The New York Mets are playing in their first playoff game since Adam Wainwright threw the most devastating curveball of the past decade in 2006. The optimism coming out of Queens isn’t just about tonight, it’s about the future. Natitude is over, and we are never going back.
The Mets won 79 games in 2014. Just a shade under .500, and their best win total since 2010. A team that featured Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kyle Farnsworth, and Bobby Abreu won 79 games. Matt Harvey, the team’s ace went down with Tommy John Surgery before the season even started. Professional gentleman of leisure Bartolo Colon led the team in wins. Zach Wheeler and Jacob deGrom stepped up and showed why this team’s young pitchers were as good as advertised, with the latter winning the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award. This was clearly a team on the rise.
This year, the Dark Knight Returned, deGrom matured, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz arrived as good as advertised. Colon led the team in wins again. Logan Verrett provided much needed spot starts down the stretch as the team sought to preserve its young arms. Young bats like Wilmer Flores (24), Travis d’Arnaud (26), and Michael Conforto (22) provided an offensive spark when the lineup was changed with injuries. This team won 90 games. The most since 2006.
This is coupled with the unmitigated dumpster fire that was the Washington Nationals. The Nats turned Matt Williams from National League Manager of the Year to the guy who let resident hardo Jonathan Papelbon deliver a chokeslam to the league’s Most Valuable Player Bryce Harper (I’m officially conceding the MVP award from Cespedes). Harper never recorded a base hit against Harvey all year. Heck, Harper has never recorded a hit off Harvey in his entire career. This was supposed to be the Nationals time, and now their window for National League East is slammed shut.
Does anyone believe the Nationals are going to be better next year than they were this year? They were the odds-on favorite to win the World Series this year. Sports Illustrated cover boys! Sure, Bryce Harper could have another monster season and collect more hardware, but Jayson Werth hit .221 this year and only played in 88 games. Are those numbers going to get better at age 37? No Jordan Zimmerman or Ian Desmond next year either.
Next year the Mets are getting Zach Wheeler back from Tommy John surgery. Making the Mets rotation look something like this: Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, Verrett, Wheeler. The team still has Rafael Montero too. There’s not a single man on that rotation who couldn’t be, at worst, the 3rd starter in anyone else’s rotation. John Smoltz already has said this Mets rotation is better than his 1990’s Atlanta Braves one. Conforto a year older and more comfortable, Flores is turning the corner, d’Arnaud staying healthy, and potentially backing up the money truck to Yoenis Cespedes gives the Mets staying power at the top of the NL East for years to come.
If you don’t catch the Mets game tonight, don’t worry. They’ll be back next year too.