Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa
Even during the quarantine, Mets fans get the short end of the stick as Noah Syndergaard needs Tommy John surgery which will cost him this season and some of next. I was pretty sure sports being on freeze would help the Mets. By the time games resume the minor injuries to JD Davis and Michael Conforto would be long behind us, Cespedes would probably be in game shape and any lingering issues Dellin Betances had would be a thing of the past, but alas it was not to be. In terms of this season (whenever it’s safe and responsible to play, no rush) the loss of Noah is a big one but probably one that can be overcame. The 3 guys fighting for the 5th spot all get jobs and while it’s no longer a dominant 5, it’s serviceable for a team that can beat you 1-8 lineup wise. The loss of Noah to me is more of a big picture loss. “What could have been” is a common theme with the Mets from the mid 80’s teams to generation K to the Mid 2000s teams so this is just another in that line, but it is still worth rehashing. How did the unbeatable 5 aces turn into a full house of duces over aces?
In 2015 at the peak of the hype, I had dreams of these guys being like a great TV show cast. Sports talk radio shows would have debates on who was the best like people do about who their favorite Seinfeld character is. Fans would say “I’m a deGrom guy” or “Harvey is the leader, no doubt” and during national telecasts reporters looking for something to talk about would say “The other 4 are great but I really like this Matz kid”. That was an optimistic view for sure but the personalities and talent they brought to the table warranted it.
I’ll start with Harvey because he was the first to come up and his brash confidence and swagger drew fans in. There was always a different buzz when he pitched and, until it all fell apart, he embodied what the word “ace” has always meant to me. He took the ball and said get on my back boys we are winning this by hook or by crook. We saw this in 2015, after the drama created by his agent, when he took the ball every 5th day the rest of that season and into the playoffs, forgetting any limits and did all he could to bring a championship to queens. There are some that resent Matt, say he’s a bust or that the celebrity went to his head and all of that may be true, but he gave everything he had. I wanted him back on the mound in the ninth inning of game 5 and he gave his right arm to the fan base that night and that season.
Zack Wheeler came up next and while he on to greener pastures (or I guess redder pastures) he was a pretty important part of this equation because he was involved in so much. He was traded for an all-time player and future (brief) manager Carlos Beltran, got hurt because of course, then almost got traded in the crazy 2015 trade that never happened and then when he finally put it all together he was too rich for our blood. From Drama and injuries to cheap owners he has encapsulated everything about this team over the past decade or so. Zack is the second “Ace” in this hand because he showed he is a front-line starter and will be one in Philly I’m sure.
On May 15th, 2014 against the hated Yankees, because of an injury to Dillon Gee, a lanky 25-year-old right handed pitcher from Florida by the name of Jacob deGrom made a spot start and changed the franchise forever. He went on to win Rookie of the Year that season and did not look back. Since then he has won 2 Cy Young awards and has the second-best ERA in baseball among starting pitchers behind only Clayton Kershaw. It’s sometimes forgotten but his performance in game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers is one of the more impressive pitched games I’ve seen and not because he was dominant, but because he didn’t have his best stuff and was facing the NL ERA Champ Zack Grenkie. He had zero margin for error and threw 6 great innings to give his team the best chance to win. Jake has been always the quiet one in the crew, but he let his play do the talking and recently has become the team leader. This was made clear when he offered his services as team spokesman for the incident this past June with Newsday’s Tim Healy and Mickey Callaway/Jason Vargas which he had nothing to do with. He just wanted to make sure no one messed it up further (they did, shockingly). As far as I’m concerned you can start making a round, blue pinstriped number 48 to hang up at Citi Field right next to the eventual number 5.
The man they call Thor was next to come up and oh Noah. Noah, Noah, Noah, Noah. So frustrating. I mentioned earlier how fans would have “their guys” well full disclosure Noah is/was mine. The hair, the hard throwing, the nasty breaking ball, He has it all. Often his worst enemy, Noah has had issues staying on the field since his stellar 2016 and when he has been healthy there is always something a little off. You can blame juiced baseballs or bad luck, but facts are facts Thor has been more Loki than Thor. Calling him a “duce” in this hypothetical card hand might be harsh because If he ever puts its everything together, he will be the best pitcher in baseball. Sadly, that looks more and more like it will be with another team.
In this case last was in fact least, sorry Steven. Injuries and plain inconsistency have been the issues for Mr. Matz and that fact is unfortunate, he’s just a guy. He has overcome the injury issues that sidetracked him to produce back to back 30+ start seasons and its all come out in the wash as a 4 era and a roller coaster like track record that would be a great addition to any amusement park. Back of the rotation guys are valuable too and on the cheap side so he’ll probably be around for a bit, but an “Ace” he is not.
Its hard to think about in the current global situation we find ourselves in, but in a few years when it comes time to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the 2015 run I think we will look back at Noah’s injury and likely departure after next season as the end of this “era” of Mets baseball. The good news is a new era has already begun and this time it isn’t hinging on a bunch of healthy elbows. Its hinging on a Polar Bear, a Squirrel, a Scooter and a guy who runs to first base when he gets walked. Things just can’t be normal around, here can they?