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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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I Want Them to Watch It

As I told the players the day before the season ended, “I want you to make up your minds we're going to win it next year, that nothing is going to stop us.” — Davey Johnson on the last days of 1985, in Bats.

At 8:05 p.m. on April 1, baseball will return. The 2007 New York Mets will take the field, and a new campaign will begin. We'll begin the second-to-last season at Shea as the defending champions of the National League East.

That last little syllable on the end there makes all the difference, doesn't it? Those four little letters. That final little sound, the hissing one. East. It's a geographical term — a cardinal direction.

Speaking of which, the National League champions, no compass point required, will be standing across us on the field when the introductions are made. The St. Louis Cardinals will be at home, at the center of a cauldron of noise, amidst a sea of red shirts. And why shouldn't their fans be excited? They'll be greeting a team that's not only the National League champs, but the World Champs. They'll watch the Cardinals hoist their 10th World Series banner. They'll watch the Cardinals get their World Series rings. And before they can begin their season, the 2007 Mets will have to watch it, too — the celebration of a title that, had things just broken a little differently, might have been theirs.

And I want them to watch it.

I say that without rancor or vindictiveness or bitterness. I loved the 2006 squad, loved its heart and grit and pluck and all those other great baseball words. I loved watching Wright and Reyes blossom and Beltran win over Shea Stadium and Lo Duca tag Dodgers and howl at umpires and Valentin (“Jo-se, Jo-se Jo-se Jo-se! Other Jose! Other Jose!”) find grace in age and Pelfrey and Humber and Milledge give us flashes of promise in youth. I loved it all, from our April romp to those final two heart-stopping October nights, even if the last game had to wind down to that knee-buckling, heart-breaking, season-ending strike.

By now Lo Duca and Delgado and Glavine don't need any more tempering in the fire of defeat. But for the young guys, this is a crucial part of the maturation process: seeing the pennant and the rings and the hearing the cheers and thinking, Mine, mine, this could have been mine. This should have been ours. It reminds me of the 1-0 Cardinals win at Busch in May, the one where Wright couldn't make contact off Jason Isringhausen with one out and Reyes on third. After that game I had to remind myself that Wright was just 23, and one of the ingredients necessary for turning 23-year-olds who can't relax in big spots into 33-year-olds who can is failure. Failure that eats at you and leaves you determined to do anything to keep from feeling those teeth in you again.

This is the next step. Remember it when you watch Cardinal Nation exultant, when you moan that ESPN's shown the Wainwright coup de grace 40 times and they haven't even announced the lineups, when you grouse to yourself that Opening Night is sure starting out on a sour note. Look at the players and see if you can see Lo Duca's neck turning red, or Wright narrowing his eyes, or Reyes shuttering his million-watt smile. It'll taste terrible, but medicine often does. And then we'll have the whole season in front of us. Right, Davey?

After the meeting, I went back to my office to be alone for a while. I swore to myself: Next year, by God, nothing is going to stop us.

14 comments to I Want Them to Watch It

  • Anonymous

    If Willie Randolph could send 21-year-old Doc Gooden to the mound on Opening Night, he, like Davey Johnson, could make a threat like that stick.
    I'm all for turning that World Championship banner witness-bearing frown upside down, but I'm more for the 2007 Mets playing 'em one game at a time. They should absolutely be motivated by what they just missed out on but they/we can not put the October cart in front of the April, May, et al horses. It's tempting to suggest that the Mets have to do this, that or the other thing to get past the NLCS and into the World Series, but they (like every other team) has to worry about getting to the tournament first. That is not a given — and that's not Met pessimism or fear of any particular N.L. East rival talking (even though now that you've made me wonder about it, I'm not nearly as certain about '07 as I was about '86 in their respective Januarys; then again, I'm 21 years older and rarely certain about anything anymore).
    I wouldn't have believed you twenty years ago if you told me the Mets wouldn't be back in the playoffs in 1987. I wouldn't have believed you if you told me the White Sox wouldn't be back in the playoffs in 2006. 162 games may be over too soon, but they also constitute a lifetime in which one too many things can go wrong and thus deny you life after life…a 163rd, 164th, 165th game and so on.
    Perhaps the cautionary parallel to be drawn comes from the 1985 Cubs, a strong veteran team determined to better an even more disappointing LCS loss than we had last year. All the talk going into that spring was Mets vs Cubs, those two will fight it out for the NL East. The Cardinals were not part of the conversation. But then they played the games and look who we wound up battling. The Cubs disintegrated by June.
    I know you're making a broader point and I understand it and appreciate it, but the idea of looking beyond the first pitch at 8:05 on April 1 makes me mighty uneasy.
    Thinking my or your thoughts could negatively affect the outcome of the next game played? Hey, it's the first sign of spring!

