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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 Middle

Americans are notoriously horrible at geography, but citizens of Metsopotamia are surely map-savvy enough to be able to distinguish the city of Denver from the city of Washington. If you can’t deal with a map, just try a set of National League standings. The baseball team that hails from Denver, Colo., is lodged at the bottom of one division; the baseball team that calls Washington, D.C., home sits comfortably atop another.

And that, class, sums up the difference between shutting down the Colorado Rockies and getting trampled by the Washington Nationals.

The wide-eyed and action-famished among us dearly desired to read something spectacular into the Mets’ sweep of the Rockies over the first three nights of this week. The word I heard on SNY was “fringes,” as in, “The Mets are on the fringes of this playoff race.” Thursday night, though, the best the Mets could manage was remaining on the fringes of their game against the Nationals, an organization so hellbent on expanding its influence throughout the National League East that it has effected a hostile takeover of Citi Field.

The Mets haven’t beaten Washington in New York since Washington was Montreal, or so it seems. In the latest chapter of this recurring episode of Nats @ Mets, the nominal visitors eased their way to a 6-0 lead before the Mets inched just close enough and stayed just close enough to make you think that just maybe, with a big hit or two, they could…

At that point you stopped mid-thought to observe another key out registered by the Nationals’ bullpen and realize falling short of getting completely blown out isn’t the same as winning. Or almost winning. The 6-2 loss made for a nice allegory to the season at large. Now and then, the Mets appear to be on the verge of genuine progress, if “now and then” is defined as that time period during which particularly strong teams are absent from the Met schedule.

There aren’t many of those in the National League, really. Three teams hold records fifteen games better than .500 at present: the Nats, the Dodgers and the Giants. The Mets have performed dismally against all of them, going 5-21. If you’d like to subtract those nettlesome 26 contests and provide the Mets with a fancy won-lost record versus “everybody else,” go for it. But professional sports doesn’t actually work that way.

By the same token, there’s no point in removing the 9-3 mark the Mets had run up prior to Thursday while opposing a sample of the dregs of the circuit (Phils, Fish, Reds, Rox). They’re lately beating not very good clubs and they can’t quite do anything with the better clubs.

They’re not on the fringes. They’re in the middle. Upper-middle some nights, lower-middle others, stubbornly a component of the blob that separates the Washingtons from the Colorados. This most recent night was one of those others. A certified member of the top tier had their way with them. It would be nice to prevent that from happening so regularly this weekend. We’ll see if the Nationals can be kept from showering and changing in the home clubhouse before Sunday.


Being in the middle is becoming a familiar Met position. As happens every year at this juncture, they are in the middle of a flap over what cap they should wear when they’re acknowledging the events of September 11, 2001. Admittedly, it’s a little less of a flap every year. Time will diminish this sort of controversy, especially when nothing really budges.

In case you’ve forgotten (which is unlikely following a day when the prevailing sentiment was Never Forget…unless you’re Travis d’Arnaud on first and you can’t remember how many outs there are), the 2001 Mets wore the caps of the first responders who acted so heroically in Lower Manhattan thirteen years ago. That was the Mets’ on-field response at a moment when few could adequately articulate their gratitude to firefighters, police and everybody who selflessly ran toward danger. It was a powerful statement of solidarity — just a gesture, but a resonant once.

Those Mets wore those caps home and away in September and October of 2001. They wore them in Pittsburgh when they returned to playing a game when nobody was in the mood for games. They wore them at Shea the first time an enormous crowd hesitantly brought itself together for what we had normally referred to as fun. They wore them in the top of the ninth as Armando Benitez nailed down the win Mike Piazza made possible with his September 21 home run off Steve Karsay. They wore them as they hung on in an improbable pennant race, as they blew chances to make up ground on Atlanta, as they finished out their season in relative seclusion.

The Mets never took off those caps in 2001. They put them back on a year later for the first anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, their way of showing sustained solidarity. The Mets did much more off the field, but again, it was a gesture. It was never forgetting. It was remembering what it meant to be a part of New York in 2002, then in 2003 and all the way through 2007. Bad Met teams, good Met teams, a Met team on the precipice of vacating first place all wore the caps.

