The blog for Mets fans
who like to read

ABOUT US

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.

Got something to say? Leave a comment, or email us at faithandfear@gmail.com.

Need our RSS feed? It's here.

Visit our Facebook page, or drop by the personal pages for Greg and Jason.

Or follow us on Twitter: Here's Greg, and here's Jason.

Other People's Problems

It wasn’t long ago that I was a fan of a franchise that never had a batting champion but was saddled with the Worst Collapse Ever. Neither is my problem anymore.

The Mets still Collapsed with a capital C in 2007, but it was a stumble in the park compared to what we as a baseball-loving people have just witnessed from the Braves and the Red Sox. THUD! THUD! And the way they thudded! Jesus…and I don’t mean Alou.

The series of events that had to unfold to dislodge two surefire playoff teams from the postseason before they could ever get there was mind-boggling enough before the final night of the schedule. Then the boggled mind rocketed into the stratosphere. Braves blow lead in ninth, lose in thirteen to Phillies after Cardinals rout Astros. They were up by 8½ on September 6. They’re behind by 1 now.

How did this happen? Easy: the Mets beat the Braves twice down the stretch while they chose to beat the Cardinals only once. We determined this Wild Card race, obviously. And good for us, for while I hate the thought of the Cardinals, I detest the sight of the Braves. Something to do with repeated exposure and Fredi Gonzalez.

The National League change of fortunes was incredible, yet it rather paled by comparison to what happened in the American League, certainly on the final night. You knew the Red Sox were tumbling and you figured the Rays could take advantage, but still…

• A six-run eighth to pull the Rays from 0-7 to 6-7.
• A two-out homer from Dan Johnson in the ninth off whoever was pitching for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to tie it at seven.
• Jonathan Papelbon having Omir Santos flashbacks in the ninth at Baltimore.
• Carl Crawford proving Carl Crawford money can’t necessarily buy you glove.
• Evan Longoria. The twelfth inning. The Red Sox out. The Rays in.

Holy crap.

There’s probably some very good reason to credit the Rays and the Cardinals for their late elevation into the playoffs, but as in 2007, this doesn’t feel like it’s about those who rose up. It’s about those who fell down.

Glad somebody else fell farther and faster than we did. I wouldn’t even say it’s the usual Sheadenfreude making me giddy. It’s nothing personal against the Red Sox (up 9 on September 3), and it’s not even about traditional antipathy for Atlanta. I’m not happy it happened to those teams. I’m just glad it happened to somebody else.

As for that batting championship, congratulations to Jose Reyes, no matter how unideal the denouement of his chase turned. When he bunted his way on to lead off Closing Day and ramp his average up to .337, I jumped in the air and clapped. My feet weren’t yet on the ground of Section 108 and my palms hadn’t yet fully separated before I saw Justin Turner trotting to first from the dugout.

They’re taking him out? Is something wrong with him? He looked fine beating out the bunt. Why is Terry doing this? What’s his bleeping problem? He had talked about not playing him at all, and now you give him only one at-bat in what might be his last game ever as a Met?

Wednesday marked my 17th consecutive Closing Day (a.k.a. final regularly scheduled home game of the year), my 19th overall. I hold Closing Day sacred. I can miss Opening Day. I can’t miss Closing Day, not if I can help it. A year ago I stuck it out into the fourteenth Oliver Perez-riddled inning and would have stuck it out fourteen more if necessary. I don’t understand how anybody comes to the last baseball game of the year and leaves early.

But honestly, after Reyes left the field, I wanted to follow him. If I was at the game alone, I would have left. As it was, I sank into a snit that lasted the second, the third and the fourth. I had to get up and walk away from my seat and imbibe a Blue Point Toasted Lager to calm me down.

Eventually I got over how weird it was that Jose would be pulled, even if it was in the service of the batting crown, which I desperately wanted for him (and for us). The night before, the fella I was with asked me if I could have only one choice between a Mets win and Jose taking the collar, or a Mets loss in which Jose goes 5-for-5, which would it be? After remarking how this seemed like the kind of decision fans of certain other teams probably don’t mull, I didn’t hesitate with my answer: Jose, 5-for-5, batting title. On Tuesday night I was en route to losing “my” fifth in a row at Citi Field, and all I cared about was that Jose homered twice and gathered up three hits altogether. I’d gladly sacrifice Wednesday, too, if it meant my favorite player could do something no Met had ever done.

