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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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Next Year Comes Early

By now I’m not even mad at them.

No, the worst I can manage while watching the Mets stagger around and lose is a weary exasperation. The competitive portion of the 2010 season is nearing its end, and whatever disappointment I felt over that has dissipated by now. You never know, as baseball sages will tell you, but sometimes you can make a pretty educated guess: The Mets don’t have the horses to stay in this thing. I know it, you know it, and the Mets themselves know it.

Which is not the end of the world. Really, it isn’t. Provided the Mets don’t spend the next two months trying to put one over on us, it could even be a good thing.

Tonight belonged to the past tense awful quick, as the Mets were quickly awful. There was Johan Santana struggling with the first inning again, Luis Castillo botching a double play, Angel Pagan juggling a transfer, and Carlos Beltran looking very sluggish in turning a single into a double. Then it was a sad parade of pop-outs and grounders until Billy Wagner walked off the field triumphant, dropping the Mets to .500. If .500 seems dispiriting, just wait: It will be a minor miracle if they end this firing squad of a road trip at that level.

So enough about tonight.

Look, despite the usual blaring New York headlines, the Mets were absolutely right not to make a move at the deadline, unless you count trading Mike Jacobs for Someone Who Isn’t Mike Jacobs as of note. My biggest fear was that Omar would try to save his own battered skin with Kazmir for Zambrano II, shipping out Josh Thole or Jenrry Mejia or Wilmer Flores or even Fernando Martinez for some middle-of-the-rotation starter who wouldn’t move the needle in any meaningful way. (Let’s be generous and assume that not doing so was an act of responsibility, instead of speculating that it was cheapness or a failure to execute whatever plan was formulated.)

The 2010 Mets’ streakiness has hid that they’re pretty much what we figured they’d be back in March: an OK team with a good core and lousy complementary players. But they’re more or less healthy, and they play hard, and while they may be a disappointment right now, they’ve never been an embarrassment the way the ’07 and ’08 teams were at the bitter end and the ’09 team was from midsummer on. In fact, they offer plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future: Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Angel Pagan, Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell, R.A. Dickey and Ruben Tejada have been great fun to get acquainted with and cheer for and wonder about. Going into this year, I figured the Mets would struggle in 2010 and then fall off a cliff in 2011. Now, I think I was half-right — and I’m very happy about where I was mistaken. Give the aforementioned players some more seasoning, add them to David Wright and Jose Reyes and a healthier Carlos Beltran and a more relaxed Jason Bay and Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, and I feel pretty good about the starting point of 2011.

Which isn’t to say that the Mets should sit around and wait for next year. They can reward our faith by starting to position themselves as well as possible for the 2011 season. A deplorable amount of time was wasted in 2010 on the likes of Jacobs, Gary Matthews Jr., Frank Catalanotto and a too-young Mejia. A deplorable amount of time is being wasted on the likes of Luis Castillo, Alex Cora, Jeff Francoeur and Oliver Perez now.

It’s not realistic to expect the Mets to excise all four of those guys, not to mention Omar and Jerry Manuel. But I would like to see them make two moves that would clearly show us that the team won’t continue penalizing us for its own mistakes: Dump Castillo and Perez posthaste.

Castillo’s inability to do anything of use to a major-league team was once again on sad display tonight: Even if you believe in ancient canards about wasting the No. 2 spot in the lineup on a banjo hitter with bat control, Castillo’s lack of range is a liability that will continue to kill this team until the final minute of his unfortunate contract. And do I even need to make the argument about Perez? Very well: I will be astonished if Oliver Perez ever has three good starts in a row, and promise not to blame the Mets even one little bit if he somehow does.

Those would be expensive displays of penance, I know — just as I know it’s not my money. But they would send the right signals about where this club is going, and reassure us that better days are coming sooner than we might think.

24 comments to Next Year Comes Early

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jason Fry, Arthur Ahr. Arthur Ahr said: RT @jasoncfry: The calendar says it's still 2010 for the #Mets, but the standings say it's 2011. Faith and Fear in Flushing. […]

  • kd bart

    They should but they won’t do it. As long as they have to pay them, they’ll keep them on the roster and use up valuable space. Perez won’t appear in 5 more games the rest of the year but he’s happy as long as he gets paid. They should dump Cora before he’s vested for next season.

