The Forgotten Man: Zack Wheeler

Wheeler 22813If you’re reading this, you know the Mets have had very few things on which to hang their hat over the past few years. If the story isn’t about their bumbling, tone-deaf administration it’s about their finances or lack thereof. On the field, of course, their mere record – 374-436 from 2009 through 2013 – is testament to the fact that there have been very few positives to chronicle. Starting pitching, however, has been a fairly consistent bright area and there has always been someone stepping forward to absorb the spotlight, someone different each year.

In 2009, Johan Santana somehow managed to win 13 games while being semi-supported by an offense that was exactly replacement level: OPS+ 100.

In 2010, the emergence of R.A. Dickey helped soften the loss of Santana to injury.

In 2011, a fully emerged Dickey was helped by a fine first full season from Dillon Gee.

In 2012, Dickey was a full-fledged phenomenon, Santana threw the first no-hitter in franchise history and fans and press waited impatiently for Matt Harvey to arrive.

In 2013, Santana found himself on the shelf again, Dickey had been traded and Harvey grabbed the spotlight until he too, got hurt. Fans and press waited impatiently for Zack Wheeler to arrive.

For 2014 so far, the talk has been all about Harvey and his too-slow-for-him rehab schedule, and Noah Syndergaard – one of the spoils of the Dickey deal – and his potential and the preparation of fans and press to wait impatiently for him to arrive. A lot of ink and pixels have been spent on two guys who won’t be here on Opening Day. The excitement has been generated by Syndergaard on the days he pitches and Harvey when he opens his mouth.

Nobody seems to be noticing Wheeler. This spring, there’s a kind of “Oh, yeah, him, too!” vibe until you check his line. So far, it has generally looked something like 3 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 0 R. Although it might be unfair, Wheeler looks for all the world like he’s primed to step into Harvey’s considerable cleats – even as far as taking the bold step to ask for the ball to start Opening Day. Manager Terry Collins won’t acquiesce, of course: while Wheeler may end up being the de facto ace once all’s said and done, the Opening Day honors will go to someone more established. No, we’ll be seeing Jon Niese – or in his absence Bartolo Colon or Gee – on the Citi hill on March 31. Once again, Wheeler appears an afterthought.

Until he takes the mound and you check his line afterward.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley

3 comments for “The Forgotten Man: Zack Wheeler

  1. Jim OMalley
    March 13, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Wheeler is going to be great, Just like Koosman or Darling. No pressure. Just let him throw to d’Arnaud.

  2. Metsense
    March 13, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    If I were the manager, and Niese couln’t start, and I had a capable young stud pitcher who threw his hat into the ring and pleaded to start opening day then I would let him. Wheeler is the future, not Colon. (nor is Matzusaka, Lannan, Valverde or Farnsworth in their respective roles). Even if Wheeler fails, he would have learned from it and known that you as the manager had the faith and confidence to give him the opportunity. TC and his love of veterans on such a poor team appears to inhibit the progress of the young players.

  3. Patrick Albanesius
    March 14, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Metsense, I like your point about even a failed Opening Day start building Wheeler confidence. Failing on a big stage can sometimes be better than succeeding on a smaller one. Of course, success on a big stage would be nice too.

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