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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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I Don't Gotta Believe Anything

No doubt some tried and true sportswriter somewhere has referred to Thursday night’s apocalyptic meltdown as a heartbreaker for Mets fans.

Your heart broken? Mine isn’t. Not really.

I’m not gonna feed you some line that there are more important things in the world than your team blowing a 7-4 lead in the ninth because your team’s manager is too fucking stupid or stubborn or something to not use Jorge Sosa one night after Sosa gave you two fantastic innings and there’s nothing about him to recommend rolling him out there again in a dire strait. There are more important things, but that’s neither here nor there. That’s not why my heart is not broken.

My heart is not broken because this 2007 Mets club seems incapable of breaking it. You have to be in love, or at least think you’re in love, to have your heart broken.

I’m not in love with this team. It’s strictly platonic between us. If they insist on standing me up for our October date, I won’t take it personally. If they want to tell me, after choking up and spitting out 3-run leads and 4-run leads and 7-game leads left and right that “it’s not you, it’s us,” I’ll believe them.

But I don’t gotta believe anything else.

The Mets fan mantra of You Gotta Believe is sacred text. It’s the mincha we say in the hours leading up to 7:10, a brucha we recite over every season’s rough spots. You Gotta Believe sums up for us everything being a Mets fan is supposed to be about. It’s about never giving up and ignoring the odds and showing faith, always faith. It would be sacrilege for the biggest Mets fan you will ever know to tell you he doesn’t believe he’s Gotta Believe at this juncture.

So excommunicate me. I don’t Gotta Believe anything right now. There is little to believe in where these Mets are concerned.

I’m going to believe in what exactly?

A 1-1/2 game lead? Fine, they’re in first place. I’ve clung to that like moss on a stoic stone for four months. That’s just a statistic at this point. There is nothing first-place about these Mets.

An MVP candidate? Oh please. How on earth David Wright became the alleged favorite for Most Valuable Player is beyond me. Not in the league where Jimmy Rollins plies his trade with deeds in support of words. Not in the league where Prince Fielder keeps a desperate playoff bid afloat. Not in the league where Matt Holiday has carried a team on his back. Not when David Wright can’t make a simple throw to first base to stanch apocalypse in the making.

An All-Star shortstop? Jose Reyes wouldn’t start for the last-place Marlins or the almost-first-place Phillies. Not even if they switched him back to second.

A 300-game winner? Tom Glavine has to get through the fifth inning without getting beat by Miguel Cabrera (somebody else, lousy attitude and all, who’s outshining Wright this season despite playing in a cave). He just has to.

The Sandman? I can’t jump on a guy who reports back spasms, I just can’t. Walk a mile in somebody’s back, y’know? But Billy Wagner was the one constant for this trampoline team for months. His not showing up to pitch in the biggest regular-season game of his tenure was a very bad sign. Not a character flaw, just a very bad sign.

The manager? For three seasons I’ve heard and read the touchy, the antsy and the hyperanxious rip into Willie Randolph at the first hint of trouble because, quite frankly, when somebody doesn’t have much constructive to contribute to the baseball dialogue, there is a tendency to take it all out on the manager. That’s OK, though; it happens in every town in every sport. I just don’t care for it as a rule.

Prior to the ten o’clock hour on the night of September 20, I had no particular beef with Willie Randolph. I wasn’t too concerned with how stolid or unfiery he appeared on camera because who the hell knows what that means? I even took some comfort in his reassuring, practically cocky assertion about how the Champagne would taste that much sweeter after the Mets overcame their premature hangover. Besides, I’d hate to think I took in every goddamn episode of The Bronx Is Burning for nothing. Wasn’t that when Willie was becoming a winner all his life, as he likes to remind everybody?

But watching Willie mismanage his bullpen Thursday night has put me on the other side of Randolph ridge. Strapped as he was for closers, how he could squander Feliciano on a single batter and then haul out Sosa after Sosa had been heroic for two innings the night before defied belief. When he was lucky enough to escape with only a tie, how he could expect Sosa to defy his own tired right arm and track record — Randolph had a front row seat for Brenly and Kim and the ’01 World Series — is unfathomable. It would strain credulity in May. To pull this move/nonmove on September 20 when it’s a 7-6 final in Washington and it’s no longer 7-4 in Miami…infuckingcredible. It was the worst move of Willie Randolph’s entire managerial reign, displacing the Legend of Shingo Takatsu at the head of the disaster list (what is it about the Giant Sack of Soilmaster that perplexes Willie so)?

