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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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Jacome with a Spoon

Glavine's been mostly terrible for us. Pedro's been mostly wonderful for us. Benson's been hurt. Ishii's been hurt. Zambrano's a mystery. Trachsel has a disc.

And none of them came up through the system.

Weren't we renowned for our pitching at one point? At several points? Weren't we Seaver, Koosman, Ryan, McAndrew, McGraw, Gentry, Matlack, Swan and later on Gooden, Darling, Fernandez, Aguilera, Cone, Orosco, McDowell, Myers?

Ancient, ancient history, but also what put us over the top and into post-season the first four times we were there. Playing in a pitcher's park, pitching is what allowed us to compete at a high level. That and defense. It sure wasn't hitting.

What all those pitchers had in common was they were produced by the Mets for the Mets, either originally signed by us, pulled out of a hat by us or traded for as pups by us. Those guys were our signature piece. We could even afford to squander Nolan Ryan and not feel it in the rotation for years to come.

We haven't come up with anybody like them in more than a decade. The last starting pitcher we manufactured to our long-term benefit was Bobby Jones and as a talent he wasn't quite in their class.

Which brings me to Jason Jacome.

Surely, you remember Jason Jacome. Jason Jacome was the Heath Bell of 1994. Everybody who thought they knew anything knew we had to get Jason Jacome up here from Norfolk right now. Jason Jacome was piling up wins in the International League. Jason Jacome (pronounced hock-a-mee) got a mention in every other Mets Farm Report on Mets Extra. That was the first year I discovered there were other Mets fans talking about the Mets in a virtual manner on AOL, and the guy who they were all talking about was Jason Jacome. It brought me back to when I was 12 and started reading minor league stats in The Sporting News and couldn't wait for a retread named Bill Laxton to come up from Tidewater and start racking up saves the way he was down there.

We got our wish in a roundabout way. Doc tested positive for coke again and was suspended. He was replaced with Jason Jacome. And Jason Jacome did not disappoint. He pitched well in his first start in San Diego and then threw a shutout against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The downtrodden Mets now had two young, mostly unheralded stars in the making: Jacome the lefty pitcher and Brogna the lefty bat. Word was they were buddies. Perfect. And with Jacome and Jones backing up Saberhagen (having a stellar year), 1994 would be good for as long as it lasted.

Jacome finished with a 4-3 mark in eight starts and a 2.67 ERA before the strike hit. The important thing was we could pencil him in for 1995 and beyond. He and Jones and Isringhausen and Pulsipher, who were burning up the minors, and the kid we drafted No. 1 in the nation, Paul Wilson. In the interim we had Saberhagen and traded for Harnisch. They could take some starts until all our young pitchers were ready. In the meantime, we had Jones and Jacome, who didn't throw hard but got people out and got here first. They were Generation J.

1995 started late because of the strike. Dallas Green gave the ball to Jones instead of Saberhagen on Opening Night with some murky explanation that he was going on the basis of who was ready, not who had the reputation. That was in Colorado, the first-ever game in Coors Field, ten years ago this week. Nobody pitched well in Coors Field that night (or almost ever) and the Mets lost on Dante Bichette's walk-off, look-at-me 14th inning homer, the most irritating loss in an Opener prior to 2005. Jacome pitched the second game. The Mets lost that one, too, but his line wasn't so bad for Coors: five innings, two earned runs, left with a lead. The bullpen coughed it up and the Mets went home 0-2.

And that was essentially it for Jason Jacome as a Met. He started four more times. All of them were dreadful. He was 0-4 with a 10.29 ERA in five starts before being sent down on May 22 and traded to Kansas City on July 21 for reliever Derek Wallace (another toast of the Tides who didn't pan out at a higher level).

I've never been clear on how somebody who looked so solid went downhill so fast. I don't remember an injury per se being the culprit while he was here. What then? Success go to his head? To his waistline? Dallas' trademark patient ways get to him? Jacome's stints with the Royals and the Indians didn't yield much more than his 1995 with the Mets did. His career mark was 10-18, his lifetime ERA was 5.34. He last pitched in the Majors in 1998.

He was 27.

We're now approaching the tenth anniversary of the heyday of Generation K, which is to say the heady months of 1995 when we imagined the great things that we would never actually get from the combined forces of Izzy, Pulse and Paul. And since then, we haven't come close to getting even a Bobby Jones out of our system. It's been almost all Glavines and Leiters and Reeds and Hamptons and Rusches and Trachsels and Martinezes and Appiers and Chens and D'Amicos and Hershisers and Yoshiis and Bensons and Nomos and Clarks and Astacios and Bohanons and Esteses and Rogerses and so on. It's been almost all somebody else's retreads, castoffs or high-priced talent subbing for the missing young Mets' starting pitchers we simply haven't been able to send to the mound. Some have been sublime. More have been subpar. All have been, in one way or another, emergency starters brought on by a catastrophic inability to develop the kind of pitching that once made Flushing famous.

The jury enters its third year of deliberations regarding the eventual utility of Jae Seo and Aaron Heilman, though they say if a verdict hasn't been delivered by now, it's hard to believe a consistently favorable one will result. I don't doubt somebody's putting up good numbers in Norfolk and better ones in Binghamton. I can't bear to look. I can't get excited about Heath Bell or Royce Ring until they do something in the bigs and do it for a while. And I still can't soap up a rueful lather over Scott Kazmir, as bad as Zambrano looks, and he looks pretty damn bad.

Jason Jacome looked so good so young so soon. What the hell happened?

3 comments to Jacome with a Spoon

  • Anonymous

    Yeah. Remember when “bring up Ochoa!!” was the battle cry; the solution to all our myriad ills? That's one thing Met fans do so curiously well… put all their desperate eggs in the basket of The Unknown Quantity. If you haven't done anything to screw us up yet because you really haven't gotten the chance to… you're Our Man. And God help you if you come to the big club and don't singlehandedly propel us into first place inside of a week. We'll boo your sorry a** straight back to East Armpit, Iowa or wherever you came from. And yo mama, too.
    (Then we sit there and wonder what the **** happened to so-and-so…)
    We're pretty hard on our youngsters in this town. We expect way too much, way too soon. Geez, Derek Wallace. What the **** ever happened to him…?

  • Anonymous

    Bob Keppel is going to change everything at Shea. You'll see! Well, either him or Kevin Deaton. You'll see!

  • Anonymous

    Hey…Derek Wallace once struck out four Braves in an inning, and it was on ESPN (so I got to see it). That was exciting.