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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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Winter’s Getting Late

It is the late winter of Tommy Pham, described far and wide as a fourth outfielder when the Mets signed him for the upcoming season. Unnerving spate of rules changes aside, the outfield still contains only three positions. Nobody is every described as a fifth infielder. And second catchers are usually referred to as backup catchers. Who said Andy Rooney is no longer with us?

Tommy Pham is projected to be fourth-outfielding and righty-DH’ing, speaking of rules changes that still have me unnerved. Nonetheless, I wish to congratulate Tommy on joining the Mets, his sixth team, as he reaches his tenth major league season. I wouldn’t have guessed Pham had been around ten seasons, or perhaps that a career that began in 2014 and has continued to 2023 adds up to ten seasons. Didn’t Tommy Pham just come up to the Cardinals? It turns out Tommy Pham left the Cardinals in 2018. I wouldn’t have guessed Pham was on his sixth team, either. Last year the former Redbird played for the Reds and the Red Sox. Here’s hoping his color palette can tolerate the change.

I greet Pham’s arrival as I did tenuous incumbent righty DH Darin Ruf’s last summer, with undeniable “I’ve heard of him” enthusiasm. Ruf diligently drained me of every bit of that goodwill, but that was last year. He’s still here on the edge of this year and eligible to re-emerge à la Ray Knight in 1986 following the “can’t we just give him away?” vibe Knight earned in 1985. Turned out there were no takers and we were better off for it. When you have to reach back 37 Springs for your best-case precedent, you may not have a great case cooking, but it’s the late winter of Darin Ruf as well. Anything could possibly go.

Pham will wear 28, which was Ruf’s number. Ruf will wear 33, which was James McCann’s number. Jeff McNeil, meanwhile, will wear what has become, for keeps, Jeff McNeil’s number, 1, after earlier dalliances with 68 and 6. I don’t automatically associate McNeil with 1, but I’m going to have time to get used to it, assuming Jeff doesn’t make another numerical switch.

It is the late winter of Jeff McNeil, the reigning National League batting champ having agreed to a four-year extension with an option besides, though nothing of an opt-out nature that’s been all the rage in certain circles. The Squirrel socked away enough goodwill ahead of winter to position him as a Met the Mets wouldn’t want to live without. If he has any goodwill left over, perhaps he could loan a bit to Ruf. McNeil limping out of 2021 didn’t look like much of a bet to leave a phenomenal impression following 2022, yet now we’re thrilled to have him on hand through at least 2026 (say, not a bad recent precedent on which to lean).

We all love a Met who wins a batting title; a Met who doesn’t mind serving as an extra outfielder when not being an essential infielder; a Met who willingly matches money to mouth and mouth to money rather than merely paying lip service to loving being what he is where he is. “New York is my home,” Jeff declared upon making his extension official, with at least 50 million reasons to believe him supporting his assertion.

It is the late winter of Carlos Beltran, who once upon a time made us feel loved because he adored the deal his agent negotiated with the New York Mets. I don’t remember Beltran ever identifying New York let alone Flushing as his home unless he was filling out the “workplace address” line on a form, but funny how he keeps coming back. Played here for most of seven seasons. Rejoined as manager. Didn’t manage, but after a few years of laying relatively low, Carlos III is about to commence among us, this time with Beltran as special assistant to GM Billy Eppler. It won’t be as high-profile as when he was a superstar center fielder and no way can it be as fraught as when he had to jump ship after being named the ship’s skipper (Carlos having seen the signs), but a return is a return.

Carlos will learn some front office ropes with the Mets and maybe the front office will learn a few things from the player who wound down a twenty-year run as the avatar of universal esteem. His image could use an infusion of steam after his currency as veteran leader of the Astros was revealed as a two-sided coin lacking legitimate luster. Nobody said the man didn’t know his baseball, just that maybe he knew certain aspects of it a little too well and communicated it a little too shadily.

