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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 Little Game 7

I won't claim it's an original thought, but as the final outs ticked down today, I mused to myself: It's 2006's Game 7 in miniature.

There was Oliver Perez, a scarily unknown quantity, pitching on three days' rest and acquitting himself very ably indeed. There were the bats, not being heard from enough. There was Endy Chavez, saving the Mets' season with a sparkling defensive play in deep left. There was the much-maligned bullpen, turning Endy's deliverance into a mere stay of execution. And there were the Mets, going home.

It's not a perfect analogy, I know. This time, there was no furious comeback. (Though the game ended not with a called strike three but with a fly ball that looked long off the bat but wound up short, a la Mike Piazza — or Cody Ross.) But it was close enough. And an easy enough parallel to spot that members of the mainstream media have already offered the same comparison, as many more will tomorrow. Here's a relatively easy prediction: A lot of those writers will pair them only to invoke broken-hearted Met fans, and most of those writers will then offer snarky talk, with blaring headlines, of a second straight collapse.

Not me. Not on either count. Yes, Shea's final game reminded me of her final game in '06. But for a different reason. For a better reason. I remember them together because now as then, my head is held high. My team fought hard and fought honorably, and the only thing I wound up not liking was the outcome. That time, they struggled to make something out of a shotgunned starting rotation, and came up just short. This time, they escaped a choking malaise that had haunted them for a full year, then struggled to overcome a star-crossed bullpen, and came up just short. The finish line was different, but the bravery of the effort was similar.

Am I sad? You better believe it. I'm sad for the players and coaches. (Howard Johnson looked ashen as he took the field for the closing ceremonies.) I'm sad for my blog partner, the biggest Met fan and maybe the kindest man I know. I'm sad for Laurie and Charlie and Joe D. and Sharon and J M and Jeff and Kevin and Coop and Dennis and all our readers and all the rabid fans who cheered their hearts out at Shea and in front of their TVs and studying Gamecast somewhere far away. I'm sad for Emily and Joshua and even little old me, who sat in front of the TV and stood to sing the anthem and “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as if we were there, and even broke out the rally caps for the ninth. I'm sad for Shea, which deserved extra days and nights with banners and bunting and ceremonies and cheering and most of all crackling tension under October skies.

But if you'll excuse a familiar turn of phrase, I'm disappointed, not devastated. 2007 was a collapse, no doubt about it. (Though it really started on Memorial Day, with a lot more than 17 to play.) I was livid about it then; I'm still angry about it now. And I will be to my dying day. But 2008 was no collapse, no matter what the scribes say tomorrow. It was a comeback that fell short, and that's a very different thing.

It will be hard, this Met-free October. (Though not so hard that I'm not eager to know what will happen to the crawled-from-their-own-wreckage Brewers, or the scary but psychically burdened Cubs, or the counted-out Twins/White Sox, or the amazin' amazin' Tampa Bay Rays.) It will be hard, this winter of remembering the terror of seeing the bullpen door open, of thinking over and over again about Murphy at third and Wright at bat and none out and the Phillies having lost. It will be hard, figuring out what to do with myself during the vast empty nights of those impossibly bleak five baseball-free months on the calendar.

But I will remember other things too. Like watching Daniel Murphy work counts like Edgardo Alfonzo come back to professional life at a precocious age. Like seeing Mike Pelfrey burst into bloom when we thought he might be yet another prospect who'd wither away in his springtime. Like watching a ball streak toward the gap and knowing that Carlos Beltran, the best center fielder in the game, is already on a smooth course to intercept. Like the billion-watt smile of Carlos Delgado, resurrected and majestic in his baseball second coming. Like Johan Santana, standing against the storm and not only refusing to break but barely even bending.

I'll remember these things, and soon enough the days will be longer, there will be old and new Mets in Florida, and then they'll be here, once again, under warmer and warmer nighttime skies, in a place that's different but that we already know how to get to. And we'll have begun again.

30 comments to The Little Game 7

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Jason, as always.
    I needed that right about now.

  • Anonymous

    Beautifully said, Jason.

  • Anonymous

    My big lingering question about this game was… Where was David Cone anyway!? He really should have been at the post game ceremony. He was as Orange and Blue as anyone. I don't even remember hearing his name mentioned.
    Of secondary importance: I know Ray Knight is still pouty about not being resigned after 86, and Nolan Ryan hates the Mets for some reason, but where was Mookie? Where was Matlack?
    I would have loved to have seen more of a big tent approach to the festivities – guys like Bruce Boisclair, Lenny Randle, Roger McDowell, God, even Kevin Mitchell, Rod Gaspar… Still, the Old Mets were nice to see.
    As for the season: Minaya is basically a jughead. After last year's horrible relief pitching, he made not a single move to improve it. Who here didn't know the Metsies were screwed every time Randolph/Manuel had to go to the bullpen? And Minaya lucked out with the slapped together outfield. What can I say? With his 4 year extension, I fear we can look forward to more glum season-ending requiems for years to come.

