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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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Stay Classy, Mets

If there’s one thing Johan Santana does not strike me as, it’s insecure. He suffered the worst outing of his career Tuesday night in Atlanta — same place his professional life had to be put on interminable hold in 2010 — yet judging by his calm demeanor and rational responding during a postgame media grilling that wasn’t nearly as scalding as the one the Braves gave him on the field, he knows he’s going to pitch another day and win another day…maybe even in five days.

We all should be as calm and rational as Johan Santana.

The management of the team that has made Johan financially secure is going through one of its rare calm and rational phases, which is as satisfying as it is reassuring. By no more than confirming that they will be doing the right thing twice in the upcoming weeks and months, the Mets have elicited from some quarters an overly touchy reaction born of what feels like innate and inappropriate insecurity.

They don’t deserve it. The Mets are being classy. It’s a pleasure to see.

Working back to front, the Mets have said, sure, we’ll acknowledge Chipper Jones when he swings by for the final time in September. Heavens to Betsy! cries a segment of the fan base as if on cue, I do believe I have come down with the vapors! Larry Jones is an opponent, and as an opponent, he has meant to do harm to our honorable cause! Plus he’s Larry Jones, oh my!

Exactly because he is Larry “Chipper” Jones — or Chipper “Larry” Jones — is why a moment of Citi Field acknowledgement as this surefire Hall of Famer makes his way out the National League door is so appropriate. Who else among our modern-day rivals has embraced the role of Opponent as Jones has? What other “villain” has shown the self-awareness Jones has in publicly understanding that he is viewed as a Met Opponent and accepts the infamy that accompanies that identity? Who has grown from the sneering, snotty kid who uttered that infamous putdown regarding choice of local licensed merchandise more than a dozen autumns ago into an elder statesman who has said in every way possible (except by failing at the plate, which is the way we’d prefer), “Sorry about that, y’all are OK”?

Plus the naming of his kid. For god’s sake, there’s a Shea Jones somewhere in Georgia. You don’t name your son after a ballpark where you’ve been Just Visiting merely because you compiled an OPS of .964 in 88 games there.

The Mets-Braves rivalry was a rivalry because we made it so. The Mets made it so by taking aim at them and getting heartbreakingly close to them. The Braves who refused to cede prominence for so long didn’t particularly require a rival and most of them carried on as if they didn’t have one. They were beating everybody in their most halcyon days. It was all business to them.

Chipper was deadly business to Mets pitching and thus deadly business to Mets fans. Yet there was a chemistry between us, informing our unconventional Special Relationship. It went deeper than merely resenting the unyielding success of the likes of Maddux, Gl@v!ne and Smoltz or being contemptuous of a hateful rube like Rocker. Brian Jordan, Rafael Furcal, Ryan Klesko, Javy Lopez, Andruw Jones…who cared? They all grimly did their share of damage and they’re all bad memories, but they were in the background when the Mets and the Braves were the Mets and the Braves. Chipper was always front and center and didn’t mind it. He handled it. He stayed around long enough to see the beauty in it. When he goes, so goes the last strand of the era when the orange boxes denoting a Mets-Braves series throbbed on the pocket schedule (remember pocket schedules?).

That’s worth a sportsmanlike acknowledgement on September 9. That’s worth presenting Chipper with a JONES 10 uniform for his son and telling him Shea can go home and put on his Mets stuff. It would be classy to stand and applaud as he enters his last game in Flushing. And it would be wrong to not work a derisive “LAAAARRRREEEE!!!” into that ovation simultaneously.

That’s the tribute Chipper Jones deserves and will no doubt appreciate.

More imminently, the Mets have told inquiring minds that Jose Reyes’s nine years as a Met star will be the subject of a brief video tribute when he returns as a Miami Marlin this Tuesday. This seems a pretty standard gesture of goodwill by precedent and sentiment, no matter where Jose has landed (on a disliked divisional rival), how Jose landed there (via free choice once the Mets did not or could not retain his services) or how Jose’s final moments in a Met uniform played out (ridiculously clumsily).

