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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
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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Me & My Group Digest Delgado

Until I was 8, I was allergic to poultry, so turkey was a non-starter for my first several Thanksgivings. When I was in kindergarten, I specifically recall we had meatballs, a dish my mother made quite successfully. The Monday after, Mrs. Grapek went around the room and asked each of what we had for Thanksgiving.

Kid 1: “Turkey!”

Kid 2: “Turkey!”

Kid 3: “Turkey!”

It was like Turkey 27 Alternatives 0 when she got to me. I, blissfully oblivious to peer pressure for perhaps the last time in my life, announced, “Meatballs!”

If I had come along later in the century, I imagine this would have been embraced by the teacher as an example of how various families, cultures and digestive systems celebrate holidays in different ways and that we are all enriched by each other’s diversity, children. Why don’t we take out our crayons and draw the settlers and Native Americans sharing foods from all over the world?

But then wasn’t now.

“MEATBALLS? You had MEATBALLS?”

Mrs. Grapek was practically laughing at me. The other kids, in what I assume was almost everybody’s first exposure to how to react when one member of a group differs in his or her customs from everybody else, took their cue from the teacher. Everybody laughed at me. “MEATBALLS?” I heard over and over again from classmates who, to that moment, had never worried about what I ate for dinner on any given Thursday night.

Oh crap, I thought, I’m standing out for all the wrong reasons. Gads, I hate kindergarten. Gotta think fast, gotta do damage control. I’m not even 6 and I’m about to be an outcast. What can I say? I know…

“Oh, it was turkey shaped like meatballs.”

I was having a hard time figuring out how that would work, what with ground turkey as a red-meat alternative a good 20 years from commonplace, but Mrs. Grapek seemed relieved and moved on to the final couple of kids. If their families enjoyed something out of the ordinary for Thanksgiving, these tykes learned their lesson and kept quiet about it.

And it’s taken me but 37 years to feel secure in my slight act of culinary iconoclasm and mention that Stephanie and I had chicken for Thanksgiving this year. An Oven Stuffer. We were going to buy a turkey breast, but King Kullen was out of them. The chicken was tremendous. It stuffed the oven and it stuffed me. Hence, it’s taken me a couple of days to find the room to fully digest the trade that made Carlos Delgado a Met.

I believe that he will stuff the lineup with home runs, runs batted in and a bulging on-base percentage. I do not believe he will be a meatball where his attitude, his actions or his agent are concerned. I also believe that while we didn’t exactly give up leftovers to get him, Mike Jacobs won’t likely ever be more than a side dish, Yusmeiro Petit isn’t even defrosted and Grant Psomas is the can of cranberry sauce left sitting in the trunk, not missed because nobody remembered buying it in the first place.

This was a good deal no matter what the other kids in the class say.

When you outed your last name last month, you noted in passing the “considerable cast of Met-loving acquaintances” with whom I exchanged impassioned e-mails in the years leading up to this blog. Well, the Reply-All All-Stars are still going strong. A trade of Delgadic proportions tends to stir the opinions of everybody who isn’t traveling, meaning the inbox has overflown since Wednesday morning.

Early consensus: They were having turkey, I was having meatballs. Or as one subect line put it, Delgado + New York = Disaster.

Go around the table with the same people on the same general subject long enough and you’ll get a sense of what’s coming. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised when Frank, a hugely funny person in real life but our resident curmudgeon on team topics (if he were drowning and Jeff Wilpon threw him a life preserver, he’d ignore it so he could add “let a man drown” to his list of COO misdeeds), told us this, like every other deal the Mets have ever made, was a time-release catastrophe.

I don’t give a damn about 33 HRs. In my book, this guy is a moody, one-dimensional slugger who is nobody’s idea of a “team guy.” My prediction: He has a lackluster year, never adjusts to New York, gets booed often and demands a trade at season’s end (which is his right, BTW) and Omar has to look for another first baseman in ’07. Meanwhile, I hope Jacobs hits .330 with 40 HR and becomes the next Don Mattingly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Omar Minaya will set this franchise back for years to come.

Pat, though not joining Frank’s ongoing jihad against Met management, weighed in against the Mets’ judgment as well.

I think we may well rue this deal in a year’s time. While Delgado is obviously a very capable batter, I am put off by his field play and, especially, his apparent attitude. I hope I’m wrong, but I think there’s a good chance he’ll underperform in New York and become a sulky, malignant presence on the team, à la Vince Coleman or George Foster or some of our other notable busts who looked good on paper. We need that not at all, especially without the consummately professional Mike P. topping the dugout pecking order any more. Who on this team will be able to pull Delgado aside and tell him to get over himself when it’s needed? Glavine? Beltran? Kaz Matsui?

Pat liked the idea of a young Jacobs, “an all-star in the making,” blossoming in Flushing. So did Joe, speaking as he does on behalf of himself and his wife Mary.

It was wonderful to think of 3/4 of the youthful Met infield (Wright, Reyes and Jacobs) maturing and playing together for years to come. We just hope this breakup will be worth it down the road. If it was left up to us, we would have vetoed it.

Gary/Jane (he’s Gary but he answers to Jane Jarvis because of his virtuoso keyboard rendition of “Meet the Mets” at my 40th birthday luncheon), played a mournful tune of his own.

I don’t like this move at all. Doesn’t mean I won’t root full out for Delgado next year and for a pennant of course, but I still don’t like it.

With time for a bit of reflection, it turned out that not all the thumbs were down. There were some meatball-munchers in the group besides me. Peter puzzled out various lineups and concluded acquiring Delgado was a good thing.

We got another big bat without giving up Floyd. we still have to get a catcher so whoever that might be…I will go to war with [this] group.

One of the Dans (we have two), was also optimistic.

Really, I don’t think this is a bowser, and I know bowsers. (Don’t we all?) Delgado is a guy who has already made the transition from AL to NL and made it well. This is a guy who has the best numbers out there for a team that needs those numbers desperately. I think Minaya was just going with the philosophy of best available player at a time when the Marlins are cleaning house. It’s not like Delgado is deadwood. He has been wonderfully consistent in what he brings. He doesn’t have the reek of Vaughn around him, or the taint of a Bonilla or Coleman or Everett or any of a half-dozen folks who could easily come to mind (I’m leaving out Alomar only because at the time of that deal there was no strong sense he was going to tank as hugely as he did).

Finally (at least until some of our more vocal voices who haven’t had a say get back to their offices), there was Richie, who actually hit Reply without the All and thus told only me that he’s happy we downloaded this CD.

Putting aside the gaudy power numbers, don’t underestimate the BA and the OBP, bud. The ’05 Met lineup was chock full of guys who were better fishermen than they were hitters. Reyes, Diaz, Matsui, any of the masquerading first basemen, even Beltran and Mikey were/are all prone to fish. In fact, aside from Wright, nearly the whole lineup could be had by a well-timed curveball low and away consistently. We didn’t *just* get a bona fide cleanup hitter, we got a bona fide hitter.

There — something for everybody at our group’s virtual Thanksgiving table. I don’t agree with it all, but my winter days would be that much longer without receiving their thoughts on such vital matters of Metropolitan importance. The Reply-All All-Stars rule.

As I’ve indicated, I come down on the side of yea, Delgado’s here as opposed to yikes, we’re forever screwed. Now that you have some of the context of the discussion, here’s the declaration of approval I sent around Friday afternoon.

Why is this acquisition of a high-profile, well-compensated slugger different from the acquisitions of high-profile, well-compensated sluggers on all other nights?

Because unlike Foster or Bonilla or Vaughn, the Mets are on the upswing when they’re adding Delgado. Those others, purchased like clockwork in advance of years ending in “2,” were all brought in with the idea that THIS GUY is going to be the one who lifts us out of our downward trajectory, turns the franchise around, gives us the pop we’re not getting anywhere else. In the cases of Bonilla (Saberhagen, Murray) and Vaughn (Alomar, Burnitz), the slugger wasn’t the only guy brought in but he was the big bat that was going to make the difference.

Delgado isn’t being asked to do that. He’s coming to a team that has already turned around, that’s gone from 66 to 71 to 83 wins in the past three seasons and that isn’t in retreat or desperation mode. He’s coming to a team with two core homegrown players who aren’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future plus a third core player in center who’s under 30 and signed for six years (and is bound to have a better year in 2006 than he did in 2005) plus a super solid citizen and bat in left field. There was no Pedro Martinez in his demi-prime in 1982 or 2002 here. The ’92 Mets had Gooden, Cone and Saberhagen but they also had Jeff Torborg. From the perspective of “oh, this always goes wrong,” those pieces aren’t in place for Delgado.

I have to echo Gary/Jane on Mike Jacobs. He had a nice swing and made some adjustments and did a great job of persevering through the minors after an injury, but this is not young Jeff Bagwell we’re talking about. This is Mike Vail right now, a guy on nobody’s radar until August, with a hot September to his credit. Hopefully he won’t play basketball this winter and wreck his career, but honestly, Mike Jacobs? The beauty of our game is that we can and do fall in love with players based on very limited samples, but who here was marking days off the calendar in June and July of 2005 just waiting for Mike Jacobs to get the call? Who who bemoans his absence now even knew he existed four months ago? C’mon…MIKE JACOBS? He was no better than third on the Mike depth chart to that point behind Piazza and Cameron, and I’m guessing Mike DeFelice was more famous to Mets fans.

As for Carlos Delgado the human cancer, this is purely projection and some kind of twisted, self-loathing wish fulfillment. Other than the Chris Russo whisper campaign (“he’s not passionate enough — why, he can even pronounce words properly!”), nobody’s had a bad word to say about him. Chris Woodward played with him for a half-dozen years and said last spring what a great guy he is. Gregg Zaun, a Toronto teammate of let’s burn Dixie Chicks CDs leanings, praised him up and down. There is no evidence that Carlos Delgado brings a clubhouse down (as if we’d be able to figure that out from the outside).

