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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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Breaking Bad

There is doubt. There is no benefit. You lost the benefit of the doubt when you blew a large first-place lead one September and a large enough first-place lead the next September while neither time leaving yourselves any slack to salvage a Wild Card. If you couldn't generate your own slack, we don't need to cut you any.

A long season lies ahead of us. All these seasons are long. Fifteen games prove nothing, but they can indicate plenty, even though we get that those indications can be misleading. If these last few days, particularly Thursday afternoon, was part of an effort in that direction, fine. Mislead us, Mets. Mislead us into thinking this listless brand of baseball you've all but patented is the rule and not the exception. Then surprise the hell out of us with timely hitting and competent pitching. We'll be delightfully surprised. We'll line up at the Taqueria not for fancy tacos but for the mea culpa to go. Every one of us will bring you the “we're sorry we underestimated you” special, each platter as hot, spicy and satisfying as being wrong about you can be.

We want to be wrong about you. Yet we have absolutely no reason to think we are.

You have lined up on your behalf an ocean of fans drenched in passion and dripping with care, as one of your executives noted. Oh boy, do we care. We filled out 18,000 of your bricks in support of what you and your predecessors mean to us. Every one of those bricks damn near screams support for your cause. Your cause is our cause. We have made you our cause across the course of our individual and collective lifetimes. We are passionate. We do care.

Do you? We don't see it. We don't detect any real evidence that being pushed all over the field by the other team really pisses you off anywhere near as much as it pisses us off. We watch and listen to what you do these nights and afternoons and we want to see genuine concern from you. Not that you're trying, but that you're trying your best. Not that it bothers you to lose, but that it bothers you no end. We invest our hope in you and our trust in you. We are savvy enough to know you cannot offer a guaranteed return on our hope. But can we ask you to make good on our trust? That we can trust that you will bust every inch of yourselves when you're out on those fields this season? We didn't see it from St. Louis. We haven't seen it much anywhere. Like I said, we're pretty savvy. We can tell when you're going hellbent and when you're going through the motions.

You've been going through the motions this season. You've been going through the motions for several seasons. You seem to have mistaken motions for emotions, talent for triumph, showing up for coming through.

Do you care what those four letters on your uniform mean to us? You've been wearing “Mets” on the road this week, in case you didn't notice, the first time you guys have worn the team name on your road jersey since 1998, the first year when it said “Mets” on a black top and the black tops were worn occasionally in what we semi-seriously refer to as enemy territory. That's neither here nor there, except I wished you had looked closely at those four letters. Do you feel them at all? Do you understand how many people stand behind you? Do you know that the last time the Mets wore “Mets” on the road as a matter of course was 1986? Do you know anything at all about those hallowed predecessors of yours?

The 1986 Mets lost 54 times in their regular season. But they were never beaten. Do you hear what I'm saying? They competed every day. Sometimes they didn't win. But they never let themselves get beat the way you've been getting beat. Some of their losses, quite frankly, were more inspiring than some of your wins.

It may be ancient history to you, but it's never far from our thoughts. Let me tell you a quick story from this morning. There's a garage where I've been bringing my car forever. Until recently, the guy who owns the shop didn't know I was a Mets fan or maybe I didn't know he was a Mets fan. In any case, after more than two decades of cordially conducting business with each other, we had our first Mets conversation. After trading a few thoughts on how awful you looked the two previous nights, he said, “They have nobody like Dykstra and Backman.”

Dysktra and Backman. Those names still come up every time the Mets are down. I'd suggest you do a little research as to who those guys were, particularly Backman. I contend the Mets have never adequately replaced Wally Backman. Wally Backman would not have allowed this wretched series in St. Louis to transpire as it did. It's not that he was the Albert Pujols of his day — he wasn't. But the Mets being run over with ease as was done by the Cardinals this week? Not on Wally's watch. Or that of most of his teammates.

I could bring up other Mets teams who worked through adversity. It didn't necessarily win them as much as we would have liked, but it always made us feel…made us know being the Mets mattered to them as much being Mets fans matters to us.

Does being the Mets mean anything to you guys? Anything at all?

What it means to be a Mets fan: Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.

30 comments to Breaking Bad

  • Anonymous

    There are a few rare times when a complete stranger, through some subtle and miraculous talent, lifts feelings off of my heart, picks thoughts out of my mind and arranges them all onto a page so that I can read them. This article just shot to the top of the very short list chronicling those occasions.
    Thank you for that.

  • Anonymous

    My co-writer is pissed.
    I am infinitely glad to have missed this one aside from one despairing glance at MLB At Bat during the afternoon. If only that meant it didn't count in the W-L.