    • mikeinbrooklyn

      I know this’ll never happen. But, once they are mathematically eliminated (which’ll be like, what? next week or so?), they should put Ollie back in the starting rotation. Just have a very, very slow hook. Watch his ERA grow even larger, the possibility of another team ever finding him attractive grow even smaller, and then dump him in the off-season. Sure, he’ll get paid another year for doing nothing. But then his career will be gonzo.

  • mikeinbrooklyn

    Exactly how I felt, Jason–not even mad anymore. But I couldn’t help but enjoy (enjoy? what’s the word where you pick at a scab even though it might be painful?) the irony of the Mets mantra: “meaningful games in September” when it’s become obvious they won’t have a meaningful game in August.

  • The Jestaplero!

    Glad to know you’re not angry.

    *I’m angry*. I was there on Sunday, could see the home dugout, and barely any of the 2010 squad was paying respect or even attention as the heroes of 1986 were being honored.

    For them to go out and play like they did afterwards was DISGRACEFUL.

    It was like the last day at Shea, the last day of 2007 all over again.

    I have been strongly against the “blow up the core” chorus because I felt like we got so close in 2006 that we were a win-now team.

    Now, I have no faith that this core is capable of being the nucleus of a championship team. Blow it up.

    Blow it up and bring in some fresh young talent to complement Ike, Pagan, Niese, Pelf, Tejada, Thole, Mejia – the “core” of the future. Keep Wright but everybody else can go.

    And somebody needs to explain the concept of “sunken costs” to Omar and the Wilpons as is applies to Ollie and Castillo. That money is gone whether they are on the roster or not, so might as well cut out the cancer now.

    • Dave

      Noticed the same thing on Sunday – at one point I looked at the dugout, saw Jerry and most of the coaches, plus Chris Carter. Guess everybody else had something better to do than to listen to people talk about a Mets team that played hard and won.

  • They’re a New York baseball team. It’s time to start acting like it. Build a championship core, and spend the moolah on the one, two or three free agents needed to complete the picture, and do some addition-by-subtraction: No more Beltra, no more Perez, no more Maine, and seriously consider dumping Reyes for somebody who, even if considerably less talented, actually gives a damn. If that costs a lot of money, so what? You’re a New York baseball team. You have the fan base, the new ballpark, the merchandise, the cable-TV network. The money will come back.

    If the Wilpons are not willing to do this — or if Bernie Madoff left them in a position so precarious that they actually can’t — then they are the first ones who have to get out. Sell the team to someone, or a group of someones, who are willing to do what it takes. The Wilpons were such someones in the 1980s; somebody needs to be that in the 2010s, or, at the rate the Mets are going, they might have the 4th-best attendance in the city behind the Yankees, the Staten Island Yankees and the Brooklyn Cyclones. Shea became Grant’s Tomb, Citi Field shouldn’t become Minaya’s Mortuary. Even a sick twisted, demented Yankee Fan like me knows that it’s a good thing for The City when both teams are doing well.

  • Matt from Sunnyside

    I still can’t understand why they won’t just drop Perez already. In his garbage time relief appearance on Sunday, he proved once again that he just doesn’t have it together. And given his history, he’s got no chance of turning things around if he continues to refuse a minor league assignment. Manuel and Warthen aren’t going to give him any meaningful playing time, and rightfully so.

    He’s already more than halfway through that stupid contract, and he’s won a grand total of three games for the team, including none this year. Are the Wilpons really worried that some other National League team is going to pick him up for the league minimum, and he’s going to catch fire and win 17 next year? Seriously?

  • Guy Kipp

    It’s more than a little curious that this nosedive perfectly coincided with the re-re-entry of Castillo and Beltran back into the lineup.

    • CharlieH

      Hey, can’t b**** about Beltran: he was the only non-somnambulent-looking one out there last night.

      • Guy Kipp

        But my comment is not meant to denigrate Beltran’s effort, per se. It’s to illustrate the effect his presence has on the rest of the team, the clubhouse, the dynamics. How have Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur fared since Beltran returned?
        The Mets had some semblance of chemistry and karma going before Beltran and Castillo came back.

  • I won’t say that I’ve completely given up on the season when there’s still enough time for one extended hot streak to pull the Mets back into contention, but I will say that I’m infinitely more interested in what’s happening up at Giants training camp in Albany right now.

    • CharlieH

      I won’t say that I’ve completely given up on the season

      I will…

    • Berbalerbs

      I keep hearing this over and over and over again…but the thing is, even if the Mets do go on an extended hot streak, they then have to keep playing consistent baseball *after* that hot streak…it’s not going to do the team (or my blood pressure) any good if they get to 1.5 games out of first and then get swept by the Nationals and Astros in consecutive series…which you KNOW is a distinct possibility with this bunch.

  • Lenny65

    Oliver Perez had no business whatsoever being on the opening day roster. The Mets need to swallow hard, admit they made a big mistake and cut ties, Ollie is never going to “turn it around” or any such thing. He is less than useless, he’s a liability.

    Same goes for Castillo, he was a mistake that didn’t quite pan out. Time to say goodbye and good riddance. They’ll never be able to move forward if they’re still believing that these guys will eventually turn things around. Castillo is finished and it’ll only get worse from here, not better.

  • cropseymonster

    I bet Bobby Cox has to lock himself in his office for a good 10 minutes after games vs. the Mets in order to get the convulsive laughter out of his system and compose himself before meeting with the beat reporters.

  • dak442

    So I’m down here in Atlanta; what we hoped was a road trip to root on the big pennant push is looking more like requiem for the 2010 season.

    They’re having a ceremony to retire our friend’s #47 jersey Friday. I heartily booed through the whole announcement (to the consternation of my section-mates). I am toying with the idea of buying a ticket and bringing a sign that says F*CK YOU TOM” or “THANKS FOR NOTHING, FROM NY”.

  • Rickey thinks that it’s far too early for a tearful postmortem of the 2010 season. While the trade deadline has come and gone, there are still more horrific ways that management can damange the future of this franchise. When it comes to soul shattering disappointment, this is a team that refuses to quit.

  • BlackCountryMet

    I reaally believed. I prevented myself from checking the score overnight, came home early from work turning down o/t and looked forward to the entire game and what I hoped would be a big performance. What a load of sh!te!! As soon as we failed to score the runners in the first I was like “uh oh here we go” and so it proved. I try to see positives where possible but this season is heading down the tubes fast!! I’m not as aware of people who were available to trade as most on here but no way should we trade our prospects. I’m focusing on next season now, 2 starters in the off season should see us in good stead to at least contend

  • Jay

    Isn’t it amazing how the Wilpons are viewed as the enemy here? Mind you, most big-market city fans are fickle. Yankee and Red Sox fans have no doubt criticized their front offices on this or that particular decision over the years.

    But not as a matter of *general principle*.

    Brian Cashman is not seen as The Problem in the Bronx. Theo Epstein is not viewed as an adversary in Boston. The Wilpons are. The fans feel (rightly so, in my opinion) that these owners are standing in the way of credibility, progress, intelligence and winning.

    Take the quasi-“rebuilding” progress the Mets kind of, sort of seem to be doing (without any explicit declaration from management or ownership.) Many of us can see the rationale behind such a plan, but how many trust these owners to oversee a responsible rebuilding effort?

  • Dave

    If M. Donald Wilpon and Jeff DeRoulet are preventing the release of Perez and Castillo because they refuse to pay someone millions not to play for them, then we’ve got a real problem on our hands. And I fear that’s the only reason why these two mummified former useful ballplayers are taking up roster space. Not that I’d expect much, but it’d still be more productive to see if Pat Misch and Justin Turner have something in them than to watch these two for another inning. They’re going to have to pay them no matter what, they’re never going to help the team win, doesn’t a smart businessman admit his mistakes, cut his losses and move forward?

  • Dr. Remulak

    The current regime’s biggest fault is their refusal to ever remove the rose-colored glasses and see things for what they really are. They insisted that an obviously fading Pedro still had enough to anchor the staff, then they insisted that guy from the Braves had enough to pick up the slack. They insisted that Perez and Maine would eventually turn into reliable starters. They insisted that Moises Alou would work as an every day left fielder just like how they’re insisting on playing Beltran & Castillo now even though it’s painfully obvious that the team was playing far better without them. They seem to have an unflinching belief that even the oldest, gimpiest or most disappointing players will get back on track if given enough time. And they’re almost always wrong.