  • Anonymous

    “The St. Louis Cardinals will be at home, at the center of a cauldron of noise, amidst a sea of red shirts. And why shouldn't their fans be excited?”
    While redbird fans will cheer and scream for their Cardinal heros the Cardinal Nation is also some of the most knowledgable in the game so somehow I suspect this will be one of the more subdued homecomings for a World Championship team outside the Florida Marlins . Give them credit where credit is due: they upset a superior club in a tight seven game series and beat the AL champs in a breeze. But the reality is the Cards were a mediocre club in a bad division that only got into the playoffs out of default because there are 16 teams spread out over three divisions and wildcard.
    Will admit it's sour grapes on my part for the way the system is set up and that I'm bitter because regular season accomplishments mean nothing since everything becomes equal once post-season begins. But I'm willing to bet a nickel there will be more than a few Mets (young and old alike) standing on the foul line April 1st who will be more angrier at themselves than anything else. As the writer said “Failure that eats at you and leaves you determined to do anything to keep from feeling those teeth in you again”.

  • Anonymous

    I'll see your nickel and raise you a nickel that not a single Cardinals fan will feel even a touch of hesitation over accepting their World Champions flag. Nor should they.

  • Anonymous

    If anything, they'll cheer all the louder for having overcome adversity – no Izzy, guys hurt, team being vastly inferior to their NLCS opponent – and still triumphing. Being able to do it in the faces of the modern-day “pond scum” will make them enjoy it even more.
    Bully for them. Let's let our guys have one more reminder of what should have been. Maybe it will serve as a kick-start the way Reggie Bush's Bush-league TD celebration did for the Bears last week.

  • Anonymous

    For those of us ancient enough to remember, the '73 Mets made it to the World Series despite their abysmal 83-79 record. In fact, they actually enjoyed a 3-2 lead against the Oakland A's before remembering they were an 83-79 team and collapsing.
    I don't remember anyone on that team apologizing for having beaten the Reds and playing in the Series. Nor should they. If we believe in our hearts the Mets were the best team in baseball last year (and many of us do), then we have to admit that the Cardinals are getting their rings on April Fool's Day this year by virtue of beating the best team in baseball. I'm glad the Mets will be there to see it, too. It might light a fire in some previously understoked bellies.

  • Anonymous

    I want nothing whatsoever to do with it.

  • Anonymous

    The first of 162, then hopefully 3 of 5, and so on…
    Be thankful at least the Cards proved once and for all that 83 wins, in the right circumstances, can get you to the big game. If you're greedy (like I am, most of the time,) you want All-Stars, and batting champs, and all that other pretty stuff.
    I'd still prefer us to be NL East champs again, if only to piss off Phillies/Braves' fans.

