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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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Broom With a View

If the Mets wanna do a three outta four this weekend, nobody here would argue the point…One at a time and all that, but would a series sweep be too much to ask for? You know, just for the heck of it.

—This correspondent, almost four days ago

Ask and ye shall receive.

The wonderful world of linking allows me to prove I didn't see this coming, but I sure hoped it would come. You can't always get what you want, but if you sweep sometimes, you get what you need.

If you ever plan to motor west, taking a detour through Phoenix for four games is the highway that's the best. Reincarnating Ebbets Field in the Shea Stadium parking lot is a waste of time. Let's just build one of what Arizona has. It's already our home away from home. Forget its given name — let's call it Chase Stadium. Say it out loud and it is home. We already have a built-in advantage, with 10 wins in a row there since 2004 to prove it.

The Diamondbacks have certainly snaked their way down the crapper, haven't they? Did Jason Grimsley steal their mojo on his way out? His potential revelations can't be the only thing killing them. This does not look like a team that had been taking its HGH anyway.

Normally, I wouldn't dance on an opponent's just-dug grave, but we're done with the Diamondbacks for 2006, unless we see them in the postseason, which doesn't seem all that likely in terms of…

(No, too easy, too tempting, too many ramifications for karma's sake to slam that Russ Ortiz pitch into the alley.)

Now that we're done with them, I can admit I look at Luis Gonzalez's diminished arm strength with a touch of sadness given all he did for humanity on a Sunday night in November 2001. I felt almost bad that we ran on him with such impunity inning after inning but I curbed that lack of enthusiasm every time I looked up at the scoreboard. I was warm all over given Alay Soler's Saturday night two-hitter and I practically needed damp towels for the way we went a'whackin' all day Sunday.

To prove I'm still very much a Mets fan who lived through all the years when we didn't lead the second-place team by 6-1/2 games and the tied-for-third place teams (one of them being the 11-time-defending Eastern Division champions) by 10 on June 11, I thought I saw flaws today. I worried that we weren't bringing enough runners home early. I worried that Pedro lacked command. I worried…I worried that I was nuts by the third inning when I realized my worries were for naught.

All cylinders were clicked on. Nobody who batted when it mattered didn't do something good. Pedro did what he had to. He'll have extra day rest for two of his next three starts. He was relieved in the sixth and I'm relieved by that.

Couldn't help but think about last August when we burned Arizona last (and to think they had just gotten through rebuilding when we lit another match). That seemed like a real turning point on our season but it was mostly a last hurrah before we descended our way out of contention. But there's one thing that stands out for me from that overwhelming four-game sweep.

Remember the to-do about Victor Diaz tagging up from second to third when we had a double-digit lead? While it was fashionable to tut-tut Victor's unwritten-rules faux pas, I was complimentary toward it because I think it reflected the best of Willie Randolph. This team began to hustle in 2005 and it hasn't stopped since. Even though I did feel a sympathy pang for Luis Gonzalez (he will always be a national hero), I was thrilled to watch us play nonstop ball. Only good manners kept us from winning 25-2 today.

I really believe this is Willie's doing. This is the sunny side of his professionalism rants. Never mind who high-fives who or what's supposed to be shaved or trimmed (he seems to have let up on that altogether). I don't love Randolph the way I did Valentine or Johnson but I do respect the hell out of what he's done with the players' collective attitude. They're a fun bunch in the dugout but they conduct themselves with dead-seriousness when they're on the field. That's infectious in the good sense of the word. Everybody from Beltran and Pedro and Wright to Alay Soler to Eli Marrero to Heath Bell seems to have contracted it.

One more connection to last year I think bears note. I don't remember where I read it, but somebody critiqued one of Ralph Kiner's appearances in the booth at some time in the last year. He had been asked if the 2005 Mets reminded him of any previous edition of the franchise. He said, with no hesitation, 1968. Whoever was critiquing him more or less rolled his eyes as if to say there goes Ralph, being a homer, trying to make us think 1969 is just around the corner in 2006.

Sure, I thought, Ralph Kiner really has to kiss up to the Mets to get a break. The freaking television booth is named after him! And, as has happened more often than not in the past 45 years, Ralph seems to have been right. 1968 was the last Mets season I didn't see, but everything I've ever read about it indicates it was not to be judged by its record (ninth place, 73-89 — best ever to date for the Mets, but still ninth place, 73-89). The story of that year was Gil Hodges came in and, to use modern-day corporatespeak, changed the culture. You might not have picked them to go all the way one year later, but those who saw the 1968 Mets saw a difference in the making.

Similarly, one year later, I'm really feeling what a turning point 2005, with its naked-eye undistinguished 83-79/tied-for-third finish, was for the New York Mets. 1969 is not a perfect allegory for what has followed. These Mets make too much money to be considered a pure miracle in the making (despite some of the miraculous ways we've won this season), but it's not all about payroll and pricey free agents here. It's about guys who know how to do the job and don't take too many breaks from doing it.

It's one thing to import Delgado and Wagner. It's a whole other thing to get the contributions we're getting from Endy Chavez and Jose Valentin and Julio Franco and Orlando Hernandez and just about every new guy who's come in. They came into a situation that had improved markedly in 2005, as the cameos by Ramon Castro and Chris Woodward and, yes, Pedro Martinez reminded us today.

This thing has been building for a while now and it's putting down roots and it's picking up steam and it's spreading out all over the country, not just Arizona.

Next stop, Philadelphia. The view looks good from here.

22 comments to Broom With a View

  • Anonymous

    I don't remember there being this many “Let's go Mets” chants in other parks in '98/'99/'00. We're still not at 80's level, but this seems to be more like it. Am I wrong?

  • Anonymous

    The boy is in California with his grandparents; Emily and I walked down to Red Hook listening to an earbud each (awww), then turned the game off for dinner at the Good Fork. (Which could be called the Great Fork or the Betcha-By-Golly-Wow Awesome Fork, BTW.) Before the entrees arrived she wanted a game update, so I walked outside and fired up the radio. 10-zip. Word.
    Nice as the last four nights have been, I counsel humility. It doesn't take much to win the West, so we might indeed see these snakes again. I remember a Dodger team we had our way with in the regular season, too.
    (I know, I'm no fun.)

  • Anonymous

    The story of that year was Gil Hodges came in and, to use modern-day corporatespeak, changed the culture. You might not have picked them to go all the way one year later, but those who saw the 1968 Mets saw a difference in the making.

    There is a key quote by Tom Seaver somewhere about Gil “The Drill” Hodges and his impact upon his arrival.
    Mets went from children to adults bypassing adolescence.

  • Anonymous

    We. Kick. Ass. Whatever magic dust they've coated this park in, we should harvest it and sprinkle it all over Turner Field. And Shea, for that matter.
    Re: Pedro. Ron Darling actually said something perceptive today. He commented that Pedro didn't have “Pedro Command” today, and I think that's surprisingly accurate. It looked to me like he was getting a bit squeezed on the outside corner, but that's usually not an issue for Pedro. This is two starts in a row that he hasn't been able to get his pitches working in that beautiful rhythm he usually does. By Pedro standards, this is terrible, and the toe is always worrisome… but I think Greg's right: he's got six days to return to Pedro-form. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if he's firing strikes and painting corners (and getting no run support) next week.

  • Anonymous

    Is my memory faulty or is this the first sweep we've had since we swept them here last year? (We may have had another towards the end…)

  • Anonymous

    Before Grimsley, I wouldn't have doubted the Diamondbacks might be there in October. I don't see it anymore. Even allowing for “you're never as good/you're never as bad,” they did not look any inch the contender, not even in the West.
    Did I imply we'd be there in October? One damn game at a time. Let's win Tuesday night.

  • Anonymous

    We swept the Gnats at RFK late in the season, making up, I suppose, for the sweep they put on us at Shea a week or two before.

  • Anonymous

    The cascading LGMs were like something out of a Metsier past, weren't they? No, I don't recall a lot of on-the-road support in the last good era. Philadelphia and Montreal for their proximity and Miami, I guess, for the relocated New Yorkers. But Arizona? I saw a game there in '99 and I don't remember anything like what we heard this weekend. This country was apparently built out of woodwork.

  • Anonymous

    It's comical (now it is) to think that Fred Wilpon detected a touch of Gil Hodges in Art Howe. Gilbert Gottfried maybe in that Art's time on stage was laughable. Willie, on the other hand, has that certain something. He's not always on target with it, but it works.
    Perhaps because I never saw Hodges play, he will always strike me a stern but caring father figure even though he was “only” 45 in 1969. I don't really see Randolph (52 next month) in those elevated terms, but maybe we should.
    You know…if we win.

  • Anonymous

    I know, I'm no fun.
    No, you're not, but that's beside the point. Brandon Webb may be Orel Hershiser, but is Bob Melvin Tommy Lasorda? Who exactly is their Kirk Gibson? Is Craig Counsell Steve Sax? And is there a strain of fat & happy to the 2006 Mets that, with hindsight, we might see in 1988 if we looked back hard enough?
    Sorry, bro. You brought me down with the Grimsley thing on Friday. You can't do that to me twice in three days.

