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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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Heroes Are Hard to Find

Well, the New York Mets are now officially what we've been saying they are for some time: a .500 team.

Stumbling to that dismal pass tonight, however, I had a dreadful thought: One of Willie Randolph's defenses for his tenure, as expressed to Ian O'Connor before Willie started seeing conspiracies at work in the SNY production trucks (a bout of lunacy he's since apologized for), amounted to “Hey, I'm not Art Howe.” But watching the 2008 Mets dreadful night after dreadful night, don't they kind of remind you of an Art Howe team?

They're a more-talented, more-expensive bunch of listless dullards, to be sure. But underachieving is underachieving whether you're a 71-win team that probably should have won 77 or 78 (and what an accomplishment that would have been) or a .500 team that should be on pace for 90 wins. What's the difference in how they go about their business, exactly? Does Carlos Delgado wave in the vague direction of passing base hits with a verve that Todd Zeile could only dream of? Are Luis Castillo's failures with runners on base gritty and life-affirming, whereas Danny Garcia's were placid and soul-killing? Do the 2008 Mets lose by seven with a fire that the 2004 Mets sorely lacked in similar situations? Art Howe was bland and sunny; recent descents into paranoia aside, Willie Randolph is bland and surly.

Is the comparison exaggerated? Of course it is — you'll forgive me if I get a little worked up while watching my team sleepwalk through getting its collective ass handed to it again. But who is Willie Randolph to be roasting Art Howe over the coals, considering he's 76-78 since Memorial Day with a far better team than Howe ever sent onto the field? The cliche of the Art Howe era was that his Mets battled. Wouldn't you like to see Randolph's Mets battle?

So what did this latest horrible game feature? Well, Mike Pelfrey got victimized by an error by the singularly useless Luis Castillo (only 1,227 days until we're out from under that contract, Omar!) but then showed very little grace under pressure. The relief pitching was bad, the hitting was nonexistent, and Moises Alou appears to have hurt himself standing in the outfield, which sounds like it should be a joke but isn't.

* * *

You know what? Enough. We've got all year to talk about this crappy baseball team.

One of the sad parts of Willie's meltdown was it took away from what should have been an outpouring of honors for Mike Piazza, now formally a former baseball player. At first, I admit, I didn't take much notice of the announcement — after leaving us Piazza had become a Padre and then an Athletic, a retreat from New York baseball consciousness that only could have been furthered if he'd begun 2008 playing in Hokkaido or on Mars. But amid the gloom of the doubleheader loss, I kept finding myself thinking about Piazza — and not about the farcical move to first, or the way I always wanted him to be a general instead of a lieutenant. No, I was thinking about the fact that you never, ever went to the bathroom if Piazza was coming to the plate, and about all the games I saw him win, and about all the joy he'd brought us. I wound up pouring all that out into a piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal Online today — which, if you like, you can read here.

* * *

Aw, what the heck: If you'll allow me one more indulgence, this is the 100% true story about how I tried and tried to see Bruce Springsteen in concert when I was 17 and he was my musical hero, and how I finally did see him — when I was 38.

It all turns out OK; it'd be nice to say the same about the 2008 Mets.

21 comments to Heroes Are Hard to Find

  • Anonymous

    Moises Alou appears to have hurt himself standing in the outfield
    That's the same thought I had when I watched him walk out from left field. I've defended this team and have remained positive, and after the two wondeful games over the weekend I truly thought it was time for them to go on a nice run, but this team right now is a joke! On a happier note Jason, excellent article on one of the all time greatest Mets.

  • Anonymous

    During the Art Howe era, I watched to see what latest stupid move or error would befall my favorite team. I enjoyed making fun of them, but in a fun kind of way.
    During the Willie Randolph era, I watched to…well..geez, I can't even remember what it was like in 05 and 06. I guess I watch them now to get angry and raise my blood pressure? I just don't know anymore. I hate this team more than I disliked any of the teams in the first part of this decade.
    Dare I say it?
    (Yes I will.)
    I HATE THIS TEAM MORE THAN THE '93 TEAM.
    On the plus side, I was wondering how your Bruce show was. “Loose Ends” is a great opener, and any show with “For You” can't be that bad.

