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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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As in Tampa, it's Spring in St. Lucie

Spring Training proceeds. I’m sure fine things are taking place on the field, right alongside not so fine things. That’s baseball last I checked. But it’s still a week in. Until some strangers in Mets uniforms are told to shed them and hit the minor league complex or the road, I still can’t get excited or agitated over a single personnel development. Excited and agitated that they’re there, sure, but not over what anybody in particular does.

Thanks to the near-saturation coverage provided by SNY (can’t believe they’re pre-empting Northeast Angling as often as they are for something as esoteric as the team that owns a third of their channel), I’ve certainly kept an eye on our surfeit of Mets. I’m beginning to notice some things about some players, none of which I choose to put any emphasis on whatsoever. The ones who look good? They’re professionals. They’re supposed to look good. The ones who are not so sharp? Tempting as it is, I’m not going to write them off a handful of games into the meaningless exhibition season.

How meaningless is the exhibition season? It’s no Mr. G when it comes to reliable forecasting. The Mets posted the exact same record of 13-13 in 1967 as they did in 1986. They won the World Series in 1986. They lost 101 games in 1967. They were also impressed enough by rookie George Thomas Seaver to add him to the rotation, but not until after he worked some relief early and then got a couple of starts late in camp. Tom didn’t reveal himself as Terrific in the first week of March. I doubt anybody does. Hence, I’ll continue to enjoy the sights and sounds of all that orange and blue beamed north to us polar bears but I refuse to take it seriously as death even though I’m kind of dying to.

Toting this uncommon maturity regarding exhibition games has left a void in my soul. I have to find something to rile up the blood (it’s the blogger’s code). I think I have it. And wouldn’t you know it comes in pinstripes?

No, not the Yankees. I don’t have the foggiest what they’re up to lately. I’m sure the sleepovers have recommenced and all is peaches and cream in Tampa.

But yes, the Yankees. Through no fault of their own (except for existing, the bastards), they continue to infiltrate our benign good times.

Three recent examples of a disturbing long-term trend…

1) A profile of Mike Pelfrey by John Harper in the News last week:

You go from one side of the state to the other, from the Yankees to the Mets, and after watching Phil Hughes wow onlookers in Tampa, it felt important to see Mike Pelfrey as soon as possible. It’s the year of the phenoms, after all. For both New York teams this seems destined to be remembered as the spring training in which an ace was born, and as such Hughes and Pelfrey may be linked forever.

I understand the itch Harper describes. On my few sojourns to Yankee Stadium, I couldn’t wait to go home, take five showers and head to beautiful Shea — as soon as possible. If that were John’s angle, I’d applaud mightily. But it wasn’t. Instead he couldn’t just tell us, “Mike Pelfrey is quite the prospect, here’s how he’s doing.” Why oh why was it necessary to couple him with Hughes? I’ve been aware of each pitcher independently since 2005 and it’s never once occurred to me that they need be linked. Did it occur to Harper that when covering Hughes it was required to note, “The Yankees may have an answer to Mike Pelfrey on their hands and his name is Phil Hughes”?

We know the answer.

2) A Tuesday story in the same paper by Peter Botte about the defensive prowess of Jose Reyes:

[I]t’s not far-fetched to believe the 23-year-old rising star soon will join three-time winner Derek Jeter as Gold Glove shortstops in New York.

Would it be far-fetched to have framed Reyes’ ascension into the ranks of elite defenders by pointing out he could soon join Bud Harrelson and Rey Ordoñez as Gold Glove shortstops who have won the award as Mets? What in the name of Dick Schofield does Jeter have to do with any of this? That he plays in New York? So have lots of shortstops. That he’s won Gold Gloves? So did Ozzie Smith. There was no reason to inject him into a story about another player on another team except that there’s apparently a rule that Mets can only be explained in certain quarters by using Yankees as examples. The next time Jeter steals second, will Botte liken the footwork involved to “the speed shown off by Jose Reyes”?

We know the answer.

3) Bob Klapisch’s followup on the Wright/A-Rod nonstory at ESPN.com:

None other than Derek Jeter says Wright has to be careful about choosing his friends as his star quotient grows.