It is the late winter of Matt Allan, the Met pitching prospect trapped in physical rehabilitation limbo for most of his professional life. We drafted Allan fairly high in 2019, which is also the last year he pitched in an actual game. There was the COVID year with no minor league action; there was Tommy John surgery; there was rehab; there was ulnar nerve transposition; there was more rehab; and now we learn there’s been UCL revision, with more rehab ahead.

No 2023 on the mound for Allan, whose name may still be the first to flit about margins of the Mets fan consciousness when the concept of top pitching prospects is mentioned because a) he remains highly regarded in absentia; b) Met prospects who merit repeated mention haven’t been pitchers for quite a while. What can be said beyond “good luck” to a promising righty not quite 22 and “we look forward to your full health” by ’24?

It is the late winter of Keith Raad and Pat McCarthy, a couple of other minor league names, albeit with brighter immediate prospects ahead of them as they and their voices prepare to infiltrate our heads. Raad will take over for Los Angeles Angles TVcaster Wayne Randazzo, sliding into the WCBS booth alongside the You Gotta Have Heartiest announcer within earshot, Howie Rose. Raad was last heard calling Brooklyn Cyclones baseball. McCarthy, son of Mets radio alum Tom McCarthy, was working in Lehigh Valley for the Phillies’ IronPigs affiliate before being tabbed for what is most easily understood as the Ed Coleman role: pregame, postgame, fill-in. We wish them well as we once wished that heretofore Midwestern stranger Randazzo well.

Wayne turned out pretty well, making us forget over his eight seasons that he arrived in Queens with zero Met pedigree. He truly became part of the family and, alas, too highly sought to remain a veritable second banana in radio (though there are worse things than ripening within the Howie Bunch). My affinity for Randazzo will live on every time it looks like rain and I grab my Kane County Cougars 25th Anniversary cap, which I think of as my Wayne Randazzo cap. Wayne called KCC games in his pre-Met incarnation, something the thoughtful person who sent me the cap wasn’t necessarily thinking about when sending my way some minor league swag he’d come across. I started wearing that particular cap under threatening skies because I decided I didn’t care if it got all wet. But now that it’s my Wayne Randazzo cap, I’ve developed a transcendent fondness for it…unlike my deGROM 48 t-shirt, which I’ve opted out of active t-shirt rotation given that I can’t look at it and not feel disdain. Jake’s 48 goes to the retirement shelf of the closet, where it will wait for my pique to settle down and a ceremonial reason to be called on again.

Long Island’s Own Keith Raad (LIOKR) grew up a Mets fan and Pat McCarthy shared to social media a picture from the years he and his dad spent at Shea — the kid wore a Billy Wagner jersey — which amounts to a proverbial foot in the door to our goodwill. Our ears are open for the rest of their story.

It is the late winter of baseball movies, which are good viewing any time of year, but particularly when there are no baseball games. My five favorite films in the genre, as well as the five favorites of my podcast partner Jeff Hysen, are the subject of the newest episode of National League Town, to which I invite you to listen. We dedicated an episode to the newest selectees of the Mets Hall of Fame the week before. Give that one a listen, too.

It is late winter. How late? Next week will be Spring Training. Sounds pretty good.

4 comments to Winter’s Getting Late

  • Another very fun article with a few passages that made me laugh aloud. Thanks!

    What are your movies?!!

  • Seth

    Wasn’t Tommy Pham a bit of a Met-killer? I haven’t looked up the stats to verify, but my PTSD tells me so.

    • Seth

      Over 30 games career, he was 32 for 97, a .330 average and a .430 OBP. So — yes, if you can’t beat ’em, get ’em to join you.

  • open the gates

    For what it’s worth, I think Darin Ruf was also a bit of a Met-killer. Both before and after he joined the team. So yeah, that doesn’t always work. I will say, if Mr. Cohen can ever lure Freddy Freeman to Flushing, I’ll be the first to say that all is forgiven.