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ABOUT US

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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Welcome Home

 

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 10.54.59 PMIt’s not a new story any more. In fact it’s a well-worn tale on its way to becoming a cliche.

But that’s the fate of stories that resonate with people, that mean something. And this one does. It’s the one I keep coming back to. And it’s worth hearing again.

It’s the story of Wilmer Flores, sent away to Milwaukee with Zack Wheeler for Carlos Gomez. In theory, it was a trade designed to make everybody happy. Gomez would come back to his first team, a rambunctious colt grown into a high-wattage hitter and charismatic clubhouse figure. Wheeler would return next summer knowing that his new team had valued him enough to acquire him long months before he could again be useful. And Flores would escape a situation that had become frankly dysfunctional.

He wouldn’t have to keep learning to play a position he’d once been told to stop playing, with his every hesitation and mistake exposed in public and excoriated at top volume. He wouldn’t be asked, while already doing something extremely difficult, to also add muscle to a sick, sputtering offense. Instead of being expected to speed up a transformation into something he’d never been, he’d be accepted for just being Wilmer Flores.

Plenty of athletes would have jumped at the chance. But Wilmer Flores didn’t want to go. Despite everything that had happened, he wanted to stay with the professional family he’d been a part of since he was literally a child. Distraught and dismayed, he spent his final moments as a New York Met in tears — an ordeal that was public, just like the previous ones.

And then came a twist that would have made even a soap-opera fan incredulous. The done deal was undone. Forty-eight hours later, the Mets faced off against the Nationals, the kings of the N.L. East, with Flores at shortstop. In the 12th inning, with the game knotted at 1-1, he drove a ball into the Party City deck. With a horde of teammates awaiting him at home plate, Flores tossed his helmet away and then grabbed at his uniform, at the script word on his chest, the one that turned out to have meant as much to him as it has to us: METS.

That all happened the same crazy week of the season that saw the great-pitch, zero-hit 2015 Mets 1.0 rebooted as Mets 2.0. There was the arrival of Michael Conforto from Double-A, viewed with reflexive suspicion as a low-cost PR gesture. There was the import of Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson and Tyler Clippard, battle-scarred veterans and baseball professionals. And there was the shocking acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes, Plan C after deals for Gomez and Jay Bruce failed to materialize.

All of those events fueled the Mets’ astonishing rocket ride past the Nationals, a trajectory that has now reached escape velocity. But it was Flores’s resurrection that was the heart of it — the story we’ll remember, and tell in an effort to make sense of two months in which the impossible became routine.

For a long time we’ve labored under the burden of bad stories. There were the twin collapses that taught us to fear things that go bump in the September night, and then the financial reversals that taught us to assume we were being lied to on December mornings. The Mets, still shell-shocked from back-to-back disasters at Shea, moved into a modern park just in time for a savage economic downturn and the revelation that the coffers were bare. Both they and we took up residence at Citi Field like squatters in an stripped and abandoned palace, sniping about obstructed views and Dodger shrines, watching terrible baseball and listening to worse excuses.

We were a dumpster fire, a pitiable farce, a national joke. The athletes paid to be Mets failed and were discarded or succeeded and were subtracted anyway, sometimes exiting with an anonymous knife in the back. They left if they could, most of them; we stayed because we had no choice, we were born to this and it was too late to choose otherwise. And so for six years we subsisted on the little we had. There was nostalgia, correctly diagnosed by Don DeLillo as a product of dissatisfaction and rage. There was the ragamuffin insistence that glasses were 1/10th full. And there was hope — wild and desperate hope, idiotic and indomitable hope. Hope, a bucket constantly filling with water even as it runs out the massive hole blown in the bottom.

But those bad stories have lost their power over us. They dissipated into phantoms a little after 7 tonight, exorcised by Matt Harvey and Lucas Duda and David Wright and Jeurys Familia. We’ve rediscovered that September can be wonderful, and repopulated our dreams with memories that will make us laugh and clap and shed a happy tear come winter.