There were four relievers — Dave Williams, Aaron Sele, Willie Collazo and the mysteriously disregarded Philip Humber — in the pen. None was ideal (Bradford, Oliver and the ’06 support system aren’t here, deal with it already), but they were all a better bet than Sosa the kaput. So was Maine on what was presumably his throw day. Or Perez. This was fucking go time, this was September 20, the tenth inning with only ten games beyond this one. Other than Pelfrey from the night before and Pedro for the night after, there’s no sitting on your hands and watching Jorge Sosa disintegrate.

I could go on and continue enumerating the reasons not to believe in this team. With a handful of exceptions — Alou and his hitting streak (ties the record, woo-hoo), Lo Duca not letting injury or anger management slow him down, Anderson the PH machine, Wright (pretty darn good when he’s not challenged by what to do after the ball is in the glove) — no Met bathed himself in glory Thursday night. This has been a team crumble all the way. Maybe they don’t inspire much belief, but their September has been undeniably crumbelievable.

You can’t click two links in the Metsosphere tonight and not trip over a pile of retirement announcements by Mets fans who swear this was it, they’re out, no more rooting for this frick-a-frack-a team, et al. Whatever. I’m not resigning my commission in the Met army that easily. Too many clusters or stars or Gulden’s stains on this uniform. I was here long before David Wright and Jose Reyes and Tom Glavine and Willie Randolph and Jorge Sosa and, health willing, I’ll be here long after them.

I believe that.

I don’t know that I believe in this particular team’s future, though. The next 10 games? Who the fuck knows? We have entered genuine two-pitch-at-a-time territory: each pitch in our game, each pitch in the Phillies’ game (not to be too cute about it, but the Braves have won five in a row and are only 4-1/2 out). More disturbingly, I don’t know if I believe in the future of this era.

You’ve heard it and you’ve read it and you may very well have thought it: Was 2006 the big casino? Was that our once-in-generation shot at the jackpot? Conventional wisdom dictated it wasn’t, that this was a long-haul operation being built around us, with the two young studs on the left side and the studly centerfielder signed for quite a while (whom I’ve pretty much consigned to mediocrity having gone out of my way to shower praise on him this week) and various talented and young rascals and that fantastic bricky ballpark to go along with this cash cow network of ours (on whose sportscast last night the word optimistic was spelled “optomistic”) and an ownership that’s been acting large-market and generally wise for a couple of years.

We had all that going on or at least in progress in 2007 and where did it get us? You can say first place with 10 games to go and I wouldn’t argue, but does this strike you as a powerhouse in the making? Isn’t that what we’ve been waiting 20 years, maybe forever for? I understand that you don’t get to win all the time. Lord, how I understand that. I’ve never considered us to be a long-suffering people; things just don’t go our way as frequently as we’d prefer. But we’ve tried everything else. We’ve tried being the lovable losers and the Miracle Mets and the M. Donald Grant bargain basement bin and the Magic Is Backs and the Oughta Be’s and the Worst Team Money Could Buy and the Generation K Kids and passengers on the Bobby V fake glasses-and-mustache ride and another awful team money could buy. And we’ve Believed, Believed, Believed our fucking heads off. It didn’t seem like asking too much to ask that we be truly top-notch for an extended period.

Or maybe it was.

Didn’t you think we were going to have a wee bit more payoff than one division title and one League Division Series in the now? Didn’t you think at the very least in 2007 we’d surpass Game Seven and see a World Series and one last flag fly from a Shea Stadium pole? Didn’t you think we had already started something big?

I did. Perhaps it corrupted me. It probably corrupted us all. It’s not our fault for divining that a team with ability and resources and, at last, a bit of a track record, should win again, but instead of being True Believers, we became expectant consumers. Where is our second consecutive National League East championship? We’re entitled!

Stinking thinking, even if it was logical enough on paper in March and reasonable enough with a 7-game lead 8 days ago. Of course you’d prefer to lead and maintain and clinch already yet. But still, the thrill of insurgency (before insurgency had such negative connotations) is hard to beat. Have you watched the Phillies when they score a run? They’re so happy. Picking up ground and maybe making the playoffs? They’re elated. They’re Catalina in My Name Is Earl. They are, with everything on the line, jumping for joy.

The weekend series with the Phillies brought me back to another sweep in another decade. It was late July 1989, the Mets battling the Cubs as part of a four-team scramble for first. The Cubs were closer than the Mets and it showed. Though we had the names and the experience, the Cubs had the heart. One game ended with Shawon Dunston making a sensational DP: an over-the-shoulder grab of a short fly ball to left from Howard Johnson and turning and firing to first to double off Juan Samuel. Another ended on a Mark Grace walkoff homer. Of course the young Cubs were euphoric. Afterwards, Howie Rose contrasted the zest of the Cubs with the expectations that hung around the morose Mets’ neck and said “good for them,” as if he couldn’t help but kind of root for the Cubs to win the division (which they eventually did).

I don’t need to turn on TBS or TNT in two weeks and see anything live from Citizens Bank Park, home of the National League Eastern Division Champion Phillies. Any postseason that could include us but doesn’t is a kick in the gut to watch. But geez, the Phillies and the way they’re playing? It’s hard to not detach from one’s loyalties and pronounce through ungritted teeth “good for them.”

We desperately chanted lots of derision at the Phillies fans if not the Phillies last Saturday. We chanted “NINE-TEEN-EIGHT-EE!” We chanted, gulp, “NINE-TEEN-SIXTY-FOUR!” We chanted “BEN CHAPMAN WAS A RACIST!” (though that probably required a reading list to bring them up to speed). But the dumbest thing we chanted, even after losing the seventh of eight straight head-to-heads was “SEC-OND-PLAA-AACE!” as if there were shame in attempting to move on up, as if we had been deeded the penthouse by the Braves for the next 15 years.

We’re not good at being haughty, arrogant and presumptuous. It’s just not us. We are, as one of the nasty Heathers put it, “another case of a geek trying to imitate the popular people of the school and failing miserably.”

We’re not a pack of Heathers. We are, at our best, Veronica Sawyer. Actually, we’re usually Martha Dumptruck. But she’s nice enough.

We’re not just potentially on the wrong end of choke history here. We’re going against our DNA. We’re the team that comes from behind, the team that conjures miracles — the Amazins. I’m reminded, unwillingly, of a scene from Red Dawn. The villainous Soviet and the moderately sympathetic Cuban officers are assessing the damage wrought by the valiant Patrick Swayze-led Wolverines in the wake of the communist invasion, the bastards.

“Children did this,” says the Soviet.

“It’s rebels,” counters the Cuban.

“What rebels? They’re bandits.”

“Every time they shoot, the revolution grows. I know,” the Cuban almost beams. “I was a partisan.”

“And what are you now?” asks the disgusted Soviet.

“Now I’m like you…a policeman.”

Not a perfect analogy, I grant you, but guarding the palace isn’t our thing. We storm it. We haven’t stormed it successfully all that often, but we’re supposed to be the Wolverines of our good vs. evil tales. We’re not supposed to be the calcified revolutionaries, dispassionately spouting Marx and oppressing innocent populations. No wonder the Nationals and Marlins are beating us with such glee.

I know the Mets are trying to win, just as I know they’re not trying to lose. They’re probably as distraught this restless dawn as we are. More so, actually. Maybe they’ll forget about it if they hold on to that one game and that half-game.

We won’t. We’re the fans. We don’t forget much. We won’t forget this game or this slide. We won’t forget the way the all-important loss column piled higher than we could have imagined while the all-important win column went perilously unattended. We won’t forget how we let two second-division teams come back on us multiple times in a four-night span and we won’t forget how the second-place team closed all sorts of daylight on us even if we don’t fully regurgitate the lead we’ve leased since May 16 to the Phillies by September 30.

And if the story ends with them putting us into the wall, then roll over Terry Pendleton and tell Yadier Molina the news.

My heart isn’t breaking. But my passion for these Mets has been chipped to the point of cracking altogether. So c’mon Mets. Make me care that you’re ruining my life. Then, if it’s not too much to ask, stop ruining my life. Unbreak my heart.

16 comments to I Don't Gotta Believe Anything

  • Anonymous

    “I'm not in love with this team. It's strictly platonic between us.”
    Perhaps this is why we were able to laugh so much on Sunday, despite the suckitude. This is not Bobby Valentine's Mets – they may be ok, but they don't inspire the kind of emotion that Bobby's teams did.

  • Anonymous

    If they can't win the next three when the pitching matchups, Pedro/Olson, Perez/Kim and Maine/Seddon are so clearly in their favor then they don't deserve to win this thing. They need their starters to give them more than 5 innings a night. Something that hasn't happened since last Saturday. As long as they are still in front, I believe they will win it. Let's hope the magic number can come down to 5 by Sunday night.

