Looking at this past offseason, the Mets have traded away much of their future to improve the 2019 team. Top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn were part of a package for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana were traded for J.D. Davis. Finally, Adam Hill, Felix Valerio, and Bobby Wahl were traded for Keon Broxton.
There has been some debate on each of these moves. Whereas many saw the Mets undervaluing assets, there have been a contingent who have justified the deal under the auspices of how not all prospects work out.
To a certain extent, there is validity to the prospects not panning out. With respect to Generation K, only Jason Isringhausen had a successful career, and that was as a reliever not the front line starter we expected him to be. Outfielders Fernando Martinez, Lastings Milledge, and Alex Ochoa weren’t even so much as a part-time player. Relievers like Eddie Kunz did nothing. The list goes on and on . . . .
Of course, this overlooks the prospects which have had successful careers. Tom Seaver was a Hall of Famer. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Edgardo Alfonzo were all-time Mets greats. As we know, that list is much longer than that. It also includes Nolan Ryan, which was a trade which lives on in Mets infamy.
That was a trade of a young player who hasn’t figured it out for a past All-Star Jim Fregosi. While prevailing wisdom is that trade was a Mets disaster, the school of thought were you trade young players for proven Major League talent would be fully onboard with that deal. That does beg the question why people are against keeping prospects and are not against the Mets making trades.
Looking over Mets history, this team has made many horrible trades. In addition to the aforementioned Ryan for Fregosi trade, we have also seen several other poor trades in Mets history:
- Amos Otis for Joe Foy
- Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel
- Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga
- Jason Isrinhausen for Billy Taylor
- Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano
There are several others which have blown up in the Mets faces. In addition to that, there have been trades for players which have greatly under-performed for the Mets. In addition to the aforementioned players, you can include Roberto Alomar, Willie Mays, Joe Torre, and a litany of others did not perform when wearing a Mets uniform.
With the Mets losing valuable young players and with the team getting veterans who have not performed, you have to wonder why the Mets don’t just operate on the free agent market. Of course, the reason there is the extensive failures the Mets have made on that front. The list is well known, and Mets fans can cite them in their sleep – Jason Bay, Bobby Bonilla, Luis Castillo, Vince Coleman, George Foster, Oliver Perez, and many, many others.
Point is, no matter which way you look, you see a history of failures when it comes to the Mets organization. Their prospects always fail. They only trade for veterans in decline. Every free agent signing is a bust.
Of course, that’s not remotely the truth. When looking at each area, the Mets have had plenty of successes and failures. The goal for every General Manager is to have more success than failures and for those failures to not come back and bite you. That’s what defines periods like the 1980s Mets and also the period immediately thereafter.
So in the end, when judging moves, do it on their own merit and not because you believe the Mets prospects fail, trade acquisitions production declines, and every free agent is a bust.
In September 2015, Scott Boras tried to intervene and limit Matt Harvey‘s innings in what could be perceived as an attempt to save the pitcher not just from the Mets, but also from himself. There would be a modified schedule and some skipped starts, but Harvey eventually took the shackles off because he wanted the ball.
Harvey always wanted the ball.
He wanted the ball in the NL East clincher against the Reds. Instead of the five innings he was supposed to pitch, he pitched into the seventh because, well, he wanted to get ready for the postseason, and the Mets were lucky he did.
Harvey won a pivotal Game 3 of the NLDS. With that series going five games, it was Harvey who got the ball in Game 1 of the NLCS. In front of a raucous Citi Field crowd, Harvey set the tone for that series. As he stepped off the mound with two outs in the eighth, he wasn’t tipping his cap. No, he was pumped up like all of Citi Field was because he knew what we all knew . . . this team was going to the World Series.
When telling the story of Matt Harvey, we will forever go back to Game 5. With the Mets team trying to rally back from a 3-1 series deficit, Harvey wanted the ball for the ninth. Terry Collins initially wanted Jeurys Familia, but he relented, and he gave Harvey the ball.
You’d be hard pressed to find a time in Citi Field history louder than when Harvey took the mound in that ninth. A blown lead and Game 5 loss later, you’d never find Citi Field more despondent.
Now, looking back, that Game 5 was the microcosm of Harvey’s Mets career.