Like Matt Harvey explaining why this time he wasn’t going to let go of the ball, his face hard but his voice cracking.

Like Daniel Murphy and Jon Niese, two of just four remaining Mets who wore orange and blue at Shea, beaming at their children, who looked amazed at finding themselves scooped up in their fathers’ sodden, sticky arms.

Like the conga line of Mets slapping hands with fans who’d made the trek to Cincinnati and camped out behind the visitor’s dugout, waiting with their banners to salute and be saluted.

Like Cespedes in his custom goggles (as if he’d wear any other kind), standing with a cigar in his mouth next to Bartolo Colon, as imperturbable and Zen with a champagne bottle in his hand as he is with a ball out on the mound.

Like Wright, older and wiser than the last time he saw a magic number hit zero — and so appreciating the moment even more.

Like the joy on the face of Terry Collins, who spent four and a half years stoically explaining why a perpetually undermanned team wasn’t winning, then awoke one day to find he’d been handed a real one — a team he’ll now take to his first-ever postseason.

Like you, wherever you were, whether it was Cincinnati or your favorite bar or your lucky spot on the couch. In the top of the ninth I realized we had no champagne in the fridge and so hustled two blocks to the store. I got back for the bottom of the inning, and when Familia fanned Jay Bruce I sank onto my back on the carpet — a collapse born of joy instead of pain.

These are all good stories we get to tell ourselves now. And next time things threaten to go awry, next time we doubt or despair, we’ll remember that disaster isn’t the only thing that can take you by surprise.

Because sometimes the dutiful, decent captain whose career seems in jeopardy actually returns from the disabled list — and launches a massive home run on the first pitch he sees.

Because sometimes that kid called up from Double-A as a glimpse of the future turns out to be the present, and you realize he’s here to stay.

Because sometimes the big bat you want gets away, and the next big bat you want gets away, but the third time really is the charm, and you find yourself wondering if you too would be better at everything if you wore a parakeet-colored compression sleeve.

Because sometimes the late-season showdown with your biggest rivals, the one you’d been dreading, yields three straight come-from-behind victories, including one in which a 7-1 deficit in the top of the seventh turns out to be no big deal.

And because sometimes the accidental shortstop you get saddled with turns out to be the heart of the team — the one whose reaction to cruelties and misfortunes is to want to stay and help write a better story. And then sometimes, given an unlikely second chance, he does just that.

October is an undiscovered country. The Mets may win 11 more games after their normal course of 162 or they may win none; their season may continue into November or be a memory before the kids have picked out their costumes.

But whatever happens in the postseason, they’ve already won. And so have we. All of those games are bonuses, extras, lagniappe — a stolen season snatched back from winter. They’re our reward for nearly a decade of crazy perseverance, for getting up when it seemed a lot smarter to stay down, for insisting — in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary — that ya gotta believe.

The magic number is zero. The ball’s over the fence. Doubt and despair are walking off the field with their heads down. Come on around to where we’re waiting to greet you with open arms.

Welcome home.

39 comments to Welcome Home

  • Ed

    You continue to amaze me with your ability to write so well. Thank you

  • Carlos R. Pastrana

    One of the beauties of being a Met fan, instead of, say, a Yankee or Cards or Red Sox fan, is that you remember every single one of these, yet they are sufficiently spread out that you don’t *really* remember until you go through it again. I remember where I was for every clinching or series-deciding win in ’86, ’88, ’99, ’00, and ’06, yet as the Captain drilled that bomb to Center and then as Jeurys walked to the mound in the 9th, I found myself wondering how I would react when it was all over this time. I called both my daughters to my side as the 9th began. They are not even baseball fans, mind you, but one of them hadn’t even been born at all in ’06, and the other was 1 and memorably threw a horrendous fit that necessitated me carrying and shushing her throughout the entire Endy Chávez game. I wanted them next to me for the same reason I re-watched “An Amazing Era” this morning, as I had done on the pennant-clinching day of every other year we had played postseason baseball: because I want to brand these days in my brain.