Unless Jose holds a press conference between now and Tuesday in which he questions how anybody could stand to ride the 7 train because it’s like Beirut, et al, or says something similarly inflammatory, he’s smiled his $106 million smile and mouthed nothing but the most pleasant platitudes about his feelings toward Mets fans. He may have even meant them. He should. There was a chemistry there, too, something I don’t know I observed otherwise between a heretofore lifetime Met player and a Met crowd.

Plenty of Mets have been beloved from the time they came up to the time they went away. Few totally fired us up as Jose did, though, and fewer seemed to regularly process the affection as a renewable energy source in return. Dykstra for a while. Tug when he had it going on. Other long-term relationships — Seaver, Mookie, Fonzie — felt more warm and respectful. With Jose, it was hot and passionate. Like Darryl, but with a different kind of edge to it. Strawberry sulked more than anybody cares to remember a quarter-century later. We found disappointment when we looked too close at him. Our disappointment in Jose was not that we didn’t think he was giving us his all, it was that he couldn’t give us all when a hammy barked or an oblique strained or a thyroid, of all things, became an issue.

Other than that, it was primarily peaches and cream between us and him until the cream curdled just enough to leave a sour taste on September 28, 2011. Then he takes the money and runs — no need for a pinch-runner in December — to Miami. That, in the most sensitive of scoring decisions, makes him the enemy or a traitor or whatever epithet a Mets fan might spit upon learning Jose will get his two minutes on DiamondVision?

I would have bristled if the Mets had gone in the other direction and pretended some more that their all-time runs, stolen bases and triples leader hadn’t existed as the pulse of their operation for the past nine seasons. I understand there’s an inherent awkwardness in a 50th anniversary season to hailing your best shortstop ever when your best shortstop ever just left (and you didn’t have the resources or perhaps the wherewithal to re-sign him). Their Izvestian revision of recent history — check the commemorative portion of the new yearbook — is unbecoming, though in the greater Metropolitan sky of 2012, it’s no more than a passing puffy, cumulus cloud over what should be a bright and sunny six months of celebration.

Thus, playing a quick clip scored to “Thank You For Being A Friend” (or whatever the hell Vito Vitiello chooses) and giving us the opportunity to say, hey, Jose, it was swell being in this with you for nine years, we sure had our fun together provides us the closure we didn’t quite get in September let alone December. Jose Reyes takes a bow, tips that unfortunate cap, steps into the batter’s box in the heretofore alien top of the first at Citi Field and…

…and then you can treat him like he’s Chipper Jones or something if you must.

28 comments to Stay Classy, Mets

  • professor fate

    they should give him a uniform? the Hell? Well whatever they do, that’s another game I’m not going to. Gary Carter had to bloody DIE before they got around to remembering him (and i’m guessing only this year – two bucks says the Kid emblem on the wall comes down after this season) but they’re putting on the dog for chipper?
    No thank you.

    • They can put on a pup for Jones and still bring out the big dogs for Piazza, Hernandez and other yet-to-be suitably celebrated Mets.

    • nestornajwa

      Yeah, no offense, but I’m with the prof here. I hated the idea of Sammy Sosa Day (or whatever they did for him in 1998 — a parade in the Bronx if I remember correctly) too. And I was fairly neutral about Sosa in those pre-cork, pre-everything else days. But I HATE Chipper Jones. I hate the fact that he used the birth of his own son as an excuse to rub our faces in His Magnificence yet again. And, given the manner of his final first-inning departure, I’m none too thrilled about honoring Jose either. Give me five or ten years to think about it. Seems like both events are part of the “kitchen sink plus Banner Day” approach the Mets are using to market this year.

  • brian erni

    agreed times about 900,000,000. great job, greg!

  • March'62

    yeah, what you said!!!
    Larry may be an enemy but he’s OUR enemy!
    IMHO, it’s proper to honor and applaud the opposition before and after games. During the game is another matter. Except when Eddie Giacomin returned to the nets at the Garden. But that was a case when the player was at the end of his career and playing for a team in the other conference in a meaningless game. Reyes is still in his prime and now playing for a division rival. So play JOSE! before the game but play something like the theme to Dark Shadows or Take The Money and Run when he comes to bat.

