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Once Again, the Mets Will Wear Their First Responder Caps in Pregame Only

ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 11:  Pitchers John Thomson #50 and Mike Bacsik #33, shortstop Roberto Alomar #12, second baseman Marco Scutaro #26, pitcher Armando Benitez #49, shortstop Rey Ordonez #10 and bullpen catcher Vinnie Valinotti #58 of the New York Mets watch the pregame ceremony honoring the victims of the 9-11-01 terror attacks before the second game of a MLB double-header against the Atlanta Braves on September 11, 2002 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Mets shut out the Braves 5-0.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) The Mets wore their first responder hats for batting practice and pre-game ceremonies on September 11 last season.

On September 21, 2001, the Mets played their first game since the attacks of September 11 and ditched their usual headgear in favor of caps honoring the first responders of the NYPD, FDNY, and PAPD. The move defied MLB rules about uniforms, but it was the Mets' best way of demonstrating their and the whole city's immense gratitude in the face of fear and sorrow. The league, of course, accepted the move as a justifiable transgression and levied no fines. Last year marked the tenth anniversary of 9/11, so the Mets requested permission to wear the hats during play again. The league denied said permission, which resulted in some hostility from the players (Josh Thole, the team's union rep, was the main guy to speak out). Joe Torre went on the radio in an attempt to smooth things over and save face, but the league didn't back off their ruling and the Mets ended up wearing their caps only during batting practice and pregame ceremonies.

With the 11th coming up next Tuesday, the Mets are once again inclined to pay tribute. There's already been a player visit to a firehouse and a first pitch thrown out by the family of a first responder and, even though it's not a round-numbered anniversary, the Mets intend to pay tribute once more with their caps. This time, though, they haven't approached the league about an in-game change. The hats will go on for batting practice, then come off when the players take the field, and both parties have confirmed this without any preceding debate.

This decision to acquiesce is not okay with everybody. Jason Fry of the excellent Faith and Fear in Flushing, for one, sounds irate:

I’m speechless. With a year to work behind the scenes and come to an agreement, the best answer the Mets could come up with was … to surrender.

It’s absolutely indefensible.

I know the Mets have serious financial problems, and I accept that. I know the Mets are trying to rebuild their team the right way, a way that will take patience. And I accept that too. I know that part of that patience is watching young players struggle. And I accept that too, at least some of the time.

But I can’t accept this. It’s shameful and pathetic and frankly it’s fucking embarrassing. This isn’t a payroll figure, or a free-agent signing, or an on-field win. It’s standing up for a tradition that was honorable and moving and that deserves remembrance one day a year — something eminently within the control of an organization with some semblance of a backbone.

It's tough. On the one hand, it is pretty milquetoast for the Mets not to just do what they feel is right and accept the fine (if the league would actually impose it, which would be impressively obtuse). On the other hand, inciting another little tiff and drawing attention away from the actual, important matter of remembering the heroic individuals lost on 9/11 would be poor form in its own way. That stuff last year was unseemly. What Fry's definitely right about is that the Mets and the league had a full year to talk this over and should have come up with an acceptable way of honoring the first responders during the game (and the in-game part is important, I think, because you want people to actually see this tribute).

There remains the possibility that the Mets people are bluffing and the team does have a tribute of some sort planned. We'll see. Ultimately, though, one hopes that people aren't dwelling on the hat thing when 9/11 does come around. It's not about hats.

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Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images