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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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Hanging On Before Moving On

Yeah, winter is without use. Evaluating every milepost along its dreary way, from Halloween through April Fool's — it's all winter until Opening Day — only serves to remind us that there's no new baseball immediately en route. How anybody can invest anticipation toward anything that doesn't start with a first pitch is beyond me.

Good news is the Mets have assured us of a shorter winter than that to which we've become accustomed. When was the final out of 2006? Too soon is the correct answer, but technically somewhere around 11:45 PM, October 19. Thanks to the irony cops, we open in St. Louis on April 2 at, I'm guessing, 4:05 PM Eastern (the Cardinals will probably have some unsavory, self-congratulatory rituals to muddle through). So if I've calculated correctly, the Baseball Equinox will occur in Metsopotamia on Wednesday, January 10 at around 7:55 AM. That will represent the approximate midpoint between the last curve broken off by Adam Wainwright and the first fastball fired by Chris Carpenter.

Progress? You bet. Last year's Baseball Equinox arrived in the wee hours eight days earlier, indicative that the 2005 regular season closed without playoff ado. This year we were granted 18 extra days of summer. That's something to keep in mind as the sun begins to regularly drop from the sky at two every afternoon. And on that frigid second Wednesday morning of January, as you scrape that newest layer of frost from your windshield, just remember that the worst has melted.

Until then, until next year, there is what is suddenly last year. It's not going anywhere…not if I have anything to say about it.

Y'know what I ran across in my mess of stuff a little while back? A requiem, if you will, for the 1988 season that I wrote the night the Dodgers shut the Mets out in that year's distressing Game Seven. I wrote down all the things that were worth remembering, including the Pedro Guerrero incident…Lenny's hand in the air…HoJo's shot off Gott…Kevin + Darryl: 5 RBIs apiece in Philly…Elster's two off Leary…

If I strain really hard, I kind of think I remember what the hell most of those things were, but I'm not altogether positive. 1988 had been a fantastic season. Its postseason left a little to be desired, but we won a hundred games and a division title by 15 lengths. Today that's an afterthought. Today that's a shame. How many runaway romps do we have in our scrapbook anyway? 1988's was, at most, our third. The one we just witnessed was our fourth. I'm hangin' on to this one for now.

Lest you think me the neighbor who won't take down the Christmas lights, allow me to elaborate on the shortsightedness of relentlessly adhering to the long view.

On Opening Day 1987, the Mets threw themselves a lovely ceremony to distribute jewelry and raise a flag. My mother offered to videotape it for me. Nah, I said, that's about last year. I want to focus on this year.

It was a popular theme that spring. With Darryl having been accused of this and Doc having been caught doing that, the Mets made a lot of noise about leaving this and that in the past and moving full steam ahead. George Vecsey suggested the team's slogan be something along the lines of “The 1987 Mets: We're Putting It Behind Us.”

The Mets wouldn't be in a World Series for 14 more years. That one, 2000, didn't go as swimmingly as '86's. Several changes were made. Those Mets who were new for 2001 weren't part of the National League champs. Those Mets who remained were guys who lost the World Series. The Daily News slapped a conventional wisdom headline, “Mets make World go away,” over a thoughtful Lisa Olson column in which she reported the mood in St. Lucie had morphed over the winter from “what ifs?” to “what nows?”.

2001 was, essentially, as successful as 1987. The Mets had moved on from their predecessor seasons with only another year of age to show for it. 2000, like 1986, faded because it was time to move on.

We're always waiting 'til next year, even immediately after years when we were completely fulfilled or darn close to it. Next year looks awfully good every year when this year has lapsed into last year, but I'm not about next year. Not just yet. I'm not done with this/last year. In fact, I'm bringing it out for a curtain call.

Besides, I couldn't tell you a damn thing about 2007 even if I wanted to, save maybe that unless it goes wonderfully well, I'll be spending a good bit of it missing 2006. No reason to start doing that at this early stage.

I ask those of you who are already burying what we just lived through in the closet of your subconscious because a) it's over and b) it didn't end exactly the way you wanted it to, what's your hurry? What's your rush? Why move on so soon? Before you know it, you'll have forgotten more of 2006 than you realized you remembered. And that, too, will be a shame.

Don't let one disappointing series get the best of you. Don't let the sting of four games at extended-summer's end — really just two ninth innings, Games Two and Seven — wreck the otherwise beautiful greensward on which we danced 'neath the cover of October skies. Don't think this wasn't terrific, stupendous or, in the most overused word in sports these days, tremendous. Don't sink deep into the sofa of denial when somebody wants to talk about 2006. Don't mope that it's too depressing or grumble that it's too infuriating or insist that it's too frustrating. Don't be like that.

It wasn't. It isn't.

Sure, we missed out on the totally, totally awesome experience. We've only had two of those in 45 seasons (batting .044 in the ultimate prize department). It wasn't even as good as getting to the final plateau. No world championship or pennant. In stark terms, it means 2006 was undeniably not as good as 1986, 1969, 2000 or 1973. It couldn't be. It didn't go as far.

