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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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The Powerlessness of Inaction

Remember mediocrity is not a mortal sin.

—Frank Loesser, “Brotherhood of Man,” How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Nobody's been fired, but an entire team was recently spotted quitting.

The New York Mets have tendered their resignation from the competitive rigors of the baseball season. They gave their notice in Atlanta last week. I accepted it last night.

They've agreed to stay on indefinitely in a caretaker role.

When a less vested Keith Hernandez (then of MSG, then not so solidly re-established as icon-in-residence) wrote of the Mets in 2002 that they had quit, he was forced to issue an immediate mea culpa and pretend they hadn't. Mike Piazza uncharacteristically arched his back and hissed that an ex-player just shouldn't use the q-word and Keith, cornered, caved (ironically quitting on his own honest assessment). The 2002 Mets had indeed acquitted themselves like quitters for 5-1/2 months to that point. The ensuing legend-on-legend kerfuffle was but one more disturbing sideshow in a circus of seasonlong embarrassment for one of the worst teams money ever bought.

The 2002 Mets of the misguided arrivals of Alomar and Vaughn and the ill-advised second comings of Cedeño and Burnitz and the 12-game losing streak and the winless home August and Bobby V demonstrating for the assembled multitudes of the press why toking would cut down on your bat speed…the 2002 Mets were all grit and all heart compared to these 2008 Mets.

Thus, I accept their resignation. In fact, I applaud them for getting the paperwork filed so early, thereby giving us ample time to conduct a thorough search for candidates who can more ably fill their positions.

Funny thing is I don't hate these Mets, not like I did the 2002 version or some other aggravating aggregations of players whose presence in the uniforms I hold dear discomfited me. There isn't a single 2008 Met who truly gets under my skin, whom I secretly or vocally wish to fail just once more in the clutch so management will see he's a fraud and he'll be shown the door. They're likable enough as people from what I can tell. None of them, no matter their continuing ineptitude, is hateable. I don't by any means care for their performance as individuals or as a unit, but I don't have it in personally for even one in 25 of them.

Besides, what are the odds anybody here is ever going to be shown a door?

Willie Randolph has made a strong statistical case to move into the slot of erstwhile manager of the New York Mets. As of this morning, he has not been offered the spot. His musing out loud as to why he's not universally embraced gets him called in for a talk. His team sucking out loud doesn't seem to nudge the powers that be toward any kind of action.

There was nothing new at Shea last night in terms of peerless leadership or inspired play — Let's Win None For Willie! — but the landscape was noticeably altered beyond the left field fence. The Keyspan sign is no more, as Keyspan is no more. It's been replaced by a sign advertising its successor utility, National Grid. NG's slogan, visible on the Picnic Area light tower, is “The Power Of Action”.

Such an empty consultant-driven tagline conveys absolutely nothing to the consumer (if the gas company doesn't advertise its name enough, will people make their own gas at home?) just as the 2008 Mets appear destined to do almost as little for their patrons. They have done next to nothing since this season began. If they can maintain their present pace, I suspect they will have lived up to their potential.

They're really ungood. This is not an illusion, this is not a rough patch, this is not one of those potholes a team has to steer around in the course of the schedule. This is an abyss and the Mets are not equipped to rise above it.

They're not. So why bother kidding myself that they are?

As of Monday, as of the traditional Memorial Night singleheader, I've changed my approach to viewing the 2008 Mets. I no longer expect them to turn it around. I no longer wait on that hot streak that will lift their record and their fortunes. I no longer feel let down by their stubborn inertia. I no longer, I think, anger at the prospect of a losing season.

Somewhere in the course of last evening, a soft spring night in Loge alongside my friend and host Gene (the razor-sharp and terribly gracious fellow you'll recognize as albertsonmets), I could hear myself quitting on the idea that my team is any good. It wasn't Reyes' reincarnation as Frank Taveras; it wasn't Pelfrey's living tribute to Rick Ownbey; it wasn't that the 2-hitter singled, the 3-hitter singled, the cleanup hitter bunt-singled, the 5-hitter sac-flied, the 6-hitter grounded to first and the 7-hitter flied out and from a bases-loaded/none-out situation following a leadoff homer exactly one run was scored; it wasn't necessarily that the average Met batter from the fifth through the ninth spent less time working the Marlin pitcher than security spent looking through my bag.

It wasn't any of that specifically yet it was all of that together. It was this season up to last night, how in their wins they're wan, how in their losses they're lame. It was last September and last summer. It was whoever up top who decided, yet again, that it's better to keep up appearances and maintain a veneer of stability by retaining a progressively less successful manager than it is to act and grab a season that's not one-third done by the throat and to try to make something of it before it's too late, before it gets even later than it already is. I really wasn't rooting for Willie Randolph to be fired but I realized, after he wasn't, how badly I was rooting for something to happen.

