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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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Oh The Bell With It

I’d be a lot more miffed about the National League’s umpteenth consecutive All-Star defeat if…

A) The Mets and hosting duties for a portion of the 2009 World Series weren’t looming so definitively as mutually exclusive propositions.

B) The lack of National League home field advantage was theoretically going to cost the Mets an extra game at Shea Stadium in the World Series; Citi Field, I believe, provides no field advantage to date.

C) I hadn’t dozed off at the moment of truth, with Ryan Howard up and two on in the bottom of the eighth. I was technically in mid-snooze, thus was awake just long enough for false hope to materialize before it drifted away with my consciousness.

D) I wasn’t completely comatose when Frankie Rodriguez, according to the boxscore, made incredibly short work (six pitches) of the American League in the ninth.

E) Rodriguez or Santana or somebody besides Heath Bell was charged with the loss.

I had no idea I maintained a substantial reservoir of animus for Heath Bell until given the opportunity to express an opinion to the TV screen.

When the American Leaguers were introduced before the game, I booed the usual suspects — Jeter, Rivera and their new moneyed buddy Teixeira. When the National Leaguers, ostensibly “my” guys, were introduced, I reflexively booed:

• every Phillie;

• both Marlins;

• Molina obviously;

• La Russa obviously;

• Ryan Franklin for associating with Molina and La Russa;

• Joe Torre for old times’ sake;

• the two Astros because I used to work for a company owned by the guy who owns the Astros and it did not end well;

• Trevor Hoffman for being so unclutch when it might have mattered to us in 2006 (and then being a bit of a snot about it);

• and, without advance planning because I had forgotten that he’d be there, Heath Bell.

Why boo Heath Bell, the only former New York Met on either roster (not counting American League starting leftfielder and RBI leader Jason Bay, whom the Mets swiftly expunged as a minor leaguer in exchange for the essential Jason Middlebrook and Steve Reed in 2002 because, according to faultless talent guru Steve Phillips, he didn’t project as more than a fifth outfielder)? I didn’t boo Nolan Ryan the eight times he represented three other teams in All-Star Games. I didn’t boo Kevin Mitchell twice or Lenny Dykstra thrice or Randy Myers four times or Amos Otis five times after each became an All-Star in their respective post-Mets existences. (Total All-Star selections for Ryan, Mitchell, Dykstra, Myers and Otis as Mets: 0.) But Heath Bell, stepping up on that line and tipping that cap…I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t see Heath Bell going butterfly after his several stints as a wayward Met caterpillar and I didn’t see my reaction turning so viscerally virulent at the sight of him spreading his wings.

Let’s just say Heath Bell and I are just not a good mix. It’s strictly business, nothing personal. In the now 82 games I have rooted for Heath Bell’s team to win since 2004, updated to include the 2009 All-Star affair, Heath Bell’s team is 28-54. Incidentally, in the 10 games I have rooted for the teams of Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson to win, their combined record is 3-7…and holding. But never mind that. Never mind that Heath Bell received a change of scenery and eventually became an All-Star. Never mind that whatever scenery presently surrounds Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson, the pair the Padres sent the Mets for Bell after 2006, it wasn’t remotely in evidence at Busch Stadium Tuesday night. Adkins is employed as a Lotte Giant in South Korea. Johnson may or may not be playing baseball professionally. The Mets released him last year and he is still listed somewhere as a free agent.

Heath Bell is an All-Star. An All-Star losing pitcher, but the first part decisively trumps the second part. Heath Bell left the Mets and became an All-Star. Heath Bell left the Mets, became an All-Star and the Mets, via the characteristically sharp eye of Omar Minaya, reaped 30 Ben Johnson plate appearances (5 hits, 2 walks, 1 run batted in) to go with one entire Jon Adkins inning pitched (scoreless, if that makes it any better). The Mets signed Heath Bell as an amateur in 1998, nurtured him in the minor leagues, brought him up in ’04 and do you know what they have to show for him?

As of Sunday afternoon, they had his uniform top.

No kidding, it was still lying around. I saw it before the game on the Amazin’ Memorabilia table on Field Level where they attempt to sell off whatever isn’t sitting in the MeiGray warehouse in Jersey. They were offering, among other pricey items, a bunch of the numbers peeled from the outfield wall during the Shea Goodbye countdown (the real one, not the good one) and an autographed No. 19 Heath Bell Mets jersey, last worn no more recently than three years ago.

