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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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Have Nots

Yeesh. Our spiritual cousins at Faith and Fear in Cincy are no doubt writing some furious screed right now, pausing between gouts of venom to consider the cosmic significance of some long-ago game featuring the likes of Ed Ott. (I sat next to Ed Ott's wife on a plane once. She was beautiful.) As you've just noted, 19-19 teams are singularly frustrating for their impossibility to be summed up, but it's pretty easy to describe what 14-23 teams look like. They have crummy pitching, horrible fielding, are constantly on the losing end of the rock-paper-scissors equations of hit-and-runs and steals, can't look runners back to third, and can't even call time, step off and pick up a likely force out on an appeal play after an enemy runner leaves a base early. In other words, they look like this.

There ain't much to say about a game like tonight's — it's no more indicative of a team's actual makeup than a 9-2 loss — so I want to rant about something that's been sticking in my craw. Call it “Not Player X” syndrome.

When a loss really bugs me, I listen to “your phone calls” on the FAN, for the simple reason that 90% of the people who call in are crazier than shithouse rats — a realization that almost immediately snaps me back to my own vague approximation of perspective. Jeez, I wind up thinking, it wasn't that bad. All you people really need to calm down. Yesterday was a prime example: Yes, it was a teeth-grindingly annoying loss. But most everyone who called in sounded like they watched baseball games while huffing paint thinner. One guy had had it with Reyes' poor pitch selection and wanted him sent down to Norfolk. The next guy wanted the Mets to release Matsui — I think with another half-hour of solvents to the sinuses, he would have suggested having him drawn and quartered. Another guy wanted Chris Woodward to play every day. And on and on it went, caller after caller driving poor Gary Cohen further and further around the bend, until I felt restored and clicked off the dial. By the way, I've got three guesses what Gary's No. 1 demand at contract time will be.

But it wasn't the garden-variety lunacy that was still bugging me this morning. It was the more-educated and thus more-insidious version of it. And this syndrome has a face: Jeff Keppinger. Jeff Keppinger was the answer, demented dialer after demented dialer insisted. Jeff Keppinger should replace Matsui. Jeff Keppinger would lead us to the promised land! Jeff Keppinger!

Granted, Keppinger was a semi-nice surprise last year — a terrific contact hitter with some surprising power, even if he doesn't walk enough. But the callers on the FAN weren't advocating Jeff Keppinger because he hit .284 during Garbage Time '04. And they probably haven't been down in the International League scouting him. In fact, I doubt they could pick Jeff Keppinger out of a police lineup. No, except for the basic (AAA) stat line, none of this has anything to do with Jeff Keppinger. Rather, it's that Jeff Keppinger is Not Kaz Matsui. And that's the only thing that matters to those who've let their indignation about Kaz Matsui overwhelm them. (If there's a fuller case to be made for why I'm selling Keppinger short, I'm all ears.)

In our weaker moments, we all do this. Aaron Heilman really does have two great starts under his belt and the added benefit of being homegrown, but let's face it — most of his appeal is that he's Not Victor Zambrano. Scott Strickland's a nice comeback story, but mostly he's Not Manny Aybar. Victor Diaz was hot as a pistol, but it didn't hurt that we got tired of Mike Cameron's strikeouts, odd troubles in center and grumbling about right. Now playing right field, and batting eighth, Not Mike Cameron! Blake McGinley's business cards probably say Hi, My Name Is Not Dae-Sung Koo.

This doesn't apply in every situation, of course: If Matsui can't get on track, Miguel Cairo certainly should get more playing time. Heath Bell really did have some '04 numbers of his own and has made the most of his chance so far. But part of the contract of reasonable fandom ought to be assessing players for who they are, not simply who they aren't. Those two pass that test. But Chris Woodward? Jeff Keppinger? Brian Daubach?

Or if you can't avoid Not Player X syndrome (and lots of times I can't either), at least leave poor Gary Cohen in peace.

1 comment to Have Nots

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for addressing one of my biggest pet peeves about Met fans. Drives me batty. Well, battiER.