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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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No Drama Ayala, Most Valuable Delgado

I don't know what our new closer's entrance music is. I look up in the top of the ninth and he's on the mound. A few minutes later, there's a receiving line of Mets exchanging hearty congratulations.

A fella could get used to this.

Best wishes and speedy recovery to one William Edward Wagner, as indicated here and there. Sorry to learn his son is having a tough time dealing with his dad's immediate future (so did John Franco's boy when he went out for more than a year, if you recall). It's a tough break for Billy Wagner.

It could still be a blow to the Mets, but for now, life with Luis Ayala is agreeable. He throws strikes. He remains calm. And he enters games with no fanfare, no different from anybody else in the Met bullpen.

The cult of the closer is no longer in effect in Queens. It's refreshing. That's not a knock on Wagner. It's a knock on Wagner's role…Rivera's role…Hoffman's role…the role of everybody paid astonishingly big bucks for an inning's work. As exciting and as assuring as guys like those have been and can be, we've seen how terribly awry games can go when closers are crutches, when managers robotically hand them the ball in the ninth because there is a three-run lead and three outs to go. Last night, actually, I would have been just as happy to have seen Brian Stokes pitch another inning after he threw eleven effective pitches in the eighth.

Anybody have Stokes-Ayala in the pennant race setup-closer pool in March? Just wondering.

Your first-place Mets are built on those you didn't see coming, oodles of newbies and reams of reclamations. It's not at all surprising that Tatis Fever should spread to the relief corps. It's no longer shocking that I see Fernando Tatis is starting and breathe a sigh of relief. And it should no longer be in dispute that Carlos Delgado is a legitimate Most Valuable Player candidate.

I've been watching Mets baseball for forty years. I've seen Dave Kingman go on mammoth home run tears. I've seen Darryl Strawberry ride ginormous power surges. I've seen Mike Piazza drive ball after ball over wall after wall. But brothers and sisters, I've never seen anything like Carlos Delgado these last few months, not for sustained performance, not for clutch timing, not for sheer impact on the Mets' fortunes. He comes to bat and we're no longer earthbound. We're living on Planet Delgado. There is no gravity in this place. Everything is up, up and away!

Calibrate all you like. Weigh his crappy first half if you must. Bring up Pujols and Braun and Howard and Ramirez and every worthy you've got. Parade Wright and Reyes down Main Street as you see fit. But Carlos Delgado is the true candidate of change in the National League. Carlos Delgado began hitting, the Mets began winning. Carlos Delgado hits at the most opportune times. Carlos Delgado gives the impression he cannot be retired. It takes a nation of millions to hold him back, and even then I'd put my money on Carlos. If Roy Hobbs hops off a train to fire one past Carlos Delgado, Carlos Delgado naturally ends Roy Hobbs' pitching career before a single bullet is fired (and boy, wouldn't moviemaking have been better off?).

In the past three weeks alone, he's defeated Atlanta, destroyed Houston, demolished Philadelphia twice, demoralized Milwaukee and diminished Washington until they were reduced to nattering nabobs of negative Nationalism. The Mets are where without him? Stuck forever in the middle of June.

You probably can't give points for this, but oh the electricity every one of his at-bats generates at Shea these days, last night no exception. When he was deprived of his last swing in the eighth on a bizarre batter's interference call, it smacked of professional wrestling, as if somebody in a gray uniform rigged the process to deprive the crowd of its hero…but just you wait until the crooked ref — I mean ump — turns his back, 'cause Carlos will prevail in the end. You can just feel it. The 35 homers, 103 RBI and standing of his team confirms it if you require less ethereal proof.

