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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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Frauds at Citi Drop Dead

On a night when the Daily News didn’t send a reporter to Citi Field to cover the Mets, the Mets didn’t necessarily make news worth covering. That is if you subscribe to the theory that mundane “dog bites man” and “Mets bite in general” events don’t much amount to news.

You wouldn’t want to be the man who gets bitten by that dog, though, and right now you wouldn’t go out of your way to link your happiness to the fate of this baseball team unless the habit of tuning into them was hammered into you at an early age. Those of us who tuned in decades ago don’t know how to tune out. The best we could do on a deathly quiet night like Monday was watch from a distance with diminishing interest.

Which was more than any of the few reporters still associated with the News was directed to do.

Nevertheless, there’s always something to write about with this team, no matter how little of it is flattering. On those nights when the grind of constant losing got to him, Casey Stengel, the essence of good copy, didn’t hesitate to refer to the Mets he was guiding deeper into the basement as “a fraud”. The description, within the context he offered it, still seems to fit. The Mets as currently constituted are indeed a fraud. Or would that be “frauds” plural? I’d ask a copy editor at the News to weigh in on proper usage, but thanks to cold corporate calculus, the desk is suddenly shorthanded.

The decidely non-fraudulent Jacob deGrom pitched Monday night, which is usually cause for a heightened sense of engagement, even in the latter half of 2018 when we already know the story of the season as a whole and can pretty much guess the outcome of any given contest. DeGrom was very, very good. Unfortunately he dared to allow some Padres to hit the ball just enough for his defense to undermine him — as if his offense wasn’t handling that task with aplomb. Three runs were scored by San Diego in eight innings en route to their 3-2 victory over the best pitcher in professional baseball. Two of them were earned. Only one of them wasn’t helped along by a Met miscue. The league-leading ERA that began the evening at 1.68 finished it at 1.71. So, yeah, Jake was slightly off his game.

There are other sets of numbers that shed light on the dichotomy between deGrom’s brilliance and the Mets’ dimness when the former hurls his heart out for the latter. I will conscientiously object to disseminating them here. It’s too depressing. As if watching the Mets play dead on a Monday night wasn’t already depressing. As if absorbing the fate of the Daily News wasn’t already depressing. The Mets at least sometimes win one when not preoccupied by depressing defeats, unprecedented disabled list assignments and tortured medical explanations. The News has been cast by its ownership into apparent utter irrelevance. I say “apparent” because it’s not like I’m running out to buy a copy to confirm that it’s something not worth buying let alone reading.

True, I wasn’t running out to buy a copy in the days immediately preceding yesterday, before half of the editorial staff, including most of the sports department, was dismissed by an entity unimpressed by the concept of journalism. The News could have staffed last night’s game with the reincarnations of Jack Lang, Phil Pepe and a pre-embitterment Dick Young and I wasn’t dropping a buck-fifty at any newsstand for it. Same for the print editions of its rivals. I stopped buying the papers every day in 2007, which made me a late unadopter in the scheme of media consumption patterns. Before then, I was a loyal customer. A habitual customer, you could say. Like the Mets, the newspaper habit was hammered into me at an impressionable age. My dad bought the News mostly on Sundays, mostly for the comics. I adored the whole package and began seeking it out on weekdays. As Curtis Granderson might have posited, true New Yorkers read the News. Via my distribution of coins, I was determined to be one of them.

Most all of us hold dear some gauzy childhood memory of the connection between ourselves and a newspaper. That explains to a great extent how we became Mets fans who love to read. But it doesn’t say anything about continuing to buy newspapers. I stopped with the News and its peers because I realized I was getting what I needed via computer, whether it was posted by the newspapers themselves or by others conveniently aggregating on their behalf. Besides, I was paying for an Internet connection. I had only so many coins to distribute. Eventually I’d ante up for a digital Times subscription and, recently, for access to The Athletic, which has been a boon for sports coverage, national, regional and local. Sometimes I see tweets from sports fans aghast that they can’t read Ken Rosenthal’s freshest column for free. I guess they’re not old enough to remember the candy store owner who burned holes through you with his eyes to remind you he wasn’t running a library here.

