Fresh off of their first World Series appearance in fifteen years, the Mets’ 2016 script had already been written. Finally relevant and expected to again contend for a title, the Metropolitans would ride their surplus of power arms back to the postseason. Not only were these young phenoms burgeoning with talent, but they now had the experience of pitching in the highest pressure situations. Coming into the 2016 season, the New York Mets had a potent arsenal of promising starting pitchers, and that was supposed to be what carried them to the promised land.
What Should Have Been
A star-studded rotation headed by Matt Harvey had fans eager for Opening Day. Harvey, the seemingly larger than life celebrity of the staff, was poised to build on his stellar 2015 campaign and contend for a Cy Young Award this season. The “Dark Knight” was ready to rise in a grand fashion. Behind him in the rotation were two more ace-caliber righties known as much for their long flowing locks as their high 90’s heat. Jacob DeGrom, a once unheralded prospect was looking to continue his trend of consistent excellence. Noah Syndergaard (or Thor if you’d like to refer to him by his alter-ego), seemed ready to come into his own as one of the most dominant starting pitchers in baseball. Next in line was the sole lefty of the staff and local Long Islander, Steven Matz, who was out to prove that he could perform at a high level throughout the course of a full season. Last but certainly not least was the 42 year old veteran of rotation, “Big Sexy” Bartolo Colon. Although Colon was a fan-favorite, with Citi Field audiences applauding his every move on the diamond, he looked to be more of a placeholder until the last gifted flamethrower, Zack Wheeler was ready to come back from Tommy John surgery in July. This plethora of young arms was going to be the focal point of the 2016 season and it seemed as if the staff would accomplish some great things.
Can the Mets ever have good things?
Those born in the 90’s like myself have grown all too accustomed to the bad fortunes that seem to plague the Mets no matter what they do or where they go. Beltran strike three looking, the historic collapse of 07, the less historic but equally painful collapse of 08, Castillo’s infamous drop, Duda’s airmailed throw home in the World Series…Not to mention the Mets’ penchant for doling out disastrous contracts. (I’m talking about you Bonilla, Alomar, Vaughn, Matsui, Ollie, Castillo, Bay). However, despite the Mets’ recent misfortunes, nothing would be able to put a damper on the New York Mets 2016 pitching staff that some baseball minds were calling one of the best rotations ever assembled, right?……
No Exterminating the Injury Bug
The injury bug is something that all Major League Baseball teams have to deal with. It is inevitable that throughout the course of a 162 game season, players will get hurt. Unfortunately for the Mets, the injury bug that flew into the Mets clubhouse this season had a diet that consisted of young arms that threw sizzling fastballs. The first of the rotation to pay the price was the team’s ace, Matt Harvey. Despite his ace status, he did not pitch like one during the first half of the season. Through early July, the righty struggled to the tune of a 4-10 record with a 4.86 ERA. It was soon discovered by doctors that Harvey had thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition caused by nerves compressing near the neck and shoulder. The condition forced him to undergo season ending surgery. The next pitcher to hit the DL was Steven Matz. The lefty was diagnosed with a mild shoulder strain on August 14th and though he is expected to return at some point in late September, the situation with him remains cloudy. The injury bug also took Jacob DeGrom as a victim. DeGrom, in the midst of another stellar campaign, had his season cut short in early September. He originally went on the disabled list due to discomfort in his shoulder and elbow but it was recently discovered that he would need season ending surgery to repair his ulnar nerve. If that isn’t unfortunate enough, Zack Wheeler, the talented righty that was supposed to join the rotation sometime in mid-July, had multiple setbacks during his rehab process and he too will not return this season. Three of the five young starters that the Mets planned on featuring in their rotation at this point of the season are now out for the year while one more has yet to return from the disabled list. Surely, this myriad of injuries would be impossible to overcome for a team that relied so much on these pitchers.
Hope Lies in the Names of the Nameless
If you would have told any Mets fan in April that going into the final two weeks of the season, the Mets pitching staff would consist of Noah Syndergaard, Bartolo Colon, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and Gabriel Ynoa, none of them would have expected the Mets to have any chance of making the playoffs. Yet here they are, at 80-72, tied for a wildcard spot with a very realistic shot of getting into the postseason. A major reason the Mets are in this position is due to the performances of pitchers that most fans haven’t even heard of prior to the season. Seth Lugo, a former 34th round draft pick had a 6.50 ERA in Triple A this season but since his call up to the Mets, has dazzled with a 4-2 record
and 2.35 ERA. Fellow rookie Robert Gsellman was pitching in Double A a year ago but since his promotion to the Mets this year he has fared well with an ERA of 3.13. Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon, the previously documented “placeholder” of the rotation, has arguably been the most consistent pitcher on the team, owning a sparkling 14-7 record. The only young flamethrower that has actually lived up to his potential this season is Noah Syndergaard, who has grown into the ace that everyone thought he would become. Despite a variety of injuries suffered to more than half of the Opening Day staff, the Mets have somehow navigated their way to a potential postseason berth. It remains to be seen how effective this underdog rotation can continue to be, but as Tug McGraw once said, “Ya Gotta Believe”.