    And there I was, at the end of it, spontaneously crumpled face-down on my carpet, like Jersey Joe Walcott after Rocky Marciano knocked him out, and sobbing like an idiot. Why do we care so much? Do other fans of other teams care so much, or even half as much?

    Thank you for this. Reading this piece made me cry again, thinking that Wilmer Flores is likely one of the few players that “gets it”. I love our team, warts (Bobby Bonilla and Vince Coleman come to mind) and all. Now let’s go and make even more memories.

  • Excellent piece. What a wacky season :) LETS GO METS!!!

  • BlackCountryMet

    Wow! I cried when we did it. It’s been a long and at times, painful, journey but in a way, that just makes it better. It felt AMAZIN. Let’s hope there’s more to come. I’m 3 post season wins from another trip across the pond

  • […] According to Jason Fry, regardless of what happens in October, the Mets have already won >> Read more at Faith and Fear in Flushing. […]

  • Dave

    I’ve been a Mets fan since June 1969, so I’ve been through all of the great moments and most of the bad ones, and remember certainly all the great ones…we’re not the baseball fan equivalent of spoiled rich kids who don’t remember what car Daddy gave them for their 16th birthday. And yesterday added to my “where I was when the Mets…” stories nicely, as my wife and I celebrated the news we got from our phones of the last out while at the Epcot Food and Wine festival (where there are plenty of choices for a celebratory beverage).

    This Mets team is like no other, ever. In March I would have been satisfied with them simply improving. By July, I just wanted them to maybe finish .500. Now they’re NL East Champions, and by a pretty good distance over the team that was picked to win easily by, well, everyone.

    I’m very happy for young and recent fans who are seeing this for the first time. I’m happy for those of us who have been here throughout it all or close to all of it. And I’m happy for every guy in that uniform who made this happen, and I hope they’re in shape to play today, but I don’t even blame them if they’re not. But then back to work the next game.

  • Is it me, or is sunrise a little bit brighter this morning?

    • Dennis

      Not you at all. I’ve been reading this blog from Greg and Jason since the 2007, so I’m not only happy for all Mets fans, but especially for those two, who continued to write great pieces during the non-winning years from 2009 to 2014. What I’m especially looking forward to is watching the upcoming playoffs with my oldest son, who lived at home in 2006 and is now married with a daughter. It’s been a long time. LGM!!

  • 8th string catcher

    watching the post game with my wife and 12 year old daughter was fascinating. I’ve been a met fan a lot longer than I’ve been most anything else, so I completely reveled in the moment, but seeing all the joy on everyone’s faces clued my family into what this is all about. Wilmer’s season. Kirk’s oddessy. Murphy and Niese’s patience. The adventure that is Bartolo. Who Familia is and why she sees him pitch every night. What Sandy did to get them all here. And Terry getting to the playoffs for the first time in his 60s. So many stories. What a season.

  • Lou from Brazil

    Well said. I turn 39 years old today, I’m back in the States and man what a great birthday gift this season has been!

  • RayKnightInShiningArmor

    Wonderfully written! I watched the game last night with my two sons, my sister in law and my in laws (who are in their 80’s). What a wonderful memory we now have to share! Long after all of us are gone, my kids will remember this day. I couldn’t help but watch certain guys pass by the camera and think of their journeys this season(Kirk, Wilmer), especially Wright. When he said he bleeds orange and blue, I wept. There’s real suffering in this world, but as sports goes, it’s pretty damned tough to be a Mets fan. Every time they made it to the post season, I was cautiously optimistic, even in 1986 where they were clearly a dominant team, but this team is different. After they swept the Nationals a few weeks ago I told my wife and kids that if we won the division we would win the whole thing.! I never go out on a limb like that, but I FEEL it. I KNOW it. We are about to be shocked at how good our team really is, folks. Lay back and enjoy the ride!

  • So well said. Who knew The Night Of The Tears would become so important in Mets history?

  • SkillSets

    Still, Wilpons.

