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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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And So We Came to the End

Nevertheless, we will tire of Carlos Beltran. Let me be the first to welcome him to Flushing and show him the door. Not for at least five years, I hope, but it’ll happen. He or his swing will slow down. The strange breezes and thunderous flight path to LaGuardia will get to him. He won’t lead us to the promised land nearly enough and his salary will become unmanageable. He will get booed. Not now, but eventually. It always happens.

That’s Greg, from the second-ever post on Faith and Fear in Flushing. Seven years is a long time, in baseball years or the more mundane variety. But even a long time turns into a short time, and then trickles down into its final days. And now that we stand near the end, we can see that everything Greg predicted came true. Even sooner than we thought, in fact.

That first year was poor by Beltran’s standards, and by the impossible standards of $119 million deals, and he was booed. It wasn’t until his delayed curtain call early the next year that peace was reached between player and fans. He put up a monstrous year in 2006 — one of the best individual performances in Mets history for one of the best teams in Mets history — but it got tainted by an unhittable curve ball at the worst possible time. Then came two more wonderful seasons in which the team stumbled at the end despite Beltran’s best efforts, and then injuries and worse things. There was the shameful farce of the Mets not being able to speak with one voice on Beltran’s knee surgery, then trying to blame the player for their inability to get their act together. That was followed by his employers throwing him to the media wolves with an unseemly glee for not visiting Walter Reed, only to discover Beltran had a previous engagement with his own foundation, which builds schools in Puerto Rico.

So yeah, a lot of stuff happened in those first six years.

Yeah, some in the crowd tired of him.

Yeah, he slowed down.

Yeah, things got to him.

No, he didn’t lead us to the promised land nearly enough.

Yeah, his salary was seen as unmanageable.

Yeah, he got booed.

But there was a seventh year — and one of the many nice things about that seventh year is that it’s swept a lot of that nonsense away, forcing all but the most rabidly small-minded fans to admit what’s long been true: That Carlos Beltran is one of the greatest position players to ever wear a New York Mets uniform. (His career WAR of 32.1 is second in club history, behind only Darryl Strawberry.) When his reflexive naysayers predicted he wouldn’t yield center field in 2011, Beltran snuffed the fuse on a media controversy by volunteering to go to right. He’s been a leader and a mentor. He’s been durable. And he’s carried the team as it’s been shorn of one bat after another. It’s been a good enough year to shut up the yahoo choir, which in New York City is no easy trick.

Somehow those seven years have turned into 10 or 11 weeks, which combines with the logic of payrolls and prospects to turn into the very real possibility of 10 days: The Mets don’t return home until Aug. 1, which means Beltran probably won’t be with them when they do. (Yes, there’s been talk of the Mets trading him and then re-signing him, and Beltran has said the right things about that. But if you were Beltran, would you come back to an organization that’s treated you this shabbily?) I understand the logic for trading him, and if Beltran becomes a Giant or a Red Sock or an Indian or a Phillie or a Brave I’ll be philosophical about it, particularly if he yields a good prospect or two. The alternative is polite December words about New York and its fans, which won’t be much good for the rebuilding process.

But all that’s to argue about and worry over when it happens. Today was about taking a last look at him in our park. That was why I went to Citi Field, despite conditions being more appropriate for a Mercury Mets game. That’s why I sat in the molten sun of the Pepsi Porch with my friend Will watching the Mets do not a lot against Jake Westbrook and the Cardinals. (They at least had the decency to lose in a tidy 127 minutes.) But the game was secondary. Uppermost in my mind was Beltran, and being able to say I said farewell to him as best I could.

Beltran didn’t do much today — but then one Jose Reyes triple aside, nobody did. I watched his deceptively easy glide in right, and smiled at the growing constellation of sunflower hulls surrounding him in the grass, and stood and cheered when he came to the plate, and worriedly did the math in the late innings to figure out if he’d come up again.

He did, and in what might have been his final home at-bat, Mets fans who knew what was happening mostly stood and applauded long and loud. But we were outnumbered by day-campers, who were more interested in Spongebob than a potential change of eras. And all of us, campers and faithful alike, were in an advanced state of mummification by then.

So no, Beltran didn’t win it in a walkoff. I wish he had. But I wished a lot of things for Beltran that never happened. I wish he’d sent one up the gap off Adam Wainwright and been carried off the field by his giddy teammates, who refused to let his feet touch the ground until Detroit. If that’s too much to ask, I wish he’d hit a long drive that was caught, rather than been frozen by an unhittable curve and have to hear about it from talk-radio sluggers. None of those things happened, and Beltran’s final home game may well turn out to be a run-of-the-mill loss.

But he was out there at the end, in the new position he’d volunteered to play, during a scorching day game after a night game, doing his best. He didn’t get the standing ovation he deserved, but those of us who knew what was going on applauded. But that’s always been the case. And if that’s Beltran’s epitaph, at least it’s a fitting one.

15 comments to And So We Came to the End

  • Wow. Nice article. I feel a lot more respect for Beltran and ‘certain’ Mets fans now.

  • Andee

    I don’t think “Knee-gate” would have happened with Alderson as GM. Not because the incident was Omar’s fault, but because Alderson carries sufficient moral authority that he would have busted Jeffy’s desk in half for even thinking about embarrassing him like that.

