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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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Taking Stock of the New Mets

The Mets, undermanned and improvised though they are, beat the big bad San Diego Padres yet again Saturday afternoon, taking the season series from a fellow playoff team and getting their 33 games in 31 days stretch off to a positive start.

It was what baseball should be — fun! It was fun watching Marcus Stroman coax ground ball after ground ball from enemy hitters and exit the mound with a gait one could describe as a skip or a strut or something very much akin to both at once. Stroman has been a godsend to these Mets, particularly with Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard‘s returns retreating from the observer like the end of the hallway in Poltergeist, and I heartily wish Steven Cohen would give himself a belated birthday present and sign Stroman to an extension posthaste.

It was also fun watching Francisco Lindor and Luis Guillorme vacuum up said ground balls, moving with an instinctive grace that was thrilling to witness. I’ve been a Guillorme fan since before his oh-so-casual grab of a flying bat made him a cult hero a few years back in spring training, admiring not only his soft hands afield but also the fact that he invariably does the right thing when the ball comes his way, never succumbing to the panic that can waylay even capable young players after the game speeds up on them. As for Lindor, he’s a wonderful quarterback of the infield on every play and always where you hope he’ll be, with his hands a blur on transfers at second. Even when he was hearing boos from the Citi Field faithful (an era that thankfully seems to have ended), Lindor’s defense never went into a slump — he was a $34 million a year glove even when the bat was considerably south of that valuation.

(Truth be told, I’m having trouble adapting to the idea of the Mets as a team that might be not just capable on defense but actually good. That’s foreign to me — for years they’ve been a team whose best-case scenario was, “Well, they have a chance to outhit their mistakes.” Now, more often than not, they’re a team that maximizes its own chances by being stingy with misplays and by minimizing enemy balls that drop in, and I’m having a bit of a problem adjusting. To be perfectly clear, it’s a problem that I’m willing to give further attention, as it’s a wonderful one to have.)

The combination of Stroman’s stalwart pitching and the Mets’ excellent defense somewhat masked the fact that this was yet another 2021 three-true-outcomes game, without much offense except that supplied by the home run: Lindor homered in the first, Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a majestic second-deck shot to hurry along Stroman’s exit, and Jonathan Villar outdid Tatis in terms of physical prowess and post-homer demonstrations by annihilating a ball into the upper reaches of Soda Corner. That leaves just one run unaccounted for — a sixth-inning fielder’s choice in which Dom Smith reached base on the back end of an attempted double play.

So no, it wasn’t the most action-packed matinee ever. But between Stroman’s cocksure walkabouts, the defensive excellence and the showcase home runs, it was a memorable game nonetheless. The Mets have played those a lot of late. One of these days maybe I’ll even get used to it.

10 comments to Taking Stock of the New Mets

  • Eric

    Not the same skillset, but similar vibe of good bench player with starter, maybe even star potential if given a real opportunity: Guillorme is the Mets’ chance to do over Justin Turner.

    Cautiously optimistic about deGrom. I hope McKinney is okay.

  • Peter Scarnati

    I love Billy McKinney!!!

    • greensleeves

      Billy McKinney Fan Club, Upstate Chapter

      To the tune of Eleanor Rigby:

      Billy McKinney
      Sat on the bench and we wondered if he was okay
      Thank you Milwaukee, is he for real and another invited to stay?
      No one can say
      ALL the cautious Met fans
      Where do we all belong?
      All the joyful Met fans
      We sing a different song…

  • Greg Mitchell

    Love this team but just to note: They desperately need to pick up a starting pitcher for big club and one stashed in minors. Brutal month of games coming. Only have 3 good starters now, Carrasco and Thor way off. Plus: Stroman an 80 pitch starter (for some reason) and Jake, even healthy, not much more. Plus: Jake could miss a turn at any moment. Peterson’s collapse really troubling. Pen will get totally blown quickly and when you get down to it how many of these guys do you totally trust even now (beyond Diaz, amazingly, and Lugo)? Hunter just got transferred to the 60-day DL. Will be fine for another week but after that….

  • eric1973

    Great song parody, greensleeves.
    Song parodies are the best!

    I love Billy McKinney also, with the quick bat and the terrific outfield prowess. Maybe he hurt his knee on one of those patented diving catches that saved a game.

    Stroman has been absolutely super, and his attitude, along with Lindor’s, makes the game seem joyful. He is a bit of a Drama Queen, but we can accept that, if First Place is a part of the deal!

    Jake is such a skinny guy, and getting old, and you wonder if his body can handle all those 100 mph pitches. I get an oblique strain every time I see him in discomfort, which is virtually every start.

    And ‘Dis-Conforto’ can take all the time he needs in coming back, if you ask me.

  • open the gates

    Oh, well done, Mr. (Ms.?) Greensleeves!

    As for Mets defense, I’m old enough to remember the Best Infield Ever fondly. The Mets weren’t always bumblers afield. It’s good to see them getting back to that. And that’s also why I was never one of the Lindor detractors. His presence on the infield instantly made the Mets a different team.

  • dmg

    thanks for the shout-out to lindor’s defense. i’m not sure how many runs, and thus games, he’s already saved for the mets, but it’s a significant number, and he looks to have raised everyone else’s defense too.
    i may have mentioned this, but his struggles at the plate reminds me of the 1968 year-of-the-pitcher blues tommie agee went through: highly touted american league pickup who had to learn a new league’s pitchers right when the balance seemed to favor them, yet continued to play great defense. and lindor seems to be climbing out of that two-month hole and will be more than fine, i think.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    The elephant in the ballpark is that the team as now constructed is much better at defense than their regular team and as long as the pitching holds up they hit enough to win.

    Speaking of pitching, we were trying to figure out if this was the first time the Mets have ever had two African-American pitchers in their starting rotation. They’ve had precious few at all over the years.

  • Eric

    Agreed on the worrisome thinness of the starting pitching.

    Also agreed on the “elephant in the ballpark”. The Mets are winning with a classic formula of pitching, defense, and timely hitting. Yet the hurt regulars are by and large worse defenders than the subs and the team was not timely hitting when they went on the IL. Plus, the subs are by and large faster running the bases.

    The defense factor also comes in when considering Lindor’s poor offensive stats so far vs Amed Rosario’s substantially better stats for the Indians. I don’t forget Rosario’s clunky defense at SS. I haven’t read that it’s improved much with Cleveland. Of course, that doesn’t excuse Lindor from improving his hitting to *at least* Rosario’s current level.

  • mikeL

    guys like villar, pillar, mckinney and (welcome back) guillorme make it hard to for me miss conforto and mcneil – given how badly both were hitting before they got hurt. by happenstance the mets are a stronger team than they were.
    i hope the mets lock up villar and mckinney, the former is looking like the mets best 3B since wright, and mckinney is a low risk answer to right field – as much a fan i’ve been of conforto since his arrival.
    yes, with the starting 3’s gaudy numbers, the mets current defenders will hit enough if the past weeks haven’t been a fluke.
    for the first time in a long while the mets are playing the kind of crisp ball i watched longingly in other teams. (i’m glad pete’s been part of that -but please pete…stop chasing those high fastballs!)
    the money conforto was(is?) expected to command can go towards a big pitching signing during the off-season.