I keep the tickets from every sporting event I attend in binders, where I jot down the result of the game and some key details. One ticket is from a Mets doubleheader against the Marlins on July 8, 2006. The Mets’ top pitching prospect at the time, Mike Pelfrey, made his major league debut in the second game. He got the win, and even though he was far from dominant—two earned runs, three strikeouts, four walks in five innings—his considerable hype excited me enough to conclude my entry with: “Maybe Pelfrey will be in the HOF one day.” Pelfrey pitched to a 4.36 ERA over his seven seasons with the Mets and has been a disappointment for the Twins since.
Noah Syndergaard, who will debut for the Mets tonight, is a lot like Mike Pelfrey was in 2006: a big, tall righty with a lot of promise. He’s one of the top prospects in all of baseball, but baseball prospects are hard to gauge with any certainty. It’s possible he’ll meet expectations. It’s also possible that, 20 years from now, only die-hard Mets fans remember his name.
Pelfrey’s mediocre debut was, at the time, attributed to nerves. As it turned out, a wild, inconsistent pitcher without a real strikeout pitch is simply what he was. Not knowing that then meant we could project greatness, ponder whether we’d witnessed the start of a Hall of Fame career. We’ll do that again tonight with Syndergaard. And why not? The excitement of prospects is part of what makes baseball fun. So if you’re going to Wrigley tonight, save your ticket.