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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
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.

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Waiting for Pelfrey

The more Gary and Keith patted Mike Pelfrey on the back and/or the head tonight — and the more their sentiments were echoed by Willie's commendation of Pelfrey's “baby steps” in the postgame gaggle — the more I recalled Dana Carvey doing his impression of the first George Bush, specifically when the 41st president would praise Dan Quayle for “still gaining acceptance” as his perpetually underdone VP.

It wouldn't be prudent to pick on Pelfrey, for he authored the 2008 Mets equivalent of a masterpiece in the night half of the Saturday doubleheader: six innings, 106 pitches, two runs. It was encouraging that he squirmed out of trouble in the first (on the radio, Wayne and Eddie noted Ramon Castro darted to the mound to talk him through his troubles, an area where Raul Casanova hadn't been asserting himself) and that he settled into an effective enough groove against a hot-hitting lineup that sure knows how to work counts. This loss was not Pelfrey's by any means. The win, despite the unraveling that sucked the competitive air out of the eighth and ninth, was all Arroyo's. He mastered the Mets, and not for the first time.

Pelfrey, though…is it impatient to note that Mike Pelfrey just started his 23rd Major League game and we're still supposed to be beside ourselves with joy that he made it through six innings and pitched well enough to win? Perhaps if all 23 starts had come in the same rookie year — last Met rookie to start 30 games in one season was Jae Seo in 2003; before him, Doc and Darling in 1984 — I could recognize genuine progress. Even if we accept that this is not just the third season in which he's pitched in the bigs, but the third season in which he's pitched in the pros, it still seems like slow going, especially considering the next time he throws six or more innings in two consecutive starts uninterrupted by a minor league stint will be his first. Every start seems to be a fresh one for Pelfrey. He's learning to pitch with his tongue out. Or in. Or with a mouthpiece. Or without. Or to Schneider. Or to Casanova. Or to Castro. Or with something resembling confidence. And aren't college pitchers supposed to come along quickly?

I admit I'm historically spoiled when it comes to fastballing righties and accelerated learning curves. Tom Seaver did a one-year hitch in Jacksonville and then, at 22, turned into the Franchise. Dwight Gooden was barely two years out of Hillsborough High when he was making National Leaguers look like sophomores at Chamberlain, Plant and King. It took Jae Seo a while, but Jae Seo wasn't the Mets' No. 1 draft pick, Jae Seo wasn't the third pitcher chosen overall and Jae Seo wasn't 6'-7″. Jae Seo wasn't supposed to be the first homegrown Met ace since…geez, when did the last homegrown ace actually sprout here?

Does it matter? Santana from Minnesota is obviously the man and Maine from Baltimore was kidnapped young and Pedro, citizen of the world, will maybe be Pedroesque from June on, though you'd be nuts to count on it. If Pelfrey can keep giving the Mets six competent innings, and if the Mets don't face Bronson Arroyo too often, won't that be enough? Even with the bullpen working three innings almost every night — sure would be sweet if Ollie could limit their load Sunday — won't that be reasonable to accept at this stage of the kid's career?

It is only 23 starts and he is only 24.

6 comments to Waiting for Pelfrey

  • Anonymous

    You know what? I think this team misses Paul LoDuca.
    Not the Paul LoDuca who was slapping into double plays and picking pointless fights at the end of the season — I mean the one that was getting on all the time earlier in the campaign, moving the runners and working counts and aggravating opposing pitchers and always making contact in the clutch and never striking out. You know, PAW-lo DOO-ka (clap, clap, clapclapcap)! That guy.
    Sure, Schneider is an upgrade on defense, and who knows, maybe he calls a better game and handles the young pitchers better than Paulie did (though I see precious little evidence of improvement on that score). But this franchise has always needed a heart-on-the-sleeve kind of guy around someplace — Tug, Nails, Carter, Franco, like that. Pauly did it last year, at least for most of the season. Who is it now?
    For all his electric play, Jose Reyes somehow isn't — he seems to be coasting on talent alone this year, like his heart wasn't always in it or that his passion got burned out of him last year. And Wright seems more the John Olerud type, saying all he's going to say with his lumber and his glove.
    Who else on this roster could fit the bill?

  • Anonymous

    That Lo Duca ceased to exist as 2007 ended and the Lo Duca that does exist isn't exactly burning it up in 2008 (or playing).
    If the Mets had won a few more games to this point, we'd be praising (or at least hearing them praised) for being paragons of professionalism, a refreshing change from the hotheaded ways of silly ol' Paul Lo Duca. It's an appealing notion that somebody that fiery would breathe some life into this outfit, but I have to admit I haven't once thought in 2008 that boy, all we're missing here is Lo Duca — even 2006 Lo Duca.
    The “nightcap” (is it really a doubleheader if it's not one admission? isn't it just two headers?) shouldn't detract from 24 runs in the previous two games. Let's hope this was just Arroyo doing a number on them and that maybe with Wright, Beltran and Delgado all beginning to click that some long-term consistency is en route.

  • Anonymous

    I'm not one to defend Pelfrey on a regular basis- but today I will..With a little support- he pitched well enough to win that game..In the recent past he would collapse at some point early in the game- not even giving the team the 5 or 6 innings that Managers seem satisfied with these days..
    This guy still has some serious potential and frankly we have very few options..Deal with it.

  • Anonymous

    Paul Lo Duca and his .311 OBP were horrendous. Couple that with his off-field antics and he was complete horseshit. Good riddance.
    And when I watch Pelfrey I always think of John Maine and view him as a cautionary tale.
    As the Orioles can likely tell you, patience is a virtue.

  • Anonymous

    I think Pelfrey deserves one full season in the rotation before we even think about pulling the plug on him. I think this is the impatience people talk about when they say “you can't rebuild” in New York.
    We should be able to afford going with at least one young pitcher in the rotation. It's better than Claudio Vargas. Pelfrey isn't the problem, it just appears so because:
    -The team was depending on an old Pedro Martinez to pitch like THE old Pedro Martinez, and at this point he can't make more than four starts without hurting himself.
    -Oliver Perez isn't pulling his weight.
    -The team wastes starts by Santana(with yesterday being the exception) by not scoring enough runs.
    -Willie Randolph continues to sit on his hands while the Mets leave runners on base inning after inning. It's like the Mets have a sign for hitting into a double play.
    Without these other issues, Pelfrey could quietly gain seasoning in the fifth spot in the rotation. But with them, everything seems a struggle.

  • Anonymous

    Maine is a good example. I know I got a little itchy in his first couple of starts, but I saw more there early than I've seen from Pelfrey lately, Saturday night notwithstanding. Is it possible that not every righthanded pitching prospect matures at the exact same rate?
    Me impatient? That's unpossible!