In September 2008, Major League Baseball invented a new commemorative cap design for all 30 of its teams to model. Fans were invited to purchase the very same models. Same deal in September 2009 and 2010, and come 2011, when the Mets asked MLB if they could embrace the tradition they had established in 2001 and be granted an exemption from the officially issued caps — it was the tenth anniversary and the Mets had some special ceremonies planned at Citi Field — they were told no.

The Mets obeyed and have continued to not rock the boat (they put the caps on during batting practice; it’s not the same). They still put heartfelt effort into their community relations, still put themselves out there to benefit the families of those most directly affected by the attacks on the World Trade Center, still put their arms around a firehouse in Maspeth on a going basis. Players from 2014 who were kids in California or Georgia or wherever in 2001 pick up where the Venturas and Zeiles and Francos left off and fill the role of, shall we say, true New Yorkers. There is more to being a good and concerned neighbor than putting on a cap.

But what caps they put on in 2001. And how putting them on and playing in them resonated. Gestures can reach people. That gesture reached every Mets fan.

It’s a shame they forgot.


Meanwhile, one of the owners of the New York Mets finds himself in the middle of some serious, frankly sickening — if they’re accurate — allegations regarding how he treated a recently dismissed employee. Without diving deeply into the disturbing details (not to protect the accused, but mostly because after invoking the heroism of September 11, who the hell wants to think that much about Jeff Wilpon?), this is one of those stories that stops you in your tracks as a fan and makes you ask yourself why you stick with a team that’s run by somebody allegedly like this.

We’re familiar with the Mets’ competitive foibles and we know that, no matter their admirable charitable activities, they can cause a substantial cringe in the executive suite. Still, you keep on rooting because it’s who you are. You’re a Mets fan; ’nuf said. The suit brought by former senior vice president of ticket sales Leigh Castergine, however, left a thick layer of ooze all over my fandom. A woman works for you, does her best with a largely unsaleable product, modernizes your shop, draws good customer reviews from those who dealt with her, and your response — allegedly — is to harangue and diminish her because she had a baby without a husband?

I learned abut Castergine’s suit, which the Mets have labeled “without merit,” about an hour before I was heading out to, as is my wont, Citi Field. I was meeting my friend Matt Silverman there to take advantage of an invitation extended on Castergine’s watch: you get a free ticket if it’s your birthday. Neither my nor Matt’s birthday was Wednesday, but the policy allows those of us who were born on a date when the Mets aren’t playing at home (or on theoretical high-volume dates like Opening Day and the Subway Series) our choice of a handful of games when, let’s be honest, there’s likely to be loads of otherwise unused inventory.

Matt and I are firmly entrenched within that breed of Mets fan that isn’t above attending a Wednesday night game in September against the perennially poorly drawing Rockies. You should know that after filling out a slip of paper and flashing our photo IDs at the box office to successfully secure our birthday-offer tickets, Matt handed me a ticket for this coming Monday night’s game against the perennially poorly drawing Marlins. We’re not above going to one of those, either.

I’ve been to 23 Mets games thus far this year and I consider it a light year personally. I mention that because for all the cynicism I express on this blog and how hard I’ve been to convince that the Mets are legitimately advancing beyond the fleeting fringes of distant contention at anything swifter than a snail’s pace, I remain the hardiest of diehards. I may prefer a complimentary ticket to a cheap ticket, and a cheap ticket to an overpriced ticket (who doesn’t?), but in the course of a season, I use a lot of tickets, however I come by them or they come by me. I dig deep when necessary. I make the trip. I show up. I wear the colors. I buy the edibles and the potables. I preach the gospel. In every way I can count, I support my team.

After learning why Leigh Castergine claimed she was suddenly disappeared from the Mets’ back-office roster, I didn’t much want to. Yet I did. I rationalized that the ticket was going to be gratis; that I was carrying a gift card for food and beverages that somebody had thoughtfully given me on my real birthday; that I could wear a non-Mets shirt and a non-Mets cap; and that on some level I could minimize my tangible/visible support of my team, or at least my team’s chief operating officer whose alleged behavior oozed all over my lifetime of fandom around 4 o’clock that afternoon. On September 10, 2014, exactly 45 years after I basked in the glow of the instantly iconic bulletin that lit the Shea Stadium scoreboard — LOOK WHO’S NO. 1 — I wanted to dim the lights on my purely voluntary association with this team.

