Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

Josh Lewin feels your pain, Mets fans.

It is an emotion earned the hard way, as a youngster in Rochester who in 1978 favored the last-place Mets over the two-time World Series champion Yankees.

"For whatever reason, the Mets seemed to resonate more," said Lewin, the team's new radio voice opposite Howie Rose. "Reggie [Jackson] was hitting three home runs and all that, but I was a Willie Montañez guy. And I loved Nino Espinosa's hair.

"There was something about the Mets and the underdog-ness. They were the Jan Brady to the Yankees' Marcia. I always was a Jan guy when I got a little older."

Not that there haven't been good times during Lewin's fandom. Game 6 of the 1986 World Series fell on his 18th birthday. But understanding Mets fans' commitment even in lean times could come in handy in 2012.

Lewin cautioned against assuming anything. He recalled a similar situation in 2004, when he was the play-by-play man for the Texas Rangers, who had slashed payroll, including that of shortstop Alex Rodriguez.

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Those Rangers improved from 71 victories in 2003 to 89 and finished third, three games behind the AL West lead.

"There were zero expectations that year, everyone crying about the payroll and kind of negative," Lewin said. "I'm not going to make any wacky predictions, but I've seen this movie before and it came really, really close to a happy ending . . . At the risk of being Pollyanna, I don't think it will be terrible."

Lewin's status as a lifelong Mets fan and an East Coast native is a key point. His predecessor, Wayne Hagin, whose contract was not renewed after four seasons, generally was well-liked and respected. But he never struck a chord with Mets fans in his first career job east of the Mississippi River.

After parting ways with the Rangers following the 2010 season, Lewin would have been content to do his sports talk radio show in Dallas, calling national baseball games for Fox and working in the San Diego Chargers' radio booth.

Then the Mets gig came along. "Not to blow smoke, but it's the FAN and it's the Mets," he said. "How often does this job open?"

Lewin said he was looking forward to returning to radio baseball after nine years on TV for the Rangers. He would not go into detail about the end of his term with the team, describing it as a "very amicable mutual parting of ways."

But he hinted his style of "informing and entertaining and telling a lot of stories" no longer was a fit. That should not be a problem in the Mets' booth, where Rose is adept at mixing kibitzing with play-by-play.

Lewin said he feels as if he knows Rose well from listening to him since WFAN's early years, when he was interning for the Rochester Red Wings, listening to Pete Franklin, Steve Somers and Bob Murphy.

After growing up listening to Murphy, he said, the thought that "Wow, that's kind of the job that I have" was too good to pass up.

Lewin, 43, will give up his job with Fox but keep the one with the Chargers by saving his days off for NFL Sundays.

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What if the Mets make the playoffs?

We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," he said.