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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 Hot Stave League

I’ve mostly followed the ongoing National League Championship Series via peripheral vision, not having fully sat down to gaze directly upon the Giants and Cardinals very much given that for their first five games I’ve mostly been doing something else, thinking about something else or literally mostly watching something else (the full power of P-I-P technology only recently having been mastered by your correspondent) while our circuit’s pennant’s fate is being tussled over with only modestly dramatic flourishes. Odd start times, extensive rain delays and a bounty of distractions notwithstanding, I suppose the reason I haven’t been fully engaged in what St. Louis and San Francisco have been doing to each other is the sense that there’s little payoff to be had. We’ve got the 2010 World Champions battling the 2011 World Champions for the right to compete to become 2012 World Champions.

Emotional stakes have been higher in a brand-name sense, but that’s not necessarily fair to the individual participants, for significant changes roil the ranks of every team, even recent titleholders. The Cardinal evolution has been more obvious to our Met-trained eye, given their addition of Carlos Beltran, which has made the Redbirds’ run back toward another MLB Finals not only somewhat palatable but close to desirable. Yeah, I know, Beltran is either the most stupidly underappreciated superstar of our time — quick, someone cite eighteen different metrics and work up a condescending hashtag! — or a big stiff who never tried and never cared. I’ll be over here in the middle ground remembering someone who played hard, played hurt and played very well for my team for nearly seven years without intentionally drawing a fuss in his direction, and I’ll be mostly hoping that he’s in a World Series Wednesday despite his current uniform.

But I can’t say I’m fully committed to that outcome because a) his current uniform has two avian creatures perched smugly on a bat and I can hear them squawking “1985! 1987! 2006!” evermore; and b) I really loved watching a whole bunch of Giants refuse to give in to what loomed as the inevitable in Game Five Friday night.

Out of the corner of my eye, in the corner of my screen, I saw one dive after another, almost all of them resulting in the scooping of a ball that couldn’t be allowed to land anywhere but a glove lest the San Francisco season end at once. There was Pablo Sandoval, usurper of All-Star starting third baseman berths, perhaps, but also The Man when it came to stabbing a hot liner and stanching an early Cardinal rally. There was Hunter Pence, always willing to throw himself all over the grass, occasionally making it work to his advantage. There were our alumni, Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan, reminding us they had their moments on our behalf. And there was Barry Zito, proffering the best defense possible: pitching shutout ball well into the eighth — and bunting home a run and beating the play at first when it really, really mattered in the fourth.

What those fellas have in common is they mostly had nothing to do with the last Giant championship. Sandoval and Zito have rings, but the so-called Panda was all but glued the bench in 2010 and Zito was written off as a Bayload of wasted millions and omitted from that postseason’s roster. Pence, who became exponentially less distasteful the moment he stopped being rented by the Phillies, toiled in dreary Houston for several years. Scutaro has been the epitome of a journeyman since he briefly made our acquaintance a decade ago. Pagan we know very well.

These five guys banded together to stave off elimination in Game Five, perhaps because they’ve been eliminated far too many times in their respective careers and don’t want to go home before everything ends once again. It’s a grim assignment for any team, whether it’s a Game Four, Five or Six situation. The odds are against you when you’re stuck in that three-something hole. The Giants just climbed out of something similar twice against the Reds before tying that best-of-five at two. Once you’re in a decisive game like that, then you’re no longer staving — you’re striving. But the Giants are still in stave mode. No offense to Our Mr. Beltran, but I hope San Fran can stave around a little longer. It demands your undivided attention when somebody does.

6 comments to The Hot Stave League

  • I’ll go on record and say that if you REALLY think Beltran never cared/tried (which is very different from your being chagrined/horrified/haunted by that one at-bat), I suspect that you don’t actually understand baseball, and I’m not sure what you’re doing on our blog.

    There, I said it.

    • Steve D

      Beltran cared but was aloof at times. Seem to recal him not coming out for a curtain call or two. In addition, he was not clutch.

      I once calculated Beltran’s clutch stats for his whole Met career…this gives a bigger sample and no inter-year swings.

      2 out RISP: .230
      Late and close .271

      From the moment he took that curveball, which was 2 out RISP, through the remaining 5 years of his Met career, he hit .219 in those situations. He also missed a lot of time due to injury…I don’t think he was milking anything, but it certainly doesn’t help revere him to me as being an all-time Met.

      So yes he made some contributions…helped get us into 2006 NLCS…failed in seminal moment…struggled in key spots and missed lots of time thereafter.

      Verdict: A solid Met but a dissappointment in my book.

  • 9th string

    First impressions ca be lasting and Beltrans introduction to the Mets was one of a standoffish moody guy who would rather ha e been in pinstripes. His early numbers were poor and he was part of Omar’s overpay to attract strategy. For some that impression and the called 3rd strike in 06 stuck. Pretty nonsensicle but hey – look at how Yankee fans treat Arod. Fandom doesn’t always map to numbers. Beltran was one of the greatest players the Mets ever had, but not embraceable like say Mookie or Backman. Which is why somewhere in the middle works – one of the grrat ones, not one of the missed ones.

  • Dave

    Yeah, maybe a little aloof, we’ll all be haunted by the pitch he stared at to end the NLCS forever…but what did people hate more, the 100+ RBI’s a year, the 100+ runs scored a year, or the Gold Glove defense in CF? I mean, stop me when I get to the part where he sucked.