Calculations were made and Jose was removed. The calculations, however, didn’t seem to take into account that this was potentially Jose’s last game as a Met, and that the maybe 15,000 in the house were there primarily to see him. One of those joining me Wednesday had to arrive late. The last time Jose Reyes batted (whether in 2011 or forever in our colors), he had to watch it on the radio.

Then, after Mike Baxter made his childhood dreams come true by homering halfway to Whitestone and Miguel Batista turned back time with a two-hitter, word spread that it wasn’t Collins’s idea to take out Reyes. It was Reyes’s idea to take out Reyes, though Collins signed off on it.

It was growing weirder, even as it was kind of understandable. That .337 wasn’t all crafted in one day, so why endanger a lead that probably would have been larger had Jose’s hamstrings not barked twice in midseason? Plus, baseball lore is chock full of these kinds of machinations. These aren’t accumulative numbers; they’re averages. You play the percentages, assuming you have no compelling reason to play nine innings.

Did Jose? Depends on your priorities, I suppose. I suppose if your goal was to watch Jose bat as often as possible before he might not bat for you again — and why wouldn’t you want to see Jose bat again and again? — you feel somewhat betrayed. I suppose if your goal was the batting title, you could get with the math and say (as some businessman type who noticed my REYES 7 shirt at Jamaica did), “Smart.” Hike your average, make it challenging on Braun, play that percentage. Or you could still strive for that crown but want it to land on Jose’s head in a more sportsmanlike fashion. “Did I ever tell you the story of how in Two Thousand And Aught Eleven Jose Reyes insisted he be deducted three points from his batting average so as to give the rest of the league a fair chance to catch him? And then he played twenty innings even though the game wasn’t tied!”

Ultimately, these are the Mets, and few are their clear-cut triumphs. Three years earlier to the day, they couldn’t kiss their stadium goodbye cleanly because they had to miss the playoffs just before the farewell. Five years ago next month, they couldn’t fully enjoy arguably the greatest defensive play in their history because they had to be ousted from the playoffs shortly after that play was made. In some other year, something else went well, but it wasn’t unsullied because something else went awry. It just bleeping happens that way for us. This time it was Jose’s turn to not do everything right…except hit for a higher batting average than anybody else over the course of an entire National League season.

Which he did. If somebody wants to find a reason to not enjoy that, I welcome that person to his or her problem with it.

I’m inclined to let Jose off the hook (and won’t he be relieved?) because he’s Jose; and because he emerged from the Met dugout a good ten minutes after the game was won to greet the many who congregated behind it to wish him well; and because he partially gets how much the fans love him, even if maybe somebody should have told him the fans didn’t want him only to wave at them but to play for them. Above all — even above that batting crown — was the chill I felt watching him being replaced by a pinch-runner. That was a signature scene too often these past few seasons: Jose busts it down the line, Jose grabs something, Jose has to come out, we wait and wait for Jose to heal so we can watch him bust it down the line with no encumbrance.

It’s horrible enough when that sort of thing happens organically. Why court the image?

For now, Jose earns a line in the record books, and I’m happy. I’m happy I got to see him for nine seasons. I’m happy I got to see his bunt single Wednesday. And I’m happy that Blue Point drank some sense into me and I stayed for the remainder of Closing Day. I’m happy I got to spend precious innings with a few good friends and happy I ran into several more over the course and the aftermath of the finale. Who would go to see the 77-85, fourth-place Mets take their last gasps as a bedraggled unit? Me and seemingly everybody I know.

I love that. I love this, the part where I get to write about the game I just attended. I will miss it all before long. I always do. I missed it when Shea shuttered annually for what we baseball fans prematurely call winter and I miss it now that Citi Field is our ballpark-in-residence. I wound up inside its overly precious walls on 29 separate occasions in 2011. I had, at the very least, a good time on 29 separate occasions, despite the wan 13-16 record the Mets gave me for my troubles. It took three seasons, but I’m at peace with Citi Field. It’s where the Mets play. It’s where I seemed to go more than anywhere else I technically didn’t have to be this spring, summer and early fall. It’s where I spent Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It used to be I’d go the final home game of the year. Now I take in the entire last series. I guess I’m chronic where the Mets are concerned.