It was a small gesture. It was visible to nobody but me. And by the bottom of the first inning, it escaped my consciousness completely. I wore an Islanders t-shirt, I donned a Long Island Ducks cap, I kept my wallet away from Citi Field’s cash registers and I picked over the latest (by no means the only) Wilpon-brand escapade with appropriate disdain. Yet there I was at the Mets game with a Mets pal who, like me, writes a lot about the Mets, and we were watching the Mets and cheering the Mets and doing nothing that emitted a sense of disgust or dismay with a mall-encompassing ownership group we wish would remain out of the news until the preferably upcoming day when it announces it is at last doing the sporting thing and selling the team we love so it can function in an atmosphere of blazing luminescence once more. On the train home, I realized I wasn’t wearing my Mets stuff and somehow felt guilty about not publicly displaying my allegiance.

Shaking this severe case of fandom remains impossible. Not that I try very hard.

16 comments to The Middle

  • Art Pesner

    Last night was my 20th game of the season. But it was the first time I wanted to start a “Sell the team” chant. MLB, in the form of Rob Manfred, must step in at this point. This is beyond embarrassing.

  • Dave

    Forget when they were Montreal. It feels like the last time the Mets beat Washington they were the Senators, and since the Mets never played the Senators, they have therefore never beaten Washington.

    The issue with Ms. Castergine is another in a virtually uninterrupted series of black eyes for ownership. Show me a guilty party who has not claimed a suit is “without merit”…and not that that alone is proof, but the Wilpons – little Jeffy in particular – have so little credibility by this point that I would put little past them. No, it isn’t as abhorrent as Ray Rice or Donald Sterling, but especially as it comes at a time at which the mistreatment of women in sports is a front page topic of discussion, both MLB and the courts need to investigate this very closely. A lot more closely than the Wilpons will be comfortable with.

  • Chuck

    Meanwhile, and yes, OT, Chris Young is hitting .500 with 2 HR and 7 RBI in 12 AB for the Yankees. F**k You, Chris Young.

  • Warren

    I will not go to a Mets game until the Wilpons sell the team. This latest incident is disgusting, but let’s hope that at least it results in MLB/court of public opinion forcing the Coupons to sell the team.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    The only reason I’m skeptical about the allegations against Jeff is because it strikes me as too good to be true. We all know Jeff and his father are dummkopfs, but could Jeff really be THIS much of a douchebag? I REALLY REALLY want to believe that he is, and that the lawsuit leads to the ultimate sale of the team. But, as always with this team, I don’t want to get my hopes up. The most likely scenario here is an offseason of bad press and then more of the status quo. Ugh.

    This is the team we chose.

    On a brighter note, hey: GOOD FOR YOU BARTOLO COLON! It’s LOOONG overdue that a Met gave a thorn in our side the rough stuff.

    • Dave

      Kevin – Could Jeffy be that much of a douchebag? Why not? I don’t have time or space here to list all of the ways women are treated like 2nd class citizens in this country. Would it genuinely surprise us to learn of such behavior from some privileged twerp who, to quote a line used towards a former president, was born on 3rd base and thinks he hit a triple? We have already seen Ms. Castergine take the fall for the fact that people do not want to pay top dollar to watch what has for years been a conspicuously inferior product. That Jeffy would also resort to slut-shaming her is not inconsistent with other examples of what an idiot he is.

    • Dak442

      My completely speculative thoughts on what happened with this situation: Jeffy, in the manner of entitled wealthy out-of-touch douchebag business owners everywhere, thought his tone-deaf, 50s-era jibes were clever witticisms with the gals at the office who all LOVE him. When Ms. Castergine failed to see mocking of her private life as a legitimate topic of workplace tomfoolery and complained, Jeffy took offense, felt embarrassed, and eventually fired her. The gutters of corporate America are littered with the bones of assclown bosses who were “only kidding around, it was all in good fun!”.

      Of course, there is the possibility Jeffy seriously thought having a lil’ bastard is wrong in 2014 and his fatherly advice was warranted to help her straighten up and fly right. Either way, he is an imbecile, the Fredo of MLB.

      They build a monument to another team as their stadium. They fall for a Ponzi scheme a freshman economics student would have seen through. They mock their best player, and jettison a Cy Young winner and Batting Average champ in successive seasons. They have a payroll less than half the evil empire across town spends and tell us they aren’t in financial trouble. How much are we expected to endure?

      Yet I am going Sunday. God help me.