Well into the 2010s, when Stephanie would go out for drug items and bagels on Sunday mornings, she’d bring me back the papers because we’d always bought the papers on Sunday. I never asked her not to continue purchasing them and I cherished the ritual of digging into her CVS bag and fishing them out. Around 2015, I told her don’t bother with the Times anymore, we’re already paying for it online; I read most of these stories three days ago. But she kept picking up Newsday and the News. They were less expensive than the TimesNewsday had enough local reporting to make having a copy seem worthwhile (even though our cable/Internet provider, which owns Newsday, magnanimously lowers the paper’s dot-com paywall as part of its Silver-level service); and the News…the News was what instinctively lit up Sunday mornings for me for as long as I could remember. I’d grab the comics as soon as my dad was done with them. I’d read every column inch in the sports section. I formed a portrait of what the city and its citizens were all about from that weekly foray into New York’s Picture Newspaper.

That was the Sunday News to me when I was a kid. As an adult nearly half-a-century later, it was a thin curio. I already knew the sports and I didn’t keep up with the comics. Everything else it printed I had gleaned the essence of elsewhere. One Sunday morning last summer, when we were out early, I made a point of picking up the News and Newsday because it felt wrong not to have them on hand. Seven days later, I told Stephanie not to bother with those papers anymore, either. I still reflexively look in the CVS bag for them, kind of missing them in ritual, not missing them at all in reality.

Despite no longer being their customer, I definitely miss the idea of the News covering everything the News has always covered, last night’s Mets game included. Sometimes I’d click on their game stories, features and columns and be enlightened. It was often compelling as content and it was surely comforting that it was there. At some point, however, seeking it out — never mind paying for it — stopped being habit for me. I’m surely not the only one who can say that.

17 comments to Frauds at Citi Drop Dead

  • Matthew A.

    Optimum reinstated the Newsday paywall on June 15. So that’s one more place you can’t meet the Mets without a subscription.

  • ljcmets

    In Albany, my Dad’s ritual was to go to the downtown newsstand (closed for years) late Saturday night (after 11) to pick up the first edition of the Sunday Times off the late train from New York. He always took me with him, even though there were seedy types in there at that hour hanging around what was then euphemistically called the “gentleman’s” section. While we waited for the train to come in, I wandered around the arts, fashion, political and sports sections at my leisure. My Dad always bought me a couple magazines (as varied as Baseball Digest, Vogue and The New Republic) and then the enormous Times, and when we got home I’d devour that paper from start to finish (in college I developed the crossword habit too). It makes me a little sad when I see how the Sunday Times has diminished in size and heft.

    I always wanted to read about the Mets, even during the winter, and there was almost always an article each week, along with the big baseball preview of each season. We never bought the tabloids unless we were actually in the City for some reason, but when I started working in downtown Albany after college I usually picked up the News and the Post along with the Times every weekday at the very same newsstand. The death-by-a-thousand cuts at the News is heartbreaking. It’s also completely irrational. How can an institution known as “the picture paper” lay off ALL of its photography staff?

    As for the Mets, Jake looks resigned to his fate, whether it be no run support, lousy defense or a combo of both as we were treated to last night. Part of me wants him to escape via trade, but then I remember that he is someone’s favorite player, some young Mets fan’s Seaver, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Sigh.

  • Curt

    Not being a New Yorker I’ll pass on The Daily News discussion. Do have a question though – what would be the big deal about trading deGrom? A .500 pitcher? (ducks)

    Watched through the 8th, then turned it off once I knew deGrom wouldn’t get the win. And to be realistic, I knew the Mets wouldn’t either and had to be up early today. Since Hernandez won the Cy Young a few years ago with a 13-12 record I hold out hope for Jake. Not sure that finishing the year at 6-10 or something would get it done though, whatever your ERA.