  • Anonymous

    Here's a thought. Maybe this team thought it deserved it, took it for granted, much like you, and me, and many fans. But that's about over with. No one's entitled to anything, a division title, a team we root for winning the division title, nothing. Let's (them and us) stop looking beyond tonight, and see what happens. Stop making demands, and trying to quantify this season, and let it happen.

  • Anonymous

    If Greg and Jason ever stop trying to quantify this season (or anything for that matter), I'm going to stop reading this thing.

  • Anonymous

    And so……it's true…..this is not that kind of love. But, in its absence, we have this…..whatever this is……and I suppose it'll hafta do. You have exposed, however, the dirty little secret that Carlos Delgado's been doing his best to cover up all year. Haven't you noticed that Delgado makes an untoward number of sweep tags on runners going to first? And, haven't you noticed that almost all of these tags is preceded by an errant throw from David Wright? Without Delgado and his uncanny ability to nab these throws, and those that are just out of reach of the less-skilled gloves of his replacements (athough Green's actually saved quite a few), Wright has been accumulating errors at a rather alarming rate. Let's hope Delgado's back soon and that we're treated to a stellar showing from Pedro this evening. Love, be damned!……I just can't face another October of “if only …..”s.

  • Anonymous

    I'm certainly not gonna jump on Billy Wagner for this. I know him well enough to know that if he could have gone out there, he would have. I also know how bad back spasms can be… they make you pray for the sweet release of death.
    Way back when, people jumped on Scottie Pippen for sitting out with a migraine. And I think we both feel that particular pain… it can certainly make one unable to come to work, even though most people would insist it's playing the sissy card. Those are the people who have never had one.
    As for the departed bullpen… yeah. I'll deal with it already. But it doesn't mean I can't bemoan it like we all bemoan stuff we're not happy about this season. It's just that kinda year, where plenty of mistakes have been made to bemoan. And now the mistakes of the winter are coming home to roost.
    I'm booing inside.

  • Anonymous

    I'm booing inside.
    You lie.

  • Anonymous

    As if you were reading my restless mind between 12:30 and 2 am.
    And I totally admire the Phillies. How could you not? You're the 2nd place team, and you beat the 1st place team 7 straight times? In September? Hats off.

  • Anonymous

    I've watched the Willie bashing on other sites with detached amusement for two years. No more – I'm on their side. Whether it's stubbornness or outright stupidity, Willie has no frickin' idea what to do with a bullpen. You know your closer is unavailable, you don't burn through the rest of your pen playing lefty/righty! And running Sosa out there for the tenth in beyond the pale when there are other options. This notion that Humber is only a starter? So was Joba Chamberlain.
    I used to think Derek Jeter was the most overrated player in the majors, or at least the most overrated SS in NY.
    The next tool who shouts “MVP” at David Wright deserves a smack in the head.
    Milledge has got to be kidding. A). it was a strike, dipshit, B). you're a rook, sit down and shut up.
    Glavine: thanks for nothing.
    There is no doubt in my mind we missed our window last year. Now we're a bunch of gutless wonders who can't play through injuries or close out last-place teams. And they're going to suck even more next year.
    At least I'll get my money back for my playoff tickets when they blow this.

  • Anonymous

    Greg… The only unfair comment you made in this brilliant diatribe is to criticize those of us who have complained about Randolph's inept managing all along. It was not uninformed–last year the Mets simply played well enough to cover most of his mistakes. Most, not all: Leave a reliever in for 30 pitches when they're struggling and you get burned–Mota proved it early in the NLCS when he got smacked by Pujols. A lesson learned? Not quite. Guess what pitch count Heilman hit in the ill-fated Molina at-bat.
    To make matters worse, Feliciano has fared reasonably well against many righties this year and did you hear the career stats of each batter in the 9th vs. Sosa–all of them were batting over .500 against him.
    The reality is Randolph not only can't manage a bullpen (or make other insightful strategic decisions), he totally gets away with his “I'll go with my veterans” approach when it is clearly not justified. Using Mota time and again in tight spots this year is one example. And the Humber logic is especially faulty since Sosa is a converted starter too and if you're not going to use Humber in relief then why wouldn't he have started over Brian Freakin Lawrence on Monday.
    Anyway, that's the short answer. The long answer is that Minaya deserves some blame too–look at Darren Oliver's stats, or Brian Bannister or even to a lesser extent Bradford's (inflated all by the American League don't forget). No one expects every move to be perfect and none of these is Zambrano-Kazmir but re-signing someone who performed well on steroids and then making these moves all play a major role in this year's inconsistency. (BTW, although Willie refused to play Keppinger, he's outperforming his trade-mate, Gotay)
    The worst part is you realize this is not a team built for the long haul at all. We need a new catcher in 08, a new 1B in 08 or 09, a new 2B by 09 (we'll get one more year from Castillo), one more corner outfielder (unless we settle for 120 games from Alou and 40 from Chavez/Gomez), two or three starters, including an ace, and an overhaul of the bullpen. Unless the Mets throw some serious money around, next year could be ugly. How's that for not beleiving.

