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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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The Secret of Feeling Better

The Mets face challenges in this 60-game improv season: iffy defense, shredded starting pitching, an uncertain bullpen. An added challenge, for those of us watching from the socially distanced cheap seats, is how quickly it’s all going by.

I don’t buy the each game is equal to four and change thing, because it has nothing to do with how baseball is actually played. But it is more than a little startling to just be getting used to a roster and realize that a third of the season is complete. Baseball isn’t being played on fast-forward, but my baseball emotions feel like someone has that button mashed down. Each little tailspin feels like the team just got eliminated on some soggy matinee in September, and I have to remind myself it isn’t that way at all.

What helps with feelings like these? The same thing that helps with all baseball maladies — having your team win a game and look competent doing it. Funny how that cures all ills.

Thursday afternoon’s game was an entertaining one — some heart-in-the-throat moments, a scary storyline to follow, an unlikely hero, more good things from young players — that went in the win column. It didn’t exactly start well: David Peterson walked Trea Turner, was hurt by a throwing error by Tomas Nido that put the loathsome Adam Eaton on base, and then walked Starlin Castro. Bases loaded, nobody out, and up to the plate came Juan Soto, who may as well be called That Man Again in these parts.

Peterson got Soto to foul off a sinker, got a strike on a changeup, and then erased the most dangerous man in the Washington lineup — and maybe the N.L. East — on a nifty slider. The next hitter, the annoyingly capable Howie Kendrick, grounded out but brought Turner home. Up came Asdrubal Cabrera, who smashed a ball on a line up the left-field gap. Jeff McNeil got there, reached above his head, plowed into the fence, and held up the ball.

It was a great play — shades of Mike Baxter damaging his career to preserve Johan Santana‘s no-hitter — with McNeil so prioritizing hanging onto the ball that while he lay on the warning track I was a little worried he’d concussed himself so thoroughly that the ball would have to be pried out of his glove. (The diagnosis, after he was carted off the field, was a bone contusion, which isn’t great but is about the best medical update one can get in a sentence that also includes “carted off the field.”)

The Mets had avoided disaster — and as they did Wednesday night, they went to work on the Nats. Peterson settled in, ultimately allowing just one hit over five innings. Meanwhile, Dom Smith smashed a solo homer to tie the game, Nido hit a two-run shot to grab the lead, and then Nido sealed the game with a grand slam off Seth Romero, making his big-league debut wearing 96 and the slightly glassy-eyed look you’d expect to find on the face of a young man called into a big-league game after never pitching above the Sally League. Romero spent 2018 with the Hagerstown Suns, whose stadium I’ve been to several times. The difference between coming in for relief there and arriving at Citi Field (even without fans) must be comparable to the difference between singing along to a playlist in your car when no one’s watching and stepping onstage at the Apollo and peering out into the blinding lights.

Romero will have better days; Nido may not. That’s no insult — two homers and six runs batted in is hard to equal when your role is to play day games after night games. Even if he never reaches these heights again, Nido may prove useful in a way a big-league team could use: He’s looked better this year, perhaps aware that most every backup catcher is regarded as a suspect by his ballclub, perhaps annoyed that no one seems to remember he won a batting title in the minors, perhaps a little of both.

Nido’s defense is already good enough for any big-league team; if he can hit even a little, he can retire sometime in the 2030s as a wealthy man. On Thursday he hit a lot more than a little, and it was beautiful to see.

6 comments to The Secret of Feeling Better

  • open the gates

    I roughly remember thinking, sometime in the early-to-mid ’90’s, “Wow – that little catcher who can’t hit a lick but calls a great game – he’s suddenly hitting home runs in bunches. How about that.” (Of course, he also wasn’t such a little catcher anymore, but that’s a story for another day.) Is Tomas Nido the next Todd Hundley? Probably not, but dare to dream.

  • Daniel Hall

    The Tomas Nido Game! That was the unexpected sort of fun. Shoutout also to our new #2 starter, David “Who?” Peterson!

    Since wealth is relative, Nido might have a chance to retire wealthy but he’s already 26 and last night’s game upped his career batting average by 5 points, so I wish him the best, because he’ll need it. At least, all the best as long as he’s in the orange and blue.

    And I am totally not sure that McNeil isn’t having a concussion. When he’s carted off the field, he doesn’t look like he knows what’s going on. Mets!! Don’t mets him up!

  • Great article and right on in the first three paragraphs

  • Seth

    I have to point out, that after Monday’s As-drubbing, in a comment Greg Prince remarked he’d be happy to see Cabrera go 0-4 the rest of the series.

    Which is exactly what happened. How did you do that, Greg? :-)

  • Flynn23

    Nido … Whoah oh oh oh!