To my enablers and friends who made those 29 occasions never worse than not bad, I thank you from a place much higher than fourth. To all who read this blog and occasionally seek us out to tell us what it means to you, I thank you, too. To my fellow Mets fans, with whom I anticipate sharing the otherwise barren months ahead in this space, I am moved to invoke the words of lyricist Phyllis Molinary:

May all your storms be weathered.
And all that’s good get better.

One of those with whom I parted ways on Closing Day reassured me that it will be April soon enough. I sure hope so. After all, it became September awfully quick.

31 comments to Other People’s Problems

  • Congradulations Greg- your team has a good future!.And finally after 50 seasons a batting champ.Rich P

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Hopefully you made it early enough for the pre-game ceremony for Pete Flynn. As I watched the watched the long line of Mets and grounds crew congratulate him on his retirement, I thought to myself, “I understand why some people might consider my Mets obsession unhealthy. Not only do I know the name and face of the head groundskeeper, I’m near choking up at the sight of his retirement and pondering if he deserves a spot in the Mets Hall of Fame”

    As for Reyes: flashbacks to Piazza’s premature departure in 2005 had me upset, but in this case the ends justifies the means, IMO. I’m at peace this morning.

    As for last nights baseball drama, it’s rarely done better. Kudos to MLB Tonight on a fantastic job of keeping everyone up to speed. Now we can hope that the Rays bounce the Yanks in the ALCS (if our root root rooting for Detroit falls flat) so we can hear the total burial of Girardi for not putting Rivera in last nights game.

    Here’s to the 2012 Mets!

  • Jestplero

    I think you were making better sense before the Blue Point, Greg. All the rationalizations aside, what Jose did last night was shameful, because what a sportsman of character would do is what Ted Williams did when his .400 was on the line. It was a huge screw you to the fans, to cheat us out of what is probably our last time seeing Jose as a Met. Good riddance.

  • kd bart

    Read that ESPN article. You can add Bernie Williams in 1998 to that list. Was pinched hit for, by Ricky Ledee, midway through the last game of the season. Beat Mo Vaughn by 2 points for the batting title.

  • kd bart

    The same Ted Williams who did not acknowledge the home crowd after he homered in the final at bat of his career. Now that’s a “huge screw you to the fans.”

  • Ken K. in NJ

    It wasn’t even the most infamous end-of-season-batting average move in Mets History. In 1977, Joe Torre kept Lee Mazzilli out of the final game to preserve his .250 batting average. He had only missed two other games all year. TWO F**KING FIFTY!

    • Mazz played the final game. Went 1-for-1 and was pulled so the round number could be preserved. Watching that game, I remember being both happy he’d bat above .249 and thinking it was rather silly.

      Same as it ever was.

  • Inside Pitcher

    It was an honor being able to see the game with you Greg. Thanks for another wonderful baseball season!

  • BlackCountryMet

    Great writing, that’s why this blog is one of the 1st things I read when my computer is turned on in the morning.

    The game, well I was eagerly anticipating it because of Jose and did indeed feel robbed when he was pulled but I too stuck around(despite MLB TV problems which meant I missed an entire inning) which I was pleased cos there was some good pitching and I got to enjoy some quality commentary from all the SNY crew, including Ralph. About 1/2hr after the end of the game it struck that there would be no more race home from work for a 13 10 day game, that my Sunday evenings will not be Mets baseball filled and that I will have very little reason(other than off season machinations) to log onto the Daily New website.AND I’M SAD. The Mets now consume a large part of my life(along with a few other sports teams)and the cassation of their season always appears to be too soon. Still, next season is just around the corner ;-)

  • kd bart

    Lost in the whole Reyes thing is the nice stories regarding Baxter hitting a homer for his childhood team and Batista possibly ending his long career with a 2 hit shutout.

  • boldib

    I’m sure it was disappointing for the fans in the stands, (Jeez, I was at the SF game where he strained his hammy in the 1st inning) but I think Jose is sincere when he says ….”They have to feel happy about it if I win the batting title. I do it for the team and for the fans, too.” I, as a fan, am very happy about it – an amazing achievement. Hooray for Jose.

  • dmg

    for those ready to rip reyes — and i really didn’t need mike francesa in the radio booth with howie and wayne for the mets’ last game of the season — i’d note that the man finished playing a 13-inning game about 12 hours earlier. in other circumstances, reyes wouldn’t have even played.

    given all his trials this year, to end with the batting title is sweet stuff. my only problem is that yes, that might be the last time reye’s in a mets uniform. the fans deserved a better opportunity to celebrate him.

    last night’s double-choke warms my heart, the way last year’s early departure of the skanks and phillies from the playoffs did. it’s a nice end to a baseball season that gave us many exhilarating moments, and too many difficult ones. but there’s always next year. as always, greg, thanks to you and jason both for your guided tour through this one.

