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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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The Remains

Back in May I wondered what it would feel like when the number of Jose Reyes Mets highlights remaining were reduced to zero. Now we know.

It sucks.

Jose Reyes is no longer a Met. That’s awful enough right there, but of course it’s worse.

Jose Reyes is a Miami Marlin. Eighteen times a year, starting in late April, we’ll have to watch him take his accustomed spot on the field in an awful uniform next to the awful Hanley Ramirez. With the Mets of the foreseeable future put together from whatever can be scooped up from the factory floor, the Marlins are a good bet to win more of those games than they lose. Jose will beat us in some of them. He will drag his feet across third at the end of a head-first triple like a jet fighter getting arrested by the hook on the carrier deck. And then he’ll throw his arms out in joyous cruciform and do whatever the 2012 Marlins’ version of The Claw/Spotlight is, only this time David Wright will be standing there with a useless baseball looking glum.

It is going to suck. It sucks right now. Whatever you are — angry, sad, depressed, downhearted, blue, adrift — I’m feeling some pretty large measure of the same.

This is where the “yeah, but” comes in. You probably guessed that. But this isn’t your typical “yeah, but.”

I love Ruben Tejada — think he’ll be a star, even, and feel very sorry for him given all the stupid questions he’ll have to answer in Port St. Lucie. But he’s not Jose Reyes and I heartily wish he were going to become a star one defensive position to the right.

I trust Sandy Alderson and his front-office crew, but they’ve got a lot of desert to cross with nary an oasis in sight.

I do not trust the Wilpons, not one little bit. They give every indication of sticking around, with their worries and their lawyers and a commissioner to protect them. This protection comes at the expense of the rest of us.

Not much of a silver lining, is it? At the heart of these gray clouds you’ll find a bunch of black.

And yet here it is: The Marlins are going to give Jose Reyes six years and $106 million. In Sandy Alderson’s shoes, would you have done that even if you had the money? Thinking with your head instead of your broken heart, would you have done that?

I wouldn’t have.

The $106 million isn’t the problem as much as the sixth year. Five years for Jose is frankly scary. Six is insane. That makes this different from the Midnight Massacre, an indefensible trade driven by a culture clash and human pettiness. It makes it more like Darryl Strawberry heading west in the winter of 1990. It doesn’t make us feel any better, but that’s the fairer comparison here.

We cannot forget, on this day of misery, that every time Jose rounded first we held our breath a little. We asked the baseball gods to please not have him grab at his hamstring again. It happened way too often — in Jose’s stats we see a glorious four-year run, sandwiched by an uncertain beginning plagued by hamstring woes, a 2009 season lost to them, a merely OK 2010 season and then last year. And last year, we must remember, was really a tale of two seasons. Reyes I was the stuff of clapping your hand to your head and turning to hug your neighbor while screaming “Didja see THAT???!!!” But then Jose hurt his hamstring again, and when he came back for Reyes II, he was cautious and tentative and merely OK.

So how many years of Reyes I do the Marlins get, and how many years of Reyes II? In the last year of his new deal, he’ll be 34 years old. If he’s still a Marlin, it’s a good bet they’ll wish he weren’t. This is the Marlins’ Pedro contract, a premium paid by way of apology to their fans and as a beacon for other free agents. That Pedro contract didn’t work out so well. Worse, it was followed by other Omar Minaya specials that didn’t work out too well either. Those contracts are one of the reasons the current Mets are in their current mess.

But I’ve overcomplicated it. Again: Would you have given Jose Reyes six years and $106 million? If you would have, fine. I wouldn’t have. I thought that and said that, and being this sad and pissed and everything else won’t allow me to forget that that’s where I stood.

And given that, I’m not upset about some of the other things tormenting Mets fans. I don’t care that the Mets didn’t make a counteroffer, because there was no genuine counteroffer to be made. The Mets weren’t going to go six years, so they didn’t. The Mets probably weren’t going to go above $100 million, so they didn’t. Hearing that they’d offered four years and incentives to get Jose to $90 million wouldn’t have made Jose reconsider, or let me sleep any more soundly. The fewer lame gestures to paper over unpleasant truths, the better.

