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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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Filling Out the Ticket

Newly nominated as the Democratic candidate for president in 1972, George McGovern suddenly needed a running mate. He didn’t clinch his berth in the November finals until his party’s July convention, so a nicety such as pursuing a vice president weren’t a priority well in advance the way it is today when primaries take care of top-of-the-ticket business relatively early. Further, McGovern trailed incumbent Richard Nixon by a lot in the polls, so the honor McGovern was ready to bestow wasn’t necessarily seen as much of a stepping stone in the world of politics.

It was said of the United States Senate that every one of its members (when it was almost exclusively a boys’ club) saw a president in the mirror when he set out to shave in the morning. Yet, as historian Rick Perlstein recounts in Nixonland, three of McGovern’s colleagues from that august body — Ted Kennedy, Abraham Ribicoff and Gaylord Nelson — declined to see themselves as a vice president and demurred when McGovern asked each of them to join him on his ticket. Nelson at least was helpful and recommended a possible alternative: Senator Thomas Eagleton of Missouri. It was getting late, so McGovern’s people thought about it for a couple of minutes and extended the invitation. Eagleton wasn’t well-known enough to worry about his reputation being damaged on the wrong end of a possible landslide and said yes.

Great…except then not great, because in the rush to find a vice president, the McGovern campaign didn’t thoroughly vet Eagleton, and soon enough Eagleton revealed publicly he’d encountered bouts of “nervous exhaustion and fatigue” for which he was treated with psychiatric help, “including electric shock”. This was quite a bite of news for the body politic to digest nearly a half-century ago, as was the realization that McGovern’s advisers didn’t know about it or ask about it before offering Eagleton to the convention for nomination. It didn’t take long after the story broke for McGovern to inelegantly nudge Eagleton off the ticket and commence on another search for another potential vice president.

Ribicoff resisted a second chance to step in. As did Nelson. As did rising “New South” governor Ruben Askew of Florida. As did Maine Senator Ed Muskie, who’d been No. 2 on the Dems’ ticket in ’68. Muskie had run with Hubert Humphrey, who’d been an unhappy vice president under Lyndon Johnson. McGovern reached out to Humphrey (who, like Muskie, was one of the candidates McGovern beat out for the presidential nomination) to see if maybe he’d like to try it again. No thanks, Hubert said. Beloved consumer advocate Ralph Nader wasn’t buying, either. Oh, and Ted Kennedy turned down McGovern anew.

But there was Kennedy’s brother-in-law, the former director of the Peace Corps, Sargent Shriver. He became what amounted to the Mikey from Life Cereal candidate. Shriver tried it. The vice presidential nomination, that is. In August, McGovern-Shriver replaced McGovern-Eagleton on ballots and buttons across America. McGovern still lost by a lot, but at least he got the job filled. Of course he did. Somebody was going to take it and the ticket would get through the election, win or lose.

The fact that McGovern-Shriver went down in a 521-17 electoral college rout (or that neither Richard Nixon nor Spiro Agnew served out their re-elected term) is neither here nor there. What is here is sooner or later, no matter how many people turn it down, a high-profile job that needs to get filled gets filled.

The Mets don’t have a newly minted president of baseball operations for 2022 in the first week of November 2021, which wasn’t exactly how they planned to light their Hot Stove. They have been rejected — respectfully, quietly, but definitively in reported account after reported account — repeatedly since the season ended. At first they were rejected by the biggest names they coveted.

Epstein to Beane to Stearns
None cared what a Cohen exec earns
Epstein to Beane to Stearns
Queens doesn’t automatically appeal, a Met-lover learns
Epstein to Beane to Stearns
The Braves were on fire whilst our void still burns

We didn’t get the baseball brains we’d heard of. Theo Epstein reached two previously unreachable stars and didn’t need to go for three. Billy Beane is very comfortable in Northern California. David Stearns is under contract in Milwaukee. Fair enough. They aren’t the only fish in the sea.