But that's it. In my judgment, this year beat all others in franchise annals. I give 2006 fifth place on points over 1999 (a little closer to the World Series plus a division title) and 1988 (one playoff series win more, albeit in a form unavailable 18 autumns ago). Even if you don't buy that edge, even if you hold out for '99 (greater drama) and '88 (stronger pitching) as a wee bit better for some reason, then this was no worse than the seventh-best season in Mets history.

However you slice it, it's upper-tier material, the top 16th-percentile. We didn't get definitively fitted for the brass ring nor did we get to remain on Fox for an extra week, but we did everything else. We did more than we did the year before and the year before that and more than 27 of 29 other teams in captivity did this year.

Good stuff. Very good stuff. Excellent stuff. Extraordinary stuff.

So don't get over it. Because with one or two glaring exceptions, there's nothing to get over.

I'm going to dwell on 2006 this week. I don't think it's unreasonable. I just dwelled on 1986 over 43 consecutive Fridays. I spent several days on 2005 in October 2005 and we won 83 games in 2005. I took two days in December 2005 to dwell on 1979 and we won 63 games in 1979. There's a lot to be said for living in the present and for the future, but face it: baseball means something to us because of the past. The past — what happened 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, two weeks ago — is what made us who we are and fuels us toward what we will become.

All my agos keep growing wider. When April 2 rolls around, the Mets' last league championship will be seven years ago, the Mets' last world championship will be 21 years ago and the day I first fondled a baseball card and was intrigued by that four-letter word under Ed Kranepool's picture will be 40 (!) years ago. I suppose I should be dismayed that time is doing a number on me.

But piling up all these agos also means I've witnessed more history to this juncture in my life than I ever had before. More baseball history, more Mets history, a library of recollection whose latest bulging volume is marked 2006. Let's recall it and revel in it before the hazy Shea of winter plows its most vivid details hard to the side of the road.

26 comments to Hanging On Before Moving On

  • Anonymous

    I look forward to your musings on the 2006 season. We have a lot to savor from this past year.

  • Anonymous

    I personally wish the faux Mets network (we were really sold a bill of goods there, weren't we??) would show MORE 2006 repeats right now, and fewer 1986. I wouldn't mind some 1999 and 2000, either. With all the hours wasted by all these irrelevant college football repeats, think of all the Mets we could be wallowing in.
    Programming note: Tonight at 7ET, 9/21/01. Enough said.

  • Anonymous

    Won't even ask what that four-letter word was under Eddie's name…
    Joe D.

  • Anonymous

    Greg – you're a better man than I. The blinding, numbing depression lifted a week ago, but I am still not ready to bask in the warm afterglow of '06. Particularly not after watching some WS baseball last week and getting a sense of what a truly horse-shit team the Tigers are, and how if Mota and/or Wagner do their job in Game 2, or someone had got a clutch hit in Game 7, we'd all be spending small fortunes on licensed championship apparel and I wouldn't be moping around and all the Mets-branded birthday pesents I got last week would have made us all much happier and… and…
    I'll need a few more days.

  • Anonymous

    The Tigers are a great team who had a bad week… like the bad weeks our great team had in September & October. ;-)
    Cheer up, Kong! The beauty of all this is that we get another shot in a few months!! Not to mention the fact that the Yankees got tossed out before we did, resulting in their SIXTH CONSECUTIVE RINGLESS SEASON. Surely that's worth a smile, at least…

  • Anonymous

    Amen, Laurie!
    I don't seek them out any more, but I sometimes engage the occasional Yankee fan in conversation. When he or she starts getting that entitlement attitude, I smile and say, “Now, I forget – how far did your team get in the playoffs this year?”
    I guess I could add, “And how many years has it been since you actually WON a World Series?”.
    No. Too cruel for me. Rather look ahead to March '07.

  • Anonymous

    I'm fond of telling them that the statute of limitations on bragging rights for the 2000 World Series (not to mention the 1927 World Series) ran out long ago… so it's really about time they stopped acting like they're the defending world champions. They're right down in the mud with the rest of us–no better, no worse.
    Bragging about the 90s or the 70s (not much to brag about in the 80s) is a pointless, desperate and pathetic exercise. Add that to the pathetic desperation of bragging about the 20s through the 60s, and you've got yourself a really sad existence there, my friend. The bottom of the barrel has been scraped raw by Yankee fans.

  • Anonymous

    There are two types of Yankee fans… the kind who through no fault of their own (bad parenting, poor life choices) have been fans since they were young but can still talk baseball intelligently. And the kind that screams “26 rings, baby!”, showed up ten (if that) years ago, and couldn't tell you who Dave Winfield or Thurman Munson was. I don't bother with the latter. I don't taunt them about Met success, or mock their decrepit rotation and aging lineup and feeble 3rd baseman (and after DWright's October, we all better keep mum on that subject) or engage them in any way. They're like the drunk guy at the end of the bar pontificating about politics. Nothing intelligent to say, and he'll probably get drool on you, so stay away.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, it'll suck that we have to open in St. Louis and watch their ceremony, but I distinctly remember having a blast on Opening Day 2001, when the Mets hoisted the NL Pennant in front of the Braves. To the victor go the spoils.

