By now, you’ve lapped up all the ink spilled in praise of the Washington Nationals and their forward-thinking signing of Max Scherzer. The Scherzer deal wasn’t an old fashioned, Steinbrennerian, throw-bags-of money-at-Scott-Boras kind of agreement – although, in effect, that is surely what happened. No, this one actually took a page from the Mets’ old playbook: the deal was announced as a seven-year, $210 million accord, but half that total is deferred. So it’s really a fourteen-year contract at $15 million per year, a relative bargain for a hurler of Scherzer’s stature – but it’s still an awful lot of money. As tempting as it might be to equate Max Scherzer’s future financial security with that of Bobby Bonilla, Washington still comes out looking better.
In any case, the Mets optimism must now be tempered even further. Scherzer lands right at the top of an already strong pitching staff and on a team who was already the odds-on favorite to take the NL flag. As the pundits on the MLB Network all nodded in agreement, newspaperman Joel Sherman flat-out declared that “it’s a race for second” in the NL East. Mets’ scribe Adam Rubin brought home the point starkly when he Tweeted that, in the opening series of the season, the Mets are likely to face Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and one of Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister or Gio Gonzales. The Mets will most likely counter with Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Bartolo Colon. From that small sample, you can’t blame a Mets fan for envisioning another 4-15 — or worse! — season’s tally against the Nats. When you consider that the Mets have made very few changes in the wake of a 79-83 season and several other teams have been whirlwinds of activity since November, all the brave talk from David Wright and Jacob deGrom about playoff appearances in 2015 rings pretty hollow. If you take contending for the division out of the equation – as almost everybody is, at this point – that leaves the Mets in competition with San Francisco, San Diego, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Chicago, possibly Cincinnati and Miami for one of the two Wild Card spots. Eight teams for two spots: which one will they beat out? Yes the Mets have potentially wonderful starting pitching, probably second best in the NL East.
Will it be enough? There’s more than a little doubt.
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