When word came from Terry Collins and company that veteran Bartolo Colon would be getting the ball for the Mets on Opening Day, a proverbial groan could be heard emanating from Mets’ fans everywhere clamoring for Collins and Sandy Alderson to instead go with ace Matt Harvey, or any young pitcher the Mets have in their arsenal on baseball’s golden day.
Is it a big deal that Harvey, or even Jacob deGrom, won’t start the season opener? From the standpoint of winning a baseball game, no it’s not. From the standpoint of setting the right standard out of the gate, absolutely.
The Mets spent a better part of the off-season touting that their young pitching would be the backbone of the franchise, even pumping up the triumphant return of Harvey to the hill as the main event that would get the ball rolling.
Instead the Mets decided to change their minds.
Collins and Alderson instead go with Colon, who, while he won 15 games last year, is 41-years-old and overpaid, at $10 million per season. Colon is not an ace. His best days are long behind him, and it would not be a surprise to anyone if Colon doesn’t even finish the season in a Mets uniform. Watching him get shelled by the same Nationals team he was 1-4 against last year is not what Mets fans want to see.
Jon Niese would have been a great candidate to take the ball on Opening Day. He owns a 2.77 ERA and a 6-4 record in the month of April the past three seasons, and was lights out for the Mets in their season opener against San Diego two years ago.
Even Dillon Gee, who has been thrust into this rotation with the injury to Zach Wheeler owned a 3.97 ERA against Washington last year, and Jacob DeGrom has shown that there isn’t a moment that is too big for him in 22 starts in the major leagues thus far, plus he was a Rookie of the Year last season.
That takes us back to Harvey. Why not the Mets ace? Harvey should be taking the ball against Max Sherzer, the games highest paid starter this past off-season. Harvey is a gamer; he’s already proved in Spring Training that his elbow issues are behind him. Nobody would expect a nine inning one-hit shutout right out of the gate, but five innings is all any logical fan would ask for.
What’s most troubling is that Alderson said that ticket sales were playing a big role in the decision making process. The front office wants Harvey to be lined up to pitch the second game of Mets opening home stand with the Phillies the following week to sell more tickets. If true, the Mets sound ridiculous, and it adds more legs to Rick Laughland’s great story that a divide between Collins and Alderson exists.
While opening day is not the end of the world, Met fans better hope that this decision is not the beginning of a long stretch where the Mets try to ring in Harvey from being that superstar that they have tried to control in the past.