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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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Desperate Times Call for Robinson Cancel

You know what the Mets are? They're selectively desperate. They saunter and they mosey and they stop to smell the roses and pick at dandelions the great majority of the time, but then something suddenly lights a fire under them (to quote an old friend, “You know what burns my ass? A flame this high.”) and it's all for one and one for all and let's get hell-bent as all get-out.

But they're just not very good at it.

Game One revealed the schizophrenia. The Mets slept like England by JFK's reckoning most of the opener. Even as they rallied — showing some “fight” as Wayne or Howie or Gary or Ron or all of them called it — they approached the battle as ambivalent pacifists might. No point taking extra bases. No point thinking fly balls might not go out. Then, all of a sudden, it's every man to his station…double-time! Then the Mets cannot be stopped. You can only hope they will contain themselves.

That they did.

If the standings truly mattered anymore, there'd be a head-shaped dent in at least one wall around here. But Brian Schneider being urged by Sandy Alomar to think he can, think he can chug his way home on Milton Bradley's arm amid all the single-cheeked rallying the Mets did in the eighth and ninth — it was mostly amusing. Having already divined the best way to accept their shortcomings might be to to treat this crew as linear albeit better-compensated heirs to Marvelous Marv — the 1962 Mets also lost 8-7 in the opener of a Father's Day doubleheader through play that was less than brainy — these Mets surely merit fewer snits and more giggles.

Game Two's result was more pleasing, probably because I didn't see or hear a pitch of it. Since the nightcap was ladled onto the regularly scheduled afternoon affair, and since it was Father's Day, my plans took me away from the television, kept me away from the radio and made being at Shea prohibitive. Though I patted myself on the back for giving my father a few hours' of unMetted attention, I will confess to sneaking into a restaurant men's room to tap the little-used Web browser on my phone. It was there I saw we were winning thanks to Robinson Cancel.

Don't know if that meant the Mets were fighting, but they sure must have been desperate.

Well, what the hey. Most of our 2008 grace notes have been delivered by the likes of Nelson Figueroa and Nick Evans and Fernando Tatis. Why shouldn't Robinson Cancel join the parade of Mets who will never adorn the cover of the pocket schedule but can at least claim to have attached themselves to one of its squares? Or in Robinson Cancel's case, the unscheduled half of one.

Can't say I knew a bloody thing of Robinson Cancel's existence before this Spring Training, but Robinson Cancel and I had every reason to remember September 21, 1999. That was the night the Mets went down to Georgia with a division title on the line and Chipper Jones commenced to bury them. He hit a homer from the left side off Rick Reed, a homer from the right side off Dennis Cook and the Braves won 2-1, increasing their lead on the Mets to two games. Everything tumbled downhill from there, straight into a seven-game losing streak that put the Wild Card in peril.

I'm a big Mets fan, so I remember that date for Mets fan reasons. Robinson Cancel, one assumes, is a big Robinson Cancel fan, so he would remember that date for Robinson Cancel reasons: it was the date of his final Major League hit.

He played for the Milwaukee Brewers.

They played in County Stadium.

Bill Pulsipher was their starting pitcher.

The hit came off Chad Ogea.

The Brewers are still around, but County Stadium, Ogea and Pulse are long gone from the scene (Long Island Ducks notwithstanding). Yet somehow the hit Robinson Cancel delivered for the Brewers on September 21, 1999 is no longer Robinson Cancel's final Major League hit. It's merely his second-most recent hit, one that happened to have been delivered nine years ago.

Not everybody's heard. As of Sunday, Baseball-Reference still listed Robinson Cancel as having played his final Major League game on September 29, 1999, and they don't list final Major League games until they're good and sure a player has hung 'em up. When Robinson Cancel made an appearance in San Diego last week, my friend the Other Jason sent me a note that on September 29, 1999, Mets fans were marveling that John Olerud launched a grand slam off Greg Maddux, driving in Al Leiter, Rickey Henderson and Edgardo Alfonzo, each of whom had singled (just after Darryl Hamilton, Roger Cedeño and Rey Ordoñez had done the same). All of those guys are long gone, too, except for Maddux the six-inning Cy-borg…and he's older than Moises Alou. Other Jason's point was Robinson Cancel hadn't played in the big leagues in a very, very long time and what kind of team is this giving a roster spot to Robinson Cancel from the last century?

