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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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Winding Down

Wrigley Field’s fun. I had a blast when I finally got to go three years ago, and had hoped to return this month with my wife as part of a Midwest swing to take some more ballparks off my list. It didn’t happen; I’ll end 2017 with 23 current big-league parks visited, down from 24 at the beginning of the year. (This is the opposite of progress.)

Even though I wasn’t actually there, I could feel the energy through the TV: a revved-up crowd, a team with something to play for, and a hint of fall in the air with all its promise and peril.

Unfortunately, the team with something to play for was the Cubs. The Mets are a rough sketch of next year taped to the tattered blueprint of this year’s teardown. They’re trying to get to winter with some hints about the kids’ future, a feeling about what the geezers might contribute, and nobody else shredding an elbow, dislocating a shoulder, pulling a hamstring or breaking a nose.

And on Tuesday night they looked like the collective ad lib they are. Robert Gsellman hung in there for a little while but eventually the loud outs became hits and the runners he kept allowing became runs. Then there was a parade of ineffective relievers, not enough offense and a mournful slide into a loss.

Another day off the calendar, which in time we’ll think of as another day closer to the next Opening Day, but not yet.

So what’s left? Well, Tomas Nido‘s big-league debut — the highly touted Double-A catcher got a call-up as a reward, presumably so Terry can use Travis d’Arnaud or Kevin Plawecki to pinch-hit without running afoul of the dreaded though essentially nonexistent scenario of a late-inning injury leaving a team bereft of real catchers.

Here’s hoping Nido gets to do more than warm up pitchers between innings. He’s just 23, but you never take a big-league roster spot for granted — and catchers are more in peril of ghostdom than any other position. The Mets’ pre-Nido ectoplasmic roster includes nine guys, three of whom — Randy Bobb, Billy Cotton and Jerry Moses — were catchers. Bobb and Moses at least played for other teams; Cotton never returned to the big leagues. Another less than immortal Mets backstop, Joe Hietpas, escaped ghostdom by entering the last inning of the last game in 2004. Hietpas can say he caught the final pitches in the history of the Montreal Expos, but not that he ever got a big-league at-bat.

Barring further surprises — and given the medical charts this year you never know — Nido will go into The Holy Books as the 1,043rd Met in team history (I’ll use one of his Cyclones cards as a placeholder), and the last in the confounding, star-crossed 2017 season.

But then that season already feels over, doesn’t it? Wrigley Field had plenty of buzz tonight, but the Mets were the uncool kids let into the club early after swearing to vamoose before the velvet rope comes out. Elsewhere, the Indians have won 20 in a row, while the Dodgers just escaped losing their 12th straight. Those teams and the other October contenders are rolling out the klieg lights; the Mets are waiting to shut them off and go home.

17 comments to Winding Down

  • Dave

    As Ron said last night, at least Nido gets the major league cash and clubhouses for a while. But why are the Mets being so uncreative with uniform numbers, keeping these guys in “you’re not making the team” spring training numbers? The trade deadline salary dump left plenty of legit numbers available, you don’t need to be giving guys numbers in the 70’s unless they’re going to be playing on the offensive line.

    • Ken K. in NJ

      To paraphrase an old Bob & Ray routine:

      Well Curtis, thanks for all you’ve done for the team, do you think they will retire your number?

      Nah, they’ve got some young punk wearing it already.

  • 9th string OF

    The gang over at Mets By The Numbers notes the ridiculous numerical nomenclature often. It really is nonsensical. How many crappy numbers are given to real players? Gsellman, Lugo, Rivera, Sewald, Evans, Nido are wearing numbers they don’t even assign to coaches. Meanwhile, the coaching staff gets 6, 10, 23, 25, and 38. It’s a huge peeve for me. (Note: apparently Nido likes 7, so he’s got 77 now. Thanks MBTN!)

    In the meantime, the indecisive nature of the organization leaks out into other number assignments – somehow 8, 17, and 24 are off limits, even though they won’t retire 8 for Carter, or 24 for one year of a washed up Willie Mays. I’m guessing 17 is in mothballs until Keith retires or quits during a broadcast. Which would be quite a sight.

    • We’ll save this for another post, but I actually like the unofficially retired numbers. It adds to the team lore, IMHO. I’d extend the idea and keep the likes of 8, 16, 18 and 36 reserved for players worthy of their forebears, in fact. (You’re a left-handed pitcher who’s become a dependable winner? Perhaps 36 would interest you.) When Keith steps down from broadcasting I’d retire 17 based on the combination of his playing career plus his later icon status. But not 8, alas. Love Gary Carter and treasure his memory though I do, you’ve got to have more hits for the club than Mark Carreon to get a full retired number.

      Opinions will vary on that. Which is fine.

    • Re 24, that was two years of a legend in twilight having returned home to the city that nurtured him on his way to baseball immortality. If it’s not going to be retired (and I realize it won’t be, outside of my dreams), I can live without it being randomly assigned to the next Travis Taijeron type.

  • Eric

    Reyes, Cabrera, and Aoki started. I would have played younger Mets over the veterans for the higher quality competitive experience for the younger Mets. I guess Collins takes seriously the responsibility to play his ‘A’ line-up, such as it is, in a play-off-meaningful game for the opposing team.

    Is Nimmo hurt again? Off day Monday, yet Nimmo didn’t start and didn’t pinch hit.

    • 9th string OF

      Clean house. Get some direction. The kids should have been up when there was something to play for and Cabrera should have been released. Lose Sandy, lose Terry, lose Warthen. Bring in Jason McLeod, Clint Hurdle and Frank Viola.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    After Reyes got picked off yesterday, TC should have pulled him from the game to show the kids you can’t play with your head up your butt. And to compound matters, he’s starting Reyes again tonight. Show some cojones, Terry.

  • eric1973

    Just because a team won one WS, it is not necessary to retire every number on the team.

    Hernandez and Carter had a few good years for us before they tailed off really badly, and this is for a team that underachieved and should have won more than they did, basically acknowledged by everyone including them.

    Are we that desperate to retire numbers? If so, how about all the folks from the Miracle Mets, like 3, 6, 7, 20, and 21? They epitomize what being a Met and a Met fan is all about.

  • Brad

    They better make some signings in the off season because this bunch is atrocious. I don’t like Smith; something about him rubs me the wrong way. I never thought I’d say this but we may have to bring back Duda.

  • 9th string OF

    Smith has potential, but he’s not the answer if they’re considering a pennant run next year. Maybe it’s a Flores/Smith platoon, or maybe they just give Flores the job.

    Then again, that would require planning. The Mets don’t even know who’s managing next year.

    Smith and his .248 OBP does make you miss Duda.

  • open the gates

    Smith is young, and he’s hit at every level he’s ever played at except the majors (so far). If memory serves, Edgardo Alfonso did not have an amazing rookie season. Nor did Jose Reyes. Nor did (since his name came up) Lucas Duda. The kid’s up barely a month, and suddenly everyone wants to trade him to Siberia. Then they point to all the Justin Turners and Daniel Murphys and say, “What were you thinking?” Give the kid some time and some training, and he’ll come around. Or he won’t. But don’t give up on him after a month in the majors, for crying out loud.

  • mikeski

    Somebody please just shoot Robles already. Or me. Either one, at this point.

  • Matt

    I wonder if the addition of Ryder Ryan could occasion another alliterative Met pitcher post. Unless it did already..