The gentleman in this photo is Kit Pellow, a journeyman utility player who played in the Majors for three years from 2002–2004. He has not appeared in a Major League game since August 24, 2004, when he went 1-for-4 against the Montreal Expos. He is one of those thousands of baseball players who pass through and are long forgotten. Except for Mets fans. Mets fans will always remember Kit Pellow.
Last night, Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano threw a no-hitter, the first of the 2011 season and the 137th in baseball history since the New York Mets were born in 1962. As is now a famed part of Mets lore, none of those no-hitters have been thrown by the Mets, a statistical impossibility that now feels like a cruel cosmic joke. (There's a terrific site called No No Hitters devoted to this very thing.) Pellow is the gentleman who broke up perhaps the Mets' best recent chance at one, a ninth-inning, one-out double off Tom Glavine in May 2004. (John Maine also almost got one during the collapse of 2007.) Imagine how different Tom Glavine is remembered by Mets fans if Kit Pellow doesn't break that up. Mets history would have been entirely rewritten.
After Liriano's no-no last night, we talked to our friend Jason Fry over at Faith and Fear in Flushing, our resident expert on all matters of the Mets' non-no-hitters. (He once wrote a great piece in which he imagined all the men who have broken the Mets' no-hitters hanging out and talking with one another.) We wanted to know how it felt to have yet another no-hitter thrown by someone other than a Met. So: Jason Fry, ladies and gentlehumans.
Do you feel a twinge when you see someone throwing a no-hitter for another team, like Liriano last night? Jealousy? Frustration?
It's more like a moment of befuddled amazement. We and normal teams clearly exist in different universes, governed by different laws of physics. Granted, the Padres (our little brothers by a mere seven years) have never had a no-hitter or a cycle (we've had nine), making their drought arguably even more bizarre. But finding common cause with the Padres doesn't do much for you: They play on the other side of the world, and I can never remember what their uniforms look like.
What I don't get is why awareness of the no no-hitters seems to be spreading in Metland — it's been a pretty weird lack for at least a decade or two, so why now? For years I've counted down the outs by threes ("24 to go!" "21 to go!") until the inevitable hit, then muttered "Another night ..." It's an admittedly sick ritual, but it used to be a basically private weirdness. Now the radio and TV guys have made something similar part of their routines. I don't know why that is, but it isn't healthy.
What's the near-miss you remember the most?
Oh goodness. I remember being certain Octavio Dotel would do it against the Padres in 1999 — he was basically unhittable, at least until he gave up a home run in the seventh, followed by the lead. For whatever reason, that one was crushing. John Maine came awfully close against the Marlins on the second-to-last day of the 2007 season, but there was so much else going on that day that a no-hitter was almost an afterthought. Tom Glavine almost no-hit the Rockies in 2004. In retrospect, I'm almost glad he didn't, because that would have been an eternal "yeah but" when we said mean things about him.
Being as steeped in Mets history as you are, who do you think is more likely to end the drought: a top-tier guy or an out-of-nowhere guy? If it were to be broken this year, who'd be the most likely candidate?
Definitely R.A. Dickey, because when a knuckleballer's on, it's basically roulette for batters. Dickey almost did it last year, after all, with the lone hit collected by Cole Hamels. But who the heck knows? Len Barker pitched a perfect game, after all, and then his grandmother said she hoped he'd do even better next time. I just pray it's not a combined no-hitter, because those are lame. Given how things tend to go for the Mets, it'll be a combined no-hitter. "And Pat Misch, D.J. Carrasco, Tim Byrdak, and Francisco Rodriguez have made history here at Citi Field!" Fantastic.
The funny thing is how weird it'll be once it happens — this instant before and after that will leave us all disoriented. Not to mention that then we'll just be a franchise known for generally being doofy and bad.
But I also think about this: For years I bored anyone who couldn't escape by yammering about how many games I'd seen on TV and live without ever seeing a triple play and how I figured I never would see one. Then I was sitting in the mezzanine one night at Shea, and boom, the Giants hit into one, and that was that. I just stared at the field in disbelief while my friend laughed at me. So fast-forward to two years ago, and Jeff Francoeur hits into an unassisted triple play to end a game while I'm gawping on the couch. Your odds of seeing one of those are about the same as getting drilled between the eyes by a meteorite, and I saw it live. It's a law of baseball that you never know.
Do you have something planned for when the Mets finally do it?
Oh yes. I have what I already know will be the greatest, most-read Faith and Fear in Flushing post ever completely written in my head, and I think about it far too often. When the nurses have turned off the respirators because it's time and anyway Matt Harvey's grandson just gave up a clean single in the top of the second to keep the streak alive, lean close and I'll tell you what it would have said.