And forget the fact that under the new CBA, the draft-pick compensation is lousy. I didn’t want the Mets to trade Jose Reyes in July and neither did you and no one seriously advocated that they should, so no one is allowed to pretend otherwise.

Beyond that, well, lots of people think the Wilpons should sell the team. That’s an interesting one. The contrast between baseball’s treatment of the McCourts and the Wilpons is certainly thought-provoking, yes. But here, I’m torn. For one thing, it’s not a small thing to say people should be stripped of their property after a generation of being pretty good stewards overall. But I distrust the Wilpons enough to be willing to explore that. The real problem for me — and perhaps for Bud Selig — is not knowing whether the Wilpons’ current financial woes are the stuff of another year, or a few years, or forever.

If the Wilpons can settle the Madoff mess sometime this spring for somewhere north of $100 million, presumably the team’s payrolls can return to more-accustomed levels relatively soon, with a much smarter crew in charge of the checkbook. In that case, our crying for them to sell is raw emotion and strikes me as unfair, and no doubt strikes the commissioner’s office as chum for generations of very expensive lawyers.

If these penurious ways are to be the Mets’ fate forever, that makes me want to lie down in the road. I can’t stand the idea of Grant-De Roulet II. The thought of trying to raise Joshua as a Mets fan amid that level of pain makes me want to walk away from everything, and that idea terrifies me. I doubt Bud Selig’s feelings on the subject are quite that intense, but I’m sure he doesn’t want that either. Having New York’s National League franchise be a charity ward is not in the best interests of the game.

But what if the future of the Mets is somewhere in the messy middle between those two extremes? Well, then what the hell do you do?

But sadly, we have plenty of time to explore that one further. I’ll set a reminder for June, when the Mets’ latest losing streak is playing second fiddle to scenarios about what the inevitable trade of David Wright will bring. For now, I’m left with this: How will I greet Jose Reyes, Miami Marlin?

No, not when I first see him against us — when that happens, I’m going to cheer myself hoarse, giving him the ovation he deserved and didn’t get because of Terry Collins’ final-day pooch-screwing. I mean after that. I wish Jose the best, but the best for Jose means our task is even harder for the next six years. And yet I don’t want Jose to be Darryl Strawberry, though I think that’s more likely than six years of mid-Aughtsian glory. If the Marlins’ deal winds up looking wise, we are embittered. If it winds up looking dumb, Jose and baseball and all of us are diminished.

Like I said, today sucks.

27 comments to The Remains

  • Z

    I haven’t noticed the Wilpons being pretty good stewards over this past generation.

    • Really? Together with Nelson Doubleday, Fred resurrected the team from utter ruin for the 80s, we had some pretty good runs in the late 90s/early Aughts and mid-Aughts, and Citi Field will be a good new home with its growing pains behind it. And it’s been primarily under the Wilpons that the Mets became one of the large-budget powerhouses of the NL. If the Wilpons can’t return the team to that level if relatively short order they should sell, but on balance I think they’ve been pretty good.

      • Z

        For my money, the Wilpons’ stewardship was never better characterized than on this blog on 27 September 2008:

        “I love the Mets because I love the Mets. I don’t love the Mets because they are such a well-run organization filled with the kind of people whose baseball acumen translates to a satisfying sense of your fate being in good hands….I don’t love the Mets because they treat their customers with care and respect….I know they approach us with unsurpassed indifference as they hold us in utter contempt….I don’t like their intent to blot out as much Mets history as possible so [that Fred Wilpon] can indulge a personal nostalgia for a team very few of us ever saw. Mets ownership wants us to believe the last 47 years have been no more than an asterisk between Brooklyn Dodger dynasties real and imagined….I love the Mets because I love the Mets.”

        If we may define “this past generation,” for convenience’s sake, as the post-Cashen era, the Wilpons have given us the following sequence of general managers: Al Harazin, Joe McIlvaine, Steve Phillips, Jim Duquette, Omar Minaya–each one a proactively cringe-inducing tenure (details available on request). By all accounts Doubleday finagled us Piazza over Wilpon’s strong reluctance. As soon as Doubleday was out of the picture, it was Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar and Tom Gl@vine (who has always had only good things to say about the Wilpons, it’s true). Kazmir. Art Howe. Willie Randolph. Reyes a Marlin. One could go on and on, but, hey, this is just a blog comment.

        I don’t think most fans would agree that one solitary playoff (non-WS) appearance in the last eleven years has qualified the Mets as “one of the large-budget powerhouses in the NL.” And we’ll see how many more World Series Bobby Valentine will get to play in and win as Red Sox manager than he did under the Wilpon stewardship.

        • dmg

          i’m with you. the wilpons seem to have had consistently poor baseball instincts. i don’t think you get to coast on early achievements when they’re more than 10 years in the rear view.
          in particular, this last five-year stretch has been deplorable, among the worst finishes in the team’s history, and has been when my 14-year-old son has come of baseball-fan age. what’s he seen? collapse, collapse, stinko, stinko, stinko. if the wilpons truly cared about the fans they would sell the team and recover from their madoff losses by tending to their main business. because baseball ain’t that.

  • InsidePitcher

    Well put Jace – thank you.

  • Rob D.

    I have very mixed feelings today. When I woke up at 5 AM and heard Jose was a Marlin, it damn near felt like the Midnight Massacre. I think my eyes started to water a bit. But if they KNEW they weren’t going to be able to sign him, then trade him during the year. Yes, it would have been a white flag for 2011 and I probably would have been pissed.

    But 6 /106MM ?? As I posted some where else on this blog…if his agent said, we’re not taking a penny less in dollars or one year less, then don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  • Mike

    I’ve done an awful lot of reading of Reyes-related columns today, as I’ve tried to come to grips with the fact that he’s gone. This was perhaps the best. Very well thought out, very reasoned. It puts into words what most of us as Mets fans probably feel, whether we want to admit it to ourselves not: that as much as it stings not having one of the most electrifying, dynamic players to ever slap on the orange and blue (and sometimes black and occasionally cream), going six years with a man with his injury just wouldn’t have been practical. And yet, like you said, we all lose, in a way, if the contract turns out to be a bad one. I want to see Jose succeed; I just wish it weren’t going to be so painful to do so.

  • boldib

    I’ve had a few and you know what they say about how booze brings out your true self. This is Bad Day at Met Rock. I wish Jose and his family long and healthy lives and honestly hope the Marlins wish they never wrote this contract. Maybe that’s not just the booze talking after all.Cheers

  • RoundRock Mets

    Well said with regard to Reyes, even better with regard to the state of the Mets and the Wilpons overall.
    I would have preferred it if Reyes had re-signed; I’ll miss him. But for all the adjectives that fit (exciting, electric, etc.) there’s one that definitely doesn’t– great. He’s not Ryan Braun or Ken Griffey Jr. Heck, he’s not even David Wright.

  • sturock

    I love the Mets and Jose is a hell of a player, but the question needs to be asked: what did we ever win with him?

    I do hope, though, that Sandy Alderson has some sort of plan for the post-Jose team that needs to be built. And on that score, I’m slowly beginning to have my doubts.

  • MetsMom

    I know what you mean about the pain your son may have to endure. After waking up to this awful news, my son deposited his Reyes shirt and jersey on my bed, telling me it was too painful to look at them. I was told to pack them away and perhaps, in about 15 years, he may be able to look at them again. Sigh….

