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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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Viva Leaving Las Vegas

Monday afternoon I was keeping an eye on the Astros and the Red Sox in the fourth game of their American League Division Series, rain spitting on Fenway, Houston trying to close it out, Boston trying to keep it going, both clubs’ straddling the line between urgent and panicked as they relied on their respective ace starters — Chris Sale and Justin Verlander — to serve as life-saving long relievers when the Turning Stone Resort Casino Turning Point of the Game emerged clear and sunny:

The Mets were reported as moving their Triple-A farm club operations from Las Vegas to Syracuse the year after next.

Never mind ending or extending a postseason series. Our team just improved its organizational logistics. Who was the big Columbus Day winner now?

Well, Houston. They beat Boston, 5-4, in a riveting four hour, seven-minute, nine-inning affair slightly reminiscent of the Wednesday afternoon in October 1986 when the Astros were eliminated by the Mets, who went on to play the Red Sox. Except that game took seven innings longer, yet somehow lasted only an additional 35 minutes — and Hal Lanier resisted the temptation to insert Mike Scott around the fourteenth inning.

Houston’s a winner. L.A., in three over Arizona, is a winner. As of this writing, four other teams remain alive in pursuit of two next-round berths. October baseball in its various highly entertaining iterations has gone on without our participation, but at least we got this. We got Syracuse. We don’t get to be in an LDS. We won’t get to be in an LCS. We didn’t even get to be bounced from a Wild Card game. The World Series as it applied to us sort of lately is fading as recent history. But hot damn, we no longer have to have to have our top minor league affiliate three time zones away.

It’s a victory that won’t show up in any box score. Maybe it will be reflected in some future set of standings. It definitely feels very good in the psyche. We can’t pop champagne from it, but maybe vigorously pour yourself a room-temperature Genesee Cream Ale and toast something no longer going wrong.

Let it be recorded that the 2015 Mets and 2016 Mets did go to the postseason while maintaining a geographically confounding relationship with the Las Vegas 51s. It never made sense on paper that the Mets linked with Las Vegas, and too many of its callups were literally up in the air, flying four-and-a-half-hour flights (or nearly as long as it took for the Astros to oust the Red Sox) to land at Citi Field on few winks of sleep, but it didn’t necessarily directly limit the Mets’ chances to compete.

But it surely didn’t help. We all understand it was never the ideal arrangement. The Mets were shown the door after five fruitless seasons in Buffalo and had to set up Triple-A shop somewhere in North America prior to 2013. Las Vegas qualified as somewhere. Somewhere far away. The heat. The elevation. The distance. Mostly the distance. The drawbacks were familiar and self-evident.

Las Vegas 51s became New York Mets anyway. We asked for Zack Wheeler and we got him. Then Travis d’Arnaud. Noah Syndergaard, too. Jacob deGrom came through Las Vegas without fanfare. Amed Rosario and Dom Smith were hyped and we remain hopeful. There were plenty of others in between. Michael Conforto rose directly from Binghamton, yet found himself deposited in the desert when he was mysteriously deemed not as ready as previously presumed. Matt Reynolds was a walking, talking, frequently flying human timeshare.

Every team has its shuttle. Ours happened to run longer and seem more absurd than any other’s. Generations of Mets fans, let alone streams of Mets prospects, never had to think about this. From 1969 to 2006, if you needed a body or wanted an upgrade, you’d look to Tidewater. Somewhere along the way you learned Tidewater was essentially the same thing as Norfolk. We were told it was in Virginia. How close was Virginia to New York? It never came up. If a Tide couldn’t become a Met by that night’s BP, it wasn’t the system’s fault. The Tidewater-turned-Norfolk shuttle worked without an obvious hitch. It even delivered us a native product, young David Wright, in its latter stages.

I’d heard deposed skipper Wally Backman explain a while back that the Las Vegas inconvenience factor was overblown, that when you consider all the direct flights out of McCarran, shipping a 51 to Queens was no more a chore than landing him from some closer-in Triple-A precinct that didn’t have nearly as much airline service going for it. Maybe that was so. I always wanted to believe Wally knew something the rest of us didn’t, though anything that’s not as bad as it sounds still tends to be somewhat bad, or at least not as good as it could be. (That might describe how the Mets viewed Wally as a potential manager.)

Is Syracuse as good as it could be? When some bench player or bullpen arm is snowbound upstate come April 2019, we’ll likely find fault with our new affiliation. We’re Mets fans. We find fault like other fans find their teams in the postseason. But keeping a cache of if-necessary fill-ins in-state, where the air travel can be measured in minutes and the clocks don’t require resetting, instead of peering westward and waiting?

