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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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Take a Good Look in the Marrero

In the interest of Eastern Division solidarity, it's high time we rouse ourselves from our stupor and extend our heartiest congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies and wish them all the luck in the world as they pursue a world championship. Go get 'em in the NLDS, guys!

Wait a sec…I'm just being handed a bulletin…I see…really?…three straight?…you sure?…no, it's fine…it's more than fine…this is AWESOME!

Um, just to clarify the above remarks, we extend our heartiest congratulations to the Colorado Rockies and wish them all the luck in the world as they pursue a world championship. Go get 'em in the NLCS, guys!

All right, so I haven't had my head that far down in the sand not to have noticed the Rockies made quick work of our nemeses this week. And I'm not so numb that I didn't enjoy the three blinks of an eye it took to complete the division series round in the National League — and not just because it means fewer Frank TV ads. I wouldn't have completely minded the Cubs getting the monkey house off their backs already yet after 99 years, but I can never quite bring myself to root for them even in benign circumstances (probably because they as a people are still sniveling over 1969), so nice job, Diamondbacks. The Rockies' conquest of the Phillies, however, required no sorting of the mixed emotions.

The Phillies are dead! Grab a seat next to us, fellas.

You can't be a Mets fan and not have been drawn to the one intimately familiar presence in those neat-o Martian jerseys the Colorados wear. I've actually read a little grumbling here and there that of all the Rockies to blow the P straight off those red caps, why did it have to be our former shortstop and second baseman Kaz Matsui who led the charge? We liked that somebody was batting .417 and driving in six runs versus Philadelphia…but did it have to be Kaz?

Damn right it had to be Kaz! I for one couldn't be happier that it was our wayward leadoff batter, the world's most misunderstood international superstar during his 2-1/2 years in New York.

Don't take this as revisionist history. I was relieved (relieved more than glad) when Omar Minaya sent him to Denver for Eli Marrero. It was just time to say goodbye to a bad fit and give a player who was given some poor guidance to start over. Kaz's contract was up after '06 and I thought he'd hightail it back to Japan, deciding the grass and dirt infields of America just weren't his kind of playing fields.

But he stayed and he became part of the feelgoodiest story in baseball in 2007. It's not like he put up Rickey Henderson numbers in the leadoff spot for the Rockies, yet he seemed to have truly found himself two-thirds of a continent away. He wasn't Kaz Matsui global savior at Coors Field. He was just Kaz Matsui, baseball player. On a team that never marketed the spit out of him, that was plenty. When he began slicing and dicing the Phillies' pitching staff, it brought a Mr. Met-size smile to my face. True, any Rockie doing that would have generated such grinsome behavior, but it was just nice to see it from Kaz.

There shouldn't be any “well, the Mets let another one get away” misgivings to mull here. We saw it wasn't going to happen here. We saw he wasn't comfortable in Queens. We saw that all his effort was mostly for naught despite flashes between 2004 and 2006 of the kind of offense he delivered in Game Two at Citizens Bank Park. So we shouldn't rue Marrero-for-Matsui nor spite a speck of his success in Colorado.

But we ought to ask ourselves a question: what's wrong with us anyway? As quickly as I would categorize Kaz Matsui among the almost indisputable “he needed a change of scenery” types who have left Shea to blossom elsewhere, I have to wonder why there are so many of those types and if we have a disproportionate share.

Kaz Matsui had to leave the Mets to blossom.

Jason Isringhausen had to leave the Mets to blossom.

Jeff Kent had to leave the Mets to blossom.

Kevin Mitchell had to leave the Mets to blossom.

Mike Scott had to leave the Mets to blossom.

Nolan Ryan had to leave the Mets to blossom.

With everybody leaving and blossoming, how does our garden grow?

Kaz was treated shabbily by the vocal contingent in the stands, no doubt. Kent didn't exactly win over the fans who weren't in the mood to be won over by a drugstore cowboy. But the other fellows in question weren't targets for the boobirds. Maybe country boy Ryan just needed to get regular work. Maybe Scott needed to learn to scuff the ball. Maybe Mitchell wouldn't have been held above suspicion long enough to get the at-bats to become an MVP. Maybe Izzy needed to get his head together and embrace a new role. Maybe none of them were “New York guys”.

But what does it say of New York? What does it say of the Mets and Mets fans? I suppose we've gotten a few in return, guys who came here and were uniquely suited to New York after finding only failure elsewhere, but it's hard to think of too many players who meet the equivalent test. Who was run or driven out of another town only to come here and explode like Matsui has of late or the others did in the course of their careers?

The Hernandezes and Carters and Piazzas weren't in this mode. They were already superstars when they came to New York. And I'm not thinking of an unknown kid like Jerry Grote or a surprising pickup like Rico Brogna or a disregarded journeyman like Rick Reed or a discarded veteran like John Olerud. I'm thinking of somebody else's washout, somebody else's pariah, somebody else's outcast.

I'm still thinking.

