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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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At Home Wherever They Are

After defeating the Marlins on Monday afternoon, the Mets are 24-10 at home and 4-1 in games that end homestands. As if to express their affection for Citi Field at the end of this 5-2 homestand, they touched home six times en route to their 6-0 victory, each time crossing the plate like it meant something to them.

• Bases-loaded walk.
• Sacrifice fly.
• Wild pitch.
• Another sacrifice fly.
• Two-run single.

None of those runs was foretold. Each was earned (one was unearned, but you know what I mean). Batters got bruised. Runners took off. Patience and alertness were rewarded. Nobody sat back and waited for the wallop. The Mets are very much at home discerning every which way to score.

Mets pitchers were at home keeping the Marlins off the board, too. David Peterson, en route to joining Seth Lugo (and hamstring-tight Jeff McNeil) on paternity leave, celebrated Father’s Day a day late. Peterson was big daddy to the visitors, figuring out how to blank them despite scattering six hits and walking two in five-and-a-third innings. He was succeeded by Adam Ottavino, who unjammed what Peterson left him by producing a ground ball that became a 5-4-3 double play. Peterson benefited directly from one of those babies an inning earlier. Mets’ pitchers like their best friends.

As if Met defense could use the help — we’ll never turn down assistance — the club signed Ender Inciarte to a minor league contract. Inciarte now has a chance to become the Willie Harris of his day. Willie Harris, you’ll recall, took extra-base hits of all variety away from Met batters in the 2000s. Then he became a Met in 2011, not having the same impact for the Mets that he had against the Mets, but he was a pleasant enough veteran presence for a non-contending team. Inciarte used to rob us blind in the 2010s. Here’s Ender’s chance to make it up to us.

As precursors of opponents who do us in go, John Paciorek appears safe in his splendid isolation. On Sunday, Jerar Encarncacion broke into the majors with as Met-killing a debut as one could imagine: an outfield assist, a stolen base and, mostly, a game-turning grand slam. It occurred to me if he never played again, he’d join Paciorek, brother of much-later Met benchman Tom, from the last day of the 1963 season. The Mets played the Colt .45s to wind down their second season. John made his big league bow that day at Colt Stadium. Starting in right, Paciorek gathered three hits, walked twice, scored four runs and drove in three runs, dooming the sophomore Mets to their 111th loss (13-2) and whetting the appetites of Houston fans for 1964 and beyond. They had young Rusty Staub! They had young Joe Morgan! And they had young John Paciorek!

Except young John Paciorek never played in the majors again. A bad back sidelined the kid, and his one day of Met-killing inadvertently served as his career line. It’s a pretty good one: batting average of 1.000; on-base percentage of 1.000; and OPS of 2.000. Encarnacion of the Marlins deigned to follow up his debut by playing a second game. He neither reached base nor gunned anybody down. As the 45-24 Mets head to Houston on their forthcoming road trip, the legend of the one-and-done Colt .45 legend lives on unmatched.

When the Mets play their erstwhile National League expansionmates in matchup of first-place occupants in Houston, they will have Tommy Hunter ready to go as one-eighth of their formerly nine-man bullpen. Hunter returned to Met duty on Sunday after a detour to Tampa Bay in 2021 when, like Paciorek, he had to deal with back problems, but — no irony intended — he is back. Hunter didn’t pitch for the Rays while he was gone, meaning we can categorize good ol’ Tommy not so much as a Recidivist Met (someone who played for the Mets; played for somebody else; then returned to play for the Mets some more) but as a Met Once Removed (someone who played for the Mets; left for another organization without logging any MLB action while away; then got his Met on again in an active player sense, thus precluding the necessity to include Chris Schwinden and his umpteen waiver claims from 2012). As defense attorney Jackie Chiles told his clients in the Seinfeld finale, “You people have a little pet name for everybody.”

Here are our known Mets Once Removed:

Terry Leach
An intriguing pitcher in 1981-1982. Capped his initial stay with a ten-inning one-hitter (a Met first and thus far only). Spent a year with the Tides in 1983 before being traded to the Cubs. Bounced to the Braves — the Richmond Braves. Then, after another helping of Tidewater cooking, recalled to the Mets in May of 1985. He’d be up and down until sticking in ’87, where he merely saved the summer (11-1 starting and relieving). Lost the sole sidearming slot to Jeff Innis in 1989. Comes up in FAFIF discourse periodically, inevitably eliciting warm recollections.

Mike Birkbeck
Never comes up in our discourse, but here he is. The former Brewer righty started one end of a doubleheader as 1992 got worse and worse. He didn’t win. Then he disappeared from our view, signing with the Braves and taking the same tour of Richmond Leach knew so well. Birkbeck rematerialized in Flushing during the first half of 1995 season. Mike gave Dallas Green four solid starts, then got while the getting was good, clearing out his locker in advance of the Generation K beachhead, opting to take his talents to Yokohama for better money and short-term security. “The Mets have some wonderful pitching down below and I was basically a fifth starter,” Birkbeck reflected as he packed his bags. “Whenever a move is made, that is the position that is impacted.” Mike’s roster spot was taken by rookie Bill Pulsipher, a future Recidivist Met, though in June of 1995, we wouldn’t have believed Pulse would be anything but a Met mainstay. Birkbeck pitched in Japan through 1996.