I don’t know when Heath signed it. It could have been somewhere during his 2004-2006 Mets tenure on those occasions when he wasn’t visiting lovely Norfolk. It could have been as a favor to somebody who didn’t trade him away when he came back as a Padre setup man in 2007 or 2008. Or it could have been in the giddy atmosphere attendant to the birth of the new joint when Heath Bell, after salivating over possibly recording the first save in the ballpark that could have been his, twirled his figurative mustache in satisfaction at doing just that. He forever owns the first two saves in Citi Field history, actually.

To see Bell introduced as a National League All-Star, only a few players after Frankie Rodriguez, was to be reminded that Heath failed in multiple Met auditions…that he and Rick Peterson clashed fatally…that Willie Randolph could never garner any confidence in him, not even when stellar righties like Braden Looper to Mike DeJean to Danny Graves were the alternatives…that the Mets haven’t nurtured a homegrown closer since Randy Myers…that the most saves any homegrown Met has compiled as a Met since Randall K was traded for John Franco are 18, by Franco’s temporary injury replacement Anthony Young — five fewer than Bell has this season…that Frankie, as good as he’s been, is quite expensive at a time when too many WilponBucks that could be spent on other pressing needs have gone the way of Bernie Madoff.

I don’t root against individual Mets unless I divine there’s some greater good to be gained from hoping for their hastened demise (i.e. the front office might stop deluding itself that Robbie Alomar should spend one more second in a Met uniform in 2003), but there have been a handful I didn’t root particularly hard for. Heath Bell fell in that category. Others saw his stuff, mined his stats and predicted the success he now experiences. Bully for them. The guy whose efforts were often painted in heartwarming tones just left me cold, which probably left me incapable of forecasting his All-Star future (Tuesday was, they mentioned on Fox, his first All-Star appearance on any level, including scholastic). In the time Bell was a Met, I pulled for Victor Zambrano. I sincerely wished the best for Kaz Matsui. I squinted hard to detect the drop of gas I was certain was left in the tank of Jose Lima. Those were futile, unpopular causes, but they were Mets and they seemed fleetingly worth the trouble. Heath Bell…maybe it was the Mets’ 28-53 mark when he pitched in their uniform (team efforts or not, mopping up or not), but I couldn’t get excited about his prospects. If he worked out, fine. When he didn’t, oh well. I won’t pretend I was sorry to see him go or that I’m happy he’s doing far better for another team than he did for mine.

But even I would have held onto him long enough to make a better deal than Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson.

The first of three AMAZIN’ TUESDAYS is coming to Two Boots Tavern July 21. It will be a Mets night devoted to reading, rooting and Roger Cedeño. Get all the details here. And get your copy of Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.

And for the love of Metstradamus‘ annual Hate List voting, head on over there and cast your historically accurate vote for either Richie Hebner or Pete Rose. Make Shane Victorino wait his turn. He’s won too much lately.

11 comments to Oh The Bell With It

  • Anonymous

    (Caveat: the following has nothing to do with Heath Bell, per se.)
    Greg,
    When I was a kid, I had similar All-Star experiences as you. I wanted every viable Met in whatever particular year to be on that team. It was validation of some sort or other: See? We DO have good players on this team, even if we are 26-55. I reveled in Lee Mazzilli's 1979 performance and to this day feel he should have been the MVP. I mean, think if the roles were reversed and Dave Parker hit the game tying home and scored the winning run and Our Lee had thrown a guy out at the plate: don't you think they still would have Cobra-ized the MVP? Of course they would! But I digress…
    I watched the first inning last night, all happy & thrilled that our 3B was starting (and joking with future teammate Orlando Hudson on DNL on SNY very pre-game) and becoming an old hand at this thing. David Wright at third? Of course! Similar to “Ozzie Smith at short? Of course!” or “Steve Garvey at first? Of course!”
    Then Mauer hit his dud at the plate with 2 on and Yadda-Yadda-Yadda threw down to 3rd and I had a thought I'd never had before, while watching a Met in an All-Star game: please don't fuck up! This is big time stuff. We get to make an impression on the entire nation with this game, so DO NOT EMBARRASS ME. (as if it were me and only me, personally being embarrassed and as if I/we hadn't been undressed on a big stage before.)
    Of course, David did make his patented wayward throw and a big DP became 2 first-inning runs.
    I did the dishes & went to bed…

