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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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A Giant Step Toward Flushing

When the Mets and Red Sox appeared on a collision course in 1986, Joe Klein, then of New York magazine, predicted a Fall Classic meeting of the two heretofore simpatico tribes would make for a “Subway Series of the Soul,” given that both we and they indulged a deep-seated antipathy for the same inherently unlikable baseball enterprise, an outfit whose name escapes me at the moment. I’m reminded of that neat phrase now that Rob Manfred has unveiled what we’ll be in for come 2016.

The New York Giants fan who resides in my soul couldn’t be giddier. The New York Mets fan who calls my heart home and defines much of the rest of my being most days isn’t quite sure what to be.

Such is the dilemma posed by the MLB Team In Residence Program the new commissioner was talking up with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Tuesday. It honors the past, it is cognizant of the present and it might lay some intriguing groundwork for the future. It’s such an uncommonly great idea to come from Major League Baseball that it seems a bit too good to be true.

If you’ve been reading me here long enough, you know how much I love the New York Giants, the team I never saw play yet one I embrace as my own in a pre-1962 sense. The death of those Giants informed the birth of our Mets. That’s how I’ve always seen it. But what if the New York Giants are still alive, and not just in some symbolic sense?

Think about it. With the Giants playing the equivalent of two homestands annually at Citi Field in 2016, 2017 and 2018 (Manfred said “six to twelve games”), how do we dismiss them as merely the N.L. Team In Residence, interlopers from San Francisco who will give us some extra National League baseball to enjoy when the Mets are on the road? Are they even the San Francisco Giants if nearly 15% of their home games are being played in New York in exchange for “remunerative considerations” forwarded Wilpon way?

And will these resurrected New York Giants play the actual New York Mets? Who’s the home team, exactly, if that happens?

It’s bad enough when the San Francisco club comes rolling in like the fog and brings with it everything but 25,000 servings of Rice-A-Roni. Joe Panik, local boy and world champion second baseman, told a supportive crowd in January that he saw a lot more black and orange than blue and orange on his first trip in last summer. Well…yeah. Manfred said one of the many factors contributing to the creation of the MLB Team In Residence Program (besides the chance to sign Residence Inn as official sponsor) is that “the ground is fertile” for the teams participating. Ground as in Polo, he might as well have mentioned. The Giants’ New York roots have stayed strong. They’ve blossomed anew since 2010, sprinkled as they’ve been by success and a touch of good old-fashioned frontrunning. There’s no denying Panik’s powers of observation.

Manfred, meanwhile, has solid business reasons to execute Team In Residence. By ensconcing the Giants in New York for extended stays, it helps the underfunded A’s, who maybe get no satisfaction in their eternal quest to relocate to San Jose but will at least be handed as many as a dozen dates in Phone Company Park every year for three years. It helps the Giants more, probably, because their aspirations to be taken seriously as a “national team” get a big boost. They become, in effect, the majors’ first bicoastal entity, putting down stakes at opposite ends of the country. (That’s a claim the Orioles won’t be able to make when they take up A.L. Team In Residence responsibilities in St. Louis, but hardcore Browns fans won’t mind and MASN executives apparently won’t carp.) Usually when you hear about a team having to schedule home dates in multiple venues, you think about a fly-by-night operation like the ABA and a franchise like the Floridians. The Floridians played in literally five different places by design. They didn’t survive the intrastate travel and disbanded four years before the league melted.

Don’t mistake what Larry Baer and the Giants are doing as anything other than a brand-building exercise a healthy franchise undertakes from a position of strength. The reduced airfares from San Fran to LaGuardia on Virgin America will be a nice sop to the West Coast season ticketholders, but the real story will emanate from our own seaboard. It will be downright fascinating to see what kind of market the Giants tap where they used to live. Will it be mainly my displaced Giants fan friends from the various Nostalgia and Preservation groups of which I proudly call myself a member? Will Yankees fans, turned off by their inevitably torpid rebuilding machinations — $218 million doesn’t seem to buy what it used to — want to make the trip across the RFK to see a team they don’t consider their rival (decadelong shared Polo Grounds tenancy notwithstanding)? What about the Mets?

Yes, what about the Mets? This is still a Mets blog despite my occasional forays into Giant musings. The territorial maneuverings may have conceptually altered the vicinity’s baseball map a bit, but the mission statement here still says we write for Mets fans who like to read.

I, alas, am still reading Bigelow tea leaves. I get why the Giants want a foothold in the New York market. Sadly, I get why the Mets would allow it, especially now that we know the real reason there’s been a spike in 2015 ticket sales just like we know the real reason Fred Wilpon was placed in counterintuitive charge of the MLB Finance Committee. Getting Baer and his board to buy such a large block of season tickets for Mets games (they’ll be distributed to youth groups all year long for free, not including the “convenience and charitable fee” the Wilpons insist on imposing) was an exercise in salesmanship even Leigh Castergine would have to admit was genius. We’ve seen some of this windfall already in action, what with Jerry Blevins’s previously prohibitive salary grafted onto the books without warning. It makes a fella dream that maybe Troy Tulowitzki suddenly won’t be out of a certain New York team’s price range.

