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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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Not This Good...Or Are They?

They’re probably not this good, are they? How could they be? Fifteen wins in nineteen games seems to give us all the answer we need, a stretch that’s unfurled since their last pairing of consecutive losses, not to mention the active streak of three victories during which the most recent ascension or explosion feels it can’t be topped, yet the next day it is. The odds say sooner or later the Mets who are making a science out of finding ways to win will accidentally lose a game, and from there a few balls will bounce in their opponents’ favor, and suddenly…

Welcome to the inversion. The above paragraph was written just over a month ago, except on Opposite Day, when every positive about the Mets now was a negative about the Mets then, meaning we used words like “bad” and “lose,” if you can remember back that far. There were a lot of Opposite Days for the 2024 Mets, who once relentlessly depressed us, which seems impossible, since we now know them only for relentlessly uplifting us. You know how the temperatures have been in New York lately. The Mets are playing at a crisp 180 degrees from where they were in May when we decided they were going to stay ice cold for the duration.

Instead, they’ve burned a path through June. From a nadir of 24-35, they have risen to 39-39. It’s a plateau that looked like Everest when they gathered at base camp to make this particular climb. Surely .500 wasn’t their goal. It was too high. Yet here they are, planting a flag for the moment atop Mount Break Even.

How did we get here? Why ask how? Team meetings, licensed characters, progression to the mean…take your pick. I choose to process what’s happening without questioning it too much. When the Mets were dreadful, that looked like what the Mets were. Now that the Mets are marvelous, I think I’ll just marvel at them.

Wednesday night, the only thing the Mets did wrong was get rained on. Shocking to realize they can’t overwhelm the weather as they do their opposition, but give them time. The 87-minute precipitation pause probably cost callup Ty Adcock his Met debut (he was warming in the pen when the tarp rolled out at Citi Field) and it made staying awake a challenge for some watching from home (I snoozed through the seventh), but the club’s momentum never dampened. Up 4-0 on the Yankees in the bottom of the fifth in what was already an official game, the Mets came back once the grass was sufficiently dry and ground their municipal rivals into the dirt. Eventually, it became an official ass-kicking, with a final of Mets 12 Judge 2.

Sean Manaea walked a few too many of the nettlesome neighbors, but that’s what double plays are for. Sean threw three pitches that each turned into a pair of outs. “Just the Two of Us,” indeed. With the lead up to 7-0 following the weather delay, Danny Young did what pitchers everywhere do: he gave up a home run to Aaron Judge with Juan Soto on base. As long as Judge couldn’t hit an eight-run homer — and not even he can do that — we were gonna be OK. We’d already had a long ball from Francisco Alvarez and were going to get one apiece from Tyrone Taylor and Harrison Bader, although I napped as the latter flew. There were all kinds of other runs and runs batted in, and there was Adrian Houser, once upon a time the internal bane of our existence, now closing out a three-inning save and a Subway Series sweep.

Could a person want more than a ten-run throttling of the so-called Bronx Bombers, described to us by the best booth in town? Well, I always want to add to the all-time Met roster, and though I was deprived of typing in the name “Ty Adcock,” I did get to expand the mothership of lists to include outfielder Ben Gamel, who checked in for defense in the ninth to become Met No. 1,240 overall. And will ya look at that: a “24” right in the middle of Gamel’s chronological ranking, apropos of Michael Mays, amid a group of dignitaries (including Cleon Jones) wearing Mets No. 24 jerseys, throwing out the first pitch Wednesday evening in memory of his father Willie. Isn’t it beautiful how the Mets’ institutional amnesia that the Greatest Ballplayer Ever played for them has lifted and stayed lifted?

Isn’t everything beautiful about the Mets as we speak? Is it baffling that such sentences are being composed? From the perspective of earlier in the season, absolutely. But the season went on and the Mets did, too, becoming something wholly different from what we were sure they were. Emotional cost certainty is in flux as a result. That’s the potential downside of any surge from nowhere to somewhere. I read something in April about fans of really good teams and fans of really bad teams being able to deal with losses better than fans of .500 teams, because if your team is really good, one loss is a veritable little fish within a great big pond of wins, while if your team is really bad, one loss is just one more loss that doesn’t surprise you in the least. The fan of the .500 team, however, sees any given loss as a referendum on the course of the season. Are we really this bad? Are we really this good? We don’t know. The finding out suddenly has stakes.

