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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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Um, It's Gee Day?

By now we’re used to Dillon Gee. We don’t think “My goodness, Dillon Gee is starting — I better clear my calendar.” We don’t barrage Twitter with our top-shelf material. We don’t rotate in a cheeky/blasphemous cover image for our Facebook page. It’s just Dillon Gee, after all.

Maybe we’re a little too used to Dillon Gee.

Gee was a prime candidate for demotion/dismissal/getting stuffed down the memory hole back in late May, when Zack Wheeler was trapped at Las Vegas. And it was hard to argue with that: Gee had lost a good chunk of 2012 to a blood clot in his shoulder, the same injury that once felled David Cone as a Yankee, and was now sporting a 6.34 ERA.

So what did Gee do? He went out and annihilated the Yankees, striking out 12 over 7 1/3. Counting that game, since then he’s 6-2 with a 2.42 ERA. So what was wrong? In the early going, the red light was that he’d lost a few ticks off his fastball, which reduced the spread in velocity between that pitch and his change-up, long his out pitch. (See this nice breakdown by Amazin’ Avenue here.) Looking at AA’s take, I figured Gee’s fastball velocity must have gone up since then — he’d either built up his arm strength after the layoff, put aside the understandable worries about letting it go, or both. And Gee’s average fastball velocity has improved, though not as much as I figured. (See here, pausing to admire the otherworldliness of Matt Harvey’s arsenal.)

Maybe it’s just taking a while for Gee to get that FB number up. Maybe he’s just having better luck — his early-season numbers suggested he was somewhat snakebit. The Mets’ improved defense certainly hasn’t hurt. Whatever the case, Gee’s back to being what he’s been for a while: pretty reliable, better than you think and easy to overlook. Today he made one bad pitch all afternoon — the one Corey Dickerson crushed over the fence in the fourth — though he did get lucky in the first, when DJ LeMahieu unwisely ran Colorado out of an inning.

Cases like Gee’s always remind me that baseball, despite billing itself as results-oriented, is a precarious game of reputations and prejudices. Gee is your basic mix-and-match guy who relies on changing speeds and hitting spots — the template for most pitchers who aren’t Matt Harvey. Thanks to his Olympian genetics, Harvey will get every single chance to make good on his abilities so long as his arm holds up. Because of his comparably modest gifts, Gee will not: A lot had to go right for him to get to the big leagues and stick there, and even now a poor run of early-season starts made him a candidate for the knacker’s yard.

There’s more of that in baseball than we think. What if, say, R.A. Dickey hadn’t had that near no-hitter in Buffalo when the Mets had needed a starting pitcher? What if his knuckler had been uncooperative in his first start for the Mets? What about all the guys whose modest stature, strange arm angle or other perceived shortcoming kept them from getting innings in A-ball, leaving their talent to atrophy and their professional career to crumble?

It’s a game of inches, yes. It’s also a game of assumptions, some of which get challenged and some of which don’t. And some of which have to be challenged over and over again.

7 comments to Um, It’s Gee Day?

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I’m retired now, and this is one of the type of days I dreamed about. Hooked up with a friend for lunch, decided to do takeout to a park. Listened to the pregame while eating at a picnic table. We took a long walk in the park for the first couple of innings,radio in hand. The substitute Duquette was Spot On, as usual. (The Mets 3rd string radio guys are better than 99% of other 1st stringers. I have At Bat..). Got home about the 4th inning (admittedly took a nap during the 5th and 6th), and rooted them on the rest of the way.

    I will be thrilled with 2nd place, but in the meantime, there’s that Western Trip.

  • Luke

    Great post (not least of all because you linked to Amazin’ Avenue). Your final thoughts on it being a game of assumptions are all too true. Your hypotheticals about Dickey are, well, scary.

    I am a big fan of Gee, and I definitely agree that we are a little too used to him and his solidity in the rotation. When he’s on, he gets a ridiculous amount of swings and misses.

  • nestornajwa

    Rick Reed!

    Ten years in pro ball with only a cup of Cincinnati coffee to show for it before he got to Flushing and had two All-Star appearances in four years, becoming a reliable, occasionally spectacular starter. How close did he come to complete career obscurity?

    • Reed actually had multiple cups: Pirates, Royals, Rangers and Reds. His MLB debut was a quarter-century ago last night, when he and Jim Gott beat Bobby O and the Mets, 1-0, to keep the Bucs afloat in the NL East race. Nine years later, he became a rotation staple as you describe.

      The perseverance is to Reed’s credit but the chance he was given is one of the many reasons I will forever adore Bobby Valentine. It’s lost in Bobby V’s weirdness that he had an eye for undervalued assets. The success of the ’99-’00 Mets was built on a foundation of them.

  • open the gates

    The other side of that coin is Eric Hillman, who came up due to injuries with no expectations, proceeded to pitch way over his head for two or three games, and got everyone excited. He then reverted to form and turned back into Eric Hillman, who, it turned out, wasn’t really that good after all.

    There are any number of kids who get that chance and make an unexpected break for themselves. The credit goes to the Gees and Dickeys for actually keeping it up for the long run.

  • […] talked before about Gee, how earlier this season it looked like he’d be shunted aside, only to have him […]