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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.

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Just a Mets Word Meaning ‘No Outfield’

The following passage is from Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad regarding the show’s first foray into prime time, a 1977 trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras:

Buck Henry and Jane Curtin were sitting atop their reviewing platform in the middle of the French Quarter, waiting for the Bacchus parade. The exact routing and timing of the parade had been the subject of many hours of discussion between Lorne Michaels and the police department during the week, and they had continually assured him that it would arrive at Buck and Jane’s location no later than forty-five minutes into the show. But by mid-show there was still no parade, and no indication its arrival was imminent. Every ten minutes or so, usually when something else went wrong, Lorne would cut back to Buck and Jane. Having no parade to cover, they filled time with jokes written by Herb Sargent and Alan Zweibel, who were standing just off-camera, scribbling one-liners. In the control booth, people were trying to contact the police, screaming what would become the most repeated question of the night: “Where’s the fucking parade?”

The parade never did arrive, at least while the show was on the air. There were numerous explanations offered later, among them that there had been a fatal accident along the parade route. Finally, in the closing seconds of the show, Jane Curtin turned to Buck Henry and said, “Shall we tell them, Buck? The parade has not been delayed: The parade never existed!”

“That’s right, Jane,” Buck said. “Mardi Gras is just a French word meaning ‘no parade’!”

And Michael Bourn is just a Mets word meaning “no outfield”. No matter how often we uttered it, its definition hasn’t changed.

Michael Bourn, you see, never existed, at least in our world. He was just a rumor. There was one outrageous urban myth making the rounds that intimated he could very well be the Mets center fielder, but only if something happened a few weeks from now with an arbitrator and an agent and a favorable ruling and an inside-straight negotiation. But by then, as anyone with a calendar could tell you, Spring Training will have been long underway, so when you look back on it with just a touch of hindsight, it’s tough to imagine that Bourn — if he indeed existed — was ever going to become a Met.

I sure found myself believing it might happen, though. Made me happy to think it might. I could make lineups with Bourn at the top of them and envision an outfield with Bourn in the middle of it. But I hear players can be had in an amateur draft, and if the famous one-liner scribbler Sandy Alderson is really wise and really lucky, having a pick between the 10th and the 12th in that draft can eventually lead to great things.

Maybe even a parade!

But probably not.

Thing that is real: Me, talking The Happiest Recap and the unhappy outfield situation, on the Rising Apple Report, Wednesday night around 6:40. You can listen here.

17 comments to Just a Mets Word Meaning ‘No Outfield’

  • March'62

    I believe he was Bourne a rambling man anyway. He would have been a Minaya pickup that would be joining Bonilla on the pay-to-not-play team after 3 years. So no regrets.

    If Mardi Gras means ‘no parade’, maybe our slogan this year should be: Mets 2013 – End The Mardi Gras.

  • 9th string catcher

    One of my favorite books ever! Wore out my copy a long time ago. They covered some of the ground on Sunday night with the 80s recap, but nothing brings back the horror of 1980 SNL like that book did!

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    I’m still wondering how the Mets were serious and talking in the neighborhood of what Bourn was being offered by Cleveland if they wanted to retain that first round draft pick.

    Would they have signed him and just hoped they would get that protected slot? Would they have signed an agreement contingent on that CBA ruling?

    Or did they know the parade was not coming but wanted the public to think otherwise and then use the CBA as the reason not having signed Bourn and not the question of money?

    They never bothered to submit a petition back in November when there were more free agents to sign.

    Either the former MLB Executive Of The Year and our current general manager really played this badly or instead played a beautiful game of poker, gambling that Boras wouldn’t call his bluff.

    • IB

      Why is it always incompetence and/or
      deceit? Why is Mets mgmt always seen as duplicitous? Why not, he played his hand as well as he could and, unfortunately, lost because he was willing to stand by his principals of not giving up rebuilding the farm system for a player of Bourn’s quality.

      • March'62

        yeah!!! what he said!

      • Joe D.

        Hi IB,

        To answer your question, then the questions I posed still need to be answered first.

        If a team wants to both sign free agents but not lose it’s protected draft slot, why does it wait three months before submitting a petition? That doesn’t mean they have to open up negotiations with anybody, just that the issue would have been settled one way or the other.

