ESPN ranked the New York Mets starting pitching rotation as the best in major league baseball, by a wide margin. Should Mets fans rejoice over this proclamation, or should we be worried that team management has not yet done enough to improve the offense?
The Mets starting rotation is one of the strongest in memory. Matt Harvey, who proved last year that he has completely recovered from Tommy John surgery, sits at the top of the rotation, followed by Jacob Degrom. After winning National League Rookie of The Year honors in 2014, Jake proved that 2014 was no fluke by being even more dominant in 2015. Noah Syndergaard showed exceptional stuff, guts and poise in his rookie season. Steven Matz, our fourth hard throwing high ceiling pitcher, showed enormous potential last year. If Steven is able to take an expected step forward this year, the Mets top four could be a group for the ages.
Mets fans want to see a potent offense, but management’s priority to date has been to nurture and retain the young pitching while building the remainder of the team with small affordable acquisitions. Since our pitching should remain intact for at least three more seasons there will be other opportunities to improve the offense. This is the blessing of a fantastic starting pitching rotation.
However, pitching, is fragile, as many break down routinely every year and require Tommy John Surgery. A shoulder injury can completely change the trajectory of an injured pitcher’s career. A top staff one year can easily be degraded into an average staff the next. Each year that the Mets fail to capitalize on exceptional pitching is an opportunity lost.
The 1968 Mets boasted a group of young pitchers equally impressive as the current group. The great Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, coming off a 19 win rookie season, Hall Of Famer Nolan Ryan and lefty reliever Tug McGraw formed the nucleus of a pitching staff in 1968 and 1969 as promising as the current group.
The Mets surprised the world and won in 1969 on the backs of their brilliant young pitching, but it was the acquisition of a professional hitter named Donn Clendenon that sparked the team in the World Series and provided the necessary power to overcome the formidable Baltimore Orioles. That team, loaded with great young pitchers, never won again. If not for Clendenon the 1968-1972 era Mets team would have been just a footnote to baseball history.
With only a three or four year window before free agency starts to tear at the core of this team, it is essential that Mets management does not overrate the team’s chances by relying too heavily on pitching and fails to take the last necessary steps to secure a championship.
If management fails to see, or care, that nothing is guaranteed and allows the current opportunity to pass without action, then what is perceived to be a blessing could end up being a curse of complacency.