Nothing happened. Nothing ever does. Not on the field, certainly. Not behind the scenes, apparently. Omar and Willie give a press conference in which they act as if 2006 will be right back after this call to the bullpen. The break's been underway for a calendar year. We haven't come back from it.

The silliest sentiment uttered by Minaya was in response to the umpteenth question about why this team has been so bad. Hey, Omar said in so many words, you guys — the media — picked us to win. Oddly enough, the Mets made some noise on their own that they might do that, but we should have realized it was just inaccurate reporting. We shouldn't have bought the hype that the Mets might do something. Nothing is what they do.

They remain ungood. Their players are continually revealed as ungood. Well-compensated, but mostly not worth it. No point in equating payroll to potential any longer. No point in syncing past performance to immediate expectations. There are players here who earned starry reputations in other cities in other seasons. They're not translating. The 2008 Mets who have been successful Mets in the past, even the recent past, shouldn't be held to those perceived standards, apparently. One or two of 'em might put up some impressive numbers along the way, but they're not that good, no matter how much I imagine they are really trying. The best you can say for any of 'em is that occasionally they're not prohibitively ungood.

Yet I sat there last night in good company in good weather having a good time. I keep coming back to how much I enjoy these nights and days at Shea Stadium, no matter what unfortunate results I am compelled to Log. Last night's lifeless loss came with only the smallest side order of angst. The Mets were typically ungood. I was surprisingly not overwhelmingly unhappy.

To clarify, I wasn't happy; I was just not unhappy. The Mets have dipped below what we'll call the Mientkiewicz Line, the barrier that separates a team from being no worse than passably decent. For three-plus years, since we've been doing Faith and Fear, the Mets have mostly been better than that. When they threatened to seep through the floor, it was distressing. Now that they have, it's not — no overly familiar reference intended — devastating. If they're not gonna be good, if the best they can manage is ungood, then that's what they are.

I'll take it because it's all they're giving me. If I understand that or at least process it that way, then I won't be unhappy. I'll look at my team (and it's way too late to extricate myself from them) and accept that they're only capable of so much. I will do what I did in flashes last night in Loge. I will look out at the players in Mets uniforms and consider them the underdogs, the overmatched, the outmanned more nights than not. I didn't think we'd be back here so soon after 2005, 2006 and even 2007, but that's where I judge us to be. It may as well have been any night in most any year in Shea's distant past last night, not including one of the really great years. This year has nothing to do with being really great anymore.

My hope, then, is this team can somehow ease its southward drift from the Mientkiewicz Line and begin to ascend again. It may not happen right away; if it could, I wouldn't be improvising this rationalization. But if the Mets can do what I always wished they could do when they were definitively acknowledged as not good, what they once in a while did when they were unburdened by expectation, it would make Shea's farewell a lot fonder than it's shaping up to be.

Give me Nick Evans. Give me more Nick Evanses. I don't have to have the Nick Evans of our collective dreams, just a sprinkling of young players to give me some hope that 2009 will be better than 2008. That's how I got by in the lousy years of yore. Let me see Ty Wigginton as in 2002 and Jason Phillips as in 2003 and Jeromy Burnitz as in 1993 and Butch Huskey as in 1995. Give me a taste of some kid who wants to play, some kid who I want to watch. One of them may be David Wright circa 2004 or Mookie Wilson circa 1980. A bunch of them may not. I have no illusions that we have a stocked farm system and that immediate answers lie in the weeds of New Orleans, Binghamton and St. Lucie. But so what at this point. Give me a reason to look forward to next year, not another excuse to dredge up last year.

That's what I used to see at Mets games when I didn't see a team that was competing to win right now. It's great to be at Shea when it's 1986 or 1999 or 2006. When it's not a year like that — and it sure as hell isn't now — it's all right to be at Shea when at least somebody is making you believe that there will someday again be a 1986 or a 1999 or a 2006, even if you only believe it for a few innings on any given night, even if you can't prove it yet, even if hindsight will betray your optimism as folly.

I'm already certain this team as presently constituted is as dead as it can possibly be. I'm willing to take a chance on being fooled that a revised edition might stop seeming, if not being, so incredibly ungood.

14 comments to The Powerlessness of Inaction

  • Anonymous

    Not living in NYC, I always thought Keyspan was a bank..!

  • Anonymous

    This is the best blog post I've read all year. Excellent job. This is a master work.
    I'm sorry to say that I feel the same way about this team.

