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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 Thing With Feathers

Emily Dickinson long ago wrote a poem about a thing with feathers.

She didn’t mean Mike Pelfrey, which was for the best, as Mike Pelfrey with feathers would be horrifying in a Big Bird Turned Primal Nightmare way, sticking his tongue out and clomping around the mound on scaly clawed feet. Shudder.

She meant hope — which manifests itself frequently among baseball fans, less often among Mets fans in this current benighted era, and far less often among Mets fans in this current benighted era when they think about Pelfrey. He’s replaced Luis Castillo as my personal Mets scapegoat. Greg ably summed him up as the Human Pelfing Bag. Patrick Flood, in a great post of his own, compared him to a rock neurotically licking itself. (That’s an oversimplification, but he did.) As Flood notes, Pelfrey’s somehow managed to become the second longest-tenured Met, behind the stalwart, star-crossed David Wright, and has climbed the ranks of the Mets career leaders, coming into sight of the franchise’s top 10 list for starts and wins. With a lot of players, you’d hear that and look forward to seeing the milestone on the scoreboard. With Pelfrey, you hear that and get depressed, thinking that our baseball team sucks even more than you thought.

Mike Pelfrey. Goodness we’re sick of being sick of him.

So where’s the frigging hope already? Jesus, Fry, we know all this bad stuff. Show us the thing with the feathers.

It’s here, in this Anthony DiComo article for MLB.com, and this Times article by Andrew Keh and this Applesauce by Amazin’ Avenue. At the suggestion of Dan Warthen, Pelfrey started raising his glove high to start his windup, as he did in his college days. The results against the Cardinals were pretty horrible yesterday, but Big Pelf didn’t walk anybody and his fastball was sitting between 92 and 94, at least on an always-suspect spring-training gun.

That’s something, right?

A couple of years ago, the Mets had Big Pelf’s college coach on during an inning for the usual pleasantries, which featured Gary Cohen asking about Pelfrey as a college pitcher. His coach, apparently unaware he was supposed to be following a predictably bland script, expressed bafflement at what had happened to his once-prized pupil: Pelfrey didn’t throw hard any more, had scrapped his most successful pitches, and didn’t seem to know what he was doing. The interview ended on an awkward note, with the pretty clear impression that as far as Pelf’s old coach was concerned, the Mets had screwed him up. (Here’s more along those lines from John Sickels last winter.)

I was inclined to believe it then, because what hadn’t the Mets screwed up? I don’t know what to think now, but it’s pretty obvious that Big Pelf is a mess — constantly adding and subtracting pitches, altering his mechanics and rethinking his approach, until he seems baffled by what to do with himself out there. His consistently inconsistent results might be more acceptable to Mets fans if we didn’t constantly have the feeling — perhaps justified, perhaps not — that one of the key problems isn’t in Pelfrey’s arm or his defense, but between his ears.

From that point of view, maybe Pelf and Dan Warthen tinkering in the bullpen isn’t good news. Maybe there are no feathers on this particular bird.

But Pelf isn’t that old. He’s never had a significant injury. The kid who was a star At Wichita State has to still be in there somewhere. Maybe, after all the false starts, a silly thing like lifting his hands can bring that prospect out again.

Maybe not. Probably not. He still hasn’t had a decent start this spring.

But what the heck. It’s March. Isn’t March the time for hope? Even when it involves Mike Pelfrey?

6 comments to The Thing With Feathers

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    We don’t have a choice in the matter do we? Nobody would even give us a bag a balls for him! Not to mention he got a raise this year.

    He gave up 5 runs and lowered his ERA from 14.90!

    The sorry thing is that we have zero depth and have noone to replace him.

    They will probably have to give the fans in the bleachers batting helmets to protect them when Pelf pitches!

  • 9th string catcher

    I don’t think all the managerial changes and endless parade of catchers has been particularly helpful to the guy. Pitching is a particularly psychological exercise and a good performance is often coaxed. A big reason we observe Pelf’s consistent averageness is because he’s been there in an uninjured state for so long. He’s played on an inconsistent, leaderless team that doesn’t make any of their players any better and generally inspires degradation of skills. Pelf maybe a mental case, but I cant scapegoat the guy. At least he’s trying.

  • Tom

    I can’t blame Pelfrey that much either. I always thought he would’ve been better off pitching with Texas. Nolan Ryan would’ve known what to do with him. The Mets seem to have a horrifying record with their prospects, although I don’t have any other teams really to compare them to.

  • Lenny65

    Pelfrey is almost like a modern-day Ron Hodges: a guy who’s been a Met seemingly forever despite not being all that good.

  • dmg

    i actually saw mike pelfry in spring training 2006 at port st. lucie, second day of the full team reporting, in his first workout in front of — well, just about everyone. fred wilpon was there, and omar minaya, willie randolph, even guy conti, the bullpen coach. he was just throwing fastballs then, each ending with a deeply satisfying THWAP in the catcher’s mitt. (no one, i should note, was calling balls and strikes.) i can remember everybody smiling and laughing and then him too, grinning big between pitches. it really felt like the mets had something in him.

    ah, spring training 2006 — maybe the last great time to be a mets fan.