    Have a couple of “You know things are going bad for your team when . . .” comments.

    You know things are going bad for your team when Wilmer Flores is your best defensive infielder.

    You know things are going bad for your team when you look down the bench to see who’s available to pinch hit with the bases loaded and the choices are Ty Kelly and Matt den Decker.

    • Orange and blue through and through

      Really Curt? A .500 pitcher? Yes, his record is ONLY .500, but have you been watching him pitch? THE best pitcher in baseball! Look at his stats. Look at how few runs the team scores when he’s on the mound. Look at all the games the bullpen has blown. Look at the fact that he’s one of the classiest players to ever pull on a Mets uniform, and ask again, what the big deal is.

      • Curt

        Once again I’m reminded that sarcasm sometimes doesn’t translate well online.

        Though of course if you’d read the rest of it you would have understood where I was coming from.

        • Orange and blue through and through

          Apologies to you. I get a little ootsy when the possibility of another star pitcher getting traded comes up. Your points, upon rereading with a clear head, are correct. Keep the faith!

  • Ed Rising

    I’ve been buying the news on a sparing basis over the last 10 years. Like yourself, the Sunday News (and Newsday) were a big part of Sunday morning. The News always had great writers the afore mentioned Phil Pepe, and Dick Young – before his ideas were used a certain terrific pitcher out of town, and of course Bill Gallo. I always enjoyed Mike Lupica, Bill Malden and more recently, John Harper. It is a damn shame what the internet is ruining businesses left and right with no signs of stopping. I love what the internet offers – but it is killing stores and newspapers and eventually the move theatre industry.

  • Jacobs27

    For what it’s worth, neither the Daily News nor Newsday has been accessible at all in Europe since the new EU regulations have gone into effect. In any case, I mourn the Daily News.

    • BlackCountryMet

      Until recently I read every Met story on both websites,in my lunch hour, on a daily basis to keep informed. The EU regulations bought an end to that, which has annoyed me.

      Regards Jake, he’s likeable and as such, part of me wants him to go elsewhere and achieve what his pitching merits (unlike a certain ego maniac no longer with us) BUT then part of me knows how upsetting it would be to know “That could have been US” and not have an adequate reply to “Why the HECK did you trade De Grom?” so I want to keep him. The key is, obviously keep him if you could foresee any investment/improvement from ownership/front office. Sadly I’m reaching the conclusion that I can’t

      Nonetheless, a day game means an early evening start UK time, so I’ll be tuning in, in HOPE but little expectation! LGM

  • dak442

    I’ve had the Daily News in my house my entire life. My parents were subscribers. I bought the thin “national edition” daily at college in PA to keep up with what was transpiring at home. And I bought it every day at work until I moved back into NYC in 1997 and got home delivery. I still have fond memories of the 80s-90s heyday with its 100+ page Friday edition, every day bursting with content about everything under the sun. I read it cover to cover and when friends asked me how I was so well-informed about everything, I recommended they do the same.

    It’s a sad time, for that paper and for papers in general. I guess it’s understandable that people are reluctant to pay a buck a day for news if they can get it for free on their phone or computer, but to me the Huffington Post is not a substitute for a a professionally researched, fact-checked, written and edited source. I’ve continued to support the paper (and the local Staten Island paper) out of a sense of obligation to try and keep print alive, but if the DN is giving up, I probably will too. The paper was dreadful today – 40 pages total. The AP report on the Met game was almost shocking (although, it did a better job recapping the game than the News has in recent years), and the only other Mets item was a Kristie Ackert column. Maybe even more surprising was that since the Yankee game ran late, not only was there no news on that… there was NO Yankee coverage. One Pat Leonard article about the Giants – maybe they’ll cover the Jets tomorrow. The news section wasn’t much better. At least they still had comics and the Jumble.

