2014 is six days away. Spring training isn’t far beyond that, and when April rolls around, anticipation will begin for the new baseball season. In the past two winters, hope was a missing word from most Mets fans vocabularies. One can’t have much hope when the discussion is all about how much playing time Mike Baxter was going to get in the outfield and who Colin Cowgil was. Hope didn’t exactly spring eternal with the signing of Frank Francisco in 2011 or with the fact that in 2012 the Mets traded the reigning Cy Young award winner in R.A. Dickey for a group of players that were, at best, going to have a minimal impact in 2013. In fact, the most effective free agent signee prior to the 2013 offseason was Marlon Byrd, an outfielder signed on a minor league contract by Sandy Alderson as a favor, not exactly a banner move that made the fan base yearn for the new year. Hope was utterly absent when we all watched Jose Reyes walk away to the Marlins with nary an attempt by the front office to either bring him back, or at least trade him for a prospect.
Yet, as this new year comes, Mets fans have optimism. A lot of the anti-Alderson mongering has ceased (yours truly included in that one). Yes, talks have occurred about trading away some of our players for prospects, but unlike with Dickey, it doesn’t feel like a foregone conclusion. In fact, if I had to place bets right now, I’d say Daniel Murphy is again a key member of our team next year. When the offseason started last year, I had no such feelings about Dickey. On top of that, many of us have changed our opinions from derision at the front office’s moves (Francisco, trading Angel Pagan for Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres) to expectation that the moves will be handled with aplomb and will further bolster the club in the near and long term future.
So where does all of this optimism come from? Some would say Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young, but that is really only part of the answer. For my part, the feelings I have of excited anticipation come partly from the new additions, partly from the young players that will play an important role next year, like Juan Lagares, Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler, Vic Black and so on, and partly from Matt Harvey.
Yes, Harvey is not going to play in 2014. No, I haven’t forgotten that he’s coming back from Tommy John surgery. But it’s exactly that fact, that Harvey isn’t playing and coming back in 2015, that gives me hope.
Harvey was the man last year and he won’t be this year, yet no one talks about the rotation as being a problem for next year. How many other teams can say that? If the Yankees lost C.C. Sabathia, would there be positive feelings about next year? How about if Jon Lester, Justin Verlander, Felix Rodriguez or Clayton Kershaw were lost for a year due to injury? The Red Sox, Tigers, Yankees and Dodgers are more than likely expected to contend for playoff spots next year, and the Mariners, with the signing of Robinson Cano and other moves, will probably be a sleeper candidate for a lot of people heading into next year. Yet, if any of those players were lost, all that would be talked about would be the huge hole left behind and how the rotation was now a question mark with the ace of the staff gone.
Yet when discussion of the Mets occurs, the rotation is considered a strong point. Colon was an excellent signing, but when in history was a 40 year old starting pitcher the answer when a 24 going on 25 year old phenom is the person he’s replacing? For the Mets, that’s the case. Why? Because of all of the pitching the team already has on the roster and all of the young pitching that’s a step away in the minor leagues. With Jacob DeGrom and Raphael Montero waiting in the wings, as well as the chance that Noah Syndergaard will be making his norse debut sometime during the year (a la Wheeler from last year), the Mets fan hasn’t sat back and said, “We don’t have Harvey, we have no chance”. In fact, it’s been the opposite. With the signings to the outfield, with the acquisition of Colon, with the fact that the Mets name has been mentioned as being involved with Stephen Drew and even as a potential destination for Kendrys Morales on a team friendly, short term deal if he can’t get a multi-year deal elsewhere, the Mets fan is now saying, “Hey, maybe this team can be in the conversation for a wild card berth in 2014.” Now, instead of waiting for 2015 to get us to that point, the Mets fan is looking at 2015 as something much more significant.
For the first time in a long time, the upcoming baseball season seems to have more than just malaise attached to it. Harvey’s injury and the news that he will miss the entire year, should have left the Mets fan in the doldrums, but it hasn’t. I for one look at Harvey as the future harbinger of success. If things work out as I feel they will, this team will be competitive this coming year and we’ll be looking at the 2014 offseason as the one where the Mets add that last missing piece to the puzzle to put them over the top, because that player, along with Harvey and whatever discoveries have come to us during the 2014 season, will make 2015 one of the most anticipated seasons in a long time.
I hope that this happens and of course, it would be foolish not to acknowledge that 2014 could be as bad as 2012 and 2013. So yes, seven months from now I could be writing another post talking about the debacle that is the Mets and wondering why I’m still a fan. But my gut tells me different. Let’s hope that’s right and not just the remnants of eating too much food over Christmas and Thanksgiving. We’ll see, but unlike during the past two years, I’m really looking forward to what will be on the field to look at and cheer for, Harvey or no Harvey.