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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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Diaspora Spring

Whatever became of Spring Training? Specifically, where did all the Mets go?

This is the spring of our diaspora. The Metropolitan-Americans seem to have been ruthlessly dispersed, scattered from their homeland, no longer allowed to live as a single, coherent tribe.

A third of our starting lineup, a fifth of our rotation and a chunk of our bullpen decided to be nationalistic instead of Metropolitan. Our longtime catcher showed up last week in the New York papers enough to make me think he was still one of us, but he's not (he wasn't even American for the duration of his old/new country's WBC cameo). Our TV network hasn't hit the air. Our primary radio voice has been tending to hockey. Our ace pitcher has been everywhere but on a real mound.

I turned on Sunday's FANcast of the meaningless exhibition game against the Orioles and was aghast at just how meaningless it all sounded, especially as I adjust to life with Tom McCarthy (and endure it without Isle-obligated Howie Rose). By the end of the game, I found myself rooting for pinch-runner Esix Snead to score the winning run for Baltimore a) because Esix Snead, unlike almost everybody else on the field in the tenth, had actually done something meaningful in a Met uniform once and b) my mind was already dispatched to the warning track to get in its running.

Exhibition games are supposed to bore you after the novelty of spring wears off and certainly after the first few innings of any single one of them evaporate, but I find myself surprisingly unengaged by the nuts and bolts of this particular spring. The last time I felt close to this was during the early portion of 1995 when the Mets weren't Mets and neither was any team. This March is waaaaaaaay different from that replacement March, but I have to tell you, I do not feel whole.

It's going to take more than Dorothy Boyd to complete us. Show me the Carlos and the other Carlos and the Jose and all the rest who are off gallivanting around this benighted television tournament known as the World Baseball Classic. I'll admit I've watched some of the contests with more than a smidge of curiosity, but when I pull back from the screen, I don't care whether Team USA beats Team Somewhere Else or vice-versa. I care about the Mets. And I've become positively testy that our players are not playing for us in our pretend games.

I was born and live in a country where despite all our flag-waving on practical matters of self-interest, we're not terribly ethnic about being American. Everybody, save those for whom insensitive baseball teams in Cleveland are named, is from somewhere else. So I can't quite imagine what it means to “represent my country” the way a Delgado or a Beltran does (is it impolitic of me to point out Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States, thus not anybody's country?). I'm sure it's a very big deal for them to play for Team Puerto Rico, for Reyes and Duaner Sanchez to be part of the Dominican squad, for Victor Zambrano and Jorge Julio to be pitching in uniforms that say Venezuela. There is pride and heritage and emotion that doesn't translate perfectly to our way of looking at the world.

But I don't care anymore. I just don't. I want them in St. Lucie and for more than medical examinations. I want my Mets to be Mets and I want them to be Mets starting immediately, not next week when it's convenient by dint of the WBC schedule. Call me Steinbrennerean if you must, but I'm resenting the heck, if not the hell, out of this thing for keeping Mets from being Mets the way they're supposed to be. Maybe come the 21st of March this will all be forgotten, but every day when the fellas who are Mets aren't being Mets is a day they and we will never have back.

I'm lovin' the guys who are here. I'm lovin' Wright and Glavine and Franco (whose native country, the Lost Continent of Atlantis, unfortunately disappeared while Julio was working his way up the Phillies' chain) and Woodward and Hernandez and Heilman and Matsui and Lo Duca and Redman and Pedro (lovin' his toe as it steps toward violently pushing off a real rubber any day now). I appreciate that these guys either bowed out or weren't invited or slithered away from the Classic's clutches.

I salute Billy Wagner for deciding that getting his act together for his new team with his new team was a higher priority than getting his throwing in under the auspices of the Stars and Stripes, no matter how much he or I proudly hail how brightly they wave…or something like that. I appreciate Steve Trachsel and Victor Diaz and Jeff Keppinger going through the motions on my radio Sunday. I revere Cliff Floyd for playing himself into shape, kidney concerns and all (be careful out there, Monsta — even the Mets aren't worth risking extremely serious injury over).

As for the WBC refugees, come home soon — to your real baseball home. This is getting to feel like that M*A*S*H episode in which all the nurses are evacuated and the 4077th is all too lonely an outpost.

9 comments to Diaspora Spring

  • Anonymous

    I have to clarify that Puerto Rico has an olympic team since 1948 and it is considered a nation (see definition of nation,it has nothing to do with sovereignty) since puerto ricans share more than 500 years of history, language,culture,religion and have a strong national identity ).
    Puerto Rico is not a sovereign country but still, it is recognized internationally as a country (nation) by the united nations. (see united nations country code 630) and self determination is recognized since the current status is not permanent

  • Anonymous

    And I hear they'll be getting their own Navy any day now.

