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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.

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Happy Franchise Day

Taking a brief pause from celebrating the Mets’ welcome decision to celebrate their heritage here to wish the Met of Mets, George Thomas Seaver, a happiest of birthdays. 41 is the new 67 today. We should all wear a commemorative patch.

Seaver, it was announced yesterday amid a flood of upbeat, non-field announcements, is the lead bobblehead of the five the Mets plan to give out next year, each one commemorating a different decade in Mets history (no foolin’). Aside from that being a most understandable and appropriate choice — even if they did a Seaver bobble in 2000 and even if Casey Stengel would be an even more apt subject for the fiftieth anniversary — it’s a reminder that Franchise players can come home again. Seaver has at least three times: in 1983, when he returned to pitch six years after somebody thought he should be traded; in 1987, three years after somebody pulled the clerical boner of the decade; and in 1999, after various post-retirement snits and slights were cleared away. At last check, Tom Seaver is a Mets Ambassador and legend-on-call when he’s not back in California getting his grape on.

As David Gates sang in a song that rode high on the charts as Tom Seaver participated in his first major league Spring Training that wasn’t conducted in blue and orange, baby, goodbye doesn’t mean forever. In March 1978, Seaver was a Red and the Mets were out of the Seaver business. They promoted Craig Swan and Pat Zachry and Nino Espiñosa as the kinds of pitchers you should be excited about. Life went on that way for an overly long and terribly unpleasant interval.

Then Tommy came marching home again (hurrah! hurrah!) and it was like he was never gone…three times. The Mets could sell shirts emblazoned with 41 on them, safe in the knowledge that they weren’t taking their eye off the marketing ball. They could fire up film clips from 1969 and 1973 and not inadvertently advertise that things were indisputably better when Tom Seaver wore their 41, and not somebody else’s. The memory of Seaver as Met merged forever more with the enduring reality of Seaver as Met. Today, on his 67th birthday, you can almost forget Seaver spent nearly nine of his twenty big league seasons as not a Met.

Something in which to take long-term comfort, perhaps, in case the closest thing the Mets have to a franchise player stops being a Met himself in the coming weeks.

I’ve heard it said by fans within my chronological demographic that “I survived Tom Seaver being traded, I can survive anything.” I can identify with that sentiment, yet I also wonder why I’d want to test Jose Reyes’s potential departure against the baseline for Worst Happenstance Imaginable in the realm of Mets exits. There’s only one Seaver, but that’s hardly the issue. Reyes isn’t Seaver. But he’s close enough. He’s as Seaver as we’ve had lately (David Wright notwithstanding). The Mets of 2012 without Reyes will be close enough to the Mets of 1978 without Seaver. They’ll still be the Mets, but less so. Putting aside the reconstruction of the small-f franchise and ever present financial considerations, it will be incredibly weird having the Mets and not having Jose Reyes on them.

I was 14 when Tom Seaver was traded. I survived and all that, but I’m still stunned that it happened. I had never known a Mets team without Tom Seaver. A Mets fan who is 14 now has never known a Mets team without Jose Reyes. I won’t speak to the potential stunnage of current 14-year-olds, but I can tell you that when the Mets played a marvelous montage of  1962-2011 highlights at their press conference yesterday and topped it off with all the players we can expect to see in their 50th Anniversary season, and there was no discernible sign of Jose Reyes anywhere, I was stunned. I all but knew there wouldn’t be any Jose as soon as the video started to roll, yet it was still still stunning. As stunning as it is, to me, that Tom Seaver, 67 today, was traded when he was 32 and I was 14.

But on the bright side, should Jose wind up elsewhere, there’s quite possibly a 75th anniversary bobblehead with his name and partial likeness on it come 2037. May Gold’s Horseradish and I live so long.

14 comments to Happy Franchise Day

  • Jestaplero

    The Reyes-Seaver comparison doesn’t work for me. There was no good reason for Seaver to be traded, other than M. Donald Grant/Dick Young idiocy. The Mets could afford him and he had no health issues.

    I have serious questions as to whether it is a sound baseball decision to sign Reyes for the money it will take, considering that he is a wheels guy whose wheels are always giving out on him. And, who are we kidding, anyway? The Mets don’t have the money. They are laying off office workers, For Tom’s sakes. The Wilpons’ financial straits are much more dire than they are admitting.

    Take Miami’s draft pick and rebuild.

