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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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Good Will Toward Mets

Early Sunday afternoon, Christmas Eve, my wife and I were riding the LIRR westbound into the city. We were rolling slightly beyond Forest Hills, which meant Woodside was the next station. My instinct was to stand, approach the vestibule and wait for the train to pull in so I could step off and walk the platform to the staircase for the 7. I’d climb up, swipe my Metrocard, climb another flight and peer down the tracks until the next Flushing-bound train appeared. Once boarded, I’d ride the eight local stops to what the MTA now refers to as Mets-Willets Point but our souls will always recognize as Willets Point-Shea Stadium. In my mind, I was there. I was already deciding which security apparatchik I’d submit my bag to for mandatory pawing.

That fleeting plan on how I’d spend my December 24 wouldn’t have bore much fruit, as the Mets once again failed to schedule a Christmas Eve doubleheader. Thus, I maintained my seat until Penn Station approached and we stuck to our initial plan, which was to do something that wasn’t baseball. Yet I stand by my instinct. I was pulled into the Mets orbit and, psychically anyway, willingly floated toward my home planet, no matter the holiday blues that surrounded it.

’Twas practically the night before Christmas and the Mets couldn’t have been coming off a worse week, a week when they’d lost no games and traded no players. Perhaps they, like me, were under the impression that it was still December, still three-plus months from Opening Day, still time to augment the offseason bounty that thus far consisted primarily of middle reliever Anthony Swarzak and backup catcher Jose Lobaton.

Time is only on your side for so long these days, for here came our ’18 nervous breakdown. Shortly after the Mets joined the Lobaton Galaxy of Stars, Marc Carig of Newsday noted in print and pixel that the emperor had no payroll, or certainly hadn’t made any useful proclamations lately regarding the ability or inclination to add to it. It was one of those facts of Met life that had been nagging at all of us but nobody with a media megaphone had bothered to shout it from his or her perch.

Carig did, and free-floating anxiety hell broke loose. Joel Sherman of the Post chimed in that the Mets’ payroll was gonna be $20 million less than last year, reflecting a lack of management confidence in how good the finished product could possibly be in 2018. Per the Post’s Mike Puma, Fred Wilpon was “irate” that the Yankees had traded for Giancarlo Stanton, the trigger transaction that reminded us who in these parts traditionally absorbs MVP megacontracts and who doesn’t. As murmuring and muttering elevated to grousing and grumbling, a boycott buzz grew in the name of shaking up ownership. Steve Phillips emerged on Twitter to bemoan the lack of “empathy” for his erstwhile employers. The gesture from the former general manager whom I’ve never forgiven for trading Rick Reed came off as tin-eared but landed (to me) as almost endearing, given that empathy is a decent gift to give any time of year. Speaking of former Mets GMs, Omar Minaya suddenly returned to the Citi Field executive suite, deputized a special assistant to Sandy Alderson, who confined his enthusiasm for the move to a prepared statement. Not in the fold? Ed Kranepool, the ur-Met, currently on the outside looking in, telling Wally Matthews in the Times that, for the most part, his club no longer calls, no longer writes, no longer cares.

Holiday blues were never tinted so orange.

Somehow it was still December, yet the Mets were plunging through the standings of perception, falling behind the Phillies for talent and the Braves for future while mounting a spirited challenge to the Marlins for narrative. In a blink, the 2015 National League championship was never won. The 2016 playoffs were never reached. Good will toward Mets was erased. “Sell the team!” “Don’t pay to see the team!” “Damn this team!” Me? I swore that if the Mets didn’t start getting serious about building a better ballclub, I was going to stay a Mets fan.

After 49 seasons, I’m a wee bit rusty at threatening to walk.

I tried to reactivate old anger at the Wilpons, if only to stay current with the Metsopotamian mood. I couldn’t (except for the Kranepool part — be nice to Eddie; we only have one of him). They’re the same owners who owned the team when it went to the World Series 26 months ago. 2009 through 2014 were fairly miserable, but 2015 and 2016 did happen. I tried to be satisfied. I couldn’t do that, either. The Mets are likely healthier than their 70-win selves of 2017, but otherwise not appreciably improved, distance to March 29 notwithstanding. Excitement on the order of having just acquired Gary Carter or Carlos Delgado seemed an inappropriate reaction, no disrespect to Swarzak and Lobaton intended, though I’m still pretty stoked to see what Mickey Callaway and new trainers can do with what they have on hand. I’d like to think January and February will imbue the roster with ballast if not dazzle. I’d like to insist that our NYC ADI entitles us to a little big-market oomph, though I tend to believe major league should be major league in any city. I can’t see myself refusing to go to Mets games out of principle when the organizing principle of my life is the Mets. I could sooner see myself going to Citi Field on Christmas Eve for a game that didn’t exist.