It would be amusing if Jeter were referring to Rodriguez as the unsavory character to steer clear of, but he’s talking about…oh, who cares who he’s talking about? Who cares what a guy on the Yankees says about a guy on the Mets? I’ve never for a second bought this “Wright could be the Mets’ answer to Jeter” line they’ve been pushing down our throats since David came up. Why should we? Because David’s talented? Because David’s first language is English? They play different positions, they have divergent offensive skills and David, as my partner pointed out, comes off as a helluva nicer guy than Captain Automaton.

If we were living in the distant past, say 1998, ’99 or thereabouts, I wouldn’t be any happier with the contexts presented by these writers but I’d have to grudgingly admit that the Yankees are such consistent champions that it’s no wonder they come up so often in conversation.

But have you noticed? They’re not consistent champions, at least not in terms of the only championship they institutionally claim to care about. A Yankee ticket brochure fell into my hands (don’t worry, I washed them) the other day and it’s right there on the second page: “Thank you for supporting us as we give everything we have toward winning a 27th world championship. Yankees fans deserve nothing less. Sincerely, George M. Steinbrenner III”. I imagine it’s the same closing he’s been using since the winter of 2001.

Do you realize that 12-year-old Yankees fans may as well be hundred-year-old Cubs fans for all the World Series they’ve seen their team win? A whole new generation of long-suffering Yankees fans is actually taking root — if we are to assume they consider perennial participation in the postseason without ultimate reward to be suffering. (Not everybody thinks so.)

Listen, it’s easy enough and always fun to creep into Yankee-bashing without really trying. That’s not my mission, not today anyhow. What I’d like to contract from the sport at the moment is not New York’s American League representative but rather this rancid notion that too many card-carrying baseball writers cling to: that the present-day Yankees — not the 1927 Yankees, not the 1936 Yankees, not even the 2000 Yankees — define baseball and that you can’t report on the doings of another baseball team, especially one in New York, without invoking them relentlessly. To a certain extent I can understand the easy segues from February, the lazy “…unlike in Yankeeland, all’s tranquil for the Mets in St. Lucie as Otis Livingston tells us…” But once you’ve cleared out the cobwebs, you have two disparate organizations to report on and two disparate fan bases to report them to. Unless we’re trading Rafael Santana for Phil Lombardi again, keep them disparate.

What is the point of namechecking Yankees in so many Mets stories? Will we not understand what a pitcher does if you don’t illustrate his job by elaborating that pitching is what we see a Yankee do when he throws a ball from the mound? Will we not grasp the concept of shortstop defense if you leave us without a reference to a Yankee practicing it? Will we not be able to identify a burgeoning star in our midst if we are not spoonfed repeated reminders that a star on the Yankees once burgeoned?

C’mon, give us some credit. If you’re going to write about the Mets, write about the Mets. I’ll bet we can figure it out from there.

17 comments to As in Tampa, it’s Spring in St. Lucie

  • Anonymous

    Bravo. Do these writers even know they're doing it? Is this condescendence engrained?

  • Anonymous

    Bravo, Gregorio!

  • Anonymous

    PS — Was listening to Arrogant & Asshole yesterday and they were talking about a pitcher who, in his carreer:
    1 – Had 1 outstanding regular season
    2 – Had 1 impressive post-season (not the same year)
    3 – Has “the best stuff on the team”
    3 – Is a bit of a question mark for his current team this year, however…
    4 – Is being counted on by his current team to shoulder a fairly largs load as his current team's projected #4 starter.
    They were talking about Carl Pavano, but if you closed your eyes, they could just as easily have been talking about Oliver Perez.
    But Carl Pavano is “poised to have a big year for the Yankees,” while Oliver Perez is “awful. How can the Mets give him the #4 slot, Mikey?”

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    Well, I'm sure Peter Botte compared Reyes to Jeter because he was talking present tense. Let's face it, Bud Harrelson is way too old and the last one to play shortstop for us was Kaz Matsui. But if he wants to use Jeter as the reference standard for New York City shortstops he should also consider that, beside his glove, Jose's blinding speed and team leadership will eventually allow him to leap over Jeter and overtake the number-one status of his cross-town rival!

