The blog for Mets fans
who like to read


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.

Got something to say? Leave a comment, or email us at (Sorry, but we have no interest in ads, sponsored content or guest posts.)

Need our RSS feed? It's here.

Visit our Facebook page, or drop by the personal pages for Greg and Jason.

Or follow us on Twitter: Here's Greg, and here's Jason.

Future Met Alumni of America

It was reasonably fitting that Jay Payton stopped by the SNY booth in the bottom of the fourth inning Friday night. Jay and Butch Huskey are this weekend’s special guest alumni at Citi Field. If you haven’t noticed, every Friday the Mets welcome home a pair of former players to meet the press, sign autographs in the team Hall of Fame, make the podcast and YouTube rounds, surprise contest-winners by presenting them their prizes and join the live broadcasts.

It’s possibly the classiest thing this organization does on a regular basis, providing a long-absent confirmation from the Mets that they realize there are Mets and Met years that mean something to us beyond a few superstars and a couple of champions. Sometimes the returning duos’ Mets careers were contemporaneous (Turk Wendell/Rick Reed; Doug Flynn/Joel Youngblood), sometimes they seem to be paired by chance (Frank Thomas/Rico Brogna; Jack Fisher/Felix Millan). Payton and Huskey each entered our Met consciousness during roughly the same era, but in fact they only overlapped on the active roster for a month. Butch’s final days in a Mets uniform, September 1998, coincided with Jay’s first cup of coffee. Butch was soon off to play the role of journeyman, while Jay eventually became part of that rarest of post-1986 specimens, a Mets World Series team.

That cachet definitely gave Gary Cohen a Jay hook when he spoke to Payton. Did you realize, our ace announcer asked the 2000 National League champions’ starting center fielder, that you are but one of two players to have hit a postseason home run off very recently inducted Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera (brief Met Sandy Alomar, Jr., being the other)? Yup, Jay said, he’s pretty aware of that delicious fact. Too bad it didn’t happen in a win instead of the late rush that didn’t quite close the gap in Game Two of the World Series, he acknowledged — could have enjoyed it more had we won.

Yet there was a World Series. There was a postseason. Jay had a huge hit to help defeat the Giants in Game Two of the NLDS nineteen years ago. He and Darryl Hamilton teamed to give the Mets a tenth-inning edge that John Franco put in the books with one of the borderline strike three calls of all time on Barry Bonds. Payton’s good work in the NLDS and NLCS came in victory. We got to enjoy it because we won.

Payton was traded by the Mets at the deadline in 2002. The Mets were barely hanging onto playoff delusions two months out. They needed another pitcher. An outfielder was deemed expendable. West to the Rockies went Jay. East to Queens came John Thomson. If you don’t remember John Thomson pitching the Mets to the 2002 postseason, you’re not alone. While the Mets evaporated in the heat of August, Jay commenced on his journeyman adventure: the Rockies through 2003; the Padres in 2004; then three American League franchises between 2005 and 2008, with one visit to the playoffs in the middle (Oakland, 2006). After injury kept him out all of 2009 — injuries bedeviled him in the minor leagues, too, explaining why it took so long for him to climb from supplemental first-round pick in 1994 to callup in 1998 to a third-place Rookie of the Year campaign in 2000 — he had one last pennant race fling with Colorado in September 2010.

At that late stage, he became the Longest Ago Met Still Active and the Last Met Standing from the ’98 Wild Card chase, which is its own kind of cachet in these parts. Given his relatively wayward professional sojourn across America, Jay had never stepped foot inside Citi Field until Friday night. He seemed to like it. Despite the organization giving up on him when he was 29, he sounded happy to be home.

Someday, depending on whether the Mets of the future (Mercury or otherwise) rigorously maintain their revitalized alumni outreach program, perhaps Zack Wheeler will sound the same way. Zack will be a Met alumnus at a date yet to be determined. It could be years from now. It could be next week. If it’s the latter, he won’t have time to chat in the booth soon because he’ll be pitching for somebody else, perhaps a Met opponent. Wheeler is the most obvious Met trade chip on this deadline’s table. Maybe, as scuttlebutt suggests, Noah Syndergaard will reveal himself as the real jackpot by July 31, but until the stakes are raised to such dizzying heights, the buzz that Wheeler is likely to go remains clearly audible.

While Payton visited Gary, Keith and Ron, Zack threw a drama-free fourth against the Pirates: three up, three down, twelve pitches in all for a pitcher who used to battle pitch counts as much as opposing lineups. This was where it got reasonably fitting, as Zack’s Met trajectory has been loosely reminiscent of Jay’s.

• Also a first-round draft choice, though selected by San Francisco before we nabbed him at another of our numerous non-contending deadlines.

• Also somebody on whom we pinned long-term hopes before we ever got a good look at him, the way fans of non-contenders will.

• Also too many injuries getting in the way of delivering on what was projected.

Jay had a swell major league career: the Rookie of the Year bid in 2000; a solid walk year in 2003 that earned him a nice free agent contract; 119 regular-season home runs plus three in postseason play…the three-run shot off Rivera included. He didn’t man center field day in, day out for a contending Mets club year after year after year as we dreamed he might, but he did it for a while. That’ll earn you an alumni invitation every time.

