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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 Expectations Game

In this new upbeat era of Mets baseball in which we only grimace ironically, let’s catalogue our positives.

Ty Adcock not only made his Met debut, but sparkled in it. Mark Vientos went about as deep as one can to dead center at Citi Field. Before Mark hit his mark, the Mets made the most of their luck in one particular inning (the second) and posted five somewhat improbable runs. The organization found space on its uniform sleeves for patches honoring the memories of Jerry Grote and Willie Mays as they continue to remember Buddy Harrelson the same way. And “OMG” continues to worm poppily in the ear of those who can’t help but be charmed by the Jose Iglesias experience.

So it’s not like Saturday was totally unpleasant.

I don’t know that I’d watched a game in 2024 brimming with expectations the way I did this middle contest Saturday. I expected the Mets to win. I expected the Mets to hold their 6-1 lead. I expected the Mets to push back on the Astros’ aspirations of catching up and going ahead. I thought about the standings and expected the Mets to gain ground.

Then I tempered my expectations bit by bit until I accepted that not every day is our day, even when for weeks almost every day has been.

If we’re looking for root causes, I suppose Edwin Diaz’s gunky hand and glove and the way the suspension they wrought brought about a reduced/diminished pitching staff sticks most. It’s a miniature 2023 out there in the bullpen, with everybody moving up a notch to compensate for Edwin’s absence, except we’re not allowed to fill in at the far back end of the relief corps, which is an issue when your starters throw a surfeit of pitches early and practically none by the sixth inning’s end. You really miss those marginal Syracuse arms when you are reminded they are better than nothing.

So, in the realm of faint praise, is Tylor Megill, who spells his first name with an ‘o,’ vowels his last name with an ‘e’ and an ‘i,’ and continues to have a career best described as Quadruple-A. As part of my newfound optimism, I thought Megill would shine against Houston if just to compensate for the cloud his previous performance cast over Chicago. I stand corrected. Megill gutted out five-and-a-third. The fourth was the discouraging one, with three painful Astro runs cutting the Mets lead to 6-4, and a sense emerging that, nope, this one wasn’t going to be as easy as everything to that point had looked.

Once Tylor was lifted after 101 stressful pitches, the bullpen shorts were showing. In the latter part of the twentieth century, where I lived until the millennial odometer turned, a seven-man pen was a luxury. Mostly it was unnecessary. Today I’m still shocked at how high and dry it can leave a team, especially if, god forbid, enough of the relievers in captivity have pitched lately. This one is unavailable. That one is unavailable. The safety net feels preemptively shredded. Even if you get an Adcock to come in out of nowhere and preserve order (we did), you still have innings to go before you can sleep.

And it becomes a nightmare.

I was under the impression Jake Diekman was one of those veteran lefties who would be über-dependable à la Brooks Raley. Alas, not all southpaws who’ve been in circulation forever are created equal. We miss the contributions of Raley. We’re still waiting for some on a consistent basis from Diekman, who was characteristically wild before giving way to Reid Garrett. Garrett faced three batters. It felt like three-thousand. Before Jake and Reed were done missing the strike zone, the Astros were ahead and I was missing more than ever Raley, Sean Reid-Foley and the likely Tommy John-bound Drew Smith. Goodness knows I’ve tensed up at the sight of Drew across his up-and-down tenure since he alighted in Flushing in 2018, but whoever isn’t coming in in the seventh typically looms as the much better option than whoever did enter, especially on a day like Saturday.

In the end, the Mets lost, 9-6, to a quality opponent, much as the Astros lost the night before to a quality opponent, which was us. We’re in that league now, safely removed from the ranks of Rockies and Marlins and anybody judged chanceless, but we haven’t ascended to the circuit where we never lose. We’re not yet that good. Nobody is, though I was at the precipice of believing our June ascent would proceed without pause clear to July. We were gong to win our fifth in a row in a fifth different jersey (I was even getting used to the City Connects). We were going to slip ahead of the Cardinals by a percentage point or two and hold the third Wild Card spot, for whatever that was worth. We were going to start breathing in the vicinity of the Braves’ necks, even. Didn’t happen. Or it hasn’t yet.

This taking the Mets seriously as a good ballclub is different from how I was expecting the balance of the season to play out. It’s more fun than what I figured we’d be relegated to. But it doesn’t preclude angst and disappointment on a given day when expectations aren’t shall we say Met. I vaguely recalling seasons working this way. Thanks for the emphatic reminder?

8 comments to The Expectations Game

  • Ken K. in NJ

    ..I don’t know that I’d watched a game in 2024 brimming with expectations the way I did this middle contest Saturday…

    Yeah, me too. I think this was the first Weekend game all year that I made Appointment Watching, as opposed to, oh good the game’s at 4 PM, I should be home by then, or thereabouts.

    And now I’m back to The game’s at 1:40, I’ll get home when I get home.

  • LeClerc

    Dump Diekman.

  • Curt Emanuel

    With two straight short starts and a bullpen held together by nothing more than sweat and resin (and maybe a little dirt) – until a week ago I’d have said duct tape – this was predictable, if unfortunate (believe I commented on this yesterday). Before this game I was thinking if there was ever a time to switch the rotation, Severino already had his full 4 days’ rest and is our only starter who has shown any propensity to get through the 6th, let alone the 7th, inning.

    Though asking a starting pitcher to change his routine on short notice would have likely caused an irreparable tear in the space-time continuum and it’s not like starting today would have meant Megill would have lasted any longer. Where have you gone Jose Butto?

    At least it’s one more clear sign to Stearns about what we need to look for at the trade deadline. How much mediocre starting pitching does it take to bring back quality relief? We have a full rotation plus Christian Scott plus Butto plus (ugh) Houser and isn’t Joey Lucchesi floating around someplace? And there’s this Senga dude I hear about. Let’s face it, all we’re replacing is 4-5 innings of a 4 or so ERA per game (so long as Severino isn’t dealt).

    I doubt I see today’s game but here’s to Severino giving at least 7 and can we hope for 8? That’s innings, not earned runs.

  • ToBeDetermined

    I actually wasn’t expecting them to win, because it was Saturday.

    The Mets are now 2-12 on Saturdays this year, and a very impressive 38-28 the rest of the week.

    Meaningful? Doubtful. Statistical noise with a small sample size. But, still… maybe they should find an excuse to cancel all the remaining Saturday games…

  • Seth

    I blame it on those stupid uniforms. No good can come of them.

  • eric1973

    Most of the City Connect uniforms are horribly gross, but the public seems to love them, and Nike loves those with poor taste who buy them.

    The Mets version is less gross than others, and the only good ones are SD and PITT.

  • eric1973

    Does anyone really care what the dopey rules are for the HR hitting contest?

    They could have a competition for best bat flip and best base hit celebration and half the people on here would go gaga, and then buy some classless merch to boot.

    OMG and the team coming out to sing and dance to it was pretty cool, though.