  • kd bart

    I don’t see any problem in acknowledging Chipper Jones. The Astros did the same last week. Every team in the AL acknowledged Cal Ripken on his last visit to their ballpark. Guys who play their entire long career with just one team are rare these days. I don’t recall if the Mets did anything for Craig Biggio. But I’m sure some teams did.

  • vertigone

    I wonder if Beltran will also get a tribute. He’s Piazza-like in tenure and production.

    I’m really hoping for an Angel Pagan montage featuring baserunning blunders, outfield miscommunication and sulking.

  • Will in Central NJ

    (Sarcasm Alert) They could play the Carl Perkins/Paul McCartney duet “My Old Friend” when Larry comes to bat.

  • Dak442

    I eventually forgave Larry for his ill-advised Yankee fan remark. He plays in Atlanta – he’s not accustomed to fervent and loyal baseball fans.

    If I am there for his last game, I stand and applaud before his final at-bat. He’s been a great player for a long time, and an exemplary representative of baseball. And if the Mets want to give him a rocking chair or something before the game, well, it’s no skin off my nose.

  • I’m with you 100 % Greg I can’t imagine what this new generation of Mets fans would have thought of the days/nights Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers and Willie Mays and the Giants came back to NYC to play the Mets in the early 60′s when Dodgers-Giants series were huge happenings

    • That was far less offensive than the Sosa & McGwire lovefests of the late ’90s, probably because there wasn’t a sudden outbreak of lifelong Cub and Cardinal fans at Shea.

  • RoundRockMets

    I never forgave Reyes for forcing Kaz Matsui to move to second base. But hey, I hold grudges.

  • Dave

    Larry has had a great career, played the game the right way, yada yada yada. But what’s next, Roger Clemens Bobblehead Night? Would the Braves (or any other division rival) do the same for a retiring Met? Never, because they all hate the Mets, and that hatred can be traced back to Jones and Cox. As Professor Fate pointed out, the Mets do a lousy job of honoring their own…get that right before you start doing it for guys in the 3rd base dugout.

    • I’d like to test the theory about retiring Mets because to the best of my knowledge the Mets have never had an all-timer on a de facto farewell tour. Willie Mays didn’t make his retirement official until the end of 1973 and everybody else of note was on another team by the time they were ending their careers.

      Clemens — there are limits to my generosity of spirit.

  • 9th string catcher

    I like the Larry tribute. How do you ignore someone who has their own chant on your park? Also, a great opportunity to celebrate him no longer being a threat. But Reyes? Please. A tribute to a guy who’s going to terrorize the Mets for the next 7 years? Who’s greed and selfishness lie in stark contrast to the team first aesthetic taking place now? I find it insulting to the team.

  • Stefanie B.

    Ooh. I would love a Roger Clemens bobblehead night. They could give him a really really big head, an angry smirk and a shard of a broken bat in his hand. We could all bring him home and throw things near his head.

    That said,the Mets/Braves rivalry was a great one. With the exception of the Rocker silliness it was based on genuine competition. The Braves and especially Larry won my respect in the game after 9/11. They were honorable rivals and I would gladly chant Larry one more time for Chipper. As for Reyes, I would love to chant for him too. I would go to the game where they honor him except I’m afraid I would cry.

  • Wanda Metsfan

    The Mets/Braves will never be the Mets/Braves again without Chipper. I plan to be at all 3 games in September and will gladly stand and cheer for Chipper to acknowledge a great career. To me, Chipper was always Public Enemy #1 and I loved booing him, because he deserved that “respect”. Remember, Reggie Jackson said, “they don’t boo nobodies”, and Chipper is definitely somebody in my book. I’ve always enjoyed the Mets-Braves rivalry because of Chipper. Starting in 2013, they’ll just be regular games between 2 teams in the same division.

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