  • I’ll be really impressed if Mets management somehow use this petty issue to excuse their failure to re-sign him this winter. It’s perfect – make Reyes look like a selfish me-first player who is often injured and would create a potential 1 + 24 clubhouse that management wants no part of. Which is why Collins probably threw him under the bus after the game – instead of saying “he earned it by giving the Mets one of the 5 best performances in the history of the franchise”, he mumbles “Well, Jose wanted to come out, and I want to re-sign him next year”. Nice frame job. Now Mets fans are angrier at their best player than they are at the mediocre 90% of the rest of the team.

    Mets fans – get over this. He played to win yesterday – win a batting title, which he did. Many others have done the same thing – I want guys on this team who play to win; Reyes is one of those guys.

  • HBG

    The Ted Williams situation in 1941 isn’t a comparable analogy, and I wish folks would see that. Teddy Ballgame wasn’t vying for a batting crown against another player within percentage points of him. He had it all locked up. What Williams did was decide that he’d go for a legit .400 instead of a rounded-off one. If the Splendid Splinter had gotten an oh-fer during that final game, he still would have won the batting championship with, say, a .395 average. What Williams had to lose was a milestone, not a batting title. What he did was a pride thing, as impressive and gutsy as it was.

    So like or don’t like what Reyes — and many other people before him — have done. (I’m agnostic about the all the machinations, disappointed that he was yanked prematurely from what I hope won’t be his final game as a Good Guy, but glad he won the crown for himself, his teammates and coaches, and us Mets fans.) However, please, for the love of Kranepool, let’s refrain from using the Ted Williams example to beat him over the head!

  • SJGMoney

    All the Reyes bashers out there conveniently forget that after Sunday’s games Braun had a .002 lead in the batting race. HE sat out Monday, only coming in late to (successfully) pinch hit. Reyes went 3-4 and and ties up the race. The next night Reyes played all 13 innings and went 3-6 to take the lead for good.

    How many innings did Braun play this week, and how many did Reyes play?

  • Dak442

    I was mightily disappointed yesterday when Jose came out but I got over it. In the long run, it’s pretty cool that after 50 frickin’ years we finally have a batting champ.

    It’s too bad they don’t do anything special for us on Closing Day. I remember a game as a little kid where they gave away all kinds of leftover giveaways, calling it Fan Appreciation Day. I’m sure they have some bobble-heads and Chevy caps in a room somewhere. Or maybe a big Closing Day sale on all merchandise. Stuff was marked down, but minimally. I wanted to surprise a friend who shares his name with one of our less-than-illustrious relievers with a game-worn jersey, but $100 for an O’Connor warmup shirt struck me as a waste.

    Last night was the most incredible night in baseball perhaps ever. At the risk of being a tool, it is nice for others to join the Choke Club. Especially Atlanta; I was sort of rooting for Boston given the rivalry with the Evil Empire, but in the long run it’s probably better for us that Tampa potentially faces the Yankees.

    • They give away game-used jerseys to random fans, but it’s not the same as one thing handed to everybody. Fan Appreciation Day in the classic sense seemed to disappear in the late ’90s (though it was revived on Melvin Mora Day in 1999 when they mishandled the giving away of miniature bats almost comically). There must be some cost-savings reason not to find something to give away on the last day.

      Two nights ago, I wandered out of the team store after a visit to the HOF and was handed a piece of paper. It was a discount coupon for holiday shopping at the same store come Black Friday. Classy.

  • Dme1061

    Sits, doesn’t sit….not a big deal either way. Arguing about a batting title is something 12 year old kids do (my player is better than your player!)….not grown men. Ultimately, I would rather see Jose taking some at bats this weekend……something that Braun will be doing.

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    “I don’t care what people think,” Reyes said afterward. “A lot of people told me, ‘Don’t play today.’

    “I want to stay in the game, but they (the fans) have to understand what’s going on. They have to feel happy about it if I win the batting title. I do that for the team, for the fans, too, because they’ve been supporting me all the way through.”

    “One thing I do all the time is play 100% every day,” Reyes said. “It is what it is. I went 1-for-1, we won the game, so that’s good.”

