It was only a matter of time before the latest Met hype train derailed. With the announcement of Jacob deGrom’s season-ending surgery, the entire fanbase let out a collective groan. This was the year it was all going to come together. Last season’s NL champions would be back with one of the most dazzling rotations in history; five young aces who could carry this offensively starved team all the way over the hump. Even the skeptics weren’t expecting the carnage that followed. Gotham’s own Dark Knight, Matt Harvey, with a bizarre excuse to sit out the season (Thoracic Outlet Syndrome???) Zack Wheeler’s touted return from Tommy John surgery never came, and he has now spent two years out of Major League play. Next spring, if he can return, he’ll be proving he can still pitch, let alone prosper. Steven Matz’ paper arm has kept him out consistently, and with the news of deGrom, only young stallion Noah Syndergaard and his bone spur in his elbow remain of the fab five.
Other than Syndergaard and the 43-year-old enigma that is Bartolo Colon, the rotation currently consists of three gentlemen so unproven that the most diehard Mets fans could admit to being unaware of before the beginning of the season. Lugo? Gsellman? Ynoa? They could as easily have been fictional characters from MLB 2K as they could be three of the most important players on a New York sports team. Yet because of the wrath of the baseball gods (or really just because of the incompetence of the Mets training staff) these men have been tasked with leading this storied franchise to glory. And I, for one, am thrilled.
Am I a double agent? Am I a sadist? No, I am merely someone who sees sports as they ought to be… pure entertainment. The most common complaint against baseball in the modern era is the lack of true excitement, the void of action between every labored-over pitch. The league knew what it was doing by implementing pace of play rules and adding an irrational one-game wild card playoff after an 162 game long season. They wanted more unpredictability, more opportunities for chaos. The greatest moments in sports have came from the underdog tales. Sixth-round-pick/backup Tom Brady would not be Greatest-of-All-Time Tom Brady without the ghastly injury to Drew Bledsoe. Matthew Dellavedova would not be a folk hero if not for Kyrie Irving’s balky knees. And in the future, when we look back at the amazing career of Robert Gsellman, we will be thankful for deGrom’s injury (may he make a speedy recovery).
Why would we want to prevent the debut of a nobody with a 5.73 ERA in the minor leagues, who happens to have the same exact hairstyle as deGrom? Isn’t this fate? Wouldn’t there be no other way to progress this far but for Harvey’s weird ailment and the inserting of an unheralded rookie like Seth Lugo, who has baffled major league hitters since given this chance? And it was not until this hyped-up rotation was completely decimated that the Mets went on a tear to put themselves in a position to make the playoffs. No, it has nothing to do with the fact that the National League is horrible this year or that the Mets have the easiest remaining regular season schedule, no way. It’s the baseball gods and their introduction of more fun names to learn and love.
Next season, we can dream about the possibility of maybe getting the band back together. Maybe the recovery of every debilitated star will run smoothly, and next Spring Training they can finally begin their run at the history books as the greatest rotation known to mankind. But when the Mets begin their playoff run next month (FINGERS CROSSED), and Gabriel Ynoa is striking out Cub after Cub, despite starting the season as a reliever who couldn’t get through an inning, and the Mets are winning games 1-0 because of solo shots by Wilmer Flores, we will love the weirdness and anonymity of this team. We will bring our Harvey and Matz jerseys to the game to cheer on the likes of T.J. Rivera and Alejandro de Aza. And when our luck eventually runs out, as it always does, we will be glad we got to take on this journey with some fresh, unfamiliar faces, because as Major League Baseball knows better than anybody else, familiarity can get boring.