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December 14, 2015

The TV-Recapper of the Mets Soap Opera

Greg Prince has chronicled the ups and downs and ups of Mets fandom for over a decade.

Michael Gluckstadt

One soggy afternoon this past July, my co-worker Kevin and I watched the Mets play the Padres over a late lunch. The Mets led 7-5 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth when the umpire curiously called for a rain delay. Kevin, a diehard Mets fan, was already despairing.

Greg Prince
"For a few wonderful weeks this fall, it was like everybody decided to plug into my brain."—Greg Prince

Greg Prince

"I don't see the problem," I told him. "All they have to do is NOT give up two runs before getting another out and they win the game."

"You don't understand," he countered. "That's exactly what's going to happen."

Kevin's prediction didn't strike a chord because the Mets are a historically bad franchise—they're not. It stayed with me because everything the Mets do feels preordained. Whether it's mounting a last-possible-moment late-season collapse, or losing their cash reserves to a Ponzi scheme that targeted wealthy Jews, or fielding an out-of-the-blue squadron of high-flying aces, or having a player find out he was traded while in the field only to then not be traded at all, or, yes, losing a late-summer game on a rain delay when all they needed to do was have their flame-throwing closer deliver two more lousy strikes—all of it feels like it was written by the invisible hand of a particularly malevolent unseen author.

As a Yankee fan (sorry, world), I've only been able to ever experience these twists and turns from the outside looking in. But whenever there's a new shocking moment in the soap opera that is The Metropolitans, I turn to my favorite TV-recappers at Faith and Fear in Flushing.

Founded in 2005 by Jason Fry and Greg Prince, the blog has cataloged every up and down in Mets fandom in the intervening decade. Not content with that, Prince has also written three books: his Mets personal history that shares the name of his and Fry's blog; The Happiest Recap, which looked at 500(!) wins from the Mets' first half-century; and the upcoming Amazin’ Again: How the 2015 New York Mets Brought the Magic Back to Queens.

Prince, who has spoken with Gelf three times before, answered some questions about this whirlwind Mets season. In the interview below, which was conducted over email and has been edited for clarity, he breaks down his playoff-watching rituals, tries to hate on the Royals, and names his favorite starter in the rotation.

Gelf Magazine: Rank the Mets World Series teams in order from your most to least favorite.

Greg Prince: Tied for No. 1: 1969, 1986. Sophie couldn't choose between these two.
#3: 1973. It was every bit as good as the legend indicates.
#4: 2000. Edge over 2015 (for now) in deference to the era that peaked the night they won the NLCS.
2015.Though this is subject to change with reflection and sepia-toning

Gelf Magazine: When were you able to start enjoying this year's team? And when did the pain from the World Series subside? Or has it?

Greg Prince: The 11-game winning streak in April really adjusted the tenor and expectations surrounding the 2015 Mets. It removed the dark cloud of 2009-2014 pronto. The post-Cespedes surge cemented that feeling. The loss in the World Series was painful for about a week and then just vaguely annoying. Even though the Mets led in every game, I never had the sense the Series "got away" from them. The Royals were the protagonists the whole way.

Gelf Magazine: From a narrative perspective, does not winning the World Series mean the Mets have it both ways?

Greg Prince: Nothing diminishes what they won prior to the Series. Depending on how the next few seasons play out (that is, whether they surpass their accomplishments with at least some of the same players), I think 2015 holds up as the year they won the pennant, not as the year they lost the World Series.

Gelf Magazine: Do you hate the Royals now? Is it possible to hate the Royals?

Greg Prince: It's possible to sports-hate any team that defeats your team. Let's just say that I hadn't had a second-least favorite American League team until very recently. I mostly resent the Royals. They won, they deserved to win, they waited a long time…but the vaguely positive feelings I've harbored for them since practically their founding have dissipated. I'm sure they can live without my support in exchange for that trophy.

Gelf Magazine: Is it OK to root for Daniel Murphy even though it seems like he's a homophobe? Do you think most of his teammates are, too, but just don't talk about it?

Greg Prince: If you can't look at Daniel Murphy without thinking of his Billy Bean remarks—which probably would have rated as comparatively evolved for a professional athlete circa 2005—I can't tell you to do otherwise. I compartmentalize for Mets as a matter of course; Mike Piazza once swooned over Rush Limbaugh and I still stood and applauded for Mike. So when Murph went on that tear in the postseason, I cheered like crazy, albeit with a tiny voice in my head occasionally reminding me how unfortunate his "lifestyle" spiel was. To put it in terms Daniel would embrace, love the sinner, hate the sin. I wouldn't hazard a guess regarding how his teammates feel, except maybe to believe (or to want to believe) that the younger players, having come of age a bit later, may see another person's sexuality as no big deal.

