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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.

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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The Pelf Thing

I can see why it’s a big deal that Mike Pelfrey spoke his mind. It reveals that he has one. Watching him on the mound for six seasons, particularly when things begin to go a little haywire, I wouldn’t have sworn under oath that he had a noodle to use.

Other than that, I don’t quite get why what Big Pelf said to the always reliable New York Post passed for inflammatory. Perhaps it’s a sign of the age we live in that stone-cold conformity is so valued that if anyone gets the slightest bit out of line, it’s “heavens to Betsy!” time. Or conversely — and more encouraging from our own parochial standpoint — perhaps the Mets have been such gung-ho adherents of Terry Collins’s Norman Vincent Peale-esque positive thinking that even mild apostasy sticks out like a, well, Big Pelf.

What’d he say, again? This, per Mike Puma:

“It’s unrealistic for anybody at the end of last year to come in and say, ‘The Mets, this is a one-year thing, next year we’re going to win it all.’ It’s unrealistic.”

That’s controversial? That violates the tenets of jockspeak? That inspired every reporter’s favorite source, “One Met,” to respond (anonymously) like this?

“He’s cutting his own throat. What’s his record, six and nine? He’s supposed to be the ace of the [bleeping] staff. Why don’t you go and win 12 or 13 games?”

The Mets were a sub-.500 club in 2010 that entered 2011 with no substantial improvements to its roster, save for the addition by subtraction of a few bad, overpaid actors. They stumbled to a miserable start, straightened out, believed in themselves, pushed the proverbial boulder uphill, overcame injury after injury, won more often than they lost for three months — occasionally in exhilarating fashion…and never came close to legitimately contending before the boulder began coming after them (which, sadly, it continued to do Saturday night in Phoenix). So I’d say Pelf’s supposedly damning quote was on the money, pretty tame and probably traveled from his brain to his mouth as a fairly benign thought-segment, particularly in the context (a word athletes only use when asked to explain something they are said to have said) of the rest of the article.

If he said something like “it was always going to be tough for us this year” or “you have to have patience in this game” it would have been taken as somewhere between benign and sage, and nobody but Mike Puma diehards and relatives would have noticed.

As for the idea that a 6-9 pitcher should offer fewer opinions than a 12-4 pitcher, that would be the politic tack to take, given the parameters of the industry in which Pelf makes his very good living. But it’s a free country. If R.A. Dickey can Tweet to his heart’s content, then Pelfrey can occasionally summon his mind and speak it. And he has. It’s worth noting Mike was the only Met to publicly take umbrage with the idea that the club was about to trade its lineup’s most consistently dangerous weapon just before Carlos Beltran was dispatched to San Francisco:

“I understand that if you want to get something back for him, you have to trade him. But in the same sense I would think if we ended up getting rid of him, the front office’s view is that we don’t have a chance, because he gives us our best chance to win. If he’s not here, then they felt we can’t rebound from where we’re at.”

Forgive Pelf if he wasn’t particularly interested in where Zack Wheeler fits into the big Met picture come 2013. Mike Pelfrey doesn’t know if he’ll fit into the big Met picture come 2013 — or 2012, for that matter. Pelf’s suddenly the third-longest tenured Met, behind Reyes and Wright. His inadvertent role on this team in 2011 is something akin to that of Bobby Jones in the late ’90s or Steve Trachsel in the middle ’00s, the senior starting pitcher who has slogged through hundreds of innings, had his moments (if not nearly enough of them) and has to wonder as often as not where’s the [bleeping] pot of gold at the end of this blue and orange rainbow? Hence, I can’t blame him if a little of his discontent seeps out now and then, no matter that it’s not properly aligned with the company-approved program.

If this is what takes to be considered a malcontent, then we’re all a little too thin-skinned.

Though on the flip side, if Pelf is considered a malcontent, then the Mets should look to trade him at once, because after six seasons of his slogging through hundreds of innings, I’ve seen enough and would welcome whatever half-baked alibi they need to get rid of him. I’ve never been a large Big Pelf believer, and his occasional bouts of success have failed to convince me he was ever on the verge of becoming the real thing. Yet because he was a No. 1 draft choice and because he was thought of as having great stuff and because on paper he’s physically imposing — and because his won-lost record has occasionally been speakworthy — the Mets have counted on him more heavily than they would a slightly shorter guy with slightly lesser stuff who was drafted slightly later.

That “One Met” who fumed that Pelf’s supposed to be the “ace” of the staff is as bewildered as I’ve been that he was ever considered on that level (though given that only one starter can start one game at a time, I find “ace” one of the more overblown concepts of baseball, along with won-lost records and speaking while saying nothing). Pelfrey was a top pitcher for maybe five months of his first five years as a Met. Tabbing him the Opening Night starter shouldn’t have been laced with so many implications or expectations. I have an unprovable hunch that had the assignment been handed to Niese or Dickey, it would have been viewed as mostly another turn in the rotation. Because it was Pelfrey, it became a thing, and the last thing Big Pelf needs is another thing.

