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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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Classy Pitcher 1, Team Tasteless 0

R.A. and Matt, three days of this ‘n’ that.

Not the most inspiring slogan, but we’re not the most inspiring team unless R.A. Dickey is continuing his magical season or Matt Harvey is launching his promising career.

Tonight it was the former, with Dickey his usual masterful self, supported by the enlivened bat of Ike Davis and tidy defense from Andres Torres and David Wright and Daniel Murphy. (Yes, that Daniel Murphy.) R.A. won his 17th, going all the way. He should get six more chances to win three more games — in fact, circle that series three weeks from now, against these same Marlins at Citi. I’ve got a feeling.

The only shame was that R.A. had to win No. 17 surrounded by the Super Mario green walls and ultra-blue fish tanks and vomiting-Eurotrash uniforms of the Marlins, the tackiest franchise in the history of sports.

I called them that back in April, and I’m not backing it off by the width of a hair on Greg Dobbs’s chinny-chin-chin pubes.

What’s more, back then I double-barreled my assault on the Marlins with a bitter eruption and a snarling prediction that Team Tasteless and pestilent owner Jeffrey Loria would soon return to their usual cheapjack ways. By “soon,” I meant “two or three years.” In fact, it was two or three months. With a fifth of the season left to go, the Marlins are in last place, have held a fire sale, and are playing to the usual mix of enemy fans and empty seats. In their first year in the new park they sought for so long and lied to half of South Florida to get, the Marlins are third from the bottom in NL attendance.

Bud Selig must be very happy.

Ah, Selig. You can argue all night about what the history books will ultimately say about his reign. Selig played a key role in launching a labor nuclear war, which his side lost, and since then has presided over a generation of peace. He expanded the playoffs this way and that way and every damn way, making a mockery of a 162-game season but also (it must be admitted) ensuring pretty thrilling final weeks of those seasons. He was blind to PEDs, but has belatedly taken part in helping ensure a cleaner game. He is painfully slow to force change (just ask the A’s) and easy to mock, but behind the scenes he’s patiently pushed a group of fractious, childish rich men towards consensus. He’s not an easy man to champion, but he’s also not so easy to dismiss. His legacy as commissioner will be … complicated.

Well, except for one thing that I find hard to forgive. And that’s his cynical plot to contract the Minnesota Twins and the Montreal Expos.

Selig’s contraction plan depended on Carl Pohlad, the horrible skinflint owner of the Twins, and Loria, the New York art dealer who bought the Expos in 1999. Loria’s Expos played the 2000 season without English-language broadcasts while the owner tried to strong-arm Montreal into a new stadium deal; when that failed, the Expos were ticketed for the contractioneer’s ax. The plan fell apart when the Metrodome’s owners won a court case forcing the Twins to honor their stadium lease, after which Pohlad held up Minneapolis for the bulk of the funding for a new stadium. The Expos wound up as the wards of MLB after a complicated bit of faintly obscene congress that saw John Henry acquire the Red Sox and sell the Marlins to Loria, who in turn sold the Expos to MLB. Loria took the Expos’ entire staff and even their office equipment to Miami — I wouldn’t be surprised to hear he personally yanked the thumbtacks out of the walls. MLB, needing two teams for its contraction plan, was stuck with the Expos and so kept them in a kind of baseball coma — when the team had the temerity to enter September 2003 as wild-card contenders, MLB wouldn’t pay pennies on the dollar to let them have September call-ups. Two years later the Expos became the Nationals, who promptly unretired the Expos’ numbers and began pretending they never existed.

Selig’s legacy will be complicated, but he should be embarrassed by that part of it. Which leads me to a theory that I kind of like — that the Marlins are Selig’s karmic comeuppance. Because honestly, this is the team he should have plotted to contract — a dismal franchise in a state that’s only interested in March baseball, a franchise with a succession of repugnant owners, a history of purchased World Series and cynical fire sales, zero identity and half-assed fans who can’t even show up for the first 81 days of an empty, overpriced spectacle, which you’d think life in Miami would have more than prepared them for.

Loria, Selig’s designated grave robber, now sits in a near-empty stadium, his dead eyes skittering from his fish tanks to his ludicrous outfield sculpture to the members of his last-place team that he hasn’t sold yet. Good. There’s no franchise or owner more deserving of such misfortune.

19 comments to Classy Pitcher 1, Team Tasteless 0

  • I too hate the Marlins, hate, hate.

  • Z

    I actually thought contraction itself was not such a bad idea–fewer players, after all, means fewer bad players and perhaps we might agree there are a few of those around whom baseball would perfectly well thrive without. But Selig did go about it the wrong way: if he’d had the courage to admit frankly that an American League team doesn’t really belong in New York….

  • Andee

    I always did think this year’s Marlins had 1992 Mets written all over them, and boy, was I ever right. And it’s probably going to be a cold day in wherever Loria has a room reserved for eternity before any other city gets a new stadium built. All those empty seats!

    All I want to know is, can anyone prevent them from trading Reyes to the Yankees? Please?? (Yeah, I know, they’ll ask Jeter to move when Loria’s eternal room freezes over, but still…)

  • Metsfaninparadise

    From one who’s been stranded in S. Fla. long enough to have seen the Marlins from gestation to current distasteful incarnation, everything you say is true, and then some. I may have more to say later but I’m off to the beach (one of the many diversions helping to keep their attendance low).

  • Dave

    Yeah, there’s a special place in hell reserved for Loria. I guess those of us who want to see the Wilpons sell should remember that it actually could be worse.