He came in, and he gave us all hope the impossible could happen. He brought us all along for the ride. There was no one we wanted out there more than Harvey. And yet at the very end, despite all the hope and brilliance he brought, we were all left in disbelief, and yes, some in tears, over the how and why Harvey was still out there.
Mainly, Harvey was there because despite no matter what anyone said, Harvey wanted to be there, and he was not going to let anyone stop him.
And you know what? Back in 2013, no one could stop him.
In 26 starts, Harvey was 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA, 0.931 WHIP, and a 9.6 K/9. His 2.01 FIP that year would not only lead the Majors, but it would be one of the 10 best over the past 100 years. His WHIP still remains a single season Mets record. It may have seemed premature to put him in the conversation with Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, but really, it made sense. Harvey was just that good.
He was the reason to watch a terrible Mets team, and on May 7th, he may have pitched the game of his life. If not for an Alex Rios infield single Ruben Tejada could not turn into an out, Harvey likely pitches a perfect game. Instead, he had to settle for a no decision despite allowing just one hit and 12 strikeouts in nine innings. Just file that away next time someone points out his win-loss record.
That game was the signature Harvey moment. He took the mound with a bloody nose. He was reaching near triple digits with this fastball. He was becoming a superstar. He was making Citi Field his playground.
When we look through the history of Citi Field one day, it will be Harvey who emerged as it’s first superstar. He was the one who brought the crowds. He started the first All Star Game at Citi Field. Arguably, he pitched the two best games ever pitched by a Met at that ballpark.
It would be that 2013 season Harvey broke. He tore his UCL, and he needed Tommy John surgery. Mets fans everywhere who were once so hopeful were crushed. There were many low moments in Mets history since the team moved to Citi Field, but that one is among the lowest.
But when he came back in 2015, hope returned. He may not have been 2013 great, but he was great. For all the criticism over his innings limits, he would throw more innings than any pitcher in baseball history in their first season back from Tommy John.
Looking back at that 2015 season, Harvey gave the Mets and their fans everything he had. He pitched great in the regular season, and he was even better in the postseason. Just like in 2013, he was trying to will the Mets back to prominence. He was taking an organization on his back and trying to win a World Series.
It broke him in 2013, and apparently, it broke him again in 2015.
Really, when he stepped off that mound in Game 5 of the World Series, Harvey was done as we knew him. In 2016, he’d be diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome requiring season ending surgery. Last year, Harvey was rushed back to the rotation before he was physically ready, and he suffered a stress reaction. This year, he was healthy, but lost.
Looking back, no one will ever know if Harvey listened to Boras if he’d still be The Dark Knight instead of a guy now looking for a job.
The real shame is how Harvey went out. The same guy who heard the loudest ovations from the fans, the same one who heard Mets fans serenade Stephen Strasburg with “Harvey’s Better!” chants, was booed off the mound the last time he ever pitched on what had once been his mound.
There are some who will find behavioral excuses why Harvey faulted, and maybe they do exist. However, you’d be hard pressed to find a pitcher who was at the top of his game in November only to completely lose it by the next April. Most pitchers get a transition period to figure things out. Harvey’s cruel fate was he had more injuries followed by his getting about a month and a half before being given an ultimatum.
In what once seemed impossible, Harvey was designated for assignment. Sure, Mets fans always expected him to leave one day, but we all thought it would be Harvey who spurned the cheap Wilpon family, not the Wilpons kicking him out the door despite the team still owing him around $4 million.
Much has been made of the Mets crop of starting pitchers, the group who brought them to the 2015 World Series. Make no mistake, Harvey was the best out of the group. Better than Jacob deGrom. Better than Noah Syndergaard.
Really, he was better than anyone not named Seaver or Gooden, and if things had broken right, Harvey could have been a Hall of Famer. He was that good when he was healthy, but he wasn’t healthy making him this generation’s version of Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, or Jon Matlack.
Harvey being designated for assignment wasn’t a shock. With every struggle on the mound, and yes, some personal issues that emerged, he was getting closer and closer to this point. It doesn’t mean this doesn’t hurt the Mets fan, the ones who got to experience in the joy of seeing the real Harvey pitch, any less.
There will come a day down the line where all will be forgiven, and we can all just look back and appreciate all Harvey did for the Mets. We can take a step back and marvel how he potentially sacrificed his entire career to win that one World Series. Really, he has never been thanked or appreciated enough for that.