Which, we are beginning to be reminded, is why they play the games. The Mets’ arrival at .500 coincides with the recognition that there are definitely teams in this league and, for that matter, the other league who appear not quite as good as them, but very few who seem all that much better. The Yankees are the latest powerhouse we’ve faced that is obviously headed to the postseason, yet clearly isn’t impervious to injury or imperfection. All among the Braves, Phillies and Dodgers have struck me the same way. Incredible talent at the core, but if they’re dinged up enough, they have depth issues like anybody else. Of teams against whom the Mets have gone head-to-head to date, only the Brewers, who we played so long ago it was March, and the Guardians have come across (to me, anyway) as in a league of their own. Teams get hot, teams cool down. We’re about to welcome in the steaming Astros, who were twelve under .500 in this very season, ebbing lower than even us. They’re now where we are.

Can our .500 club, having passed a passel of NL wheel-spinners to become what would have to be objectively considered a playoff contender, actually continue to be, you know, this good? We are not impervious to injury or imperfection. We are still without our closer. We are also without two other bullpen mainstays in Sean Reid-Foley and Drew Smith, the latter having gone on the IL Wednesday, which explains why somebody like me is closely monitoring the movements of Ty Adcock. Ben Gamel is here because Starling Marte isn’t. Yet we’re not really missing anybody the way we’ve been playing as a whole. No Edwin Diaz amounted to no problem for two nights as we constructed leads so tall not even Hammerin’ Yank Aaron could completely cut them down to size. Everybody but Jeff McNeil is hitting consistently, and McNeil’s bat, as evidenced by the deep lineout that brought home a run in the New York-New York finale, is showing a bit of a pulse, too. Yet the collective sizzle will at some point fizzle. That’s not glass half-empty fatalism talking. It’s simply what happens in every season. The collective fizzle turned to sizzle. It was bound to happen, regardless that there was no sign it would.

Every season it’s like this, if not necessarily in a fashion as extreme as 0-5 followed by 12-3 followed by 12-27 followed by 15-4 to get to 39-39. Downs. Ups. Frustration. Elation. Not knowing exactly what comes next. Not knowing exactly how we’ll handle it. Not knowing if we’re really as bad or as good as we’re certain we are or if we’re just prone to taking a wildly divergent route to middling. Again, that’s why they play the games.

13 comments to Not This Good…Or Are They?

  • Michael in CT

    The talk is that moving Lindor to the lead-off spot woke him up. And the emergence of talented youngsters Alvarez and Vientos has lengthened the lineup. Plus the wise tutelage and reliable bat of JD Martinez, along with Pete and Nimmo making their presence felt. Whatever it is, keep it up Mets.

  • mikeski

    At or near the end of the 12-27 stretch, I had an exchange with open the gates regarding whether a hot streak would change one’s perception of this team. I opined that, to my mind, an 11 of 14 streak would not do so.

    15 of 19 is better than that. I have to say that I am not convinced; I don’t feel like I gotta believe, not yet.

    But it makes things more fun, to be sure, and I’d certainly rather anticipate games, instead of sighing and wondering what else is on.

    • open the gates

      I recalled that conversation recently. The reason that I think these Mets are for real is because they’re a different team than they were during the losing streak. They effectively replaced Nido and Baty in the everyday lineup with a smoking hot Alvarez and Vientos. The fact that these are not flash in the pans, but are young guys that were supposed to be the future and are now living up to their billing, is very significant. It means that these Mets may be the real deal, both for now and long term.

      Of course, in a month the Mets may crash and burn, and we’ll be back to talking about trading Alonso. Man, it’s hard to remember that that was an actual conversation a few weeks ago.

  • Seth

    I guess I never really understood the “they’re not this good, they’re not this bad” assertions. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’ll find out how good or bad they were at the end of the season.

