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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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‘Hey, Seth Lugo Just Hit a Home Run!’

Putting aside every other familiar point of contention — that the DH is an affront to nature and has been since its implementation by a misguided league in 1973; that whatever offense the DH generates for your team has to be balanced by how much offense your pitchers will surrender to the other team’s DH; that games go on long enough as it is; that the turning over of a lineup after the pitcher bats (give or take a Maddon, a La Russa or an episodically desperate Collins) is an essential element of the rhythm of baseball; that Yoenis Cespedes’s legs would find a way to aggravate portions of themselves even if all he was asked to do on occasion was hit; that the DH remains an affront to nature, growing only more distasteful since the beginning of this sentence well over a hundred words ago — let us consider the burst of adrenaline that explodes throughout our various internal thoroughfares and tributaries when a pitcher hits a home run. The world in which we root would be a much duller place without the chance of it happening once or twice in a great while. Over and over, the exception to pitcher-hitting futility gloriously proves the delicious rule.

Since the advent of Interleague play in 1997, during which the Mets of the National League occasionally grace with their elegant presence an otherwise unremarkable American League ballpark, Mets acting as designated hitters have hit 35 home runs. In that same span, through Saturday night, Mets pitchers have hit 18 home runs. This season, via scheduling fairly typical of the current era, includes 10 games that will have the Mets visiting AL teams, meaning their other 152 contests will be played under NL or “baseball” parameters. Met pitchers are guaranteed to bat, certainly in the early portions of games, more than 15 times as often as Met DHs. They definitely won’t homer 15 times as often.

Met batters serve as DHs infrequently in the course of a year: two three-game series, two two-game series. Met pitchers bat in all the rest of the games. Met DHs, players shoehorned into a position that doesn’t exist in their regular routine, have homered almost twice per season in extremely limited duty across two decades. Met pitchers have provided less than one home run a year during the same roughly 20-year period despite coming to the plate practically daily.

There is little question that someone who bats by trade will hit for more power than someone who pitches by trade and bats primarily because he has to. It’s likely an average designated hitter will produce more home runs in a week than a pitching staff will in a year, maybe two years.

Yet do you remember anything specific about a Mets DH homering since 1997? Are you even aware the Mets have three home runs from DHs in 2017?

Conversely, do you ever forget what it feels like to watch a pitcher homer?

Did you thrill to Seth Lugo on Saturday night going surprisingly deep off Chris Rusin of the Rockies, raising the Mets’ lead to 8-0 in the third inning of their eventual 9-3 triumph at Citi Field?

Did you clap or whoop measurably harder for Seth than you did when bulwark Jay Bruce homered with two on in the first to put the Mets out in front — or when sizzling Jose Reyes topped off the Mets’ scoring with a solo blast in the eighth?

Did you call out to your nearest loved one, “Hey, Seth Lugo just hit a home run!”?

Did you get an enormous kick from watching Lugo’s teammates theatrically effect a cold-shoulder mode, pretending that what you and they saw was no big deal?

Did you laugh out loud at how the pitcher immediately picked up on the Roosevelt Avenue freezeout, exchanged phantom high-fives with nobody and flipped his helmet to himself?

Did you add another round of applause when you got a load of the Mets unfreezing so they could properly and fraternally crowd about him in giddy embrace?

Were you all, wow, the pitcher just homered, that is so awesome when it happens?

I’ll go out on a limb constructed of the bats Mets pitchers have used to homer since 1997 and answer no, you don’t forget the feeling associated with a pitcher pounding a pitch; and yes to all of the above emotions. We say it time and again when it happens: there is nothing like a pitcher hitting a home run.

There is nothing inherently memorable about a designated hitter hitting a home run. If the Mets are mandated (or, technically, compelled by peer pressure) to use one and the Met DH homers, swell, it’s a run or more, depending on how many if any Mets are on base when the ball is hit. It can be memorable if the game situation presents itself as such. That’s luck of the draw. In 2008, a Met DH drew powerfully well. DH Carlos Delgado homered twice, once with the bases loaded, as part of his team-record nine-RBI afternoon at Yankee Stadium. The Mets won, 15-6, on their final trip in to that renovated facility. Definitely a memorable occasion. The record Delgado set still stands. The fact that he did it as a DH is something I don’t remember. Carlos was a slugger who usually did his slugging from first base. The volume of power he displayed that day was impressive, but the element of surprise embedded within Carlos Delgado driving a ball past a fence was nil. And there’s no overwhelming reason he couldn’t have done the same thing had he been playing his customary first base.

Matt Franco hit the first designated hitter home run in Mets history, at Camden Yards on August 29, 1997. I was there. I remember the game. I remember Franco going yard (or Yards). I don’t remember him DH’ing. Homering, yes; giving affront to nature, no. Bernard Gilkey repeated the designated feat the next day, another game I attended. I remember Gilkey having a big game. I wasn’t aware until Baseball Reference’s Play Index clued me in that he was DH’ing.

