By Jason Keidel
» More Columns
In an already surreal season of injury and implosion, the Mets are scrambling to salvage that which was supposed to be so promising. More pennant contention. Perhaps another trip to the World Series, to make good on their loss to the Kansas City Royals two years ago.
Now Mets fans must be wondering — is there any hope left for 2017?
Picture a bridge with five columns keeping it solid, with each column representing a Mets starting pitcher. Now picture that bridge left to one. That’s the Mets’ foundation today. With current ace Noah Syndergaard on the disabled list for a couple months, former ace Matt Harvey trying to find some semblence of dominance and discipline, all while spending more time on Page Six than the pitcher’s mound. Steven Matz’ next pitch will be his first of 2017. Zack Wheeler is still finding his legs and his arm after nearly two years of rehab.
Which leaves Jacob deGrom, who’s been oddly wild lately, his normal, pinpoint pitching eluding him. Even when spotted a six-run lead, like Sunday, deGrom and the Mets found a way to blow it to the Brewers, a franchise still looking for its first World Series title, and hasn’t even appeared in one since 1982. The rest of the Mets’ staff is an amalgam of castoffs and retreads, the typical pitching nomads that fill out the staff of some forlorn franchise just waiting for the pain to end.
If the young year weren’t calamitous enough, Mets closer Jeurys Familia was recently rushed to the hospital for a blood clot in his pitching shoulder. So on the rare occasions a starter pitches eight robust innings, there’s no one to take the ball in the ninth.
And all this on the heels of the Yankees. Not only with the Yankees exponentially better than expected, but also a year ahead of schedule. And if that weren’t enough, the Mets, their fans, or both, had to wince while watching the Bombers hang yet another number in history. Not just any number. But now No. 2 is No. 1 of this generation. Derek Jeter was more than a player, shortstop, or bat in a lineup. He represents everything that goes well for the Yanks and goes wrong for the Mets. And as fans surely recall, Jeter was the renowned knife through the Mets’ heart in the 2000 World Series.
The Mets had made something of the 2000 Fall Classic, inching toward a 2-1 deficit in the series. Then, as is his historical wont, Jeter led off Game 4 with a home run, as if to take an eraser to Game 3 and remind the Mets that they were playing not only the Yankees, but the team that knows how to win these things.
Fortunately, this year’s Mets (16-20) play in the NL East, which has a dearth of decent teams. Only the Nationals are over .500, so even with their miserable start the Mets are still in second place. And no team is running away with the best record or the wild card. Not even the World Series champion Cubs (18-19) are playing winning baseball. But unlike the Mets, the Cubs and Nats are largely healthy and loaded. Bryce Harper just signed a record one-year deal for an arbitration-eligible player. Whom do the Mets have in their lineup that warrants half of Harper’s $20 million? Their one comparable bat is Yoenis Cespedes, who, naturally, is injured.
The notion of karmic or cosmic taxes are beyond a sportswriter’s pay grade. but something is afoul in Queens, where you rarely find baseball kings. And it’s not just people or the players they pick. This is supposed to be the Mets’ moment, their transitory moment on the marquee, Broadway’s finest show. Instead of the Mets reading about their robust record or glittering future, the papers will be about the Yankees, about a player who doesn’t even play anymore. Who wrecked the Mets 17 years ago
And still trumps them today.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel