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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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Not That Team Anymore

I’m guessing the Kansas City Royals didn’t use their extended hiatus between clinching the ALCS and commencing the World Series to get to know our vast array of New York Mets blogs, which is to say I’m also guessing the Kansas City Royals are totally unfamiliar with us and our work. I put that out there because I always find it presumptuous when somebody congratulates a given entity on their well-known achievement when it is obvious that said entity will never encounter those congratulations. Yet I’ll put my reality-based reservations aside for a moment and offer my congratulations to the Kansas City Royals anyway.

Won’t they be thrilled?

The congratulations are not specifically for winning the American League pennant or for starting the postseason 8-0, though, yeah, sure, of course. The victories themselves have been monumental and my applause for them are implicit. Their spurt started by refusing to lose in sudden death and has morphed into a plaintive insistence on winning every time they take the field. As they methodically removed the A’s, the Angels and the Orioles from their path, their journey felt less filled with the angst we associate with our vaguely recalled postseason participation and more informed by a brisk joie de vivre. K.C. hasn’t made it look easy, but they have made it look simple. Perhaps if and when they drop a game or have to scuffle from behind again, it will get heavy at Kauffman Stadium. Thus far, the scene is as light as a puffy cumulus cloud.

All of the above is congratulations-worthy, but the achievement I admire most is that by their reaching this penultimate plateau, the Royals have ensured they are no longer that team.

What team? You know, that team. They’re no longer that team the rest of use as our default negative example to illustrate so many undesirable conditions. Without even thinking about it, somewhere between the mid-1990s and no more than a couple of years ago, you probably did it. I know I was prone to do it. It was a reflex reaction by the turn of the century.

• A bad team — like the Royals.

• A hopeless team — like the Royals.

• A perennially overmatched team — like the Royals.

• A team that can’t keep its young talent together — like the Royals.

• Why are they showing us Royals highlights?

• This is a big game, not some Tuesday night against the Royals.

• Look at how easy their remaining schedule is — six of their last nine games are against the Royals!

• It’s a shame about the Royals.

• I feel sorry for Royals fans.

• I wouldn’t want the Mets to wind up like the Royals.

You can certainly strike that last one. Every team’s fans but one at this instant should want their club to wind up exactly where the Royals are, and perhaps Giants fans will feel that way in four to seven games. You don’t have to have cared very much about the Royals over the bulk of the past three decades to appreciate what they’ve accomplished and to envy their current standing. You needn’t approve their every step up to this moment to celebrate their arrival. The team from next to nowhere now stands next to a championship. My goodness, that’s exhilarating.

There’s a reservoir of goodwill for these Royals. They don’t seem to have hacked off anybody during their years at competitive liberty. There’s no good reason to begrudge them their run to glory. When they won their pennant, Ernie Johnson on TBS framed it as having ended “29 years of frustration”. That didn’t sound quite right. Frustration is coming close and not getting there. That wasn’t the Royals. More like desolation. You never heard about them except when someone was groping around for a handy example of futility.

Most Octobers include an entrant that hasn’t been there before or in a great long while. Maybe that mystery team makes itself at home for the postseason haul. If your allegiances aren’t already spoken for (and if you don’t have a good reason to maintain stubborn enmity in their direction), you’re as likely as not to attach yourself to their cause. Call it bandwagoneering, if you insist. There’s only so many teams and so much baseball left. You wouldn’t be a baseball-loving human if you weren’t drawn to one of a dwindling few.

On the last night of September, the Royals charged into our consciousness with a plethora of rootable qualities and they’ve done nothing to discourage temporary acolytes from digging deep for additional emotional busfare. Theirs has been a fresh powder-blue breeze blowing across this nation, and as it brushes our extremities, it touches us as distinct from anything that’s wafted our autumnal way in ages. Granted, it’s probably a little like plenty of since-diminished winds that have rippled previous October skies. Teal breezes. Purple breezes. Breezes pushed into the atmosphere by unfortunate mascots and gestures. Of course the breeze off Flushing Bay that moved heaven and earth 45 years ago last week. I can still feel that one at my back.

This current meteorological pattern, though, feels just different enough to grab your attention and keep it a while. It’s Kansas City’s, first and foremost, but we can all revel in its invigorating properties.

And when it’s over, we can turn our attention to doing something about passages like this one from Adam Kilgore in the Washington Post on October 7…

After Harper’s blast pulled the Nats even in a do-or-die game, Williams stuck to the same plan he would have used in a July affair against the New York Mets.

…and this one from Tim Keown on ten days later…

But scripting doesn’t always work in baseball, and the script for the second game of a three-game series against the Mets in May is far different from the realities of a season-in the-balance playoff game in mid-October.

The subject in both cases was bullpen management. The subtext was when baseball gets real, don’t act like you’re just playing the Mets. In other words, we’re that team these days. Or one of them, at any rate.

Maybe someday soon we won’t be. If it can happen to the Royals, I’d like to believe it can happen to anybody. Even us.

16 comments to Not That Team Anymore

  • kd bart

    I’ll dismiss the comment from ESPN. For the most part, they’re so clueless and living off of years old narrative that they probably think the Mets finished 5th in the NL East the last 2 seasons.

  • Dave

    Unfortunately, I guessed your ending right away. Thanks to the Wilpons, we are now “that” team. We can now just hope that as has always happened in the past, a Royals series victory is followed by the end of our frustration or futility or desolation or whatever we want to call the past 28 years.

  • Dave

    When I watch the games or walk past a bar on the way home I tell myself that next year, the team o n the TV is going to be in blue and orange. I’ve done that for the past few years but I haven’t believed it as much as I do this year. The Mets have a real shot in 2015. Can’t wait for opening day.

