- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

How Fast They Come Along

This season, however it turns out, whether it turns out, will probably be remembered for other storylines, but churning beneath the surface of Mets Baseball 2020 is the churn itself. Have you noticed just how many players we’re going through a mere sixteen games in? When last season ended, the all-time Met count was up to 1,091. Barely two weeks into this one, we’re up to 1,105, or practically a new Met every day. So many Mets to have met, and we seem to have plumb forgotten to make formal introductions. Allow us, then, if you please, to stand on ceremony and present the new guys.

Outfielder Billy Hamilton [1] is a Met. We’re his fifth club in three years, counting San Francisco, with whom he signed but never played.

Infielder Brian Dozier [2] is a Met. We’re his fifth club in three years, counting San Diego, with whom he signed but never played, should you find yourself detecting a pattern

Reliever Hunter Strickland [3] was a Met (fourth club in three years) and, for all we know, might be again. His ERA in three appearances ballooned to 11.57, which will make you an ex-anything awfully quick. Strickland is currently off the 40-man roster but at the Alternate Site in Brooklyn. That’s where relievers with 11.57 ERAs are sent to consider the error of the their ways.

Chasen Shreve [4] is thus far a pretty good Met reliever, which we are conditioned to believe is a species no more actual the Loch Ness Monster, but lately has, in fact, existed and thrived in a land called The Bullpen.

Speaking of imposing pen presences, Dellin Betances [5] is also a Met reliever, sometimes pretty good. Likewise Jared Hughes [6]. He’s been uniformly very good.

Let’s remember that Ryan Cordell [7] was here; he’s an outfielder currently joining Strickland in Coney Island exile.

Michael Wacha [8] became an important enough component of the starting rotation that he’ll be missed now that he’s on the injured list, though that’s as much because for all the Mets we’ve had, we don’t seem to have a genuine sixth starter (that was gonna be Wacha) as it is that Wacha has been wowing batters. Getting many of them out while dealing with shoulder inflammation is plenty admirable in 2020.

Franklyn Kilome [9] got twelve batters out in his one outing, yet was optioned to Elba, but that transaction was primarily a function of churn. Go four innings as a reliever one night and you can’t be used for a couple of days, so go ice your arm by the beach, kid. Kilome might be back by Wednesday in time to take what had been Wacha’s turn, which comes after that of Rick Porcello.

Rick Porcello [10] is not only a Met, but he grew up a Mets fan in New Frazier, also known as New Jersey. Mets fan Rick Porcello had to like what he saw from Mets starter Rick Porcello in his last start, whereas Mets fan Rick Porcello might have been on the phone to the FAN to complain about Mets pitcher Rick Porcello after his first two starts. Surely Porcello the pitcher would understand.

Jake Marisnick [11] and Eduardo Nuñez [12] have been on the injured list for a spell now, even though the season hasn’t been going on all that long. Time is mostly untrackable in 2020. The season is sixteen games old yet more than a quarter over, and we’re supposed to keep track of Jake Marisnick and Eduardo Nuñez? Next thing you’re going to want to know is whatever happened to Jed Lowrie.

Jed Lowrie’s on the IL. But you either already knew that or didn’t really want to.

Yes, lots of coming and going beyond the most noisy of noiseless disappearances. Ali Sanchez has been called up twice and hasn’t played at all. Daniel Zamora was called up; was witnessed warming at least once; and was sent down. Tyler Bashlor had a similar story, except he was sent away, to Pittsburgh. Nobody’s much mentioned the status of Corey Oswalt since he imploded, but then again, nobody’s really asked. You may have missed the end of the Jacob Rhame era; like Ed Wynn as Lou Bookman, he was last heard to be making a pitch for the Angels [13]. It’s all something of a blur.

Yet a pair of debuts have truly stood out here in bumper-to-bumper 2020, like a news chopper hovering above rush hour traffic. One is that of former No. 1 draft choice and current No. 4 starter David Peterson [14]. As if his first-round credentials and three promising starts to date somehow don’t impress, Peterson, upon his July 28 debut, became the 1,100th Met ever, or the eleventh Milestone Met. How impressive is that? It must be very impressive, or there’d be more than eleven.

In honor of Peterson being the eleventh Milestone Met, let’s take a moment and re-meet the previous ten.

100. Jimmie Schaffer
The catcher from Pennsylvania pushed us into all-time triple-digits on July 28, 1965, in the midst of Ron Hunt’s reign as the Mets’ first star [15], or precisely 55 years before Peterson arrived at Fenway Park. Schaffer played in only 24 games as a Met, but surely made a mark in baseball history as minor league mentor to future Hall of Famer (and Met No. 455) Eddie Murray. You know how Murray is considered one of the greatest switch-hitters ever? It was Schaffer who helped convert him to hitting from both sides. That was at Double-A in 1976. The two of them have remained close [16].

200. Bill Sudakis
Sudakis, previously a Dodger, gave us eighteen games after joining our ranks on July 11, 1972, five of them as a catcher the year Jerry Grote missed close to a hundred.

300. Phil Mankowski
Mankowski, whose Met debut came April 11, 1980, honestly didn’t play a very good third base (three errors in seven chances), but he was, at least on paper, the replacement for 1979 incumbent Richie Hebner, who couldn’t wait to get out of Flushing. Hebner was traded to Detroit for Mankowski and Jerry Morales. For helping to show Richie the Shea exit he so visibly craved, Mankowski received a forty-year grace period. I’m officially renewing it.

400. Randy Milligan
Milligan got his feet wet on September 12, 1987, the afternoon after Terry Pendleton dumped cold water over the Mets’ heads. The first baseman played in only three games as a Met before embarking on an eight-year major league career, but he got somebody’s attention on the way up the ladder. David Wright regularly pointed to Randy as his favorite Tidewater Tide when he was growing up in Virginia, and if you somehow influenced a young David Wright, then you’re an extremely important Met. And if you’re the scout who signed a slightly older David Wright to a Mets contract, you’re even more significant. The scout who signed Wright? Right — it was Randy Milligan [17].

500. Pete Smith
The extraneous Brave starter from Atlanta’s rather adequate rotation of Maddux, Gl@v!ne, Smoltz and Avery looked for a bigger role in New York. On April 5, 1994, Pete had the honor of starting a milestone game in Met history while becoming a Milestone Met himself. It was the first game in which everybody who played for the Mets was born after the Mets were on April 11, 1962. Was it a sign of franchise maturity? That we as a people were getting old even as the players were getting relentlessly younger? However it is viewed, let the record show Smith scattered nine hits over seven innings to beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field, 6-2. Was it possible the pitching-savvy Braves blundered by not keeping Smith, a 7-0 starter for them in 1992? Smith finished 1994, his only Met season, at 4-10, with an ERA of 5.55, and the Braves won every division title in every season that was completed through 2005, so probably not.

600. Lenny Harris
Hey, it’s a Milestone Met who needs next to no introduction! Lenny Harris earned a measure of immortality when he broke Manny Mota’s career pinch-hit record late in the 2001 season, but that was at the end of his second term as a Met. His first go-round began in the heat of the Mets’ first epic Wild Card chase, on July 4, 1998. The next day was the dreaded Angel Hernandez Game (there’ve been a lot of those, I suppose, but this was the one that begat the rest [18]). Harris lasted the rest of 1998 with us, left as a free agent before 1999, but returned via trade in 2000 in time to anchor the National League champs’ bench.

700. Rey Sanchez
After there was Rey Ordoñez and before there was Jose Reyes — I mean for what amounted to a Sudakisian minute — there was well-traveled Rey Sanchez, starting at shortstop on Opening Day at Shea on March 31, 2003. Reyes was deemed ready in June; Sanchez would be gone in July. The lesser-remembered Rey attracted attention mostly for allegedly taking a haircut in the clubhouse [19] during a game, which is considered nearly as bad in baseball as not calling in sick en route to opting out [20] during a pandemic. Sanchez’s barber was Armando Benitez, which made the story that much juicier. Benitez was also gone by July of 2003.

800. Moises Alou
It’s not true that Alou’s chronological Met rank matched his biological age nor how many days he spent on the DL as a Met. Debuted for us on April 1, 2007. Gave as much as he could at ages 40 and 41 through June 10, 2008. Ancient or not, the old man could still swing, as evidenced by his team-record thirty-game hitting streak down the otherwise unfortunate stretch in 2007. (I’m older than Moises Alou — and older than every Met since Julio Franco — but inherent in being a longtime fan is the privilege of referring to people inevitably younger than I am as “old” and perhaps “ancient”.)

900. Scott Hairston
Like Alou, Scott Hairston became a Met on April 1— 2011 in his case. By then, no foolin’, Moises was long gone, just as all the other Milestone Mets never met as Mets. Schaffer never played with Sudakis; Sudakis never played with Mankowski; Mankowski never played with Milligan…you get the idea. And despite two valuable years as a sometimes starter and always dangerous slugger, Scott was out of the Met picture well before July 24, 2015, which is when we met…

1,000. Michael Conforto
Yeah, you know this guy. Not only is he still around five years following his numerically noted [21] debut, he’s the first Milestone Met to play with the Milestone Met who came after him. Conforto has been in right field for each of Peterson’s starts this season. Conforto has been in right field for everybody’s starts this season. Michael’s been the rock for this unsteady team, the only fella to be in the lineup sixteen times at the same position. He’s gotten on base in every game, too, including Sunday’s.

Ah, yes, Sunday’s game, the one that included not only the 1,000th Met ever but the first new Met of 2020, No. 1,092 overall and the one who we saved for last because, due respect to David Peterson and the other dozen newbies, he’s been the pick of the litter.

When the Mets announced their thirty-man roster prior to Opening Day, there was a little surprise tucked in among the infielders. The Mets were conferring major league status on Andrés Giménez [22]. There had been no buzz that the youngster was about to make the team, but there he was, assigned No. 60 and available to…what? Maybe pinch-run? Get an inning or two behind Amed Rosario if necessary? He’d been highly touted for a little while now, but until July 24, 2020, he didn’t seem to be on the immediate radar. Figure Giménez would be optioned once the thirty-man roster needed to be trimmed to twenty-eight on August 6.

That deadline has passed. Giménez is still here. There is no reason to send him down for more seasoning, even if the seasoning is taking place one borough away this year. Giménez has emerged without imminent warning as the most dynamic player the Mets have, and you’ll note the Mets have several players we consider fairly dynamic [23].

On Sunday, however, no matter the presence of slightly older, slightly more tenured dynamos, it was basically the Andrés Giménez Show at Citi Field, where the eternally pesky Marlins might have regained their Friday night form [24] had it not been for the hitting (3-for-4 with a double), running (a stolen base in the third to set up one run; a first-to-third dash in the sixth to set up another) and fielding (zipping into right field from second to limit the damage from a Pete Alonso error to one base) of young Giménez. Andrés, who’s thus far demonstrated himself a wiz at three positions, scored three times. Jacob deGrom [25], who’s the best at what he does, started. Put together AG + JdG and, gee, the formula had to = win, right?

We know no outcome equation is so easily calculated when Jake is on the mound getting bit by whatever snakes his teammates have in store for him, but this time it added up. Mind you, it wasn’t the greatest Jacob deGrom start in the world. Most of that was likely due to what he termed a “hot” right middle finger — not a blister, but maybe the beginning of one; it would certainly bear monitoring (trust us to all keep an eye on it). Also, the strike zone was a bit of a moving target under the auspices of home plate ump Mark Carlson, and the second inning was frightening. Jake walked two and then gave up a single. The pitch count was rising, the bases were loaded, the trainer was visiting. Could anybody get out of such a jam?

Why, yes, Jacob deGrom could. It’s what he does when he bothers to put runners on at all. All scoreless innings are logged equally, but this one deserved a bold-faced zero. Eventually Jesus Aguilar did get to Jacob, tagging him for a very deep two-run homer in the fifth, but by then Andrés had catalyzed the Mets to a 3-0 lead. DeGrom left after five with only those two runs surrendered from 98 stressful pitches and with one finger in particular that persevered with the best of them.

Jacob’s been the best of them since he came up on May 15, 2014, as the 978th Met. Nobody on the current roster has been here longer without leaving to play somewhere else. Nobody anywhere is measurably better. Despite not qualifying for that Schaffer circle of sorts, you can’t claim Jacob deGrom isn’t a Milestone Met.

You also can’t claim the Mets never win when Jake is pitching; or never get Jake a win; or, for that matter, never win on a Sunday at Citi Field. DeGrom may have only gone five, but he had help for a change. Giménez and the Mets crossed the plate four times in all, while four relievers — newcomers Hughes and Betances along with holdovers Edwin Diaz and Seth Lugo — blanked the Fish for four innings. The game therefore became a 4-2 win [26], elevating deGrom to 2-0 and the Mets to 7-9, neither of which sounds like business as usual for an ace and his ballclub on August 9, but this is 2020. Business is highly unusual these days, but at least for the last couple of them…one hot middle finger notwithstanding…and two fast feet willing…it’s also finally looking like something worth watching.