An MMO Fan Shot by Marc (mystere2417)
When I was a kid, there were no cable television channels, video games, personal computers, Web sites, emails, text messages, video streaming services, smartphones or iPads. Technology was primitive in my youth by today’s standards. Yet somehow, my generation still had plenty to do and found lots of ways to have fun.
You can probably guess my favorite pastime back then. Of course, it was to root for the New York Mets. As a rabid Mets fan, I kept a scrap book of newspaper articles about the team which I still have somewhere in a drawer to this day.
Unfortunately, the teams I rooted for growing up in the late ‘70s and early ’80s were terrible, which makes the complaints about the current incarnation of the team pale by comparison. Those were the days before free agency, so the blockbuster trade was the penultimate baseball event in a young baseball fan’s life, aside from a pennant or World Championship, of course. The Tom Seaver trade, and a bit later, the Willie Montanez trade, were especially featured in my scrapbook and seared into my memory.
All of you know the Seaver trade, dubbed the Midnight Massacre. Not as many of you know that Willie Montanez, the flashy power-hitting first baseman with the Fred Flintstone baby step home run trot at each base, was traded by the Atlanta Braves to New York as part of four-team deal in which the Texas Rangers sent Adrian Devine, Tommy Boggs and Eddie Miller to the Atlanta Braves; the Texas Rangers sent Tom Grieve to New York; the New York Mets sent Jon Matlack to Texas Rangers; the New York Mets sent John Milner to the Pittsburgh Pirates; the Rangers sent Bert Blyleven to the Pittsburgh Pirates; the Pirates sent Al Oliver and Nelson Norman to the Rangers; and the Rangers sent Ken Henderson to the Mets.
Trades like that “Metsmerized” this young Mets fan.
But nothing surpassed the moments when my father took me to Shea Stadium. Formerly a New York Giants baseball fan, he embraced the Mets when they were born in 1962, just a week after I entered this world. That’s right, my birthday is a week to the day before the Mets birthday, and both of our names start with the letter “M.” It was kismet.
It was meant to be. There’s even a brick at Citi Field with my dad’s name on it to honor the special memories that I shared with my father and the Mets as a continuous part of the soundtrack of our lives. I’m sure many of you can relate.
Being an underdog Mets fan growing up wasn’t any easier than it is today, but it wasn’t my only interest and it wasn’t the only way I had fun. I rode my Schwinn bicycle, played board games, hung out with friends after school, played whatever sport was in season in the neighborhood until it was dark, flipped baseball cards, and read comic books.
My favorite comic book was “The Fantastic Four,” which makes the two less-than-stellar movies about them in recent years a huge personal disappointment (although both had their moments). There was something about how “The Fantastic Four” was written that didn’t translate onto the big screen, but did capture the imagination of a young boy.
The unique powers of the characters, and the humorous banter between Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, and Ben Grimm, the Thing, drew me into their adventures, so much so that I named my bowling team in my Saturday morning league “The Fantastic Five.”
The 2018 Mets have a “Fantastic Five” too. It was supposed to make its debut a few years ago but, like everything else with the modern Mets, it got derailed by injuries.
The thing I am most looking forward to about the 2018 season has nothing to do with our free agent acquisitions, Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce home runs, the healthy return of Michael Conforto, our double-closer bullpen, or even the progress of prospects Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, and Brandon Nimmo.
What I’m looking forward to most is, finally, the debut of “The Fantastic Five.” I want to see Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler pitch, in sequence, for an extended period of time, in our starting rotation. It’s a simple pleasure, and not that big of an ask, if you ask me. But it’s turned out to be more evasive than anyone could have ever imagined.
Unlike “The Fantastic Four” which was formed all at once by the unfortunate result of one infamous cosmic event, “The Fantastic Five” was formed gradually, one might even say incrementally and methodically, over time. Each character was given its own debut issue.
