In 1987, the playoff bound Detroit Tigers were looking for a starting pitcher to solidify their rotation. The Atlanta Braves were willing to part with Doyle Alexander, but they wanted a young pitcher in return. They put two names out there for the Tigers and said, “Give us either one”. The Tigers held on to Steve Searcy who was closer to the majors and gave up on a low minor leaguer the Brave scouts coveted – the recently enshrined Hall of Famer John Smoltz.
Three years ago, the Mets put the NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey on the market. Toronto bit and they were willing to give up the Mets prime target in the deal, Travis D’arnaud. Years from now, Mets lore will say that the deal would not have happened if the Blue Jays hadn’t tossed in a young righty named Noah Syndergaard, but at the time he barely made the list of Baseball’s Top 100 Prospects sliding in at #95.
A little more than a year ago, Noah Syndergaard did not travel North with the team. Instead, he was farmed out to the AAA Las Vegas 51’s for what was called “seasoning” like he was a tomato or something.
There were concerns about demeanor on the mound and his ability to control himself. Never was there a question about his pitching arsenal. It seemed like it was more about the confidence level on both sides, but the pendulum swung more to Syndergaard on that question. He went 3-0 with the 51’s and was called up on May 5.
And the rest is just the beginning of what they say is history in the making……….
Since then, he averaged more than a strikeout per inning, allowing less than a hit per inning, winning 14 of 23 decisions. He’s downright dirty tossing up sliders at 95 and hitting corners with fastballs routinely at 97. No one in the league wants to face him.
Here’s Ned Yost…..”Those pitches. I even asked George (Brett) if he could have fouled those off and he said no. I thought his stuff was spectacular.”.
Confidence – the big difference maker. Here’s Syndergaard himself on the subject, “I feel like today is the best it’s been all spring training,” Syndergaard said. “I feel like I could throw it at any time, at any count, and either get a swing and a miss out of it, have it in the zone or be able to mix one in for a first-pitch strike to try to induce a ground ball”
This is an ace in the making. And if theMets don’t grapple with it soon by recognizing that a change in “the GAARD” is looming and necessary, it will be a disservice to the team when play begins in October. Because in a playoff series you don’t get do overs like you do in 19 regular season games against your opponent.
You get two – maybe three shots with your best. And your number one has to be ready to pitch game four if needed. Granted, Matt Harvey could still turn out to be “Matt Harvey”, but at this point in the season shouldn’t Terry Collins at least be looking at the probability of “Thor” starting Game One?
All indications are pointing towards Collins throwing dust in the wind by supporting Harvey’s attempt to reclaim the spot as the Mets ace – even giving him a rebound start against the Nationals Tuesday night in DC – even when he could have been skipped in the rotation.
That kind of confidence coming from your manager is rare in the business of baseball these days. It’s on Matt Harvey to prove his manager right and his value to the team as the “go-to guy” being well earned and not merely based on precedent as it has been……..
If not, the Mets have an ace in the hole and they would be wise to begin cultivating him for that role now.