    And yeah, the Pons are bungling bunglefucks, and it’s hard to know which one of them is bunglier. (Is that a word? It is now.) But there are many bunglefucks, sleazebuckets, and anonymous megacorporate dingleberries among the ownership ranks. Always have been. I honestly don’t think the players care all that much who the owner is.

    The question is, does Sandy want to deal with Scott Boras any more than he has to? Look at how fast he dumped Krod after Krod took up with Boras, and he didn’t waste much time disposing of Ollie P either.

    But yeah, I sure would miss him. Please note I said “would,” not “will.” I refuse to type “will” unless it actually happens.

  • a fan's notes

    “But if you were Beltran, would you come back to an organization that’s treated you this shabbily?”

    Man, it never ceases to amaze me when
    the working class somehow empathises with a very rich man’s “plight”. They gave him a $120mm guaranteed contract for Chrissake! But Wilpon hurt his feelings? C’mon. Shabby treatment is when your firm cuts your barely living wage 15% or just dumps you on the street.

    • dmg

      you’re right. we should instead laud the wilpons — the capital — instead of beltran — the talent. if we as fans have a rooting interest, why shouldn’t we root for the worker, no matter how amply compensated, especially when the worker is the one who provided us with the fruits of his talents?

    • So if you make X amount of money you’re supposed to be silent when your employers impugn your name and reputation and publicly blame you for their own inability to have their shit together?

      At what annual salary do I forfeit the right to this basic level of professionalism? $10 million? $1 million? More than you make? More than some guy in the Sudan makes?

      • a fan's notes

        Meant no offense.

        All I recall Wilpon saying was that he was a schmuck to give him that huge a contract. I’d lay 99-1 he was laughing when he said it. How is that impugning Beltran’s name and reputation or shifting blame? Was it a dumb thing to have said and quoted? – yeah, no argument.

        I guess I expressed myself poorly. My point was that Beltran is a big boy with a lot of money and so is Wilpon, of course. Why do we as fans so often project so much of our own sense of justice onto their petty squabbles?
        In fact, was it even a squabble? Beltran gaffed it off while the world shook with outrage and I give him a ton of credit for that.

        Beltran is a very fine ballplayer and I’ll miss him if he’s traded.

        • dmg

          i can’t speak for jason but i think the impugning of name and reputation and blame-shifting was a reference to how the mets handled the issue of beltran’s knee, NOT to a throw-away line in a new yorker profile, as you seem to think.

          and on the issue of beltran’s salary, let’s get one thing straight: did the wilpons lose money on that contract? no. that was a price of doing business, paid to make the mets more competitive and relevant, i.e., part of a better product they could market at higher rates to us, the fans. is there any doubt that if the mets did not have money problems brought on by the wilpons’ idiocy (that’s their defense, not mine) that they would at least consider re-signing beltran?

          by the way, where do you think fred exley’s sympathies would lie?

      • Andee

        I still think the entire thing was basically a pissing contest between Jeff Wilpon and Scott Boras, and JW had no idea who he was dealing with. Beltran probably knows that, too, he’s not a dumb guy.

  • Ken K.

    (“But if you were Beltran, would you come back to an organization that’s treated you this shabbily?”)

    He’s got Boras as an agent. Whoever puts the most money on the table gets Beltran. Case closed.

  • 9th string catcher

    This year’s model of Beltran is the guy I’m going to miss. Showing quiet leadership, physical resiliance and great offensive play, encouraged by smart management gave Mets fan a glimpse of the fully realized Beltran. Not the injured Beltran. Not the Beltran who really wanted to be a number 2 hitter, bunter and runner, not the hesitant wallflower Beltran, but the guy who put it all together and played team-first inspired baseball. Was it all for a new contract? Was it because management treated him more respectfully and intelligently? Did he grow up after two terrible years? Was it pride? Who knows. I do know that this season will help me remember him as a great Met; had last year been his last season, I probably wounldn’t remember him as fondly. Thanks, Carlos.

  • Joe D.

    “But if you were Beltran, would you come back to an organization that’s treated you this shabbily?

    No, simply because I can understand how Carlos feels since,as a fan, I no longer spend money to help coffer the pockets of an organization that’s treated us so shabbily as well.

    In that particular aspect of Beltran’s case, it’s not a matter of the rich versus the rich as it is the simple human element of being treated decently by those one works for. In the fan’s case, it is a double whammy – a matter of the rich versus the ever dwindling middle class along with that same lack of common decency. The Wilpons forgot that they owned a baseball team that flourished due to the unwavering loyalty of it’s fan base and spat at it. Citi Field is not a ball park catering to the fans but catering to the wallet. We know the outrageous ticket prices, parking fees and cost of concessions. We know more emphasis was put on the commercial aspect than the ball park aspect. And there is no excuse for cutting off the view of left field just so those few in that luxury restaurant can have a more comfortable view than the thousands who could only afford sitting in the promenade above.

    So as much as I want Carlos to re-sign with the Mets, I can understand his desire not to as well. As a player, he has that luxury. As fans, all we can do is hope that the Wilpons are finally forced to sell the team.

    And as a side note, the Wilpons showed little professional integrity when dealing with their now not so sure to be minority owner. If that’s how they treat somebody who is going to give them $200 million, how can the players or the fans expect anything better toward them?

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