Pedro Feliciano
Y’all should remember Pedro very well, though you might not remember how often he found himself a Met removed. Claimed off waivers by the Tigers in the offseason following the first leg of his Met tenure in 2002, the Tigers lost interest well before the next Spring dawned. The Mets snapped him up anew in the first week of the 2003 season and he’d be warming up to face a lefty again by late May. Pedro followed the Birkbeck trail to the Far East after 2004, but one year away from the Mets and North America was all Feliciano wanted. He rejoined our ranks with the divisional championship season of 2006 already underway in April and hung around through 2010. Boy did he hang. Pedro pitched in more games than any Met ever did in any season, and he did it over and over and over, peaking with 90 games pitched. He had enough strength left in his wing to sign a free agent deal with the Yankees, but not enough to ever pitch for them, thus winning our admiration as someone who took their money for what amounted to nothing and ran back to us in 2013. Healed enough to get back to work, Pedro gave us 25 more appearances before moving on…but never pitching for another MLB club. Despite affiliations between 1995 and 2015 with the Dodgers, the Reds, the Tigers, the Yankees, the Cardinals and the Cubs (not to mention the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks), every one of Feliciano’s 484 big league outings was as a New York Met. Pedro Feliciano will never be removed from our hearts.

P.J. Conlon
The Irish-born, California-raised southpaw provided rookie manager Mickey Callaway (remember him?) two spot starts in May of 2018, only to find himself poached off waivers by the Dodgers in June. Conlon, in the Met system since 2015, tweeted a heartfelt farewell to the only organization he had known before setting off for the West Coast. The Dodgers waived P.J. four days after claiming him, so the Mets grabbed him back, leading to a second tweet effusively thanking the Dodgers for all they’d done for him in the course of fewer than a hundred hours. Actually, he retweeted the exact message he’d left the Mets, but with “Mets” crossed out and “Dodgers” filled in. As social media bits go, it was pretty amusing. P.J. had one more relief stint ahead of him as a Met, the main purpose of which was to ensure him Met Once Removed status in this feature.

Juan Lagares
Juan Lagares, a medium-sized fixture in the Mets’ narrative from 2013 to 2019, slipped quietly into the past tense when he signed with the Padres on February 10, 2020. Then came the pandemic that touched down in America a month later, upending whatever was expected of the baseball season ahead. When MLB’s health/marketing experts that July judged COVID was not enough of a threat to prevent a shorter schedule from taking place in front of literally nobody, the Padres decided they could do without Lagares and cut him loose. The Mets remade acquaintances with Juan and brought him back for two cameos’ worth of pinch-running and defensive-replacing before letting him leave again. It was a pretty Conlonesque departure for a former Gold Glove winner. We just saw Lagares continuing his career in Anaheim. Good for him.

And now, Tommy Hunter, who has followed his four scoreless 2021 outings and 1-for-1 batting performance as a Met with thus far one scoreless outing as a Met in 2022, not letting his gameless-played interlude with Tampa Bay get in the way of feeling at home with us. Also looking happy to be a Met again, per a shot of the dugout on SNY as Monday’s win over the Marlins finished up, was Dom Smith, returned from Syracuse to take the roster spot that by Manfredian fiat can no longer be reserved for a ninth pitcher. (I’m old enough to remember when a seven-man bullpen seemed extravagant.) Dom fizzled mightily in the first part of 2022. The last time the Mets were in Houston, Smith was in his rookie feeling-out process as a potential hotshot rookie. It was the waning weekend of summer 2017, days when Amed Rosario and Dom represented our future.

Dom hit a home run in that series at Minute Maid Park, a bad weekend for Houston in the real-world sense (Hurricane Harvey had just come through), but a sweep for the Astros, who were about to make a whole lot of world championship clatter. That’s another story. Our story, the one we thought was unfolding in future-tense, had Smith up to four homers since his promotion on August 11, though with a batting average straddling .200. Dom wouldn’t really stamp himself a major leaguer to stay until 2019, and, despite some mighty success along the way, we’ve seen how impermanent such a status can be. He was batting .186 with zero power when demoted about three weeks ago. It feels more like three years. Here’s hoping he makes up for lost time on the road.

The Mets are 21-14 away from Citi Field in 2022. They seem pretty comfortable everywhere.

5 comments to At Home Wherever They Are

  • Eric

    I did a double take when I saw Inciarte was born October 29, 1990, younger than this season’s free-agent additions that have transformed the team. I assumed he was at least 3 or 4 years older. His production fell off a cliff at a young age, though.

    The Mets bullpen could use a Terry Leach. His 1987 season is one of my favorites.

  • open the gates

    You’re forgetting the immortal Chris Schwinden, who pitched for the Mets in 2012, was claimed in succession by the Yankees, the Indians, and the Blue Jays, played major league baseball for none of them, then was reclaimed by the Mets and pitching for them again in the majors, all within about a month or so. I guess that makes him a Met Three Times Removed, or something like that. PS – there was a reason all those other teams gave up on him.

    • All of Schwinden’s waiver wire action occurred AFTER his final appearance as a Met, so technically, despite all the removing, he’s not a Met Once Removed. Yet I must admit I did not consider Chris in this exercise (or perhaps I just wanted to forget him).

  • open the gates

    Got it – my bad. I have to admit, it’s a little hard for me to forget ol’ Chris. He was one of those guys that elicited an immediate “Oh no!” – or an equivalent, more pungent exclamation – when his name replaced the dreaded TBA on the schedule. Kind of like 2012’s version of Jerad Eickhoff.

  • Seth

    Pedro Feliciano was a real asset. “Perpetual Pedro,” I remember he was called.

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