  • Curt Emanuel

    If we turn into what I expect – a team that’s a little above average competing for a wildcard – we need to improve the bullpen.

    Those teams aren’t getting blown out like we were early in the year or having walkovers like we’ve done lately. They’re winning or losing by 1-3 runs.

    Let’s assume Diaz regains his mojo (not a safe assumption). The difference between 50 games where we go 29-21 vs 21-29 will likely be whoever can pitch innings 6-8.

    I don’t expect this to come from relievers we’ve seen. I hope we can improve with trades.

  • 9th string catcher

    I think Alvarez is the lynchpin of this team. When he went down, the team immediately sputtered, and when he came back, everyone seemed just a little bit better.

    22-9 with him in the lineup. As he goes, so go the Mets it would seem.

  • Wheaties54321

    Who knows where this team will end the season? What is easier to know is that, year after year, the characteristic that defines Mets fandom is self loathing.

    As fans, we don’t even have it as bad as more than half the league’s teams. But because we’re New Yorkers we’re typically petulant, impatient, and vocal about our displeasure. Also, the Mets aren’t a glamour brand. So when they struggle, we make it hard on the players. This group of everyday players is proving they can handle it and they have the talent to back it up. I give them a lot of credit.

    Meanwhile we still haven’t learned after ALL THESE YEARS that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint.

    Personally I think the Mets are about to embark on a period of sustained, year-in-year-out excellence.

    The biggest change since end of May (besides Alvarez returning and JD Martinez performing like a boss) was a reset of the culture. The Mets went from a culture that was accepting of McNeil’s pouting and poor performance to a culture of accountability and pure joy.

  • eric1973

    I still wonder if the waving thing after every hit is some kind of FU to the fans, like the Thumbs Down thing was, led by Baez and Lindor.

    Lindor refuses to say what it means.
    Wonder why.

    Still look forward to all the games, even with the stoicism of knowing the games don’t really matter until SEP15th due to too many teams making the playoffs.

    Who cares who finishes first anymore?

    • Seth

      It looks to me like they’re waving away a fart, so maybe it’s code for “we don’t stink anymore!” I’m open to any better theories…

  • eric1973

    I wrote in this space on JUN13:
    “Just play well and we’ll pass half these teams by osmosis, because I still believe we have more talent than we show.”

    Heck, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    We’ll see how this plays out over the next 17 games. I’m old enough to recall the first time the Mets faced a tough 17 game stretch after a high point.

    1962. Double Header win vs. the Braves capping off a 9 out of 12 streak. 13 of the next 17 games were against the Dodgers and the Giants…They lost all 17.

  • Eric

    “Every season it’s like this, if not necessarily in a fashion as extreme as 0-5 followed by 12-3 followed by 12-27 followed by 15-4 to get to 39-39.”

    .500 means the Mets are a real contender again. The Braves are only 4.5 games up on the Mets now. All 3 wildcards are in reach.

    It’s been a roller coaster, starting off looking like one of MLB’s worst teams, then switching to WC bound, then going back to being one of the worst teams, and then winning for a month by bludgeoning good pitchers. After all that, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mets followed this hot June (Boom?) with another long slump. It’s not like the Mets overhauled their roster. The flaws are still there on the pitching side: constant short outings by the starters, no-lead-is-safe relief pitching, too many walks all-around. The offense is hot now, but we saw these same hitters look awful this season. It makes me think of Tiki Barber’s prognostication on his WFAN show early in the season that the Mets looked like a .500 team to him that would see-saw 5 over, 5 under .500 all year. Which should be enough for a wildcard.

    Be that as it may, I’m drinking up the hot Mets right now. I’m believing that Francisco Alvarez, all of 22, is not just hot but announcing his arrival to the baseball world as the next great catcher. I’m enjoying Vientos looking like a 3B version of rookie Alonso.

    The equally hot, champion pedigree Astros will be a test and a fun contest between 2 teams who’ve just clawed their way back to .500 and WC contention, and unwilling to fall back under .500 again. But one of them has to.