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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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They Fell In to a Burning Ring of Fire

All heck has broken loose. The Fifth Circle of Met Hell is populated by men who had to really strive to land on the dark side. Jefferies, Kingman and Benitez accomplished varying degrees of good as New York Mets. Yet here they are in the part of MH just shy of where the MFs can be found.

Anybody else? Anybody we want to cast down, down, down into the burning ring of fire before we descend into the serious heat of Circles 6 through 9? 'Cause once we get there, there's no turning back. Those dudes are so out and out evil that each one of them gets a sphere unto his own bad self.

I can think of a few guys who deserve dishonorable mention, fellas who weren't altogether demonic but just the same shouldn't be let off with just a warning. There needs to be at least a little charbroiling around the edges of their cards, enough to keep them honest.

Five more for the first five Circles. Put 'em anywhere you want. I'm not particular. I am, however, peevish.

Brett Butler — He is the Demon of Logical Expectations Dashed. Brett Butler was every thinking fan's answer to the perennial black hole at the top of the order. He was the guy who punished us mightily as a Dodger in the early '90s, it seemed, because we didn't sign him when he was available after 1990. (Instead we signed another speedy outfielder, but let's not get ahead of our Hell.) When 1995 dawned late and Brett, 37, was still on the market, this was a chance to make good. We grabbed him. Brett was a Met. At last, he would bunt and steal and run down fly balls for us instead of against us. He would reverse the history that he could've positively affected in the first place. Brett Butler would be the greatest prototypical leadoff hitter the Mets had ever had. Yeah, that was the idea. Instead, Brett Butler never got untracked in New York. In fact, he rather sucked. Couldn't field worth a lick. Batted .311, which sounds good until you realize 1) he batted .344 against us as a Dodger from 1991 through 1994; 2) his average languished at .256 as late as July 16; 3) he put on this push, I'm now convinced, to get himself traded back on August 18 to his beloved old team and reunite with baseball's windiest bag Tommy Lasorda and harass some poor kid who played in replacement games in the spring and, upon hanging 'em up, criticize Mike Piazza as a “me player” or some such defamation of character. Whatever residual sympathy a human being would feel for Butler after it was revealed he had battled lip cancer shriveled when that human being received a form letter from a speakers' bureau extending an invitation to have Brett Butler speak to your company about what a great, pious guy Brett Butler is. His inspirational tale can be shared with your employees for a mere $20,000. I thought it was called “giving” testimony. Whatever real or imagined sins I've projected onto Brett Butler pale next to my irritation that I thought it was a really good idea that we sign him and it wasn't.

Pete Harnisch — Another one who was going to transform the 1995 Mets. He did no such thing. A total bust in '95 (2-8) and '96 (8-12). Gave up Tom Prince's only home run of 1995 at Shea while I watched. In later years, I'd get a kick out of Tom Prince's successes, Prince displays of athletic acumen being a rare phenomenon. I didn't that night. Somehow Harnisch rated the Opening Day start in '97 and was shelled. Then the fun started. He was overcome by tobacco. He was steamrolled by depression (as one who has been treated for panic attacks, I claim immunity to charges of insensitivity). He was blaming it all on Bobby Valentine who, granted, was unloved by any dozen players but was also busy lifting the Mets to their first winning record in seven years. By the time Harnisch crawled back to the rotation, he had nothing left except venom for Valentine. One said the other spoke with a forked tongue. I think it was Harnisch on Valentine. Bernard Gilkey presented the manager with a plastic fork as a show of team solidarity. Ya had to be there. Either way, the native Long Islander and Yankee fan (to paraphrase Joliet Jake Blues, I hate Long Island Yankee fans), was gone, good riddance. Natch he put up two very good seasons for Cincy thereafter. Some guys just piss you off by their very presence. That was Harnisch. He probably doesn't like me either.

