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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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People Get Ready, Johnny Is Coming

Was thinking this Monday night in the blissfully cheap seats and then stuffed a sock in it so as not to jinx the protagonist, but since he finished April undefeated and practically untouched, here goes:

And warming up in the bullpen, the starting pitcher for the National League, number thirty-three from the New York Mets…

One year ago, John Maine was an emergency starter with some decent stuff and little clue as to what to do with it. Today he's one of the best starters in the entire Senior Circuit, rapidly evolving into the ace of the Met staff and not too many months away from becoming the anti-Nolan Ryan.

Tonight's AFLAC trivia question: Who was the pitcher the Baltimore Orioles received in exchange for John Maine? Whoa, that's a tough one!

Maine is for real as far as one month of his first full season in the bigs is concerned. If he gets much realer, Omar Minaya gets a boulevard named in his honor because swapping ol' whathisname to the Orioles and receiving young, high-heat-hurling John Maine as a throw-in should go down as one of the great heists in modern baseball history.

Exaggerating? Just giddy after his seven scoreless innings and eight commanding K's against the Nationals? A little giddy, but not telling tall tales. Here's why I think this trade shapes up as so particularly spectacular.

Let's step back a few months to the free agent season. To what pitcher did the Mets give tens of millions of dollars and many years of commitment? None, that's who. Not Meche, not Zito, not Suppan, not Weaver, nobody. Woe was us!

Or was us? Minaya did not empty out his piggy bank to overpay for a pitcher nor did he trade any of his jewels in a desperate lunge for a name to quiet his critics. He did his work a winter earlier. Well, Omar and Anna Benson teamed up, but only one of them likely read the scouting reports real closely.

If Johnny Maine continues to be Johnny Maine (I've already promoted him from the impersonal John), then what does the quietly brilliant (sure, he thinks so now) trade that brought him here tell us? It tells us that making pitchers rich just because you've heard of them is not a formula for rotation success. It gives us pause for the months ahead when Carlos Zambrano possibly comes on the market. It makes us think that this Minaya character may not say much when he gives interviews (honestly, have you ever learned anything of value from anything he's uttered?), but he sure is doing his job.

Maine pitched a whale of a game in Washington Sunday and let's tip our caps as well to the man who got the save, Julio Franco. Oh, the S in the boxscore is affixed to Wagner, but Franco made two plays worthy of Rescue Me, one on a bunt (charge, throw, out at third), one on a bases-loaded grounder (up his arm, stayed with it). This came an afternoon after Julio lined a death-defying single in the ninth to keep Saturday night's affair alive and just a little more bizarre.

As I never had any particular faith in John Maine when he first appeared in our midst last May, I've been just as wrongheaded about Julio Franco's value of late. Had you been in our living room last evening, here is the approximate dialogue you would have heard between my wife and me when he stepped to the plate:

ME: I'm Julio Franco. I don't do anything anymore. Can I have a roster spot anyway?

HER: Sure.

ME: And can I have plenty of at-bats even though I never get a hit?

HER: Only in the clutch.

I love when the Mets shut me up.

22 comments to People Get Ready, Johnny Is Coming

  • Anonymous

    I was alone last night, but had much the same dialogue in my head.
    SELF #1: Franco up. Jeez. Isn't about time he become a coach?
    SELF #2: Wow, I'm an idiot.

  • Anonymous

    I find myself rooting for the old man with a lot of enthusiasm, considering the fact that he's the last Met who's older than I am (by a lot!).

  • Anonymous

    For some reason I'm 100% sure that Franco's going to get a hit every time he steps to the plate. I have some kind of mystical faith in his mojo.
    I'm usually wrong, but it was nice to be right for once.

  • Anonymous

    For the record, we tried the same thing with Reyes. “I'm Jose Reyes. I get lots of attention but I haven't done anything tonight.” Then he rips that liner and I'm thinking I've got a future as a motivational lifecoach. Alas Robert Fick grabs the liner and I'm back to cursing out Tony Randazzo for a living.
    Apropos of nothing:
    1) The Mets are now 8-0 lifetime at RFK Stadium in day games.
    2) The last time the Mets won 1-0 on a home run was exactly one year ago today, Glavine and Lo Duca playing the Maine and Beltran roles.
    3) Despite their status as defending division champions and their record this year, there was not a single story in my edition of the Sunday Times, which wasn't even the super early edition. No “last night's game ended too late” feature, no nothin'. But there was something about a yacht race.
    4) Braves just lost. We're back in first. Alert the media.

  • Anonymous

    That is not a single story about the Mets in case you didn't get my drift.

  • Anonymous

    AFLAC Trivia for 200, Alex:
    What is, for a “bag of balls?”

  • Anonymous

    Johnny Maine is God. Alert the media.

  • Anonymous

    Always loved that Johnny Maine, just didn't think he'd this good this quick. Perhaps Pelfry could learn a little from him…

  • Anonymous

    PS: Greg, LOVE the title!!! :-)

  • Anonymous

    last night we promised to never make fun of julio franco again if he woudl get us out of that jam we were in.
    today, we listend to the post-game show on the way home from DC and cracked up when the host said, “Okay. Julio Franco is 138 years old. And he's the enemy so we gotta hate him, but damn, I get winded getting up out of my chair and i'm 30.”

