To explain exactly what it means to be a Mets fan over the past decade or so, you need look no further than Matt Harvey in 2013. Harvey was a name known to die-hard Mets fans when he came up in late 2012, where he posted a 2.73 ERA with 70 strikeouts and 26 walks in 59.1 innings. He was something Met fans had been dreaming of for years. Finally here was a prospect that not only lived up to, but exceeded the hype. We fans had been promised Reese Havens, Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez, Fernando Martinez and Mike Pelfrey, among others. We’d also seen our biggest free agent signings fall short of our lofty expectations; Jason Bay, Pedro Martinez, Francisco Rodriguez, and to a degree Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana.
Add on the Bernie Madoff scandal, which basically called out our owners as morons in front of not just the baseball world, but the business world as well. Our financial flexibility was nil, and we constantly rooted for a team with guys you didn’t know, didn’t like, or didn’t think were in baseball anymore. If someone asked you what team you supported, you had to take a deep breath before divulging it was the orange and blue that killed you on a nightly basis.
Mix all that together and what do you get? You get Matt Harvey. Sent from the heavens. His fastball could touch 100 mph. He could throw a slew of pitches and locate with everything. He’d take a no-hitter into the 7th simply because he felt dominant that day. He was on magazine covers, and he started the All-Star game in front of his home crowd. His performance gave Mets fans real hope for winning seasons in Queens again.
But then, snap. “Something’s wrong with your elbow, son”. Those words must haunt any pitcher, but especially a young one. Thankful the situation is not so grim for Harvey, who should recover nicely after 12-18 months of rehabilitation. This means that 2014 is a bust for his baseball progression. We presume that he will be ready by Spring Training 2015, but it usually takes a year after the surgery for a pitcher to return to dominance, a la Adam Wainwright. I say all this because while Matt Harvey won’t pitch until 2015, and may not return to form until 2016, he will be key to 2014 in one dynamic way. We have to see what kind of team we have without him.
All teams have their leaders. We have a great one in David Wright. But he’s a position player. You need another presence on the mound that can take over a game. Harvey provided that, and without him in 2014 someone has to step up. Bartolo Colon may pitch well this year, but he’s a hired gun in the late innings of his career. He’s not the future. Our young talent like Zach Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia, Noah Syndergaard, and Rafael Montero will have to step up and either take a place on a winning team, or be yet more names to throw on the prospect fire.
This may not be a winning year for the Mets, but it will be a transformative year. When September rolls around, we will know for sure whether 2015 will be a legitimate playoff-run season, or if the whole thing needs to be blown up once again. The vaulted rotation of the future will start to take shape. We will almost assuredly know whether Ike Davis or Lucas Duda is worth hanging on to. Our young outfielders will hopefully keep progressing. The bullpen should continue to improve. Things will start being set in stone, rather than the greasy sludge of uncertainty. After years of hoping for the best, we’ll start to see results. 2014 won’t have Harvey pitching, which is truly a shame. But if others step up to fill the void and become leaders in their own right, it may just be the best thing for the Mets in the long run.