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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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Cubs 11 Exhausting Schmucks 1

I thought it was passion, but it’s just drama.
—Nate Fisher, “Ecotone,” Six Feet Under

Is there a more exhausting baseball club to root for than the New York Mets? Has there ever been a more exhausting baseball club to root for than the New York Mets?

The Mets used to tire us out with manic playoff runs, with Octobers and Septembers and late Augusts we couldn’t turn off. That’s what we knew as the good tired. The Mets could put us through the ringer like nobody could, and we welcomed it. In the spirit of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man, we loved it.

The Mets don’t tire us out that way anymore. They are a high-maintenance obsession that offers us increasingly little return on our emotional investment: fictitious profits, mostly. We don’t get the championships. We don’t get the contention. We get no more than a nugget here or there to keep us going — an obscure achievement; a middling milestone; a face in the crowd that makes us smile for a night or two at most. What I’m coming to appreciate these days is when things are kind of boring because it means things aren’t blowing up on us.

Things are blowing up on us. Things are almost always blowing up on us. Lately they’re as continually explosive as Jason Bay’s bat is chronically dormant (Bay is what we know as the bad boring). The Mets have been the flashpoint lately for a disheartening Subways Series meltdown; for genuinely terrible news regarding one of their living legends; for a slew of disturbingly mysterious injuries; for scandal that continues to require sopping up from the mess a former high-ranking employee left behind; for the mind-boggling callousness the organization showed in enhancing/degrading their literal brand. Yet y’know what? All that stuff from the past couple of weeks — from the revelations contained in Paul Lukas’s backstory on how we wound up with black uniforms to the arrest of Charlie Samuels to the disabling of David Wright and Ike Davis after plays that appeared relatively benign on first glance to the tumors afflicting Gary Carter to Mike Pelfrey’s inability to escape the seventh inning in the Bronx — have all but disappeared from view since Sunday night.

The “great guy/poor judgment” Fred Wilpon PR offensive, consisting of articles in the New Yorker and Sports Illustrated, has altered our agenda as Mets fans, at least until something else overwhelming and absurd comes along to replace it as the dominant force in our concerns. Now all we’re thinking about and talking about is the principal owner of our favorite baseball team: what he said; what he shouldn’t have said; what he shouldn’t have done; and, because we wouldn’t care what a great guy some real estate magnate we’d never heard of was if he didn’t own our favorite baseball team, when and under what circumstance he and his will be compelled to sell…and how much damage he and his will inflict upon our favorite baseball team in the interim.

After 36 or so hours immersed in dissecting quotes and reactions and implications (with breaks for sleep and scattered responsibilities), I tuned in Tuesday night’s game from Wrigley Field almost surprised there was a game. You mean they play baseball, too? I thought the Mets were simply a conversation piece.

They didn’t play baseball remotely well against the Cubs, giving all of us, including the principal owner, every opportunity to consider ourselves (yet again) schmucks for being charter passengers on this bizarro bandwagon. They instead capture our attention for a day-and-a-half because of colorful phrases like “schmuck” and “shitty team” and “not a superstar” and “bleeding cash” and “a dupe rather than a crook”. They get us worried over whether our shortstop (who on Tuesday quietly passed our idle and presumably insufficiently stellar third baseman for No. 3 on the franchise’s all-time hits list, with the No. 2 spot, held by Cleon Jones since 1976, just five hits away) will be our shortstop for more than another couple of months. They get us up in arms on behalf of our valiant right fielder and his 65/70/100% state of being. They make us wonder (yet again) if our flagship radio station should be WTF instead of WFAN.

They really are exhausting. They take it out of you with the no-win debates they can’t stop themselves from inspiring.

“He didn’t say anything any of us hasn’t said.” “Yes, but he’s the owner.”

“Well, he isn’t a superstar, not really.” “Look at his numbers, of course he’s a superstar.”

“I don’t want to see him go.” “I don’t think he’s worth that kind of money.”

“They’re going to have to slash payroll.” “They’ve had a big payroll and they haven’t won anything.”

We know, we know, we know. Fred Wilpon and his potentially hundreds of millions of problems aren’t exactly breaking news, but we’re sure incredibly conscious of them now. Carlos Beltran not endlessly repeating the seven games he filed against the Cardinals in October 2004 (while he’s endlessly reminded of one at-bat he had against the Cardinals in October 2006) isn’t a bulletin either. Jose Reyes is due to get paid? David Wright hasn’t busted down the far-away fences of Citi Field? There was too much devotion to the object of Fred’s childhood affection when our ballpark opened and next to none for ours? Bernie Madoff is a sociopath? Saul Katz could moonlight for Rawlings because he claims a big set of balls?

