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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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When Your Phone Doesn't Ring, It'll Be the Mets

Recently there’s been talk of WAR and CHONE and the first attempts to figure out what we might expect from the 2010 Mets. Amazingly, despite the three-years-early Mayan apocalypse of the 2009 season, I keep finding myself hopeful — or at least desperate for baseball to move off the winter back burner and return to its accustomed place in my brain and heart. But every time that hope begins to blossom, some horrid Metsian thing happens to tramp it back into the dirt.

No sooner was I getting used to Jason Bay and thinking about the Mets as an 83-win team that had six or seven additional wins within front-office reach than the whole Carlos Beltran disaster arrived, with the usual double whammy of terrible news and evidence of front-office incompetence.

Next came the mysterious Gary Matthews Jr. trade, for which the other shoe never dropped — but once I calmed down a bit and managed to look past the inert bulk of Luis Castillo and his continued presence on the roster, I realized it wasn’t an awful deal, not for that money. Ditto for re-signing Fernando Tatis. I still don’t understand why Tatis kept playing over Nick Evans in last year’s cruelly extended garbage time, but Jerry Manuel’s myopia isn’t his fault, and I wasn’t being fair to him. The contract is reasonable for a player who can play several positions and still hit.

But then, there was this from Ken Rosenthal: “[Joel] Pineiro identified the Mets as his No. 1 choice, but instead signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Angels. He got tired of waiting for the Mets to sort through their other pursuits, tired of waiting for them to raise their initial offer, sources say. As negotiations intensified, the Mets were prepared to match and perhaps top the Angels’ offer for Pineiro. But by the time they turned aggressive, it was too late.”

Follow that with this, from David Waldstein in the New York Times: “John Smoltz, who turns 43 in May and would like to extend his Hall of Fame career, has received 2010 contract offers from several teams, his agent, Lonnie Cooper, said Wednesday. The Mets, however, are not among those clubs, Cooper added, even though they have expressed some interest in Smoltz … The lack of an offer does not necessarily mean the Mets have only passing interest in Smoltz. It does signal that the Mets are continuing their off-season negotiating posture, which, for the most part, has not been an aggressive one. Although they are widely viewed as a team in need of starting pitching, they have let other clubs outbid them for free agents like Ben Sheets, Jon Garland and Joel Piniero. In each instance, they did not appear to put up much of a fight, or any fight at all.”

Our team’s problem this off-season hasn’t necessarily been being outbid, though there are questions there, too. Rather, it sounds like it’s been basic communication and organization. Which is where Gary Matthews becomes an interesting bellwether.

No, not Junior, back for second tour of Met duty. I’m thinking about his dad, the Sarge — the ruthless outfielder who helped sink the 1984 Mets and liked slamming into Gary Carter at the plate and ripping him in national magazines.

Matthews has another infamous distinction in Mets history. He was one of the members of the inaugural free-agent class, post-McNally and Messersmith, and the player who seemed to interest the Mets the most. So in late 1976 Joe McDonald and M. Donald Grant made that interest plain — by sending Matthews a telegram asking him to contact the team. (He wound up signing with the Atlanta Braves.)

Another offseason, another front office that appears not to know what it’s doing, calls that don’t get made, players who move on. And the exact same name in the middle of it. Then it was the father, now it’s the son. I’m not much for superstition, but that doesn’t strike me as a good omen.

8 comments to When Your Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’ll Be the Mets

  • Jacobs27

    At least with Piniero on the Angels, we won’t have to play him…unless things go much better than they inevitably will.

  • metthunder

    as a Mets fan, Mets’ logic always seems to be an oxymoron.

  • The Mets are like a guy who only wants to date the girls who don’t like him, but doesn’t want anything to do with the girls who actually like him….

  • Joe D.

    Well summed up, Jason. And quite scary.

    According to the insiders you’ve quoted it appears the Wilpons are now starting to take the route originated by M. Donald Grant. We lose out on signing Pineiro (who actually wanted to come to the Mets) because we didn’t negotiate in a timely manner and didn’t pursue him and other free-agent pitchers in earnest, despite public statements to the contrary.

    Even with ticket sales and revenue projections falling the Mets are one of the top profit making clubs in baseball. The Wilpons could not have been faulted for not spending money in the past other than not spending it wisely (i.e., Castillo, Perez, etc.).
    If things are now different, then there is little reason to be hopeful, as the lack of free-agent signings that could improve the team has shown (it took so long to sign Jason Bay, remember?). Instead, we are going after fringe players with a gusto.

    So it seems that the Wilpons are running this franchise into the ground even worse than my worst fears had suspected possible. My hope (or wish for revenge) is that the owners of those stores and restaurants in that shopping mall known as Citifield see the handwriting on the wall and try to negotiate out of their leases with nobody new willing to take them over. If that will not finally force the Wilpons to sell the team at least it will make them realize they are in the baseball business and not that of commerce and real-estate.

    • So you’re not content with questionable front office moves around the team, you’re hoping it decimates our awesome stadium as well?

      I’m not sure I’d like that. Instead I hope the pitching trade Omar seems to be working on is for a real pitcher and Beltran comes back on time healthy and Maine and Perez make the next logical step forward.

  • Jackabite

    There’s nothing wrong with supporting the team with gusto and positive thoughts. But it should be clear to all Mets fans that we are an incredibly poorly run organization.
    What will restore optimism to the Mets?
    An enthusiastic owner(s) who respects the team’s history and who understands how to hire an accountable, competent field management team.

  • LetsGoMets62

    Some good points.. One thing that keeps coming up this “hot stove” season is the Mets lack of aggressiveness on these free agent pitchers. Did I miss something.. is Joel Pinero the second coming of Tom Seaver? Except for Lackey (who is good not great)none of these pitchers are that good. They are OK. I think the Mets did the right thing in this regard. See how our guys (Perez, Maine,Pelfry) do and if things are not going well trade for a BETTER pitcher mid season who, by the way, will be available.

  • No, Pineiro’s not Tom Seaver II, and groundball pitchers will continue to suffer with the sack of cement that is Luis Castillo plopped out near second base. But Pineiro could be expected to stay on the field, which would be novel. The current rotation has no depth — Maine lost a lot of time, Perez missed time and when he’s healthy is still Perez, Santana’s coming off elbow surgery and Niese/Nieve both went down with season-ending leg inuries. With the current rotation and Castillo/Murphy out there, you’re dooming Pelfrey to another frustrating year and hoping everything else goes right. And between Omar, current ownership and near-daily medical shenanigans, it’s far more likely that everything will go wrong.