Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Make Them Remember

Generally, I want two things out of the All Star Game. I want the National League to win, and I want the Mets playing in the game to represent themselves well.

I got one out of two this year in Cincinnati. Though the American League, behind Mike Trout (sorry Cubs fans, Trout is the real Baseball Jesus, not Kris Bryant), won the game by a mostly forgettable 6- 3 margin, the lone Met presence at the game acquitted himself particularly well. Jacob deGrom performed so remarkably well, in fact, that he forcibly interjected not just himself, but his team into the conversation.

deGrom entered the game in the top of the 6th inning with the National League trailing 3- 1. Just one inning earlier, Clayton Kershaw, who was selected for the game at the last minute over a possibly more-deserving Jeurys Familia, had pitched and was battered around for two runs, and eventually took the loss in the game. To this point, our wonderful friends at FOX had done just about everything possible to pretend that the Mets actually did not exist. Prior to the game, if you watched their 1st half Highlight package, there were clips from every team, including the lousy Phillies and the Mickey Mouse Marlins, but not a single Mets clip to be found, except from the night that they found themselves on the wrong side of History, and even then, that wasn't a Mets clip, that was at the expense of the Mets. Kirk Nieuwenhuis was among a select few to knock 3 Home Runs in a game, but was he in the montage? Oh no. We don't abscond to show the Mets. They're not relevant. They're not attractive. They're boring. It wouldn't have surprised me if FOX had found a way to omit the Mets from the "Franchise Four" ceremony (where, if you were paying attention, the Washington Nationals Franchise Four included four players who never actually played for the Washington Nationals—so if you're keeping score, the Nationals have un-retired the Expos' retired numbers, basically ignored the Expos heritage and history, and yet haven't yet actually distinguished themselves from the Expos). When announcing the rosters, that plastic-haired schmuck Joe Buck sneered as he said, "And from the Mets..." as though they weren't even worthy of sending someone to the game. And, through the first five innings, things played out as such.

Then, Jacob deGrom entered the game and not-so-subtly told FOX to kiss his ass.

We have been watching deGrom ply his trade all season, and not for nothing but he was the National League Rookie of the Year last season, and so maybe it wasn't quite so surprising to us that he pitched well. But when you have one inning and one shot to make an impression on a National TV audience, you want to make your mark, and deGrom did that with Style. I'm not sure where deGrom had been hiding his 98mph fastball, but he had one inning and I'm sure he figured he was just going to let it fly, and for 10 pitches, that's just what he did. That's 10 pitches, because that was all he needed to strike out the three American League batters he faced.

He came out with a purpose and basically gassed Stephen Vogt on three pitches, and three such effortless pitches that Buck and Harold Reynolds immediately had to perk up. Jason Kipnis followed and deGrom gassed him too, only needing 4 pitches to blow him out of the box. Now, I was fired up, because now everyone had to take notice. deGrom was putting on his own personal show. Jose Iglesias was next and by this point he probably could have been told what was coming and still wouldn't have come close to hitting it, and didn't come particularly close on any of the three pitches he saw, and once he got to two strikes, I'd bet just about every Mets fan watching was up and roaring like we were watching him in person to will him to that 3rd strike, and that's just what he got.

No, it was not the first time a Mets pitcher had gone out in an All Star Game and struck out the side. But you think back to Dwight Gooden doing it in 1984 and you see deGrom simply overpowering a trio of befuddled looking AL batters, and you hear announcers who had earlier scoffed at the mere mention of your team now totally awestruck, and then he's actually getting interviewed in the dugout, and by game's end he's now regarded as the standout performer for the National League, well, maybe people shouldn't be taking the Mets so lightly.

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