  • pockmarx

    Alderson never intended to make the Gomez trade. Those rumors were nothing more than birdseed to get another team like Detroit to bite and make an offer. Houston had no issue with Gomez medical history. When was the last time a team traded a starting player for a pitcher in the middle of rehabbing a repaired arm and would not be available until the middle of next season? How often has Sandy Alderson traded young for older? Inspite of Aldersons public satements to the contrary, the Gomez deal wasn’t going to be made whether they got Cespedes or not. A recently published biography about Alderson has a story concerning the Beltran deal. Alderson played both San Francisco and later the Toronto Blue Jays like a fiddle in obtaining young players, the likes of which the press said he would never be able to get for guys as old as Beltran and Dickey. Don’t tell me the Gomez deal was going to happen. The man who won three consecutive American League pennants and a World Series simply did his thing and we are all the better for it. Whiny fans, arrogant B-actor know nothing radio hosts, smug sports “writers” and blog editors who are better writers than analysts just don’t get it. I truly hope all the fans of this team enjoy this moment as much as I have.

  • Sbrand

    great post. In terms of redemption stories, I can’t believe David Wright’s. I was reminded this morning when I saw a bunch of emails in my inbox about “how to deal with spinal stenosis.” Ever since I searched that term a few months ago, fearing that our Captain was lost, I have been getting those emails. Now I can laugh and think of how amazing it is that he has come back to Wright this ship and lead this team. I really love this team. I hope they go very very far this October.

  • James Allen

    I would like to make a quick point:

    F*** YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!

    Thank you for your time.

  • Great piece. Perfectly capturing what we all feel and felt.

  • Eric

    Well said, Jason.

    Redemption watch conclusion: After game 145 in 2007, the Mets were 83-62 and 7 games ahead of the Phillies. After game 145, the 2015 Mets were 83-62 and 8.5 games ahead of the Nationals. In other words, if this season had followed the same way record-wise as 2007, Mets and Nationals would have tied for 1st place.

    Today, after game 154, Nationals (79-75) are 5 games behind the 2007 Phillies (84-70). After game 155, Mets (88-67) are 1 game ahead of the 2007 Mets (87-68). Mets are 8.5 games ahead of the Nationals and the the magic number is 0. After game 155 in 2007, Mets were 2.5 games ahead of the Phillies with a magic number of 5.

    The Mets clinching with game 155 is significant. In 2007, after the Mets lead had plummeted from 7 to 1.5 games in a week, the Mets recovered to win 3 in a row and 4 of 5 games to push the lead back up to 2.5 after game 155. More than any other part of the 2007 collapse, that stretch of games taught us that until the magic number is 0, Mets fans cannot take a division lead for granted. The respite of wins before the final week didn’t save the season. Instead, game 155 was the last calm before a 7+ year storm. After game 155 in 2007, the Mets lost 5 in a row and 6 of 7 games to end the season 1 game behind the Phillies. This time, the Mets clinched in game 155.

    In 2015, the baseball gods returned the Mets to the same place, record-wise, as the 2007 collapse when they were 7 up with 17 to play. We learned our lesson. This time, we did not repeat our error in 2007 of early hubris looking past the Phillies. We did the right thing by deliberately worrying about the Nationals until the division was actually won.

    This team is special. They’re more than a typical division winner. All season, they fought against the living legacy of the 2007 Mets collapse, LOLMets, as well as compete with their opponent on the field. LOLMets knocked the team down repeatedly just like it’s knocked them down for 7+ years. But these supremely resilient Mets fought back and won where the 2007 Mets fell.

    Embrace the redemption.