  • Dave

    Any owner who’s been at the helm for 30+ years should have some success to point to, but there’s no way the Wilpons, who at their peak were probably close to billionaires, should be given any slack for letting a New York franchise devolve into a small market mentality. Will the Marlins wish they didn’t owe Jose that much money 6 years hence? Do you think their fans will care if he helped them win a WS or two?

  • Lenny65

    As I wrote earlier on another post, as much as I’ll miss “good Jose”, I can almost live with losing him. I loved watching him play when he was “on” but he was also sometimes a maddening player and although maybe I’m too cynical, I think that when he does fall off he’s going to fall off hard. There was always a twinge of disappointment with Jose, a “what could have been” sort of vibe. But he will be missed, don’t misconstrue. Reminds me a bit of when Dykstra ended up a Phillie, it sucked seeing Lenny do his thing every time we played them.

    What really hurts is the Mets’ whole mentality these days. It appears that they didn’t even try to sign him and that’s just plain insulting. The “small market” approach is a slap in the face, especially with the new ballpark and the money they threw at the Bays and K-Rods over the last few years. They’re running up the white flag and it’s only December. If they never really intended to re-sign him why didn’t they try to move him last season and maybe get something out of the deal a la Beltran? If Wilpon doesn’t have the funds to hang in the nation’s largest market, perhaps he should move on and sell the franchise to someone more equipped. The “Madoff” excuse won’t hold a lot of water when it’s mid-July and the small-ball Mets are buried beneath Washington in the standings. I don’t get what the direction here is supposed to be, it seems like a big step backwards after they showed a bit of life last season, which I expected them to build upon.

  • open the gates

    Very well put, Jason. At the end of the day, as miserable as it is for us to have lost Jose, there is no way we match that contract. That would just be duplicating the mistakes we made with Pedro, Johan, and (pardon me for invoking his name on such an already miserable day) Oliver Perez. Much as we hate to see Jose go, go he must. And let’s see how his hammies are faring five years hence.

    One minor quibble: I also like Ruben Tejada, but I don’t feel even the slightest bit sorry for him. I’m sure he considers even the dumbest questions he’ll get at Port St. Lucie as worth it for finally cracking the Mets starting lineup for good. Here’s hoping he does become a star. And even if he doesn’t, remember that the last championship team at Flushing featured a rather mediocre shortstop named Rafael Santana. We’ll find other ways to do it. This, too, shall pass.

  • Lou

    I think why this day sucks is really because we love Jose Reyes. But I answered your question as to whether I would sign him to 106 million for six years as you did–no. That’s because intellectually I know it would be a bad baseball decision based on his injury history. And also, at his worst, Reyes is not the most savvy of baseball players. For all his God given talent, Reyes baseball instinct is actually less than Ruben Tejada’s (I am not comparing Tejada to Reyes however). For me Jose represents what could have been but never was save an almost in 2006. How much longer could we hope for something that would never come. Sandy made the right move. What sucks is waiting for the time when the Mets are relevant again. But I agree with Sandy, when that time finally does arrive, we want it to continue year after year. And except for 6 years during the 8os when there was no wild card, the Mets have never been able to sustain prolonged success. Perhaps their 50th anniversary season will mark the beginning when we begin to see the fruits of the future. Let’s hope so at least.

  • Andee

    Well said, Jason.

    As for the Pons selling the team: If the Mets (as opposed to Sterling as a whole) are really “losing money” at the rate they say they are, how could they not sell sometime in the next few years? It’s just not sustainable, especially since they’re not exactly personally flush right now. And besides, Selig plans to step down after next year, and his successor probably won’t give a flying rat poop about protecting them.

    But the real difference between McCourt and the Pons is that McCourt is a flat-out crook, who took a cash-cow franchise and ran it into the ground to finance his whoopie-deluxe lifestyle. You know how bad you have to suck in order to make the Dodgers unprofitable? They have no competition within a two-hour drive! They used to PACK that place every night, even when Fox was bungling its way through its ownership regime.

