By Barry Duchan
OK, So I Was Wrong...
There probably isn't a Mets fan, blogger, or beat writer who hasn't at one time or another in the past few years pointed out what an awful trade the Mets made when they sent Scott Kazmir away for Victor Zambrano, even though few if any of those observers had actually seen Kazmir pitch when the trade was made. "Everyone" said they knew at the time of the deal that it was terrible - that Zambrano was a bum and Kazmir would be great, or at the very least that Zambrano was mediocre and Kazmir had a chance to be great. (Although I kind of remember Harold Reynolds calling it a great deal for the Mets at the time and proclaiming Zambrano one of the best pitchers in the American League.) Now, several years later Kazmir is recognized as one of the top starting pitchers in the game, while Zambrano has probably seen the last of the major leagues following several seasons of arm trouble and mediocre pitching. Conclusion - How could the Mets' front office be so stupid?
Why am I bringing this up? Because all of last year, during the off-season and through the first sixty or so games of this season, every time the subject of a Mets' trade came up, the first name I was ready to toss in to ANY trade was Mike Pelfrey. I had seen enough of him on the major league level to "know" he would never be any good. At best, I saw him as a workhorse who might be lucky enough to post a winning season if his team would give him 6 or 7 runs a game. I even came up with a comparison of who he might become at his best - Russ Ortiz. I saw in Pelfrey a pitcher who had no clue. He'd throw it up there and they'd hit it and then scared of the potential and likely disastrous results if he threw the ball over the plate, he'd throw pitches out of the strike zone hoping to get someone to go for a bad pitch and get himself in trouble with walks to set up another big inning. I kept thinking, this guy was a high draft pick with a low salary, maybe Minnesota or Kansas City would take him off our hands before he proves conclusively that he'll never even be a #3 or #4 starter. I concluded, maybe correctly, maybe not, that the Mets offered him in the Santana trade and the Twins were smart enough to turn him down. How much longer would we have to put up with this guy before we could deal him in a package for a Joe Blanton or Javier Vasquez type who might at least give the Mets a chance to win when they took the mound?
And then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere emerges the new Mike Pelfrey. A dominant, in control, upper echelon major league starting pitcher. He not only wins, he dominates. He does everything you want an ace to do. He gets the double play when he needs it. He gets the popout or strikeout when he needs it. He makes hitters look silly and grossly overmatched. It was a transformation I never expected, not now, not ever. And to think, I would have gladly dealt him away for anyone resembling a decent major league starter, even one 10 years older, and probably tossed someone else in just to rid the team of Pelfrey.
So, let me admit, was I wrong! As wrong as the Mets were when they traded Kazmir for Zambrano. It would now seem as long as Pelfrey stays healthy, he could indeed become that future #1 starter he was once projected to be. All he has to do is keep doing what he's been doing. Time will tell, of course. But I can say already that I was really wrong about the guy. I don't believe it, don't understand it. And yet there's no doubt - Pelfrey is the goods and a major part of the Mets' future.