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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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JV Finally Joins the Varsity


The Mets got the Justin Verlander they paid $43 million for — the fireballer who made opponents look silly as a Houston Astro, the no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famer, the top-of-the-rotation ace. And what a difference it made.

I was there, in surprisingly good Excelsior seats behind home plate (a crummy year has some silver linings), close enough that I could see location and pitch speeds, instead of peering at distant stick figures and cheering or groaning based on how quickly and in which direction they had to run around. And I could see the White Sox had no chance against Verlander — none whatsoever. Verlander could do whatever he wanted with them, and so he did. It probably helped that it was a more temperate evening than it had been for Verlander’s last start, when he was woefully inefficient and ill-used by the Mets, with a rocky seventh wrecking his chance at both a shutout and a complete game.

Not biggie, since Verlander handed a four-run lead over to the bullpen with just three outs to get, which meant they didn’t have enough time to screw it up, as they almost managed to do in whatever the hell that was on Tuesday night. The Mets didn’t set the world on fire, doing most of their offensive damage through walks against a wild Touki Toussaint, that long-ago Atlanta Brave, but we’ll take some fortunate sequencing after a season that’s been mostly buzzard’s luck. Not to be a bringdown, but I’m more than a little worried about Pete Alonso, whose frustration is a flashing neon sign visible from the uppermost row in the Promenade. Alonso’s body language has always been crystal-clear — the Polar Bear would be advised to never, ever take up poker — but he looks draggy and defeated, as you might expect considering he’s perilously close to the Mendoza line. (To say nothing of Jeff McNeil, whose trademark rage has curdled into a constant, simmering dismay.)

Not ideal, but once again — they won. Amazing what good starting pitching can do, isn’t it?

* * *

The night was a little warm but nothing like the smothering evenings we’ve had of late, and I think I would have enjoyed myself at Citi Field even if the score hadn’t been so favorable.

Still, it gives me no pleasure to report that the non-baseball part of my night at the park was consistently off-kilter. It started when I went to get a Nathan’s hot dog and fries and a beer, only to discover that the beer taps were mysteriously offline, a development reported with the kind of world-weary, whatcha-gonna-do shrug that was standard operating procedure as Shea crumbled. I secured a Plan B beer somewhere else and was most of my way through my hot dog when I noticed that the bun was spotted with gray-green. Yep, I’d been served a hot dog in a moldy bun, and I’d rather not think about the part I’d eaten without inspection. Later, the problem was broken soft-serve machines, resulting in one stand having a strangely long line for ice cream, to the bafflement of its beleaguered attendants. (Please note that we were in the semi-restricted part of Excelsior that’s sort of a club, where one would expect things to work a little better even though there shouldn’t be a difference in experiences.)

The folks who run the Mets can’t stop the pitchers they pay from hanging sliders or make the hitters they pay live up to what’s on the back of their baseball cards, but it should be within their power to ensure that hot-dog buns aren’t moldy, ice cream machines dispense ice cream and beer taps actually have something in them. That doesn’t seem like to much to ask.

On the other hand, though … for once there was no “Piano Man” to bring down the mood. Would I eat a moldy hot dog bun at a game in exchange for not being subjected to the moldy hot dog bun of self-loathing confessional ballads? I’d at least think it over.

18 comments to JV Finally Joins the Varsity

  • eric1973

    Glad to see Baty finally doing something. Keep it up, son. And with Scherzer and JV pitching up to their potentials, and ‘Q,’ as Buck calls him, finally making his appearance tomorrow (yes, Tomorrow!), gray skies are gonna clear up, put on the Windex shine.

    Marte taking off another game reminds me of John Milner back in the day, who I loved, BTW. In “Hello Everybody, I’m Lindsey Nelson,” written by him in 1985, he says that if Milner was in his bathrobe before the game, that meant he was declaring himself unable to play. Lindsey indicated Milner had maladies that could, and could not, be diagnosed by the doctors.

    Great book by the best announcer ever. His microphone should be up in the rafters with Kiner and Murphy. The 3 of them together set the tone for why this organization is so beloved today.

    • Bob

      Ah-Lindsay Nelson with colorful sport jackets.
      We had black & white TV till about 1964–and when we had color set–I recall how vivid Lindsey jacket was!
      Always loved him and yes, he should be in the rafters with Kiner & Murphy.

  • Seth

    Well some of the Mets are a bit moldy too, so maybe it’s appropriate. Good to see a well pitched win for a change. Pedal to the metal now, it’s getting late.

  • K.Lastima

    Alvarez is gonna blow by Pete for team leader in homers. Pete is gonna be a problem, not worth signing long-term, but not much trade value either right now.

  • Nick

    Pete is and always has been an overgrown child. Someone needed to tell him he has to be 100% before he returned from the IL/List Formerly Known as Disabled. He should go sit there for ten days and let Vientos or really anyone else play first – and he can come back when he’s healthy of mind and body.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Opening Day 1967. Cloudy. windy, cold. My friend Tom and I both got sick from hot dogs that were probably left over from Closing Day 1966. We still talk about it. I haven’t had a Shea/Citi Hot Dog since. And they lost.

  • Joey G

    Jason: As a season ticket holder who attends many games a year, I can tell you that your criticisms regarding quality control of the food are spot on. Mummified LaFreida Steak sandwiches with coagulated cheese, cold french fries, pastrami sandwiches with only maybe 4 modest pastrami slices, etc. The ice cream machines regularly malfunction as well. The deepest cut of all is the absence from the available offerings of Mama’s of Corona sandwiches (a staple from the Shea days), which were made with care and love. Instead, we are relegated to shameless shilling of underwhelming fare like “Chiddy’s Cheesesteaks.” Citi Field has gone from a baston of high quality Gour-Met offerings in the early years to just a smorgasbord of overpriced, poorly-prepared garbage.

