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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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The Middle of the Night Is Part of the Contract

Well, it's past 1 a.m. and the Mets showed very little in a 5-1 loss.

Oliver Perez missed Brian Schneider's mitt by three feet on his third pitch of the game, resulting in a Rafael Furcal home run, a 1-0 Dodger lead and a stare from Willie Randolph that could have frozen magma. And it was vaguely downhill from there: Oliver hung around out there to make matters worse with a blah effort that won't get him or Rick Peterson off the hot seat. Oliver, being paid a lot of money, will get time to work things out, but the Jacket has painted a target on his back at a time when ownership may be itching to squeeze off a few rounds. If it was bad when it turned out Peterson was ducking the scribes, it got worse when Jay Horwitz flatly contradicted his excuse that writers suddenly and mysteriously had to go through media relations.

Keeping with the ledger of frets and fears, what's wrong with Carlos Beltran? (Sentence with unspoken, uncharitable but inevitable addition: “What's wrong with Carlos Beltran now?”) Sometimes you need a psychiatrist, mediator and a soothsayer to interpret Beltran's physical condition: There are times he doesn't play because he's only X percent healthy, and long stretches in which it turns out he played when he should have been on the DL. Between his batting average and oddities on the basepaths tonight, you have to wonder if we're not back to the latter problem. Why didn't Sandy Alomar send him home on Delgado's third-inning double? He sure looked like he could have scored, and of course Schneider struck out and Luis Castillo did what he usually does, wasting a chance to pull within 2-1. (From a neutral, baseball-first perspective, kudos to the Dodgers for not robotically walking the eighth-place hitter and so letting the Mets clear the pitcher.) Then, in the sixth, same question in reverse: Beltran made a stop sign of his own at third despite Alomar waving him home. To paraphrase an old baseball tale, did Carlos think Sandy didn't mean it? I wonder if something beyond post-surgical aches and pains is wrong with Beltran's legs — and if so, if anybody is going to find out what and deal with it.

All in all, ample reason to get to bed early rather than go into the night watching a mediocre team get beat on the other side of a big continent. So why am I writing this now?

Well, most immediately because I went to sleep a little after eight for nearly two hours. But beyond that, because it's what we do when the body is willing. Our team's playing somewhere, so we watch, hoping that our vigil will be rewarded.

Was it? Not particularly. And yet absolutely.

No one will remember this game very long, but it had its moments. Like the leather flashed on both sides. There was Furcal's nifty stop on the backhand in the outfield grass, after which he threw out David Wright (a reasonably speedy runner) by a full stride; the awkward but effective dance between Delgado and Perez to beat Juan Pierre to first base; and the double play started by Wright, kept alive by a balletic pivot by Castillo and completed with a nice scoop from Delgado. There was the sight of Joe Torre in new colors, the absence of the Vertical Swastika from his head miraculously transforming him in one observer's eyes from surly, gimlet-eyed and unwelcome to calm, reflective and familiar. And there were the misadventures of future DH Matt Kemp — tell me the sight of the bewildered ballguy retreating farther and farther into fair territory (and lugging his chair!) as Kemp floundered after Beltran's triple wasn't worth at least a smile.

Little things, but they'll all go into memory, to be subconsciously retrieved and analyzed and fussed over and made part of the storyline for a dozen games yet to be played over the coming years. Is it crazy to watch your team lose a not-so-great ballgame when you could be sleeping? On the contrary — it's the rest of the world that's crazy. It's spring and the Mets are playing baseball — who cares what time it is? Besides, from November to March there's nothing much to do but sleep.

20 comments to The Middle of the Night Is Part of the Contract

  • Anonymous

    I didn't realize the Mets were paying Perez over $6 million until Vin Scully made the point, not long before Perez had his usual implosion, this time in the 5th inning. How on earth is this guy worth $6 million? He's the poster-boy for the million dollar arm/ten cent head club.
    As much as I love listening to Gary. Keith and Ron, one nice thing about living in LA, besides being able to go to the beach every weekend from March to October, is the chance to listen to Vin do his thing. Another benefit of living 2,500 miles away from Flushing is having some distance from this lame, completely mediocre bunch of Mets.
    The more I see of the team (I have the MLB Extra Innings package, so I see my share), the more convinced I am that they are going nowhere fast. Where is the leadership? Where is the big hit with men on base, especially tonight? Where is the toughness on the mound not named Johan or Billy? Where is the manager who knows how to get the most from these players?
    Besides a change of manager, I don't know what can be done to fix this team, but it really is depressing to watch such mediocrity after they were so thrilling to watch less than two years ago. I'm going to Tuesday's game hoping for the best, but like most Met fans at this point, expecting the worst. Wish I could be more optimistic, but the beach is looking more and more inviting with every blah inning this bunch puts in.