  • Anonymous

    I agree about the failed comback, rather than the collapse.
    Manaya has achieved Fred's goal of meaningful games in September. I wonder if he can figure out the next step.
    Is it trading one of the untouchables, like the Phillies dumped Abreu to get their heads over the hump? Is it bringing in the right leader, like the Phillies did when they got Pete Rose and finally one their first WS? Or just signing some pitchers and some new bit players? I really don't know.

  • Anonymous

    You're taking this with much greater equanimity than I am, man.
    -Z

  • Anonymous

    I am sorry to say that you could not be more wrong. This was another horrific performance down the stretch by a team that has not proven it has what it takes to win. This is not a comeback that fell short, the comeback ended two and one half weeks ago when the Mets had taken over first place in the division. Then the collapse began once again. The Mets play tight in clutch situations and until that stops (and there is nothing right now to show that it will) there will be no joy in Queens. I love the Mets, I will always support them, and I appreciate your optimism, but there is not much to go on from this season. That is the sad truth.

  • Anonymous

    Sad thing is: Even you're taking this with greater equanimity than I am.
    -Z

  • Anonymous

    The media has already started. Fox went straight for a 16 year old kid who said it was the worst thing he'd ever seen (must have been asleep on 9/30/07), and he was ashamed to be a Mets fan (whatever, kid. You'll look real original wearing a Red Sox hat in college). Not a single word from people sad to see Shea go, or the numerous people I heard say “fuck Citi Field” on the way out (the TV didn't pick it up, but there was a LOUD scattering of boos when Mr Met unveiled the logo). Not a single quote taken by someone saying, “it's a miracle we even had this opportunity today.”
    I for one am going to try and avoid the media the next few days. The memory I'll always have of this day is the tears I absolutely could not hold back–not because of “another collapse”, but because of the wonderful ceremony after the game. Fonzie was the first to get me misty. Then I couldn't hold it any longer when Gooden was announced. I cried even harder as the procession of players touching home plate was ending, almost collapsing into goo when Piazza touched home for the last time. And Seaver and Mikey walking out together…. there really could not have been a better ending.
    Then my girlfriend and I said goodbye to my dad, we came home, watched it again on DVR, and I started crying all over again.
    —-and hey: George Foster? Really?

  • Anonymous

    Worst part is that I still blame Omar.
    If he had the intelligence to fire Willie when he should have – exactly a year ago – we wouldn't have wasted 70 games this year with Willie at the helm. God, I hate him and he was a horrible, horrible manager.
    To state the blinding obvious, this bullpen needs to be blown up. I'd like to see Parnell and Rincon next year, and nobody else, except maybe Feliciano for situational relied. Use Pedro, Alou, Shoenenweis, and Duque's salaries coming off the books ($30+ mil) and pay up for F-Rod. Put Kunz on the roster out of spring training and let him cut his teeth early. And remind me again why the F we didn't draft Josh Fields out of UGa.
    I'm sick right now.

  • Anonymous

    Last year the Mets were in first place for months. This year they were only in first place for days. Jason's got it nailed. You don't have a clue.
    Jason's been watching this team all year. Clearly, you haven't.

  • Anonymous

    Appreciate the support, but let's please go easy on each other.
    I'm taking small, pathetic solace from the Red Sox beating the Yankees in the back end of their doubleheader, preventing them from finishing a game better than us.

  • Anonymous

    Eh, the Mets lost 9 of their last 15 games in the thick of a three-team race for two playoff spots.
    As the great FAFIF-G cannily punned just two days ago, “the Mets are generally expert at giving away pennants.”

  • Anonymous

    This team — plucky as all get out in its own limited way in July and August — had it all in front of them these last nine days and they left it there. The frayed edges, such as the bullpen and the 2B du jour, could only do so much, but where was the core of the team? Besides Johan the Magnificent? Where was Wright? Where was Reyes? Beltran homered Sunday and drove in the winner on Thursday, so he's kind of excused. Delgado had a grand slam Wednesday and carried this bunch into early September. Am I imagining that generally speaking the four of them came up short since last Saturday? Give it up if you like for Daniel Murphy and Ramon Martinez and the little Mets who could, but the guys who are paid plenty underachieved when it mattered. Delgado's broad back narrowed a bit and Wright was not spineful. Jose was only semi-visible. Beltran did OK. Nobody stepped up and did a Yaz '67, a Brett '85 or a Ryan Howard 2008.
    In a really, really dark place where these Mets are concerned. Can't match your reserves of Jace grace after a very long, intermittently irritating, incredibly aggravating and ultimately moving day. More on that later.