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    It's the “throw ins” that have made the back of our rotation so good. “Johnny” was added as an after thought for Jorge Julio and “Ollie” when we got back the elderly Hernandez not known as El Duque.
    Including the deal that sent Julio to Arizona for the Hernandez known as El Duque the multi team deal goes as us trading Kris and Anna Benson plus Xavier Nady for Orlando Hernandez, John Maine and Oliver Perez. So far, that's probably as good a starting three as there is in the league. Coupled with Tom Glavine, where is the starting pitching problem that so many said plagued us?
    As far as Julio Franco, consider me another one who put his foot in his or her mouth prior to the 9th inning of last night's game. Julio (Franco) definately saved two games and kept us from being swept by the Nationals. If it was the other (Jorge) Julio we surely would have lost the series.
    Eating crow doesn't taste so bad….

  • Anonymous

    I shall never doubt Omar again! Clearly he knows how to spot a jewel!

  • Anonymous

    Which leads us to the question of Omar's counterpart in the Bronx. While going for the big names who are more or less marque players for the regular season, doesn't he and others in the organization have the eyes to spot possible diamonds in the rough or lesser-known talent that can fill in as important role players? That's how a team is built.
    His only defense is that ownership won't allow him to invest in these types of players and he is only able to pursue the big names.

  • Anonymous

    So who knew that on Black Friday, not only would Jim Duquette be shipping The Future for Victor (10-Minute) Zambrano, he would also be sending Ty Wigginton out for John Maine and El Duque?
    On balance — and with 3 years worth of 20/20 — it wasn't so black a day after all…

  • Anonymous

    The Kris Benson trade and subsequent flip of Jorge Julio are rapidly approaching Ed Hearn for David Cone status in Mets history.
    I'm surprised no one else in this thread has mentioned it, but I think much praise is due to another holdover from the previous administration.
    Hats off to The Jacket.
    Agreed on the kudos to Omar for not overspending to acquire a name just to assuage the nervous nellies. But maybe it's easier to be cool knowing you have Rick Peterson.

  • Anonymous

    Good point. Going back even further the trade becomes Ty Wigginton and Xavier Nady (two everyday players) for Hernandez, Oliver and Maine (three starters). So far this season Ty is batting .253 and Xavier n the .260 range and we know what the stats are for our three. We also have a superstar at third (forget about the slump, he'll eventually recover) and a rejuvinated veteran in right (with the young Milredge in the wings) so we dealt from strength and shored up our weakness.
    Still, let's not let Jim Duquette off the hook. Had he not traded for Victor Zambrano our starting five would be Glavine, Hernandez, Kazmir, Maine and Oliver – with Pedro on the horizon. Think of what a rotation that would have been!

  • Anonymous

    Good point. Going back even further the trade becomes Ty Wigginton and Mike Cammeron (two everyday players) for Hernandez, Oliver and Maine (three starters). So far this season Ty is batting .253 and Mike is below .200 and we know what the stats are for our three. We also have a superstar at third (forget about the slump, he'll eventually recover) and a rejuvinated veteran in right (with the young Milredge in the wings) so we dealt from strength and shored up our weakness.
    Still, let's not let Jim Duquette off the hook. Had he not traded for Victor Zambrano our starting five would be Glavine, Hernandez, Kazmir, Maine and Oliver – with Pedro on the horizon. Think of what a rotation that would have been!

  • Anonymous

    IGNORE MY FIRST OF TWO POSTS – HIT POST INSTEAD OF EDITBUTTON. Glad I'm not playing the outfield!

  • Anonymous

    Had it not been for the fallout that followed the Kazmir for Zambrano deal the Wilpons would not have brought in Omar and ceded total control of the baseball operation to him.
    No Pedro, no Beltran, etc. etc.
    It's unfortunate, but Kazmir was the price that had to be paid.

  • Anonymous

    Have you seen Kazmir's numbers this year? He's had 6 starts, and has gone less than 6 innings in fully half of them. Against right-handed hitters, he has an ERA of 5.00. Perhaps he'd do better under the Jacket's tutelage, but who knows?

  • Anonymous

    Interesting hypothesis. We would have none of the post-2004 successess if Duquette had held on to Kazmir and Ty. He would have remained in the GM's chair, there would be an Art Howe-type in the dugout, we would be without Martinez, Hernadez, Maine and Oliver and David Wright would probably have been traded for Victor Zambrano instead.
    Sounds a lot like the “City On The Edge of Forever” episode from the original Star Trek. Just glad that Jim didn't have to be run over by a truck like Edith Keeler.

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately, tonight we'll probably witness one of Omar's few failures as Parc, who was called up from the minors, replaces El Duque who went on the 15 day disabled list. It would be great if we again have to eat crow but…..
    Maybe the fear of Parc on the mound will waken the Mets bats since they can't count on 1-0 victories or being at 2-2 after regulation nine.