OK, that last one I didn’t know. And I didn’t know Fred Wilpon jetted around Europe in search of better weather on holiday because he could. I didn’t know of the existence of the Old Farts Club (and could have done without that tidbit). I didn’t know Fred got Jeff a gig catching BP through Joe Pignatano or that he hung around Shea in the late ’70s with Joe Torre, which I actually enjoyed learning because it gave me an inkling that Wilpon might have actually cared ever so slightly about the Mets before he owned a piece of them.

Besides having it drilled home that Fred’s a good guy undermined by poor judgment (so Picard, get your hand out of his pockets already yet), another theme the self-inflicted media onslaught emphasized was the owner of the Mets loves being owner of the Mets. Take it from perenially reliable source Steve Phillips: “I know how important the team is to the Wilpon family.” Yet, for what little it’s worth in the big picture, I don’t necessarily equate that with loving the Mets. I’ve never gotten the feeling Fred Wilpon does, not in the way those of us who don’t get to shove blueprints at an architect and tell him to shut up and just rebuild Ebbets Field do. I’m sure he loves the Mets as a property, and that there’s more to the Mets to him than there is to this or that building in Manhattan, but I also get the feeling his acumen was most acute in tending to inanimate objects.

Fred, as Tom Verducci noted in the SI piece, doesn’t keep an office in Citi Field. He wasn’t supposed to be the one out front at this juncture. The Mets were on track to becoming Jeff Wilpon’s show. Take that for what it’s worth. The Wilpon family was going to be one with the Mets forever. For better. For worse. Probably for what the last decade has been like since Wilpon bought out keen-insighted Nelson Doubleday and it’s been all Fred and Saul and Jeff.

They run a lot of Viagra ads on SNY, I’ve noticed, the ones that tell me I’ve reached the age of knowing how to get things done or something like that. After winking not very hard about those things (the kinds of things for which Saul Katz cops to being exceptionally well-equipped), the commercials urge the viewer to consult with a doctor to make sure one’s heart is healthy enough to engage in what Viagra is supposed to help you get done.

At the risk of TMI, I don’t need to see a doctor to ask about that. I need to see a doctor to find out if I can take being a Mets fan much longer. It’s exhausting. It really is.

19 comments to Cubs 11 Exhausting Schmucks 1

  • 9th string catcher

    Were those really Doubleday comments? Why wasn’t he a bigger star during his ownership? They were positively Steinbrenneresq!

    Rooting for the Mets can be exhausting, but let’s face it – is there any other team in baseball today that gives better blog material? These guys are a perennial circus act that will do the last thing you’d ever expect anyone to do (particularly win baseball games, though sometimes they do that too…)

  • 5w30

    Nelson Doubleday was a relatively private man in his days as majority Mets owner. Quiet type, like John Pickett when he owned the Islanders. The money man in the background who hired the right people [Frank Cashen] to point the team in the right direction. I think Doubleday was very conscious of being the 2nd generation in his family’s business [Jeffy and Jimmy, take note] but downplayed his efforts by putting others out front. Nelson would rather play golf and ingest vodka southsides than be the Steinbrennerish face of the ’80’s Mets. Also in Doubleday’s non-Mets world there was a very genteel trace of anti-Semitism. When people dig deeper and know the Locust Valley culture, country clubs and so forth, they say “a-ha”.

    • kd bart

      I knew someone who use to caddy for Doubleday back when he was a teenager. Man was cheap and treated caddies quite poorly.

  • Frank

    Another very entertaining piece indeed, thanks Greg. Fred Wilpon needs to make like Mubarek and run for the hills. Trusting Madoff (and New Yorker Magazine) further underscores his detachment from reality. He can bash his employees (Beltran, Wright, Reyes etc) all he wants. But in the end, Fred Wilpon is the one left with mud on his face. Time to do the right thing, sell the team and leave whatever shred of dignity is left to a more qualified owner.

  • kd bart

    Would you rather root for a team like the Pirates and have an owner who basically receives a subsidy from MLB every year but does nothing with it but pocket it? Never uses his funds to upgrade his talent. Keeps trading off any young talent he does have, to avoid having to pay them when they reach arbitration and then free agency, for so-so cheap veterans. Why people in Pittsburgh haven’t run that ownwership out of town after all these years amazes me. I guess there aren’t enough fans there to care.

  • […] morning, and, of course, to any and all Mets fans, I highly recommend the most-recent remarks of Greg Prince of Faith and Fear in Flushing and […]

  • On this bandwagon

    Today’s blog speaks for me. Thanks, Greg.

    Fred, if you truly love the team, let it go.

  • chris galligan

    No joy now ;imagine this club without Jose? Please support the Dont trade Reyes Shea Bridge Gathering on June 3rd. Maybe next we can do a flash mob banner day!

  • boldib

    I think Wilpon should sell too, but not due to anything he’s said or done: Just to finally say, “Up yours” and walk away. I’d wish him well.

  • dak442

    When things start going this way, I find myself not so much exhausted as introspective and subject to existential crisis. To whit: what the hell is a grown man doing, investing so much of himself in the exploits of a bunch of millionaires in the employ of a billionaire dilettante? I mean, I’m sitting in my office, surrounded by Mets tchotchkes next to a wall of pictures of family at Shea and Citifield, reading (and writing) about the Mets instead of doing work. Yesterday I was actually concerned that David Wright might feel bad. You think David is concerned that I might feel bad? I think that question was answered definitively in “A Bronx Tale”: “You think Mickey Mantle gives a shit about you?”.

    I’ve been through this before; what ultimately happens is the team slides out of contention, and after a period of anger and sadness I can begin to simply enjoy the games with no expectations. Maybe a saner person might just give up, but this whole thing is burned so deep into my brain it hasn’t been excised after horrendous trades of my favorite players, strikes or mind-numbing chokes and letdowns; it won’t be killed by this.

    • boldib

      Dak – On the money.

      Something I’ve been thinking about lately that, I think maybe, sorta relates: how mainstream media and the blogosphere (the very fine F&F excluded here) blow everything up and then reduce it to this weird morality play supporting this even weirder black and white belief system. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to be a fan and NOT be sucked in – and then be “subject to existential crisis” (though, for me it’s more existential nausea).

      I can’t pull myself from this ridiculous drama!

      • Matt from Woodside

        Last night, I made myself turn off the game early for the first time this season. Right after the second inning.

        I couldn’t resist checking in later, though. Turned it back on JUST IN TIME to see Paulino hurl the ball down the right field line with a guy on third, which, for some reason, led me to give my television a profane earful about everything from Fred Wilpon to Tony Bernazard to the botched Willie Randolph firing.

        I understand that the tabloids and blogs sometimes manufacture or maintain drama, but why does this team’s ownership give them so much fodder? Why is Fred Wilpon riding in on a freaking calliope while I’m trying my best to enjoy a quiet rebuilding year? Why am I watching a bunch of millionaires throw a ball around?

  • March'62

    I think what makes the plight of the Met fan so unbearable is that they share the city with fans of that other team that can do no wrong. Slow 27-bouncers find their way under the pitcher’s glove, under the shortstop’s glove, into centerfield with the bases loaded to tie the game. A strong performance last night by the Mets, an 11-1 victory for example, would have put all this other stuff to bed. “You see how motivated and focused the team looked last night?” But they go out and lay an egg. And this other story gets even bigger. Oh to be a Pirates fan who can just write off their own season in early May and sit back and enjoy the baseball season play out to its conclusion. The Met fan has to write off their season and then spend the rest of the baseball season rooting against their crosstown rivals. Which only seems to bring nausea, agita, and ultimately more pain. It has become such an Ambiorix Burgos to root for this team and I can’t do it anymore!!! Unless they win tonight. Last chance. Or by tomorrow the latest.

  • Will in Central NJ

    Ah, what a crate of lemons this Metropolitan franchise is. But we can at least rely on Greg and Jason to make lemonade out of the whole thing. Well written essay of catharsis, Greg.

  • Joe D.

    It is surprising that one who had the compassion and understanding of what Jackie Robinson had to endure to build a beautiful rotunda in his honor could also be so indifferent to his fan base, enough so as to take them for granted and attempt to fleece them for all he could get.

    That is where the integrity ends. Except for that Rotunda, Citi Field stands as a monument to one’s zeal for maximum profit with little concern for anyone other than the more affluent. That includes the left field upper prominade because he wanted patrons of the expensive restaurant underneath angled closer to the field so they could see everything at the expense of those who could only afford to sit above them – and that includes seats just past the infield.

    That’s what is wrong with this franchise. That is what causes our anger more than what we see on the field.

  • Lenny65

    I though we’d bottomed out after the events of the last four seasons. The Mets actually looked like they were beginning to forge themselves a bit of an identity there for a minute. Then came the annual “let’s expose our shortcomings on a nationally televised stage” series (part one). That was unpleasant. Then, immediately after, our owner’s “conversations” break, further humiliating the loyalists. Today I read about how the GM is talking about cutting payroll (but not THAT much) NEXT season, even though it’s still May of this one. Suddenly it’s just like 1980 or 1981 again: a bad, cheap team playing in an empty stadium no one wants to visit. Except this time, the cheapness is due to being involved in the biggest (prosecuted) financial swindle of all time, as opposed to just being the owner’s nature. I thought nothing could top the drudgery of those years but this epoch of Mets history is closing in on that one fast.

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