Now, he is looking for a new team and a new fan base. Hopefully, Harvey rediscovers some of that magic he once had, and hopefully, he gets those cheers again. He’s certainly earned them.
And when he does return to Citi Field, whether it be this year or the next, let’s hope he gets that true standing ovation he deserved, the one he might’ve received on Thursday had we all known it was going to be his last game in a Mets uniform.
No matter what happens, Mets fans everywhere should wish him the best of luck. There was a time we showered him with all the love we had, and he returned the favor by giving us everything he had. Everything. Here’s hoping he gets everything he is looking for in his next stop.
I know no matter what he does, I’m rooting of him. More than that I appreciate Harvey for all he did as a Met. Really, best of luck to you, Matt Harvey.
The Mets are 9-1, and they are now off to the best start in franchise history. However, right now, when it comes to the Mets, this isn’t even the biggest news of the season:
Saturday, April 7th at Washington – Steven Matz
Sunday, April 8th at Washington – Matt Harvey
Monday, April 9th at Miami – Noah Syndergaard
Tuesday, April 10th at Miami – Jacob deGrom
Wednesday, April 11th at Miami – Zack Wheeler
Sometime after 7:10 P.M., after the bottom of the first has ended, the dream will finally be realized. The Five Aces will have finally taken one turn through the rotation. What’s funny about it is the dream was thought to be dead.
In 2015, before Syndergaard and Matz were called up to the majors, Wheeler needed Tommy John surgery. As a result, this meant the dream, which was still in its infancy, would have to wait a year.
Heading into 2016, the Mets re-signed Bartolo Colon to help allow Wheeler to take his time in his rehab. He would have a number of setbacks, and he would never pitch in 2016. That year also saw deGrom, Harvey, and Matz befall season ending injuries themselves.
In 2017, the Mets were once again poised to have them all in the same rotation. However, Matz would need to begin the season on the disabled list. Syndergaard didn’t have an MRI and tore his lat. Harvey and Wheeler would find their way onto the disabled list with stress reactions after they had probably been rushed into the rotation before they were ready.
The progress in 2017 was they at least all made a start in the same season. That was something Generation K never did. In 1995, we saw Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher in the same rotation. Like with Wheeler, it was discovered Pulsipher needed Tommy John during the ensuing Spring Training. As a result, this meant it was just Isringhausen and Paul Wilson in the rotation.
In 1997, Isringhausen was the only one to pitch for the Mets with Wilson pitching in the minors with shoulder problems and Pulsipher experiencing depression and complications from Tommy John. Pulsipher would be the only one to pitch for the Mets in 1998 with Isringhausen hurt and Wilson hurt and in the minors.
In 1998, Pulipsher was the first to go. He was traded to the Brewers for Mike Kinkade. In 1999, it was Isringhausen’s turn to go as the Mets thought it better to use him to obtain Billy Taylor rather than use him in the bullpen.
Pulsipher came back to the organization in 2000, and he lost the Spring Training competition for the fifth starter spot to Glendon Rusch. Both he and Wilson would get traded that season as the Mets sought reinforcements in Lenny Harris, Bubba Trammell, and Rick White to help them win a World Series.
The odd thing about seeing Generation K all being traded away for supporting pieces was they were supposed to be the leading drive towards a World Series. Overall, they’d never appear in the same rotation, and they would pitch for the Mets in the postseason.
Seeing Generation K’s struggles makes what is happening tonight all the more remarkable. Not only are we finally seeing these five pitchers in the same rotation, but we have already seen them have the success we once expected from Generation K. In fact, they’ve been much more successful.
In many ways, seeing Wheeler start tonight is going to slay many demons for the entire Mets organization.
From the start the Mets have had and the seemingly magic tough Mickey Callaway has had, there is a lot more in store for the Mets. That said, short of David Wright taking the field again, it is going to be hard to envision a more powerful moment that will happen this (regular) season.
With Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz starting the year in Triple-A, and the Mets discovering Zack Wheeler tore his UCL on the eve of Spring Training, we knew the Five Aces weren’t going to pitch in the same rotation in 2015. After winning the pennant that year, the Mets set their sights on 2016 to be the year the team not only won the World Series, but also as the year their plan would all come to fruition.