  • Anonymous

    In the same dark place with you, my man.
    Looking forward to the unpacking of your perspective.

  • Anonymous

    Although the article in Monday's Times at least would indicate that Beltran, Reyes, and maybe Wright are also in that same dark place, for better or worse.

  • Anonymous

    My new status on my Facebook page says, “Whaddayaknow? The Mets lost and I didn't die…”
    That being said,
    FUCKPISSWANKBUGGERSHITTINGASSHEADAND HOLE!

  • Anonymous

    More than anything, I'm devastated that this is the team that closed out Shea, and that this is how they closed it out. The place where all that magic happened and all those hopes were kept alive and dreams realized deserved a lot… A LOT… better.

  • Anonymous

    Wasn't Wright 10 for his last 24 to close out the season?
    For that, he got dropped in the order.

  • Anonymous

    As disappointed as I am, I'm not broken up about it. If someone had told me, in late May or early June, that the pathetic Mets team I was watching would be able to make the playoffs in their final game (and the final game at Shea), I would have taken that chance in a heartbeat.
    Yes, we need new bullpen faces. Yes, we need a real catcher. But the 2008 Mets ended up giving us a season worth paying attention to. Much to my personal surprise.

  • Anonymous

    Considering the total lack of a consistant bullpen it's amazing that the Mets still managed to take a playoff hope to the final day of the season. Even though they forgot how to hit this last weekend, the pressure must have enormous on the hitters knowing that they had to still go on scoring since even a five run lead was not safe.
    But yesterday belonged more to Shea than the wild card race.

  • Anonymous

    WHERE WAS BOBBY V???

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps the baseball season in Japan isn't over for him yet. At least he was mentioned as one of the “Mets who couldn't attend” by the announcer, IIRC. Cone wasn't mentioned at all.

  • Anonymous

    As painful as it is, I think it would be somewhat cathartic to see a top 10 list of games the Mets inexcusably blew. The obvious ones that come to mind in the past few weeks are Murphy stranded on 3rd, Norton's HR off Ayala, Pedro getting staked to a 7-0 lead vs. Philly. But being reminded of the others from throughout the season would let me move on. And it would also serve as an important reminder, yet again, that the blown games in April and May (or the rousing comebacks) are just as critical when it's all said and done.

  • Anonymous

    Looking forward to another heartbreak.
    …there isn't always next year…

  • Anonymous

    So where was someone from the CURRENT team during the ceremony (and I don't count HoJo)? Hate to draw the comparison but the entire Yankee team, led by Derek Jeter, came out and saluted the fans after their last game. Sure they won, but they were missing the playoffs and they couldn't have been too proud of that. Would it have killed Wright and a few other guys to come out, and one of them grab the microphone to say “hey, we tried our best for you guys, we always tried our best, we know how disappointed you are it didn't work out and so are we – can't wait to see you all next April at the new place and we'll work our asses off to make sure this doesn't happen again”? Wouldn't that have been something? The place would have went nuts. I'm personally ashamed that nobody sucked it up and came out.
    The bullpen was horrible but there were injuries (the Wagner thing trickles down to earlier innings) and what do you expect from a bunch of retreads? The problem was this team NEVER hit in the clutch. Wright, despite the gaudy numbers, is basically A-Rod when it comes to clutch hitting. Look up the numbers. Five runs in three games against the Marlins? Pathetic. The Brewers won five of six the final week and deserved the wild card – end of story.

  • Anonymous

    Don't cry for me, Jason Fry.
    Let all loyal FAFIF'ers turn our thoughts and prayers to Laurie, who sits helplessly in this, the second of what could be three consecutive days of “this could be the last day of the season”.
    Only thing more agonizing than being a 2008 Mets fan is having the Twins as your other favorite team.
    And so, let us pray.

  • Anonymous

    M E M O

    TO: The Baseball Gods
    FROM: Fans of the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club, Inc.
    Our collective character has been built.
    Please cease and desist from fucking with us.

    [end]

  • Anonymous

    i spent all day avoiding mention of the game because it was making me sob and choke up; i should have known better and come straight here instead.

  • Anonymous

    When I was at a Brewers game in Milwaukee earlier this month, I noticed that the team had only one lonely banner in the outfield, an AL championship — from 1982. Under the circumstances, it's hard to begrudge them this additional banner — although I expect it's going to end up saying nothing more than “Wild Card Winner 2008.”

  • Anonymous

    I hope it says NLDS winner. Eat it, Greg Dobbs.