  • Anonymous

    A small brightness amid the gloom, as well as my new mantra:
    1 WIN = 2 DAYS!
    Every Met win from here on out — regardless of whether Philly wins or loses — is worth 2 days on the calendar.
    Mets & Phils both win tonight, lead in the loss column stays at 2, which means the Mets can't be caught until Sunday at the earliest.

  • Anonymous

    I believe….I believe….It's silly, but I believe….

  • Anonymous

    This post really got under my skin for some reason. I can't disagree with alot of what was said, the Mets are driving me crazy as well. But to write everything off in the way that was done is a little bit much for me.
    On any given day, I'm not in love with these Mets either. They have flashes of brilliance that are drowned out by epochs of despair. This season has been an uphill battle against expectations for the club. Think where Wright started out this season. Think where Beltran was for the first half of the year. Think of Shawn Green's miserable mid season period. Think of Moises out for such a long stretch of the time.
    The Mets were led into this season with high expectations, from me especially. They've done nothing to prove that they are the club filled with fire of years past, but dammit they're our team. God damn loss last night took the wind right out of me, put me in a fury of anger. But you know what? I'm going to be sitting there tomorrow at 710 with a beer in hand, waiting to watch this team get back out there again. The baseball season is filled with highs and lows, and even when at a high, the Mets never really proved that they were beyond a doubt sure they should be there.
    I realize your whole intent is to question why we gotta believe when it seems like there is so little reason. It's because we're the damn Mets. It's what we do as Mets fans, when we get relegated to the back pages of the sports section after a great win, even when the yanks lose. It's because everyone has some stupid comment about how Shea is a miserable stadium or whatever they have to say about it. It's because Keith Hernandez does have the best sports mustache in the world. It's because we're the Mets.
    You may not be in love with the way the ballclub has been treating us. I'm certainly not. But as Mets fans, we have each other, we have the idea of “gotta” believe. It's a faith we put in those guys every day when they jog out onto the field. It may be so that the guys out there don't have the gotta believe mentality in them. But we have it. And it keeps me afloat in times like this.
    The criticism of Randolph and the squad is an entirely different part of the equation. It's warranted. But dammit, the idea of being a Mets fan to me is having your back up against the wall and hoping against all hope that the magic of the team we love will find a way out. I'm going to keep on critisizing the way they are playing but as fans, let's keep the faith.
    I'm not one to think there's some sort of “gotta believe” karma floating around the field and the reason they are losing is because the karma quotient isn't high enough. But one of my favorite part about the Mets are our fans. So let's help each other out and believe.

  • Anonymous

    A fair observation. But the words 'skills' and 'Delgado's glove' should never be put affirmatively in a sentence together. I think D-Wright, errant throws and all, has a better shot at a Gold Glove than Delgado ever has.
    That is to say, some chance at all.

  • Anonymous

    Seven hours later, this seems harsh.

  • Anonymous

    Finally someone understands that this team is not built for the long haul and has been mismanaged from the beginning.
    The one bright spot is that our core–Reyes, Wright, Milledge, Maine, and Perez, and possibly Gomez and Pelfrey (the only starter to win in the last circuit) will be great long enough to withstand these next two years that it will take before everyone with a brain will understand that Willie has no clue what he is doing. An idiot does not shed his stripes. Willie will continue to do stupid things as long as he's here. Sooner or later, even the blindest among us will notice.
    I have confidence that Reyes will eventually regain his plate discipline. If not this year then next. And Wright is having a better year than Cabrera taking the ballparks into account. He is also a better defensive player. He's just gotta FIX HIS THROWING.