That was until Wheeler had a number of set-backs costing him the entire 2016 season. But it was more than just Wheeler. Matt Harvey would have a lost season culminating with a Thoracic Outlet Syndrome diagnosis. Jacob deGrom needed ulnar nerve transplantation surgery. Matz had one of his typically injury plagued seasons with him needing season ending surgery to remove what was described as a massive bone spur from his pitching elbow.
That made 2017 the year . . . until it wasn’t. Despite many believing neither Harvey nor Wheeler were ready to begin the season in the rotation, they ultimately did due to injuries. However, that did not mean the Five Aces would not begin the year in the same rotation as Matz once again had elbow issues.
After Matz, it was Syndergaard with a torn lat. Then Harvey and Wheeler would each go down with stress reactions to their pitching arms. While not confirmed, this may have been the result of them team pushing them too hard to start the season. Ultimately, after 13 starts, the Mets discovered what was wrong with Matz; he had the same nerve injury deGrom had the previous season.
This offseason was the offseason the Mets front office became more realistic. The team signed Todd Frazier to play third base all but admitted David Wright would not be able to play this season, and the team signed Jason Vargas. With Vargas lined up to the the third or fourth starter, the Mets were effectively announcing the Five Aces dream was finally dead.
Except, ironically, it isn’t. And I say ironically because it is an injury that has allowed the dream to be revived.
With Vargas needing surgery to remove a fractured hamate bone, the Mets need to replace him for at least two turns through the rotation. This means that Wheeler, who was a candidate to move to the bullpen, or Matz, who was considered to start the year in Extended Spring Training, will likely both find themselves in the same rotation with Syndergaard, deGrom, and Harvey.
Finally, it is all coming to plan even if those plans are two to three years late.
After seeing how each pitchers pitches in their starts, and with Vargas’ timetable not being completely set in stone, who knows what will happen. Maybe this will last for two turns, the first half, or the full season. With the Mets and their handling of injuries, you never know. The only thing we do know is against all odds, the Five Aces will pitch in the same rotation.
That’s no small feat given all of their respective obstacles. This is a great thing for Mets fans to see as well because we have been waiting years to see this. And for slightly older Mets fans, this is cathartic because we never did get to see Generation K (Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson, and Bill Pulsipher) ever pitch in the same rotation.
We’ll now see it with the Five Aces. Let the fun begin.
The Mets Fan
How You Became a Mets Fan
Parents are huge Mets fans, so I was born into it. Don’t remember a specific moment or reason why I stuck with it. They weren’t very good in my formative years but they were always my team!
Favorite Mets Player
Mike Piazza would be the easy choice looking back but I had many “favorite Mets” over the years. David Cone, Howard Johnson, Todd Hundley all held that title at some point. Jason Isringhausen was my guy, though! Looked like a stud at the end of ’95 so I bought all of his rookie cards and spent way too much allowance having his name printed on the back of my Mets jersey. Had to pay by the letter! And they only had yellow letters. UniWatch would not approve.
Favorite Moment in Mets History
Todd Pratt‘s home run in the ’99 NLDS. Was starved for playoff baseball after growing up with the lousy 90’s Mets and you couldn’t have a more climactic end to the series. Still can’t watch a replay without sweating Steve Finley suddenly pulling the ball out of his glove.
Message to Mets Fans
It’s been amazing talking about the Mets every night on the radio over the last four seasons with you. Let’s hope for some more Todd Pratt moments in the near future. LGM!
When you go through Mets history, there are certain dark moments of Mets history which continue to haunt Mets fans.
The 1992 Mets were dubbed The Worst Team Money Could Buy. The Mets first real foray into free agency would see the team add Eddie Murray, Willie Randolph, Dick Schofield, Bill Pecota, Bret Saberhahen, and the prize of the offseason free agent class Bobby Bonilla. Under the guise of 1990 American League Manager of the Year Jeff Torborg, the Mets would go 70-92.
There would not be hope again until Generation K – Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, and Bill Pulsipher. With Isringhausen bursting out of the gate in 1995 going 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA in his first 14 starts, Mets fans anticipation was at a fever pitch.
The funny thing is due to a myriad of injuries to all three pitchers, the trio dubbed Generation K would never appear in the same rotation. Over time, they would be surpassed and traded away for spare parts. To put it in perspective, the best player the Mets would get in exchange for the trio would be Rick White.
Fast forward 20 years and Mets fans have dreamed about this generations crop of pitchers winning their first World Series since 1986. While not as clever as Generation K, they had their own nickname – The Five Aces. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler.