Gelf Magazine: How much do you worry that the fate of the 2000 Mets will befall the 2015 Mets?

Greg Prince: The 2001 Mets finished with a winning record and made a spirited bid for a division title when their city needed any boost it could get, so they weren't that bad, but they did take their sweet time getting their act together and it surely took a shine off the "defending league champions" aura. The pitching probably separates the two entities, with 2016's rotation representing the best reason for optimism. Even if next year is a downer, I'll try to keep in mind the 1971 Reds, who finished with a losing record a year after their Big Red Machine pennant but rebounded like crazy and were dominant for the next decade.

Gelf Magazine: Who's the current Met most likely to make the Hall of Fame?

Greg Prince: Eventual Ford C. Frick Award winner Gary Cohen. David Wright will be the subject of those "people don't realize how good he was, especially when measured by…" articles, but I think the Hall might be out of his grasp (Hall's loss). I refuse to jinx any of our young starters by suggesting one or more is a lock for Cooperstown.

Gelf Magazine: Which current Mets would be the best TV guys for the team in 2040?

Greg Prince: Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda. There's no danger they'd talk over one another.

Gelf Magazine: Who's your favorite member of the rotation?

Greg Prince: Noah Syndergaard. He had me at "…meet me 60 feet, six inches away."

Gelf Magazine: Can the Mets ever overtake the Yankees as the city's favorite team? Or do you think they already did in the 1980s? Is that even desirable?

Greg Prince: "Ever?" The Mets, heirs to the "National League city" tradition forged by the Giants and Dodgers, owned New York twice, from 1964 to 1975 and again from 1984 to 1992. The cycle was overdue to come back around. When Jeurys Familia struck out Dexter Fowler at Wrigley Field, I heard a gear click into place. Seriously, there's nothing to the Yankees that makes them unassailable if they're not winning a lot. They've stopped doing that. If the Mets maintain their momentum, it's their town as much as anybody else's, probably more so for a while. As for desirable—hell yes. There's nothing inherently charming about being Brand B.

Gelf Magazine: How did New York transform during the playoffs?

Greg Prince: For a few wonderful weeks, especially in the prelude to the World Series, there was nothing of greater civic significance throughout the Metropolitan Area than the fate of the Mets. It was like everybody decided to plug into my brain. I partook in more random Mets chatter with acquaintances and strangers—not just fellow hardcore fans—than I had since…I was going to say 1986, but considering the Mets were already an established story for three seasons by then, I'm going to say ever. There was none of that "Can the Mets take New York back?" undercurrent to it. They'd taken it back. They were New York, and not just baseball. It was paradise.

Gelf Magazine: What was the scene like when you were watching Mets playoff games?

Greg Prince: My postseason was a three-pronged affair.
1) I was fortunate enough to attend five games at Citi Field, including two in the World Series, and it was beautiful bedlam in the stands. I honestly worried that I wasn't shouting "LET'S GO METS!" enough to keep up with whatever section I was sitting in. The experience truly wiped away that lingering sense of Citi Field as inadequate successor to Shea. Like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, it just needed a little love…and a good team.
2) I watched five games at home, TV sound down, WOR on, much angst over syncing the audio to the video, which I could never get perfect. Those were solemn, intense affairs, for the most part, at least until the final innings of the final NLCS game at Wrigley Field, when I seem to recall breathing.
3) Four games I watched in the company of my father, which was something I never would have expected. My dad is not a baseball fan, but when he took ill during the season and was hospitalized for two lengthy stretches, we started watching games together. I promised him that if he could make it through some particularly rough patch that I'd be up to watch the World Series with him. At the time I thought he'd be home and I had no idea if the Mets would be in the World Series. Long story short, he wound up in a palliative-care facility, where he currently resides, and I made the not particularly direct journey to share these evenings with him. He wasn't necessarily aware of everything that was going on in a given inning, but we gave each other and the Mets as much moral support we could muster. Something tells me I won't forget where I was when the 2015 World Series ended.

Michael Gluckstadt

Michael Gluckstadt is an editor at Gelf and host of the Varsity Letters speaking series.

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Article by Michael Gluckstadt

Michael Gluckstadt is an editor at Gelf and host of the Varsity Letters speaking series.

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