  • Anonymous

    I really don't care if Perez pitches well in his next start..he still sucks! An overpaid flake- I mean fake!..

  • Anonymous

    I was too distracted early and too tired late to clearly discern the whole thing, but the sense I got was that Oliver, imperfect as he was, was sorting some things out and making progress (witness the reduction in walks and mindlessly hit batters), which is significant. Or would be if Oliver was in that coming-along phase of Mike Pelfrey or steadily proving us wrong for a few starts Victor Zambrano phase.
    The frustrating element, of course, is how good Ollie has been and we know (not speculate, but know) can be. I still believe there's something to be said for working things out. I hark back to 35 years ago when Yogi Berra started Tug McGraw twice to let him regain his feel and whatnot. That's actually what I'd like to see done with Aaron Heilman — not necessarily a full-fledged return to the rotation, but let him get out there and pitch when one mistake doesn't equal the weight of the world on his shoulders. Starters get sent to the pen to work things out. There's no law (except the political aspects that the Mets are so poor at handling) that says you can't go the other way. There is precedent.
    I didn't get the holding up/not holding up Beltran either. He seems to be breaking out a bit. Delgado too, even. Throw in Alou and forget that Wright is down to .274 and suddenly the top six could be something. Looking for the encouraging here, through the remnants of bleariness.
    Castillo made a nice play in the field, proving he is well-skilled at all aspects of out-producing.
    I guffawed derisively when the text poll of the night asked fans to pick an MVP to date and Brian Schneider was one of the choices. Schneider gets wonderful press for being a real throwback (a.k.a. not much of a hitter) and for seeming to know a lot about the game. Maybe he does. It hasn't translated except, perhaps, for a Pelfrey start or two. As for blocking pitches and such, he's terrible. Absolutely abominable. I've seen more PBs and WPs, I swear, than I ever have before (and it would seem to have nothing to do with the thumb, though who knows?). I'm not seeing where this staff is served exponentially better by him versus the alternatives. Not saying bench him for Casanova, but I'm just amazed at how Charlie O'Brien 2008 is glorified. I was also amazed at how Charlie O'Brien 1991 was glorified.
    Maybe it's just that strange Martian mask he wears. Mike Piazza never went for that fru-fru stuff!
    The other choices in the polling were Church (the winner), Wright and Santana (who finished behind Schneider). Was the Ollie tongue-lashing the reason Wagner was left off?
    Andruw Jones… Rafael Furcal… Jeff Kent… Joe Torre… like you need bad dreams while struggling to stay awake?
    Kick-ass stuff from Vin Scully on one of my favorite topics. I knew about his youthful allegiance, but I had no idea it ran so deep. What a beautiful voice, even in print.

  • Anonymous

    “If it was bad when it turned out Peterson was ducking the scribes, it got worse when Jay Horwitz flatly contradicted his excuse that writers suddenly and mysteriously had to go through media relations. ”
    Hi Jason,
    SInce the guys in the booth noted that Rick Peterson had not come out to the mound, I wonder if he's not talking to Perez, either. Or did Jay Horwitz come out during a commecial break?
    I'm quite sleepy myself this morning, even though I gave up at midnight.

  • Anonymous

    Oliver was about a million percent better than his recent starts; but he'll take the blame for a loss the offense provbided him zero opportunity to win. The drawback to Castillo in the 8 hole is Schneider in the 7 hole and the pitcher following: A complete void. I mean, Perez led off every inning last night.
    I'm just glad to see Beltran start to hit. But Sandy Sr is the worst Mets third base coach in I don't know how long. Ever?

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    Talking about bad dreams and Andruw Jones, notice the chorus of boos he's getting in Los Angeles? Since Dodger fans are so laid-back, this type of behavior has to be considered nothing less than rebellion and probably the worst living nightmare a player for the good guys can get…, much worse than booing the home team at Shea (or even Jones, for that matter).

