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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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They Finally Had It Made

The night started with 42s everywhere and ended with a 7 in your scorebook. I couldn’t miss the former on Jackie Robinson Day, but had to look up the latter, as sensory overload must have gotten to me, sending this correspondent nodding off to dreamland as the bottom of the eighth commenced. The last thing I remember was being told Addison Reed was coming in to pitch with a four-run lead. The next thing I heard was the Mets held on, 6-5.

I wondered how in hell the Mets nearly blew their second badly needed win in a row and how many pitchers had to use how many pitches to defend it, but then I closed my eyes, grasped the bottom line and fell back asleep until Hozzie the Feline Alarm Clock woke me aggressively for extracurricular feeding purposes (his, not mine).

The Mets indeed held on, 6-5. It wasn’t a dream, though from the details I missed gathering live, it appears it could have been a nightmare. The nether regions of the Cleveland Indians’ half of the box score — until last night I had little reason to concern myself with what the Tribe’s got goin’ on down there — has apparently been established as a haven for ex-Mets carrying a grudge against their old comrades. Funny, I remember liking Marlon Byrd and Juan Uribe when they were two of us, yet they conspired late in the proceedings with a single and then a walk to almost unravel all the good that had been done by those who still wear Met uniforms; they even got Collin Cowgill involved at the last minute as a pinch-runner.

Nevertheless, Jeurys Familia, on his fifteenth pitch to his fourth batter, crafted the one out he was asked to obtain in relief of Reed (twenty pitches, eight batters, five outs, three runs that included Carlos Santana’s two-run black magic homer to make it 6-4), inducing Jose Ramirez to fly to left, which sealed the deal at 6-5.

And that was the stuff I slept through. The part I was awake for through 7½ innings encompassed a hive of activity intriguing enough to make a fan feel as if he would miss something if he changed the channel or, heaven forefend, actually got up off the couch.

First off, there was 42 on the mound, 42 behind the plate, 42 at first, 42 around in right, 42 ready to come off the bench, 42 warming in the pen, 42 bringing out the lineup card, where he shook hands with his opposite number, who was also one of many 42s on his side. Major League Baseball decided the best way to salute the player who opened the door to diversifying the sport was to have everybody look the same from the back, and thus was born an annual tradition that blends good intentions with so-so aesthetics. Anything that gets dozens of broadcast crews talking and presumably millions of fans thinking about Jackie Robinson is for the better. As Ken Burns demonstrated again this week, you can’t tell his story enough in a country for which integration of baseball was but one small albeit significant step on a road that never really ends.

On the other hand, everybody wearing the same number at the same time in a game where the eye is trained to identify players by their numbers veers to the confusing and counterproductive, particularly during those intervals when somebody is running or throwing or entering on behalf of a not particularly recognizable opponent. We don’t see the Tribe very often and we’ve hardly seen anybody two weeks into the new season. On April 15, we don’t see anybody’s name because “42” must be, by fiat, stitched alone on all those jerseys.

It made tracking Indians who weren’t once Mets impossible without graphics. Every Met, meanwhile, triggered for me a Ron Hodges flashback. Some years, I see Ron Taylor or Butch Huskey. Friday night, perhaps because the shade of road grays matched what was in vogue from 1973 to 1984, everybody looked like a lefthanded backup catcher perpetually batting .228 with one homer and nine RBIs.

Coincidentally, those stats pretty well described the entire 2016 Mets’ offensive output entering Friday night, yet the latest iteration of Terry’s Terrors powered up like it was paying tribute to Gil Hodges. Four home runs flew off of Met bats, a couple climbing high enough to clear the ostentatiously tall left field wall of Progressive Field, a venue named for a capitalist enterprise, but you gotta wonder how the presidential candidate who proudly campaigns as a democratic socialist never held a rally there. Our particularly partisan concern, however, is that the Mets did rally rousingly, or at least homered enough so they could take a lead that was too big to fail. With Michael Conforto (now and perhaps forever batting third), Alejandro De Aza, Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker all going very deep, you could have not noticed the zero hits in ten at-bats they generated with runners in scoring position…and forgotten how two of those who slugged — Walker and De Aza — got themselves thrown out on close calls at the plate.

