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With the New York Mets sitting eight games out of the division and seven games out of the final wildcard spot, any hope that Mets fans had of them somehow making a push for the playoffs are growing fainter by the day.
It is not a surprise, even before the season began Mets fans were looking ahead to 2015, when all their young and talented pitchers would be ready for the big leagues. The Flushing faithful got a look into the future last year when Matt Harvey was dominant during the first half of the season, going on to start the All-Star Game for the National League. With Harvey having Tommy John surgery, which resulted in him having to sit out all of 2014, Mets fans turned their attention to Zack Wheeler. The hard throwing right-hander has not disappointed, especially of late. In Wheeler’s last seven starts he has pitched at least six innings and given up no more than two earned runs. Though they haven’t spent much time in the rotation at the same time, the prospect of those guys being the Mets one-two punch for years to come has Mets fan salivating.
But everyone expected Harvey and Wheeler to be good, the real treat for Mets fans has been Jacob deGrom. The 6’4 right-hander has taken full advantage of his spot in the rotation, boasting a 2.87 ERA and having a nearly 3:1 strikeouts to walks ratio. The league has taken notice to how good deGrom has been too, as he was recently named the National League’s Rookie of the Month for July reports MLB.com.
deGrom is also in contention to win Rookie of the Year, however, the innings limit the Mets placed on him in the beginning of the season could get in the way of that. It would be hard to sit a guy that has been as consistent as deGrom has, but general manager Sandy Alderson has to look ahead to the future. There is seemingly no point risking deGrom’s arm for the future because he has at a shot to win Rookie of the Year this season.
But then again, the Mets pretty much conceded this season by not getting another hitter at the trade deadline, so they will need to keep fans interested in the team somehow, since a late season playoff push seems unlikely. If the Mets were to decide to shut deGrom down, they would be taking away the only fun storyline they have had all season.
The Mets have not won a World Series in nearly 30 years, and they have not been in contention in eight. Fans of teams like the Mets have to be resourceful in order to maintain an interest in their team. If every Met fan stopped paying attention to them once they stopped being in contention, well, then there would be even fewer people at Citi Field after July.
Recently in American sports culture people have started to believe that winning championships are the only way to measure success, and hence the one only thing that matters. That is not the case, as a player being in contention for a prestigious individual award is still reason for fans to pay attention to their team, and feel some sort of pride for supporting them.
In 2011, Mets fans were paying attention to the team during the last month of the season because Jose Reyes was in the running to win the batting title. Despite the Mets finishing eight games below .500, there was a buzz in Citi Field during their final home games. Reyes went on to win the batting title, and it was the lone bright spot from a poor season.
It was the same the following year, when R.A. Dickey won 20 games on his way to becoming the first Met to win the Cy Young since 1985. Though the Mets weren't in the playoff race, fans were still interested in the team, at least once every five games. If the Mets decide to shutdown deGrom, they will end his chances of being the Rookie of the Year, and Mets fans will have nothing to take away from this season.
However, there may be a way to keep deGrom in the running for Rookie of the
Year, keep his innings down and still make Mets fans optimistic for next season. They should bring up their highly touted pitcher in the minors, Noah
Syndergaard, and allow him to take some of deGrom’s starts. If the Mets just shutdown deGrom with a month or so left in the season voters will forget about him by the time they cast their ballot for Rookie of the Year. But, if they space out deGrom’s starts by allowing Syndergaard to take a few of them, deGrom could pitch into September, and have a chance at being the fifth Met to be named the NL’s top rookie. Mets fans have been dying to get a peak of Syndergaard, but Alderson wants to be careful with when they bring him up. Waiting to the start of next season has been talked about.
It is always tricky managing the rest of pitchers, but giving fans a chance to see Syndergaard, who has been dominant in the minors according to New York Times, could add momentum heading into 2015. Mets fans have so little, why not let them spend the offseason fantasizing of a rotation of Harvey, Wheeler, deGrom, Syndergaard and either Dillion Gee or Jonathan Niese.
Though, they may eventually have to trade one of them in order to get another decent hitter.
The Atlanta Braves won 11 straight NL East titles from 1995 to 2005 on the strength of a great starting rotation. While we won’t call Harvey, Wheeler and deGrom the next Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine just yet, the blueprint for winning in this division has already been laid out. All Mets can ask for this season is a peak of what they hope their future to be.