    And how relieved were Dodgers fans when Fox finally folded up their tails and left? Little did they know what they were going to get instead, a guy who doubles ticket prices in a single year without renovating anything but the luxury levels, and doesn’t even give a flying fuck when a Giants fan gets beaten into a coma in the parking lot. People don’t even feel safe going to that ballpark anymore, and it’s all because of his negligence.

    The Pons may be bunglers and bad liars, but they have yet to show any evidence that they are swindlers on that level. I doubt they have enough savvy to pull that off. But hey, their fuckups got us Sandy and the dream team. The train runs on both tracks.

  • Andee

    Oh, and Reyes was on the DL during most of July, and when he came back he wasn’t even running all-out. They would have had to trade him in June, when the team was still playing well, though I’m pretty sure that if Sandy had been offered anything decent then, he would have jumped on it. But they wouldn’t have gotten Wheeler for Beltran in June, and they weren’t going to get two Wheelers (or even one) for Jose then either. And who knew then they were going to change the CBA so it would affect next year’s draft? I’d still rather have two draft picks, even if they’re a little lower, than a bunch of guys named Homer Bailey.

  • Guy Kipp

    The Wilpons deserve the antipathy, suspicion and mistrust of all Mets fans. The Mets are just a property, a holding, to them, not a passion.
    Nonetheless, there seems to be a selective memory loss when it comes to Jose Reyes. I have not ever forgotten his lack of effort down the stretch when all the world was imploding in Sept. 2007. Now that he’s gotten his big payday, who is to say that this is not the same Jose Reyes who will reappear in 2012 and beyond? Who is to say that he may not take on the work ethic of Hanley Ramirez?

  • Kevin From Flushing

    The wisdom and experience put into FAFIF’s writings always put me in a better place. Not a GOOD place by any means under this scenario, but better. Thanks guys.

    Keep calm and carry on.

  • Lenny65

    I would have liked to have seen the Mets make an offer, that way when Reyes shot them down HE’D look like the “bad guy”, so to speak and the Mets would have given the impression that they at least tried. Not that impressions matter much or anything. It’s just annoying to hear them balking about money all the time from a fan standpoint. It’s frustrating to have the entire off-season center around the Wilpons and their losses, especially after Collins appeared to breathe some life into them after two years of total suckitude. It’s definitely way too reminiscent of those abominable late 70’s teams that were built and run on the cheap to a degree younger fans cannot even comprehend. It took them 7-8 years to dig themselves out of that mess.

    But giving Jose six years? I agree fully: no way. Especially for such a “legs”-oriented player with known health issues. I also have to agree that we often looked at Jose through rose-tinted glasses a lot of the time. As exciting as he could be the fact is that he was one of the cornerstones of some of the most disappointing Mets teams ever. If Jose is putting up 20 triples five years from now I’ll gladly eat my words but I just can’t imagine it happening.

  • Will in Central NJ

    I recall when Tom Seaver was claimed by the White Sox in January 1984, I thought, “Can’t this franchise even get out of its own way?” Little did we know, two months later, some kid named Gooden comes seemingly outta nowhere, and an unprecedented run of good fortune began.

    Sometimes, as the song went, the night is darkest just before the dawn. Maybe somehow, that’ll be possible as we enter the post-Reyes era.

  • Flip

    Thank God for this blog. Reading your thoughts, Jason, as well as everyone else’s, does make this sinking feeling more tolerable. It seems that most of us Mets fans are in agreement that 6 and 106 are just too much, as much as we HATE to see him go. Jason, you said exactly what I did when I heard the news, just much, much more eloquently. I.e., do you really wanna be paying this guy 17+ million when he’s 34? When his whole game is his wheels? When those wheels didn’t always work even when he was YOUNG!!!!?? No, Sandy did the right thing.

    Tragically for us, any game with Reyes in the line-up was a game worth watching, win or lose. I will miss looking forward to sitting in front of the tube most nights to see that spectacle. The last time I loved a player this much was Lenny, and frankly Reyes was always just so much more exciting.