  • Daniel Hall

    (holds up sign: There are now words)

  • Brett

    Beautiful writing

  • christine villines

    Just found this blog and boy have I been missing out. I had a crush on Keith Hernandez when I was a teenager and thus began my love affair with the Mets. I flew in from Oklahoma to be at the last game at Shea and the first at CIti. I dread September because I know our season ends and we have to wait till February for hope to arrive again. I would love for the Mets to win it all but right now I am overjoyed they did this! yeah I cried and am still crying reading the articles today. I wish I was in New York to get the papers today. I would save them forever. LETS GO METS!! you will hear me cheering from New Orleans

  • tml

    A beautiful piece which rings so true!
    All those trials and tribulations – and there were many! – made this team stronger and is what makes this team special, magical, and distinguishes it from all its predecessors

  • mikeL

    beautiful and touching piece jason…and yes so happy that after you’ve provided us all with so much great insight and humor and encyclopaedic knowledge through the lean times – that you can now make THIS post! a perfect postscript to such a wonderful game and postgame.
    more than ever i love this mets team.
    i love that harvey decided he needs to take care of business NOW before he can take care of business as a free agent…and that he played himself into getting choked up and expressing HIS love for this team. harvey the competitor is back as is jacob degrom the all star. and how about that B-squad?!
    i love that the next round of fun has just begun.
    onward, upward!
    LETS GO METS!

  • I cried when Wilmer got “traded” and “untraded.” I cried when he hit that walk off homer to beat the Nats. And I cried when the Mets nailed down the Eastern Division Championship. I’m 73 now and I go back to the beginning with this team, but I don’t believe I was ever close to being so emotional about them except for ’69. I’m rooting for it all, but I’ll be happy if they just put on a good showing from here on out. They are already second to only the ’69 team in my mind.

  • Excellent article! The reason i bleed blue and orange!!!
    Being a Mets fan is knowing what it truly means to being a real fan and by this i mean not a jump on the band wagon fan. When wilmer flores cried on the field was exactly the real way true Mets fan feel and now we feel joy! In my mind they have already won so what comes next will be hopefully icing on the cake…but if not – thanks for the great year and memories! Lets Go Mets!!!!

  • Paul Carrella

    This season is so similiar to 1969, the great young pitching, the stud bat acquired in mid-season (Cespides and Clendenon), the magic moments like the sweep of the Nats now and the sweep of the Cubs in 1969 to propel us to first place. I tell my 23 year old son, who was with me in the stands in 2006 when it came crashing down that he is witnessing a special season. Lets hope the magic continues through the play-offs and World Series. My son deserves to experience it, the fans deserve it, the team deserves it. LGM.

  • Joe Schaler

    Beautifully written! Thank you!

  • […] know the Mets are the champions of the National League Eastern Division. They won that title Saturday and they maintained that title Sunday and as regards 2015, it is theirs forever. Even the NCAA […]

  • Brian McDonald

    Beautiful, Jason. Just beautiful.

  • Old Joe

    Congrats to the Mets and their true fans. I was crushed when Casey’s team lost 120. I certainly remember following box scores ten days late the 1969 team because I was serving in an infantry unit in Vietnam that year. The Amazing ’69 team will always be super special with 2015 a close second. I am exhausted hearing T.Collins being ridiculed much the same as great team ’50 era players being called Dodger Bums. How sad Daniel Murphy constantly being equally berated even though he is a lifetime .289 hitter (.272 against Lefties) that holds far too many Met top 10 all-time records to mention. After all his accomplishments still many fans think he should be a platoon player. Just how Met dumb is Met fan dumb? Enough is enough. When Murphy goes so do I because they will replace .290 with .230 on .500 at best teams. It will be the same scenario as when Reyes left. We win it all in 2015 or wait another 30 year drought watching the Yankees win numerous World Series. No doubt, given future deplorable fan and press treatment our current great young pitching staff will exit one by one just as soon as free agent eligible. Win in 2015 or wait until 2045 when I’ll be pushing up daises. Oh heck, it won’t matter then.

  • […] job done — and oh what a joyous mission accomplished. On Sunday that ends and we’ll wait for baseball’s autumn exhibition games to […]

  • nestornajwa

    So is this what Willie Randolph meant when he said the champagne would be sweeter when the Mets finally clinched? That must be some seriously sucrose-infused bubbly.

  • […] back I declared that we’d already won, and anything else that came our way would be lagniappe — games stolen from wintertime. That […]

  • Paul Schwartz

    [Edited. Lively is fine, personal is not.]