was all in on the Braves being all out. How could I not be? They’re just so…Braves. Or they were, as they are no longer involved in the present tense of the postseason, having lost their NLDS in four games, or one more that it took for the similarly successful regular-season Los Angeles Dodgers to take their leave. I don’t see the Dodgers enough in the regular season to embellish my ongoing animus in their direction beyond what still exists for Chase Utley’s assault on Ruben Tejada, but the playoffs belong to everyone. Everyone can enjoy the Dodgers being bounced in October.

After two years of giving baseball’s best regular-season teams time to freshen up before re-entering the fray while their statistical lessers stay engaged by playing games that count, questions have arisen if this is the best way to conduct a postseason. Whither the 104-win Braves? The 100-win Dodgers? The 101-win Orioles, for that matter? They all withered, whisked aside by teams that won 90 games, 84 wins and 90 wins, respectively. How do we deal with this unintended disparity?

We deal with it. Or those teams can deal with it. My team won 75 games. This isn’t my problem. My team won 101 games last year and couldn’t take two out of three in their mandatory first-round series. So much for staying engaged and playing games that count. Maybe something is wrong with a setup that doesn’t more easily enable the teams with the best records over 162 games to carve a path to the World Series. Or maybe something is wrong with each of those teams on an individual basis in a given week. Or maybe a team that can be very good for a few days, like the Diamondbacks, isn’t tangibly lesser when compared to a very good team not playing its best, like the Dodgers.

Enjoy those 162-game seasons if you were blessed with a golden one. It’s six months of unrelenting ecstasy that needn’t be permanently tarnished because a few days in October didn’t go according to plan. That’s just my off-the-cuff advice to those who are now ensconced in the peanut gallery with the rest of us. What do I know? My team won 75 games.

My team for the rest of the way is…I dunno. The Phillies are still the Phillies. They managed to find the bandwidth to express their thoughts about the Mets during their clubhouse celebration that was ostensibly dedicated to defeating the Braves, so I see no point in getting even temporarily attached to them (though it was nice to be remembered, I guess). The Diamondbacks are plucky and admirable — and my gratitude for the 2001 World Series is forever — but for all the desert pastels they’ve donned, to me they’re beige. In the other league, the Rangers and Astros are loaded with ex-Met pitchers, active and otherwise, who’ve won Cy Youngs. Some years that’s a feature. This year it’s a bug, as in it bugs me.

But whatever. A little more high-stakes baseball for the peanut gallery to take in prior to the staring out the window and waiting for spring commences in earnest. The playoffs belong to everybody, us included.

National League Town watched the playoffs, too. Hear all about it.

17 comments to The Hated Get Captured by the Hateful

  • Bruce From Forest Hills

    Sorry to read about the passing of Joe Christopher in your previous post. I vaguely remember him from early childhood. Although, I could be thinking of Johnny Lewis or Danny Napoleon.

    Aside from the death notice, the Joe Christopher post was excellent. Please don’t wait for someone else to pass before we get another installment about the old Mets.

    All the best.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    It occurs to me that teams that finished with 99 or more wins went 1-11 in the postseason. Kershaw’s start was truly Gl@v!nesque.

  • Seth

    Yeah, no. The Phillies are dirt on the bottom of my shoe, and it made me into a temporary Braves fan. But still I could enjoy the Braves being eliminated, so you’re right – they playoffs really are for everybody!

  • Greg, this one was rich in overt and hidden gems, as you’ve gotten us accustomed to reading. We’re now part of the snickering (Snitkering?) peanut gallery who can delight at the departure of all the Braves, from the front office to the manager to the players, from the playoffs. I am having premonitions of the Braves doing so badly next year, due to their injured pitching (and possibly finally being caught at cheating/ stealing signals on offense?), that they fire their manager. For them, it would be a repeat of 2014 ten years later and would open the door for a Mets division championship or greater. But all the Snickering? It Really Satisfies.

    You’ve given us YED, which was extra special as an early arrival in September, so it follows that the Phillies have, now two years in a row, put the White Flight Stadium occupants (thanks, Jason) to BED, along with a fanbase of insufferable frontrunners. Braves Elimination Day should be an annual occurrence which all good Mets fans will celebrate. But for the NLCS this year, and possibly the WS? I’ll probably have a lot of company here in going for Arizona with all my rooting interest.

  • eric1973

    Truly hated the Braves ever since they blew the WS against the Yankees.
    Maybe the Yankees would have then won NOTHING after that.

    I worked near the Grand Hyatt back then, where all the visiting teams stayed, and as their pathetic bus pulled away, I gave that catcher Lopez the middle finger, and he was staring right at me.

    In the NL East, screw the Marlins, Braves, and Phillies, in that order.

