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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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Take the Moët and Run

The pain of love
I’ll accept it all
As long as you’ll join
Me in that emotion

Carly Simon

A couple of hours prior to the first pitch of the National League Wild Card Series, I thought about my cat Avery. I think about my cat Avery every day, several times a day, since he died last December. I miss him every day, several times a day.

Avery died on a Saturday, the same Saturday Buck Showalter was named Mets manager. I was too consumed by the logistics of dealing with the body of a cat who died on a Saturday night and a vet who wasn’t going to be open until Monday morning to fully absorb his passing. Maybe I still haven’t. Mourning would have to wait a couple of days. Tuesday I mourned hard. I was by myself the whole day, beset by a depth of sadness I’d never before felt, not after losing three previous cats, not after losing each of my parents. An unmovable cloud settled over my head. I let it wash over me or do whatever it is that sadness does. Then, before leaving the house to meet Stephanie’s train, I called our local Chinese takeout place and ordered basically everything I could think of.

“How come you got Chinese?” Stephanie asked, inspecting the contents of two bulging brown bags.

“We’re in mourning,” I said. “When you’re in mourning, somebody should cook for you.”

That’s also how I handled the night following my father’s memorial service. Beef lo mein and mourning. That was in 2016. I think I stopped mourning my father around 2018. No kidding. Not black armband mourning, not bursting into tears mourning, just an acute awareness of his presence in my mind despite his absence from this earth. It ran a couple of years. It hasn’t fully gone away, and that’s quite all right by me. I do the Times crossword like he did, and I wonder at what point contemporary clues — anything that assumed familiarity with acronyms like LOL — had him leaving squares blank. I listen to New Standards with Paul Cavalconte on WNYC Saturday nights and its app Sunday afternoons and laugh a little that for all the Top 40 inclinations of my youth, my dad inadvertently seeded an appreciation of Tony Bennett and Sarah Vaughan in me while I sat in the backseat of our old Chrysler (I also imagine trying to explain “the WNYC app” to him). I slice a tomato for a sandwich, which wasn’t something I used to routinely do, and remember Dad routinely sliced tomatoes for his sandwiches. Those insurance commercials about not turning into your parents…there are worse things.

I still have brief conversations with my father in my head. I mean really brief. “Did you see the Jets game yesterday?” is about it. That’s about all the conversing we did before he took ill. My conversations with Avery aren’t much deeper, but I probably still have those, too. From that dark Tuesday in December until the middle of September, I was kind of convinced he was simply taking a nap, perhaps cuddled up under the blanket he used to sleep atop in the living room. I knew he wasn’t, but I liked to think he was. I’d close my office door so he wouldn’t unexpectedly trot in and pick a pile of my flotsam to disturb. His stack of canned cat food remained and remains at the ready, along with an unopened bag of litter. If someone came along and revealed he or she had a cat that could really use a supply of Fancy Feast and a refresh on the Jonny Cat, of course I’d hand it off. But for now, we paid for it, it’s Avery’s.

In the middle of September, though, it hit me that Avery was in the past. No great bolt of lightning struck. Stephanie and I were sitting on the couch, TV on, each of us scrolling our tablet or phone and I was thinking, “It’s just the two of us, isn’t it?” Avery wasn’t under a blanky or standing by in the kitchen awaiting dinner or plotting trouble upstairs. He had gone from not here but here to here but not here. The difference is more than subtle.

Yet I remain in several times a day thinking of him mode. Like the late afternoon of last Friday, when most of my attention was directed to the Mets and the Padres, specifically the Mets. I thought the Mets would win their best-of-three series, but I wasn’t sure. There are no certainties in the postseason, I told myself. I told myself and asked myself lots of things. One of those questions plopped onto my lap as Avery would in the course of his sixteen years as my favorite kitty ever:

“I can’t bear to start in with a new cat knowing how new cats inevitably become old cats and what that entails. How will I start over with this team next year if they don’t win the World Series?”

Missing from the picture of Cat Person in Mourning is a successor cat. Stephanie and I were catful from October 31, 1992, to December 18, 2021. Usually we had two: an heir and a spare. Bernie and Casey. Bernie and Hozzie. Hozzie and Avery. After the passing of Avery’s big brother in 2017, we didn’t install a younger sibling. Avery was a solo act at heart, bathing in the spotlight of every ounce of our attention. I honestly believe he mourned Hozzie for 30 seconds and then jumped onto Stephanie’s lap with the gusto of the Heather in Heathers who grabbed the dead Heather’s scrunchie and essentially declared herself queen of the Heathers. Hence, we rode Avery’s singularity for all it was worth, and it was worth plenty.

I sort of imagined that the second Avery left this mortal coil that there’d be a knock at our front door and we’d find two adorable kittens in a basket waiting for us. The knock never came. Nor did we seek to identify the next cat in the Prince Line. It wasn’t that we stopped being cat people. Once a cat person, always a cat person. I can’t count how many Likes I’ve issued to pictures and videos of other people’s cats (especially the goofy ones) these past ten months. But all I can think about when it comes to having a cat is not the sixteen years Avery gave us or how they ended on December 18 of last year, but November 22, the date we took Avery to the vet for his checkup. Our vet looked him over, felt him up and let us know time was suddenly growing short for our cat. Short after sixteen years, yet sudden nonetheless. Signs that Avery wasn’t his spry kitten self 24/7 had been hard to ignore, but I didn’t think he’d be on his way out before Christmas. “Pets,” our vet casually reminded us, “don’t live forever.” Thanks for the tutorial, chief.

I once read that every kitten or puppy given a small child is the beginning of a tragedy. We cared for and loved three cats before Avery. Each of them proved our vet’s truism. We wrote it off as the cost of doing business. Avery lived longest of all of them. Avery burrowed deeper into our hearts than any of them (and those other three were absolute first-ballot feline Hall of Famers). All I can think of when I begin to think of a new kitten is the day — probably many years, countless smiles and much soul-burrowing later — we go to the vet and are told pets don’t live forever.

I’m not ready to set out on that journey again. Maybe someday. Not yet.

Spring Training will come around in mid-February. I guess. I haven’t checked the schedule. A friend mentioned the date of the first exhibition game to me. I couldn’t process it as news I could use. I will eventually look up Opening Day and calculate the Baseball Equinox, because that’s what I always do, but I’m not moved to as much as estimate the midpoint from last season to next season. I’m sure I’ve read a hopeful invocation this week of however many days away Pitchers & Catchers is. It didn’t make me feel any better. Neither has anything A. Bartlett Giamatti ever put forward on the subject of pastimes designed to break your heart.

The fact that Mets baseball will come around again and the 99.999999% probability that I will be there for it doesn’t make me feel any better. It makes me feel like a bit of a chump at the moment. The losing enough through most seasons so it prevents a premature playoff exit may be the most effective inoculation against the disgustappointment that’s pervaded my mood since Sunday night. Of course that kind of losing doesn’t really do anything to brighten an outlook. It just keeps hope in check.

Which isn’t something to relish, just like choosing to go catless isn’t the key to better living simply because the inevitable loss of a hypothetical cat shadows my consciousness every day, several times a day. I didn’t become the Mets fan I became to minimize the disgust or disappointment that arises every season that hope nudges open a door I forgot to shut. I became the Mets fan I became exactly for the kind of season 2022 was from its first pitch until its final 257 (Game Three’s total for both sides). I became a Mets fan in 1969. The Mets in 1969 won 100 games and went to the playoffs. The Mets in 2022 did one better in the former and, if we agree to skim over details, equaled the latter.

I really did have high hopes throughout this season. I checked them here and there, but decided I preferred to maintain an almost relentless upbeat drumbeat on behalf of this team. They never lost more than three in a row, so I believed I could treat every L as an anomaly. That record of 101-61 was not a typo. It and they really were very good.

They weren’t the best they could be. Or they were as good as they could be and it wasn’t enough to get them to be the best there is, which emerged as a reasonable, attainable Met goal in 2022. It wasn’t enough to get them from the round of twelve to the round of eight. I’ve watched my Mets fall short in postseason contexts before. I fumed and fretted and, yes, mourned. Then I moved on, more than willing to give the team that fell short its flowers. I’m not feeling particularly floral about this team despite throwing roses at its feet for six months. Maybe someday. Not yet.

I tell ya what, though. I don’t regret the journey despite my misgivings toward the ending. I wouldn’t trade those sixteen years with Avery, either. I loved believing this team was the one that was going to add to that flagpole that has waved only two banners for too long. 1969. 1986. 2022. I didn’t know it in my bones, but I believed in my head and heart from April to early October that it was altogether possible and highly probable. Head and heart have been known to err.

The bigger mistake would have been to not give them both over to these Mets as I did despite my currently turning my back on them for at least a little longer. Time will heal that wound, even if the wound will fester until the National League Wild Card Series — and its spiritual dress rehearsal in Atlanta the weekend before — cease lingering in the atmosphere. I think I stopped mourning the outcome of the 2006 NLCS in 2008. No kidding. But 2006 as the flag that was going to accompany 1969 and 1986 is something I knew in my bones. Bones make errors, too.

To co-opt a phrase Steve Rushin crafted ages ago, I had more fun than a barrel of Mookies for most of 2022. We were the first-place Mets almost every day, says the master of compartmentalization. Even still. That was a ride. That was something to believe in. And it did get us to the precipice of where we needed to be. Perhaps the new playoff format and whatever new playoff format expands upon this playoff format will dilute the thrill of qualifying to play beyond the 162nd game. I’ve watched enough first-round exits by so-so Nets and Islanders clubs to not blink when my basketball and hockey seasons end quickly. Then again, those aren’t baseball.

When the Mets were on the verge of clinching their division in 2006, I visited our local liquor store, bought a decent-sized bottle of champagne and, the night after the clinch (I was at Shea when the blessed event happened), I toasted the Mets’ good fortune with my wife. It had been six years since our last October appointment, yet it also felt like it had been forever. Maybe because 2006 was an in-my-bones year, I knew we had to celebrate like the Mets celebrated. We wouldn’t pour any bubbly over each other’s heads, but a little buzz seemed appropriate. I didn’t know I was going to start making an earnest toast in the middle of our kitchen, but that’s what came out of my mouth, something about how much it meant to share this wonderful season, how I didn’t think it would be so long between division titles. Stephanie and I met in 1987. They won the East in 1988…and not again until 2006. I’m pretty sure she gave me a look of “oh, you’re really doing this” at my ad hoc stab at eloquence, and then she got in the spirit of the gesture. Hozzie and Avery evinced their usual apathy.

The toast became a clinching tradition, which is to say it didn’t happen again until 2015, a year when the division came into sight in August and was a foregone conclusion by September, so there was ample time to lay in something sparkling and, because the clinch came on a Saturday evening, run out for a nice pizza. A very nice pizza. A very nice toast. For the Mets, 2015 was a very nice year. One of the flagpoles was augmented, albeit the one with 1973 and 2000. You toast what you can get.

In 2016, the Mets rushed to a Wild Card. It was the most fun rush of its kind I’ve experienced since I started taking it upon myself to write about the Mets. I loved that late August-September surge of 2016 in a way I hadn’t loved a late August-September surge since 1973. The prize was less than a division title. The postseason would be only one game. Still, that Saturday was worth a pizza and a toast. That July, when my father died, I impulsively bought my first twelve-pack of beer since college. I’m thinking there were no fewer than nine cans from that pack still in the fridge by October 1, the day the Mets clinched. So we toasted with Blue Point Toasted Lager. (We never drank the rest, but one can remains shoved in the back of the refrigerator for the same reason 40 cans of cat food remain stacked next to the microwave.)

When the Mets clinched their 2022 playoff berth in Milwaukee, it merited a partial celebration by the clinchers themselves. More clinching ahead, so the party was subdued. After twenty raucous champagne showers for postseason participation and every series victory that followed in its wake, this was just a tasteful toast. Splendid job, men. Back at it tomorrow. The real pre-playoff party would come when we won the division. Well, you know how that went. And in our kitchen, it went nowhere from September 19 — too late on a Monday night to pop corks or order pizza — until October 5, when the regular season ended with what landed as a consolation prize.

Play it again, Tim.

But I’d be damned if I let 2022 get away without the acknowledgement it deserved before we might decide it deserved no more than a cold glass of water. I bought the smallest bottle of champagne that our local liquor store sells; it’s 187 milliliters, called a Mini Moët. I called for the usual-size pizza, toppings and all, same as in ’15 and ’16. And on Friday night, October 7, somewhere between wondering how I’d ever conjure enthusiasm for next year if this year wound up going awry and Max Scherzer throwing the first pitch of the game that indicated awry was where this year was going, I proposed my traditional toast. We raised our glasses to the trip the Mets had taken us on this year, to the opportunity to venture a little further in the days and weeks ahead and, implicitly, to being the kind of Mets fans who do something like this when the Mets do something like they’d done. That they wouldn’t do much worth toasting in Game One let alone Game Three didn’t make the toast (or the pie) any less sumptuous or, to me, any less necessary. Wait too long to toast or trumpet those intermittent accomplishments that give you substantial dollops of joy, you’ll be waiting 36 going on 37 years. The Moët’s gonna be mighty flat by then.

This is what we do. We root. We recap. We rationalize. We revel. We regret. We rue. We reconsider. We recover. We mourn a beautiful season’s untimely passing, fully cognizant that it is not life or death. But it is baseball, so we’ll be excused for treating it as both. We do it together every year, right here, whether we can imagine doing it all over again or not, because we can’t imagine not doing it.

Hey, fellow Mets fans: here’s to us.

And here’s a little something to listen to if you’re up for it.

26 comments to Take the Moët and Run

  • Chris

    thanks for this.

  • Sad Mets Fan In Burbank

    I don’t know how, but you always seem to be able to put many of this Mets fan’s thoughts into eloquent words, as well as plenty of your own thoughts. Another wonderfully written post, albeit tinged with sadness. Condolences on the loss of Avery.

  • Matt McDonald

    Once again, you’ve provided us with the medicine we need. Beautiful writing. I come here to make the wins feel even better and to make the losses feel… survivable? I know I’m not alone in that. Thank you for the perspective and for sharing your gift.

    Avery Forever and LGM

  • Matt in DE

    I want to echo the sentiments of the prior commenters, thank you for this. Living in the Philadelphia market, I have caught a lot of flack the past week about how the season ended, but it is what it is.

    My dog passed away in 1996, and I still think him a least once or twice a week. They are never really gone if they remain as a blessed memory.

  • UpstateNYMfan

    Thank you, Greg. You nailed it. Cats, Dads, beers, Chinese food…, the Mets; all spun together so perfectly, elegantly… they seem as obvious, warm, and congruous as a pumpkin spice latte on a chilly autumn day. Sipping these assuaging words most assiduously. :)

  • Roger Tusiani-Eng

    Greg, thanks for a great season of recaps and thoughts. Never a dull moment, and I can always count on you and Jason to not let us down. Well done.

  • Seth

    Beautifully written, Greg. Last Sunday feels like a month ago already.

  • Eric

    “But all I can think about when it comes to having a cat is not the sixteen years Avery gave us or how they ended on December 18 of last year, but November 22, the date we took Avery to the vet for his checkup. Our vet looked him over, felt him up and let us know time was suddenly growing short for our cat. Short after sixteen years, yet sudden nonetheless. Signs that Avery wasn’t his spry kitten self 24/7 had been hard to ignore, but I didn’t think he’d be on his way out before Christmas.”

    This part made the Avery-2022 Mets metaphor apt. This season was exceptionally ‘spry’ until the last month of its life, when the signs mounted that it was dying. The season ended earlier than we hoped and expected.

  • TeufelShuffle

    Greg, as always, thank you to you and Jason for your eloquence throughout the season. It’s a privilege to be able to read you day after day, season after season.