    Another bizarre part is that he’s this huge art collector, which is kind of at odds with the team and stadium’s design aesthetic and color schemes (at one point last night Howie and Josh were commenting on how the scoreboard colors were making their eyes hurt). But I don’t know exactly what kind of art he collects, maybe it’s kids with big eyes or fat Elvis on black velvet.

  • kjs

    Hate the Fish. But bravo to the stadium—it’s not another Camden Yards ripoff…or an Ebbetts Field pseudo-shrine.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    During one of Mike Baxter’s At bats last night, Gary Cohen introduced a Mets stat that I had NEVER heard before. While discussing Baxter’s game-lead-off home run of the day before (the 3rd different Met to do that this year) Gary said the Mets Team record for that was set by the 1962 Mets, who had FIVE different players lead off games with home runs.

    Just then, Baxter put the ball in play and Gary never got back to the topic (unless I missed it), i.e exactly which 5 1962 Mets did this.

    First of all it seemed kind of counter-intuitive that the 1962 Mets would hold this record, for all sorts of reasons. But not the least of which was I figured Richie Ashburn was thier Leadoff hitter in the vast majority of games that year.

    Not so. Even though I was already a fan in 1962, my mind has apparently revised history over the years:

    http://www.thebaseballcube.com/teams/lineups.asp?Y=1962&T=NYN

    Did they ever get back to the topic? I went over to the radio side for a while in the mid-innings.

    • Joe D.

      When you think of it, that record doesn’t seem too difficult to understand considering the team played it’s home games with distances of 250 and 257 feet down the foul lines and Richie was actually not a full-time player.

      I remembered Ashburn appeared a lot as a pinch hitter and started less than 100 games as a Met. Despite hitting .306 he did not have enough plate appearances to qualify as a batting leader despite leading off most of the time.

    • The five Mets to lead off the first (the bottom of the first in each case) in 1962 were:

      Felix Mantilla, 4/15 vs. Bob Friend (PIT)
      Jim Hickman, 5/12 (2) vs. Carl Willey (MIL)
      Joe Christopher, 6/19 vs. Ron Piche (MIL)
      Richie Ashburn, 6/22 vs. Turk Farrell (HOU)
      Elio Chacon, 9/14 vs. Joe Nuxhall (CIN)

      The Mets won all but the first of those games;the Hickman and Chacon games also featured home runs by the last Met batters, Gil Hodges and Choo Choo Coleman, respectively; the Ashburn game became better known as the first one-hitter in Mets history, as pitched by Al Jackson.

      Oh, the things one can find out with Baseball-Reference’s Play Index tool.

      • Ken K. in NJ

        Thanks Joe and Greg.

        I looked at Ashburn’s game-by-game results for 1962 and it seems that Casey used Ashburn almost exclusively as a pinch hitter/runner/defensive replacement for the first two months of the season, not installing him as the “regular” leadoff hitter until around June 6.

        I don’t know or remember whether Ashburn had some nagging injury that prevented him from starting (he wasn’t on the DL) or if Casey simply didn’t think he was an everyday player at that point. In any event, beginning in early June, Ashburn was more or less the regular leadoff hitter right thru to early September, when Elio Chacon took over the leadoff spot (not a bad choice, actually. At .368 he had the 2nd highest OBP on the team, after Ashburn’s astonishing .426).

        I guess those summer lineups are the lineups I remember best, having gone to quite a few games that summer.

  • Metsfaninparadise

    Squish the Fish!

  • Of course, we wouldn’t have made the post season in 1999 & 2000 if not for Huizinga’s post ’97 fire sale, specifically Leiter, Cook and (thank you too, Rupert Mudoch) Piazza.

  • Dennis

    “a history of purchased World Series”

    I hate the Marlins as well, but I would gladly take a purchased World Series with no problem…..they all count.

    • For the record, the 2003 Marlins and the 1997 Marlins were two TOTALLY different stories.

      The 1997 Marlins were indeed the byproduct of a cynical shopping spree (one that paid off in terms of on-field results if not immediately apparent massive fan support, thus their instant gutting).

      The 2003 Marlins, despite the presence of the sickening Jeffrey Loria, were the quintessential terrific little team that plugged its way into the postseason, bolstered early on by two emerging young stars, Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, and built mostly through the farm system and trades. Their only big-money free agent was Pudge Rodriguez, and he wound up in Miami for one year once his market was found wanting; it turned out to be one of the best signings of the past decade. It’s also worth noting the Marlins attempted to compete for the next two seasons, weren’t so bad in 2004 and 2005 and only after getting nowhere in those years did they tear apart their roster again.

      Plus the 2003 World Series was a thing of beauty.

  • Joe D.

    Those who hate Loria should look no further than our own back yard and reserve some of that for the Wilpons and not in terms of how they’ve ruined the franchise in order to retain ownership of it.

    Remember your reactions when we learned what the ticket prices for 2009 would be? Remember how you felt that in order to get a ticket for the home opener or a subway series game you had to buy into some sort of ticket package for other games you didn’t want? That’s when many of us began feeling screwed by the ownership.

    I remember coming away from my fist visit to Citi Field that it was built to cater to the elite and the average fan was seen as nothing more than steerage. But there were others who foresaw this years before that.

    http://www.cantstopthebleeding.com/matthews-lobs-a-brick-at-the-wilpons-monument-to-avarice-greed

  • [...] R.A. won his 17th game against the Marlins in his previous start (also with Ike homering), it truly registered in my Mets fan soul. We hadn’t had a 17th win [...]

  • [...] at the beginning of September, I’d once again had enough, ripping Jeffrey Loria and his little friend Bud Selig, who collaborated on the shameful [...]