Doug Sisk — No, not for why you think. Not because all at once a dependable setup man went south. I felt bad for Doug Sisk when he became the target of targets at Shea during the good times of the mid-'80s. Honestly, people, we're watching a team for the ages here and you're going nuts because Doug Sisk has fallen on hard times. Have some sympathy for a pitcher who rolled us to the cusp of the promised land in '84. What's the point of booing him? (I'd repeat that line ten or eleven-thousand more times from then until now.) By '86, he was kind of not altogether terrible, I don't think. When he lurked in the pen ready to start the eleventh inning of Game Six should it have come to that, I wasn't completely ready to kill myself. It never came to that and he was still around in '87. The first game I ever took Stephanie to, on May 15, 1987, featured Doug Sisk. The Mets had a big lead. Homers galore. El Sid was pitching a no-no through five. It was a festive night. But Sid had to leave with one of those nagging Sid injuries. In with nothing but emergency tosses and a big surplus on the scoreboard came Doug Sisk. The Giants immediately touched him up. Everybody except possibly me and my new girlfriend were booing (and maybe Steph joined in so as not to feel left out). Aw, c'mon! We're the defending world champions and we're winning and he's not blowing it for us. Lay off! No, I never held any animus for Doug Sisk when he was a failing Met. So why Hell? Because after he was mercifully traded by the Mets to Baltimore after '87, he said (and I'm paraphrasing) that he had no intention of ever wearing his 1986 World Series ring again. Instead, he'd wear the one he'd win with the Orioles. Let the record show that the Baltimore Orioles, with Doug Sisk a pillar of their relief corps, opened 1988 with 21 consecutive losses. Say something that fucking stupid and you deserve to rot in Hell, you worthless ingrate.

Rich Rodriguez — This exercise needs a situational lefty. They can't all be let off as bit players in the larger melodrama. Of all the sad southpaws too numerous to mention, I condemn ye Rich Rodriguez to the fires down below. I choose you because on the sopping cold afternoon of May 20, 2000, I waited out a three-hour rain delay (three hours!) with Joe to witness the Mets take on the Diamondbacks. That's three hours with Joe and no baseball. There was no guarantee that the thing would ever start and I wasn't in much of a mood to find out if it ever would. “Why are we even staying?” I asked. “Because,” Joe said, “this might be the day the Mets get their first no-hitter.” God damn it! Why did he have to say that? Well, the weather cleared and the game got underway and Mike Hampton didn't throw a no-hitter, but the Mets got themselves eight runs and things were going swimmingly if slowly. Come the eighth inning, I'm tired and looking at train schedules. Sure, like every other fan who likes to trumpet his moral superiority, I generally don't leave games early (and I give every foul ball I catch to strange kids; yeah, right), but I'd had a good six hours in the company of Joe (great guy, let's leave it at that) and soggy Shea and the thing wasn't in doubt. If I missed this opportunity to bolt, I wouldn't get home to my wife, who'd been waiting for me as long as Sisk had been waiting for his Baltimore jewelry, until like midnight three weeks from Thursday. When the eighth was over, I gathered my stuff and informed Joe that this was it, I'm leaving, I promised Stephanie I'd return before Flag Day, game's in the bag, OK? Joe, who in a game situation (which is to say at any moment from first pitch to last), rarely exchanges glances with anything but the field and his scorebook, didn't look at me. He just told me that it was fine with him, but if the Mets blow this 8-2 lead, that it's on my head. Ha ha, I said. And as I turned to leave, mop-up reliever Rich Rodriguez surrendered a single to erstwhile forking Met Bernard Gilkey. As I exited the stadium, Travis Lee doubled. As I swiped my Metrocard, Danny Klaasen walked. As I looked left for the 7 from Flushing, Tony Womack singled. As I boarded, Damian Miller singled. Fuck! Rich Rodriguez is giving this thing away, I'm at 111th Street and it's on my head and what's worse, Joe's never, ever going to let me forget it. It took Franco and then Benitez to right things, and if those are your heroes, you know who your villain is. The final score as the LIRR train I needed pulled into Woodside was Mets 8 Diamondbacks 7 Rich Rodriguez Screw You. Never mind that we won. Joe has never, ever let me forget it. It's on my head. Later in 2000, when the Mets graciously sent all their non-roster scrubs out to the foul line to take part in the introductions prior to Game Three of the NLDS, only one demi-Met was booed to within an inch of his life. And only one Met has ever been booed by me during the postseason. Let it be on your head, Rich.