    We all felt it. After they beat the Dodgers, we looked at the schedule and said, “Man, this is going to be a fun September, it’ll be neck and neck with the Braves the whole way.” And… it wasn’t. It was a slog. It was a slog the way 2007 was after the Armando Benitez game (you know which one I’m talking about). Everyone talks about 7 in 17 but the last 2/3 of that season had a dark cloud hanging over us. This season wasn’t like that, until it was. But the first five months were the most fun I’ve had watching a Mets team in such a long time.

    We like to tell ourselves that our team is 1969 and 1973 and 1999, where our team triumphed as underdogs, even if we didn’t win it all. But we’re also 1998 where we came up short and 2008 where we collapsed again and (God forbid) 1992/1993 where we spent a bunch of money and turned into a car crash. How will we remember 2022? Kind of depends on what 2023 is like, right? If Jake comes back and we fix the bullpen and sign a free agent or two and Alvarez/Baty are the real deal, it’ll be fun again and then 2022 will be remembered like 1985. Here’s to hoping it does.

    • Eric

      The “neck and neck with the Braves the whole way” was right. The Mets were a game up going into the Braves series. That was down from the 3-game lead they started the month with, but it wasn’t collapse-level shrinkage.

      Until the Mets were swept in Atlanta, the story was as much the Mets doggedly holding onto first place as the Braves’ unrelenting chase of the Mets.

      It wasn’t fun because the losses were so similar and uncompetitive against bad teams. One bad loss here or there we chalk up to “That’s baseball, Suzyn”. But they piled up in September before characterizing the Mets against the Braves and Padres. That the Mets wins over the same bad teams in September were one-sided made the one-sided losses more unnerving. It showed that opponents weren’t playing up to the Mets as much as something had changed or was changing for the worse within the Mets. Following the Jekyll and Hyde wins and losses was tiring in itself.

  • A nice coda to the year. My sentiments are similar. Time flies and we’ll be back at it soon. Games and your happy recaps. Thanks again.

  • eric1973

    Greg, We are all NY MET chumps, but ya know what, you are not alone, and we are all in this together. We have all lost people, and pets, and have suffered every kind of grief imaginable.

    (I still have not gotten over 1973, and have lived with that for almost 50 years now.)

    So when the Baseball Equinox comes and goes, and the air smells like old Casey Stengel-Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, you’ll be back with us, same as ever, only older and wiser, just like the rest of us.

    As the Original post-game sage always told us:
    “And if you can’t make it out to the ballpark, we’ll see you right back out there.”

  • Seth

    Thing is, 1973 was a pretty bad season, with the Mets in last place at the end of August. So the fact that they had a magical September to win the division and make it all the way to the WS, took some of the sting out of the game 7 loss for me.

    1988 was a huge disappointment — 1st place all season, 100 wins. We expected the dynasty to continue, and they were 1 batter away from going up 3 games to 1 in the NLCS. Until Scioscia happened. Then the series was tied 2-2 and that was the end of the dynasty.

  • As Met fans, we’ve all been thru this too many times but I still wore my bright orange tshirt with Mets proudly on it the next day after the loss. People asked me why I would do such a stunt and I simply responded “cause I’m a Met fan!”. It was a great year but the BB season is similar to life in that just as the stock market took a dip at the wrong time, so did our Metsies. Both will rebound as life moves on. Happy New Year and let’s do it again in the spring!

  • Eric

    Strider being beat up by the Phillies tonight coming back from his oblique strain reminds me of Scherzer being beat up by the Braves and Padres with his lingering oblique strain. Why was either cleared to start such high-value games? Apparently MLB doesn’t have a good handle yet on dealing with oblique injuries.

    Phillies up 2-1 on the Braves. It would be a heck of a thing if the 101-win Braves and Mets are both knocked out in their first 2022 playoff series and the Phillies reach the highest of the NL East playoff teams coming from the 3rd wildcard berth that didn’t exist until this season, after performing like a distant 3rd place team to the Braves and Mets in the regular season.