    I…I…I…I…I…I…Thats what bit is all about!!!….Jose “Bunt and Bolt” Reyes

    There is no “I” in TEAM the last time “I” spelled it!!!

  • Chris

    I also love closing day! I am glad i was in my seat for the bunt single and pray that was not the last of Jose as a Met. I was disappointed that I was upgraded to the third base side because it caused me to be distanced from the dugout scene at the end of the game . I believe that Jose really meant it when he said that it was important to him that he would be the first Met batting champion… I always believe ….Bring back the Schmaltzy video/musical montage!

  • G / J

    Not only is Jose not in a league with Ted Williams, he’s not in a league with Joltin’ Joe.
    Because Dimaggio gave 100% every game because he thought about that ONE person who was in the crowd that came to see him.
    It’s a tainted batting title in my eyes, and a spit in the face of Met fans — though it wouldn’t shock me if Jose was too naive and cluless to even realize it at the time. He should apologize to Met fans.
    Barring that, he should sign with us at a discount and all will be forgiven!
    Greg, thanks for taking the time.

    • SJGMoney

      Why do you feel it is tainted, I’m curious? Braun came into Monday’s game with the lead in the batting race and sat out, is that all right with you? Reyes played all 9 innings and all 13 innings on Tuesday; in those two games he had more at bats then Braun did all week. Fortunately for him he also had 4 more hits and that’s why he won the batting title.

    • HBG

      Ted Williams was notorious for what could be called at best a nonchalant attitude toward fielding. (To cite Stengel/Thurber, you can look it up.) All he cared about was hitting, almost literally. To paraphrase, “Let Teddy be Teddy” would have been an apt phrase to tag on him.

      As for other non-between-the-lines attributes, I’ll take Jose’s enthusiasm and joy for the game over Ted’s and Joe D’s aloofness seven days out of seven.

  • Andee

    I was traveling cross-country Wednesday and didn’t get to see the final Reyes at-bat live. (I got MLB.com, I can watch it as many times as I want to.)

    And you know what? I can understand the “aw shit” reaction from people who were sitting there, because they (presumably) had no warning about it. I’d probably have reacted likewise.

    But in the long run, almost everyone who’s a real Mets fan will be thanking him. He’s in the record books forever as a batting champ. Our first. Hopefully not our last, but if not, we can say he broke at least one of the Mets’ half-century-standing droughts.

    On the other hand, if someone wants to go bananas and offer him an A-Rod contract, let them. I don’t see it happening, though, not with all the injuries this year, not with the huge SLG differential away from Citi Field (a ballpark MADE for him), not with Pujols also being on the market and likely to be the one guy who does get the A-Rod deal (with Fielder not far behind him). Jose might be able to get a piece of jewelry faster elsewhere (although perhaps not, since this week’s events have hammered home what a giant crapshoot it all is), might get more guaranteed years elsewhere. But if he wants to be a Hall of Famer and a legend, he’ll stay right where he is, and I do think they’ll make him a more than fair offer.

  • Ed

    Greg,
    Beautiful sentiment on closing day. I wish I could have gotten off work that day too. I think we are both on the same page regarding citi field, I am enjoying it and it feels like home now.

    I love Jose Reyes and I do understand ‘how it is’ but wish he had played for 2 at bats and was taken out before taking his 3rd at bat so fans could give him a standing o – I think fans would have appreciated that. Meanwhile my hat is off to Jose on a great season and a batting title!

    Honestly Greg, how do you remember watching the 1978 Mets closing game and Mazzili preserving his .250 average – and you you felt about it? Amazing! I enjoyed the anecdote.

    MLB network’s coverage of ‘closing night’ was incredible but I would have appreciated if they cut to the Brewer’s game for Braun’s at bats.

    I will look forward to your thoughts and creative blog as the off season takes off. Lets hope for the best!

    • Thanks very much, Ed. The farther we get from Closing Day, the less incensed I am about Jose coming out but the sadder I am that we couldn’t give him one more concerted ovation. But that’s the kind of year and first three years, really, it’s been at Citi Field. I hope we have the chance to cheer him in 2012 and beyond — and not when he returns once or thrice a year.

      As for Mazzilli and .250, some stuff just sticks with you. Like we just stick with the Mets.

  • [...] you’d see him wearing a Mets uniform (as opposed to nothing at all) and you’d see him for nine or more innings. We were all so much more innocent back [...]