Nor are a slew of names I don’t feel like looking up after they’ve all turned us down. Every front office would-be Grand POBO from Boston to Los Angeles and myriad stops in between has passed on the chance to step up in Flushing. Their loss, perhaps. Or our loss, perhaps. I can’t sweat it. I have no control over the situation. I have no control over whether an individual Met gets a hit or makes a catch or throws a strike, but at least I can sit in Promenade or my living room and yell at them and feel I gave my input. I can look at OPS and ERA+ and think I have a clue. The labyrinth that composes a baseball franchise’s power structure is essentially what I read and hear after the fact. Frank Cashen was a brilliant architect because we won a World Series. Everybody since Frank Cashen less so because we didn’t.

I do know I’m no longer invested in the cult of the extremely bright assistant general manager or whatever title they held from somewhere else. We were told Jared Porter was one smart cookie. He didn’t make it to Opening Day. We were told we were lucky to have a shiny penny like Zack Scott in reserve. He didn’t make it to Closing Day nor out of administrative leave. Every name floated during this postseason has had somebody in the know to vouch for his or her potential brilliance if only we could get that person. Maybe the one that got away was The One. Maybe not. Either way, they’re not joining us.

Somebody will. Somebody will take Steve Cohen’s money and Sandy Alderson’s direction and run with both. Somebody will make clever trades and questionable signings. Somebody will pursue this free agent but not that free agent. Somebody will make a tough decision that will pay off on the field or regrettably backfire.

As Pete Alonso said in another context, smile — we’ll get our POBO.

Yet we’ll have somebody collaboratively calling shots eventually. Somebody will be the right hire in retrospect or be replaced by the next hire. I hope for the best person available — the best person who opts to be available. We’ll find our Sargent Shriver.

Sargent Shriver died in 2011, so he’s not available.

8 comments to Filling Out the Ticket

  • eric1973

    Looks like Steve Cohen is the new Bugs Bunny of Mets Management:


    He probably should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    For about 4 paragraphs I didn’t know where you were going with this. I thought maybe it was an Annual Post-World-Series Non-Baseball Post I somehow missed all the other years.

    I have that same button. It was the first year I voted for President. Not that I was that much of a Liberal, but it was, you know, Nixon. Repeated as necessary, 2020.

  • Harvey

    .Someone who knows told me Cohen is an SOB to work for and that’s why the Mets are being turned down by everone. The fact that Cohen is taking advice from Chris Christie can’t help either. Hey, maybe the rotund Republican wants the job. He doesn’t seem to be doing much else at the moment.
    In addition, Cohen’s real goal is to build a casino-hotel where the junkyards are next to CitiField. That’s why he, his family, and employees showered campaign contributions on Eric Adams and Cathy Hochul. Mets are a stepping stones to the big bucks.

  • open the gates

    So, as per our metaphor, we’re comparing the Mets to the most completely defeated Presidential candidate of the last century? I’m not saying you’re necessarily wrong, but if so, that’s really depressing. In any case, we need someone, anyone, to drive this truck, and fast, before the rest of the league does all their deals without us. (Well, anyone whose name doesn’t rhyme with Zodie Zan Zagenen.)

  • open the gates

    Sorry to change the subject, but this just in: Jacob deGrom’s injury was possibly exacerbated by an MRI that he took lying on his stomach in the MRI tube with his right hand raised for almost an hour. Okay then. And we wonder why this team had approximately 875 players on the injured list this year.

  • Seth

    I still have a set of 3 McGovern-Eagleton buttons with a certificate of authenticity stating they were printed before 7/31/72. Wonder if they’re worth anything…

  • Eric

    According to “A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness”, a book by Nassir Ghaemi, traits like “”nervous exhaustion and fatigue” for which he was treated with psychiatric help, “including electric shock”” do not disqualify someone from being an effective leader. Quite the opposite. Some historically exceptional leaders privately dealt with significant mental disorders as serious or worse than Eagleton’s. Ghaemi’s theory is their constant self struggle equipped them to deal with leadership crises.

    Not that McGovern was going to win with any running mate, but if he had and Eagleton subsequently took over as President, he might have proven surprisingly capable in rising to the various challenges that confronted the US over the 1970s.

    … As for the Mets front office, yeah I’m getting worried. We’ve reached the point of the off-season where significant decisions are starting to be made.