Tuesday, May 31, 2011

O M Gee, it's the second coming of Matlack

One of my earliest memories as a Mets fan is the 1976 season. I was 7 years old, and played a lot of baseball in the street with the kids down the block. And I recall very distinctly talking about the major league season that had just ended, when the Mets finished in third place, and thinking that was pretty good. Kids — so full of hope.

One of our favorite players was Jon Matlack. He was third on the staff behind Seaver and Koosman, but he was younger and kind of underrated. He won 17 games in 1976 and was awesome.

Then 1977 happened. Seaver was traded in the middle of June, the Mets fell off a cliff, and in December they traded Matlack -- a 26-year-old potential ace -- in a four-team trade that also saw them deal John Milner, only to get the immortal Willie Montanez, Tom Grieve and Ken Henderson (the player to be named later) in return.

It took seven years for the Mets to recover, and to their credit they put together a pretty good team. And while Matlack won 15 games the next year, he got hurt and was never the same.

(Another reason I liked Matlack was he looked just like Herman Munster. Or more accurately, Fred Gwynne.)

But when Matlack was a Met, he was fantastic. And now Dillon Gee has tied Matlack's team record for being the only rookies to start 5-0. Gee doesn't have the high leg kick of Matlack, but his delivery is effortless and while he doesn't have overpowering stuff, he knows how to mix his pitches and attack a lineup. He struck out eight Pirates Monday night and all of a sudden, we don't miss Chris Young as much.

Jose Reyes was out on bereavement leave at the passing of his grandmother, and Terry Collins still kept Jason Bay on the bench for a rest, despite the fact that he has a five-game hitting streak and we've been waiting forever for him to stay hot.

There wasn't much power in the lineup, but the Mets singled the Buccos to death. Josh Thole delivered the big hit, a two-run double that broke a 3-3 tie. Justin Turner added an RBI double the next inning and he continues to rake.

As for the Phillies series, it was frustrating but not discouraging. Yes, we dodged Lee and Halladay and you would have liked to have won two at home, but the first two games were good games ruined either by a misplay or bullpen failure. I had more of a problem with Collins removing Capuano when he did than I did when he took out Pelfrey, although isn't Byrdak our top lefty guy? Still, O'Connor had one job, to get one out, and he failed.

With three more against Pittsburgh, this could be the cure for what ails the Mets, who will be without Reyes until at least Wednesday. Hopefully Bay hasn't cooled off any and continues to hit, as does Daniel Murphy, who could be playing first for a while with the news that Ike Davis needs his ankle re-examined, which is never good. Hey, more at-bats for Turner.

1 comment: