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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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February Makes Us Shiver

This is a nominally festive occasion. Faith and Fear in Flushing turns 17 today. The team we cover recognized this milestone by announcing they will retire No. 17 this season and reinstate Old Timers Day so the authors of this blog will feel right at home.

All that the Mets and their MLB franchise brethren need to do to make our little celebration complete is some confirmation that there will be a season. My in-box keeps receiving invitations to buy tickets, whether in packages or individually, and I’ve been assured if I pick the right date and show up early enough, I’ll be handed a must-have bobblehead or three, but there’s nothing ever mentioned about the players who might be termed New Timers. No Canha. No Escobar. No Marte. No Scherzer. They seemed so happy to tell me about those fellas when they signed them. Now I’m having a hard time remembering what they were signed to do.

Bad news on the doorstep, indeed.

“Bad news on the doorstep,” an American Troubadour once observed of a February that made him shiver. We’ve got a bunch of that in baseball terms and a dollop more in human terms. (When it snows, it pours.) All we can do for Matt Harvey, whose use of cocaine came to light in the trial of Eric Kay regarding the former Angel employee’s culpability in the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs, is wish him the best where his day-to-day is concerned, particularly after Terry Collins chimed in regarding Harvey’s state of mind back in the day.

All we can do for baseball is wish it gets going.

It’s the middle of February. The wintry afternoons have grown longer. The Super Bowl has completed its brutal business. Those milestones we take as signs of impending Spring with a capital “S” have done their part. Our thumbs, index fingers and middle fingers are clutching our pencils to check the next rite of February off our oh boy! list. Yet the pitchers aren’t throwing to the catchers. The catchers aren’t throwing to the pitchers. The pitchers, the catchers and their colleagues who play the other positions are locked out by the owners and nobody seems to have a clue to the combination of the lock. The jumping-off point for another season of baseball, like the negotiating of a collective bargaining agreement, is stalled. Not a soul has declared he is in the best shape of his life. Thus, the companion occasion that we mark in this space every February 16, the anniversary of the founding of Faith and Fear, is missing a bit of its boisterousness. Maybe more than a bit. Definitely more than a bit. Everything we look forward to as Mets fans…

• the fresh acquisitions loosening up for the first time in orange and blue under the St. Lucie sun;

• the key holdovers making pronouncements about how this year will be better than the last;

• the manager doing things differently than they’ve been done around here and hearing repeatedly why it’s just the tonic this organization has needed for too long;

• every Met’s move being tracked and tweeted as if we can’t survive another second without a handle on how Luis Guillorme’s first ten swings in the cage appeared to the naked eye;

• and we the fans lapping every last bit of it up for at least a quarter-hour until we declare we’re already tired of Spring Training

…isn’t happening.

Boo, obviously.

Nonetheless, it is our anniversary — our seventeenth (the mustache anniversary). Faith and Fear in Flushing commenced to blogging on 2/16/2005 because Jason and I were excited that Pitchers & Catchers & Beltran & all the Mets were arriving in our lives for the next seven or eight months, and we were so excited we simply couldn’t keep our enthusiasm to ourselves. We shared it and just kept sharing it for the next seventeen years. Same for our Met-related dismay, which has tag-teamed with the enthusiasm for seventeen Springs turned seventeen seasons. In the midst of a lockout, we’d probably have to work our way up to dismay from disgust, though disgust has been part of the ongoing discourse as well. Seventeen seasons blogged. Ten losing records. Fourteen MLB postseasons proceeding without Met participation. A little disgust was bound to seep in.

Happy mustache anniversary to us.

Yet there is always, at least in theory, one more Spring. One more Spring than seasons, even. Seventeen seasons? Eighteen Springs! We’re back perennially come mid-February regardless of reasons to have been repelled. How many games did the Mets lose last year? Several more than they won. When they were done losing the last of them, we didn’t know precisely who would compose the 2022 Mets, only that eventually we’d bundle up and calculate the number of days until we could informally meet the lot of them. Why am I looking at pictures of Gary Gentry, Doug Sisk and Bobby Parnell in my social media feeds? Because it’s 39 days to Pitchers & Catchers!

The ritual counting down fizzled out weeks ago. The locking out continued. When I turned my officially licensed Mets calendar to February, I was greeted by an image of Taijuan Walker pitching from the stretch. I had to pause and think, a) “Who is that?” and b) “Oh right, Taijuan Walker…man, I have not thought of that guy all winter.” Nothing personal vis-à-vis Taijuan Walker. I’ve barely thought of any active Met since the owners opted to lock out the players. As happy as I am that the Mets have scheduled a number retirement, an alumni reunion and three bobblehead giveaways reflecting the approximate likenesses of their three TV announcers, the current iteration of Mets baseball being out of sight/mind has altogether defierced the urgency of mid-February. And I’ve still not thought much about Taijuan Walker.

We blogged about 42 players who made up the 2005 Mets in our first season. Last week, that particular team suffered its first brush with mortality with the passing of Gerald Williams from cancer at age 55 (Pedro Feliciano, who died last year, was in Japan in ’05). The Mets had Williams at the end of his career, bringing him onto the club in June of 2004 and recalling him from Norfolk the following summer. Looking at his numbers more or less confirms what I remember about his on-field performance. He batted .233 in each of his partial seasons.

The numbers, however, were only numbers. The person was a different story. It always was with Gerald Williams, even if a fan shaking his head at an outfielder in his late thirties getting 160 plate appearances opted to concentrate on the numbers. “Why is Ice Williams up in this situation? Why is Ice Williams even on this team? What kind of rebuild is this?”