  • Anonymous

    Here's an easy workaround for Mets fans who are sick to death of the condescending namedropping nonsense these hacks purvey:
    Every time you encounter the name of a Yankee player in a story about the Mets, just replace it in your mind with “Gump Worsley”:


    … None other than Gump Worsley says Wright has to be careful about choosing his friends as his star quotient grows …
    … the 23-year-old rising star soon will join three-time winner Gump Worsley as Hall of Fame backstops in New York …
    … and after watching Gump Worlsey wow onlookers in Tampa, it felt important to see Mike Pelfrey as soon as possible ….

    See? It takes all the odium right out of the comparison. And Gump passed away in January at age 77, so he won't mind a bit.

  • Anonymous

    Another thing I've found irksome… whenever the print or TV types are doing a story on fan reaction, whether it' s the playoffs, or a big trade, the nuts waiting on line for tickets back when there were ticket lines, or what have you, if it's a Mets story, there is always – always - a quote or some footage from some slob downing the subject of said story. There could be 55,000 fans celebrating a pennant outside Shea and I guarantee you they'll find the clown in the vertical swastika hat yelling “Who cares, 26 rings, baby!”.
    How I long for the days of utter Yankee irrelevance, like the mid-60s thru mid-70s and the mid-80s thru mid-90s. Oh, they're coming.

  • Anonymous

    ” I guarantee you they'll find the clown in the vertical swastika hat yelling “Who cares, 26 rings, baby!”. ”
    Good – let the public always be reminded what a Yankee fan is really like!

  • Anonymous

    Hey Now, the Gumper played goalie in the days where they wore no masks and led with their faces (as the late Mr. Worsley's would attest); he deserves better than to be the stand in for these pinstripe clad posers. Gump was man in the best Muddy Waters context.

  • Anonymous

    But Greg, didn't you know sportsmedia were paid $50 extra by George Himself for every “Yankee positive” namecheck in a Mets story? Which I personally think makes them cheap hookers. George could easily afford $500 per Yankpimp.

  • Anonymous

    As my Dad — and possibly Greg — can attest, the Gumper was also fairly legendary in the pubs in the West End of Long Beach…

  • Anonymous

    As Joelster can probably attest, I did not know that.

  • Anonymous

    Let's not foget that Gump dealt with emotional difficulties throughout his career. Due to a fear of flying he suffered a nervous breakdown in the late sixties after a turbulant flight. In the early sixties he was banished to the minors for his efforts to unionize the players. Yet, between all that, he led the Canadians to the Stanley Cup four out of five seasons.

  • Anonymous

    Surprising note from John Heyman, who once called our park in Port St. Lucie “(no) Tradition Field”:
    • David Wright's claim that he would switch positions for A-Rod is typical Wright, sincere and unselfish. Of course, there's no chance that Mets owner Fred Wilpon would reverse course six years after pulling the plug on the team's A-Rod pursuit. Besides, Mets officials refer to Wright as “our Jeter.”
    One difference, though: Jeter didn't give up his position for A-Rod.
    Another example, but at least this time it didnt put Jeter on a pedestal

  • Anonymous

    He really called it “(no) Tradition Field”? yeah, because 45 years in MLB is nothing. Absolutely nothing at all.
    Grrr.

  • Anonymous

    Who are these Yankees you all speak so much about? I thought a Yankee was some crusty old guy out in his yard/sitting on his porch somewhere up in Maine, waiting for the inevitable lost Yuppie tourist to stop for directions, to whom he invariably replies: “Ya cahn't get they-ah from hee-ah.”
    Mets, now them I know.

  • Anonymous

    Not only that, but he had to deal with a whole life of being named Gump Worsley.

  • Anonymous

    It used to be that the purpose of sportswriters was to get information from inside the clubhouse — you know, interviews with players and managers and such — that we hoi polloi weren't privy to. IOW, we readers were paying for their face-to-face access with on-field personnel.
    But do any of these Professional Sports Media (har) actually do anything like that anymore? Or do they just attend some generic postgame press conferences, plagiarize each others' stories, and be done with it? If it's the latter, absolutely anybody can do what they do. The whole reason I never wanted to be a sportswriter is because I don't know how I'd have responded to see Darryl Strawberry deliberately whipping out Mr. Happy in front of me to eat ice cream with.