Spring training camp has started, you may have heard, and it will not be long before we get to start worrying again. Exhibition games start tomorrow, the first television cablecast from Port St. Lucie will be on Saturday. You just know that some clever wag somewhere will Tweet that there will be baseball on TV every Saturday from now until early November. Couple that with the 60-plus degree temperatures in the New York City environs lately, and you have appetites whetted for a good long summer of baseball. For now, though, the living is still easy in Florida. It’s all about stretching and workouts and David Wright throwing and Matt Harvey pitching ribless and Zack Wheeler cautiously optimistic. Just plugging along through all this is the Mets’ ace-of-the-moment, Noah Syndergaard.
Oh, yeah…that’s right, he’s here, too.
Your intrepid columnist watched the MLB Network’s utterly contrived “Top 100 Players Right Now” shows over the last week – an exercise in off-season fluff if ever there was one, but it should be noted that three Mets made the top 50, two of them in the top 25 – and the host was making a pretty big deal about Syndergaard making his debut on the list at number 24. That’s some pretty high regard, at least among the MLB Network research staff and hosts. I’m not entirely sure if we fans even know what we’ve got with him. Oh, sure, the physical attributes are obvious – we don’t call him “Thor” for nothing, you know – as is his talent. He was the only member of the Mets’ vaunted starting five to come through the 2016 season relatively unscathed. He went out, day-after-day, pumping triple-digit fastballs and 95 MPH sliders past most of the best hitters in the NL. All he did was lead the NL in FIP (2.29) and HR/9 (0.5). While he was doing that, though, our attention was taken by Harvey’s bewildering inability to get guys out. It was taken by the alarming drop in velocity of Jacob deGrom’s pitches. It was taken with worry over whether Stephen Matz would last the season. It was taken with marveling at Robert Gsellman’s and Seth Lugo’s rapid ascension and contributions down the stretch – a stretch which saw the Mets go from under .500 to a blistering 27-13 run to the Wild Card game. Ah, yes! That’s when we remembered Noah Syndergaard was around. That night, he matched Madison Bumgarner pitch-for-pitch and only an unfortunate slider from Jeurys Familia ended the Mets’ post-season prematurely. As Matthew Cerrone so eloquently put it on Metsblog.com yesterday, Syndergaard “is what he is, which is a concrete block of awesome…”
So, yes. By all means, while hoping for the best from Harvey, Wheeler, Matz and deGrom, please pay attention to the guy who will be starting on opening day. He’ll be the guy in the middle with the long, blonde hair.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley .