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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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It’s Darkest Before deGrom

Jacob deGrom was pitching his usual brilliant game, en route to shutting out the Atlanta Braves long enough to convince us the worst-case scenario Wednesday night would involve how the bullpen would blow the slim lead he protected, assuming the Mets ever figured out how to score a run off Sean Newcomb.

That would have been a fantastic worst-case scenario.

Instead, Jake mysteriously disappeared down the Ray Ramirez Memorial Tunnel of Doom after four innings. New training protocols, old frightening visions. What the hell was wrong with deGrom and when would he be back? The answer to the first part eventually trickled out: hyperextended right elbow, a phrase typed en masse through the Mets Twitterverse despite few of us having any idea what it meant in general or to deGrom specifically. Those advanced medical degrees we earned Googling “spinal stenosis” in 2015 haven’t made us measurably more insightful.

Jake aggravated something while swinging a bat and it didn’t feel any better throwing a ball. DeGrom’s a good-hitting pitcher, but that’s not the core competency the Mets will miss if deGrom misses significant time. I’m throwing the “if” in there because as of the chatter following the oh-by-the-way second-place Mets’ 7-0 loss to the first-place Braves, there was no definitive or reliably speculative word regarding deAbsence. For all the injuries that have felled Mets pitchers in recent years, hyperextended elbow seems to be a new one. J.J. Putz, before he was a Met, had one and came back in a matter of weeks. Lucas Duda had one last year and wasn’t out for an eternity.

Neither was or is deGrom. DeGrom, along with Yoenis Cespedes, looms as the supremely irreplaceable element of the 2018 New York Mets. There was a shortage of oxygen between Sunday and Tuesday from how much we held our breath over Yoenis’s thumb, but he was deemed all right; we all exhaled; and Yo has been playing all digits blazing ever since. That felt like some fancy bullet-dodging. Yet for what are the Mets profited if they gain the Yo world, and forfeit their ace? Despite deGrom being asked to work his magic only every fifth day, he’s every bit as important to the Mets’ competitive aspirations and psyche. Every other starting pitcher, whether by commission or omission, has let the Mets down in some capacity in the past season-plus. Not deGrom. He kept us going last year when nobody else could and he’s elevated us this year as nobody else has.

Wheeler’s always dicey. Harvey’s a stale soap opera of diminished returns. Thor has not found his groove. Vargas is Vargas and he wasn’t even that in his first start. Matz’s stiff back moved everybody up a day, which seems to have — “regular rest” aside — meddled with the primal forces of nature. All the while, DeGrom was busy being deGrom: 3-0, 1.87 ERA, 54 strikeouts in 43.1 innings. The Mets, despite tailing off from their scalding earliest-season pace, remained viable in the role of serious contender as long as they could count on Jake’s turn through the rotation. Without him, we’re gonna need more oxygen, an encouraging MRI result and another dose of the luck that maintained Cespedes’s spot in the lineup.

UPDATE: MRI shows no structural damage, Jake says he feels fine, Mets say he will make his next scheduled start Monday. This is either very good news or setting us up for god knows what.

20 comments to It’s Darkest Before deGrom

  • Curt

    I’m tempted to pull out the “we can’t have nice things” phrase but maybe he won’t miss much time. I was thinking it might be his back until they announced it during the broadcast – he wasn’t limping or flexing his arm or anything.

    Wonder if Christmas came early for one of the groundskeepers last night? Cespedes didn’t seem to much care about the glittery stuff on the ground near second.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Was at the game last night and it was dead from the stsrt–possibly because of mid-summer heat. But then with Jake injury all energy gone in building, and on field (for Mets). Possibly the dullest, worst, Mets game (when you factor in injury) I’ve ever attended, and that’s a lot. And keeping Sewald in after 2 2/3 and blast over Yo’s head…by the pitcher. Perhaps capper. Or crapper.

  • sturock

    Can the NL just adopt the DH already?

