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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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A Visitor From Better Days

In some parallel universe, Billy Wagner also jogged in from the bullpen for the 8th inning and retired the side in order. But in that parallel universe, the other eight defensive position were occupied by something other than surplus Buffalo Bisons, and we were thinking about October instead of about April.

I'd like to live in that universe. But I don't, and so I can't escape the unhappy truth that for all that I was thrilled to see Billy return, that return is merely a footnote in a dismal season. And tonight was a microcosm of that: a sticky, vile evening in which Johan Santana looked merely competent, the bats weren't even that, and the Mets' lackluster play on the field was overshadowed by yet another kerfuffle off of it.

Gary Sheffield has played far better defense than anybody could have expected (which is to say he's been slightly below average), generated more fear at the plate than anyone could have expected (which is to say he's been just fine), and been a model citizen in the clubhouse. I understand why he's angry to be serving out the rest of his sentence on this zombie team, and truth be told, I'm kind of on his side — not because I enjoy the bellyaching of self-absorbed millionaires, but because Sheffield's continuing presence is another reason to wonder if the Mets' baseball-operations people spend their days doing Whip-Its and defacing pictures of Adam Rubin.

With the season beyond repair, why on earth would you pull Sheffield back from waivers instead of working out a deal with the Giants? (Update: see below.) Now that it's too late to get something back for him, why not release him? Either way, put Nick Evans in left for an audition, while keeping Greg's warning about September mirages firmly in mind. (As for a contract extension, ha ha ha. Sorry, Gary. Though honestly, I'm surprised Sheffield didn't get one, given Omar Minaya's love of giving 41-year-olds multiyear deals.)

Yes, Billy Wagner came back, adding another chapter to a story that's a testament to his character and toughness. That's to be saluted and celebrated. But the Mets lost, as they will continue to do with numbing regularity for the next five weeks before the merciful end. In some parallel universe, Billy is the missing piece of the juggernaut, arriving just in time to join a celebratory crushing of the faint hopes of the hated Phillies. In this universe, the best reward we can think of is that Billy might get to go somewhere else while we finish going nowhere.

Update: Next-day story (via Metsblog) claims Sheffield never asked for a contract extension, Omar didn't make a deal because he wouldn't get enough back, and the Giants were blocking a trade, not trying to make one.

AMAZIN' TUESDAY returns to Two Boots Tavern August 25 at 7:00 PM. Join Greg Prince, Dana Brand, Caryn Rose and me for a fun night of reading, eating, drinking and all things Mets baseball (Mets baseball optional). Full details here.

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

7 comments to A Visitor From Better Days

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jason,
    When Wagner got that standing ovation and pitched like the Wags of old, I still couldn't help feeling that the only feel good story of the season was dampened with the speculation that his Met comeback might be very short lived.
    Speculation is he will soon be wearing another uniform and WB11 (aka SNY) made it a point to focus on scouts taking notes. Either the Mets want to get younger players or are being forced into a trade because Wags insists on being a closer next year.
    Too bad. Tommy John surgery has rejuvinated many an old pitching arm and Wagner could be a key part of a revitalized bullpen as we try coming back from this injury plagued nightmare in 2010.
    Wonder if there is any chance he would accept the status of a set-up man and part-time closer if he thinks the Mets do have a shot at the post-season come next year.
    But if only a brief encounter, the euphoria we felt tonight will quickly deflate and recollection of that one inning celebration will just become another downer.

  • Anonymous

    As I gather, he'll be a Type A free agent, so the Mets would be wise to keep him for compensatory draft picks rather than dump him for some small return. But if he's sent to a contender I won't bash the front office (for once). I'm a sentimental fool that way.

  • Anonymous

    The only thing that kept going through my mind was “What if?” Hmmm..Putz, Wagner, K-Rod for the 7th, 8th and 9th. And then I killed a guy with a trident.

  • Anonymous

    Would it have frickin' killed SNY to forego one damn Ford ad and stayed live as Billy trotted in and began his warmups? Pretty much the only feel-good moment of the second half, and they had to half-ass it.
    Hey, who's to say Billy wouldn't beat out K-Rod in an open competition for closer? Frankie's been underwhelming.

  • Anonymous

    On Sheff: We all knew it was coming. I'm surprised it took so long. I can see why he's pissed, but please let's keep in mind that we don't know what team was trying to claim him. If we found out it was the Marlins and they were only offering a song in return, wouldn't we be okay with Omar telling them to shove it? And bottom line here: don't be a dick Sheff. Bitch all you want, but stay in the lineup.
    On Wagner: Meh… sorry to be a pooper here but when I think of Wagner, 3 things come immediately to mind: Taguchi in 2006, being unavailable on that Miami night in 2007, and bailing on us again in 2008. Then I usually think of the Pedro-Yankee game and his Met-All-Star 18.00 era. Not to say that he stunk as a Met, but I'm not putting him on my all-time team anytime soon.

  • Anonymous

    That was Channel 11 going to commercial as Wagner dashed to the mound for the first time in a year. And it was boneheaded. Call it “Enter Stupidity” on the station's part.

  • Anonymous

    Cap doffed to Billy for coming all the way back when we assumed we'd never see him again. The whole Metallica thing last night (when it was shown on replay) was pretty stirring.
    But I'm more with you on this than not. We love Wagner for throwing 96 MPH at the end of a heroic comeback. Let's wait five minutes for him to get comfortable and start taking shots at his teammates after games and see how our affection holds up.
    The guy did more than blow the games you mentioned. But those do stand out, don't they?