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The Good Press - Issue #39: Smile

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The Good Press

January 13 · Issue #39 · View online

A newsletter of observations about life, sports, and/or anything else that comes to mind


Superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor makes the Mets legitimate championship contenders and he will put smiles on the faces of New Yorkers for a long, long time.

Hello and welcome to another edition of The Good Press, a newsletter of observations about life, sports, and/or anything else that comes to mind.
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New Yorkers can get ready for a lot more of this smiling face (Photo: Paul Sancya/AP)
New Yorkers can get ready for a lot more of this smiling face (Photo: Paul Sancya/AP)
Smile
I remember in the spring of 1998 when I was nine years old, I was throwing a baseball around with my brother and some friends at a small park near our childhood stomping grounds when my dad came outside with some news.
“Hey, guess what team Mike Piazza plays for?” my dad asked.
At first, I was a little puzzled by the question.
Mike Piazza? As in the All-Star catcher, one of the best players in baseball? The longtime Dodger who had just been traded to the Florida Marlins about a week earlier? My dad knew that I knew he was a Marlin, he knew that I was such a diehard baseball fan that I knew all about that trade to Florida. He knew I knew all this, so why would he be quizzing me about days-old news?
“The Marlins,” I said, with an eyebrow raised.
“The METS,” he responded, with a big, wide smile on his face.
I’ll never forget that feeling, the rush of wonder and confusion and pure elation all at once, and I smiled wide and ran to my dad asking how it could be possible. Surely Mike Piazza couldn’t be a Met?! He just got sent to Florida!!
It was true, he assured me. Mike Piazza was going to wear Mets orange and blue. It was a remarkable moment in baseball history back in May 1998. After a May 14 trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Florida Marlins, the Mets made a deal on May 22 to bring the future Hall of Famer to Queens.
Being a baseball fan when a future Hall of Fame player in the prime of his career gets traded to your favorite team? That’s a feeling you wish you could bottle up and save for a while. It’s unbridled optimism and hope for all of the possibilities that come with such a moment. It puts a big smile on your face.
It’s a feeling that Mets fans of all ages are feeling again now, 23 years later. That’s because, on January 7, 2021, baseball history seemed to repeat itself. In a blockbuster baseball trade evoking memories of the Mike Piazza trade, the Mets acquired a bona fide superstar shortstop named Francisco Lindor.
Piazza was a 29-year-old five-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger when he arrived in New York, and he would go on to make seven more All-Star games and win five more Silver Slugger awards in his time in a Mets uniform.
Lindor (pronounced lin-DOOR) is a four-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove award winner, two-time Silver Slugger award winner, and is just 27 years old. Like Piazza, Lindor is in the final year of his contract at the time of the trade, and just as with Piazza, the Mets now have a golden opportunity to keep Lindor around long enough to ensure a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
New York Mets
.@Lindor12BC is ready to make his impact on the franchise. #LGM (📸 via Francisco Lindor’s Instagram) https://t.co/lPGGdSgx33
In Other Words
There is a strong chance that New Yorkers will have the fortune of spending the next decade or so watching one of the best baseball players in the world.
He is not only a master of the sport in all facets from hitting to fielding to throwing and running, but Lindor is also an eminently exciting player. He plays the game with such passion, with flair, and with a big, wide smile on his face.
That smile of his is such a trademark that his nickname is literally Mr. Smile. No kidding. When players wear nicknames on their jerseys for one weekend per season, (on Players Weekend) Lindor wears the moniker, “Mr. Smile.”
From 'Mr. Smile' to 'Bebo,' Cleveland 'Players Weekend' nicknames From 'Mr. Smile' to 'Bebo,' Cleveland 'Players Weekend' nicknames
The back of the baseball card would tell you that Lindor is a .285 hitter with 138 career home runs, 99 stolen bases, 508 runs, and 411 runs batted in. The advanced stats would tell you he’s an elite defender at the game’s most difficult defensive position and a true superstar, a top-10 player in the game.
I can spend hours breaking down all the statistics that demonstrate just how great a player he is, but instead, do yourself a favor and watch this ten-minute video of his career highlights to date because they speak volumes.
Some assorted highlights of Francisco Lindor's stellar MLB career so far
When Piazza became a Met, I was just a kid. A young, third-generation Mets fan who loved all things baseball in the pure way that only a kid can love their favorite things. Everything so carefree and simple through the eyes of a child.
I’m older now, wiser now, less emotionally-invested in which team wins the game now, more invested in the league and the sport as a whole now. Maybe that’s from growing older, maybe that’s because I’ve spent the better part of the past decade working professionally in the baseball industry, where I can appreciate the game from a macro-level view as a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to caring for and fortifying the integrity of the game foremost.
I took off my “rooting for the Mets to beat the other teams” hat years ago, out of respect for the game and the integrity of my professional work, and I have no regrets about that. Working in baseball was always my dream job.
I still love the game of baseball, but the love I have now isn’t the same as the love I had when I was a kid, rooting for the laundry of “my team,” blissfully unaware of how the sausage gets made. Carefree, with a big, big smile.
It’s nostalgic to think back upon. More than anything, I’m so excited for all of the baseball fans all over the world who love seeing excellent baseball players play the sport at the highest level, and now, on the biggest stage. Many friends of mine are raising little toddler Mets fans now. Those kids are going to have their Mike Piazza, their Carlos Beltrán, their David Wright now. That warms my heart like nothing else, a new generation of fans falling in love with this beautiful game the way I fell in love with the game 20-25 years ago.
Lindor is a transcendent star, the type of player whose face you can put on posters, billboards, lunchboxes, any tchotchke you can imagine. Francisco Lindor is everything you could ever dream of as a “face of the franchise” that can launch a team into championship contention. Anyone who wants the nuts-and-bolts can read here in Fangraphs about just how seismic a move this trade was with regards to the 2021 World Series championship odds.
For fans young and old, big and small, there is a whole lot to smile about now. You don’t have to be a Mets fan or have grown up a Mets fan to smile about it. An elite superstar player joining a formidable contender in a major market city is good for baseball, even with the other side of the coin being that a penny-pinching mid-market team decided to trade away the golden goose.
So whether you’re a diehard baseball fan like I was as a child, a staunch supporter of the sport as a whole like I am now, or a lapsed fan who catches a game here and there: get ready for Francisco Lindor to be the next New York sports superstar, and get ready to smile from ear to ear watching him play.
Take it from Mr. Smile himself, who said in his introductory press conference with New York reporters on Monday: “They say smiles are very contagious. … I’m gonna do me on a daily basis. I always smile because I’m blessed to have health, my family surrounding me. I have a great group of people that help me keep my peace and play the greatest game out there. Why not smile? I’m living my dream.”
Parting Thoughts
Lindor is the headliner, but a right-handed pitcher named Carlos Carrasco (himself with a solid nickname: “Cookie”) also came over in the same deal. He’s got a story that’s well worth hearing about, beyond his on-field success.
Carrasco, who has come back strong after a 2019 bout with leukemia, wrote a wonderful first-person essay back in 2017 about his personal American dream as an immigrant with big aspirations, in a piece well worth your time:
"The American Dream" by Carlos Carrasco
America is a beautiful place, where no matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, or what you do for a living, you are entitled to the same life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness as anyone else. These ideals of what America aspires to be at its best are what makes this country so special.
That is why seeing the events in our nation’s capital last week were so tragic. America can’t be the best version of America for all of its sons and daughters until the wounds that have festered since this country’s birth are healed, wounds of oppression and injustice that have prevented so many of our brothers and sisters from having the full American experience that others do.
We’re hearing so many disingenuous, bad-faith actors now calling for “unity” while trying to slyly escape culpability and accountability for inciting one of the darkest nadirs in our country’s history: a treasonous insurrection against the United States, a premeditated domestic terrorist attack, a riotous, antidemocratic mob of racists, fascists, Nazi sympathizers, and outright traitors who murdered a police officer during an attempted coup d'état.
Make no mistake: we cannot and must not “unite” with those who advocate ending the American experiment, turning our democratic republic into a cult of personality autocratic dictatorship, all because their candidate is a loser. As I wrote a few months ago: I will not break bread with those who wish our democracy dead. I reject unity with traitors who now seem to see the light.
The public officials who continued to back the disgraced loser president even after his attempts to overturn the election and stage a terrorist attack should be expelled from their posts and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. By trying to move forward without accountability, America will once again be allowing the festering resentment, hate, and bigotry to continue haunting us.
I don’t want to harp on it much longer, since people far more qualified than I am will be pontificating about this moment in history for the rest of our lives, but I want you to take the time to hear another immigrant American citizen express his thoughts about last week’s events and the way to move forward:
Arnold Schwarzenegger's message to America following the attack on the Capitol
Schwarzenegger’s perspective is illuminating. My fiancée’s parents also came to this country to escape the oppression of an authoritarian dictatorship in Romania and their perspectives on what’s happening in America align with what the former Governor/Terminator describes. I’m grateful to be able to learn about the experiences they’ve endured and how it shapes the way they see the world. It’s a reminder that democracy cannot be taken for granted.
Thank you to everyone who congratulated me on my engagement. It’s been a whirlwind first few weeks of the new year, but I’m still on cloud nine with the biggest smile on my face every time I look at the ring on my fiancée’s finger.
I’m very lucky to call her a friend, a confidant, a partner, and soon my wife. We may not know when a future wedding may be yet, or in what format, but for now, we’re happy to hunker down and await our turn for vaccinations.
Please be safe out there if you have to be out and about. Look forward to better days in the near-future where we can all have so much to smile about. Maybe by the 2022 baseball season, there will be sold-out capacity crowds of passionate, enthusiastic fans filling up ballparks again, ready to see a show.
In 2021, Francisco Lindor will put on a show, whether in-person or on TV. Even if you don’t fancy yourself a baseball fan, I think watching him on a baseball field will wow you, impress you, and put a smile on your face, too.
Always find time to smile when you can. Life is a gift, each and every day.
Find what makes you smile and feel good and don’t hesitate to enjoy it. Life’s too short to not find ample time for smiles. If you get really good at smiling, you can even share your smiles with others and encourage them to smile, too.
We could all use more smiling, more kindness, after all. So let’s spread some cheer and let’s make smiles the most contagious thing we spread this year.
Till next time,
-Jon
Previously in The Good Press
The Good Press - Issue #38: A New Chapter
The Good Press - Issue #37: Resolve
The Good Press - Issue #36: Opportunities
Catch up quick: The Good Press full online archive
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