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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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We Were Knee-Deep In Something

Alert the dairies: we need to post pictures of people on the sides of milk cartons. Lots of people. The boxscore says there were 45,321 in attendance at Shea Stadium Monday night, but my educated estimate tells me we started with no more than 18,000 and simple fingers 'n' toes counting says we ended with approximately 800.

Where did everybody go? And can we save one milk carton for the Met momentum that's gone missing again?

Better yet, make it ice cream. Or iced tea. Or just ice, like the glacier that Shea froze into between frigid Sunday and bitter Monday.

Very bitter Monday.

This was, as my partner suggests, one of those games you associate with a winter night, not so much because you should think of it in winter, but because I can attest first-hand that it was in fact played in winter. Seems like an all right idea when the calendar indicates it actually is winter. I've experienced those baseball-crazed January evenings when I've thought, man, it would be great to be at Shea right now, even if outside is as cold as the inside of a Slurpee cup, even if the wind is howling like a Crazy Eddie commercial and even if I'm wearing so many clothes that my old Nixon Administration cronies in the Pentagon call me Melvin R. Layered.

Forgive the subtopical references, for it was sub-subtropical weather and then some on Monday night. It made Sunday afternoon feel like, well, a good day for baseball. There haven't been many of those this season — nor much good baseball.

I honestly thought we were scaling a hump after the weekend. The Mets seemed so competent twice against the Reds and so all-around able before leaving L.A. and pretty darn good in Phoenix. Peel the layers of the onion, however, and you remember that it was all potentially illusory: we always win in Arizona and we always beat up on Brad Penny and Cincinnati is Cincinnati when Bronson Arroyo isn't pitching.

We're still not all that ept. We're still in a two-season .500 groove, 74-74 at last check from May 30, 2007 through May 12, 2008. We're still capable of looking overmatched by the Washington Nationals on nights barely fit for taking on the Washington Redskins. It may be a different year, but with the Nats piling on the extra points and the Mets' prevent defense preventing nothing, it may as well have been last September.

Except it was warmer then.

Given that I had barely withstood six innings of elements on Sunday and that weather.com was giving me no better than a 40% chance of not precipitation (and a 60% chance of feeling my extremities), I was in the counterintuitive position of sort of rooting for a don't-screw-with-us rainout until about three in the afternoon. That was when my friend Mike Steffanos told me he was leaving from his home in the wilds of Connecticut to reach Shea by car, train, subway and sleigh. Once Mike begins his journey, it would be cruel not to play — in theory.

Mike, high-quality company regardless of low-grade score, graciously secured the best seats I've sat in this season to date: Loge, Section 3, Row B (providing a vantage point so fine it deserves capitalization). This is the part of Loge that's treated by Shea personnel as Field Level, Jr., akin to a Forest Hills living room where plastic covers the ancient sofa because oh no, we don't sit on that. An usher actually bothered to chase strays out of noticeably vacant Row A in the late innings. “I could lose my job,” he pleaded to a father who was miffed that he and his two boys were booted after three innocent pitches.

You mean there are firing offenses at Shea Stadium?

I wish no man deprived his livelihood, not a humble just-followin'-orders usher, not a sweet kid from Lincoln High who couldn't find the strike zone with a compass (though I'll have to get back to you on the older kid from Brooklyn who doesn't seem to be managing very well this year or last). I would, however, like to stop scooping small solace from being among the hardy handful that sits through 13-1 and 10-4 beheadings to their completions as spring then becomes the winter. The fine print on the back of the ticket declares nothing about the pursuit of happiness where competitiveness is concerned. I thought it was kind of implied that the Mets could hang with the Pirates or Nationals on any given date this season. Maybe not.

But for all my morning moaning, I can say, for the second time in a two-week span, I was there. I was there at the end of one of these things. I was among, I swear, maybe 800 people when Saul Rivera retired Carlos Delgado to put it in books nobody will ever check out of their local library. When I deduced that the final out would probably be registered by Delgado, who bore the brunt of the boos that weren't directed at Lastings Milledge (what'd he do other than change uniforms at the Mets' behest?), I figured Carlos would hear it but good. But he didn't. When there are 800 of you in the stands and one of them on the field, you're kind of in this together. A Mets fan who remained to the 195th and final minute of yet another abortion of a debacle of a disaster of a game probably wasn't the kind of Mets fan who stuck around to boo.

Or if he was, he knew not to because Delgado could easily pick him out from 800 people and come after him with a bat — and tap him to the second baseman.

16 comments to We Were Knee-Deep In Something

  • Anonymous

    Did you really not see this coming? Have the last 148 games taught you nothing? Come on now, we're going to split this series. Then we'll lose 2 to the Yanks, and everyone will be miserable. Then we'll win 2 in Atlanta, and everyone will be talking about how we're turning it around, etc etc etc. This will continue until Willie is let go.

  • Anonymous

    Ha. Tap him to the second baseman. That's funny.

