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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
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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Metamorphosis

In my last job I shared an office with Steve, an Englishman who was a passionate fan of Liverpool. Liverpool, Steve explained, was the football equivalent of the Mets — badly run, generally luckless and often an object of derision for other football fans. Steve loved them as much as I love the Mets, and so we would trade tales of these teams that were thoroughly hapless and yet somehow commanded our lifelong loyalty.

This morning I couldn’t wait to tell Steve about the newest Met.

Mike Nickeas, it so happens, is the son of Mark Nickeas, who began his football career as an apprentice with Liverpool. (He’d later play with Plymouth Argyle and Chelsea, about which I know nothing.) I’m always happy to welcome a new Met into the fold, and doubly excited when the new Met is also making his big-league debut. But here was a player who was a link between two different sports in different nations — a player Steve and I might have dreamed up except for the fact that his existence seemed so thoroughly unlikely. How great was that?

Mike Nickeas was given the start because he’d worked well with Jenrry Mejia, making his first big-league start and hopefully finally moving beyond the damage his own club did to his development by wasting him in middle relief earlier this year. So how’d Nickeas do? Well … let’s just say it was the kind of day fans of the Mets and Liverpool are all too used to. Mejia did better, showing an effective changeup and curveball at times to complement his fastball. Yes, he lost, but he’s 20 — the youngest Mets starter since Dwight Gooden. Unless you’ve got a Dwight Gooden on your hands, sprung fully formed from the head of the Zeus of pitching, 20-year-old starters are inconsistent and lose a fair amount. They grow up in public, and growing up in public is messy.

So too are the late-2010 Mets. The youth movement is finally here, and they look, well, young. There’s Ike Davis bashing a home run and making several nifty pickups at first, but he’s the same Ike Davis who stumbled through a mediocre summer after a marvelous spring. There’s Ruben Tejada making a season-in-review highlight play to gun down Geovany Soto while airborne from the outfield grass, but this is the same Ruben Tejada who makes us long for the powerful bat of Anderson Hernandez. There’s Jon Niese enduring the ups and downs of a young starter, and Josh Thole trying to prove he’ll hit enough to stick in the lineup. There’s the hulking Lucas Duda, who’s made nice plays in the field grafted onto mental errors. There’s Jenrry Mejia showing good complementary pitches, and then not so good ones. There’s applauding the sight of Mike Nickeas behind the plate and then having to watch him scurry to the backstop.

They’re young players with some genuine promise, but their arrival it means September will be bumpy, with plenty of 2010 bruises we hope turn into 2011 calluses. But that’s OK with me. I’d rather watch young players make young player mistakes than see an excess of old players hanging around because of their supposed intangibles. The Mets who came back from San Juan were not just bad but boring. That team is gone, and turning into something else. We don’t know what yet, but these are the early stages of figuring it out.

13 comments to Metamorphosis

  • I can’t not put the Mets game on if I’m home, but today was the first time in a while that I actually watched most of it. I’ll usually leave it on in the background while I’m doing something else, but I wanted to see how Jenrry Mejia would fair today.

    The kids are interesting, at least.

  • kd bart

    I rather see a Lucas Duda struggle in tough pinch hitting spot than have to endure another fruitless Mike Hessman pinch hit at bat. Duda has a possible future with the team and might learn from the experience. Hessman has no future here or anywhere.

  • Al in Japan

    Sorry to mention soccer in a baseball blog, but I wouldn’t exactly call Liverpool the equivalent of the Mets with their record-equaling 18 English championships (baby?), 7 FA Cups, and 5 European Cups. Growing up in New Zealand there were loads of bandwagon Liverpool fans and I hated them.

    The Mets have had a rare appearance on Japanese TV the last two days as Fukudome has been hitting well. Of course they have to lose both games. We had the Cubs announcers and I thought one of them sounded just like the dinosaur in Toy Story. Who would that be then?

    In ex-Met news Craig Brazell hit his 41st homerun for my Hanshin Tigers today.

    Despite another crappy Mets season, FAFIF has been stellar as ever thanks to you guys.

  • Dave

    Can’t claim to be much of an expert on English football, but seems to me their equivalent to the Mets would be Manchester City, the much-less-successful #2 team in town behind Manchester United. I believe they have plenty of cash, but bad spending decisions leave them with little to show for it…which makes them our dopplegangers.

    • Steve

      Manchester City beat Liverpool 3-0 on Liverpool’s second game of the season, taking Liverpool all of two games to sit in 17th position (out of 20)…

  • Rob D.

    All I can ask is, what the hell happened to my season?

  • Steve

    Apologies for interrupting this baseball blog, but I am said ‘Steve’ – Liverpool were good, but have not won the top division in England since 1989… our last big success was therefore only 3 years afer the Mets’ in 1986. For sure, they were good before then, and for sure they have won other competitions since then, but none eclipse the league and this is what’s lacking. They finished 7th out of 20 last season….
    A string of so-so coaches, many, many false dawns, a new stadium, yes, then no, on and off (still none…) and our most bitter, bitter rivals have everythig: money, league titles and a good structure….
    Manchester United (I will wash my fingers after typing those letters after this post) are the soccer equivalent of the Yankees, except I don’t think they count Jay-Z amongst their ranks of fans…
    So, Mets fans – rejoice: on behalf of Liverpool fans, we feel your pains, and we share them on the pitch as you do on the field. I hope Nickeas is a good player.
    Soccerized hijack of the thread, over and out.

    :-)

    • Al in Japan

      A miracle come from behind win to beat Milan in the 2005 Champions League doesn’t count as big success? That was Buckner-like! I support Sheffield Wednesday and the New York Mets. Now that’s pain!

      Liverpool’s just in bit of a lull at the moment. A 20-year lull mind you, but they ‘ll come good.

      • Steve, if you’re still around, what does it mean that Mark Nickeas was an apprentice for Liverpool?

        • Lynne P

          Hi I am from Liverpool, and now live in North Yorkshire near to where Steve lived before his move to NYC. The young players who are signed to an English football(soccer) team, are called apprentices. They train with the team and also do menial tasks such as cleaning the boots of top players etc. Many who are signed as apprentices don’t actually make it to the premier league team, but they are picked out because of their potential, in the hope they will develop their talent. They get paid a bit too, but not too much! Hope this explains it for you Jason. Bye from Lynne (btw saw this on Steve’s fb page.)

  • kjs

    Did you know that the fans in Chicago (and only the Wrigley Family Tax Write-Off Field counts, not the team that plays in the non-Yuppie section of the segregated city) enjoy sunny weather, wait patiently for buses, and watch baseball games like a family partying together? I had to turn off the broadcast—it sounds like Cohen, Hernandez, and Burkhardt are on the take from the Chicago Board of Tourism. The three unwritten rules of baseball: Thou shalt worship militarism (although none of the players enlist for our epic overseas missions), Wrigley Field, and Fenway Park.

  • […] then burrowed into deepest minor league obscurity until making his surprise major league debut with the Mets on September 4, 2010. He returned to obscurity after his most recent appearance, on […]