        And, if subsequently advised they would have to first sign Bourn before submitting their petition to an independent arbitrator to review, why continue negotiating with Boras after that time after stating all along they would not give up their protected first round draft pick?

        And how could Sandy not have known Pittsburgh had bumped the Mets out of the top ten when again that information became privy to management prior to it becoming public information the day teams were allowed to begin negotiating with free agents?

        The Mets have been criticized for not spending money. The way this was handled DOES raise legitimate questions as to how much these negotiations were in earnest as compared to create the appearance of willing to spend but being stymied by the CBA agreement. Appearances are important, especially in changing the mindset of fans on the fence regarding season ticket purchases

        Answering those questions I believe will then answer your question of why incompetence or deceit.

        The questions do need to be asked due to all the holes we see in the process.

        • IB

          I’m not a lawyer (and my guess is, you’re not either) so I have no way of knowing how this situation could have, should have, might have shaken out with the league and the independant arbiters etc.

          You have’nt answered my question at all. You’re assumptions are always in the most negative, damning light, never cutting management an honest break. I see Alderson, slowly, quietly, competently, putting together a squad I will probably love for years to come. Bourn would have been nice, but that’s about it.

          • Joe D.

            Hi IB,

            Sorry but you do have to answer that question. I’ve already stated that I think they were not sincere going after Bourn – or any type-A free agent – for the reasons stated in my questions.

            And regarding that CBA agreement, forget about submitting a formal petition – why didn’t Sandy at least informally inquire about the situation late last October as how it could affect the team?

            Those are questions that cannot be ignored because they focus exactly on the question of credibility.

            Today Sandy said it was the fifth year that was the difference. Well, if we were being told that the Mets were just about matching the deal that the Indians had on the table, is an extra year at $12 million (based on the number of plate appearances the final year of the contract) signify just a minor difference?

            And the Wilpons also announced that they are in much better financial shape now due to the upbeat in the real-estate market, their other investments and SNY. Well, that regards their PERSONAL fortune, not that of the Mets. They were not so broke privately that shortly after needing that bridge loan, before settling the Madoff case and prior to having sell minority shares, the Wilpons (not the Mets) were able to try and do this:

            http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-400_162-57567687/report-mets-owners-made-pitch-for-massive-casino-next-to-citi-field/

            They had the money to put up for a Casino but not to help the Mets. Of course, that is sound, fundamental business procedure when one has multiple holdings. But it also goes back as to the point just raised now about what does their own financial status have to do with that of the team, since it had little to do with it back then?

            So why should not one be so negative about this ownership with all that has transpired? Please give me some concrete answer based on what has transpired the past few seasons to convince me otherwise and I will be more than happy to admit I was wrong. But up to this point, all I read is hypothetical to counterpoint what is indeed known.

          • Joe D.

            Hi Charlie,

            Let us go by that theory. How would the Mets be bidding against themselves with Boras? Weren’t there other teams in line as well?

            And in the end, didn’t Bourne get a real good deal? $48 million guaranteed for four years and a possible fifth which could bring it to $60 million?

            By playing it this way it appears Sandy wound up having an alibi as to why he could not spend money on a type-A free agent. Why do I feel that way (as others have asked)? Well, again it’s history that cannot be avoided.

            Remember when the Mets got that re-financing late last year and it was going to enable Sandy to spend more money?

            Remember last year when the Madoff situation was resolved he said he would now have more flexibility to spend?

            Remember how he said re-signing Jose was a priority yet he never made a formal offer to his agent?

            And what about his first conference call with bloggers back in late 2010? He said the Mets were in good financial shape, that because of certain contractual obligations he would not have the flexibility to do things fiscally until the following season, that he would be prudent but not going to be like Oakland?

            He was already on the job so nobody can say he didn’t know what was ahead of him (and that included the possibility of massive suits for the first one was already filed on July 31, 2010).

            Know this is going to be a long one, but wanted to give the question and his answer in it’s entirety without editing.

            Question: “In large part to the book Moneyball, there are some fans who believe you were hired to run the Mets as a small-market team. Could you explain why those fans are wrong, and maybe sum up your business philosophy, how you identify talent, allocate payroll, and that sort of stuff, as it pertains to the Mets.”