23 comments to Take a Good Look in the Marrero

  • Anonymous

    Thank goodness the Phillies lost in three. Now the Phillies Phans who work in the local supermarket won't be quite so eager to talk baseball anymore.
    And agreed about Frank TV – those commercials have convinced me that I will never watch that show. Doesn't TBS have anything else they want to promote, just for variety's sake?

  • Anonymous

    Frank Caliendo is a funny guy but we've seen his act so often during these games that it seems like we've seen the show before it's on.
    TBS has the funny “My Boys” staring the oh-so-cute Jordana Spiro who plays a Cubs beat reporter. It's in reruns but maybe they should plug that show once in awhile.

  • Anonymous

    My Boys is an enjoyable enough show, and it lends itself to entertaining enough promos. So why aren't they throwing that in, just for a change of pace?
    The guy who constantly yells at us about postseason baseball is also wearing on my nerves.

  • Anonymous

    Ollie Perez.

  • Anonymous

    Jose Valentin?

  • Anonymous

    I still can't believe Dane Cook is rich and famous. The only comedian in the world who forged his popularity on MySpace instead of, say, making people laugh.

  • Anonymous

    Back in the day, the press may have been rough but the fans were much sweeter with tickets topping out at $10.

  • Anonymous

    Mike Scott had to leave the Mets to learn an illegal pitch!

  • Anonymous

    How about Howard Johnson? He was kind of a scrub in detroit for a couple years before he came east….

  • Anonymous

    Good to see Philly and Chicago go down so easily! Basically I cant stand any team from both of these cities..Do I sound bitter? You bet your ass I do! Lets complete the circle and see the Yankees go down too!!!
    After our disastrous end, I'm feeling a bit nasty….

  • Anonymous

    how about david cone?
    he was a pretty good pickup.

  • Anonymous

    kaz is benefiting very much from coors. his splits this year were hilarious: .330/.381/.482 at home (all 4 of his HR came at home as well), .249/.304/.333 on the road.

  • Anonymous

    Cone wasn't really a washout. He was a rookie sent away when KC decided it desperately needed a catcher (Ed Hearn) and either undervalued what it was trading or overvaluing what it was getting.

  • Anonymous

    Liked CBP well enough last week.

  • Anonymous

    HoJo…not a bad answer. He was definitely somebody soured on where he was who blossomed bienially in NY.

  • Anonymous

    Less a wear-out-his-welcome type than a journeyman who'd had some good seasons. But boy did we miss his production from 2006 in 2007.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely right, Greg. Good for Kaz, strange for us.
    How about Endy Chavez? He was never a pariah like Kaz, but he was definitely considered to be kind of junk. And definitely blossomed.
    The Twins have an even worse chin-scratcher. David Ortiz would probably never have become Big Papi without coming to Boston, but damn. Talk about blossoming in a new home.

  • Anonymous

    Endy…maybe. Certainly worked out for us and he was written off as a head case in 2005. Didn't become an MVP or Cy Young winner (Scott, Ryan, Mitchell, Kent) but was a playoff hero (like Matsui, albeit in a lost cause). I tend to think of him as a clever pickup for a role player, but he's definitely in the plus column.
    That David Ortiz was non-tendered remains mind-boggling. Deserves to go down with Brock-for-Broglio, except the Twins got nothing and the Cubs got a guy who had once won 21 games.

  • Anonymous

    But Howard was on the '84 Detroit team that went all the way. To quote Clint Hurdle: “Where HoJo goes, champagne flows.” I guess that only works as far as him as a player.

  • Anonymous

    HoJo was dismissed by Sparky Anderson as someone who wouldn't come through in the clutch and was given only one at-bat in the 1984 postseason. Couldn't wait to trade him.

  • Anonymous

    Rick Reed and Turk Wendell blossomed here. Both were very sad to leave. Turk even said on Best Damn Sports Show that being a New York Met was the best thing that ever happened to him. Todd Pratt has his finest moment as a Met. He, too, was very sad to leave here.
    John Maine has blossomed here, and stands to be a regular fixture in our rotation for a long time.
    And, I know a lot of Mets fans still hate him, but Al Leiter blossomed here too.
    Edgardo Alfonzo was terrific for the Mets, but was downright terrible elsewhere.
    And all this is just off the top of my head.

  • Anonymous

    Turk's probably the best example of what I was thinking about. He wore out his welcome after being hyped in Chicago. Reinvented himself as a valuable middle man here. Good one. The other guys you cite were all better as Mets than as anything else, but aren't really in that “he needed a change of scenery to blossom” mode. Pratt was a backup catcher who remained a backup catcher (and we wouldn't be talking about him to this day if it hadn't been for one swing in one October…but neither would we remember a whole host of guys if that were a disqualifier). Reed, like I said, was a journeyman who was given a chance at last; Maine was an undervalued prospect. Leiter had some credentials and was only traded away because Wayne Huizenga was burning the house down in Miami.
    Not too many Alfonzos who went in the other direction, however, players who were great as Mets and weren't great thereafter (with some career left in them). Tommie Agee, who the White Sox gave up on too soon, was never the same post-Mets.
    Good points all around. Thanks.