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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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O Captain, My Captain

I'd been hoping this would be the year I fell back in love with spring training, but so far it's not happening.
Spring training's a tease, and a tease that takes way too long to deliver nothing. Sure, that first day of pitchers and catchers is like a beacon from springtime. But it's a beacon from a very far-off springtime, one that chiefly reminds you of how far there is to go until anything matters. At this point of spring training everything is the same: Pitchers run fielding drills, coaches say how great everybody looks, GMs spin the off-season, managers spin the upcoming season, and none of it means anything. In a couple of weeks we'll emerge from this period of Utter Meaninglessness and come to the fork in the spring-training road where Boredom meets Despair. Boredom means a happy spring training, all of which are alike. Despair means an unhappy spring training, each of which is vile in its own way, whether it's Tommy John surgeries, outfielders hitting first basemen on Photo Day or ex-Yankees threatening restaurant workers. Either way, it'll be a slog to the finish line, which is really just the start.
Did I mention spring training takes way too long? As presently constructed, it's a relic of the era in which players spent the winter driving trucks or baling hay or selling suits. Today pitchers need to build up their arm strength, but your journeyman-est of journeymen utility infielders spent most of the offseason in the weight room. If I woke up to find myself running the baseball world, I'd have every team do a mid-February winter caravan to keep us all from hurling ourselves out office windows into the darkness of 5 pm, then open camps on March 1. Sounds like heresy now, but really it would be kinder.
Whew. One bit of news has penetrated my Fortress of Grumpitude so far: The Mets aren't appointing a captain. To which I say, Thank God.
Captaincies for baseball teams sound cool, but at least in the Mets' hands, they haven't been particularly good tidings for either the captain or the team. The high point was our first captain: Keith Hernandez, back in 1987. An unassailable choice: Keith was the quarterback of the infield, the smartest hitter on the team and the soul of the clubhouse (life after midnight and all), not to mention my favorite Met. Or maybe it's just that my memories are rendered rose-colored by his cooler-than-cool 1988 baseball card. That's a signature shot of Mex: Glove out at Wrigley, staring death at some hapless Cub hitter, the C on his clavicle just adding to his aura of badassness.
After that, though, things went south. Gary Carter was named co-captain, a move both unnecessary (co-captains?) and stinking of clubhouse politics. A Web search claims Mookie Wilson got a co-captaincy in 1989, which I don't recall but sure sounds like the kind of thing the Mets would have done back then. No offense to Mookie, but that's captaincy as a gold watch: Mookie would barely crack the Mendoza line for us in '89 and get exiled to Canada.
The C came back as adornment for John Franco in 2001, and again, this is one of those “no offense, but…” situations. Franco bled orange and blue, and he certainly had plenty of influence in the clubhouse and the organization, but something felt wrong about that C from the start. This was both captaincy as gold watch and an unwitting acknowledgment that something was going wrong for the Mets: veterans whispering in the ear of ownership, sedition against Bobby Valentine. And besides: a closer as captain? And one whose high-wire act drove Met fans insane?
So I agree with Willie — particularly when I read that if there were a Met captain, it'd be Tom Glavine. Really? I've come to feel warmly toward Glavine as The Eventual Met instead of The Manchurian Brave, but there's still something about him that's mildly off-putting, whether it's his diplomatically sneaky excuse-making or his strangely bloodless, aloof presence on the mound. Maybe, as Willie's comments suggest, that's unfair to him and he does a lot of good in the clubhouse away from reporters' notebooks and TV cameras. Even so, can a captain be a pitcher? Isn't a captain someone you see out there barking to his teammates about defensive positioning, or looming in the batting order?
My pick for captain, if we had to have one, would be Paul Lo Duca, who brought a very Mex-like presence and boiling-over intensity to the infield. (Heck, he's already got the nickname Captain Red-Ass.) Then again, your captain probably isn't somebody in a walk year of a contract.
Captain? Ain't happenin'. Let's call the whole thing off.

4 comments to O Captain, My Captain

  • Anonymous

    First choice: Nobody. 'Cause it's lame. Hernandez, Carter and Franco all went downhill as soon as they were handed the C. (So for god's sake, keep that frigging letter away from Wright and Reyes, at least for 20 years.)
    Second choice: Carlos Delgado. Everybody loves him, listens to him (SI ran a neat profile a couple of issues back seconding the Chris Smith piece from New York last season that he's The Man in the clubhouse and so forth) and he's got the credibility of a great career still in progress.
    Glavine's a pitcher. That's baseballspeak for not an actual person. Besides, when you're casually tossing off retirement plans despite an option for a second year and your contender of a team perhaps needing you to focus on the present, your leadership skills are tenuous. Lo Duca? More the varsity girls' softball team coach type.
    Let's hope that if a Met is named captain that he takes the Tammy Metzler tack from Election:
    “The only promise I will make is that if elected I will immediately dismantle the student government, so that none of us will ever have to sit through one of these stupid assemblies again! “

  • Anonymous

    “The Captain” always reminds me of Thurman Munson.
    Now they're calling Jeter “Captain Clutch.”
    Naming a captain always seemed to me a very Yankee thing to do.
    I for one was embarrassed by the “C” on Mex's jersey.
    Oh, by the way, we let my first choice get away to the Cubs this offseason.

  • Anonymous

    Naming a captain is what a team does to focus its players' attention, help remind them of their goals, and alternately pat them and kick them in their rear ends when needed.
    There are plenty of veterans on this team who can, have, and will do that, to the kids as well as to each other, without the benefit of a cloth letter on their jersey. Every one of the '07 Mets will have their attention focused into a laser-like goal soon enough. On opening night, when they watch World Series rings get handed out to the '06 St. Louis Bleepin' Cardinals. Heck, even Willie's broken out his '77 ring (“Hey, boys – wanna see what one of these things looks like up close?”).
    I'm assuming a thorough thrashing of those ring-bearers will follow forthwith.

  • Anonymous

    The Cardinals will extend the agony, handing the hardware out before the second game of the season, April 3. Probably has something to do with ESPN's time allotment and perhaps the Cardinals' desire to broadcast their own ceremonies.
    So tell the Mets to stay lined up to see what they're missing out on.