  • Anonymous

    Darling was pretty entertaining last night, actually: Howie was asking him if he was ever worried during all the Mets' fights in the mid-80s and he said, “Nah, it was fun.”
    Besides, Darling will always have a place in my heart for the blithe remark that “I don't trust any player who doesn't drink beer.”

  • Anonymous

    We also swept DC the second week of this season. And, if you want to count it, we took both of a two-game short series against the Pirates in early May.

  • Anonymous

    Unlike many of the posters here, who were recently explaining why they love their late-night communion with the team on the road, I have always hated the West Coast swings. First of all, saddled as I am with job and child, it means a week of games I don't see a minute of. And then when I wake up in the morning and go to check the score, I'm generally confronted with dismal news and drops in the standings.
    After this week, though, I guess I'll have to start appreciating the healthfulness of the western air, or the exuberance of the younger teams, or something. Because evidently it's a great place for the Mets to play.
    Tomorrow, they're back to our time zone, and I'll be thrilled to see them again (in person, too, thanks to our upcoming trip down to Philly). I have a feeling we won't be the only Mets fans in attendance…

  • Anonymous

    Though it'd be heretical to start comparing this weekend with Sweep Me in St. Louis circa 1986, there is a similar element. From what I can acertain (thank you, “A Year to Remember”; I was only four years old then), more than just being a sweep of the defending NL champs and our bitter rival, those 4 games announced to the league that we would win the division, no questions asked. Though such a statement at this point would surely anger the karma gods Greg (and the rest of us) fear so much, objectively speaking, we just made one hell of a statement, and the baseball world is taking notice. This is one of the two teams to beat in the Senior Circuit. Yesterday was a capsule of the series, and, to a degree, the season (except for the lack of late-inning heroics). This is not 98 or 04 or 05, when we flirt with the wild card and fall short despite exceeding expectations. The eventual outcome of this team remains to be seen, but let's just come out and say it: this is Our Year.
    By the way, I signed for a 5-5 road trip. I'll bet some of you did, too.

  • Anonymous

    Could you be thinking of this post by my coblogger Mike:
    I love Arizona.
    steve from zisk

  • Anonymous

    Son of a gun, that's the one. No offense to Mike, but I thought it was a tad harsh, though in his defense, that was a crappy moment in Met time. Cynicism was in the air.
    Unlike that glorious dry heat on which we are all intoxicated.

  • Anonymous

    “Signed for…” Somebody used to have a pretty cool internship.
    I try my best to sign for nothing more than 1-0 and then start over the next night. But yes, a road trip played mostly all the way Out There already clinched as a winner is yet another smiley sign of the times.
    I had hoped we had our Cardinals moment when we took our first two in Atlanta and then the first two in our next series at Shea against them, but two outta three isn't four straight. And the Diamondbacks, even if we are to accept they haven't been themselves lately, aren't the 1986 Cardinals in terms of what they represented.
    Without pinpointing a historical precedent, the most significant element to this weekend was the TCB factor. They took care of business like a team that has moved beyond making statements. And (though you never know given the unknowns surrounding three of the individuals) it really looked like our starting pitching has settled in. That's huge.
    Check in late Thursday night to see where things stand in the divisional scheme of things.

  • Anonymous

    I thought it was a bit harsh too. But being a Mets fan, it's always easy to find the dark side of things. I find cynicism runs through my veins (along with copious amounts of iced tea), and that cynicism always seems spills out onto the page. Heck, I'm finding it harder to write this year since the deadweight I hated (Zambrano, Matsui) is gone. How many ways can I say, “David Wright was great again?”
    I think this desert air has also improved my allergies. Bless this team.

  • Anonymous

    “Somebody” also used to think he had the best long-term, keep-it-on-the-shelf memory of minutae in the world. Then again, if that were true that somebody would've remembered Jason Jacome's name before reading it in Sunday's papers.

  • Anonymous

    Jason Jacome. Pencil him in for 15 wins, they said in 1995.
    I don't think they meant for his entire career.

  • Anonymous

    Helps to look at what happens when things go the other way.
    John McGraw was a taskmaster. Curfews, daily drills, the whole enchilada.
    McGraw was an old man at 59 and turned over the reins to Hall of Fame first baseman and .400 hitter Bill Terry. Terry let the boys do what they wanted and the Giants finished 7th in '32. In '33 Terry restored order and the Giants won the World Series.

  • Anonymous

    Man, the Nationals are easy to forget.