Your intrepid columnist tends to tread carefully around comparing young pitching staffs. I was there for star-crossed, hopelessly doomed Generation K. Bill Pulsipher, Paul Wilson and Jason Isringhausen were supposed to lead the Mets to the promised land in the mid-90’s. A combination of foul luck and inept training/coaching in the Metsian bushes scuttled that dream in fairly short order. Generation K never materialized and only Isringhausen salvaged a representative career — as a closer. So you’ll forgive the odd blogger if he’s a wee bit shy in projecting greatness for the next wave of great Mets pitchers.
With little else to rev up what remains of the orange and blue fan base, however, these pitchers are among the few things we fans can point to in our desperate quest to have 2013 become 1984 or 1998. New York fans pride themselves on not being rubes. Anyone can see the Mets will not contend this year. None but the most rabid of fanboy is fooling himself that this will be anything but a “stepping stone” year at best, a year when a new baseline is established, in terms of expectations, hopes and dreams for the future. 1968 was such a year. The second half of 1983 had that kind of air. 1997 was a neat surprise. Will 2013 join those seasons of high rank on Mets Nation’s Fun-O-Meter? The answer lies with Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.
Of the two, Harvey – all of ten major league starts under his belt — is the more established, of course. Harvey possesses remarkable physical gifts, yes, but more impressive is his attitude. From all accounts, he’s taking a no-nonsense, bulldogish approach to his craft and the performance of his teammates. Early returns indicate that the “new attitude” – the “shift in the culture,” of which we’ve all heard plenty since Sandy Alderson and crew took over the reins of the organization in October 2010 – will emanate not from Alderson or Terry Collins or Jeff Wilpon (shudder!), but at the grass roots level in the clubhouse and that Matt Harvey will be the lynchpin of it. This might sound familiar, if you’re a student of Mets history. A fellow named Tom Seaver brought a similar outlook to the Shea Stadium clubhouse in his rookie year of 1967. Now, your intrepid columnist knows better than to seriously compare Matt Harvey and Tom Seaver in these early days. It could turn out to be a Generation K-like kiss of death. But there is a faint, familiar echo.
Zack Wheeler – an early arrival at his very first big league camp – has made it known he’s just happy to be here. From the accounts I’ve read, he’s ready and eager to show the higher-ups that he’s ready for the big show. From an ability standpoint, he may be right. Scouting reports indicate a world of talent which may benefit from some further refinement in the Las Vegas desert, but Wheeler’s deportment seems to come straight out of Ring Lardner or Damon Runyon: just a kid being a kid, with a 97 MPH fastball.
And lurking below the surface is Noah Syndergaard, the make-or-break piece of the deal that took away R.A. Dickey. It’s tough to get terribly excited over a guy who has only recently hit high-A, but the potential is sufficient that his exclusion could have scotched the whole deal with the Blue Jays. By the time he’s ready to graduate to the bigs as a compliment to Harvey and Wheeler, he could be seen as the final puzzle part, saving Alderson from having to surrender a future prospect for established pitching.
All I ask is that these three allow an old fan to dream.
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