Mike Bacsik — In 1992, Eric Hillman came to the Mets and bolstered their rotation shortly after their pennant race hopes crumbled. Still, it was a nice shot in the arm, a rookie tossing two gems in his first two starts. The second win, in San Francisco, earned him an interview with Gary Cohen the next day on the pregame show. I guess Gary felt there hadn't been enough Hillman revealed because he asked something along the lines of “is there anything you'd like to do differently next time out?” as his last question. Big Eric (he was 6' 10″) responded, “I'd like to see that George Bush is re-elected.” With that, the interview was over and I could never root for Eric Hillman again (not that there'd be much opportunity). If there's one thing I don't need to know, it's where ballplayers, particularly Met ballplayers, stand politically. OK, I admit it: Eric Hillman and I had divergent views on who would make a better president. I suppose if he started singing the praises of Governor Bill Clinton that I would've been predisposed in his favor, maybe. But maybe not. Ballplayers are private citizens and have every right to express their views, but don't drag that shit in here, y'know what I mean? (Which is kind of what I seem to be doing at the moment, I reckon, but we are talking Hell, so decorum is bound to get singed.) And if you do, at least don't suck. A preponderance of Major Leaguers with an opinion on such matters, I've learned over the years, vote differently from how I do. Doesn't bother me. Mike Piazza actually compared Rush Limbaugh to George Washington last season and it didn't stop me from loving Mike, no matter how deranged that comment was. Zeile and Trachsel and Leiter (especially) all swing to the right and I didn't think twice about cheering for them as Mets. It's the Hillmans that good sense (if not logic) tells me should shut the eff up about such things, at least for the record. So it was in spring training of 2003 that the New York Post — no really, the Post — did a story on how supportive the Mets were of the war in Iraq. Two players leap to mind as having been quoted: David Weathers and Mike Bacsik. I don't remember exactly what Weathers said, but I distinctly recall Bacsik, with all of 14 big league games to his credit, lit out after the bleeping liberals who were ruining this country by not getting in line behind our president, et al. That was it for me and Mike Bacsik. The 10.19 ERA he compiled, even while wearing the uniform of my team, filled me with joy throughout all five appearances he made prior to his disappearance from the active roster (imagine not being good enough to pitch for the 2003 Mets). You want to tell me I'm a bad American? Don't be such a crummy National Leaguer while you're doing so.

Anyway, those are my Hellish leftovers. Yet they're practically Princes (and I don't mean Tom) compared to who we're gonna meet next. It will be my privilege to take it down a notch to the Sixth Circle. You're not gonna like who's waiting for us. He could bring about world peace and universal health care and I know I wouldn't like him.

Omar Minaya is talking to everybody at the Winter Meetings, and I mean everybody. Find out who has a spirited proposal that's very much to his liking at Gotham Baseball.

7 comments to They Fell In to a Burning Ring of Fire

  • Anonymous

    I know I'm breaking all the rules here and have absolutely no say in the official proceedings, but before we descend any further, I'd just like to put Rey Ordonez and John Franco in these first five circles. Course, if I had my way and didn't have time to think about other foes, the ninth circle might feature Franco being perpetually hit in the shoulder by Vince Coleman's golf club…

  • Anonymous

    Dude, Rey was the very first, if most shallow, inductee.
    John Franco is merely guilty by association.

  • Anonymous

    I'm really enjoying this series. Without spoiling anything, you make it sound like the Final Four circles are only going to have one occupant each. Is that accurate?

  • Anonymous

    Oh yeah. How silly of me. I thought for some reason that he was excluded from the proceedings.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps: Hebner…Bonilla…V.Coleman…K.Rogers…?

  • Anonymous

    Regardless of the established guidelines (who can remember back that far anyway) there can not be a Met's Hell without M. Donald Grant, Steve Phillips, Jeff Torborg or George Bamberger. Every club, including Hell, needs a mean old bean counter, a know-it-all pretty boy, a feller clinging to the bottom rung and an old boozer snoozing on the bar. While the players may make it Hell, it's these old atmosphere guys who make it Met's Hell. Maybe Dallas Green can be the towel boy…