    What a difference from the years where everyone on the train had a paper. This culture overhaul has even changed my professional life. I used to spend a solid 1/3 of my time on print ads; now I might work on a handful a year. Maybe the News will evolve to an online-only pay service that enough people will buy to keep it a going concern. I don’t know that I’ll make that move with them.

    I have nothing to add about the Mets. I actually forgot they were playing and re-watched Thor: Ragnarok on Netflix last night. The missus and I are going to see them in Camden Yards next month, and that’ll probably be it for the year unless it’s nice out on Closing Day. Bad Times.

  • Dave

    Not only have I not kicked my newspaper habit, I passed it down to my daughter. She’s now 23, we commute together, and we sit down to breakfast at 6am every day and share the Times and, here in Jersey, the Star Ledger (although on most days the latter is closer in size to a pamphlet). I’m proud, feeling like my daughter is the only 23 year old anywhere who reads physical newspapers 7 days a week.

    But the Daily News of my youth…so associate it with Mets history. I still have the fully intact copy from October 17, 1969…the huge headline WORLD CHAMPS and a price of 8 cents. Casey Stengel was doing a guest column during the Series. But…may Dick Young’s soul rot and burn in Hell for all eternity, thank you very much. But aside from that SOB, I have great Mets/Daily News memories. Sad.

  • Greggofboken

    I’m the son of a journalist. I, too, support my paper of choice (the NYT) with weekday purchases of the printed copy. I plan to continue doing so — out of preference, and out of principle.

    Print vs. digital is a legitimate conversation, and the news industry has not adapted well to the change and the economics of that.

    Even if a reader disdains print, the role of professionally researched, fact-vetted, news source is vital. That’s the real loss of the news at the News. These days the plethora of immediately available news has led to the death of the news cycle, and the rush to put out information that is poorly vetted and badly edited. So….what we have is cheap and fast.

    Like a White Castle hamburger.

    For all those online aggregators, what’s happening at the News is likely to result in the death of one more source for these re-packagers to steal (sorry! adapt!) from.

    Support your local news organization. Whichever your supplier of choice may be. However you choose to consume it.

    Man cannot live by White Castle alone.

  • Orange and blue through and through

    This just completes one fucked up summer. It isn’t bad enough that the Mets are awful, now, another page of my life is torn away. I’ve been reading the Daily News since I was 10. My father brought it home 7 days a week. As a kid, I only read the sports and the comics; not reading the whole paper until high school. I loved the editorials, letters to the editor and the unique way the News covered the news.

    My particular joy however was the sports section. The caricatures of the Mets and Yankees in the centerfold by Bruce Stark; the everyday genius of Bill Gallo (hello Basement Bertha!). My devotion to Mike Lupica would continue even if all he did was write Bazooka Joe comics. I read, and hated, the detestable Dick Young; a man as responsible for Tom Seaver being traded as the incompetent M. (for moron?) Donald Grant. Young’s attack on Nancy Seaver was a particular low. I read it all.

    And now, sadly, all the News meant to me is gone. Do I mourn for the Daily News, or for my lost youth? I suspect a little of both.

  • Mark Mehler

    Two sweet Daily News memories: Buying a copy at Port Authority before boarding an out of town bus, in order to take a small piece of NY with me. And declining an offer to work there as a scab during a newspaper strike. As for Dick Young, his true embitterment could best be divined in a bar in the wee small hours. Would make you prefer to drink alone.

  • Will in Central NJ

    I still have my childhood Mets scrapbooks, which are B/W marble cover school notebooks. They are filled with newspaper clippings from 1972-77 of Mets photos, articles, and game recaps. The sources were the Newark Star-Ledger primarily, some NY Times, NY Post, and lots of NY Daily News articles. The writings of Dan Castellano, Dick Young, Maury Allen, Jack Lang, Ira Berkow, Murray Chass and others graced my scrapbooks’ pages. Another piece of childhood withers away.

  • JerseyJack

    I’d like to know what the Mets score when Jake is pitching vs. the rest of the starting pitchers ? Gotta be a substantial difference …. Greg ??