  • Anonymous

    Reading your posts I am reminded once again what tremendously accomplished wordsmiths you guys are…It is a veritable delight for the senses to be so thoroughly entertained by visual use of language and your enlightened thought processes…its unfortunate that you must expend your efforts in describing what is obvioulsy a wholesale disappointment foe all of us loyal and unyielding fans….its very, to use a phrase, “zen” ,of you to accept the unacceptable,when it as if two seemingly incompatible events are occuring simutaneoulsy ….how can our beloved be so competent and incompetent at once…unfathomable to the untrained mind…one's psyche might implode or even expolde, upon viewing such a dichotomy as this, dare I call it …”Team”. I for one sensed this, without any explicable cause, and I am not laying claim to any degree of clairvoyance, when we “came out of the chute”..and couldn't muster up even the semblance of fire in the gut..week one was telling in its underlying confused state…it was obvious that something was missing…something intangible, but palpable to the senses…. if we looked deep enough and honestly enough we all knew it immediately…this is just the throes of the malaise….like being caught in a slack sea, drifting to the inevitable conclusion….food is unattainable, water supplies are slackening…and soon the crew will look at each other and wonder who do we eat from amongst us first off…I must avert my eyes for self preservation….apparently no rescue is foreseeable…oh the humanity!

  • Anonymous

    A healthy attitude, Greg.
    Guess you've been repeating the phrase “pins and needles, needles and pins, a happy man is a man who grins, now what am I so mad about?”…., just hope Ed Norton doesn't remind you what that is..

  • Anonymous

    I'm on the same page as you. After Game 1 in Atlanta last Tuesday, I had to take a break from baseball. I just couldn't watch, as watching led to yelling, yelling led to sulking, sulking led to laying awake in bed, etc. So I stopped.
    And you know what? It's exactly what I needed. It gave me time to come to grips w/ reality: we aren't making the playoffs. We might not even make .500. There's a chance Willie will be here in 2009, even if we go out a losing team in 2008. And you know what? That's okay. I've been there. We've all been there. And we've all hung around.
    Last night my girlfriend and I were wrapping up our relaxing 3-day weekend with a walk in the park, and I said, “y'know what? Let's head back soon. I wanna watch the Met game.” And we did. And it was great.
    Last night, baseball went back to being what I always want it to be: relaxing; regardless of the score. That's what I want. I'm tired of turning on SNY to give myself an ulcer.
    So, it's not the Mets' year. It usually isn't. Let's not get so crazy about it.

  • Anonymous

    Hi, guys. I'm abck after an eventful week.
    Greg, as ever, a marvelous piece of work.
    I'm slowly coming to the realization that this team began mailing it in — this year, anyway — the minute Pedro felt his hamstring pop in Miami.

  • Anonymous

    Good philosophy Greg.
    I'm still at the point of deluding myself that all will be better once Pedro returns. But when I get past that, I'll look to your column for guidance on getting through the rest of the season.

  • Anonymous

    ” I didn't think we'd be back here so soon after 2005, 2006 and even 2007″
    My thoughts, exactly. I really don't have the time or the inclination to get so bogged down into what this team does on a nightly basis. I actually have a life. If in mid August or so this team chooses to give me 2-3 months of fun, so be it. Until then, I ain't holding my breath (I typed similar words before, here). My 10 year old son has threatened to become a Yankee or Phillie fan. I have no words for him. I know I'm stuck after being a fan since 1971, but, the children, the children…they can still be saved.

  • Anonymous

    man·age –verb
    1. to handle, direct, govern, or control in action or use: He managed the team efficiently.
    2. to continue to function, progress, or succeed, usually despite hardship or difficulty: How will they manage without any real leadership?
    Which of these defines our manager?

  • Anonymous

    Same guy as above. I used to sit there at Shea and say to anyone who listened..”You know it's bullshit that NY won't allow its teams to rebuild (you listening Knicks??) gimme kids who care rather than watching Alomar spit the bit or vaughn trying to bend down to pick up a ground ball. I'll PAY the ticket price..just show me they care!!!”
    I have a feeling I will be saying the same thing next time I go (I've sold 70% of my tickets for this year's games).

  • Anonymous

    What this town needs is second National League baseball team to provide an alternative to this f*cked up dysfunctional franchise.

  • Anonymous

    YES, give me more Nick Evans. Ya know when I decided I thought Willie should be fired? When he pulled Nick Evans toward the end of his first game. Sure, Willie wanted defense in left, and Evans isn't a true outfielder. But for Christ's sake, it was the kids Major League debut, and he hit three triples in 4 ABs! Leave him in! No wonder he did so crappy his next time out; his confidence was destroyed by Willie's lack of confidence, I bet.

  • Anonymous

    Oops! I meant hit three doubles.

  • Anonymous

    It's all right to be at Shea when at least somebody is making you believe that there will someday again be a 1986 or a 1999 or a 2006, even if you only believe it for a few innings on any given night, even if you can't prove it yet, even if hindsight will betray your optimism as folly.
    Exactly. Here's to that.