One of my favorite memories as a Mets fan came not during a playoff run, or during a particular run of greatness from an individual. It happened during a meaningless August series against the Phillies in 1995, with the Mets 23 games out of first place.
My father took me to see all three games that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We knew we wanted to see Jason Isringhausen, the young pitcher considered a key part of the coming Mets renaissance, and Bill Pulsipher, the lefty of the group. And we had nothing against Reid Cornelius, who started the opener.
The Mets swept that series. Cornelius pitched moderately well in a wild 12-10 win. Isringhausen threw eight shutout innings. And Pulsipher threw nine stellar frames, allowing a single run, with the Mets winning it in the 11th.
This all happened shortly after the Mets had fallen to 35-57 on August 5. It was their fifth win in a row, and it was part of a run that saw the 35-57 team finish the season 34-18. It felt like the start of bigger things, with those pitchers, Paul Wilson on the way, and hitters like Edgardo Alfonzo and Carl Everett.
We know, in retrospect, that it was a bit of a false spring. Generation K faltered; Everett was traded for John Hudek; only Edgardo Alfonzo graduated into the bobbleheaded pantheon.
And yet, I don’t look back at that period as one of disappointment. I’d followed Isringhausen and Pulsipher since they pitched for Pittsfield, coincidentally getting to see each of them pitch in consecutive seasons during games selected based on their ability to fit into the Tanglewood schedule. To finally see them at the major league level was a thrill.
And so was watching Matt Harvey on Thursday night. I’ve seen enough pitching prospects to know that overwhelmingly, they will eventually disappoint, either on the field or due to injury. That’s true of baseball seasons as a whole, too. But the hope each new season provides is what sustains us, just like the hope of a new pitcher with the raw talent of Matt Harvey makes it that much more fun to think about when his next start, his home debut, and what he’ll look like on the Citi Field mound some October might be like.