  • Anonymous

    can't say as i go along with you on this one, gregster.
    set aside the true sense of internationalism the wbc provides, as well as the chance to spray mets consciousness onto a bigger, global canvas. (i am LOVING the fact that yanks are few and far between, while mets are all over the rosters.) we may not be able to sense it but the players do — even the usa-ers speak of their involvement with pride. (not unlike me-firsters in tennis who get a whiff of something bigger when they play for the u.s. davids cup team and realize they're representing their country.)
    the mets who are playing for teams in the wbc are actually playing in games that mean a lot more to them than spring training games — hence, they are getting into mid-season form.
    and in port st. lucie, the mets at spring training meanwhile are getting a chance to really look at other players, either minor leaguers or invitees, for a longer period of time — hence getting a sense of how good or not they are (and having better insight on whether they should make the big club later in the season, or be traded).
    as long as the mets nursing tender or sore joints don't hurt themselves, i think it's fine. if you're worried about the team playing as a unit in time for opening day, i just don't think it's that big an issue. bigger issues, like pedro's toe or delgado's tendinitis, have nothing to do with the wbc.

  • Anonymous

    I fell asleep in the sixth inning Sunday and woke up with a start to hear Snead crossing the plate. So you did better than I did, interest-wise.
    I feel compelled, by way of reassurance, to point out that every year you get worried in mid-March that you're just not interested in this year's collection of Mets, and it always goes away by mid-April.

  • Anonymous

    P Rios: Thanks for the clarification on Puerto Rico's status.
    dmg: I imagine there's a surge of pride in these guys when they take the field, but I'm not sure what this tournament proves. That Venezuelans or Koreans or Americans (or those among these groups who showed up…unless we are really to believe Al Leiter is one of the leading pitchers active in the United States) are the best ballplayers in the world? That just doesn't thrill me. It's not how I look at baseball or the world. I'm less worried about injury than I am that the Mets aren't gelling into a unit, that Willie Randolph doesn't have a full view of his team. Perhaps by the middle of next week this will all seem incredibly ancient, shortsighted and moot. I certainly hope so.
    Partner: Precedent steers much of what we do. TooShea, nonetheless.

  • Anonymous

    I disagree with you, Greg. The WBC, for all its shortcomings, has catpured my interest and I like it. And it's not some burst of national pride for me–in fact I have trouble rooting for a team that has A-Rod, Jeter and Chipper on it. No, I enjoy it because I get to see the baseball of the world. Games that players and fans really care about, where the quality of play is for the most part quite high, and where great international rivalries have a stage to play themselves out. I like seeing all my Mets spread out about the world, fitting into their national squads–especially those Mets they we've seen fit to abandon (I get a kick out of watching Jae Seo and Dae-Sung Koo pitch beautifully to help Korea get to its current 4-0, 1.00 ERA status).
    As to getting all the Mets back to Port St. Lucie…who the hell cares about Spring Training? I mean, seriously, it is a necessary evil. It gives us insight sometimes, helps us get to know some new faces, but so does the WBC, a lot more new faces (unlikely heroes, Adam Stern, for example). I have all season to become intimate with my Mets, I enjoy the opportunity to see them fit into the mosaic of baseball. And I hope, deep down, that this much a lauded and criticized does at least promote baseball in global consciousness. But even if it doesn't, I've never been able to sit through spring training games, there's a nonchalance to them that bothers me–I'd rather read the press releases. The WBC makes me want to watch.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps, Sam, this thing will grow and become institutionalized and in five years I'll look like the guy defending the delivery of soda water via horse-drawn carriages in the emerging age of the motorized truck (the subject of an editorial I once read — but didn't write — in the National Bottlers Gazette). If the WBC develops as such, it will be great for baseball and I'll be among those counting down the days to its arrival. But sporadic moments of excitement aside, I'm not feeling it. Spring Training, as long and occasionally pointless as it is, is engrained into the rhythms of the game. I know it's engrained into the rhythm of my fandom. Having it disturbed and having my team disturbed (no Delgado, no Beltran, no Reyes, et al) has simply left me askew. It's not because I worry that our “B” squad won't beat Florida's “B” squad on any given Tuesday morning, it's just because…I want my Mets to be Mets.
    Koo and Seo? Check the roster, Sam. Neither is a Met any longer. If anything, that makes them easier to root for in this tournament. They're familiar but I no longer have a vested interest in how they spend their time.

  • Anonymous

    I'm loving seeing Mets all over the rosters, even Jorge Julio and Jose Santiago and Willie Collazo. Those last two are hanging on for the their professional baseball lives with the Mets, but they're delaying their training camp because there'ssome'n'Igottadofirst.
    Kewl.
    I dig America and all, but if one of those guys is throwing to Derek Jeter with the game on the line, It's ¡Viva La Republica Dominicana! ¡ Puerto Rico! ¡Viva Venezuela!
    ¡Viva Los Mets! I'll take them vicariously if I must.

  • Anonymous

    I certainly realize that Seo and Koo are gone, Greg. But my mental roster doesn't change is quickly and permanently as Omar Minaya's. That was my point, I like the opportunity to see ex-Mets I'm fond of, Mike Piazza included, on teams I might have fun rooting for. I'm not gonna watch the Dodgers, or the Padres, or whatever obscure Korean team bought Koo's contract–but I will watch the WBC.