Zack, the same age currently that Jay was when the Mets traded him, is having the same kind of respectable career. The greatness is episodic at best. Being solid has been plenty sufficient. Solid would describe Zack’s Friday outing, his first since before the All-Star break and through an IL stay necessitated by shoulder fatigue: five-and-a-third innings, limited ahead of time to 73 pitches in deference to the shoulder. He gave up one homer on a night the Mets hit four (one dinger apiece from puppy pal Jeff McNeil, Todd Frazier, Wilson Ramos and, now with twice as many as the 17 Jay Payton belted in his rookie season, Pete Alonso), allowing three runs in all. He struck out seven and walked nobody, leaving with a couple Buccos on base, neither of whom came around to score. With legitimate relief support from Luis Avilán, Robert Gsellman, Justin Wilson and closer pro tempore Seth Lugo, he earned 6-3 win that raised his lifetime record…a.k.a. his record as a Met…to 40-36. Nobody seriously puts stock in pitchers’ won-lost records, but it was nice to see Wheeler get a W for the road, should the road beckon.

When our starter departed the game, he was given a standing ovation from the fans in attendance who could read a calendar. As I watched, I could see Zack receiving the same kind of hand in a big game the Mets needed to advance toward or in the playoffs. Except I was imagining that part. Zack never had the opportunity to take the mound in a game of a critical nature. No images left behind from the outsize stage upon which Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard and Matz were able to stride and shine. That’s the void where Wheeler is concerned. He did his best for bad Met teams. He was too hurt to contribute at all to good Met teams. His ledger implies some of the worst timing in club history: 2013-2014; 2017-2019. In between were 2015 and 2016, the only generally enjoyable seasons we have known during Zack Wheeler’s era, except for Zack and his Tommy John situation, the era demonically pressed pause. Talk about bedeviled by injuries.

Thus, if this is it, and Zack becomes an ex-Met in the coming days and a Met alumnus with no second act, whoever interviews him when he returns to Citi Field will have no obvious upbeat angle to pursue, no “that time you and the Mets went to the World Series together” or anything close to it. Instead, the conversation will have to revolve around how well Zack pitched more often than not, how hard he tried to pitch better, how pleasant he always came off as, hopefully how much he liked being part of a Mets team that didn’t win but a bunch of us stuck with, anyway.

That will be fine, if that’s how it has to go.

4 comments to Future Met Alumni of America

  • Holmer

    Jay Payton was such an exciting prospect I went to see him play regularly for the Pittsfield Mets in old Waconah Park (built with the same bond as Fenway Park). I was convinced he was going to be a star. He had a solid career but not what I expected. Seemed like a good guy too.

  • Greg Mitchell

    My views on the trade deadline moves, since you didn’t ask.

    –First, a caveat: from his track record, we should maybe hope for NO Brodie moves at all (insert your worst nightmare here). On the other hand he does have a chance to make up for horrid offseason, say by replacing Kelenic with equally good OF prospect (see: Twins and others).

    –As some may recall, my bias is against counting on starting pitchers at all so always willing to trade them for position player and then rent-a-pitcher(s) when contend. It’s no mistake that most successful teams now have bashing lineups and less than competent starting pitchers (see: Yanks, Twins) or see how Cubs and Bosox and now Braves took charge with young position players and seem set for years.

    –So MUST trade Wheeler and not give another ludicrous risky contract to SP. But must get young position player for him not another SP.

    –Would rather keep Thor due to being signed BUT would deal if a super prospect or two (plenty out there being dangled, and Twins have 2 in top 15 in latest MLB ranking, including OF). Accent on “super” but I keep seeing Brodie is also asking for back of rotation starter–again a waste and would reduce quality of the prospect or prospects you want. For all those who didn’t want to trade Thor last year for Glayber Torres–would you now? I wanted to do it even last year.

    –Ditto on Diaz, who is signed but shaky–allegedly can get a good prospect for him so: again, trust Brodie??

    –One wonders if they would deal Ramos given now severe defense issues, if get young catcher back.

    Obviously, anything for Vargas, Frazier, Familia, appreciated! But not just more prospect/suspects for pen!

  • LeClerc

    No harm if you trade Ramos and Frazier for a ham sandwich and a quarter pound of coleslaw.

  • open the gates

    Re Zack Wheeler, I will always remember him for two things. One, he may not have cried on the field, but in 2015, when he found out that he may have been getting traded for Carlos Gomez (remember that guy?), he made it clear that he wanted to stay a Met. And that was in the bad part of ’15, when John Mayberry Jr. was batting cleanup. One always appreciates a guy who wants to stay, even when times aren’t great. And on more personal level, the one game my kids will probably get to go to this year was the one where Zack throttled the Phillies and hit a homer off of them. For folks who don’t make it to the ballpark too often, that stuff matters. Wherever he winds up (or even if he stays), my kids will always be Zack fans. Me too.