Let’s call it a win until proven otherwise.

19 comments to Viva Leaving Las Vegas

  • Ed

    Leaving Las vegas can’t happen soon enough. I really don’t understand how this gets co-ordinated in the first place. Not that you have to have all your teams in the same general area but 3000 miles a way is a bit much. I guess we can stick it out one more year with the 51’s.

  • Dave

    A while back, a few, but not many, Triple-A affiliations were up for grabs, and the Mets and the 51’s were the last ones without dance partners. That’s how this absurd relationship was forged, and it can’t end a moment too soon. Think, no more pitchers with ERA’s over 5 about whom we’re told “well, that’s pretty good for Vegas.”

    Gennesee Cream Ale at room temperature? OK, upstate…minor league…I get it. Still, Syracuse isn’t all that far from Ommegang in Cooperstown, is it?

  • Pete the Midnight Golfer

    Short flights yes. But the Wilpons chose Syracuse because of the close proximity of the Greyhound Bus station to the Chiefs stadium! Speaking of Genesee Cream Ale, it would be appropriate to rename the minor league club the “Genesee Screamers!”

  • Will in Central NJ

    Finally, the Wilpons hit a home run. When I travel up to Rochester for my son’s annual hockey tournament each April, I’ll now have a chance to see the triple-A Mets in action (whether they’re home in ‘Cuse or in Rochester or even Buffalo).

    It’s a win-win for all involved. Personally, I was previously wishing for the Mets and Athletics to swap affiliates: Mets get the Nashville Sounds; the A’s get the Las Vegas 51s. It made sense on a lot of levels. But having the Mets taking ownership of the Syracuse Chiefs? Virtually perfect.

  • mikeski

    Goddamnit, the Yankees.

  • Eric

    More good news: Nationals lose their NLDS, despite Murphy doing work again. Oddball game. They’re the only team in the play-offs I was rooting against.

    Yes, it’s dismaying that the Cubs are now into their 3rd straight NLCS while the once equally promising Mets have gone backwards during the same span and the Yankees look to be revving up their next dynasty. But those 2 teams aren’t division rivals.

    On the other hand, a short post-season run means the Nationals won’t have a deep play-off hangover entering next season. I’ll take it.

    I applaud the AAA move because it brings the AAA team physically closer to the oversight of big league management. Per Alderson, it wasn’t just the travel complications and the stats-warping elevation; the distant AAA club hasn’t been developing players like it’s supposed to. Maybe the Las Vegas location was distracting. With the AAA club moving to Syracuse, the GM can keep closer track.

    • Eric

      Add: As much as we’re unhappy with d’Arnaud at times, can a catcher have a worse game than Wieters in his NLDS game 5? He hit 2 for 4 and scored a run, but his catching was brutal and cost the Nationals the game.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Wasn’t Syracuse the Mets Triple A Farm team originally in 1962 before switching to Buffalo some time during the season? I seem to remember that, although curiously any reference I can find just now to 1962 Mets Farm teams only mentions Buffalo.

    • The Mets and Senators shared Syracuse in 1962, then the Mets moved their Triple-A operations to Buffalo for three seasons.

      • Ken K. in NJ

        Thanks! For some reason Baseball Reference doesn’t list any Mets affiliates above Class C for 1962. I do have the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (great book, btw), but I took the cryptic affiliation note of “10,16” (i.e. Mets and Senators) to mean they switched during the year, not that they shared it.

        I actually remembered the Syracuse affiliation because my Dad and I were at a Met game that year and some loud guy a few rows behind us kept yelling “Go Back to Syracuse” every time Marv Throneberry came up to bat.

        Hey, maybe in 2018 when, say, Tommy Milone gets taken out of yet another game in the 3rd inning, I can yell “Go Back to Syracuse” for old times sake.

  • 9th string OF

    Not going to get interested in this topic until they move back to Tidewater. Ed Kurpiel 4-evah!

  • chuck

    I’m guessing that everybody here knows, and no one cares, that the Genessee brewery is in Rochester, not Syracuse.

    • The regional beer brand reference will stand despite the estimated hour-and-a-half drive between Syracuse and Rochester. Substitute Utica Club if you need to save a half-hour.

      • chuck

        If you use Utica, you could substitute a bunch of beers that are contract brewed there, including Brooklyn Lager.

        But there are breweries in Syracuse. I just assume nobody here has ever heard of them.