    • Andee

      It’s true, Seaver was as healthy as a horse. And he wasn’t holding out for a 6 or 7-year deal, either. Also, there was an argument to be made that he was the best at his position in MLB, not just at that moment, but possibly even of all time. If all of those things were true of Jose, they’d have locked him up a year ago, maybe even more.

      Whether 2012 Mets – Jose = 1978 Mets depends on two things: Injuries or lack thereof, and what else they do with the money they would have offered Jose. This team, if healthy (or even just a bit healthiER than they were last year), has WAY more talent than the ’78 squad; what they haven’t had is intact limbs.

      And if they stuck the Jose money in their pockets and refused to spend anything, it would be bad, yes. That is pretty much what happened with Seaver. But if they were going to reinvest it in pitching in a pitching-rich division, that might not be the very worst idea they’ve ever had. Especially with the fences moved in.

      Don’t get me wrong, I still want him back, but I don’t think the team will stink forever without him. It depends on what happens after that.

  • BG

    Agree…during the season, watching him every day, I was thinking there’s no way they can let this guy walk. But seeing what it’ll take to sign him (money AND years), just be done with him and move on. I was watching that show on MLB dedicated to SABR and the computers are predicting Reyes returns to earth next year in the .275 range with 40SB. A guy getting a 10th of his money can do close enough I guess.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    (the computers are predicting Reyes returns to earth next year in the .275 range with 40SB. )

    I’ll give him .300 with those 40 SBs, still not worth it.

    Greg: Are you saying he wasn’t in the HIGHLIGHT film? Or just that he was not there in person. It’s not a highlight film without Jose in there. It’s like a highlight film of the first 15 years but without Seaver because he was traded.

    • Not evident in the highlight film. I read one report that said there was a fleeting shot of him pointing to the crowd in the 50-year part (which I might have missed). When they got to the 2012 section, loads of Johan and Ike and David and others slated to be here next year, but no Jose (which is understandable, given the state of negotiations, but stunning just the same).

  • MetsMom

    After reading all the articles online about the possibility of losing Reyes and trading Wright, my almost 14 year old son looked at me in amazement, and said , “wow – I’ll have to get a whole new wardrobe.” Thank goodness we still have GKR in the booth or he would have no shirts to wear!

    I wonder if the announcement of a 2nd WC team changes any of sandy’s calculations?

  • open the gates

    One major difference between Seaver and Rejes – unfortunately, 14-year-old Met fans have LOTS of experience not seeing Jose on the field.

    Hey, if he leaves, you can always tell your kids that Ruben Tejada is filling in for him again – just for a little longer than usual.

    And re the bobbleheads – I’m hanging on to my Jason Bay. Makes a good paperweight.

    • In addition to that being a good line about the 14 year olds, it’s occurred to me. I know he’s missed time. But he was always coming back, and he always came back.

      Bay bobblehead: Talk about a blank slate.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    You blew me away in terms I never thought of before: “Seaver spent nearly nine of his twenty big league seasons as not a Met”.

    That has me as stunned today as I was back in 1977.

  • Lenny65

    When Seaver was traded in 1977 he was a FAR bigger star than Reyes is today, or ever was for that matter. Seaver was absolutely synonymous with the Mets, it was unimaginable that they’d actually deal him away. I remember being in school the day after and everyone, not only big Mets fans but everyone, was stunned. Regular TV programming was interrupted to deliver the news. It was a death blow the team didn’t begin to recover from until the Hernandez deal.

  • Will in Central NJ

    What if Seaver had somehow stayed on board in 1984? Would Gooden have even made the team out of spring training that year? What if Seaver were around to counsel Gooden in off-the-field matters? Would Tom Terrific have made a difference in 1984, ’85, ’87, ’88? Guess we’ll never know.

    • Joe D.

      Had Tom remained a Met in 1984 our memories of game six would not be in the manner of the classic we have.

      Gooden, Darling and Fernandez would have been called up but perhaps not so for Algularia and Shiraldi. If both were called up later, their own paths could have taken different turns. Thus Rick might not have come in to keep the game tied in the top of the tenth with Calvin (maybe not even part of the Bobby O trade) not being called upon to save it in the bottom half.

  • InsidePitcher

    It’s never a bad time to raise a glass of wine to honor The Franchise. Cheers!

  • RoundRockMets

    I keep my Jason Bay bobble head next to my Art Howe floor lamp