They were going to scoff at the 1971 Orioles pitching staff and their measly 20 wins apiece.
Those 1990s Braves teams were going to laughed at for producing just three Hall of Fame pitchers.
Instead, what we got was Matt and Jake and All Five Pitchers Ache. Essentially, it all came off the Wheeler.
Each and every single one of them would go down with injury. Most of them went down with two or more. As a result, much like Generation K, these five pitchers have never appeared in the same rotation. Worse yet, in some sick cosmic twist of fate, last year would be the first year all five would start a game in the same season, and the end result was the worst ERA in team history.
Finally, this year was supposed to be the year. Everyone was shut down at a some point last year to help them get ready for this year. The team brought in Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and a whole new medical staff. It was all set up for them.
And then, the team signed Jason Vargas.
Yes, given their respective health issues, the Vargas signing made a lot of sense. However, with him getting a two ear deal, it may just kill the dream because so long as Vargas has a rotation spot, we will not see the Five Aces pitch together in the same starting rotation. With Harvey’s impending free agency, this was the last chance, and it is going by the wayside.
Maybe it is for the best because as we saw in 2015, so long as we have three completely healthy, this team can go to the World Series. That more than the Five Aces pitch in the same rotation is the goal. Still, not seeing it happen once leaves you a bit melancholy.
At the end of this run for the Five Aces, we are ultimately going to be left with Vargas and Montero Where Did Our Five Aces Go?
The one thing we never got to see with Generation K was Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Paul Wilson in the same rotation. In fact, we have never seen them all in the same pitching staff. That never happened because of all the injuries they suffered. Then we saw Isringhausen and Wilson traded in successive years to help the Mets chances of winning a World Series instead of them pitching the Mets to the World Series.
Whatever you want to call the group of Mets young starters (most seemed to like the Five Aces), they never appeared in the same rotation. The closest we got was seeing Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz in the same rotation in 2015. Coincidentally, that was also the year the Mets went to the World Series on the strength of their pitching.
The reason Zack Wheeler was not a part of that group that went to the postseason was because he suffered an injury in Spring Training. In fact, Wheeler would be gone for two years rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. For a moment, it seemed as fait accompli the group would never pitch in the same rotation because Wheeler was almost traded to the Brewers with Wilmer Flores for Carlos Gomez. In fact, if not for Gomez’s hip, the dream would have died there.
Still to this day, we have never seen the five in the same rotation. However, we have seen them all pitch in the same season in the rotation. It may not seem like much, but it’s something. It’s also a step closer to seeing them all in the same rotation. It may finally happen next year.
Matz should be ready for Opening Day after the surgery to repair his ulnar nerve. This was the same surgery deGrom had last season, and he was able to last the entire season injury free. Both Harvey and Syndergaard were able to return and pitch before the season was over. Like in 2015 and 2016, the only question is Wheeler.
In the end, the Mets are a step closer to having all five of their proverbial aces in the rotation. At a minimum, they are a step closer to seeing them all on the same pitching staff. If it does happen, one of the open wounds Mets fans have suffered will close a bit. Howeve,r that wound will not fully heal until we see this group pitch the Mets to a World Series title.
Want to know how things went for the Mets today? Their best pitcher was Kevin Plawecki who allowed four runs on three homers in two . . . TWO! . . . innings pitched.
How the Mets got there is almost too exhausting to detail. Suffice it to say, it all started with Noah Syndergaard. After refusing an MRI for biceps complaints, the Mets sent him to the mound on Sunday. To be fair, Syndergaard probably thought MRI meant Mets related injury.
Every Mets fan knew what would happen. We knew he’s get injured. We’ve been expecting it since Generation K went up in flames with the injuries suffered by Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Paul Wilson. And it happened. After 1.1 innings where he allowed five hits, five runs, two walks (first two of the season) while striking out two, he was gone with a “lat injury.” It’s in quotes because it’s clear no one knows what’s going on with Syndergaard.
From there, it’s difficult to decipher what happened.
Even with the Syndergaard injury, the Mets were only down 6-5 heading into the bottom of the fourth.
Everyone was pitching in (pun intended). The resurgent Jose Reyes, moved to second in the lineup due to players getting the day off, got it all started with a first inning one out triple. Jay Bruce was 3-4 with a homer and two RBI. Rene Rivera had a homer of his own. Even Sean Gilmartin got in on the action with an RBI double.