If the Mets don’t improve and they play like it, mass interest in them figures to wither (save for folks like us who consider them constantly). Indifference is the sharpest tool in any kit and it’s crafted organically. Twenty games attended becomes ten. Ten becomes five. The Mets being on tonight becomes something else to do. Messages get sent. Hard-edged boycotts, however pure-hearted, strike me as better suited for making statements that transcend “get us a second baseman already.” Maybe you and I, the fan/customer, just allocate our resources differently if we are not convinced they, the Wilpons/Alderson, are allocating their resources remotely optimally. That right is embedded in every fan’s constitution, the section where it says you are under no obligation to choose between your rights and your Wrights.

No, no definitive answers here, except it would sure be nice to have a game to go or not go to ASAP.

I’m having some technical difficulties, so apologies for the lack of links within the body of the above text. If you don’t mind a little cutting and pasting, here are a few hopefully helpful URLs:

8 comments to Good Will Toward Mets

  • “Christmas Eve doubleheader”. c’mon man. it’s cold outside. One game on Christmas Eve is enough.

  • dmg

    I have long held off about the Wilpons selling the team because it seems obvious that the likely buyers would be the already detested and incompetent Dolans. I’m coming around on this point: At least the Dolans would throw money at the problem, which is exactly what the Mets need.

    Unless there’s some massive liability confronting the Wilpons that we don’t know about — a reasonable possibility — I don’t understand the attitude they apparently have in a time when they have to be doing well. Madoff is in the rear-view mirror, real estate is soaring, the SNY network is worth millions. You don’t like the high costs of running an MLB franchise today? I don’t like paying 3 bucks for a cup of coffee. But I pay it.

  • K. Lastima

    Until the recent articles, particularly Marc Carig’s, the beat writers and columnists for the NY papers have largely been missing in action and derelict in their duties with respect to uncovering the financial deceit of the Wilpon/Katz ownership regime. It is high time that one of the NY papers charges one of its sports reporters to team with one of its financial reporters to finally expose the financial shell game that the Mets’ ownership is perpetrating through the combination of SNY revenues and the repeated refinancing of the team’s debt to barely stay afloat, enabled by Bud Selig’s $25MM emergency loan to his buddy Fred from the commissioner’s slush fund. It is long past due for the media to bring to light the reality of how financially unqualified Wilpon/Katz are to own and operate a NY baseball franchise

  • Seth

    I love that Kranepool photo!

  • Dave

    The article in the Times about Ed Kranepool was disappointing, to say the least. Seems as though NYC has produced more than one 2nd generation real estate tycoon who gets very angry and spiteful in the face of any type of criticism.

    Whether or not one agrees with the concept of boycotting the team – not the act of abandoning their fanhood, but simply not attending games or buying merchandise – we should all be able to understand the idea of pressuring ownership to give us an all-in commitment to winning. Yes, we were just steps away from the Promised Land a mere 2 years ago, but shouldn’t the way CitiField shook Shea-style for the first time have shown the Wilpons how responsive we are to that all-in attitude? Give us something to work with, we’ll be behind you.

    I’ve seen exchanges on Twitter lately that I wish I wasn’t seeing (I know, the solution is to put down my phone and pick up a book instead). I see fans who often complain criticize others for complaining…it feels as though the mood of the country seeps into every aspect of our lives now, the toxic discourse permeates everything, even those who should be natural allies are at each other’s throats. We’re Mets fans, we’re part of the same team. We’re isolated enough in our own city/metropolitan area sometimes, we at least need to understand that while we might have different philosophies about how best to get there, we all share a common goal.

    However many days until pitchers and catchers report, I can’t wait…even if I fear what those pitchers are capable of giving us.

  • Seth

    It’s not clear to me what constitutes a boycott. I live out of market and don’t buy merchandise, so I won’t be buying tickets or t-shirts. But I usually buy the package, so am I not allowed to watch any MLB games at all for fear of giving some revenue to the Wilpons? If buying the MLB package is OK, then does NOT using it to watch Mets games constitute a boycott?

    In short, I don’t see how to implement this “boycott” without giving up MLB altogether, and I’m not willing to do that. Nor should I have to.

  • Pete the Midnight Golfer

    Bud did rescue his friend Fred. He also assigned Sandy to manage the club having recognized the financial ineptness of the Wilpon regime. Ownership thinks they are shrewd as they pass on each trade or signing. Please note that the same idiots who lost a fortune are the ones who snub Ed Kranepool. Guess what? These same idiots are snubbing all Mets fans! Can the Wilpons feel ashamed? Can ownership admit they are inept? Probably not. But they should. Before citing 2015, Daniel Murphy saved that season. Sandy shrewded us out of that one. Pagan and Turner were also shrewd disasters. You and I are still paying Bonilla and Saberhagen until 2035! Sandy is about keeping the Mets on life support, taking chances on B- players trending upwards, and hoping we all buy lots of stuff online or at the ballpark. I fear that the Wilpons have no shame and have no inclination to get out of the biz. I wish I was wrong. At least Bernie went to the slammer. Payments by the Wilpons to Madoff’s victims continue. $16 million in 2016, and $45 million split 4 ways starting in 2017 is being paid out. Funny how salaries are trending downward for team expenses. Poor Fred sure hopes you spend $’s at Shake Shack!