    It would also be a heck of a thing if the Phillies won the 2022 World Series following the Braves (2021) and Nationals (2019), setting aside the COVID-19 season.

  • Eric

    What the Phillies did against the Cardinals and are doing now against the Braves reinforce that the Mets could have recovered from the Braves series and turned it around in the post-season.

    The Phillies didn’t play better than the Mets down the stretch and easily could have been overtaken by the Brewers.

    But the Mets didn’t flip the switch like other wildcards have done and instead stayed the same team against the Padres that had just lost the division title. Why is that?

  • K. Lastima

    C’mon, the Phillies just got lucky … right, Strider?

  • Seth

    Congrats to the Phillies, they earned it. That’s how you do it – I hope the Mets watched and learned.

  • Paul from Brooklyn

    Thank you for that Greg! You made us all feel better. Thank you for another year of insights, laughs,tears and hopes. The Met flag still flies outside and reading this just gave it a few extra weeks out there.A great year! Hail King Steve,in Buck we trust.LGM

  • open the gates

    Beautifully written. Thank you.

    I quoted Billy Joel in early September: “You can have my heart to break.” The Mets still have my heart, even though they eventually break it every single year. But I gotta believe that next year will be the year where my heart is unbroken. And so it goes. LGM.

  • Eric

    We’ve got company. Turns out the 2022 Mets merely set the trend for the cool kids of the National League.

    111-win Dodgers and 101-win Braves ousted in their first 2022 post-season series, too, each with the same number of playoff wins as the 101-win Mets. Don’t forget the 93-win Cardinals didn’t win at all in the post-season. The 3 NL division winners looked just as pathetic while being knocked out by the 5th and 6th seeds as the Mets did.

    It’s automatically the 1st instance in the division era that neither team in a league championship series won their division. What other years have had a league championship series where both teams had less than 90 regular-season wins?

    At least the Cardinals and Mets lost their regular-season series to their playoff opponents who came from outside the division. The Dodgers and Braves convincingly won their regular-season series against their playoff opponents who were inferior division rivals.

    Respect to the Astros, the last surviving member of MLB’s 2022 100-win club. The other 2 AL division winners are still alive, too.

    I’m not writing off the 99-win Yankees — Cole did his job as an imported ace in game 1, unlike the Mets’ imported (co-)ace. I note, however, that the feisty young Guardians’ 2 ex-Met shortstops, while not hot, have produced better in the playoffs while winning than the significantly older shortstop the Mets traded them for.

  • Seth

    Phillies and Padres in the NLCS, did not see that coming… What a funny game.

  • Dave

    Late to the conversation, but it resonates. Six weeks ago our beloved Pandora, nearly 15, was diagnosed with cancer and the vet said she might have as little as days. We said we wanted more time with her, and sure enough, she immediately found life #9 and is acting as though nothing’s wrong. I hope it wasn’t just because she wanted to sit on Daddy’s lap to watch the Mets in the World Series.

    This team always felt like the obviously good but not quite right 1988 team, and now I dare anyone to tell me how great it is to win 100 games, because that’s obviously not a ticket to anything this October. We’ve had more Wait Til Next Years and long winters than we’ve ever wanted, so I guess what’s one more of each?

    Thanks to you and Jason for documenting it all and encouraging thought and conversation.

  • DAK442

    After having him 18 years (and him living around 22 – we got him used), Lucky left us about two years ago. To make things worse, I had to make the call that it was time. That sick feeling, the wondering if I should have waited, will be with me till I die.

    The Missus and I didn’t think we could ever get another cat. Until she saw a picture from a shelter she follows online of a handsome fellow who is a full-bred Turkish Van (Lucky was partial), and we decided to see if we were ready. Turns out we are. Luigi will always be #2, but he’s solid, great fundies, good clubhouse guy.

    Someday you’ll feel the same, and your life will be better for it.

    On a more amusing note, regarding celebratory libations: we got two bottles of Dom Perignon as wedding gifts in 1993. We were going to open (at least) one on our first anniversary, but instead I said “Let’s save them, and drink them when we win the World Series”. Does champagne go bad?