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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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Pirates Clinch! Reds Clinch! Mets Try!

You’d have to be made of iron, or perhaps impaired by Iron City, to not feel absolutely overjoyed for Pittsburgh Pirates fans this morning. You know the figures. They’ve been drummed into you ever since they coalesced into a thing: not in the playoffs since 1992; not even a winning record since 1992; not much of anything since 1992.

Check your since-ing at the door (or darrgh!). The Pirates are in the now again. They’re now in the postseason, having had their ticket validated at Wrigley Field Monday night. Heartiest congratulations to those who’ve rooted unrelentingly for a team without receiving any kind of tangible reward for more than two decades. My short-term hope is that Pittsburgh somehow supercedes Cincinnati for home field in the Wild Card game if they can’t win the N.L. Central outright. This Buccaneer breakthrough won’t be nearly as sweet without PNC Park sparkling for, at minimum, one high holy night of nationally viewed baseball.

Not exactly helping to reserve a glimmering October evening along the banks of the Allegheny were the Mets, who spent Monday night 250-some miles west of Pittsburgh, where the mighty Ohio flows practically up to right field. In Cincy, the Mets — conscientious objectors to playoff participation since 2006 — succumbed to the Reds in ten innings, 3-2. The score and the length imply a competitive contest, which I suppose it was. Mostly the Reds found creative ways to not score (15 LOB) before ensuring their own postseason berth in extras, while the Mets dutifully marked time just long enough for their manager to be dissonantly self-congratulatory about it afterwards.

“I’ll tell you one thing you can’t ever say, and that is we don’t play hard. We come out and we play nine innings or ten innings or twelve innings or twenty innings, and we play hard. They care. The guys do the best they can.”

Remember Jerry Manuel’s occasionally infuriating cackles as he tried to explain away losses? Those weird little laughs tended to be taken as a manager finding something funny about his team suffering a defeat. I generally saw them as a nervous tic, a flummoxed skipper’s way of throwing up his hands and rhetorically asking, in essence, whaddayagonnado? I don’t miss it, or Manuel, but Terry Collins’s mantra of how hard his Mets played, how they don’t give up no matter how many innings it takes and how we ought to remember the guys on the other side are good major league players, too, is just as infuriating to listen to after a loss. He repeats these lines constantly as if the Mets are to be commended for not jogging into the dugout and forfeiting by 7:30 (though that would leave more time for wacky wedding picture planning, the one category in which the Mets seem to be blowing away the competition).

The Mets tried to beat a better team Monday night. They couldn’t. They loomed as a spoiler, but wound up serving as a freshener for the Reds’ autumnal intentions. But, no, they didn’t abandon the field in the process. I will not add, “good for them,” as their manager reflexively does, even if it’s probably just his version of the Manuel cackle. Whaddayagonnado? Sandy Alderson is gonna retain Terry Collins for 2014. Here’s hoping a decent guy who’s been a decent manager is granted better material with which to work and we get to hear him elaborate engagingly on how the Mets just won yet another ballgame. Or he can be boring as all get-out in victory. To paraphrase Al Davis, just win already yet, baby.

“We haven’t won and that’s always an issue,” Alderson added to an otherwise glowing non-confirmation of Collins’s return. I’d say it’s a glaring one, along with the Mets’ pre-existing condition when Sandy and Terry arrived three years ago to ever-so-slowly turn this hulking vessel of dismay around. Given the Minayan and Wilponian circumstances under which Alderson and Collins took their respective reins, patience and understanding are reasonable requests to make of a fan base that is only one-third as starved for tangible reward as the Pirates’ was until Monday night. I didn’t expect results in 2011 or 2012 or 2013, thus I haven’t been terribly disappointed when they’ve failed to materialize.

Still, I could do without the outward organizational satisfaction that things are going along swimmingly because everybody’s giving it their best. Their best adds up currently to a 71-85 record, which fits snugly with the preceding seasons’ 77-85 and 74-88. It may not be Terry’s fault. It may not be Sandy’s fault. It may turn out to be well-disguised progress when we are able to view these days with the benefit of hindsight. In the interim, however, I’d ask the fellas to please tone down the “we played hard” stuff, at least until MLB adds a Good-Natured Effort column to the official standings.