  • Anonymous

    While we're on the subject of next year's schedule…
    Over on the MOFO (aka New York Sports Day) message board, there are people who have pieced together the Mets' 2007 dates.
    Check out this interleague horseshit:
    THE METS PLAY EVERY AL PLAYOFF TEAM! 6 v. the Yankees as per usual, 3 at DET & 3 each with MIN & OAK at Shea.
    Somebody please tell me how THIS is fair and I'll buy you a cigar…

  • Anonymous

    This schedule was made before the playoffs. It's just a coincidence. One I'm certainly not complaining about, because I get to see my Twins WITHOUT venturing into enemy territory (Skankville) for a change. Hasn't happened since 2002.

  • Anonymous

    That all may very well be, but am I the only one who thinks this puts our good guys at a competetive disadvantage even before a single spring training pitch is thrown?

  • Anonymous

    I don't think it does at all. What any team does in September/October this year has no bearing on what they might do next year. If in 2005 you saw the Twins or Tigers on our schedule for 2006, you might have seen it as a good chance for a sweep. Then again, in October 2005, did ANYONE look so bad that WE could possibly sweep them? (The Twins looked that bad this year up until the end of June.)
    There's no way of knowing how good or bad any team might be next year. Too much can happen between now and then.

  • Anonymous

    OK. Seeing you're the second person in a week to use this same logic, I'll chalk it up to it being a pet peeve and let it go…

  • Anonymous

    The teams we're going to face in interleague are predetermined, several years in advance. Just so happens that in 2006, the AL Central had its turn as the most competitive division in baseball. Next year it will be another division that eats each other alive, and we may or may not have to face them in 2008 (and it may or may not be in the AL).
    Don't worry so much yet, my dear Charlie. It's way too early to be preparing alibis for next year… ;-)

  • Anonymous

    Wait, why would we be facing Det (central) and two teams from the west. I though it was one division, and the Yankees. 2006 was Tor Bos and Balt, all from the East.
    Just odd.

  • Anonymous

    oops, two central, one west (OAK)
    Point remains the same though.

  • Anonymous

    They're all jumbled up. The Yankees are playing the Mets, Giants, Rockies, D-Backs &….Pirates???
    The Dodgers have only their 6 against Anaheim & 6 against Toronto, while the Phillies will also take on the Jays, and supplement them with the White Sox, Detroit, KC & Cleveland.
    It's a mess this year…

  • Anonymous

    I wish they'd do away with the whole thing. It's a nuisance. Well, after I get to see the Twins at Shea again, of course… ;-)

  • Anonymous

    Great blog! I agree that 2006 was a great year. Having never been to a playoff game, ever, in my 31 years, Game 7 was the best and worst game I have ever seen in person. I'll never forget the elation the entire stadium (save a few wayward Cardinal fans) felt when Endy made that catch, and the undeniable disappointment when Carlos K'd. I am still feeling it, and I still can't believe they lost. However, it was still a great year, and next year is going to be even better.
    Let's Go Mets!

  • Anonymous

    Look at it this way: Even if all four of those teams do happen to be hot again next year, then when October comes, the potential AL opponent in the series will hold no terrors for the Mets, because we'll have seen them all already during the season.

  • Anonymous

    What's in the Daily News? I'll tell what's in the Daily News! Story of a guy who will stay here at Shea and give opponents the blues! That's what's in the Daily News!
    Glavine, 2 years, $25 mil. Apparently.

  • Anonymous

    “Glavine, who has shared a stage with John Smoltz and Greg Maddux throughout their distinguished major-league careers, would prefer not to enter the Hall of Fame in the same class as Maddux”
    HA! Don't worry, Tom… you're not NEARLY in the same class as Maddux!! NOT EVEN CLOSE!!!! (I know, I know. That's not what they meant. But I couldn't resist.)

  • Anonymous

    Interleague is indeed a huge nuisance. The novelty of the “rivalry” games has worn off, and they are the only reason for interleague play in the first place (Mets/Royals: catch the magic!).
    Most importantly it screws with the competitive balance of things. We're playing the best team in the AL six times every year, and our divisional rivals aren't. And don't even get me started on the unfairness of the wildcard. You have teams from all three divisions competing for one spot and with the unbalanced schedule, teams in the crappier divisions have an inherent advantage. NL East teams are beating each other up, while NL West and Central clubs feast on the Little Sisters of the Poor like the Cubs, Brewers and Rockies 19X a season. No more interleague, no more unbalanced schedule, and contract a handful of non-contenders into AAA.

  • Anonymous

    This, on the other hand, SUX A LOT!