  • Anonymous

    Top ten reason we can be grateful the Mets are lousy:
    10. CitiField: Plenty of Seats Available
    9. Today's loss was early enough to get upset and get over it by dinnertime.
    8. No meaningful ballgames to interfere with network primetime — when TV's brightest stars come out to shine.
    7. Johan. Rain. Rain. Rain. Rain. Johan.
    6. No late inning leads means no more bullpen collapses.
    5. Lack of tension = more Keith “anecdotes”.
    4. Hey, I'm Guiseppe Franco! I don't need to worry about the stinkin' Mets!
    3. I can stop staring at Bobby O's hypnotic toupe.
    2. David Murphy threatens to steal nickname “Skates” from Lonnie Smith.
    1. No September choke this year!

  • Anonymous

    David Murphy is the guy with the Texas Rangers. We have Daniel. Easy mistake, which perhaps supports Greg's point that there isn't a lot of personality out on that field.
    That said… there are plenty of teams that have won lots of game with sterile, corporate personalities and no display of excitement. There are very few teams that have won lots of games with only one starting pitcher having an ERA below 7.

  • Anonymous

    Ack! How humiliating. My apologies to all my fellow FAFIF readers. I will now serve penance by watching the replay of today's game.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    The Mets will appear lackluster for another month or so but never be too far behind the team on top so to remain in contention. There will be moments when they seem to be coming out of their funk only to fall back into it. Eventually, somebody implies to the press certain unspecified players aren't putting out — again fueling rumors about disharmony in the clubhouse or Manuel's job being on the line.
    Then suddenly one or two players get hot and those on the bench begin playing over their heads. The breaks go our way. We beat bad clubs and hold our own against the good ones. We see great comebacks and clutch performances and…, ahh, you know we've all been down this road before. So why put us through it?
    You made a great point about the 1986 club. I can accept coming up just a bit short at the end if they went down fighting ala 1985. But if they are indeed just mediocre, I don't want them teasing us by getting our hopes up down the stretch only to return to true form again in late September.
    I'd rather they break the bad news to us more gently by being out of it by the all-star break,

  • Anonymous

    Yes, come to think of it, I did notice that they are wearing 'Mets” on the road.. I wonder who made that decision? I kind of like it. You say it's been since '86' !
    It's early boys and girls..Relax.
    Go Rangers!
    Rich P

  • Anonymous

    I dunno, Rich.
    I look at the way this year is playing out and I get a sinking “2002” kind of feeling.
    Only without the perky, sparkling peronalities of Mo Vaughn & Robbie Alomar….

  • Anonymous

    Or the heads-up instincts of Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz.

  • Anonymous

    It's April. God you guys are hard on this team. The Blue Jays and the Marlins are at the top of their respective leagues by significant margins. Every decent batter on every single team is hitting over .300 right now. But does anyone envision a Marlins vs. Blue Jays World Series? Give Manuel and the team a break already.

  • Anonymous

    If this were a sitcom, there'd be a quick cut to a baseball diamond and the next voice you'd hear would be a distinctly Canadian public address announcer: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Rogers Centre for Game One of the 2009 World Series. Please meet the coaches and trainers for the National League champion Florida Marlins…”
    On one hand, the 1969 Mets got off to a 6-11 start, so if you like a good omen, we've almost bottomed out. On the other hand, be careful with writing off surprising teams early. I heard plenty of “oh, the Rays will never last” last year. I don't necessarily expect a long run by the Jays, but the Marlins…until proven otherwise, they're in first place. And we're in fourth — on merit.
    We'd all do well to spend more time in Sunnyside. If only the '07 and '08 clouds didn't linger so long over here in Doomsville.

  • Anonymous

    You're welcome, Michelle. I hope you can say the same thing soon enough for a piece I'd like to write on how great it's been watching the 2009 Mets make fools of us for ever not believing they were capable of playing hard and turning it around.

  • Anonymous

    On one hand, I think all the personality and 'energy' is muted by the losing. I think that points to them caring, at least a bit. On the other hand, something is failing there lately.
    If they don't want to know who Backman or Dykstra are. That's fine. _Make_ them ancient history. Don't want us holding you to standards from 20+ years ago? Fine, prove to us you're the best Mets team ever.

  • Anonymous

    I would be more than happy to eat that crow taco…

  • Anonymous

    It's not April so much as it is year three of a continuing story. I think Greg was spot-on.
    I thought I was the only one who thought of '86 when I saw “Mets” on the road unis. It looks good, quite frankly. FWIW, though, the last time it was done was not '98 but (I believe) in 2004, when they brought the wrong road uniform tops for Jose Parra and Vance Wilson for yet another Sunday night blowout loss in the Bronx.

  • Anonymous

    Wally Backman would not have allowed this wretched series
    Wally Backman has also proven himself a capable manager, personal issues aside.
    I'm just sayin'…

  • Anonymous

    I suppose the answer to this year's problem then is Tom Glavine.