  • Rob

    The Mets have the perception of being “that team” because of a lot of past sins, and that is sort of deserved (though for God’s sake, have any of these “professionals” ever heard of the Cubs or Astros?!?!?). And we HAVE been “that team” at times. We’re not “that team” NOW, though many people — even many Mets fans — still think we are. Except for the Nationals and Dodgers, I can’t imagine many teams licked their chops to play the Mets last year…they were 10 games over .500 against the rest of baseball.

    The hard reality about journalists throwing the Mets out as a universal symbol of futility is that most of the readers ALSO think that. THAT’S what needs to be undone here, and THAT’S why this organization needed to do what has been done the past four years. You don’t un-do that perception with one Royals-type year; you un-do it with runs like the Braves and Cardinals and Yankees had, and to a lesser extent, the Giants, Tigers, and Phillies. It takes time to build that, and it took all of those teams time (even the Yankees had a 13-year post-season drought).

    • Dennis

      “The hard reality about journalists throwing the Mets out as a universal symbol of futility is that most of the readers ALSO think that. THAT’S what needs to be undone here, and THAT’S why this organization needed to do what has been done the past four years.”

      Great point. There is a tendency among Mets fans to have an “oh woe is me” attitude while heaping criticism at Alderson for not trading for or signing various players for a quick fix. As you stated….give me a successful run where we can be in the mix EVERY season.

    • kd bart

      It’s called narrative and it’s what the lazy sports media lives on. The narrative lives on long after reality shows otherwise.

    • Dave

      I would say that the perception of the Mets is that they are in completely different circumstances than the Cubs or the Astros. The Astros play in a state where HS football and rodeo are probably more popular than baseball, they’re seen as having every excuse to be bad. I’m sure that no one whose paycheck comes from the Cubs cares much for the “lovable loser” tag hung on them (nor do most of their fans), but since whoever the oldest living person on the planet is right now would have no memory of the Cubs winning the Series, and since they play in the sport’s Grand Holy Cathedral, they get a pass too. Mets – different story. Once completely ruled the sport’s biggest market, pissed it all away thanks to stupid decisions by delusional owners. Add to that the fact that a lot of people in other cities love to stick it to NY at every opportunity, so it’s going to be a while before the Mets cease to be “that” team.

      In case you couldn’t guess, I’m the first Dave who commented above, not the one who thinks we have a real shot in 2015. I’m just hoping we have a real shot at playing .500 ball.

      • Rob

        Except for the “they’ll screw it up because they always screw it up” angle, why would you not think they have a shot at .500 in 2015? They were only four games under playing without their #1 pitcher, getting virtually nothing from their #1 hitter (who apparently played through an injury), and punting the first month with guys like Farnsworth and Valverde closing. Look at the age of the team and what’s coming up in the minors and all arrows are pointing up from where I sit. The only question is HOW “up” they can get the arrow through the off-season tweaking they have to do.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    My mind goes back to a decade ago when I overheard a Yankee fan basically complaining about having only 8 all-stars in their lineup. He said, “why don’t they just get Mike Sweeney? No way he wants to be on the Royals.”

    Can’t do that with the Royals anymore, but MFY fans will still ask stupid questions out loud. Unfortunately.

    • Dennis

      Hate the Yankees as well, but it really wasn’t a stupid question. At the time, they were getting or at least trying to get their hands on any player that was available.

      • Kevin From Flushing

        Stupid in the sense of, “it’s not that simple.” The context of that statement was along the lines of, “give the Royals a bag of balls and tell them to give us Sweeney,” not something more critical like, “if we package Cano, Chamberlain, and a few other prospects maybe the Royals would trade Mike Sweeney.” I got the sense that the fan wouldn’t be able to name anyone in the Yankee minor league system.

        It should also be mentioned that Mike Sweeney was not available. He was just a good player on a bad team.

  • Matt

    It wasn’t compared to a Met game, but Mike Matheny took similar heat for keeping Wacha in when the Giants hit the walk-off. I thought the reaction was overdone, but looking at video, Wacha did not look good that night – it was not May and the Mets were certainly not at the plate.

  • Dave

    Rob – the “they always find a way to screw it up” angle is not to be ignored, and in 45+ years, I have learned not to count any unhatched chickens. The promise is promising, but still in very small sample sizes. No one will be happier than I if they contend next year, but the pace of rebuilding has been so slow that I have a hard time visualizing a huge step forward in any one year.

    • Rob

      Dave – I understand the “they’ll screw it up somehow” sentiment, and you’re certainly not alone in thinking that. But analytically it means nothing. What does mean something is that you have a very young and inexperienced team that pretty much held it’s own, and when you throw in typical player development curves (and other variables), you can start to see the promise here. True, these are, as you say, “unhatched chickens,” but there is legitimate reason to start believing.

      That being said, the Mets have definitely earned a lot of the fan cynicism by what they’ve done the last 25 years. But they haven’t done a real rebuild since the early 80s, and this Alderson rebuild hasn’t had many missteps. The overall health of the organization has improved every year he’s been here even if the record hasn’t. My point, I guess, is that while I understand your hard time visualizing a huge step forward, if you look at this team objectively, you would have a hard time making a strong case for a step BACKWARD in 2015. So much would have to go wrong simultaneously for that to happen, and while anything is possible, I just don’t see this team as a candidate for a wholesale collapse. They are still in a growth mode and no one played so far over their head that you’d question their ability to repeat the performance.

  • metsfaninparadise

    I’ve always used the Astros as “that” team, although they did have success more recently than KC