18 comments to Pirates Clinch! Reds Clinch! Mets Try!

  • BlackCountryMet

    Spot on! I’m not(yet) on the “Get Rid of TC” bandwagon but comments like this from him really piss me off. It’s a bit like saying “Hey, I turned up and did my job!!” Big flaming wow, what do you want,a medal? It’s insulting and someone in the organisation should have a quiet word

  • Patrick O'Hern

    To me Jeff Torborg was the most infuriating after the losses-”we were battling and scuffling…”

    • Difference between Torborg’s hollow sentiments (along with the grand battler himself, Art Howe) was they were bounced after no more than two seasons. Perhaps they didn’t compliment their sub-.500 teams with enough conviction.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    Did you happen to catch the post-game last night when Chris Carlin joked about how the Mets losing would help them securing one of the protected slots in next year’s amateur draft? Bobby Ojeda did not find the suggestion at all amusing and pounded hard on the suggestion that anyone in the front office, the manager, coaching staff or players would intentionally try to lose a game under any circumstances.

    I agree with Bobby, however, I think what is more important is this shows how far down in stature and respect this organization has fallen in the eyes of the media and the fans (and who knows within baseball itself) that such a sarcastic remark would even be made – let alone be made on the air by one of the SNY post-game hosts.

    • 5w30

      Outside of the actual Mets game telecasts, SportsNet New York is amateur hour.

    • After Mets swept Phillies and fretting arose about draft position, I shook my head. Anybody’s who’s spent quality time with this team in 2013 knows the Mets are capable of finishing in the bottom ten.

      Don’t hope they do, don’t hope they don’t. We’re in que sera sera territory with a week to go. But hats off to Bobby O for subtly shooting down the “we play hard” meme. “Everybody plays hard, everybody tries to win,” he said pregame. The teller of truths.

  • I can’t watch TC (Top Cat) when the Mets lose because I keep think he’s going to start saying “battle” like the mantra of another Mets manager who lost and lost and lost until he lost the clubhouse so badly they brought in Omar and Willie and let them play with the checkbook despite having no actual plan. Now we have the Amway mantra of “sell the plan” until we look so deep into the future that we run smack dab into 1977.

    And if a team doesn’t get a home playoff game, I don’t see how they can call it the playoffs. Go me Buccos, arggggh!

    • When leagues were permitted a paltry four playoff teams, one suggestion brought up occasionally was the Wild Card winner should be penalized by getting zero home games in the LDS. While I got the idea, I didn’t like taking out on that team’s fans. The current system…well, can’t say it’s not spurring interest (mine, that is), but I’ll be curious to see how it plays out when the actual one-and-done is over. Last year I found both exciting and unsatisfying. Would hate to see Pirates take a powder after one game, especially one road game. (Reds, too, theoretically.)

  • metsfaninparadise

    Which came first, the wining attitude or the wins? One can argue effectively that it was Gil Hodges (who was just slightly before my time, unfortunately) who lit the fire under the same players who might have been good, but not good enough, otherwise, and we know that the mid ’80′s Mets would have been very good without Davey but they may not have DOMINATED. But I just don’t think that TC, on top of his bullpen, lineup, pinch-hitting and in-game strategic mis-management, can inspire a bunch of individually very good players to become an aggressive, in-your-face, bullying PLAYOFF TEAM. I guess what I’m saying is perhaps nice guys do finish last. TC has been a good caretaker, but for this team to take the next step forward they need a confident chest-pounding lion who will be at the head of the column as they run onto the battlefield (figuratively, of course). Who is bullish without being a loose cannon? Fiery but not wild? That’s who we need. It’s not Collins, but it’s not Backman, either. Even if SA wasn’t GM, I think Wally has too much potential to be a PR nightmare in NY.

    • Part of me wants to see Wally get a shot, part of me assumes it’s never going to happen, that he was thrown a sop with the Cyclone job and proved he wasn’t a bad risk as he managed his way up the chain…but that Jeff Wilpon would have the same attitude toward him actually managing the big league team that Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy had toward giving Eddie Murphy a real job in Trading Places.