  • Anonymous

    Useless prediction, but what the hell:
    If the Mets fall as many as seven back in the next month, and all momentum is as fleeting as all momentum has been, a new manager is in place June 10 vs Arizona. It won't be Larry Bowa, it won't be Wally Backman, it won't be Bobby Valentine, but it will be somebody. I'd guess Jerry Manuel or Ken Oberkfell for the short-term. My dark horse candidate is Jose Valentin.
    They'll give Willie through May to prove he can jumpstart this operation. They won't do anything before the Dodgers come in because it would look bad while the media is swarming Torre and ownership values stability or the appearance thereof. Then they'll go to the West Coast, where it all ended for George Bamberger and Dallas Green and where the end was nigh for Davey Johnson in 1990.
    Caveat (besides I don't necessarily know what I'm talking about): If Pedro and El Duque are “close,” Willie may be saved by “well, let's see what he does with a healthy pitching staff,” even though the health of Pedro and El Duque are shaky propositions even if they heal soon.
    Other caveat: They don't fall seven back and Willie gets to the break. And if they're at least four back, he gets the season. If the season doesn't go the way of 1991 (where I believe it is going now), he trots out on the first day of Citi Field. I think this organization really likes stability.

  • Anonymous

    Greg,
    Don't know if Willie's head is on the chopping block more in the minds of the public than that of Omar Minaya, however, one candidate to also consider is Lee Mazilli. And he can follow the steps of Joe Girardi, going from a New York studio into a New York dugout.
    But Willie can't be blamed for pitchers unable to find the strike zone and not bearing down to get the extra out when let down by his fielders – though the staff is sixth in team ERA, and fifth in fewest runs allowed, nearly one out of every six is un-earned (there are only three other NL teams with a lower fielding percentage)..
    Too bad the bubble is beginning to burst on the feel-good Nelson Figuerora story.

  • Anonymous

    Mazzilli talks a good game, but I think plucking him mid-season from the booth would strike ownership as looking too flaky. Plus I don't recall there being much “Mazz got a raw deal” talk in Baltimore, and that was with the Angel-O's hanging over his head.
    Ideally I'd like to see a manager with so much stature that the players would be forced to pay attention and someone young enough, in managerial years, to not be yet another short-term solution to a team built on short-term solutions.
    A name that pops to mind, if he's healthy, if he has any interest, with a slight (Spring Training) Mets pedigree: Andres Galarraga. Blue-skying here.

  • Anonymous

    There's another ideal candidate already on the premises, a guy whose skillful leadership and incisive baseball vision are subtly on display at nearly every game, making the Mets look better than they deserve on the field and in the dugout, though his contributions get scant notice from the fans.
    Widely considered one of the best in the game at his current job, he's deeply steeped in the franchise's history and has heard it all and seen it all, yet would still be a fresh, authoritative voice in the dugout who could get the whole team working from the same script in no time.
    I refer, of course, to Rick Miner.

  • Anonymous

    NO. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.
    I fucking HATE Andres Galarraga. I would have a ridiculously hard time watching this team if I had to look at his stupid fuck face every inning.
    Sorry Greg, but that hit a nerve that's still very raw.

  • Anonymous

    Well, “stupid fuck face” can disqualify a candidate…

  • Anonymous

    So Willie McGee need not apply.
    I read in an interview that Bobby Valentine is making $2 million per year in Japan. The Mets can top that.
    One of my favorite Bobby V. characteristics was how much he seemed to enjoy being the manager of the New York Mets.
    It's total pie in the sky on my part, I realize. But I can't let the dream die.
    That said, among the more realistic options, I like Tony Pena.

  • Anonymous

    I concur on Bobby V. (And floated him in my Fire Willie column.) But he's become a legend in Japan and seems ecstatic about what he's doing there. I can't imagine he'd give that up to be a pinata in New York again. Frankly, I'd worry about his sanity if he did.

  • Anonymous

    Something tells me if Bobby V came back to the Mets, he'd take one look at Peterson's pitching charts and throw them in the trash. Just a feeling. Same feeling says Wagner would absolutely hate Bobby's guts.
    I love Bobby, I really do, but he'd be a wrong fit for this team. It seems that–even in Japan–he does very well when he's got a team full of nobody's to motivate, but once the team starts getting high priced talent he falters. And if nobody on this team listens to Willie, nobody's gonna listen to Bobby.
    Keep in mind, I could be 100% wrong on this.

  • Anonymous

    Bobby V's Mets had high-priced talent which generally played well for him. Mike Piazza, John Olerud, Robin Ventura, Al Leiter, etc. were there with the Agbayani's and the Rick Reed's.
    God Himself would've have faltered with that 2002 / 2003 group.
    Hey, it's likely a lack of imagination on my part that keeps me pining for Bobby Valentine.
    I remember Bobby being interviewed in a hallway right after game six in 1999. Obviously emotionally drained he gave his answers. Being still without a contract extension, he was asked by the reporter if he intended to return. I remember he seemed genuinely surprised by the question and apparently answered with the first thought that came into his head, “Of course. This is my life.” I can still see his face as he said it.
    He didn't grace us with his winning presence from Mount Yankee while bringing with him all he learned from sitting next to St. Joe. He was one of us and managing the Mets was his dream.

  • Anonymous

    People who stay to the end in that kind of weather, for that kind of game, deserve to get some kind of prize on the way out.

  • Anonymous

    They used to do that at the old Candlestick. If you stayed the whole way for an extra inning night game, you got a Croix de Candlestick button. The old-timers at Giant games have hats filled with them. What would you get from the Mets, dunce cap?

  • Anonymous

    ZING!
    I remember a freezing game where everyone got free hot chocolate.

  • Anonymous

    In 2001, the Mets handed out cups of ice water to the sweltering. It was 104 degrees. I sensed they were trying to a avoid a lawsuit.