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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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Beautiful Team, Beautiful Player

After pitching the Mets to a complete game victory over Cincinnati, Mike Pelfrey told Kevin Burkhardt his team is focused on making the playoffs and then, if the matchups break right, eliminating Carlos Beltran and the San Francisco Giants. He said it with a straight face and I listened without laughing out loud.

Oh, the Mets aren’t likely to make the playoffs, but why tell them that? Why tell them the competitive portion of their season is over just because one of their two or three very best players is no longer one of them? Why bother explaining to them the niceties of the standings and how there are too many teams in front of them; and that they’re too many games behind the one at the head of the list; and that there aren’t, quite frankly, enough very good players among the lot of them to take this slightly above .500 song of a season and make it exponentially better?

That portion of reality is irrelevant when a team has 58 games remaining, isn’t mathematically eliminated and accepts that no day begins with a foregone conclusion of how it will end. I would have guessed the Mets, gutted of Beltran, might mope into their next contest and mope out of it with a desultory loss.

I would have guessed wrong.

It wasn’t so much what Pelfrey articulated after the game that convinced me 2011 isn’t wholly kaput but how Jose Reyes appeared when it started. After beating out an infield hit (gracious hometown scoring where Joey Votto was concerned), Reyes didn’t seem to be in mourning. He sported a magnificent smile and made with the spotlight/claw toward the Mets’ dugout. That’s when I had the sense that this team, whatever its fondness for Carlos Beltran, wasn’t going to sit shiva while the Reds went to town on them.

Pelfrey (9 IP) was the Pelf he rarely if ever is. Murphy (4-5) was the Murph he always is…just blessedly less adventuresome. Wright (4 RBI) was as Wright as rain. Reyes was Reyes, which is about as good as anybody could be. Duda was a slugging right fielder, which was very helpful since we just traded one of those to San Francisco for Zack Wheeler.

The Mets were a beautiful team Wednesday night. They continued to make us proud, whether their playoff talk was sincerely delusional or delusionally sincere — even if they were permanently minus one of the most beautiful players the franchise ever hosted.

If you loved watching Carlos Beltran as a New York Met, you were very lucky to have had that opportunity for the bulk of seven seasons. I know I was.

If you didn’t love watching Carlos Beltran as a New York Met, that’s your problem.

Too many thousands of words have been wasted huffing at those who found fault with Beltran’s style or performance or whatever it is he didn’t do or how he looked when doing all that he did. I’m not sure why we expend our proverbial breath assailing those who decided they’d rather not appreciate the value — or relish the beauty — in a player who could do everything and did it often. It’s enough, for me, to celebrate Carlos Beltran, the best center fielder the New York Mets ever had, not to mention probably their finest right fielder (offense and defense inclusive) of the past decade.

I loved watching him track fly balls. I loved watching him line pitches into the gap. I loved watching him overcome the aches in his knees and race to third. I loved watching him not give up. I loved the grace always. I loved the enjoyment late. I pity more than excoriate those who didn’t. Their loss for seven seasons.

Our gain. And we’ll see about this Wheeler kid.

14 comments to Beautiful Team, Beautiful Player

  • Yes, he was as graceful as they come, and certainly the finest centerfielder we have had this side of Del Unser(look it up with Gregs help kids!)..I have gotten over the final at bat of the 06′ season, and will miss a player whom we are better off with than without..

    Greg I’m glad that you used the word ‘proud’ in describing your feelings about this years team..No one could put it better..The 2011 Mets, regardless of what happens in the remaining weeks will always have a place in my Met loving heart…

    Rich P

  • open the gates

    With almost any other team in organized sport, I would agree with your assessment that the Mets are done, stick a fork in them, the fat lady is warming up in the dressing room. Truth be told, you’re probably right.

    But remember, this is a franchise with a few late-season miracles on its resume.

    If Mike Pelfrey wants to channel the late Tug McGraw, let’s not discourage him.

  • 9th string catcher

    It’s a team sport, gang, and it’s not the team with the most stars or all the best players, but the team that plays together the best. You forget that one of the downfalls of last year was too many unbendable expectations with respect to people’s roles: Castillo HAD to be the 2nd baseman, Beltran HAD to bat 4th and play CF, K-Rod HAD to close every game, so that when he left there was no one ready to take his place. Duda’s not comfortable in RF? Collins: He better GET comfortable. Why do fans like Murphy? Because he’ll do whatever he’s asked to do and try his best to win. Team first. I now look at the trading deadline as the end of the most elongated Spring Training in Mets history, and you can’t tell me that the Braves, Pirates, Milwaukee and whoever else is in front of us are world beaters. They ain’t. Oh, and note to Mets fans: Show up at Citi Field and stop booing your team. It doesn’t help, and it’s one of the reasons the Mets have a losing record at “home”. Ya Gotta Believe!

