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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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17 Again?

“You have to respect a ballplayer who’s just tryin’ to finish the season,” Annie Savoy told us after she learned Crash Davis left her at dawn for an opening at Asheville in the South Atlantic League. Crash had a goal: minor league home run No. 247, the record for such things in the world of Bull Durham, if not real-life minor league baseball. When Crash next showed up in Durham, it was only after he’d taken care of business. He hit his dinger, he hung ’em up. Now, at the end of the movie, Crash just wanted to be.

Nobody on the 2017 Mets deserves to just be more than Jacob deGrom. He’s taken every ball, he’s made every start, he’s absorbed every indignity, he’s pinch-hit a few times and, for the most part, he’s kept any dissatisfaction to himself. On Sunday at Citi Field, he betrayed a touch of impatience with the less than stellar defense behind him during the inning in which he finally cracked enough to allow the Marlins to score the runs that definitively torpedoed his afternoon…but he also had the grace to apologize publicly for inadvertently showing up his rookie shortstop. Young Amed Rosario had made like Dear Evan Hansen and went tap, tap, tapping on his glove before making the throw that didn’t retire Dee Gordon in the seventh, which soon revealed itself as prelude to disaster in the form of Giancarlo Stanton taking Jacob deep for a three-run homer.

The blast would have been predictable had it come off any other Met pitcher. After Gordon beat Rosario’s throw, and before Stanton sent a pitch so far it should have had a damn stewardess on it, the starter instinctively raised his hands in disgust that he got the ground ball he needed, yet no outs to show for it. Sort of like the rest of us did, except we weren’t on TV and we aren’t Rosario’s teammate. DeGrom salvaged some diplomacy over the incident afterwards, admitting, “I probably shouldn’t have done that.”

Does anything good ever happen on a Sunday afternoon at Citi Field?

Calendar aside, it wasn’t a great day for deGrom and it wasn’t a passable day for the indisputably inexperienced, intermittently inept Mets, who ultimately lost to Adam Conley and the Marlins, 6-4. Conley notched eleven strikeouts in seven innings. The Mets fumbled continuously for nine innings. DeGrom took the defeat, pulling the ace’s record down to 13-7. There was a time not too long ago when I thought Jake had a shot at 20 wins. A lot would have had to have gone right, which should have been the clue it was an unlikely quest. These are the 2017 Mets. A lot never goes right.

The goal Susan Sarandon’s Savoy cited remains a valid one for all of us, deGrom included: just try to finish the season. We have 40 more games to go. Jake has maybe eight starts, depending on how hard he may be hitting the proverbial wall, which I hope isn’t as hard as Stanton hit him on Sunday. You could definitely envision a moment when all concerned parties agree the ball shouldn’t be given to deGrom because what’s the point anymore? Let him get an early start on winter and let him keep the one reliable arm the Mets have in functional shape ahead of 2018. Or maybe, should there be an alternative after rehabs and callups take effect, he can miss one start and be fresh to finish the season as he started it, on the mound.

Jake said he’d like to get to 200 innings. He’s at 165 right now. Decent goal. It’s an arbitrary figure, but arbitrary figures drive pitchers and fans. I have a figure even more arbitrary as my goal on his behalf: 17 wins. That’s a legitimate acelike total. We already know Jacob deGrom is a legitimate ace, but you so rarely see that many wins these days, no matter how good the pitcher.

I’m gonna put aside that pitcher’s wins are an inane category, given how a starter can put in a fine day’s work, go completely unrewarded because he’s undermined or outdueled, and then a vulture can swoop in briefly and fly away with his W. Hansel Robles, the reliever who’s often been awful, is second on the staff with seven wins. Paul Sewald, the closest thing the Mets bullpen has had to a breakout performer, is 0-5. No starter not named Jacob deGrom has more than five wins. The Mets themselves don’t have 55 wins, so it’s no wonder that the infrequent victories are distributed disproportionately.

We know wins are flawed. But they exist, and I’d like Jake to collect 17 of them. That’s four more on top of the amount he’s already secured. He’s welcome to squeeze out more if he can figure out how. I suppose I should just cut our losses and hope he doesn’t get hurt in quest of No. 14. But I like 17. Seventeen was how many Jerry Koosman had in 1969, how many Jon Matlack had in 1976, how many Doc Gooden had in 1984 and 1986, how many Ron Darling had in 1988 and how many Al Leiter had in 1998. If I may dazzle you with unassailable logic, 17 is not as many as 18, but it’s more than 16. Sixteen wins is admirable — on this team, it would be astonishing — but 17 somehow conveys another level of oomph.

R.A. Dickey was the last Met to win as many as 17. He won 20 in 2012. We’re no longer asking for 20. We’re asking for 17, a Leiter’s Twenty, if you will. Doesn’t seem like to gargantuan a sum to ask for every nineteen or so years. Jake has seven or eight starts left, pending how management chooses to nurture his right arm the rest of the way. “There’s too much nurturing in today’s game,” Keith Hernandez, the quintessential 17, suggested Sunday, just to remind us he’s had it with society in general and baseball in particular, but it’s understandable if the Mets want to cover their asset with caution and a fleece blanket. Yet if Jake is allowed to go out and be Jake, I really hope the Mets can score a few runs for him, catch a few outs for him and smoothly transfer a few grounders from their gloves for him. I hope 200 innings yields 17 wins. As long as we’re trying to finish the season, it would be nice to come away with something that makes it less trying.

In other Jake news, the Mets have received Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers as the player to be Rhame later in the Curtis Granderson deal. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but he’s a righthanded minor league relief pitcher. My scouting report indicates that if he wants to make it with the Mets, he has a helluva first name.

6 comments to 17 Again?

  • LeClerc

    All six runs that Miami scored were the result of defensive errors by position players.

    TC covering for Cespedes’ bush league efforts was pathetic. The Mets need a manager – not a valet to the stars.

  • jacobs27

    The second run was particularly annoying, in that Cespedes’ coming up short, even if he recovered to throw out Conley, exchanged a pitcher running the bases for Dee Gordon, who manufactured most of the Marlins’ runs with his speed, and a few big assists from the Mets defense. So frustrating for deGrom. Here’s to 17 and 200.

  • Dave

    Hoping for any milestone stats on this team, this year…that’s setting yourself up for disappointment, Greg. The guy who’s supposed to be able to carry the team on his shoulders has, what, 40 RBI’s? Hansel Robles has…well, forget statistics…a job? I’m waiting for some year-end saber-stats to tell us that the team’s 2nd most effective reliever was Neil Ramirez. 17 wins from Jake would be great, but if anyone is giving any odds on it, my advice is to keep your money in your pocket.

  • Gil

    If TC wants his job next year he should sit Cespedes today. Unexcusable.

  • Curt

    Everyone else has covered this but I’ll say it anyway, “Does Cespedes even care?” He got us two runs – great. He also cost us two.

    If I have to watch this for the rest of the season I may find myself wishing for an NL DH. Ugh.

  • […] comfortingly familiar came in the form of deGrom resuming his road to 17 wins by picking up his 14th. It was a performance commensurate with how we usually react when he is on. […]