The NY Mets have been the Humpty Dumpty of the National League since missing their shot at greatness in ’06, when Carlos Beltran’s frozen mime impersonation on a called third strike ended the NLCS against St. Louis.
It’s been a broken cipher of coaching changes, blown division-leads and minimal talent. The final fall came when they sat on a wall with Ponzi-python Bernie Madoff.
The Mets have been rebuilding and preaching patience ever since.
That’s how the pendulum of life swings. One minute you’re on top and the next you are looking up at shoe soles.
Greatness has a limited amount of shared air space and the energy emitted by greatness can only be focused in specific athletes at certain times.
Patience is something that Nat fans obviously have no shortage of.
The fans didn’t mutiny, when GM Mike Rizzo shutdown pistol-packing ace Stephen Strasburg before last season’s MLB playoffs, even though it essentially ended the Nats very real shot at their first World Series title.
They ate it and got ready for next season. Rizzo says he wanted to be able to count on Strasburg’s arm for the future. What he didn’t count on was Strasburg’s “heir of greatness,” shifting north to Citi Field.
Through five April starts, Strasburg isn’t pitching like the shutdown, unhittable ace he’s been in the past. His E.R.A is the same as last season (3.16) and Washington, a popular preseason pick to win the WS, is 11-11. His Ks-per-nine innings is a career-low 8.0 and his hits-per-nine innings is up to a career-high 7.8. The ability is there. It’s like he’s missing that extra gangster. Right now, he’s just very good.
Meanwhile, the baseball Gods sent the Mets a gift in rookie fire-baller Matt Harvey. Some are calling him a savior. Harvey was a July call-up in ’12 and hit Queens like Goldie when he came home. In his coronation against the Diamondbacks, Harvey tied Strasburg’s record of 11 Ks in a major-league debut. This year he’s even better. He’s the “new” Flashburg of ’13, but a year younger minus the arm problems. Even better he’s snatching headlines from the Yankees.
Prior to the season, Mets fans were bracing for the worst, but something good finally happened for a franchise rife with past disappointments.
Harvey has brought a “we don’t suck” swagger to a 10-10 Mets squad that is slowly thinking Wild Card.
“Every time I take the mound, I don't want to lose,” Harvey said in a January ’13 Newsday article.“I don't think I'm going to lose at all. I take the mound fighting for every single pitch. I take anger to the mound, I take a lot of aggression. That's the fight that I have to win.''
That’s just what the life-less Mets needed. Harvey’s delivery is pimp-smooth, his fastball is a 97 mph laser and the Mets 2010 first –round pick is leading the majors in wins (4), WHIP (0.69) and he’s second in Ks with 39. Those are Strasburg–type numbers and impact. The Mets haven’t seen this type of mound-presence since Dwight Gooden had the K-corner popping in the ‘80s.
Just a year ago Strasburg was so coveted and irreplaceable that the Nats couldn’t even let him pitch in the playoffs. While he chilled, the script changed a bit. Harvey’s already out-dueled him in a head-up this season. Moving forward, it appears Strasburg’s “Golden Arm” may have to share that space of greatness with Harvey.