Mike Piazza hit nine home runs as a Mets DH, far more than any other Mets DH. As I’ve mentioned once or twice, I recently wrote a book about Piazza. I spent months researching and refamiliarizing myself with most everything Piazza did as a Met. I didn’t remember anything about his DH’ing except that he occasionally did it to give him a breather from catching. Piazza remains an intensely memorable figure, I think you’d agree. Nine home runs are nine home runs. One of them could have been a classic. None of them happened to be. Thus, even Mike Piazza was just another player connecting mightily with a pitch when he DH’d.

We never say that about a pitcher. We didn’t say it about Seth Lugo on Saturday night, we didn’t say it about Jacob deGrom on Father’s Day, we didn’t say anything of the sort about Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey or St. Bartolo Colon the last couple of years during this most recent of golden ages for Met pitchers slugging. Every instance in which they took one of their counterparts to the party deck or beyond was a moment for intense celebration. Even had the Mets gone on to not win those games — which has not been the case when one of their pitchers has homered dating back to 1996 — it still would have been an interlude for aberrational exultation. You need those in the course of a season. You want those in the course of a season. Should you be so lucky to get eight over the course of three seasons, as the Mets have since 2015, you cherish them and you thank your baseball stars you experienced them.

In far, far fewer at-bats than their pitchers have received, Mets filling the role of designated hitter have homered six times since 2015. And they were…you can’t name them, can you? I couldn’t without looking them up. There was Daniel Murphy at Tampa Bay in 2015, Cespedes on consecutive days in Cleveland in 2016 (shortly after he did something to his hip, which is something he just did again, oy) and Curtis Granderson and Bruce while the Mets were in Texas this year. Bruce, who has 24 home runs altogether, knocked two out of whatever the ballpark in Arlington is called these days on June 7. It was splendid that he helped the Mets win then, just as it was splendid that he helped the Mets beat the Rockies on Saturday night. Jay’s a power-hitting outfielder. Hitting home runs and, hopefully, contributing to victories are what he does. It’s satisfying as heck when he lives up to his job description. It’s nothing unusual, though.

Seth Lugo homering? That’s unusual. That’s memorable. That’s visceral. That is so awesome when it happens.

9 comments to ‘Hey, Seth Lugo Just Hit a Home Run!’

  • Curt

    My internet was acting up last night (as it does from time to time when you live in Nowhere Indiana and nobody has run any cables to Nowhere so you’re relegated to the vagaries of wireless). Would stream for about 5-10 seconds, then freeze for another 5-10 until I finally gave up. Do I regret not being able to watch the Mets win? Not really – I saw enough to get to 4-0 and based on periodic updates I could see we were having no troubles. Nope, I am angry with my ISP because I didn’t get to see Seth Lugo hit a home run. My only connection to the event is watching video clips, a very poor substitute for being in the moment – and when I saw he’d done that through the play-by-play I went from being mildly annoyed to heartily pissed.

    The DH is an abomination. Unfortunately it will never die in that other league because the players union won’t let it.

  • MetFanMac

    I was at that Father’s Day game and I will for the rest of my life treasure the giddy feeling and the reaction of the crowd when deGrom dumped one over the railing. Can’t compare to what Colon did, of course — what can? — but magical nonetheless.

  • Eric

    Cespedes’s knee digging into the turf like a disaster-movie asteroid striking the Earth was a WTF moment. Imagine the game had been close and that strange play meant a loss and waste of Lugo’s good game. I wonder what the conversation was like between the groundskeepers and Collins and Alderson after the game.

    On the other hand, maybe plowing into the turf like that instead of bouncing saved Cespedes from a knee injury. I hope he’s okay. It looked his running was rounding back into form.

  • chuck

    “There is nothing inherently memorable about a designated hitter hitting a home run.”

    As someone who abhors the DH rule, as someone who always says “designated hitter my ass” whenever a pitcher hits a home run, and someone who may always revere the 10th anniversary of my brother’s passing because it was the day “St. Bartolo Colon” hit his home run, I am very sorry, Greg, that you are incorrect in this statement.

    Exhibit A: David Ortiz, Game 4, 2004 ALCS. Exhibit B: David Ortiz, Game 7, 2004 ALCS.

    I’m sure there are others in the 44 years of the history of that perversion of nature, but that’s what immediately came to mind.

    • Those homers were memorable because they were those homers in those situations, not necessarily because a DH hit them, which is what I meant in case I wasn’t clear. Whether David Ortiz would have endured in the majors long enough to hit those homers without the abomination of a rule that made him a star is a different conversation.

      I certainly didn’t intend to imply a DH never hit a significant home run. I do mean to stress the position shouldn’t exist.

      • chuck

        “I certainly didn’t intend to imply a DH never hit a significant home run. I do mean to stress the position shouldn’t exist.”

        But you did. And I obviously agree with you that it shouldn’t.

        “…the abomination of a rule that made him a star…”

        Well, then, can we talk about Jerome Holtzman and why Mariano Rivera shouldn’t be a deity? Oh, but you’re right, it’s a different conversation.

  • Dave

    And another point of interest is that at #67, Lugo is the highest uniform numbered Met to hit a regular season home run. When I wondered this on Twitter last night and it was confirmed (previous high, #61, Jeff Duncan), I mentioned it to my daughter, who replied, “interesting info, Rain Man.”

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