Ever since Carlos Beltran stood at home plate with the bat on his shoulder against Adam Wainwright to strikeout looking to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, the Mets have had a rough go of it.
Two collapses, a rash of injuries and bad contracts and financial issues related to the Bernie Madoff scandal have made baseball in Flushing pretty unbearable to watch.
But by nature, Mets fans are a patient bunch, and finally it seems that patience is paying off.
With the emergence of young ace Matt Harvey, the Mets have a bight future in terms of starting pitching. Harvey has been dominant this season at 7-1 with a 2.05 ERA. The 24-year-old also had a string of eight of nine starts resulting in no-decisions in which he gave up three or more runs just three times.
In addition to Harvey, the Mets have brought up top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, who the team acquired for the aforementioned Beltran. Though he struggled a bit with his control, Wheeler dazzled in his first start, picking up a win against the first-place Atlanta Braves.
Pitching has always been the strength of the Mets organization since the days of Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman in the late 60s and early 70s to the electric arm of Doc Gooden in the 80s. Even when the team had a run to the World Series in 2000, it was Mike Hampton and Al Leiter that led the charge more so than the offense, though that team featured slugging catcher Mike Piazza.
With Harvey and Wheeler in the fold for hopefully the next decade and beyond, it’s now the responsibility of general manager Sandy Alderson to put together the pieces of a winning team. Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee can be reliable starters moving forward, but the team also has a few other big-time young arms in the minors, such as Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, that are on the fast track to the big leagues.
At least for the rest of this year, Harvey and Wheeler need to just focus on pitching consistently regardless of the outcome of games. While there are still a few months left, it’s unlikely the Mets will make any significant run towards the postseason. Harvey has already learned the hard way that being a Mets pitcher pretty much means an instant lack of run support.
Wheeler will certainly have an innings limit, and Harvey will likely be placed under one as well, just to ensure that both are fully fresh for next season.
Next year, the Mets will have nearly $50 million to spend on trying to improve the team. The crippling contracts of Johan Santana and Jason Bay will be off the books, so Alderson must find creative ways to spend that money.
Again, starting pitching is the team’s strength, but the Mets will need a better bullpen in order to protect leads for their starters. Bobby Parnell has looked good this year as the closer, but Alderson has struck out for the third straight year on trying to build a bridge to his closer.
The team definitely needs some offensive production for the outfield. Trade rumors have loosely connected the Mets to Rockies star Carlos Gonzalez and Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Either of them would give the Mets instant credibility.
But the problem is that any team that trades with the Mets would naturally want to tap into the wealth of starting pitching. Harvey and Wheeler are off limits, but Syndergaard and Montero could be trade candidates. The question is how much of his starting pitching talent is Alderson willing to part with in order to acquire an impact bat.
That question will likely be answered this offseason, but for now, Harvey and Wheeler need to just keep getting better on the mound. Harvey is already in contention for the Cy Young and could even start the All-Star Game in his home building
One start at a time, though, for this dynamic pitching duo, because once 2014 rolls around, they’ll be expected to carry the bulk of the load for the hopefully more competitive Mets.
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