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    The Mets are just 7/12 games out in the wild card (seven in the loss side) and many teams have made up similar deficits in less time (including us the opposite way in 2007). I don’t believe the Mets should be buyers at this point (remember the disaster of 2004?) but considering that they have played above .500 without Wright and if Santana comes back in September (which would be like a one month rental without the rent) they should not have been a seller, either.

    If Carlos continues to hit like he does, the Mets lose a few close games in which a hit or sacrifice would have turned into victories and they come as close as five or so games behind, then expect a lot of fans feeling we could have pulled off something had they not gotten rid of their best power hitter and closer.

    Who knows, Zach Wheeler might turn into a good major league pitcher, but there are many prospects out there so we didn’t really have to let go of Carlos and KRod at this time since we’ve eaten up most of their salaries anyway (Ok, the games finished bonus would have cost us). Baseball wise, with the objective to win, it was wrong to not have kept Carlos and let him walk after the season and see what could be done with KRod.

    I wouldn’t put it past this group to go beyond their adversities, however, why place them in such a position anyway? They deserved more… and so did the fans, for 2011 could have been salvaged.

    • 9th string catcher

      I agree that we should have kept Beltran, agnostic about K-Rod. The games finished issue would have been a big distraction down the stretch. But am not counting these guys out yet.

  • Will in Central NJ

    To those who hated Beltran, know that you are reacting in a purely emotional (Read: illogical) way, almost in an inverse Buckner situation. He did executed his role. At various times, it was Wagner, Mota, Shawn Green, Reyes, and Wright who did not. Carlos Beltran shouldn’t be blamed for others’ less obvious failures in clutch situations.

    At the franchise’s 75th anniversary in 2036, Beltran deserves to be on the field as part of the celebration.

    • open the gates

      It’s not an inverse Buckner situation, it’s a purely Buckner situation, except that Beltran is (obviously) a far better player. Still, Bill Buckner was a classy ballplayer who had a fine career that got totally overshadowed by one bad moment. Sound familiar? Hopefully, that won’t happen with Carlos.

  • Joe D.

    Make that 7-1/2 games out, not seven to twelve.

  • Alex

    Very well said. He was a great player and will be missed, but trading him was the smart thing to do. On a side note, having watched that final 2006 at bat a number of times, I cannot fault Beltran. That pitched moved about a foot to become a strike, it was just a perfect pitch, nothing Beltran could have done.

  • dak442

    I don’t get the bit about Carlos being “arguably” our best CF. Who was better? Dykstra? Mookie? Agee? Get serious. It’s been a privilege watching Beltran.

  • mikeL

    Sad to see carlos go but am hopeful that his absence continues to light a fire under wright,reyes, murphy et all – and that we see duda emerge as the confident and formidable power bat he’s shown signs of becoming. The closer by committee situation could actually work. Fresh competing arms and different looks to keep batters less comfortable. May the braves wilt down the stretch!

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    I like the trade!…We need pitching bad. Our farm system is drained. Anything we do this year is a bonus!

  • Matt

    It honest-to-god hurt seeing Beltran in a Giants’ uniform today. Ugh. Even worse, is still seeing articles mention the “called 3rd strike” and not the home runs that got the Mets into the postseason in the first place.

    But it made sense. Hopefully, you guys will be writing (brilliantly) about Dan Wheeler in 2 or 3 years, and no more Giants games this year?

    • Andee

      “Dan” Wheeler? Isn’t he managing a Kragen Auto Parts now or something?

      I kid, I know he’s with the Sawx. But maybe next year?

      Yeah, too bad it wasn’t a swinging third strike for Carlos. Then he’d only be as goaty as A-Rod and Howard were last year, snerk. (Actually, I don’t even remember whether they were called or swung, but I do know each of them K’d to end the CS in their respective leagues.) But you know, as the team gets better, there are only going to be more knuckle-draggers following the team. Consider yourselves warned.

      As for *Zack* Wheeler, as far as I’m concerned, we can’t have too many of those, not with our luck.