  • Michael in CT

    Before we’re ready to send Pete packing, let’s consider:
    He has the MLB rookie home run record in a season (53), the Mets club record for home runs and RBIs in a season (53, 131), is 5th all-time in Mets career home runs (172) after 4+ seasons, was the second-fastest in MLB history to reach 150 home runs (after Ryan Howard).
    He is by far the best home-grown power hitter in Mets history. Give the guy a break.

  • Bob

    Jason–first of all–
    MAZEL TOV!-With you there-the Mets won a game with a real quality start for a change!

    Surprised they did not charge you extra $ for whatever was on the bun.

    Food at Shea in 1960s–I’d get Hebrew Nat’t hot dog, a potato knish & Yoo Hoo for about $5.(yeah, I’m old)
    Knish was like a brick and would sit in your stomach for about a day-OY.

  • Blair M. Schirmer

    Sure, Pete’s a masher, but that’s about it. His defense is going to decline sharply, I’m betting, and soon, leaving him a DH if he’s not a DH already—it’s also hard to believe the Mets would be worse with Pete and Vientos as some combination of DH and 1Bman, or try the switch-hitting, nimble Mauricio at 1B and take Pete out of the field rather than continue the pointless Vogelbach experiment. Desperate times, after all. I mean, the point does seem to be to win games rather than assuage egos and even the small chance that a serious young AAA hitter can come up and catch fire has to be worth it at this sorry point. Not Buck’s Way, I guess.

    As for bringing Drew Smith into a 1-run, must win game (aren’t they all, this July?) when Smith was exactly like as not to give up earned runs in any appearance during the past two months, what the he!! was Buck thinking? Smith’s FIP over his last 18 games was 6.75. He doesn’t belong on the team even as a mop up man. When healthy he’s a very good pitcher, but he isn’t, and hasn’t been. Never mind today’s game, why is Smith still on the 40-man? And why were the Mets playing a man short today–they couldn’t figure out that putting Marte on the IL was overdue, perhaps by three months?

  • eric1973

    No idea what FIP is, but if Smith’s is 6.75, that MUST be bad!

  • Blair M. Schirmer

    Trust me, Eric. The last thing you want is a bloated FIP. Particularly at your age!

    (Fielding Independent Pitching. It’s similar to ERA with stuff removed that’s outside the pitcher’s control. Or if you’re a mountain-region sort, you might prefer the even more refined SIERA [Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average]. Cheers,)

    —Is Todd Zeile of the generation that thinks, if you’re not in the room with him, he has to shout into the microphone to ensure he’s heard?

  • eric1973

    When Drew Smith was suspended for those 10 games, all we heard night after night from Buck, was how he was one man down.

    Those were the days, as so far, he’s the most pathetic thing I’ve seen.

  • Blair M. Schirmer

    I confess, I had a lot of hope for the Drew, way back when we were all young as Spring and his minor league ERA across four seasons was a stingy, stingy 1.99. Even now, with his best stuff looking very good indeed (granted it’s only something like every third or fourth pitch he throws) and his MLB HR/9 allowed is down to an almost passable 1.2, the walks are eating up what modest progress there is.

    Guess he’ll have to wait until free agency at 31. Tampa Bay will pick him up, improve everything by a tick, and he’ll turn into an extremely valuable reliever.

    As for pro writers creating narratives wherever, the stuff about Nimmo’s ‘new’ power surge is odd even for that feverish crowd. Nimmo popped 10 HR in 25 games back in May-June 2018 (the Wilpons insisted on playing him through a neck injury and his power vanished), whereas this year his SLG isn’t even quite at his career SLG, and is only a hair above where it was in 2021 and 2022.

    And then there’s Mark Canha. The Mets are desperate for runs, and while simulations tell us batting order doesn’t matter as much as we tend to think, it still does matter, and since May 17 Canha’s line is .263/.403/.421. He’s not slow, and that slash line sorta yells “leadoff man!” but Buck has him almost entirely at #7, 8, or 9. Weird. Is it me or has Buck just gotten… old? I appreciate his grim pensiveness and careful, intelligent navigation of language in the postgame quizzing he’s bound over to tolerate, but he treats his stars as if their egos are made of porcelain. Just hit your leadoff hitter leadoff, for crying out loud. I’m not claiming Canha is Rickey Henderson, but Rickey’s career line was .279/.401/.419. Looks familiar, somehow.

  • Blair M. Schirmer

    If I may, why was my last comment not approved? No obscenities, no rash unkindness, I was even nice to Buck…

  • Stan

    I’m sorry that no one told you that you were at CitiField for Penicillin Night. The big P.

  • eric1973

    I am kinda coming around to Todd Zeile.
    I like a guy who doesn’t try to be the smartest guy in the room.
    Hear that, Gary Cohen?

    Zeile has no sense of humor, either, so he does not try to be the funniest guy in the room, with some weirdly forced high-pitched cackle at his own unfunny jokes.
    Here that, Gary Cohen?

    And finally, Zeile has some very insightful comments sometimes regarding the players and managers, and what they are thinking, as opposed to some guy who robotically rattles off nonsensical stats non-stop.
    How about that one, Gary Cohen?

    And that goes double for his water-carrying toadie, Ron Darling.