  • Anonymous

    Well, this is not the first time a Mets starter has given up three home runs to the Dodgers and then gotten himself back on track, so maybe there's hope for Perez after all. I'd rather have him throwing strikes and getting hit than handing out free passes like he's running a promotion for the base paths…but preferably not on 0-2 pitches to Furcal.
    Of course, the above-linked post spoke optimistically about a hypothetical September 2007…so perhaps we should avert our eyes from it for self-protection.

  • Anonymous

    Have to agree about Schneider. Hard to tell how well he's handling the staff; they've alternately sucked and shined with him and Casanova behind the plate, but, as for his tangible defensive abilities, he seems almost lost sometimes. He's had 5 PBs each of the last two years. It's hard to see how he'll bring down that total this season. And he made some pretty poor throws last night as well. Maybe that's the thumb, I don't know. But I hope when his hitting falls off, as it inevitably will, that he remembers he's supposed to be so good defensively.

  • Anonymous

    I'm with you 100% on Schneider. Y'think maybe–MAYBE?–the guy can move his fucking feet when a ball starts trailing away from him? It's as if he doesn't realize there's a game going on, just 9 innings of warm-up tosses.
    And as long as his offense is subpar and he doesn't throw out too many runners, why not just give Big Mike a call? It'd be a friggin improvement, and a reason for people to come out to Shea in September when not much else is going on.

  • Anonymous

    And by the way, a big thank you to Matt Kemp for his homer last night. Not only did it fill our weekly quota of “giving up some lousy hitting schmuck's first major league homer,” but it was also a kind gesture on his part to hit it before the 9th inning, cutting us a break for a change. Now I can watch the rest of this week without that monkey on my back.
    Who will it be next week? My money's on Alberto Gonzalez.

  • Anonymous

    –er, make that Blake DeWitt.
    Oh well, there goes any credibility or humor to a post. Isn't the first time it's happened, certainly won't be the last.

  • Anonymous

    So now the Mets are just “mediocre.” And on top of that, “hard times are ahead.” So what are we talking here, an 80-82 finish, 15 games behind Philly? Beltran will come around. Reyes's average will rise. Santana will start getting more wins, and the Mets will prove to be more than just mediocre…you heard it here first.

  • Anonymous

    Beltran will come around. Reyes's average will rise. Santana will start getting more wins, and the Mets will prove to be more than just mediocre…you heard it here first.

    And it's equally as likely that Beltran won't come around, Reyes's average won't rise and Santana really is the second coming of Frank Viola.
    When all those things are that variable, that's almost the definition of mediocrity…

  • Anonymous

    Yes, I know his current stats. Will be happy to put them in figurative lights if he keeps them up. I hope he does.
    As for C O'B c. '91, there was always much praising of his incredible defense by writers and broadcasters along the lines of aren't the Mets lucky to have a skilled receiver like Charlie O'Brien? At the end of the day, his receiving skills didn't seem to add up to a hill of beans any more substantial than that wrought by Mackey Sasser's or Rick Cerrone's bat.
    Appreciate the genius tag, however. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    And it's equally as likely that Beltran won't come around, Reyes's average won't rise and Santana really is the second coming of Frank Viola.
    Not really as equal. It's unlikey Beltran will hit .220 for the rest of the year. Putting Santana in Frank Viola territory is laughable. What a bunch of negative sad sacks. 16-14 isn't horrible considering the we have got nothing from Castillo & Delgado and have been without Pedro, El Duque, and until a few days ago Alou. It's only May 6 for God's sake. Lighten up. There are 130 games to go!

  • Anonymous

    Faith and Fear, dukin' it out! Everybody keep it above the belt, please.
    BTW, folks may have noticed that I relaxed the comments procedure to take away those annoying Captchas. If we start getting inundated with poker spam etc., I'll have to put 'em back up.

  • Anonymous

    Greg, I think he was being sarcastic with the whole “genius” thing.

  • Anonymous

    Really? I didn't get that at all.

  • Anonymous

    I could be wrong.

  • Anonymous

    What if the poker spam came from Rickey Henderson and Bobby Bonilla? Would you give that a pass?