Details, details. There was so much to admire as we were being reminded what happens when Mets swing and connect and score all in one fluid, majestic motion. Despite the untimely hitting otherwise and the unsuccessful baserunning twice (one such episode confirmed by instant replay, which couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with a nine-inning contest requiring 217 minutes to complete), six runs are six runs, and as long as our pitchers didn’t give up more than five, the means of production proved highly efficient.

Taking care of the first five-and-a-third innings from the mound was Bartolo Colon, pitching in Cleveland fourteen seasons after the Indians traded him to Montreal. Compare that to Nolan Ryan in 1988 starting against the Mets seventeen years after they traded him to the Angels, or Jesse Orosco getting a big out at Shea in 2003 as a Padre sixteen years past his most recent Met assignment, and you find yourself even more impressed. When you’re invoking lords of longevity like Ryan and Orosco, you know the company Colon is keeping is enduringly elite.

The Indians received three players with loads of upside yet untapped — Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee — and had to give up only a pitcher pushing thirty who could have left only how many years, really? Cleveland’s haul has long been celebrated as theft, given the futures their trio revealed, while the Expos couldn’t ride Colon’s experienced arm to a Wild Card in 2002. But despite what was accomplished by those other guys, and even though Montreal was soon without Colon or anybody else at Olympic Stadium, how could anybody in 2016 look at a transaction that grants somebody use of Bartolo Colon and mark it as anything less than a draw?

Bartolo Colon: still pitching.

Bartolo Colon: still pitching in Cleveland, if not for Cleveland.

Bartolo Colon: still pitching while wearing his age on his Jackie Robinson Day uni.

Bartolo Colon: still pitching while no longer remotely resembling the Bart 1.0 featured in all that footage SNY dug up from the end of the last century.

Bartolo Colon: still pitching well nineteen years past his major league debut.

Bartolo Colon: still pitching as a former Expo when there are no longer any active big leaguers answering to that description.

Bartolo Colon: still pitching well enough and long enough on a given Friday night to rack up a 219th lifetime win, or as many as Pedro Martinez collected in a Hall of Fame career, second only to Juan Marichal among Dominican-born pitchers.

Never mind that the collective WAR to come that Montreal gave up when it sent Lee, Phillips and Sizemore to Cleveland dwarfs Colon on even his shall we say biggest day. Colon is still having big days. And he’s having them for us.

Three other lingering thoughts from before I shut my eyes prior to Familia slamming the door:

1) Colon’s fellow 1990s Tribesman, Keith Hernandez, never sounds happier than when he tabs a player of tenure “a veteran,” which was how he pardoned De Aza running the Mets out of a seventh run, attempting to go first to home on Curtis Granderson’s single to right. He also never sounds more wistful than when he invokes the phrase “used to be”. The Gospel According to Keith implies baseball peaked when Bob Gibson was putting him in his rookie place, and it’s all been a steady decline, for the sport and the society that surrounds it, ever since. Friday night Keith blamed bloggers, Tweetsters, basically anybody who has lately expressed a Mets opinion without benefit of a newspaper column for raising Terry Collins’s hackles over bullpen use and perhaps overuse. The subtext was, in essence, you fans should really shut up and let the professionals take care of business. At times like these, it is helpful to remember a) some player turned analyst who was never as spectacular as Keith at either discipline probably put forth the same sorts of criticisms of modernity in Keith’s day, declaring that the current era (1974-1990 in Hernandez’s case) was a travesty compared to the way things used to be; and b) he’s Keith Hernandez.

Honestly, the second thing is all I have to keep in mind.

2) David Wright, who has worn 42 once a year for so many years that it looks almost normal on him, is having throwing problems that may never go away. One assumes this is stenosis’s doing, which is not just a shame for all the infield outs that will go unmade, but doubly vicious when you hark back to how hard he worked to stop making the routine throwing errors that plagued the early stages of his career. But man, as could be seen when Yan Gomes reached on an E-5 to start the bottom of the sixth, he does not look good slinging that ball across the diamond.