      Neither Hodges nor Johnson (nor Valentine) were over-the-top, rip-snorting fire-breathers but they all got a winning message across. Or whatever they had to say meshed with the personalities and talent at hand. Anyway, yeah to the “caretaker” thing. Collins has been the right man in the right place at the right time. But I somehow don’t think it’s transferrable to the place and time where we’re hoping the Mets will be.

      • Andee

        What does Wally do any differently as a manager from Terry, though? His in-game management is about the same. And his being from the 1986 team probably wouldn’t carry any more sway with today’s Mets players (many of whom weren’t even born yet) than Harrelson’s being part of the 1969 team did with the 1991 team.

        I think there are certainly bad temperament fits for certain teams (witness BV with last year’s Red Sox), and possibly a Buck Showalter type who’s more of disciplinarian would be a better fit for this group of youngsters than Terry. But I don’t see how Wally is that guy. Turning over buffet tables is not discipline, and players mostly laugh at that sort of behavior now anyway. And nobody’s ever going to get away with the kind of stuff Casey Stengel or Whitey Herzog said to the media about their players; Terry can’t very well say, “I need the budget doubled to have a decent team, everyone I have now stinks, they’ll never be any good,” even if he believes it. And if he did believe that, he’d probably be wrong about some of them, at least.

        The one advantage that Wally might have over Terry would be possibly having strong relationships with some of the up and coming youngsters like Harvey and Wheeler from managing them in the minors. That’s what Davey brought when he was hired as manager; he knew a lot of these kids already and was eager to give them a chance. But I haven’t really heard any of his former minor leaguers who are with the team now commenting on how they like him as a manager, and I’m sure Wally rubbed some people the wrong way with his I-can-fix-Ike routine. (Sure you can, Wally, as long as Ike never has to see a major league changeup.)

  • Dave

    Those of us who are parents of millennial generation kids have seen the “everybody wins a trophy” mentality, and one can connect the dots between that and TC patting his Triple A caliber team on the back for “playing hard” (or its cousin that particularly gets my goat, “has been having good at-bats”). These guys make lots of money, we pay plenty for tickets, and we’ve been waiting a long time for improvement and seeing none. Nobody wants to hear that “they don’t quit.” BFD, they don’t quit.

    But on the other hand, TC is faced with a roomful of media every bloody day, and after 162 games plus spring training, the reporters and columnists – and all but the best, most unfiltered bloggers – eventually run out of things to write about and questions to ask. So after day in day out of this, what’s he supposed to say, especially being that he works for an organization not exactly known for its candor or transparency?

    • Oh, it’s gotta be numbing after a fashion. Last night TC was asked about a particular move. He said he did it ’cause he thought it was the right one. Which is perfectly fine by me. Stop there, say “thanks gang” and excuse yourself to your office…courteously.

  • 9th string catcher

    Yeah, when you lose as often as the Mets do, you run out of things to say, encouraging or otherwise. Seriously, does there need to be a press conference after every game to go along with the pregame comments before every game? If I was a manager, I’d bring a tape recorder with two announcements on it – a generic “great game, the pitcher really executed his pitches and what can you say about that guy – he really was clutch”, and the other being “We were never completely out of the game, but we came up a little short. The guys really worked hard, but hats off to the other guys – they get paid too, you know”.

    One thing I’ve always wondered – umpires get vacations, so do broadcasters, ballplayers get days off and executives certainly don’t work every game. How come managers never get a break? I would think that a couple games here and there where a manager could recharge a little bit would be good for the guy and the team as well. Bring up Backman as summer relief. Might help TC focus.

  • […] never competed for anything but our dignity with them (which we lost two weeks ago). Current era of good Bucco feeling notwithstanding, I haven’t forgotten Pirates fans howling obscenities at Lenny and HoJo in the […]

  • Seth

    The Pirates were divisional arch-rivals throughout much of the 70′s and 80′s, so I seem to have a hard time rooting for them, even now. Those old scars never healed, I guess.

    • The Mets-Pirates thing is a couple of layers below the surface but it does linger. Not as strongly as it does for the Cubs and Cardinals, but they did make 1990 unnecessarily disappointing and 1988 more of a chore than was needed and 40 years ago tonight I wasn’t loving them. But nobody besides the Yankees deserves to go that long with nothing.