  • Anonymous

    ERRATA: Meant to say 82-79; that 162nd game was never rescheduled.
    Mea culpa.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, the Mets were a mediocre team in 1973 that was lucky to be in a pathetic division. And so many times a vastly superior team has been beaten by the underdog to win it all (the 1980's KC Royals, Minnesota Twins, LA Dodgers for example).
    But there is a difference.
    In 1973 a team still had to win a regular season divisional pennant with competition not diluted into four divisions (three plus the wildcard). Had the same system existed today and the Cardinals were still a division champion I wouldn't feel cheated – It would have been champion against champion, not winners of the first round of playoffs. But, in turn, had that same system been in place today St. Louis would have been a fourth place team at best.
    In 1973 the Reds were winners of a season-long pennant race and went into a league championship series with a regular season championship that meant something. The same holds true with our own 1988 squad. I would have wanted our 2000 team to have been a division winner and for that reason, I feel more satisifcation in our 2006 squad even though it didn't make it into the series.
    That's why I feel interest in the World Series has dwindled considerably the past decade. It is no longer a contest between two champions – hey, if you can't win your division, back-in with a wild card. Even the Red Sox would still be haunted by the ghost of the Bambino had they needed to finish first.
    Since MLB will never stop using the three-division system, why not have it where the team with the best record draws a bye in the first round and the other two division winners face each other in a best 2 out of 3 (home field advantage for the team with the better record) for the league championship? I'm sure this approach would never be adapted and while not perfect – divisions would still be diluted, – it at least brings back the integrity of the pennant race and, in the case of the AL last season where only a few games separated each of the four contestants, it might have caused all four to play down to the final day.
    There was nothing more exciting than going down the stretch in a tight pennant race when Leo Durocher would say “nobody remembers who finishes second”. But don't worry – if the Mets only make it via a wild card I'll still be rooting as hard as I can for them to go all the way – but I wish the system would change so the wild card would be just a distant memory.
    One last note ahout the 1973 squad. The following season began with hope but most of us knew we had a mediocre ball club and were not so confident about our chances to even be competitive. Somehow, deep down inside, I feel this might be the same feeling for most in the Cardinal Nation.

  • Anonymous

    The wildcard at least somewhat addresses the inequity of bad division winners like the Padres making the playoffs over much better teams from other divisions. It works to our favor – we're competing against four teams from large markets (not to mention playing the Yankmes 6 times a year) while St Louis gets to feast on litle sisters of the poor like Milwaukee and rivalry games vs the fearsome Royals. Unless they get back to a balanced schedule, this offers Philly a chance to make the playoffs on some merit, vs some other teams making it based on luck of geography.

  • Anonymous

    I don't agree with the natural assumption that the wildcard winner is a second-rate team that just couldn't cut it as a division-winner. Yes, on the surface it may seem like that, but it's purely circumstantial.
    All too often these days you have crappy divisions where the eventual winner is the one team that managed to finish over .500, and then fiercely competitive divisions where 100-game winners still finish second… and end up as the wildcard.
    So is that mediocre division-winner more deserving of being in the postseason, purely on the basis of its geographical circumstance? Because that team happened to be in a division where they were the best of the worst? You can finish under .500 and STILL win your division if it's bad enough. So no, I don't see division-winners as automatically superior to wildcard winners. That's way too simplistic a view.

  • Anonymous

    The Cardinals have already apologized for winning.

  • Anonymous

    Using the term “back-in” does not imply that a wild card team is “second-rate” but that it is simply not a regular season champion. And agree life can be cruel when circumstances allows a mediocre team to win a mediocre division and get into the playoffs while teams with so much better records do not. Our '73 team is the perfect example (the Astros were 17 games out in the West yet could have been tied with New York if that final game was played and the Mets lost it).
    Prior to the new system many 100 game winners finished second with nothing to show for it except a longer winter vacation. That was the beauty, exciitement, tension and heartbreak of the pennant race which separated baseball from all other sports (with no pre-season talk about building one's club for the post-season, with the regular season bypassed as an afterthought). Though acknowledged all along that a weak team could get hot at the right time and upset a vastly superior club, through 1993 the post-season was never referred to as a crap-shoot like it is today.
    Just my take on it.

  • Anonymous

    Which is fine. But I doubt it will be the take of any of the 42,000 or so World/League/Division Champion Cardinal fans at Busch Stadium before the first pitch is thrown on Opening Night.
    Though I do hope they're subdued for the next several days. (And that a way is induced to allow Carlos Delgado to do his part.)