3) Curtis Granderson is The Man in so many ways. Nobody works harder at fan relations. Nobody sounds smoother conducting himself with the media. Nobody, based on the torrent of public relations email we receive, does more to promote baseball in his ostensible off hours. He even jacked his average up past .100 Friday night. But the long version of the Curtis Granderson Sock Day commercial is a narrative disaster.

In it, we see a mostly fully home-uniformed Curtis keeping loose by running barefoot sprints back and forth in front of the team clothes dryer. The time posted on the screen is 7:07 PM, the conceit being his socks better be dry soon because the game is about to start. Sure enough, Alex Anthony can be heard announcing that now leading off for the Mets is the right fielder, No. 3…and we watch Curtis grab his socks and dash toward the field.

It’s terrific to see the Mets get creative with these spots — the Syndergaarden Gnome is an instant classic — but instead of motivating me to be one of the first 15,000 through the gates on May 1 to pick up my pair of Curtis Granderson baseball socks, it has me wondering if anybody was manning right while Grandy’s socks dried. First pitch is 7:10 PM; first batter is the visiting team’s leadoff hitter. Given the setup, the top of the first is clearly at hand and therefore Curtis has to be in right. (I’ve already ruled out “all this occurs within a ghastly dystopian future where the designated hitter has been inflicted upon National League parks, all clubhouse staff has been let go and, oh yeah, Bryce Harper is forever 23 and therefore always getting better” as an explanation, for Anthony has already mentioned Granderson is playing right.) Unless a special arrangement was made to have the Mets wear their home uniforms and bring along Citi Field’s public address announcer to a road game, there is no way this otherwise admirable and amusing commercial makes a lick of sense in terms of story.

Well, it doesn’t.

11 comments to They Finally Had It Made

  • SkillSets

    David Wright = Don Mattingly. We hope DW wins a World Series so he won’t be the full Mattingly.

  • Dave

    That DW play was sketchy from the start. He took a step in and then backed up like he wasn’t sure which hop he wanted. I’m hoping that was just a rust play on his part due to missing a lot of the spring.

  • Thank you for blowing the lid off the Curtis Granderson sock promo storyboard fiasco.

    In response comes the following from the team’s Media Relations Dept.:

    “We admit that we made a mistake, and have instituted a new process with internal controls to prevent something like this from happening again in the future.”


    So cool that the above has now been crafted and can be used to address a myriad of different situations by dropping the boilerplate in with the appropriate subject heading.

    In the event Bastardo tanks, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing this again.

    • You just reminded me I had a line in my mind regarding the story to which you refer, but forgot about it in the writing process. I’ll probably have reason to use it again, however.

  • Dave

    See, I’m left wondering, “is money that tight that every player only has one pair of socks?”

    Keith is approaching the “hey you kids, get off my lawn” stage of life, and nostalgia for the way things used to be is nothing more than “gee, I wish I was still young.” And as someone born a few years after Keith but still firmly within the Baby Boom era, I’ll cut him some slack. And as you say, (and as he told Elaine) he’s Keith Hernandez.

    • To each his own, particularly Keith’s, but Ralph never left me with the impression that he resented what was, at any given moment, contemporary. Ageless and timeless, as Rod Stewart might say.

    • Ray

      The Wilpons are selling most of them as game-worn the minute they come out of the dryer.

      Singles from broken sets are 50 percent off!

  • Juan

    How about this, Grandy had an off day and the starting right field De Aza may a great catch running into the outfield wall and had to leave the game. While they looked at De Aza in the outfield Grandy was told he was going in the game, he realized his lucky socks were still in the dryer. Isn’t that was everybody was thinking

    • With a little adjustment for the 7:07 PM part, this could work. Maybe it’s the first game of a twinighter and Curtis is leading off a later inning.

      I hope De Aza is all right. Just when he started to hit, too.

  • Dave

    And another thing…cool that the Mets, who had the last NY Giant and the last Brooklyn Dodger, now have the last Expo.

  • […] wasn’t. Nevertheless, Granderson tags and moves to second, which is so heads-up I could look past that funny business about what he puts on his feet. Bad break for David, but Curtis just did something good. But then Conforto strikes out looking and […]