At the risk of antagonizing tedious radio hosts, I’m proud of Mike Pelfrey too.
Perhaps that’s OK with Mike Francesa, since I’m 15 years older than Big Pelf. (Not that I give a shit.) I’m proud of Pelf for the same reasons I suspect Matt Cerrone was: Pelf has spent his entire professional career as a Met and, after a decidedly awkward adolescence, appears to have become a star. It’s great to see.
Stardom for Pelf didn’t seem particularly likely not so long ago. There was the game against the Giants in which he telegraphed his pitches through the rather straightforward method of stomping around on the mound muttering what he was going to throw. There were all the times he let an inning get away from him and wandered around behind the rubber fidgeting and plucking at his cap and generally being cranky until his catcher and/or his infielders and/or his pitching coach had to go out there and settle him down, like a horse whose eyes have rolled back in his head. Pelfrey wasn’t just a plus-sized bag of eccentricities — he was the baseball equivalent of the guy in your office whom you kept an eye on because you figured he’d show up with an arsenal the day after his downsizing. Below the neck, his sinker seemed disinclined to sink and his college-baseball coach crabbed on the air that his velocity had disappeared. Oh, and Tom Seaver thought he was dumb. (Often merely a synonym for not Tom Seaver, but still.) Yes, there was a statistical case to be made that the biggest change wasn’t Pelfrey himself but the fact that he was stuck in front of Daniel Murphy and Luis Castillo and a grab bag of impostor shortstops, but on some level I think we resisted believing that, because we’d seen so much twitching and grousing and strange behavior and ineffective pitching that we were no longer inclined to give Pelf the benefit of the doubt.
Tonight there was none of that: It was groundouts and strikeouts, that diving splitter and heavy sinker leaving the Padres looking like they were trying to lift bocce balls over the infield. Pelfrey was 110 pitches worth of wonderful — and with the exception of one horror show in Philadelphia (aided and abetted by a couple of balls that just eluded Jose Reyes and Alex Cora), he’s been wonderful all year, emerging as not just a credible starter but a solid complement to Johan Santana. (After which God knows, but let’s stick to the subject at hand.) He’s a homegrown Met made good, after a long stretch in which he seemed to be breaking bad. Damn right I’m proud of him.
Francisco Rodriguez, on the other hand, seems to have been put on this earth to give me agita. I’ve never much liked K-Rod. His ripcord mechanics leave him in horrible fielding position, his histrionics are irritating, he does stupid things (witness that pickoff attempt with two outs in the ninth), and of course there’s his history of high-profile gag jobs. (Tell me you weren’t waiting for a game-winning home run. I was.) There are a few elite closers, and then there are guys who pitch the ninth and do what plenty of other guys with two good pitches could do about as well. Frankie’s the latter; too bad he’s being paid like the former.