    2012 looks pretty dismal. Yet we KNEW this was coming. The Wilpons were able to put some pretty good teams out there, just not for the last 5 years. Though hiring Alderson and the Team were good moves, I fear it was out of shear self-preservation/money-saving reasons and not long-term view/wisdom.

    I know, I know, this too shall pass. The question is how long it will take.

  • eric b

    I don’t have a lot of Mets gear. An old hat, circa 1986…and old paint-stained Dwight Gooden t-shirt, circa 1987, and a t-shirt recently purchased with “Reyes 7” on the back. In my twisted logic, buying the shirt was a message to the Mets that hey, this guy, THIS guy, he’s my favorite player. Don’t trade him…Don’t fail to resign him….and certainly don’t drive him to play for the team in my current back yard, the Florida (not Miami) Marlins. That worked out great. My heart plummeted when I read the news…and esp. because the only people who I have to share it with are my 7 and 10 year old daughters who really don’t care that much despite my efforts to make them. My dad confidently predicts injury for Jose, but he’s not a Mets fan and doesn’t understand that I wouldn’t wish more injuries on Jose, as Jason says. Would I sign Jose for 6/106. Damn straight I would, but only because it’s not my money…and, in my stupidly and perpetually optimistic head, the Mets were not that far away from being a good team last year (not a WS team, but a good team). Reyes was the guy who made them a pretty good team for stretches of the season…and when he went down (and Daniel Murphy the same day)—so did they. Nevertheless, when the season starts, I’ll be cheering for the Mets, not for the GD Marlins, and, like many, I’ve already started to try to convince myself that despite Reyes’ loss, things may be better this year. We lose Reyes…We lose Beltran…and we don’t know what we gain from outside the organization yet, but we know it won’t be much. We do hopefully gain healthy versions of Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, and, perhaps, Johan Santana. We could gain a bounceback year from Jason Bay (don’t hold your breath), and a full year of David Wright, who missed alot of time last year. We gain a full year of Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada, which, judging by the back half of last year seems like a good thing. Are all of these enough to field a WS team? No chance. Might they be .500 or over… I think that’s not unrealistic. Will they make the playoffs? I doubt it, but they might be in the chase fairly late in the year for a Wild Card. If the Wilpons’ money woes are short term, we might be able to chase some starting pitching next offseason and improve significantly. This is not the end of the Mets…but it is the end of the Mets of 2006…the last good Mets memory. There will be more at some point…hopefully not too far into the future.

  • Joe D.

    I agree the Mets were right not go re-sign Reyes for the six years and amount of money the Marlins offered him. He is a great shortstop but too often injured and, fortunately, the Mets are in a decent situation with Ruben Tajada ready to step in.

    I just don’t like it because the decision to sign him or not was taken out of Sandy Alderson’s hands. I would rather he said it was not in the team’s best interest to sign Jose to such a long term deal instead of admitting we just didn’t have the money. In fact, I respect Sandy for insisting any deal would have had to include a clause for games played. Of course, Reyes and his agent would never have gone for that.

    But this has nothing to do with also wanting to the Wilpons to sell the team. As pointed out by others, they had little use for fans unless they were willing to shell out unreasonable amounts of money. They built a small ballpark that catered to those who could be more frivilous with their money rather than average working-class fan. And the seats that were just barely affordable (counting the added on charges) consisted of blocked views so those in the restaurant most of us are excluded from (even if we could afford it) at the expense of those below would be more angled into the action. Not to mention special entrances for these people yet only one escalator for us to reach the upper promenade — or only two sets of restrooms.

    Fred and Jeff counted on 37,000 in a smaller ballpark spending much more than 43,000 would in a bigger one.
    They did not give a damn about making their product affordable for everyone and said the hell with the average fan. So that’s why, at least in my case, the feeling is mutual.

  • Jacobs27

    Angels and ministers of grace defend us! This is going to be a desolate, god forsaken season…