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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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201 Minutes I'll Want Back on My Deathbed

I've had the good fortune to be on hand for a remarkable run of classic games at Shea Stadium — I was in green or red seats for the Grand Slam single, for the 10-run inning, for Agbayani's home run, for Bobby Jones's one-hitter, for the NLCS clincher in '00, for the first home game after 9/11, for Pratt hitting one over the fence.

I've also been to some horrible, gut-wrenching nightmares at Shea. I saw Brian Jordan kill our unlikely 2001 pennant drive, saw Glavine beat Leiter by a 1-0 score in the playoffs, and I've seen Yankee fans woofing and displaying the Vertical Swastika more times than I care to count. Heck, just eight days ago I watched Greg Norton take Luis Ayala deep. But considering the circumstances, I may not ever have seen a game more grindingly awful than the opener of this, the last-ever regular-season Shea homestand. (And the jury's out on whether we'll need that second qualifier.)

First of all, every Cub fan in the New York area was apparently in attendance. That's fine. In fact, good for them: Tonight's game was a decent mathematical bet to be their clincher, and while the Cub faithful missed that, they had a chance to cheer on their victorious team and dream about what might come in October. But not blaming them isn't the same as wanting them there. And they were everywhere, on all sides of me and Greg, whooping for each Cub and waving at each other and taking celebratory pictures and yammering about Northwestern and the Illini while we downtrodden Met fans struggled to breathe with September cinderblocks on our chests. It was seriously just a few notches below a Subway Series game in terms of the percentage of enemy fans.

Oh yeah, and then there was the game, with Jon Niese unfortunately unable to locate his pitches and Luis Castillo unfortunately able to locate his bat. Niese's youth gets him a pass, but why does Jerry Manuel continue to let Castillo near a baseball field? He may actually be the worst position player in the major leagues — a player so stupendously useless that he deserves a plaque in some kind of Anti-Hall of Fame, a Bizarro World Cooperstown in which embarrassed baseball officials pay you to numbly view exhibits about how a beautiful sport can be played so lifelessly. Castillo has little speed left and subpar range, but his skills in the field and on the basepaths shine compared to what he can do at the plate. This is a man closing in on 6,000 major-league at-bats and 20 sacrifice flies, and tonight was a showcase for his unique talents: In the third, with a runner on third and one out, he only escaped grounding into a double play because he tapped the ball so feebly. In the sixth, with runners on first and second and none out, he put enough wood behind a grounder to earn his GIDP, short-circuiting a Met rally. And he really shone in the ninth as the Mets' last hope, looking at two strikes from Kerry Wood and then offering the vaguest of waves at strike three, like a hospice patient shooing a fly. I'd already shredded my throat booing Luis, but I managed to croak in agony at Manuel in the ninth, pleading brokenly for him to send anybody else up to the plate. And I do mean anybody: The list of people I'd rather have seen begins with Argenis Reyes (who isn't any better and might actually be worse, but at least creates outs with some enthusiasm), includes all the Met pitchers, then expands to include Greg, myself, and the option of picking a member of the Pepsi Party Patrol at random and sending him or her up to the plate blindfolded with a rolled-up t-shirt for a bat.

Best of all? Luis Castillo is Met property for 1,102 more days. Thank you, Omar Minaya.

For much of the middle innings Greg and I could barely speak — we sat slumped in our chairs, watching terrible things happen on the field and the scoreboard. Wow, Aramis Ramirez almost hit one out. Look, the Braves are lifting their skirts for the Phillies again. Jeez, can't the Red Sox at least eliminate the Yankees? Nope, we couldn't even seek refuge in Schadenfreude. I would occasionally grunt or mutter a curse; now and then Greg would mumble unhappily or emit a low moan of vague torment.

There are six games left at Shea, and the Mets somehow still are in the lead for a playoff spot. But my goodness, it feels like there are 60 to go and the team's so hopelessly out of it that it's already held the fire sale. Despite what the papers tell you, this isn't a collapse, just a desperately flawed team trying to limp across the finish line with a suspect rotation and a truly ghastly bullpen. (After he was taken out, Luis Ayala trudged off the mound not to boos but to the ambient noise of utter indifference.) There's no shame in this September swoon — the Mets redeemed a dreadful year that looked lost with a summer revival. But that was a while ago now. I can imagine them bellyflopping into the playoffs ahead of the equally suspect, just as psychologically shot Brewers. (And then who knows?) But I find it easier — a lot easier — to imagine them coming up short again.

