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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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Separated After Birth

I won’t claim it’s high on my lengthy list of Selig/Manfred era outrages, but it annoys me that the Astros are in the American League. They’re our expansion siblings, after all, arriving along with us in 1962 as the Colt .45s.

We began as a novelty act to salve the still-fresh wounds of Dodgers and Giants fans, fielding an Old Timers’ Day lineup complete with taking the Polo Grounds out of mothballs; they started life as the Colt .45s, a mildly shameless bid for a business tie-in that would lead to a more shameless (and more enduring) rebranding based around Houston’s ties to the astronaut program. In our first go-round we finished 10th and became synonymous with baseball futility; they were merely bad and finished eighth.

(Side note: Holy cats were the ’62 Cubs horrible.)

Rusty Staub and Jerry Grote were early Colts/Astros. Later, the likes of Ray Knight and Mike Hampton passed through the Astrodome before becoming Met heroes. John Franco and Dwight Gooden played in Houston at the tail end of their careers, cameos that would make you go “oh yeah that’s right” when looking up their stats years later. Donn Clendenon didn’t want to play for the Astros at all, a drama that eventually led to his becoming a critical ’69 Met. We faced them in ’86, when their rotation was anchored by scuffballing former Met Mike Scott and ’69 hero Nolan Ryan, and prevailed in an exhausting sixseven-game Gotterdammerung.

All that has become so long ago that I feel like I just put an onion on my belt and gave a stemwinder about bees and quarters. The Astros have been in the American League for more than a decade now and become synonymous with cheating; opposing fans will be making jokes about trash cans decades after Jose Altuve is a white-haired Hall of Famer visiting a suite to glad-hand with oil executives. These days, sadly, I hardly think of our ’62 siblings at all — they’re far away and play in that jumped-up arriviste beer league, so why would I?

But 2024 has offered more parallels.

The Astros have exhausted their fans with a season of stops and starts and ups and downs, navigating injuries and tough personnel decisions, but they’d heated up of late and arrived for Friday night’s game with a record of .500 — not exactly world-beating stuff, but cause for celebration given where they’d been.

That’s our 2024 bio as well.

Baseball specializes in these something’s gotta give meetings, and momentum favored the Astros immediately: Five seconds into the game, Altuve had whacked a Jose Quintana sinker that didn’t sink into the stands for a 1-0 lead. But as has been a Mets hallmark of late, Quintana staggered out of the first inning weary but whole, giving up only the one run. The Mets loaded the bases with nobody out in their half of the first against  Ronel Blanco and came away with only one run, but hey, that did tie it.

Houston took the lead again in the third, lost it in the fourth on a Tyrone Taylor solo shot, and then the roof caved in on Blanco in the sixth: Pete Alonso‘s overly aggressive first-inning AB had not exactly been a highlight, but now he hit a no-doubter to left to give the Mets the lead; four batters later Jeff McNeil golfed a ball into the right-field corner for a three-run homer and the Mets were up by four, on their way to winning by five.

McNeil would wind up three for four on the night, continuing a run during which he’s looked at least a little like his old self. Maybe that’s too little too late; maybe the knowledge that Brett Baty is playing second in AAA and tearing it up has concentrated the mind wonderfully. If nothing else, McNeil can look around and see plenty of teammates who’ve extracted themselves from the fan scrap heap and revitalized their seasons.

The Mets, at least for the moment, look thoroughly revitalized: After the game, Jose Iglesias AKA Candelita offered the Pride Night crowd a mini-set formally unveiling “OMG.” Watching a backup infielder perform his latest single in his stadium accompanied by adoring teammates is a new one for me, but it’s this week’s second never-seen-that-before video to have me laughing happily: During Wednesday night’s monsoon delay, fan video caught Grimace on the Shea Bridge, up on people’s shoulders shotgunning a beer before a cheering throng; as I stated on former Twitter, if that doesn’t lead the 2024 World Series Champions video, we riot.

That’s getting ahead of ourselves, of course, which leads me back to what exactly, this smidge-over-.500 team is.

Two perspectives may be at least mildly helpful.

The first comes from Joe Sheehan, to whom you should absolutely subscribe: “[T]he 2024 Mets are this year’s best argument for one of my guiding principles: Let the season breathe. This is what baseball teams do, they look good for a while, look bad for a while. The in-season variance of a baseball team’s performance is bigger than whatever you think it is. The Royals backed up 34-19 with 8-18. The A’s went 17-17, then 12-37. The Yankees have dropped ten of 13 after a 49-21 start and bodies are piling up in the Harlem River. Breathe. It’s not football.”

That’s excellent advice. And yet I’ve also thought back to something Greg said a few years ago. At the time I’d decided I needed to be better at analysis and was unhappy with how many of our recaps were essentially reactions. Greg heard me out quietly, then said: “We’re fans. That’s what we do. We react.”

Indeed we are, and indeed we do. There’s a value to understanding that a night’s bullpen meltdown doesn’t foretell doom just as a walkoff, come-from-behind three-run homer doesn’t print its own playoff tickets. But in the moment that’s not going to be anyone’s reaction. Nor should it be.

We’re fans. We react. Right now we get to react to rain-delay Grimace appearances and postgame concerts. That’s extraordinary; let’s just enjoy it.

8 comments to Separated After Birth

  • Michael in CT

    Re “an exhausting seven-game Gotterdammerung.” Was it not six games, the better to avoid a game 7 against the dreaded Scott?

    Seasons do take a while to unfurl. Let’s hope this latest trend is the enduring one.

  • MarvinFreeman

    It annoys me that the cheating-during-the-world-series Astros still exist at all.

  • ljcmets

    The 24 hours from Thursday at around 10:30 PM to last night after the game seemed surreal to me anyway, so Grimace and Candelita fit right in, and as a Mets fan for 55+ years, I’ve certainly learned three things: 1) anything can happen with this franchise; 2) it will happen when you least expect it and most need it; and 3) Mets Fans Really Do Have More Fun.

    OMG indeed.

  • Curt Emanuel

    That game sure started off with a bad feeling. The 1st pitch HR. Alonso swinging at ball 4 – twice – with bases loaded, including on 3-1. McNeil doing whatever he did to get picked off. Apple was so interested in having Pena mic’d up that they never really showed it. I wonder if the blown pop-up was because he was so stunned at how inane the questions were?

    And we came away with a really nice win. Not sure how much bullpen there is for tonight but that’s today’s problem. You wouldn’t think a 5-run win would have me feeling like we stole one but I do.

  • Guy K

    Not sure the Mets even had a 16-4 stretch during their 101-win season two years ago, and it’s been exhilarating and fun to watch. But it ain’t sustainable when night after night their starting pitchers can’t even give them 5 full innings. That HAS to change.