We saw him in the National League last year. Looked plenty scary to me. If the Braves or Phillies or Nationals had traded two unknown quantities for him, we’d all be shivering in our boots right now and not because of the wind chill. But because the Mets got him, everything about him is suspect. I don’t buy it.

Yeah, my feathers were a little ruffled, but let’s not bolt the table in a snit (as I have too many times across too many actual family gatherings). I’ll leave the last word to the Joseph/Mary chain which should give everybody a taste of what our informal listserv and online clan is really about.

Wishing all our friends in this little Met Group of ours the happiest and healthiest Thanksgiving holiday. Let us be grateful for the wonderful things we’ve been blessed with in our lives and hope for more of the same in the many years to come. Gobble Gobble and Let’s Go Mets in 2006.

4 comments to Me & My Group Digest Delgado

  • Anonymous

    And yet another return visit.
    I'm really glad to have found you guys in my fact-checking travels. So many memories from my own 30-odd years, on and off, of suffering with the Orange and Blue. The Jane Jarvis reference in this one brought a smile of a recent memory. I'd never known that in addition to her nightly Hammonding at Shea, Jane was an accomplished jazz musician who was featured a few months ago on a repeat broadcast of NPR's Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland.
    And who knew she had more of a repetoire than playing “The Irish Washerwoman” for Tug McGraw?
    I still remember his first appearance back at Shea in enemy red. Jane played his theme for him. He got the Mets out, pounded his glove against his thigh as he always did, and headed for the first base dugout. It was almost enough to overcome the agony of losing him.
    A year or so before he died, I was in Rochester on a night when the AAA team arranged an autograph session for him before the evening's game. I dug out my '73 yearbook, with the faux baseball cards on the cover, and I exchanged an autograph (his) for a heartfelt thanks (mine) for Gotta Believing.
    I've finished my politics-and-baseball novel, which was mentioned last time I said hello to you folks. Email captainsblog at gmail dot com and I would be darned pleased to send a draft for comments by you very knowledgeable gents.
    Ray
    http://www.livejournal.com/users/captainsblog

  • Anonymous

    If you had been in midtown last Wednesday, you could've heard Jane Jarvis play with a group of jazz musicians. Ninety and still going reasonably strong. Amazing, as we like to say.
    Only because it was advertised (probably in the very same '73 yearbook that has Mr. McGraw's Tug Hancock), I feel compelled to mention that Jane Jarvis played the Thomas Organ at Shea Stadium. No Hammond on the premises.
    Had a marvelous meeting with Ms. Jarvis a couple of years ago that I'll mention in a little more detail at some point. Tug, too, on a separate occasion. It's great when you get to meet the fixtures of your childhood or even your extended childhood.

  • Anonymous

    Risky trade, this should have happened last year, hands down. Omar “Mania” is giving us some revisionist history.
    With Petit gone and finally close to maturity, I'm a little nervous to see what happens when the rotation minus Pedro gets injured. Now throw in the weak bullpen (and Willie's bullpen mismanagement).
    On paper this looks great. However, sometimes you have to swallow your losses, and not getting Delago last season was one that Minaya can't seem to get over.
    This is like spending your life savings on a Ferrari when you have a perfectly good Chevrolet in the driveway and you're living in a shack.
    They don't pay me the big bucks, but for what we gave up – there are bigger holes to fill than 1B.
    Besides, let the bias be evident, I loved Jacobs. The worst Mike Jacobs might have blossomed into was a scrappy for average hitter. I'll take that over say, Kaz Matsui, on the blue and orange roster any day.
    – Port Jeff

  • Anonymous

    Doesn't it strike anyone that this is kind of a Yankee move? Get the veteran slugger now, because we've got to win this year, who cares who we give up or how much we pay. I fully expect Delgado to hit well; that's what he does. Although I do share concerns about his attitude and his ability to become a true blue (and orange) New York baseball player. I was at the game when Jacobs got his first AB. He saved that game from utter misery with his home run. He continued on, with Jae Seo, to make the rest of the season worth watching. Now they're both gone.
    I'm from Brooklyn. Baseball is everything in Brooklyn. I saw Mike Jacobs play in Coney Island–he was awesome. He won the very first Cyclones game ever for us. Did I see Carlos Delgado? Did I see him body slam a drunken fan who ran out on the field to the roaring delight of the crowd? No. These are the things that matter. Watching a player work his way through our arduous minor league system, finally make it to the top and make a huge splash, an unprecedented 4-homeruns-in-4-games-splash! Jacobs did everything he could possibly do to convince me that he was worth keeping around. And now we throw him away for some overpaid slugger so we can win the World Series this year? Because it's ours for the taking if we just spend enough? That's a Yankee concept. Shame on Minaya for acting like a the evil emperor across town. If all I cared about was winning, I would be a Yankee fan. But that's not all I care about. I'd like to see the players I love watching, who I've grown up loving to watch. I hope Jacobs is rookie of the year next year. He deserve it–and so do the Mets.