  • Anonymous

    Jace – great WSJ piece. You clean up pretty good. I guess you have to call everyone “Mr.” in such a prestigious publication.
    I remember reading a New York Times article about rocker Marvin Lee Aday, also known as Meat Loaf. The Times insisted on the moniker “Mr. Loaf”.
    If you're really objective about it, whether Piazza goes in as a Dodger or a Met is such a coin flip. He helped the Mets get to the Series, which he never did in L.A. But he had some of his best individual seasons out there. Why not split the difference and loan him a Brooklyn Dodgers cap at Cooperstown?

  • Anonymous

    Hey Jace… great piece. Not that I expect anything less.
    Meanwhile, you wrote:
    _________________
    The ball touched down accompanied by a puff of dust and injured grass blades, then seemed to speed up on its way to the wall. I'd seen my share of doubles, but I'd never seen a ball do that.
    _________________
    I once wrote:
    _________________
    smoked an RBI double that lined over the infield, which bounced and sped up on its way toward the wall. “We've never seen anything like this on the Mets”, was all I could think.
    _________________
    At least I know it wasn't my damn imagination.

  • Anonymous

    “The cliche of the Art Howe era was that his Mets battled. Wouldn't you like to see Randolph's Mets battle? ”
    Hi Jason,
    That's what I've been saying all along. While losing hurts, the hurt is even more pronounced when the team doesn't hustle or won't attempt to execute plays correctly. And who is to blame for allowing talented-enough individuals to get away with not hustling? This doesn't mean a public display of anger or being ejected to stir a team up (those theatrics never work anyhow) but at least the benching of a Reyes or Delgado upon repeated non execution of plays– even if it means losing the ballgame, it might result in winning a whole lot more.
    Yet, Willie also made a good point last night by saying in 2006 his team wasn't really challenged and that's why they weren't “ready” to deal with the pressures of a real pennant race the following year. That could also explain why they appeared uptight when facing St. Louis (despite the loss of most of their starting pitching). And two seasons later, this is not the same team that won 97 games in 2006; the middle relief is different, one important cog left over from that squad (Delgado) is at the end of his career, another (Reyes) has become a shadow of the player he once was, his post-2006 second baseman (Castillo) is playing on bad knees and his post-2006 left fielder (Alou) is always injured . Nor can he be held accountable for players (Wright and Beltran) who bust out of the box but are not performing up to par. Let's face it, the only bright spots of the everyday lineup are the two we obtained over the winter from Washington (Church and Schneider).
    So there is no joy in Metville and maybe we as fans just over-rated the talent that we really have. At least we have 75% of the season to still prove that was wrong.

  • Anonymous

    Art (the “village idiot”) Howe, with his ball cap doffed, looked like a cue ball . . . Willie (the “winner”) Randolph with his ball cap doffed, looks like an 8 ball . . . other than that, I don't see much of a difference between the two gents.

  • Anonymous

    Ack, I hope I didn't steal it from you!

  • Anonymous

    Do you remember his first hit as a Met? It was an opposite-field double off Jeff Juden of the Brewers.
    “What did it look like?” Chuck asked me by phone.
    “It was like his ball accelerated,” I said, slightly bewildered at what I'd just reported.
    “What do you mean?”
    “He hit it to right and then it just sped up and took off toward the wall. I've never seen anything like it.”

    I think we all saw something we couldn't quite fathom.

  • Anonymous

    Since you don't have comments on your wordpress blog, I'll just say that I'm just sorry that C'ville was your first bruce show. I couldn't do the southern run, but TBF did, and covered for Backstreets & brucespringsteen.net.
    It was the one show I was sorry I wasn't at and then was feeling a little better about my decision about skipping once I talked to everyone who was there. Maybe too many shows in too many days, maybe just tired, maybe a lot of things.
    But the other thing I know – and I wrote about this when I wrote about the second Boston show, Danny's last show (although we didn't know it at the time) for bs.net – there is always someone for whom your show is their first show, and to them it is the greatest show ever. you might be standing next to someone who is hearing 'born to run' live for the first time. and i am always trying to see the shows through that filter, and trying to find that one moment.
    human touch and lucky town were the first bruce records i didn't buy, for the record. (said as a staff member of backstreets!)