Which I guess his “unrealistic” comment became, just as that knot that developed on his right elbow after being whacked with an exit-inducing line drive from Gerardo Parra became yet another thing, hopefully not a painful or debilitating thing. I wish the Big Pelf no ill. He’s that Met I like in spite of not being able to stand — or can’t stand no matter how much I like him. It’s nothing personal, or even theoretically personal, considering I’m a fan and it’s silly to think I know Mike Pelfrey as a person rather than as a jumble of quotes and impressions. Whatever — I’m just not that enthusiastic about him pitching for my team. Let him live and be well and enjoy a Phil Humber mini-renaissance in the other league when this year is over.

In the meantime, let him say what he wants.

23 comments to The Pelf Thing

  • BlackCountryMet

    I learned of this on last nights broadcast. My take, how come he says what most fans were thinking(average season, no real run at play offs etc) and gets burnt? Comments re Beltran trade seem on the money to me. A case of no win either way.

  • maryanne

    Sometimes I wonder about Mike. Sure, we all think things about our employer at times, but Mike actually verbalized his thought to a NYC beat reporter. He’s not that good a pitcher to be handling this type of distraction. It’s time for a “refresher” in media.

  • I totally agree with the above comment..
    Its unrealistic ( I believe ) to expect Mr. Pelfrey to hold down a spot in the rotatation- even this one!..Hopefully this indicates the beginning of the end for him.

    Rich P

  • ToBeDetermined

    What’s odd is that in the same article, Pelfrey is quoted saying this:

    “This organization is headed in the right direction… The front office has done a lot of smart things, and in the end this organization is going to have a chance to be in the playoffs every year.”

    So, “headed in the right direction” but not “a one-year thing”. How is this so controversial?

    Context, indeed, is everything.

  • Perhaps a long season does this..Perhaps its lack of talent? Or heart?.Frustraion?.Or maybe hes not too bright!!

  • Andee

    “One Met,” my family-sized rump. I mean, come on, almost the entire active roster now is rookies and second-year players and scrubbolas who weren’t even here last year. Are we supposed to believe Wright said this? Or Dickey? Or Bay? Or Pagan? That doesn’t sound like any of them.

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    This is no big deal! The only reason this is getting any traction is because there is nothing good or interesting to write about the Mets.

    The team was a nice story, but now its getting ready to ‘Nosedive” and start “Mailing It In”

    When you got nothing to say, “Make a mountain out of a mole hill”

    LETS GO METS!

  • Nothing substantive to add, just wanted to say that I enjoyed this post. The best response I’ve read to this non-story.

  • curMetgeon

    I suppose “one Met” could also be a bat boy, a bullpen catcher, a front office intern, or even one person that Mike Puma just Met.

    Your article sums up my feelings well on the whole subject. I’m not at all offended by what Pelfrey said, and I think both he & the team may be better served in the long run by his pitching for another ballclub. The club could use the ~ $5 million next year on multiple useful parts, and Pelfrey can be freed from the shackles, whether hindsight or not, of having been chosen over Jay Bruce & of being miscast as an ace.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    Pelfrey was correct in his assessments and I’m glad he particularly went public stating how getting rid of Beltan showed the front office had less confidence in the 2011 squad than the players had themselves (though it might not have been wise for him to do so personally). It seems Pelfrey thought we did have a shot as I’m sure others did. He did not want to throw in the towel this year to get a Zach Wheeler and I agree. Of course, nobody could have seen the season ending injury to Murphy and another stint on the DL to Jose which did close any remote chance we had for the wildcard but had both stayed healthy and we still had Beltran’s bat in the line-up, who knows?

    Last winter Sandy Alderson signed D.J. Carrasco to a two-year contract citing it a great move to strengthen the bullpen and that the signing of Chris Cappuano would do the same for our starting rotation.

    Well, Carrasco blew another one last night, this time for Mike Pelfrey and is having the poor season most of us other than Sandy saw coming. Same thing with Capuano but there is a striking resemblance between Mike and Chris Capuano. Their ERAs are the same (Chris – 4.51, Mike 4.53) as well as their WHIPs (Chris – 1.377, Mike 1.372) yet Pelfrey is taking so much flack for a poor season while Capuano actually received praise from Ron Darling his last start for eating up innings despite giving up four runs and nine hits in six total frames. What would Darling had said if that was Pelfrey on the mound that night instead?

    Not defending the poor season Pelfrey is having but feel it is unfair that he be should receiving so much flack while Capuano basically comes out smelling like roses.

    Not saying we should all then come down on Capuano, instead either give Capuano the same scrutiny given Mike or let up on Pelfrey. As so many have alluded to, with Johann out all year Pelfrey was not anywhere near the ace of the staff and should not have been treated as such by the Mets. Could it be that too much is expected of Pelfrey and too little of Capuano and thus why the criticism and/or praise has not been equal?