  • Anonymous

    It bears mentioning that Carlos Beltran is 10 for his last 15, with 4 extra base hits. I think it's safe to say that he's trying.

  • Anonymous

    Great post, Greg. I'm kinda hoping that (based on the stories we sometimes hear about clubhouse interactions) someone on the team or in management prints this out and posts a copy in every Met's locker. Or that Jerry reads it to the team, or… I don't know, something. It's true that it's only April, but it's also true that we're entitled, after two straight disappointing ends to season play, to a desire to see our team really give it their all, every single day. In my opinion, people who say, “This team just can't do it” have got it all wrong – maybe it's not all about heart and grit, but as fans, that's what we want to see. As Greg said, even if they're losing, they can at least lose with heart. That's why they're our Mets.
    Really looking forward to picking up a copy of the book when I return home from a year in Italy this June.

  • Anonymous

    Fear not. I am returning for tonight's game, and shall restore order posthaste.
    / hubris

  • Anonymous

    If your point is that you'd like to see a bit more in the passion department, it's hard to argue with you; i think we'd all like to see a little more Dykstra and a little less McReynolds. We're probably somewhat spoiled forever from having experienced the heart and soul of the 1986 group; even with the success of the 2000 team, I never felt the same enthusiasm for them, in part because I perceived guys like Ventura, Zeile and even Piazza as somewhat bland compared to their '86 predecessors.
    But at the same time, I think it's a mistake to embark on a fatalistic outlook for this year's squad this early in the season, and equally wrong to start drawing conclusions about how this season will go based on the failures of the last two seasons. Two years ago was an out-and-out flop; last season effectively ended when Wagner went down. Since then, we've addressed the team's major problem by upgrading the bullpen significantly. If there's a reason to keep the faith, it starts there.

  • Anonymous

    I greatly look forward to it! We make fool of ourselves for them anyway– at least once we could get something out of it.

  • Anonymous

    Greg,
    No more bad news. Bring back those happy Flashback Fridays!

  • Anonymous

    Greg will get this:
    “It's a baseball season, dammit! We've got to offend somebody!”

  • Anonymous

    “That's quite a hard slide, Jose.”
    “So fat Albert in St. Louis can feel it without his body armor!”
    Or something like that.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe they're just not that talented.
    Nobody wants to believe that about “their” team. For some reason, it's easier to believe that they don't care about winning than that they just don't have the talent.
    It's easy to “care about winning” when you're surrounded by teams like the 1986 Mets who had the overwhelming giftedness in every department to just completely crush the opposition. But I don't believe for a second that fifteen games into the season they've just given up. I think it's a lot more possible that they just…aren't that good.
    And a team has to be GREAT in New York for the fans to really get behind them. And they have to be great all season long, without letup. Otherwise they will receive more booing than they would on the road. (Which I really think doesn't help AT ALL. Did any team ever get better by being booed? Does booing bring out talent that didn't exist before?)
    Maybe they're better than average and they'd love to have this team in Pittsburgh or Washington. But in New York, that isn't good enough. You might as well lose 105 games as 75.
    When the talent just isn't there, it's a lot harder for a team to give a shit. It's not the other way around.
    (You may commence the fruit-toss now.)

  • Anonymous

    They're not a 108-win juggernaut. But they're not kick-me atrocious either. There is middle ground, even in New York.

  • Anonymous

    I do think the constipated offense will get itself some Dulcolax soon enough. It's statistically impossible to leave that many runners on base all year, especially when most of your hitters have good overall averages. And I do think the dumb defensive glitches have mostly been flukes.
    But yikes, there really is a precipitous decline in starting pitching quality from Johan to the rest of the rotation. Especially if Pelf's injury turns out to be serious. You expect a drop after your stopper, but not into the Grand Canyon. There are going to be a LOT of 8-7 kind of games this year when Johan's not starting. We're just gonna need to be the ones with the 8's.

  • Anonymous

    I will admit, I've been out of town for work, so I only got a chance to catch 4 innings total of that 3 game sweep. So, maybe ignorance is partly responsible for my April optimism.
    But why did people boo David Wright today? Dude, Scott Olsen was the first left handed pitcher he has had a chance to face this year. He's batting over .300 despite seeing right handed pitching exclusively these first few weeks. Seriously, the handful of left handed relievers he has faced just walked him late in games.
    And, yes, there's been a TON of guys left on base this year. But I just don't see that as a bad thing in April. I'm thinking that can change quickly when the team gets in a bit of a groove.

  • Anonymous

    I would counter only that the Mets, between Johan starts, had to be seen to be not believed. Their ineptitude didn't begin to show up in the boxscore, and they didn't begin to show up in St. Louis.
    But maybe the Johan cloning experiement will take hold after all.