Tag Archives: Zack Wheeler

The 2015 New York Mets: One Month To Go

Wilmer Flores, Mets folk hero. Image ©MLB Advanced Media

Wilmer Flores, Mets folk hero.
Image ©MLB Advanced Media

It has been a weird, strange season for the Mets. They have had the highs of a franchise record-tying 11-game winning streak, several 7-game winning streaks, sweeping a season series against a National League team for the first time ever (they went 7-0 against Colorado), and historic (team-wise) home run production. They have had the lows of Zack Wheeler missing the season due to Tommy John surgery, of being no-hit, having long stretches when it was rare for them to score even three runs per game, and being swept by two other playoff contenders, the Pirates and the Cubs. They just won 20 games in August, their first 20-win month since 2000, the last time they made the World Series. They now have a Tug McGraw-esque folk hero in the nearly-traded Wilmer Flores. If they win the National League East (Old Man Voice: “Back in my day, they called it the National League Eastern Division”), Sandy Alderson has to be Executive of the Year for his shrewd trade deadline deals and timely call-up of Michael Conforto, and Terry Collins will be a strong candidate for Manager of the Year despite his consistent inability to properly manage the bullpen (including last night’s loss to the Phillies, when his decision to bring in Bobby Parnell to pitch the sixth inning was a blatantly obvious disaster waiting to happen that then promptly happened).

Going into tonight’s game with the Phillies, the first place Mets have a 6.5 game lead over the Nationals with 30 games to play. The Nationals have a game in hand (their game tomorrow against Atlanta), and play the Mets six more times this year. Therefore, in a worst-case scenario where the Nationals win tomorrow and then sweep the remaining games with the Mets, the division title comes down to which team plays better over their 24 other games. The Mets have four games against the Reds and three against the Yankees, with the rest of their games being against the Marlins, Braves, and Phillies, while the Nationals have three games against the Orioles and a make-up game against the Reds, with the rest of their games being against the Marlins, Braves, and Phillies. So the Reds might play a bizarrely pivotal role in the race, but it is appropriate that for the most part the division title will be decided by which team does a better job of beating up on the rest of the division.

I feel good about the Mets’ chances. Their recent bullpen additions should help shore up their recently shaky relief pitching (which still isn’t as shaky as the Nationals’, as the Washington ‘pen has blown late multi-run leads the past two nights), their starting rotation has been excellent and will be strengthened by Steven Matz’s return this weekend, and their offense is now respectable, and will get even more dangerous once Lucas Duda returns from the disabled list.

The past month as the Mets have moved back into first place has been incredibly fun for me as a fan. It reminds me of the vibe from back in the mid-1980s as a kid when they were always in the hunt, and there was always that delicious pennant race excitement. It makes it hard to concentrate on anything else. Let’s Go, Mets!

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Thoughts on the Mets 2014 Season

The New York Mets finished their season today with an 8-3 win over the Houston Astros. It was a good team win, with solid pitching and timely hitting, something that the Mets had a difficult time with throughout the year.

The team finished 79-83, and while finishing under .500 again was a disappointment, there are numerous positives that may be taken from this season as the team looks toward 2015. The Mets finished over .500 after the All-Star break, and had a positive run differential. They finished in second place in the National League East, tying with Atlanta and winning the head-to-head series. While this finish is in a sense meaningless because it was not enough to earn a playoff berth, it is significant that the Mets were able to keep pace with most of their division as they think about their path to the playoffs next year.

There were also a number of individual bright spots for the Mets this year. Jacob deGrom had a fantastic rookie season and should become the first Met since Dwight Gooden to win Rookie of the Year. Lucas Duda had an excellent breakout season once the club gave him the first base job on a full-time basis, hitting 30 home runs and driving in 92. Zack Wheeler built on his solid rookie campaign to become a dependable number two starter with ace potential. Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia had excellent seasons in the bullpen, and the bullpen as a whole was quite good after the first month or so of the season. Travis d’Arnaud had an excellent second half, and proved that he can be an everyday catcher in the majors. Likewise, Juan Lagares, who should win a Gold Glove, showed that he can also hit enough to be a valuable part of the offense.

Obviously there were also some negatives that will need to be remedied next year. David Wright had one of the worst seasons of his career. He is at a stage where he needs to make the mental adjustment away from being a power hitter to strictly being a high on-base percentage guy. If he can do this, he will be fine. Curtis Granderson was similarly a bust for much of the season, though he finished strong, which offers hope for 2015.

The biggest negative of the year was Terry Collins’s managing. Collins has done a good job shepherding all of the Mets’ young players into the big leagues, but he is a terrible on-field manager. He constantly makes questionable decisions with the lineup and with pitching changes, and if the Mets want to contend next season they will not have the margin of error to cover for the games he costs them with these decisions. The team has said Collins will be the manager next year, but I hope that they have him on a short leash.

However, overall I am left with a positive outlook on the Mets as I turn toward the offseason. I am excited to see what moves the front office makes to improve the team before spring training, and look forward to watching all of the Mets’ young studs continue to blossom.

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Thoughts on Narrative in Everyday Life

I was especially excited to watch the Mets game last night because Zack Wheeler was pitching, and I was thinking about the high hopes that I have for both he and Matt Harvey. Specifically, I was thinking, “Well, Harvey is clearly Tom Seaver, and maybe Wheeler can be Jerry Koosman.”

I know that I am not the only Mets fan making these comparisons, but the act of doing so struck me. I think it is an example of how we as humans naturally turn to past narratives to help us make sense of the present. While I am by no means the first person to note this function of narrative (my favorite articulation of it is in the work of Stanley Hauerwas), it is worth repeating. The world is inherently chaotic, and stories help us see how bits and pieces of it make sense.

In this particular instance, I am choosing a narrative that I want to see repeated, a sort of messianic second coming, because Seaver was the best Met ever, and Koosman was either the second or third best Mets pitcher ever depending on how you feel about Dwight Gooden. Of course it is not fair to Harvey or Wheeler to make these comparisons because it is important that they be given the space to write their own narratives. However, connecting them to the past as a fan is one way to fit them into the larger New York Mets narrative. The Mets have been the most successful when they have had stellar home-grown pitchers, and it is enticing to think that with Harvey and Wheeler they are returning to this formula.

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