  • For what it’s worth, I’ve been seeing on Facebook various Atlanta Braves fan pages lamenting the early playoff exit yet again. My personal opinion about the Braves is that they’re a team that is built for the regular season and not for the playoffs.

    It seems that they’re starting another streak where they win a division title/pennant and yet can’t quite complete the task at hand. The best bridesmaid ever.

    Oh and, I’m hoping for an Arizona WS title.

  • K. Lastima

    Spot on, the Phillies are the lesser of 2 evils

  • Eric

    When the Mets are out, especially if they’re out due to their own poor play, my post-season rooting interests become mostly ambivalent. Though I am looking for schadenfreude from Scherzer’s upcoming start.

    Last year, the lower seed won each series in the NL playoffs. But on the AL side, except for the 5th seed 90-win Mariners beating the 4th seed 92-win Blue Jays, the higher seed won each series. The AL 1st seed Astros beat the NL 6th seed Phillies in the World Series. Hard to draw a clear conclusion from that about the disadvantage of being a top regular-season team.

    This year, the same thing almost happened again on the NL side, except the 4th seed Phillies beat the 5th seed Marlins. Now the Phillies are up on the 6th seed Diamondbacks in the NLCS. On the AL side, the Astros’ half of the draw has had the higher seed win each series. But in the other half, the 5th seed Rangers have been the lower seed in their wildcard and division series wins. And now they’re up on the 2nd seed Astros.

    The AL isn’t there yet, but on the NL side, it sure looks like regular-season success doesn’t carry over into the post-season. It must be frustrating for Braves fans the last 2 years to experience such successful regular seasons, only for their team to lose resoundingly in the playoffs to the same division rival that the Braves outclassed in both regular seasons. The Astros are still holding up the AL pecking order, but if the Rangers keep sweeping higher seeds on their way to the World Series, that’ll be a big move in the NL’s direction.

    What’s also interesting to me is that teams that haven’t finished the regular season hot, like the Rangers now and the Phillies last year, have suddenly caught fire in the post-season. (That didn’t happen for the Mets, of course, who struggled just as much last October as they did in September.)

    Watching the Phillies now, I think about how much superior to the Phillies the Mets were last season before the Phillies won the pennant. And how much inferior the Mets became this season with much the same teams.

    With all the playoff chaos, I wonder what it’s like for a new team president like David Stearns trying to figure out which teams to study and emulate for the goal of winning a championship.

  • Seth

    So — looks like it’ll be Philly and Texas in the World Series. Sigh… should be… interesting?

  • Eric

    The World Series was originally the direct decider between the regular season champions of the two hitherto separate, American and National, leagues, so I think the regularly occurring playoff defeats by higher seeds are a problem in principle. The regular season is being devalued, which is also devaluing the post-season since the value of the playoff match-ups used to be based on the value that playoff teams earned with their regular season superiority. If the belief takes hold that the playoffs are a level, even random, new tournament where dominant regular season teams are no better than mediocre regular season teams, thus diminishing the regular season to no more than a protracted 12-out-of-30 qualifying round, that’s an essential departure from the original meaning of the World Series.

  • eric1973

    As I’ve said all along, and Eric has succinctly put it, you can basically throw any teams into a ‘crapshoot,” and any mediocre team can win.

    It is a very sad state of affairs when nobody cares who finishes first in the standings, and only cares who finishes 3rd, so they can make the final WC slots.

    This is probably the most boring post-season of all. You can put Oakland vs. KC in a 1-game playoff for a ‘special’ WC spot, and it would probably get the same ratings as what we are seeing today.

    As much as I cannot stand either team, the Braves should be playing the Dodgers. They each earned it by playing the best in the ‘regular season.’

    • Eric

      After 2 years of watching regular ‘upsets’ in the current playoff format, how sure are we that the 112-loss A’s or 106-loss Royals wouldn’t beat the 104-win Braves or 100-win Dodgers in a best-of-3 or best-of-5?

  • mikeski

    the Braves should be playing the Dodgers

    Deserve Should’s got nothing to do with it.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Back in the 1950’s, the NBA had 8 teams, and 6 of them made the playoffs. They played a whole season to eliminate 2 teams. The almighty dollar has ruled pro sports for a long long time.

  • eric1973

    Absolutely, guys.

    Oakland *could* beat the Dodgers, but they do not deserve the chance.

    And neither do these other better-than-average teams.

  • Seth

    Right, but isn’t the onus on teams like the Braves and Dodgers to play better in the post-season? Why would the lesser teams not deserve at least a chance to beat the better teams? There’s no excuse for the Braves, after the season they had, to lose to the Phillies in the NLDS. And if they did, then that’s on the Braves, not the league.