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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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DeGrom Strikes Out Disgust

Following a Monday night when it hit me just how few innings remain to this season, I sort of retroactively wish the Mets could have deprived us of two or three from their twelfth-to-last game of 2014. It was an extraordinary night at Citi Field through six. It was a night that was surely meant to be through seven.

Alas, it was another one of those nights in the eighth and ninth, with the kind of ending that would leave you disgusted if you still maintained the capacity for disgust with these Mets. I was certainly disgusted to have to leave a game that commenced with a Met pitcher striking out the first eight batters he faced — and thirteen in all — yet concluded with the Mets losing to the Stupid Marlins (their official name), 6-5.

Then you step back, you realize you witnessed baseball history and are suddenly running out of baseball games, and your disgust diminishes…a little, anyway. In the middle of September, with month after month of aridity about to overwhelm us, it’s probably best to flip a Broadway bromide on its head and decide it’s not where you finish, but where you start.

Or who you start.

Our starter, Jacob deGrom, was so good that he transcended the usual memes we’ve come to associate with him. Never mind the small ‘d’ at the front of his last name and look past the impressively long hair that flows out from under the back of his cap. His calling card right now has to be the record he set as he struck out more batters to start a Mets game than any Mets pitcher ever and more than any major league pitcher ever but one. He broke Pete Falcone’s team record of six (which also came in a loss) and he tied Jim Deshaies’s modern record of eight. As admirable as all that looks on paper, it was even more scintillating to watch from not too many feet away.

Thanks to a generous invitation from old buddy Matt Silverman, I was seated in the section behind the Mets dugout, about a dozen rows up, arriving somewhere between K-2 and K-3 (missing K-1 because I had detoured on my way in to El Verano Taqueria for the highly recommended chicken burrito). Just after I settled in, I heard it exclaimed, “He struck out the side!” On another night I might not have immediately noticed, but this was a particularly engaged row and deGrom was way too electric to not keep your eyes on.

People were uncommonly into what was going on in front of them. I spotted a pair of those #HAIRWEGO posters reconfigured by their recipients, the face portion punched out and the rest of it worn mask style, transforming otherwise unassuming fans into deGroppelgängers. Meanwhile, the strikeouts just kept coming. Jacob kept whipping it in and the Marlins kept whiffing right through. He had four…five…six. The Mets had one…two runs, and that seemed sufficient as Jacob notched strikeouts number seven (a mostly unnoticed Jordany Valdespin) and eight (Jeff Mathis). We wanted to be certain No. 9 would be next — and I was willing to issue Jacob a waiver regarding my rule that nobody’s allowed to touch Tom Seaver’s ten consecutive from 1970 — but the batter was the pitcher, Jarred Cosart, and Matt and I agreed that if anybody was going to not strike out, somehow it would be the opposing pitcher.

Of course it was. Still, eight straight to begin a game was something you literally almost never see. And we saw it. It was fantastic. It would have been more fantastic had the fanning of the Fish been accomplished in service to a Mets win, but that would be a lot to ask of this team, no matter how “very, very close” to contending they are considered by their Manager For Life.

On the 45th anniversary of the night Ron Swoboda rendered Steve Carlton’s 19 strikeouts moot, the Mets led 2-0 into the seventh, with deGrom’s K count up to 13, or as many as any Met pitcher has compiled at Citi Field (matching Chris Capuano and R.A. Dickey). But then the Stupid Marlins made contact and grabbed a 3-2 advantage. But then the Mets took back the lead at 5-3. Hence, I decided, we were gonna get deGrom — who’d departed for a pinch-hitter — the win after all. He’d grab attention, he’d raise his profile, he’d race perceptibly past Billy Hamilton and he’d close in on the National League Rookie of the Year award that a player only gets one chance at, so why shouldn’t a Met get it for the first time in thirty years?

The Stupid Marlins, as the Stupid Marlins will do, torpedoed the “win” part by scoring three in the eighth off Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia (the latter prompting a harsh “WHY DON’T YOU DO YOUR DANCE NOW!?!?!” catcall from a few rows behind me) and the Met hitters reverted to overmatched. Once the last outs were limply registered, I wasn’t in the mood to have relished what I had just experienced.

I softened by the time I was on the train home. I did see history. I did see a marker for the future, as I envisioned deGrom pitching at Citi in a far different, far better September. I did quite possibly see an award clinched, though that’s up to others to decide. I did see Matt and a procession of friendly, familiar faces in the course of the evening, which is something that, sadly, won’t happen on a Monday night again for an uncomfortably long stretch otherwise known as winter. I did find myself especially charmed to be sitting adjacent to Wanda Metsfan (her official name), somebody who takes herself out to the ballgame even more than I do. Why, for a spell, we were visited by both Cowbell Man (who seems to have lost his Shea-era hyphen) and Pinman, who, I discovered, not only wears dozens of pins but yells “OH YEAH!” a lot.

In that spirit (and despite a nagging headache that made Pinman’s yelling and Cowbell Man’s clanging not all that welcome after a while), yeah, I kind of wish the game could have gone into the books after seven, when the Mets were winning. But no, I wouldn’t wish away too many innings when there are only precious few left to enjoy.