“Was he hitting like 4.200 at New Orleans?”

It never occurred to me to check. I suppose now that Robinson Cancel's become the latest savior to rise from these streets, we can waste our summer praying in vain that he is at least platooned with Schneider…or that another hit will help us before another nine years pass.

Chipper Jones is still around, too, come to think of it.

4 comments to Desperate Times Call for Robinson Cancel

  • Anonymous

    Omar, I believe, will get his wish, if he has the final say on who manages this team..In his ongoing quest to fashion this team in his own image- he has succeeded in all aspects but one..
    I guess he's hands off since he signed the big free agents? Met ownership needs to act as if THEY own this team and stop pretending Omar is guiding this team in the right direction- which he is not..
    Keep Willie-Dump Omar..

  • Anonymous

    i went with my two kids: one (11-year-old son) was immensely jazzed at the prospect of a twofer; the other (16-year-old daughter), not so much. but hey, it's faddah's day.
    we got good value, if only in terms of innings played and witnessed.
    in the first game, the real alomar crime was not in sending schneider on that play but on holding him up on the previous one. with bases loaded and one man out (schneider on second), tatis pinch-hits a solid single, scoring trot nixon. but alomar holds up schneider when he was already around third base. his sending schneider on reyes's flyball to right was, at least to the folks in my section, overcompensation for his earlier blown call.
    the second game featured pedro in his first appearance at shea this year — is that possible? — and he put on a clinic in how to gut it out: within the first handful of pitches he had given up two hits, including a double, and a run was in. yet he hung in there and only gave up one more run the rest of his stint.
    the crowd was over all decent. lots of discussion as to whether randolph might get fired, and if he might get fired between the first and second games. art howe, now with texas, spent the afternoon leaning over the railing from the visitor's dugout like Snoopy doing his vulture routine.
    one guy with a braying voice kept yelling, “i believe in you willie!” at opportune lulls, cracking us up at first, then threatening to wear it out. still, by the second game, where maybe 15,000 stayed around, his voice carried. and when they put cancel in to pinch-hit for martinez we ALL yelled “i believe in you willie!” before and after the at-bat.
    finally, in a day that sprayed our mezzanine section with a fair amount of foul balls, daughter snagged a t-shirt shot from a cannon, in the seventh inning of the second game. it has the shea '64-'08 logo on the front, and a reference to the “last year at shea” on the back. she was pleased we'd hung in there, after all.

  • Anonymous

    “the 1962 Mets also lost 8-7 in the opener of a Father's Day doubleheader through play that was less than brainy — these Mets surely merit fewer snits and more giggles. ”
    Hi Greg,
    I was thinking the same thing after the fist game ended. Delgado was indeed the re-incarnation of Marvelous Marv, first by making a great diving catch and homering off the scoreboard only to be accompanied by allowing a routine grounder go under his glove and hitting into a double-play with the tying runs on base in the ninth. Despite pain-staking simularities between the two sqauds, one big difference is that Casey (unlike Willie) stayed with Al Jackson until the ninth, after the southpaw had already given up eight runs (only four earned) on eight hits and five walks. The only other thing missing was Lindsy Nelson advising people there was plenty of baseball left ahead and good seats still available so if they were in the neighborhood to please drop by. (*)
    Oh yeah, forgot one other thing. Despite being the most inept group ever to play the field, those '62 Mets still gave 100% and were a lot fmore lovable to watch.
    (*) The seats still available at Shea weren't as “good” as those remaining at the Polo Grounds.

  • Anonymous

    Isn't there some way we can simulate the first inning for Pedro in the bullpen somehow, so when he comes in he's already over that chronic hiccup and can proceed like the future hall of famer that he is?