  • Anonymous

    Both you and Greg are on fire today, Jason. Absolutely fantastic on all fronts.
    I've been wondering since Tuesday why I watch anymore. After the weekend I had been saying, “well, you know we're going to lose 3 of 4 in Atlanta. That's what this team does.” It still doesn't help the frustration of watching these clowns.
    I told myself I wouldn't watch the game last night, but ended up peeking at the GameDay around 8 last night. I saw Reyes and third, Wright at the plate, and–oh what the hell, I'll turn it on.
    20 minutes later, the TV was off. It's too aggravating. I know it's been said a hundred times, but I'll say it again: can someone please check the calendars in the Mets clubhouse and make sure they say 2008?

  • Anonymous

    To some, that joke about Willie would seem racist in manner (even if unintentional) – in both a correct or politically incorrect world.

  • Anonymous

    Is not Art Howe a white man? . . . Is not Willie a black man? Hence the cue ball / 8 ball comparison . . . otherwise, not a dime's worth of difference between the “village idiot” and the self proclaimed “winner” . . . Lighten up, Francis

  • Anonymous

    PS – for the especially obtuse, forgot to note that both are BALD men . . . lending to the pool ball analysis

  • Anonymous

    3 of 4? We're going to win tonight? :-)
    Seriously, thanks Kevin.

  • Anonymous

    I thought the joke went right up to the line … but not quite over it. And so paused and then let it stand.
    Let's please go easy on each other, OK? The Braves are already beating the hell out of us as it is.

  • Anonymous

    I've read that about the show — obviously I had nothing to compare it to.
    Would love to see him someday in a club setting — jumping onstage down the Jersey Shore somewhere or something. I bet he'd destroy the place.
    Thanks for reading it, Caryn!

  • Anonymous

    Santana on normal rest. I don't want to say “we'd better,” but…we'd better.

  • Anonymous

    Jason, just a quick note to let you know how much I enjoyed the WSJ column. Great work. Oh, and if you want to fume, check out the piece by Lukas on ESPN's page two (“Good riddance”). Schmuck.

  • Anonymous

    Great writing on all fronts, Jason. From this team, to the Monster (out of his cage) to the Boss. I've been watching old Piazza highlights thanks to you. I enjoyed your chronicle of prodigal Springsteen fandom. Have you had a chance to spend some quality time with Magic? I think it's really a return to form for Bruce and the best thing he's come out with in a long while.
    I've never seen him concert myself, but I'm gonna remedy that at Giants Stadium this July. I can't wait. (I'll need something to take my mind of this team's latest fiasco).

  • Anonymous

    My handful of interactions (a few e-mails over the years) with Paul Lukas has revealed he is not a schmuck; he seems like a decent fellow who usually writes an entertaining column — though this particular article does leave a ton to be desired. I'm far more dismayed by the vitriol the commenters on ESPN displayed in expressing their disagreement with him. Whatever happened to “Dear Sir: I take issue with your points regarding…”?
    Must have gone the way of the five-cent cigar and the three-dollar gallon of gasoline.

  • Anonymous

    That hatchet job by Lukas earned him all the enmity he got (I only read about 50 comments). He's cranky because he didn't like the way Mike handled GayGate and finally saw a chance to throw a little hissy. Well, screw you, pal – go back to writing Uniform Fashion.
    I actually agree with Lukas that it would have been really cool had Mike just said “I'm not gay, but so what if I am?” but that's just not him. Maybe it's a religious thing (he's a devout Catholic and some follow Church teachings more closely than others), maybe he just didn't feel comfortable advocating. Whatever. But that column was a thinly disguised screed, and evidence of total douchebaggery on Lukas' part. Met fan my ass.