It could be that the people who made personnel decisions — even if there was a case to be made against their judgment based on the period’s broader results — understood a little more what constitutes a team than I did. Gerald Williams, long after his professional peak, was a good guy to have around. When the Mets had better options to start in left, center or right, he filled in around the margins. When the Mets of ’04 and ’05 were strapped for bodies, he was relied on to produce in something resembling the fashion he had from 1992 forward. Sometimes he did. When Carlos Beltran and Mike Cameron slammed into one another in pursuit of a fly ball in San Diego and neither could get back on his proverbial horse before the road trip moved on to Los Angeles, Gerald Williams stepped up for a few days. In one game, he homered, doubled, stole third and brought home an insurance run to support a Jae Seo-Braden Looper combined five-hitter. It was vintage Williams, reminiscent of the seasons when the man whacked as many as 21 homers, drove in as many as 89 runs and was good for as many as 23 steals (Willie Randolph used a pinch-runner ten times in 2005; nine times the runner was Williams).

We might have noticed Gerald when he was one of two Williamses on the youthful Yankees and it wasn’t certain whether he or Bernie was going to be the bigger deal. We surely noticed Gerald when he led off the bottom of the eleventh inning of the sixth game of the 1999 National League Championship Series by doubling off Kenny Rogers…and trotted home minutes later after Rogers threw a dozen balls, intentional and otherwise. If we were tuned into the likes of SportsCenter, we couldn’t miss Gerald and his future Met teammate Pedro Martinez going at it when Williams was a Devil Ray and Martinez was a Red Sock. The pitcher hit the hitter to lead off a game in 2000. The hitter did not take kindly to the free base and a brawl ensued. Gerald Williams experienced a great deal of living and a great deal of baseball by the time he became a Met.

Gerald Williams: more than a .233 hitter.

We saw a guy who hit .233 for us and predictably wondered why we couldn’t have somebody with more future in his toolkit. His teammates saw something different. Deep in the FAFIF archives, I rediscovered something I wrote in June of ’05 typical of the modicum of thought I’d given to the value in maintaining a spot for 38-year-old Gerald Williams.

Turns out Gerald Williams is good in the clubhouse. Doug Mientkiewicz said so on Mets Extra, pointing out how Geriatric Gerald was exercising all kinds of great influence on Jose, which obviously paid off in Philadelphia Tuesday night. Well, I thought, maybe that’s worth something, if not an entire roster spot.

Ed Coleman, who likes to agree with whoever’s talking into his microphone, concurred with Minky. “Right,” said Ed. “Last year, Gerald was riding Floyd and Cameron all the time.”

I was glad the Mets, who had been reeling for most of the previous couple of weeks, won. I was glad a connection was discerned between the presence of a veteran and the emergence of a youngster. Jose Reyes recorded two singles and a triple, scored a run and stole a base. The box score indicates all Williams did that night was replace Cliff Floyd on defense in the ninth. Yet I was trying my best to be a realist. Gerald Williams is a guru? That’s great. “So make him a coach,” I concluded.

Maybe they should’ve. Or maybe I didn’t know what I was talking about (wouldn’t have been the last time). The player-to-player dynamic and how it plays out in the short- and long-term is one of those things you likely have to witness to grasp, and even then, you’d only be an observer. The note I made about Ed Coleman remembering Williams’s relationship to his teammates a year earlier came back to me when I read what Mike Cameron, who, like Williams, wouldn’t be a Met after 2005, had to say after Gerald’s death.

“He got me through my first year in New York. He was always so positive. I struggled the first half of that season, but he stayed with me and never let me get frustrated. He was a special guy. He would take care of you as a teammate and give you good advice where to go after a game or where not to go. It’s hard to go out and just perform without a support system and he was one of those guys who provided it. He helped make it easy for you. You really appreciate somebody who does that. […] Especially in places like New York and Boston, you need veteran guys. He made a difference for me, and I know the same is true for a lot of other players.”

I’m seventeen years older than I was in 2005. I’m still working on wiser.

7 comments to February Makes Us Shiver

  • Inside Pitcher

    Happy Mustache Anniversary. Thanks for all that you guys do.


  • Seth

    Happy Keithiversary!

  • eric1973

    I always thought that if TC had just butted out and let Harvey pitch that game, that he would not have been so agitated and would have calmly finished it up.

    But TC was not the brightest bulb in the socket, as we all remember.

  • open the gates

    Congrats on Year 17! There have been an awful lot of times when getting my FAFIF fix was the best thing about being a Met fan on that particular day. Thanks for continuing to be the blog for Met fans who like to read. Myself included.

    Re the strike – seriously, what are the owners thinking? “Well, COVID almost killed our sport, let’s just drive a stake through its heart and bury that sucker.”? Just figure it out, for the love of Pete. (Alonso, of course.)

    RIP Gerald Williams. It took me a minute to remember who it was, then it was “Oh, that guy! Right!” Someday we may want to look at the all-time best 25th men on the Mets roster. Williams is definitely a candidate. And if folks don’t think that’s impressive, ask them what their major league career was like. Also another Met who died way too young. 55 – geez.

    Finally, one last quibble. “Brandon” Looper??? I thought you guys were staying away from politics these days.

  • eric1973

    With no baseball, they should just extend the Winter Olympics another few weeks.

    And speaking of sports, guaranteed Trump was rooting for Russia to beat Finland in the Gold Medal Hockey, just as he is rooting for Russia to massacre Ukraine. Traitors roll that way.