Consistency and stability is a tough thing to come by, whether it’s in everyday life or the fortunes of the baseball team we follow. We’d love for the hometown slugger to hit 162 homeruns – unaided by technology or pharmacology, of course. We’d love a staff chockablock with 20-game winners. The most blindly rabid of us pine for that perfect 162-0 season. The rest of us know that’s not possible, that human limitations don’t allow for that kind of performance and the sheer number of games prohibits perfection. The best we can hope for our teams is to keep it together enough to come out on the long side more times than not and if it turns out to be one of those “special” seasons, twice as much.
For the Mets, this season will not be that special. Oh, they’ve shown signs of coming out of the murk of the past seven seasons and they’ve instilled a sense of hope that good times are just on the horizon, but for now, 82 wins looks like it would be a huge accomplishment. This is born in the fact that they are such a young team, with all the growing pains and inconsistencies that come with it. The Mets have hovered just below the .500 mark all season, not miles below it. The bulk of credit for that modest accomplishment must go to their starting pitching staff; their offense has been sputtering all year and the bullpen took half the season to coalesce. But even amid their success, the staff in general has had to do battle with injury and inconsistency as well. Minus Matt Harvey from the outset – a major blow, of course – the staff has also had to contend with injuries at various points to veteran mainstays Dillon Gee and Jon Niese. Now comes the news that rookie sensation Jacob deGrom will spend the next half-month on the shelf, leveled by tendinitis in – on? – his rotator cuff. There have only been two constants on the staff in 2014, Zack Wheeler and Bartolo Colon.
To your intrepid columnist, the fact that it’s these two is more than a little bit surprising. Wheeler is only in his second year, but is establishing himself as somebody to watch. His stuff is electric, though he needs to cut down on his “nibbling” when ahead in the count. He possesses a 97-mph blazer, but tends to steer away from it with two strikes, resulting in a multitude of foul balls and a commensurate rise in his pitch count. Again, he’s a kid: one would think he has a lot of time left to figure it out. For now, though, he’s a safe bet to go out there every fifth day, give you 110 pitches into the sixth inning, striking out twice as many men as he walks and more than likely leaving with a lead. Even if he never stops his nibbling habit, he has talent enough to play Ron Darling to Harvey’s Dwight Gooden.
Colon, of course, is no kid. At 41 years of age, he’s been remarkable all year, serving up one pitch at varying speeds. The opposing hitters can’t seem to solve him, lunging at his slop deliveries and pounding them into the ground. Make no mistake, when he’s off, he is off – just ask the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim about that – but the mere fact that he can take the ball every turn at his age and build is worthy enough of comment. Remember, the Mets have been down this kind of road before – Do the names Warren Spahn, Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez ring a bell? – but rarely with the kind of success Colon is having this year. If nothing else, he could make a worthy addition to some contender for this season’s stretch drive. Even failing that, he could be a terrific anchor for a still-young 2015 New York staff.
That’s a pretty valuable commodity.
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