If I were filling out an MVP ballot, Delgado is first and maybe I'd split the tenth-place vote between Howie Rose and Wayne Hagin, at least for Tuesday night. My meticulously choreographed September Sheagoing grazed another pothole perimeter when my companion for the evening had to bail in deference to a most unfortunate emergency. I missed him, but I resorted to trusty Plan B: use the unoccupied seat for my stuff and fish out my radio and listen while I watched live. I haven't done that since the last time somebody couldn't make it, circa 2001. It felt very comfortable. Maybe not enough to get up and yell a lot at a game that invited much vocal angst — do that and you're the weirdo who came alone — but plenty appealing in its homey pure play at Shea way. I wasn't planning on having a final solo game this month, but I wasn't really planning on plumping on behalf of closer Luis Ayala and savior Carlos Delgado either.

Make all the plans you like. Baseball will do what it wants.

11 comments to No Drama Ayala, Most Valuable Delgado

  • Anonymous

    Just remember who was cheering, “Vamos Carlos!” for Delgado back in April :)

  • Anonymous

    Delgado has hit 2 HR's in EACH of the last 3 games I've attended. (8/25, 9/7, 9/9)

  • Anonymous

    Can we get a pennant race pack for this fine person please?

  • Anonymous

    I loved the symmetry of a 10-8 Mets win and a 10-8 Phillies loss, especially since both games could have easily tipped the other way.
    My dad was NYPD for 25 years, so I've heard lots of police “ten-codes”.
    A “10-8″ means “in service/available for assignment”.
    Let's hope.

  • Anonymous

    you're right Greg, cheering when you're there alone does make you look a little odd. I've been in that place a few times. Last time was the Rain Delayed Mets vs Cubs game that started at 10:30PM last year (or was it 06?). I was front row left field box down the line; just me and some seats. I screamed at a play enough to make Soriano stare

  • Anonymous

    Also, I remember seeing Delgado late in Spring Training, and it looked like he had a leg injury. So his slow start makes sense.
    He's still not a gazelle on the basepaths, but at least he doesn't look wounded anymore.

  • Anonymous

    As long as he keeps having to walk/trot the basepaths we'll all be happy :)

  • Anonymous

    You may have just motivated me to buy a 5 dollar nose bleed seat for the game by myself tonight!
    I've never been so excited to have someone come up to bat than Delago these days. I feel like its back in 98 with McGwire, I feel let down when he doesn't hit one out.

  • Anonymous

    I've done the alone game several times myself. Part of it is upsetting because you have no one to turn to and say, “shit, I hope they don't walk him.” But as a whole, I think sitting alone at Shea is kind of remarkable in the sense that you're never truly alone. Complete strangers become good friends when you're high-fiving them after a big late-inning hit. The walk down the ramps is either a group celebration or group therapy. Either way–you're part of the group.
    I've always enjoyed that phenomenon. 200 feet away from Shea Stadium, you wouldn't talk to these people if your hair was on fire–but in the confines of Shea, we're all family.

  • Anonymous

    great writeup!
    love the references.
    agree fully re: delgado, and the emergence of the
    no-fanfare closer.
    great to see so many unlikely heroes this season
    so fitting for the mets!

  • Anonymous

    I'm totally with you on the no-name closer, Greg, but Delgado is not a legit MVP candidate. Wright, Reyes, and Beltran are more valuable players on Delgado's own team. Take a look at their numbers:
    Name/BA/OBP/SLG/OPS+/VORP/WARP3/WinShares
    Delgado/.264 /.349 /.515/ 127/ 32.7/ 7.8/ 20
    Wright/ .296/ .384 /.524/ 139/ 53.6/ 10.8/ 23
    Reyes/ .300/ .360 /.477/ 121/ 58.2/ 9.3/ 26
    Beltran/ .281/ .371/ .491/ 127/ 47.2/ 9.8/ 27
    Looks like a solid #4 to me.
    The Mets started winning when Delgado started hitting, that's true, but only because of the contributions the others have been putting in all season. Delgado was merely the tipping point for this team. Had he been producing at his season-average numbers all year, but, say, Wright had a terrible first half followed by an excellent second half, then Wright would be perceived as the MVP candidate since he would be the tipping point.
    If I had a ballot this year, as much as I love the Mets, I'd be voting for either Pujols, Berkman, or Hanley Ramirez.