Zack Wheeler

Faith (Not Fear) In Flushing

Faith and Fear

Another closing day has come and gone.  It used to be that days leading up to it were nostalgic.  Almost like a wake.  We got together to remember.  We got together to forget.  (This phenomenon is known as post-traumatic Mets disorder).  Then closing day comes and goes.  Sometimes they are happy.  Sometimes, they are sad.  More often than not, it’s a bittersweet event.

Sure, the Mets put us through a lot of shit in a season.  They’ve certainly given us a fair share of feces in the last six/seven years at least.  But we keep coming back every Opening Day.  But as Greg Prince once said, “Every poseur wants to be at Opening Day. Closing Day is a rite for the secret society of baseball fanatics.” Faith and Fear in Flushing

This Closing Day was special for Mets fans though.  It showed that on a deeper level, we all still care.  We care very deeply for the team that we’ve taken as our own, and has given us personality.  I often say, I’d be really boring if it wasn’t for being a Mets fan.  I don’t know is anything really compares.  Perhaps I had a life changing experience with football and soccer fans in Seattle (those people are CRAZY). Yet, nothing else in my life compares to being a Mets fan.  I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life.  I met my husband through Mets blogging.

Greg and Jason may say that being a fan in Flushing can give you both faith and fear.  It’s a delicate balance for sure with us.  I suppose this is the root of all post-traumatic Mets disorder.  We “gotta believe,” but it’s “always the Mets.”  Faith.  Fear.

What’s more is that it wouldn’t be a true closing day if I didn’t see my blogging mentor/friend/cat parent.  It also wouldn’t be a true closing day, where we celebrated Mets great Mike Piazza, if I wasn’t wearing my Faith and Fear shirt.

I had bought two in 2006, when I was in a relationship.  I got his in a bad breakup, and I have two FAFIF shirts, that showcase retired numbers in Mets fandom.  By the hardcore Faith and Fearless, these shirts have showed up in several countries, and around the U.S.  I wore mine to Texas when we ambushed Howie Rose in the radio booth.  I wore it on the day I met Greg Prince in 2007, which was a total accident.  (We ran into each other a lot that week.  Sure you can search his archives for that).

There is one number conspicuously missing from the four.  We have 37 14 41 42.

Sunday should have seen 31.  My shirt should have been outdated.  But I wore it to make a statement, that the number should be retired pre-emptively.  I honored the present with my Niese 49 jersey.  I wore numbers that are retired with the hope that another number will be with it soon.

Fans still cared.  It turns out Mike Piazza still cares.  He came.  He spoke.  He still is a rock n’ roll bad ass, something I realize has been sorely missing since his departure in 2005.

Here’s the thing with post-traumatic Mets disorder.  Or the Faith and Fear disorder that effects us all.  There is a great amount of self-loathing involved.  We get a hard-working player and hitter like Daniel Murphy, in the vein of fan favorite Edgardo Alfonzo, and vocal minority wants him gone.  Travis d’Arnaud has a lackluster beginning, and people are already clamoring to trade him.

Guys, guys.  And gals.  It’s okay.  We DESERVE good players. We DESERVE guys like Wheeler, Harvey, Murphy, d’Arnaud, den Dekker.  Even Wright.  Self-loathing is not productive.

It also does not allow us to appreciate what we do have when it’s right in front of us.

Like Mike Piazza.

I freely admit that I did not fully appreciate him while he was on the team.  Only after he was gone, did I miss him.

And this is totally my loss.  Today, you will not see a bigger defender of Mike Piazza than me.  He should not only be in Cooperstown, he should be in there as a Met.  He shouldn’t just have his plaque in the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, he needs to have his number on the wall in left field and a section of the park named after him (I vote “The Piazza” in the upper deck promenade food court, behind home plate, a nod to his monster home runs, and his position).

I’m through with the self-loathing part of being a fan.  Yes, it makes me funny, and I do love curse words.  But let me reserve the bulk of those for Cody Ross, Shane Victorino and hockey players, like Ovechkin and Crosby.  (Also for the New York Rangers.  Those assholes deserve all my angst).

And I implore you all to do the same.  It’s okay to want and have nice things.  See, Travis d’Arnaud might not be a hitter like Mike Piazza.  But where Piazza lacked as a defensive catcher, we can appreciate in d’Arnaud.  There was a play over the weekend where d’Arnaud’s position disallowed a run to score.  Sure, Juan Lagares’ arm helped (at least, I think he was the one with the assist).  Travis d’Arnaud knew instinctively where to block the runner.

So Sunday was hopeful.  I was relieved to see the season end.  With all the extra innings, the delays, even all the nine inning games that took FOREVAR to finish…I think it took a toll on me, as a spectator.  I can only imagine what it did to the players.  As Lou Brown once said, even tough guys get sprains.  Saturday’s game was one that did me in.

I’m so angry I’m ready to cut off Cody Ross’ dick and shove it up all the Mets’ asses

— The Coop (@Coopz22) September 28, 2013

That was the loathing part.  By Sunday, all was forgotten.  I got to see family.  I got to see friends.  Everyone came to send the team off.

As my husband said, this is what it would look like when the Mets are good.

Full lot  Full house vantage point

A full parking lot.  A full house.  It was like the ghosts of Shea were brought to us all over again.

