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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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I Can See Carlos Now

It has to mean something that up here in the grimopolis that is February in New York, a nasty afternoon shower has given way to a rainbow outside my office window. Not a metaphorical — or even a METaphorical — rainbow, but an actual Judy Garland-lovin’ arch o’ stripes in the eastern sky.

If pitchers and catchers can do that to the atmosphere, just wait ’til outfielders and infielders report.

While we wallow in the joy of Joe Hietpas buckling on his shinguards and try to fathom what Heath Bell looks like on roller blades, I await the presence of two flycatchers, one in the here and now and one in the about time. Carlos Beltran, of course, is the reason we’re feeling — what’s it called? — oh yes, optimistic. I stayed up all night waiting for Dr. Minaya to deliver our bouncing Beltran in mid-January. It was the best night the Mets ever had in the dead of winter. A contract of seven years? Hell, give him seventy. Doesn’t matter.

Why? Because we wanted him and we got him. We got the best player out there. We didn’t sign Tom Hausman and Elliott Maddox, but a real free agent. We’re all much happier, better looking and five inches taller as a result.

Nevertheless, we will tire of Carlos Beltran. Let me be the first to welcome him to Flushing and show him the door. Not for at least five years, I hope, but it’ll happen. He or his swing will slow down. The strange breezes and thunderous flight path to LaGuardia will get to him. He won’t lead us to the promised land nearly enough and his salary will become unmanageable. He will get booed. Not now, but eventually. It always happens. We were once head over heels in love with Mike Piazza but if we had our way, we’d convert him into prospects, every single one of us, I reckon. We once couldn’t imagine a spring training of ours without Al Leiter, but he’s very comfortably a Fish and we’re perfectly comfortable with that mutual parting of the ways. John Franco has left the organization as well, an unthinkable occurrence just a year ago (not an unwishable one, just unthinkable).

All Met stalwarts wear out their welcome. Nobody stays a Met his entire career. Ed Kranepool did. Ron Hodges did. When those are your shining examples, you know you’re short on Barry Larkin loyalty, running either way of the street. The best we can hope for, as you noted, is to give them a hero’s return and a clipboard some fine St. Lucie morning down the road when they are knighted as coaches of some sort.

Which brings me to my second outfielder on whom I wait. The Mets announced last week that they’re bringing Darryl Strawberry back to the organization. It’s fourteen years too late to do either party that much good, but it’s reassuring to have our biggest star ever back in his proper constellation. No Met was ever a bigger deal than Darryl Strawberry. I didn’t say better player; a few were, though not many. Darryl lit up Shea and occasionally overshadowed it in a manner that defined larger-than-life from 1983 through 1990. He’s had his problems, many of his own making, but when we hear that Darryl Strawberry is a Met, even as a “special instructor” and goodwill ambassador for autographs, we are lulled into the illusion that somebody cares the way we do. The Mets cared enough to recall him. Darryl cared enough to return. Us? We care too much already.

The timing is interesting. When Darryl left us in 1990, it was over money. Specifically, he wanted to be paid like Jose Canseco, who was getting about $5 million a year. Frank Cashen, not a big fan of modern times, declared Darryl was no $5 million ballplayer. He was wrong at the moment, not in the future, though if Darryl had stayed, who knows? Meanwhile, Jose Canseco got paid, got big and has now gotten under the skin of Major League Baseball. It’s almost a sure thing that none of his myriad former teams will invite him back to distribute advice and signatures.

The rainbow outside my window has disappeared. But we still have pitchers and catchers. As Darryl might say and Carlos would be wise to heed, one day at a time, brothers and sisters. One day at a time.

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