It won't hurt like last year did — with any luck, nothing in Met fandom will hurt quite like that for years and years. But it sure won't be much fun.

12 comments to 201 Minutes I'll Want Back on My Deathbed

  • Anonymous

    Any possibility we could trade Castillo for his far spunkier NFL namesake?

  • Anonymous

    And when you really think about it, Brewers fans deserve this more than we do. Imagine 26 mostly dreary, dead-end years with no postseason. At least the Mets get there once in a while and tend to torture their fans in interesting, sometimes spectacular ways – and like you said, nothing could hurt as much as last year.

  • Anonymous

    If there ever was a case for starting Castillo, it was decisively demolished in the ninth inning last night. I mean, even with so little experience and such big holes in his swing, at least Argenis Reyes WOULD HAVE SWUNG THE DAMN BAT.
    The next Met who strikes out looking with the game (and maybe the season) on the line should be immediately DFA'd to the Pepsi Party Patrol.

  • Anonymous

    Look, the Braves are lifting their skirts for the Phillies again.

    And you can't tell me The Atlanta Cox aren't doing it on purpose, either.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jason,
    Yes, whatever the outcome this season, if we fall short again, it cannot be blamed on the team choking. We're without our number three (or four) starter, our closer, a dependable hitting second baseman and left-fielder and even our set-up man has been plagued by injury all year which explains his total inefficiency.
    The bullpen has been much maligned but we must remember it has been dilluted with the loss of those two key ingrediants (Wagner and Heilman). And no one has been slouching. Delgado gets his uniform dirty, Beltran insists on playing on after hitting a wall, Reyes doesn't take his occasional hitting slump to the field . Heilman didn't use his injury as an excuse (albiet, the Mets should have exercised better judgement and placed him on the DL in light of how bad he's been all season) and Church wanted to come back despite post-concussion syndrome.
    So if the worst nightmare occurs and we're again out of post-season, don't boo the players or the manager – we can hold up our heads proudly and hope for better times next season without the injuries that plagued us this year, Murphy with a year's experience under his belt and perhaps one or two key acquisitons to shore up the bullpen.
    Meanwhile, we're still ahead in the wild card, so let's not write off 2008.

  • Anonymous

    Does Castillo think it's a fucking rule that you're not allowed to take the bat off your shoulders until there's two strikes?! It's fucking REMARKABLE.
    I'd rather have Kaz back out at second. I'd rather have Roberto Alomar. ANYBODY outside of Coleman, Bonilla, and Glavine (Tom Glavine, that is. Mike Glavine can play) would get cheers from me at second over Castillo.

  • Anonymous

    “There are six games left at Shea, and the Mets somehow still are in the lead for a playoff spot. But my goodness, it feels like there are 60 to go and the team's so hopelessly out of it that it's already held the fire sale.”
    BINGO. It's an experience unlike any other I've had as a fan. The team has been sitting in a playoff spot for weeks, and yet for weeks it has seemed to all of us like it's all over. What an existence.

  • Anonymous

    I am ill.
    Castillo should not be allowed in the dugout for the remainder of this this wk, this season, the post season should there be one, and next spring. If i see him slap at the ball one more time….. I've seen little leaguers swing more effectively….he's an embarassment to the team and baseball.

  • Anonymous

    Fear and Loathing in Flushing, starring Luis Castillo, Brian Schneider, and your 2008 New York Mets bullpen.

  • Anonymous

    I think 5 out of the last 6, and a little help ,will win in the east..
    Would the Mets be playing the Cubs in the first round? The only 3 times the Mets played in the divisional round it was against the west I believe?
    Rich

  • Anonymous

    Win the division, “we” get the Dodgers.
    Wild Card, it's the Cubs.

  • Anonymous

    “First of all, every Cub fan in the New York area was apparently in attendance. “
    Ah, the Cub fan. All the obnoxious arrogance of the Yankee fan, with none of the success to back it up. How on earth do fans of a team which hasn' t won the World Series in 100 years have the gall to woof it up in the opposition park, waving, pointing, telling you your team sucks?
    The notion that Cub fans are this happy band of merrymakers quaintly rooting on their cute harmless team is a fallacy. They're like Philly fans – loud, stupid, drunk frat boys braying about their historically shitty team. At least Chicago is a decent city.