The Mets sent the Shea Faithful vibe home with a win.  The self-loathing part of me would say, a win on closing day in 2007 or 2008 would have or could have changed the trajectory of this team dramatically.

But then, we wouldn’t have the faith and the hope that 2014 and beyond will provide better times to come.

I was happy to recharge my batteries which are resembling my broke-ass iPhone these days (cannot hold a charge to save its life) with 2013 ending.  I was happy for the pregame ceremony, I was happy for the win.  I was happy to see it end…until, of course, it was over.

I said goodbye to some friends.  We joked around about the offseason, and how we are boring, but we all wait.  We wait.  We stare out the window, and we wait for spring.

For the first time in a long time, Greg and Jason, I have faith.  I have no fears, but faith in the team for 2014.  I was happy to see 2013 end, but like many on closing day, it’s not without some kind of regret or bittersweet feeling.  I feel like we’re finally being honored for our unwavering faith to this team.  And the best is yet to come.

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The Wheeler Lining

It took me a long time to warm up to Carlos Beltran.  Yet, when he left via trade to the San Francisco Giants this summer, I loved him.  He became easily one of my favorite Mets players ever.  I wished that all fans could have seen him the way I did, and some of my blolleagues did, but I can certainly understand why about 50% of the Mets fan population did not like him all that much.  His personality wasn’t all that grand, and perhaps he was one of those players that would be appreciated more outside of the fishbowl that is headed up by the New York metro main stream media.

Yet there is always a downside to signing a guy, any player in any sport, to the type of contract that Beltran possessed.  There is the threat of injury, underperformance, the noose of tying up years and dollars to just one player.  In New York, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but for the Mets it always is because of their lack of foresight that the guy might not make it to the end. Look at Jason Bay: his numbers started dwindling the second he walked into CitiField.  Perhaps he’ll turn it around in 2012, but along with Johan Santana, their contacts will unfortunately tie up resources for short-term, and unless they show signs of improvement, it will be hard to dump.

Luckily, the Mets and most specifically Sandy Alderson got some value out of Beltran.  One of the clauses in Beltran’s contract was that the Mets could not offer arbitration once the contract expired.  I always assumed there was a “gentleman’s agreement” when offering arbitration, but at Beltran’s age it might have been more advantageous for him to accept arb and see what the market is for him with the Mets.  I doubt that would have been the case: I think Beltran was miserable in New York.  Yet, Alderson did the unthinkable and unprecedented move of trading Beltran at the deadline in 2011.  At the beginning of the season, people thought I was crazy when I suggested it could be Beltran who moved at the deadline.  There’s no value to keeping him around, especially if the Mets are not realistically competing. He was owed too much money, I was told.  We’d never get anyone of value back.  Someone though neglected to tell Sandy Alderson that.

Trading Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler (Zach? I’ve seen it spelled both ways) was a step in the right direction for the New “New Mets.”  Beltran once called the team he signed with in 2005 the “New Mets.”  They quickly became “Old Mets” under Omar Minaya’s watch.  With the removal of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo and subsequent bad vibes of recent seasons, there are a few positives to take away from this.

One is that when Beltran was traded, the Mets agreed to take on most of his salary.  In a way, this was positive: though they still paid Beltran to play for another team, they did get some value in return in a prospect that could give years of return on investment.  With the grumblings about the financial situation of the Mets as well, perhaps this was a PR move too to show that they could still pay someone who was not playing for them anymore.

The second thing is that Beltran was traded to the then-reigning World Champions.  Giants GM Brian Sabean has a thing for older players.  It’s no secret that Beltran turned it on in 2004 right before he was a free agent for the Houston Astros in the playoffs that year.  What Sabean needed was a Beltran-type to propel them into the playoffs.  While Beltran had a slow start, he did his part but the team fell short.

I secretly rooted for the Giants.  Well, not so much a secret anymore, since I’m telling all of you.  But mostly because I wanted to see Beltran succeed (and for my selfish fan-crush of the Giants pitching staff, especially Tim Lincecum).  I would have loved to rooted for Carlos in the playoffs, but they did not make the playoffs in 2011 at all.

My blolleague over at KinersKorner and the Kult of Mets Personalities, Nik Kolidas, said something to me a while back.  When I said that I wanted to see Beltran in the playoffs, he said it would be a great thing if they didn’t make it.  For the Mets, that is.  It meant something actually went RIGHT for the Mets in this trade!  Meaning that another team actually gambled wrong and the Mets could have potentially walked away from the transaction better in the long-term.

Zack Wheeler hasn’t thrown a pitch for the Mets yet, or he may never, depending on whether he’s used as a trading chip for someone else.  Right now, he’s developing the correct way, something that the Mets have never been known for.  How many times have we heard about prospects being rushed just to satisfy a quick need for the team, only to never get over the rushing and never living up to his potential?  What he has done is provided some tangible value for Carlos Beltran in the end, and this was one of the first steps away from the damage this franchise has seen in over two decades.

When one door closes, another one opens.  This much we know to be true.  Things might not be 100% fantastic in Flushing for 2012, but just remember that behind every dark cloud there is a silver lining.  In this case, we could call the future of the Mets the Wheeler Lining. Finally, it appears that a Mets GM gamed the market to his favor, and potentially could lead to smoother sailing in the future.