  • CoreyNYC

    I totally agree with everything except the ridiculous concept that Mike Puma might have diehard fans.

  • [...] Perhaps as Greg Prince at Faith and Fear said earlier, it’s because we were shocked to find that he had one, not that he spoke [...]

  • I keep reading and re-reading what he said. Yeah, I don’t think what he said was that bad. In fact, RA Dickey said something similar at the beginning of the season to the extent that “Maybe we aren’t that good.” And he wasn’t thrown under the bus at all by anonymous sources. Anyway, I wrote something today that linked to this piece, Greg – fine job, as always :D

  • Scott

    Joey D,
    You verified the previous comment. Noone expected anything from Capuano. The guys arm is hanging by a thread. He was signed for a minimal investment. Pelf is gonna get $5M minimum in arbitration. Much better value picking up a value guy like capuano, colon and garcia were last season than paying him that kind of money. Plus, keeps a rotation spot available for Harvey when he’s ready hopefully in July.

    • Joe D.

      Not to mention Capuano has again given up four runs and seven hits six innings including a run-scoring wild pitch yet SNY again alludes to the value of having such a veteran on the club. Yes, being a cheap investment does have it’s advantages. Of course, Chris also being one of the first signings by Sandy Alderson wouldn’t hurt along with your point that Pelfrey will be eligible for arbitration and thus it would be good marketing strategy to bad mouth a guy if they are not planning to keep him. If the Mets aren’t planning to unload Pelf, they be best not to bad mouth him.

      • Andee

        They don’t have to “unload” Pelfrey, since he’s not signed beyond this year; they can just non-tender him and he’s out of there, like they did this year with John Maine. Otherwise they have to take the chance of going to arb with him, and since he won 15 last year and Bora$$$ is his agent, there’s a fair chance they lose. So I think odds are that they non-tender him anyway.

        But that’s because he’s barely above replacement level talent-wise, not because of some silly-ass pull-quote that means nothing.

        • Joe D.

          Oh, I agree with you Andee. My point was that the same is true of Capuano, was true when Alderson signed him and will be true when Chris retires yet the same is not true when it comes to scrutinizing his performance.

          The bargain basement assortment of cast-offs and/or injury plagued pitchers like Capuano, Caressco, Young, Boyer, Byrdak, Buccholz, etc. were the only ones Sandy could obtain last winter simply because he hadn’t the money for anyone else. The success we have achieved this season (and let’s not lose sight of it) came in large part from young players from within the organization still learning their trade like Murphy, Turner, Duda, Neise, Thole, Gee, etc., not the bargain basement ones mentioned above.

          Ownership’s only concern was reduced salaries, not winning and they lucked out most of the year with little help from what Alderson was allowed to obtain last winter. Next winter, Sandy better be allowed to at least shop on the first floor otherwise our upcoming youngsters, seasoned veterans and returning Davis and Santana will have little to support them.

          • Andee

            But there was more to it than that. There’s been a lot of good money thrown after bad the last few years, mostly because Omar was a terrible negotiator and agents played him like a vintage Martin 00-28. Most of those hideous contracts are now gone, but that, in addition to their not having clue one of what they could possibly expect out of Reyes, Santana, and Beltran, meant they didn’t even know what they had on their team going into this year. Under those circumstances, it wouldn’t have made sense to make any more expensive acquisitions; they already had plenty of those, without much to show for it.

            Next year? Well, let’s see who’s available and at what risk. Mostly they need arms, and getting ace-quality arms usually means giving up other (potential stud minor league) arms. Other than maybe C.J. Wilson and hard-luck case Hiroki Kuroda (who’ll probably go back to Japan), I don’t see a lot of free agent pitchers on the list who are head and shoulders above what we have now, unless Sabathia decides to opt out (doubtful). Buehrle’s mostly been lucky (Jon Niese’s FIP is way better than his) and he will probably be overpaid relative to ROI. So if they can’t get Wilson, who I imagine could start quite the bidding war if he so chose, I have no problem with sticking to high risk/high upside acquisitions and fresh blood for the pen until the berries ripen.

  • Lenny65

    I’m far less concerned about what he said than by the fact he’s saying anything at all that might be construed as negative. He’s been in NYC long enough to know how fast little things can blow up into back-page issues in a second. Do NOT feed the trolls!

    Pelfrey is Even-Steven personified. For every gem, there’s a dud. Every time he appears to have matured as a pitcher, he inexplicably becomes unglued out of nowhere. It’s been like that every year, too. I checked out his current career record and, lo and behold, it’s 49-50. Even Steven.

  • Ken K. from NJ

    One wonders what the NY Post had to say when Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Billy Loes picked the Yankees to beat his team in 6 games in the 1952 World Series.

    Loes, for his part, said he was misquoted, claiming he thought the Yankees would win in 7 games, not 6.

  • Andee

    I just thought of something. Maybe the “one Met” was Paul LoDuca. Puma didn’t say it was a current Met, right?