  • Ken

    I’ve been a Mets fan since attending my first game as a child in 1964. Reading what Jeff Wilpon alledgely did was the first thing that ever made me think I should walk away.
    Jeff Wilpon’s sexism is as disgusting as Donald Sterling’s racism. He should be forced banned from baseball.
    He probably won’t be because sexism is still somewhat tolerated in this country. I wonder what it would take to get a campaign going against it here. Ban Jeff Wilpon for life.

  • Ken

    At the very least, MLB should investigate Jeff Wilpon here.

  • Rob

    It IS significant that they are 5-21 against the Nationals, Giants, and Dodgers. That says that in the context of the “middle,” they are at least upper middle. Those are not just three random teams — those are the three BEST teams. You can draw a conclusion from that. That means they are better than most of the rest, and considering their extreme youth and inexperience (not to mention being without their best pitcher and getting virtually nothing from their best hitter), that is something that bodes well for the future.

    It’s also significant that they beat the Colorados. It’s not a big problem developmentally (short-term speaking) if you lose to what are clearly better teams as long as you beat the teams you should beat. It is frustrating as all hell because we’re ALL waiting for them to finally take the step up and stick it to these guys, but at this point, not taking the step forward is not nearly as devastating as taking a step BACKWARD (going 5-21 against the Colorados & Cincinnatis & Philadelphias) would be. The fact that they have MADE gains and HELD those gains this season is the arrow pointing up here, and why there is promise for next season.

    NOT justifying losing here, or implying that it’s not important that they figure out how to beat this team — it’s VERY important. But it’s OK to be in the middle as a rest stop on the highway that goes from last place to first place.

  • The Jestaplero!

    I despise the Wilponzis, little Jeff “Scott Evil” Wilpon in particular, and nobody could be more disgusted by Leigh’s allegations (which I’m sure are true), but I didn’t for one second consider abandoning my fandom as Greg and another writer at Amazin’ Avenue did.

    What do the Wilpons have to do with the Mets? I’ve been a Met fan since my dad carried me on his shoulders into the Polo Grounds. I was a fan long before these assclowns bought the team, and, God willing, will be long after.

    I may, however, have to consider (as many of my friends have) boycotting Sterling Enterprises until they sell the franchise, meaning not giving the Coupons another red cent. Only going to games when I get a free ticket and not spending any money while there. Not buying any goods advertised on their telecasts, which shouldn’t be hard since I don’t want to buy a guy COUGHING UP HIS LUNG or families discussing their stupid emergency plans.

  • Dennis

    I’m no fan of Jeff (and Fred for that matter) and would love to see them sell the team (hate to burst everyone’s dream, but it won’t happen). I hope the allegation is not true, but if it is, then he should be gone, and I’ll cheer like the Mets just won the World Series. But it’s something seeing how many of you are ready to burn him at the stake before anything has been proven. Has anyone ever heard about getting the facts first?

    • The Jestaplero!

      I feel fairly confident that her allegations are credible; they sound completely plausible, they are partly corroborated by her extremely well-compensated employment history (which the front office has not disputed) and because ownership has displayed atrocious judgment in the last several years – from Fred’s New Yorker tirade, to the Madoff affair, to the ridiculously offensive “we won’t build it until you come” marketing campaign earlier this year. THey’re liars: they insisted the Madoff shceme didn’t hurt the team financially, and every eyar they promise to increase payroll, and they never do.

  • Steve D

    They fire Leigh…but kept Charlie Samuels around for 30 frickin years. I won’t even mention Madoff (oops, I did).

    Yes it is embarrassing to be a fan of a team owned by these guys. Jeffy…maybe the only millionaire’s son in the history of the world to go to a community college. They are going to put a Walmart on the footprint of Shea if they get their way. I live in the past…it is always 1969 or 1986 in my mind…even 1986 is tainted now for me, because Fredo was involved. Just don’t go to anymore games…come on people…wake the hell up.

  • Barry F.

    I’ve been to one game at Citi since they moved from Shea. I frequently have the urge to go to a game, but it’s no longer a trip to see the Mets; it’s a trip to justify Wilpon. When I imagine all he has done to make us second-class citizens over the last 20 years, I do anything else. He unsells the seat that should be sold. Ya gotta bereave.

  • […] there, well, it might not catapult them past Washington ASAP, but as a member in good standing of The Middle, maybe a modest Metropolitan step up in class won’t be out of the question in 2015. Instead of […]