By certain New York team, I’m referring to the Mets. They’re still my team, first and foremost. Not that I won’t love the idea of the Giants playing those six to twelve games in the three years following this one as the New York Giants at Citi Field (as long as, I must reiterate, they’re not playing the Mets, something Manfred said “every effort will be made to prevent,” but who knows with this guy?). Not that I don’t swoon at the tentative plans Baer outlined for the San Francisco Chronicle. I’ve wanted Willie Mays recognized in Flushing. I suppose the Giants erecting a “bookend statue like the one in California” — except with an “NY” on Willie’s cap makes good on that detail. I’d have preferred the Mets had done it themselves long ago, but I’d have preferred lots of things out of the Mets since Citi Field opened. Maybe if we ask nicely, the Giants will commission a monument to Fresno native Tom Seaver.

The important thing in all of this is that the breadth of National League baseball in New York is finally getting its due where the New York National League entry of record receives its mail. Willie outside by the Apple, pointing the way to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Giants…Dodgers…Mets. Fred and Jeff couldn’t make that happen, but Larry and his crew will. Plaques for Ott and Mathewson adjacent to the Shea Bridge. The new Know The Rules exhibit promised in the Mets museum in which a hologram version of Fred Merkle teaches kids of the 21st century that there aren’t three outs until there are three outs. Baer and the Giants are paying for all of it and leaving it as a gift for “the people of New York” no matter what becomes of the MLB Team In Residence Program after 2018. It’s an appropriate echo of the recently restored John T. Brush Stairway, the lone fragment of the Giants that has remained standing in New York all these years since 1957.

I mean besides the spirit of the Giants that meshed with the spirit of the Dodgers to create the spirit of the Mets. The Dodgers won’t return to Brooklyn (Manfred said Wilpon “begged” Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten to play “even a few innings” at MCU Park, but L.A. passed), yet here are the Giants, on the verge of sharing more than psychic space with the Mets, tugging a little at my soul, even as my heart endeavors to remain pure.

In 1991, as the Cold War had all but disappeared from the global geopolitical radar, Jesus Jones sang of “watching the world wake up from history”. So what’s this that’s going on right here, right now? Heritage rubbing the sleep out of its eyes after almost six decades of hibernation? History coming alive or at least rustling its way out of the cornfield and onto our thus far imperfect field of dreams? Nothing more than money making the world go around?

You gotta believe it could be something else altogether.

14 comments to A Giant Step Toward Flushing

  • Lou from Brazil

    Well played, sir. There is some validity to your April-foolery, however. If we are to be fed the line that the Mets are the merging of the look of the two former franchises, it should be more than just orange trim, the NY on the cap, and green seats like the Polo Grounds. There should be more of a tribute to the NY baseball Giants, and by that there should be a statue of Mays in a Met uniform outside the rotunda- with a plaque commemorating the achievements of the 1973 team. Or at least, his 24 on the wall of retired greats, right next to the 42 and along with 8, 17 and 31. That would bring it full circle and add more Mets history, too.

  • Dave

    Almost had me. Happy Sidd Finch Day to you too.

  • SkillSetsMets

    George Plimpton fireworks are going off for this. Next up: you’re QB of the Detroit Lions and the future Mongo tackles you.

  • A much more realistic scenario would be the Tampa Bay Rays moving to a new stadium in Brooklyn. They can’t sniff a stadium after 15 years of trying and their owner, Stu Sternberg, is a Mets fan from Brooklyn.

  • I’m at a loss: what is this “RFK” of which you speak? I thought it was pronounced “Triborough…”

  • argman

    Jeez, I’m a sucker. You had me hook, line and sinker because I wouldn’t put anything past either the Wilpons or Manfred. (Or any other sports executive actually, pro or college.)
    Still, they should do something for the Giants roots at CitiField. And my baseball family roots are strictly Dodgers.

  • Dave

    Actually, there was kind of a precedent for something similar to this (and in real life) and kind of involving your semi-beloved NY Giants. In 1956 or so, as part of their “we might just leave” warnings, the Dodgers played a number of home games at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, home of the Giants’ Triple A team. I doubt the Dodgers ever intended to go play in Frank Hague’s playground on Rt 440 on a permanent basis, because it only held maybe 25,000 if that, but they did become the National League Team In Residence in Jersey for a while.

  • Renting the stadium on off-days to some interlopers from the West Coast. Just the sort of stunt I would have expected from Fred and Jeff. You almost got me.

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