15 comments to DeGrom Strikes Out Disgust

  • Dave

    As comfortable and familiar as disappointment feels, let’s get past this deGrom as ROY thing. With less than two weeks left, he has 8 wins. And while sabermetric junkies can recite at least 19 reasons why that’s a meaningless stat, it’s the first question people ask about a starting pitcher. Witness Dillon Gee’s rookie year, 13 wins and zero ROY votes. Add to that the Mets’ ineptitude and the fact that no doubt many with a vote predicted in March that Billy Hamilton would win, thereby allowing them to show how well they predict these things. Not happening, that’s life.

    • I would have come up with Craig Kimbrel in a multiple choice format but otherwise had completely forgotten the 2011 ROY contest (it wasn’t a contest; Kimbrel won unanimously). I don’t ever remember Gee’s name even being mentioned over the course of that year, and it was only three years ago. Perhaps that’s a symptom of Gee winning without blowing anybody away for a sub-.500 team or, just as likely, a reminder that the only individual upon whose accomplishments I was focused by the end of that season, rookie or otherwise, was Jose Reyes.

      In a year with a classic ROY performance, like Gooden’s in ’84 or Piazza’s in ’93, deGrom’s name wouldn’t come up in serious conversation. No classic ROY performance this year, so just maybe he can strike out into territory uncharted by any Met across the past three decades.

      And if not, I’ll settle for a decent electoral showing and a runaway Sophomore of the Year victory in 2015. (Still, in the briefly elevated atmosphere of last night, it was impossible not to see Jacob deGrom as winning ROY, Cy Young and Nobel Prize winner for pitching ASAP.)

      • vertigone

        For what it’s worth, on today’s MLB Now show on MLB Network, Brian Kenny, Rich Aurilia, Ryan Dempster and Joel Sherman all agreed that deGrom is probably most deserving of ROY at this point.

        Of course, it still might go to Hamilton, but hopefully the voters are smart enough to understand that the pitcher W-L stat is a COMPLETELY worthless measure of a pitcher’s worth. You don’t need to be a Sabr nerd to understand that, you simply need logic.

        As good as our booth is, Gary, Keith, and Ron (and Bobby O) still value this antiquated nonsense.

  • Art Pesner

    Was sitting in the stands last night, and there was a buzz in the stadium. Hopefully, we get this on an almost nightly basis in 2015.

  • Rob

    Though I think deGrom the underdog at the moment, I’m not ready to concede the ROY to Hamilton just yet. Hamilton is one-dimensional (and known as such), his SB numbers are very good (56 so far), but not historic good, and he’s only scored 72 runs with a sub-.300 OBP for a 2013 playoff team that has underperformed MUCH worse than the Mets’ perceived “underperformance.”

    What will be the challenge for deGrom is not the win total, but overcoming his shortened major league season (of which the low win total is one function of). That being said, I don’t think anyone outside of Cincinnati (and maybe Vince Coleman) will say that Hamilton is the better player right now. So you have one highly touted player, not a bust, but a player whose stock has kind of glided down as the season progressed, and another who came late out of nowhere whose stock is ROCKETING up to the point that people have noticed. The question now is “is there enough time for the rocket to overtake the glider?” There is ground (or altitude) that needs to me made up, but it’s not impossible that another start or two that get noticed outside of NY can swing the voting here. Also, late season heroics do carry some weight in awards votings, so deGrom’s name will be on voters’ minds at the right time.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    I was pleasantly surprised at how attentive and excited the crowd was to the 8 Ks. Just about everyone around where I was sitting was yelling, “4 in a row!” after 1.1 IP, so everyone was pretty invested from Pitch 1, it seemed. I guess at this time of year, the only ones showing up are the ones who truly want to be there.

    I’m glad I can say I saw deGrom pitch in his rookie season. Whether he becomes the next Doc Gooden or Jon Matlack or Jason Isringhausen, he’s embedded in Mets history now, particularly within our strikeout record fetish we always seem to be mixed up in somehow.

    Also nice that the deGrom t-shirt I shelled out 30 dollars for before the game can now also be used as a Halloween costume.

  • Wanda Metsfan

    deGrom is definitely a must-see. Haven’t missed too many of his starts. The crowd was electric last night, haven’t been able to say that much this year.

  • open the gates

    Was TC the only one who didn’t realize that Familia just didn’t have it last night after giving up back-to-back-to-back singles and recording no outs to start the eighth? Was I the only one yelling at the radio “Get him the hell out of there?” before he gave up the inevitable fourth single in a row to tie the game?

    And yes, I know Jake deGrom made history last night. (Although hopefully, he will eventually break records of pitchers slightly more stellar than Pete Falcone and Jim Deshaies.) That just makes the loss harder to take. I almost don’t care who takes his place at this point. Backman or whoever. Collins needs to retire or be retired. Period.

  • mikeski

    What about a rope ladder with K’s stuck to it going up from the bottom rung whenever Jacob pitches?

  • Precious few innings? You remind me of the old joke: How was the food? It was awful. And the portions were so small!

  • Lenny65

    I watched the Pete Falcone game and I was one of maybe twenty people that did. I love seeing hallowed Mets records broken, hats off to Mr. deGrom, wishing you many, many more.

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