Harvey was the first to make the leap from the pages of the minor league to the Big Show. He made his major league debut in a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Thursday, July 26, 2012, in Phoenix. He delivered 5 1/3 scoreless innings and got the win by allowing only three hits and striking out 11 in a 3-1 victory.
He wasn’t projected to be the next Tom Seaver or Dwight Gooden before his debut, more like a No. 2 than a No. 1, but somehow this homegrown player had enough talent, command, movement, velocity, and swagger on the mound to elevate his game to ace status at the major league level. We finally had a future again. The magic was back again. We had Matt Harvey and no one else did. Although it seems like yesterday, children born that day are already in first grade. That’s how long ago that was.
Almost a year later, on June 18, 2013, Zack Wheeler followed Harvey to the mound in the second game of a doubleheader in his home state of Georgia. It was fitting that Wheeler followed in the footsteps of a dominating Matt Harvey performance in which the Dark Knight struck out a career-high 13 batters in the Game 1 victory.
Wheeler was outdone by comparison, but not by much, as he didn’t disappoint in any way. In his major league debut, Wheeler struck out seven Braves en route to a 6-1 victory at Turner Field. Despite walking five batters, he issued only four hits and looked like he could become the modern day Ron Darling to Matt Harvey’s Dwight Gooden.
Almost a year later again, on May 15, 2014, Jacob deGrom was thrown into the fire of a New York Subway Series, making his major league debut filling in for the injured Dillon Gee against the Yankees. Like the two young guns before him, deGrom rose to the challenge. He pitched seven innings, gave up one run on four hits, struck out six, and walked two on just 91 pitches. To top it off, he got one of the two Mets hits.
Unfortunately, the Mets couldn’t score against fellow Yankee rookie Chase Whitley and company and deGrom didn’t get his first major league win that day. But a dominating young rotation trio was dancing in the heads of Mets fans everywhere after that start.
Almost a year to the day later, seemingly like clockwork, the diamond of Sandy Alderson’s R.A. Dickey trade gem, Noah Syndergaard, pitched his first major league game in Wrigley Field on May 12,2015, against what would turn out to be the playoff-bound Cubs. Noah allowed three runs to the tough Cubs lineup — all in the sixth inning — walked four, but struck out six with a fastball that was regularly clocked between 96 mph – 98 mph. He took the loss, but the promise of dominance was evident to all.
Steven Matz didn’t have to wait a year to follow in the footsteps of his phenom predecessor. Just a little over a month later, on June 28, 2015, Matz made his major league debut with a bang, actually three of them, as the hometown hero had a three-hit, four-RBI day in the Mets’ 7-2 win over the Reds.
His hitting overshadowed a strong pitching performance of 7 2/3 innings, two runs, five hits, three walks, and six strikeouts. His fastball sat in the 95–96 mph range and topped out at 97. The left-hander mixed in a curveball, changeup, two-seamer and splitter. The fifth member of “The Fantastic Five” had arrived and our villainous opponents around the league took notice.
Fast forward to today. The 2018 season, almost incomprehensively, represents the fourth season since all five of these pitchers were on the same major league roster, yet not once, not ever, have they pitched in the same rotation in sequence at the same time.
That is still difficult for Mets fans to fathom. But I have not lost hope within the myriad of injuries and bad luck that have occurred between then and now. All five are seemingly healthy at the moment. Of course, they aren’t pitching at the moment, but that’s a minor detail. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in short order. Hope springs eternal. The debut issue of “The Fantastic Five” is due out in April, 2018.
Pick up your copy at Citi Field. Don’t scoff at the historic nature of this upcoming moment in Mets history. Great teams are built on pitching, and great pitching has been the hallmark of the Mets franchise. It’s built into the DNA of the team. Today is no different. It is curcial to our success. As “The Fantastic Five” goes, so go the 2018 Mets.
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This Fan Shot was written and contributed by MMO community member and die-hard Mets fan Marc (mystere2417). Have something you want to say about the Mets? Send your article to GetMetsmerized@aol.com or use this Contact Form. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.