  • Anonymous

    I'm sorry to hear you had a bad experience with the Astros' owner. I grew up on Long Island, but I've lived and worked in Washington DC since 1995. I worked on Capitol Hill in several different jobs before opening a consulting business in 2006. While I was on the Hill, I worked for a Member from Texas from 2000-2004. I even married a Texan, forever eliminating the possibility of returning to live in civilization. One of the most annoying aspects of my Texas tenure was that everyone who heard my (alleged) accent ASSUMED that I rooted for that repugnant Bronx consortium. No matter how often I'd correct them, the Texans vented their anti-Yankee bile in my direction. Then in 2002, my boss had a meeting with the aforementioned Mr. McClane. When I greeted him in our front office, he heard me speak and said, “Son, I'm guessing you're a fan of the New York Mets!” I replied, “Yes sir, as a matter of fact I am”. Then, without preamble, he asked me “What in HELL was Kenny Rogers doing out there?!” Of course, like Kenny, I had no response to that, but we had a long conversation about the Mets, the Astros and baseball in general. To this day, he's the only Texan I've met (and I've met more than I can count) who asked me about the Mets. I'm guessing you never had the chance to talk baseball with him; maybe that would have turned things around.
    Anyway, I completely agree on Heath Bell.

  • Anonymous

    Speaking of rooting (or not) for Phillies…
    Say it ain't Pedro!

  • Anonymous

    I was completely unaware Omar Minaya started working for the Phillies. Signing Pedro Martinez and putting him on the DL before even getting on the roster has Minaya's DNA all over it, the only thing missing is the opportunity to get hurt.

  • Anonymous

    I compliment him on his perceptiveness. You don't get that far in life without plenty.
    It was by no means an altogether unappealing experience, as recalled here, and I can't say it had anything to do with the man personally since I only met him once. But the legacy of my tenure there is that the Astros became the Braves to me for a couple of years. While the ire has cooled considerably since the middle of this decade, the All-Star Game brought it back, probably because the Astros hosted the ASG shortly after my association as their corporate cousin ended.

  • Anonymous

    to this day feel he should have been the MVP
    Thirty years later this still bugs me. What a bunch of tools those voters were.

  • Anonymous

    I could have sworn I was watching a Met game last night: Shoddy fielding, an offense that went to sleep after three innings, an alleged slugger not producing in the clutch, and a setup guy pitching just badly enough to lose. I guess the only difference was a home crowd actually engaged in the ballgame as opposed to wandering the grounds and sampling the food.

  • Anonymous

    We wouldn't know this as Mets fans, but I hear that on other teams going on the DL sometimes means the player will come back in a relatively short time without being injured any longer, so I don't know that this is unalloyed good news. It could be the Phillies will help heal Pedro and Pedro will soon be pitching effectively for them.
    I know — impossible to believe it works that way, but I've been told it happens.

  • Anonymous

    I've got tons and tons of respect for the guy, but I'm still having trouble believing that he'll throw any better for the Phillies this August than he did for the Mets last September. Especially at Citizens Bank Park.
    And, if they try putting him in the bullpen, it will be a disaster. For the last couple of years, he was always getting knocked around during his first inning or two before he settled down and figured out what was working for him any given night. I just don't see him coming back as 2005 Pedro (and certainly not 1999 Pedro).

  • Anonymous

    At this point in his career, Pedro's definitely a question mark and potentially a pitch away from injury. And it's true, Citizens Bank isn't gonna do him any favors.
    That said, what he has going for him is that he's fresh (if rusty), and he doesn't have his father's death hanging over him or anything. And something to prove. He's got a shot. I can't help rooting for him, unless he faces us.

  • Anonymous

    “Martinez said he holds no ill will to[wards] the Mets. In fact, he said he very much loves the fans there.
    Phillies fans might not like hearing that.
    “Don't confuse that now,” Martinez said of his love for Mets fans. “It could be my mom standing up with a bat, and if I have to back her up … I'm a very competitive player. Once I step between the white lines, you see me smiling now, but you're not going to see that face when I'm on the field. As far as embracing the Phillies fans, I think I'm going to have a lot of fun, because they seem to be really wild. And I'm a little bit out there, too. I think we're going to match up really well. I'm looking forward to doing that, too.
    “But I can't do anything with the hate you feel for the Mets or Mets fans. That's between you guys.”'