Since I heard the Mets’ pitcher Noah Syndergaard had been nicknamed Thor, it struck me as a misplaced nickname. In Norse mythology, Thor’s Hammer was said to be capable of knocking mountains down. I thought the nickname ought to belong to a mighty slugger, be it Trout, Harper, Cespedes or any of the best hitters left in this post-steroid era where pitching dominates as it hasn’t since the late ’60’s.
With the Yankees dropping their own hammers on Thor, it got me to wondering who he is and where the nickname came from. It turns out, Syndergaard was dressed as Thor for Halloween, 2013 after the Norse god had become a comic book and movie hero. He posted a shot of himself in costume on twitter, and the rest is history. He’s a long, tall Texan, six-six and 240 pounds. He only turned 23 on August 29, 8 days after this column first appeared. Though a man of 23, he still returns home after the season for his mom’s cooking and so she might do his laundry. Once he tried doing it, and his mom feared for the safety of their washing machine since he had put in four loads at once. He comes from just outside of Dallas, and would have attended Dallas Baptist University and played for their Patriots team if the Bluejays had not drafted him. He pitched in such out-of-the way places as Bluefield, WV, hockey-happy Vancouver, and Lansing, Michigan as a Bluejays minor leaguer. While touring the leagues one of his teammates was pitcher Justin Nicolino, now of the Marlins. As 2012 drew toward a close he was traded with Travis D’Arnaud and John Buck to the Mets for R. A. Dickey. His minor league quest continued in 2013 in Port St. Lucy, Florida and Binghamton, New York. That Halloween was the beginning of the Thor nickname. Even the family embraced the name; His mom owns an Australian shepherd called Thor.
Syndergaard pitched at AAA Las Vegas for all of 2014 and the first month of this season before a May promotion to the show. His fast ball can reach 100 MPH, and during today’s broadcast Mets’ radio broadcaster Howie Rose called Noah’s curve “The Hook from You-Know-Where.”
The Yankees knew not only where it was coming, but where a couple of Thor’s pitches were going. To be fair to the kid, he was facing a much tougher lineup than last night’s Yankees who were child’s play for Steven Matz. After singles by Bret Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, up came Carlos Beltran. At 36, he was like a crafty and experienced Darth Vader facing a novice Luke Skywalker in “The Empire Strikes Back.” Syndergaard emerged with his hand intact, but not his pride following a 3-run blast by Beltran. The older man triumphed again in inning 6 with a single off Syndergaard. Then another wily veteran, Brian McCann crushed one even farther out of sight than Beltran’s jolt. In the home half, Kelly Johnson hit for Syndergaard, ending Thor’s day. He’s 8-7 now in his rookie year in the league. The scoring was done with the Yanks winning 5-0.
Whatever Yankee fans were at Citi Field had their eyes on the action north of the border. For once, the Bluejays lost, to of all teams the hated Red Sox. Until the home eighth, the game was as bland as the tennis tournament recently completed in Toronto. It was a 2-all tie when the home team put up a pair in the 8th. The Sox, who have had issues scoring all year put 5 on the board in the ninth, beginning with a two-run home run by Jackie Bradley JR. Then the Sox bull pen nearly ruined the Yankees’ afternoon along with their own. Robbie Ross JR. entered the game to start the 9th. He got out the first two hitters, then walked Josh Donaldson. That sort of move makes managers check their unemployment insurance, considering Jose Bautista was due next with his 35 home runs … uh make that 36, making the game 7-6 Boston. After a long double to center, the smoke finally cleared when Justin Smoak grounded to second to seal the win for Boston. This leaves the Yankees 3 and a half behind Toronto as they prepare for tonight’s ESPN game with the Mets. As for the Flushing nine, Washington gained a full game on them with their 5-2 win over Miami. As large as the Mets lead is, and with only 2 weeks to go as of this writing, the more cynical Mets fans still have visions of the Mets’ collapses of 2007 and 2008 dancing in their heads, like sugar plums gone rotten. If they ask a real old sage (which wouldn’t be a good idea,” that person of 65+ could tell them of the collapse of the 1964 Phillies. I wouldn’t bring it up myself except for the extreme youth of the Mets’ pitching staff and the team’s collective inexperience in postseason play. The surging Cubs, the consistent Cardinals and Dodgers could all give the Mets a tussle next month, but that’s just baseball as I see it.0