            Answer: “I wasn’t hired to apply a Moneyball approach to the New York Mets. I would not have accepted the position were I required to run the Mets on a shoestring budget. On the other hand, I did come in with my eyes wide open. I did recognize that there would be some payroll restrictions this year, keeping in mind that when everything’s said and done our payroll will probably be somewhere between 130 and 140 million dollars. We’ll probably be in the top four or five in all of baseball. So, the problem is not that we don’t have resources, the problem is that we have limited additional resources to spend this year. So, what you see today or what you’ve seen over the last two weeks shouldn’t necessarily be representative of what you see over the next two or three years. But we do have to get through a somewhat difficult period from a standpoint of our payroll because we already have most of it committed.

            “My business philosophy is that we want to be prudent under all circumstances but New York is not Oakland. As I said earlier, I wouldn’t be here if it were. So, we do have a long term strategy but that long term is focused on being as good as we can be today but also putting an infrastructure in place that will make us as good as we can be down the road. In terms of identifying talent, I think that we try to use a combination of tools. We do use statistical metrics but we also rely very heavily on scouting information. I think that was evidenced over the last week in the winter meetings. We had several people from our staff who are primarily stats-oriented but also do field work as well. But we also had an equal, in fact greater, number who are more subjective in their approach. And in some of the things that we did, particularly in the Rule 5 Draft, I think that scouting probably played a dominant role. We’d hate to be typecast after a few weeks and under the circumstances we have facing us for 2011, but we do have a certain reality we’re facing and trying to deal with it.”

  • Andee

    Bourn wasn’t worth giving up the #11 pick and the bonus money. This is a guy who OPSed .636 in the second half; he would have been a nice addition, but he wasn’t worth giving up everything for. Sandy was always pretty adamant about that. It really is kind of a big deal to lose almost a third of the total purse you’re allotted for the draft, especially if you’re still trying to restock your farm system. The whole reason we haven’t grown any goddamn outfielders is that we coughed up one high draft pick after another for like 10 years. We could have had Mike Trout if we didn’t “have” to have K-Rod.

    Why MLB had to drag its ass about the ruling, I have no idea; the issue of whether it’s supposed to be bottom 10 teams protected or just the first ten picks is going to keep coming up over and over again. Since teams can pass on a draft pick twice and still keep it the next year one notch lower, it’s theoretically possible for three teams to hog the first nine picks, and it’s even theoretically possible to screw yourself out of a protected pick if you finish tenth two years in a row and don’t sign your first-rounder!

    It’s really fupped-up the way they laid this out, but if the purpose was to screw Boras clients and the teams that want to sign them, nicely done, boys. The next team(s) that complain about it will probably get their way, and you can bet it will be a cause celebre when they’re hammering out the next CBA, but that doesn’t do us any good right now.

    Not getting Bourn was not about the usual reasons for not signing an expensive FA: more money, more years, more perks, or anything like that. Bourn would have taken the Mets’ offer if he didn’t have to wait 2 or 3 weeks for MLB to clear its throat about the draft pick, and that’s all this was about. Note that the Rangers had both a first-rounder and a supplemental, needed a CF, and had a lot more to lose by not getting one than us (since they might actually have a shot at their division this year if they get one), and they didn’t want to give up their draft pick either, even though they don’t pick until #24. And they have new ownership and everything! It’s not just us.

    • Agree with Andee. But here’s a question…

      No that Bourn is the be all/end all, but how come the Mets get shafted because Pittsburgh couldn’t sign its own draft pick? This reeeks a little bit of “Dennis Lamp-ism.”

      • Andee

        Could be a bullet dodged rather than a shafting, tho. This team’s luck with high-priced long-term free agents has never been the greatest; either they stink completely, flame out after a year or so, or spend half their contracts on the DL. I liked it better when they would acquire a guy in his walk year and test-drive him to see how he performed as a Met (e.g. Piazza). But maybe they soured on that approach after Alomar.

        And of course, the risk you take when you have only one outfielder who’s supposed to be a good hitter and he goes bad is that he sticks to your lineup like flypaper and becomes a giant black sucking hole, like Bay. At least if any or all of these guys suck, they’re easily disposed of.

    • Joe D.

      Hi Andee,

      It wasn’t MLB that was dragging it’s ass about the CBA ruling – it was the Mets – the team that was affected by it – that was dragging it’s ass by not trying to get it settled from the beginning.

      I’m personally glad they didn’t sign Bourn – he would not be a fit with this club leaning toward youth. But that doesn’t excuse this front office from making an attempt to sign him when well knowing they never could without losing that protected draft pick – and did nothing to try and resolve the issue while using it as the reason why they couldn’t sign Bourn as the reason.

  • I was also questioning if the Mets were going to be the ones that finally wound up with Bourn, but I’m glad they choose not to. Yes, he might still be productive in 3-4 years when the team is ready to compete, but there should be alternative free agents on the market then that will make more sense. I’d like to look at the potential of him having signed with the Mets from an economic standpoint (I write for http;//baseballrethought.com) and if he would have actually provided any increased attendance figures or the sort.

    All that said, it’s kind of amazing that the Mets spent effectively $0 this offseason on free agents…that’s a lot of self-discipline to not give-in to the desire to quickly make your team marginally better. Interested to see where they’ll end up in a few years.

    Anyway, good article, made me laugh.

    Cheers,
    Steve

  • Joe D.

    Hi Guys,

    To follow up on the question of why I am so down on this front office.

    The financial situation as we know was not like we were led to believe during that often referred to first blogger conference call Sandy had in December of 2010. Won’t repeat the quote about finances but this was quite interesting what he said regarding the Mets at the all-star break:

    “I think any team that’s in a position at the All Star break to make a run, needs to take a hard look at what they have and what they need. Assuming we’re in a position to make a run, one could also assume that attendance would reflect that. We’d be in a strong position to make a more. I don’t think that the way we’re approaching this offseason would necessarily be repeated at the All Star break. We want to be in that position. We want to be in that position where we can add a player or two and make a run. I definitely would think if we’re in the hunt at the All Star break we’ll be taking a real hard look at what we can add.”

    That does not sound like an individual thinking in terms of a five year plan to rebuild. There has been that lengthy debate about how serious the Mets were really in the running at that time, however, we do know that the Met organization itself was heavily promoting the Mets chase for the wildcard with flashing the wildcard standings throughout the broadcast, playing scoreboard watching with the cameramen and even during the post-game press conference after Jose first got injured when Sandy said Jose was OK and would be back to help us in the pennant race.

    Even if that was for public consumption, Sandy acknowledged that attendance would increase during a pennant race and that “We’d be in a position to make more”.

    Finances must have been very, very bad for the Mets to feel the need that dumping KRod’s $17 million (for two nobody’s) was of more immediate than the revenue attendance could possibly bring in the next two months (I had pointed out an extra $20 million in revenue would have been had attendance just stayed level).

    What we do know is that while Sandy was painting a good financial scenario that December the Mets had already received that $25 million loan from MLB to avoid default the month before (which we did not know). We also know a $40 million bridge loan was needed later that season in addition to the Wilpons having to put $38 million of their own money into the team. Those three combined came out to $103 million that was needed immediately at different times over at most a nine month period.

    That’s why from the beginning I contended the moves made within the organization were to save the Wilpons from having to relinquish ownership.

    Why still now? Well, besides the actions of the past three years (including the final season with Omar) we were told the Mets were willing to commit big dollars to obtain Bourn despite that CBA clause not allowing them to. We were told the money was there in November after they got re-financing from SNY; we were told the same thing the February before this after the civil suit was settled; Sandy said in December, 2011 that the Mets were willing to offer Jose $100 million had there been a vetting clause regarding his physical capabilities (look for an SNY interview with Kevin Burkhardt after Jose signed with Miami) but they did not use the money saved anywhere else. And, as we know from that conference call, Sandy said that the restraints he had were temporary and would not be affecting him after 2011.

    It is obvious that finances dictated the course of the team. Even the steps other teams took during their own re-building have not been followed by the Mets. One may disagree with this cynicism but nobody can say there is not strong justification behind it to make that case.

    Transcript of that December conference call with bloggers attached BTW, notice where one of the questions came from (hint, hint).

    http://www.amazinavenue.com/2010/12/10/1869167/transcript-of-sandy-aldersons-conference-call-with-bloggers