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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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What We're Not

When you're a basically solid team without a lot of job openings or questions, spring training is, ideally, all about what you're not. News? Bad. Questions? Generally bad. Particularly any that start with formulations like, “Can the Mets survive…” or “What's Plan B now that…” The absence of questions, beyond banalities such as work visas and days off to attend to personal matters and commonplaces such as working on new pitches and re-examining swings? That's good. Or, rather, it's not bad.
So far, it's been a camp of nots. Orlando Hernandez's neck pain? Not thought to be serious. Lastings Milledge's hand? Not broken. John Maine leg after that comebacker? Not injured. Not exciting, but that's not disappointing. Exciting is so overrated this time of year.
But it occurred to me today that there's something else we're not.
There's been a lot of speculation about Alex Rodriguez and that opt-out Scott Boras built into his contract all those years ago in Texas — speculation that the clause was designed to let the Mets correct their mistake of having Steve Phillips call in a pre-emptive strike on A-Rod's supposed contract demands during the winter of 2000. The Mets were the team A-Rod loved as a kid (and seems to genuinely have loved, unlike, say, the diplomatically variable childhood loyalties of Al Leiter) and had always wanted to play for. As it's a rarity for agents to be dealing with the same GMs seven years down the road, the opt-out would give both player and team a second chance to make things right.
It's a great story. Great stories always make me suspicious. It seems a lot more reasonable to think that seven-year escape clause was designed to let A-Rod catch back up to a salary curve that in 2000 sure looked destined to rise above $25 million per for the game's greatest stars by 2008. That sounds a lot more like Scott Boras than any kind of sentiment about what logos were on a client's jammies once upon a time.
But it's spooky how the Mets' lean seasons did track the opt-out pretty closely, from 2001's gallant near-miss to the travesty of Alomar and Vaughn, Art Howe lighting up rooms, Jeff Wilpon running down Jim Duquette's cellphone batteries, Kazmir for Zambrano, pitchers running the clubhouse and every other disappointment and embarrassment of that wretched era. Shaun Powell doesn't mention A-Rod, but he does a nice job in Newsday today discussing how these Mets are not those Mets anymore. If Boras really was plotting a course for A-Rod around the Mets' fallow years, his only mistake was being pessimistic by a season.
This isn't a plea to put A-Rod in orange and blue for 2008. That's not going to happen. Though if there were a chance, I wouldn't be so high and mighty that I'd turn up my nose at a player who's going to wind up owning every offensive record in the book and, as no less than dedicated Yankee hater Jim Caple has pointed out, seems like a decent guy whose biggest fault is letting his emotional neediness guide his foot to his mouth. A-Rod would be insane to go for double or nothing on the other side of town. The Mets would be taking an awful risk letting him take that gamble with an enormous amount of their money. And that's not what got me thinking anyway.
What got me thinking was David Wright's reaction to the idea of A-Rod as a Met. Wright is an All-Star, the recipient of a six-year, $55 million contract, a marketing phenomenon and one of the faces of his franchise. So what would he do if A-Rod arrived in Flushing? That's easy, he told Bob Klapisch — he'd change positions. Really? To where? “Anywhere.”
On one New York team, when you're Alex Rodriguez you pull into town, are left to read the writing on the wall and decide you're the one who's going to change positions, even though most everybody except geeks who do motion capture for videogames thinks you're far superior at the position you're vacating. On that team the guy you moved for is more interested in punishing you for something stupid you said a long time ago than in drawing down the venom of the fans, even though he could accomplish that with a sentence or two and thereby allow you to relax and just be who you are, which is only one of the best players in the history of the game.
A-Rod seem stunned by Wright's comments, and who can blame him? In the Daily News today, Wright calmly acknowledged he'd said what he said, then cracked that “I really do hate” Reyes. In Port St. Lucie, one half of the left side of the infield saying that about the other half is a laugh line. In Tampa, it'd launch half a billion headlines.
I can't wait to find out all the things the Mets are this year. In the meantime? It's nice taking stock of all the things they're not.
Reminder: This Wednesday March 7, we'll be reading at Varsity Letters, the monthly sportswriting event hosted by Gelf Magazine's Carl Bialik. The night's other readers will be True Hoop's Henry Abbott; the Dugout's Jon Bois, Nick Dallamora and Brandon Stroud; Deadspin's Will Leitch; Dan Shanoff of eponymous sitedom; and With Leather's Matt Ufford. If you're in or near New York City (or have a sudden urge to visit), please come cheer us on and/or laugh after we fall on our faces. Admission is free; full details are right here. Carl even interviewed us, the sucker.

9 comments to What We're Not

  • Anonymous

    setting aside the stone cold fact that arod is not gonna be coming to the mets, wouldn't the issue be whether reyes at short, not wright at third, would be willing to move?

  • Anonymous

    Well, my first reaction was how quickly would we change our tune if Alex Rodriguez suddenly wore orange and blue. To be honest, most Met fans (including myself) point out with glee that he doesn't come through in pressure situations late in the game, down the stretch or in post-season and that we'd still want Carlos Beltran at the plate with the season on the line, despite what happened in game seven.
    My second reaction was that the above wouldn't matter. We're already proud of our hometown heros and don't need a whipping boy to demonstrate it. Even if he's a big contributor in 10-0 blowouts while leaving runners on base in a 3-2 game in the eighth, as long as he gives 100%, that will be OK. Let him get us a lead early and let the bullpen save it. And, If David Wright would glady change positions to have aRod on the team, then why shouldn't we want him?
    Of course, it's only a pipe-dream, but I bet he would be happier playing with a team rooting for one another rather than a bunch of individuals whose only concerns are with themselves.

  • Anonymous

    Well, we've seen Reyes at second base, and that was a terrible waste. How about A-Rod at second? For a great shortstop, playing second has to be easier than playing third, and he handled that move just fine.
    And if Boras wants a long contract, it's easier to live with reduced offensive numbers from a second baseman than from a third baseman as A-Rod gets older.
    I don't know that I want him to come here, but having him at second could solve lots of problems.

  • Anonymous

    Great interview, fellas.

  • Anonymous

    This story reflects well on David. It also reflects well, in retrospect, on Jose, who never should have been moved off short but did so without a peep. These two are so innocent until proven guilty of being brazen.
    My plan during the original A-Rod free agent fever was he would come here and play left since we had an all-world defensive shortstop. A-Rod was younger then and presumably adaptable to change (for the change he'd be collecting) and I had a Robin Yount thing in mind (Robin switched from short to center, but we had Jay Payton in center for the next ten years then). As he's the one getting up there (all of 32 this year), I'd still endorse Rodriguez in the outfield because I just as soon leave Wright be.
    I'd endorse it, that is, if I were willing to indulge in this let's-find-something-to-stir-the-pot hypotheticalia. It's spring (baseball spring; it's fricking freezing outside) and in spring, a baseball writer's fancy turns to the ridiculous, or at least to the unlikely. We fans aren't much different. But I doubt A-Rod is coming here. I kind of doubt he's leaving there. I won't use absolutes 'cause I don't know the future, but it seems a little far-fetched.
    Alex Rodriguez puts up fantastic numbers. Even adjusting them to the National League, Shea Stadium (for one year) and his inevitable comfort-zone search, they'd still be fine. But it's still New York, our patrons are as capable of impatience as anybody's and A-Rod's unique mix of public soul-searching and unclutchedness still clouds everything about him, certainly more so than it did entering 2001. Wright could change positions, but could A-Rod change any of what has besmirched what should be a Hall of Fame rep?
    (It's not my habit to defend him, but I think Leiter's Mets fan bona fides were genuine. They just weren't eternal.)

  • Anonymous

    I was more interested in Wright's reaction than in the actual idea of A-Rod coming. I agree that won't happen.
    Still, if it somehow did, I'd consider moving Wright to first. His work ethic at third is above reproach, but I'm not sold on him as a third baseman.

  • Anonymous

    While aRod coming here is as probable as John Sterling becoming the “voice of the Mets” if Wright was moved to first, what would happen to Carlos Delgado?
    Wonder how good David would be in one of the outfield corners?

  • Anonymous

    Jason, I like your original premise a lot: “Things we are not.” We don't have a sell-the-farm management anymore, or Mr. Me cardplayers-during-playoff games; your DW quip about Reyes says it all.
    Remember that Spring dustup ('88?) between Strawberry and Hernandez, then all the talk about how bad Straw wanted to play in L.A. with Eric Davis? Even if we'd got to the WS and won it that year, I'd never been able to look at Darryl as a hero. I root for grownups, classy players, guys who give a lot to their communities (Pedey is #1 there, as far as I'm concerned,) but above all guys who'll do anything within the law to win, including moving to another position to welcome a better player, and do it with enthusiasm.
    Didn't we just go through this with Manny Ramirez? He's Manny, he's nuts, he's this–whatever. He's a monster at the plate, period. Oh, and he obviously prefers to remain in Boston. Red Sox fans better appreciate what they have, so help me. I think for the average Yankee fan, A-Rod has become his own joke and punchline. Beltran didn't put up with near as much crap in '05 as Alex has done his entire time in pinstripes.
    If a guy wants to be a Met, and can bring a HOF-type play to what we are now, this should be a no-brainer for everyone concerned: team, fans and media. Think about it: A-Rod's a prideful guy, and if he slunked away to the Cubs, he'd always carry that stigma of “couldn't make it NY.” If he came over to us, there'd be less pressure, a better team chemistry with which to deal and Mets fans would own our brothers and sisters in the Bronx.
    Screw all the tabloid stuff: let's start stumping for A-Rod to WANT to come over. It starts with the fans. If he's “going to wind up owning every offensive record in the book ” then why the hell shouldn't he do it as a Met?

  • Anonymous

    what about wright at second?
    i mean if valentin and fonzie could, so can wright.