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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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As We Began & Piazza Ended

It’s a cheap and easy bit for writers to place somebody’s longevity within the context of some long-ago president’s term of office. The device is losing a bit of its oomph as a marker of time in this electoral era of two-term chief executives — two decades ago only takes you back two presidencies — but I still see it. Here, though, I’ve found a different metric to express the passage of the years.

We’ve been blogging so long that Mike Piazza was still on the Mets when we began.

When I think of the period in which Faith and Fear has operated, I think of the Mets of David Wright and Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, peppered by significant appearances from Pedro Martinez and Carlos Delgado and Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey until we get to Matt Harvey and whoever winds up helping him help our cause. Mixed in around the core of whom we’ve covered most closely are the guys who logged significant innings for better — Billy Wagner, Paul Lo Duca, Endy Chavez, Daniel Murphy — or worse (let’s not punish ourselves with names). Plus there have been plenty of Mets who’ve strolled in and out our consciousness, including a surfeit of guys who’ve stood in to bear the brunt of the inevitable “he’s so old/been around so long” asides: Julio Franco, Moises Alou, LaTroy Hawkins, Scott Atchison…

But Mike Piazza, while not ancient when we set up non-profit shop, had them all beat. He was a Met from the ’90s. He was a Met from 2000. He was this thing that was not like the others. He wasn’t promoted from within like Reyes and Wright to make things better or acquired on the open market like Beltran or Pedro to facilitate the process. He was all that remained extant of a glorious Met age, one that was growing ever more distant when Faith and Fear first logged on.

Piazza’s prime crested in 2001, maybe 2002. The next two years were about consolidating his historical standing…and, unfortunately, propping up the greatest-hitting catcher of all time at first base. Then came 2005 and us and bloggers like us, which isn’t really important in considering the story of Mike Piazza, New York Mets Hall of Famer, but gets my attention nonetheless. Piazza was, at most, four years removed from his peak when the Mets were trying to rebuild from the wreckage that was left in the wake of the glory of Mike’s times. It was only four years from 2001 to 2005. Yet it already seemed so long ago. His impending exit, a recurring storyline everywhere you looked in Metsopotamia that season, only sharpened the sense of loss all of us were facing once October 2, 2005 — which also seems longer ago than eight years — rolled around. We took it as our charge to hail him repeatedly as he inevitably left us.

Mike Piazza isn’t just part of our collective Met past the way all the other Mets Hall of Famers are. He’s part of Faith and Fear’s fabric. Jason and I wrote posts about him in the present-tense. These weren’t paeans to Seaver or Gooden and the way it was. These were “good thing Mike got that double” or “too bad Piazza struck out” or other fleeting concerns that fill a baseball fan’s head night after night. He was a legend for sure, but also a player in our midst. The same man who connected for lightning bolts in playoff games and capped unprecedented comebacks and lifted a wounded city on his shoulders was batting in the same lineups with Doug Mientkiewicz and Miguel Cairo and Jose Offerman. Mike Piazza was necessarily just another player to us. An extraordinary presence, mind you, but also the hitter we hoped could lift a fly ball deep enough to score Kaz Matsui, and if he didn’t, well, maybe Danny Graves can hold ’em in the top of the next inning.

The End of Piazza was always in sight in 2005. He was running out the clock on a long and lucrative contract. He wasn’t the future. He was only intermittently the present. But his presence among us wasn’t incidental, either: 19 home runs, 62 runs batted in, 34 times Willie Randolph’s cleanup hitter. And he was still the signature star of the Mets in a time of transition. He was the one Met everybody everywhere knew. You didn’t have to explain Mike Piazza. He’d explained himself fully to New York years before.

Nobody’s exactly filled that role since, it occurs to me. We’ve had guys who are baseball-famous, but I’m not 100% convinced any of them walking into a randomly chosen public place in the Metropolitan Area would elicit automatic recognition from all on hand. Piazza had that going for him and going for us. He was how we greeted the world. We were Mike Piazza and the Mets. As long as we had Piazza, how bad could we be?

Actually, we got pretty bad there from 2002 to 2004, but a renaissance, no matter how brief its ultimate shelf life, took hold soon enough to encompass both Mike Piazza and Faith and Fear in Flushing. I, for one, am grateful, we got this thing going in time to cast him as a character in our ongoing chronicling, if only in its first chapter. It was our privilege to send him off in our way in 2005 and it is our honor as bloggers and fans to give him our best today.

9 comments to As We Began & Piazza Ended

  • Steve D

    For several reasons, I never get too excited remembering Piazza as a Met. As a big Fantasy Player back in the 90s, I had Piazza on my team before anyone ever heard of him and he helped me dominate my league…mainly as a Dodger. He hit .331 as a Dodger and .298 as a Met. I remember his last few years as a Met as being hard to take…and the drama of whether he was willing or able to move to first base. He tried it for a third of a season and the team finished 71-91. I remember he ducked away from a pitch one day and that simple movement tore his groin apart…and it made me wonder if he was taking any of those “real good” vitamins. Any remembrance for me also has him in a disgraceful black jersey. He did have some unforgettable moments though…so in the pantheon of Met stars that came over mid-career, I place him below Keith and Gary, but above Beltran. Nothing he has done after his career has helped his case either.

  • Wow Steve D,
    Much like your rain delay Mr. Met avatar, you’ve again thrown a wet blanket on a Mets moment. Guess it’s time to spend the rest of 2013 on a NY Giants blog and uplift their spirits?

    • open the gates

      This morning, I wandered into my local Dunkin’ Donuts. At the door was a life-size cardboard cutout photo of Mr. Eli Manning sampling the java.

      It was decapitated.

      Guess there are worse things than being a Met fan these days.

    • Steve D

      Sorry…can’t get too excited when a guy who had 4 and a half great seasons here is one of our all-time players and the Yankees have Rivera, Jeter, Pettitte, etc…it’s getting old really fast.

  • Seth

    Not to detract from Mr. Piazza’s talents, but I don’t see how anyone can call 1999-2000 “a glorious Met age.” I still remember the Yankees celebrating a world championship on *our* field, and I consider that a glorious failure. It still hurts. Sorry, 1999-2000 fans.

    • Five in the ninth off Schilling.
      Matt Franco beats Rivera.
      Mora scores on the wild pitch.
      Leiter two-hits the Reds.
      Pratt wins NLDS.
      Olerud pokes one through the middle off Rocker.
      Ventura’s Grand Slam Single.
      Ten-Run Inning.
      Benny in the thirteenth.
      Bobby Jones’s clinching one-hitter.
      The Monster came out of the cage.
      Barrage of Game Five Doubles.
      Hampton shuts out the Cardinals for the pennant.

      Perfect endings to those seasons? No.
      Glorious as in beautiful, delightful, magnificent to have lived through? I can’t believe any Mets fan would say it wasn’t.

      • Seth

        Message received. Please don’t play the “a real Mets fan would think X” card, though. I bought your book, for heaven’s sake! :-)