  • Assuming a familiar fan posture, I’d say we’re DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED.

  • Daniel Hall

    Someone better check their respective agents regarding the availability of some proven veterans(tm), with New York experience, to bolster the rotation as we go along. Off the top of my head, I think Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, Shaun Marcum, Aaron Harang, or Daisuke Matsuzaka!

    Better take all five of them, we’re gonna need them.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Some blowback on WFAN on Mickey sending deGrom out to pitch another inning after that at bat and in pain, and then grimacing while pitching that inning…but I was at stadium and saw none of it, wonder what others think….

  • Wheaties54321

    This one really hurts. I guess we don’t know the severity yet of the injury, so there’s still some hope it’ll be minor and we’ll soon see DeGrom back on the mound. Here’s hoping anyway…

    Besides that shitsandwich, what’s most concerning are the young guys not producing to their previous level (Conforto), not showing any plate discipline/big league hitting chops (Rosario), not making the team (Smith), not being able to handle/adjust to the smallest calamity (Matz), not getting playing time (Nimmo), etc. You look around baseball and there are young (first/second/third year players) making big contributions for all manner of MLB teams. If those players I mentioned don’t start producing wins soon this front office is justifiably going to have to answer difficult questions about what’s going on/is wrong with the Mets’ player development practices.

    • sturock

      This team was built around those five starting pitchers, but there was never any contingency plan should one or more of those guys flop or get hurt. So Alderson never seriously went after a major pitching free agent. Could Jake Arrieta have helped? A lot more than Jason Vargas. So now we have to wait and see if Callaway and Eiland can fix one or more of Harvey, Matz, Wheeler, and now Vargas.

      I do think the Mets’ hitting will come around. This is an extreme boom/bust offense, based on streaky guys–Cespedes, Bruce, Frazier. Plus, Conforto is still recovering from his injury; he has no power right now.

  • Another bullet dodged?

  • mikeski

    Holy crap, Jason Vargas sssssuckkkkkkkssss.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Presumably Sandfy knew he was one of worst starters in league in 2nd half of last year. If you’re 26 it’s just the erratic nature of young pitchers. At 35 it’s often a different picture.

  • Cleon Jones

    Vargas is terrible !!!!

    • 9th string catcher

      Well, they did just take a whole bone out of his hand. Even if it’s your fielding hand, that still could shake a guy up a little. I do think he could use a little more AAA work before putting him up against MLB.

  • Bill Slocum

    Started the week thinking the division still needs to catch up to us despite bad luck and weak hitting. Now thinking we need to catch up with the Marlins on rebuilding.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Have we seen enough of Jatt Varvey? Or is it Mason Hargas?

  • I’m a rational person, and don’t believe in curses, but being a Mets fan is putting me to the test. How does one explain how a group of competent baseball players can go from playing so well to playing so poorly? Forget about the pitching for a minute; what’s with getting shut-out 2 games straight? As Josh Lewin says, if you look on the back these guys baseball cards, many can hit fairly well. They’re up against good, not stellar pitching (i.e., competent MLB pitchers) and they’re shut out 2 games in a row? Enough! Last year, Terry Collins was the goat, but MC seems to be doing a good enough job, so what the hell is going on! Okay, I just needed to vent. There is no curse, but I would love a rational explanation.

    • GreenMtn, I think there is a Met Curse. It’s called “not hitting like you’re supposed to.” We’ve seen this year after year, decade after decade, where the hitters underperform or flat-out suck. Can’t we have a year where everybody at least hits like expected, let alone surpasses it? If Oswalt and someone else come up and are lights out, replacing Harvey and Vargas (what a fraud), it won’t even matter if they can’t score. The only saving grace is that the season is still young and they can turn it around, but they’d better do it in a hurry or they’re sunk. It doesn’t appear, though, that the warm weather has helped their bats heat up; just the opposite. This has to be an extreme statistical aberration. Yeah, let’s go with that for now.