Gilmartin, that’s where the trouble started. Initially, he kept the Nationals at bay when he came on after the Syndergaard injury. But, he melted down in the fourth allowing four earned. Gilmartin, like the rest of the Mets was victimized by Anthony Rendon, who hit two homers off of him.
Fernando Salas started the fifth, and he eventually put the game completely out of reach allowing three runs. When he left, it was 13-5. The Nationals still had 10 runs left in them.
Six of them came off Josh Smoker, who melted down in his second inning of work. He didn’t record one out while facing five batters that inning. He and the whole team left Terry Collins little choice. He had to go to a position player to pitch the final two innings.
It was hard to tell if Plawecki was throwing a knuckleball or a batting practice fastball. The answer was a knuckleball, but the Nationals were teeing off of him and all Mets pitchers like it was batting practice. Whether it was the knuckleball or the fact that Plawecki was the least important player on the roster, it was an inspired choice by Collins.
What wasn’t inspired was how the Mets finished this series. After rallying back from losing six in a row, 10 of 11, and Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets beat Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in back-to-back games. It was an announcement the Mets weren’t done. It was enough to give a Nationals team, who just lost Adam Eaton for the season, doubt they were the better team.
Twenty-three runs later, in a game started by Syndergaard, that doubt should be erased. Trea Turner was the only Nationals starter without a multi-hit game, and he still hit a double and scored a run.
More than that, Rendon was 6-6 with five runs, a double, three homers, and 10 RBI. The Mets as a team had five runs on nine hits.
Game Recap: Reyes had another error, but this one was at shortstop as the Mets gave Asdrubal Cabrera the day off. Neil Walker had another poor game at the plate and is now hitting .195. Same goes for Curtis Granderson who is now hitting .128.
Tonight is a jam packed sports night. For Mets fans, no matter how bad things are, you are turning into the game against the Braves if for no other reason than to see Noah Syndergaard pitch. For Rangers fans, it is the first game of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Ottawa Senators and their old friend Derick Brassard. However, as we all know the first round of the NFL Draft will get the largest share of publicity. The NFL gets the lion share no matter what it is doing.
The NFL Draft does present someone of an intriguing possibility for Mets fans. One of the top QB prospects in this draft is Texas Tech Patrick Mahomes. He has quite the pedigree with him being the godson of former Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins. Oh, and Patrick Mahomes is the son of former Mets reliever Pat Mahomes.
Unlike his son, Mahomes wasn’t really on anyone’s radar heading into the 1999 season. Through six major league seasons, he was 21-28 with a 5.88 ERA and a 1.627 WHIP. After a poor 1997 season, where he was only able to pitch in 10 games for the Boston Red Sox, Mahomes found himself pitching for the Yokohama Bay Stars of the Japanese Leagues. In his eight starts and two relief appearances, he was far from impressive going 0-4 with a 5.98 ERA and a 1.510 WHIP. Still, Mahomes must have done something right in that stint as the Mets signed him to a minor league deal in the offseason.
With Josias Manzanillo struggling to start the year, there was an opening in the Mets bullpen in 1999. Mahomes was called up, and he took complete advantage of his opportunity. Mahomes became the long man in the Mets bullpen, and he thrived in that role. While the long man in the bullpen is an overlooked role on most teams, it was vitally important to that 1999 team.
Al Leiter and Kenny Rogers were the only pitchers who averaged more than six innings pitched, and Rogers didn’t come to the Mets until July. One of the team’s better starters, Bobby Jones, was injured leading to a revolving door of fifth starters. Top options in Jason Isringhausen and Octavio Dotel had the talent, but they couldn’t go deep into games. Overall, the team needed a good long man. Mahomes was that and more.
During the season, Mahomes would make just 39 appearances, but he would pitch 63.2 innings. It should be noted Mahomes was partially able to pitch those innings because unlike most relievers Bobby Valentine could trust him at the plate. During the 1999 season, Mahomes was 5-16 with three doubles and three RBI. However, we all know Valetine kept going to him because of the results Mahomes got on the mound.
In Mahomes’ 39 appearances, he had a 3.68 ERA and a 1.272 WHIP. As a result of his terrific pitching, he finished the season with a perfect 8-0 record. Considering it was the steroids era, those are truly impressive numbers. Considering where he was just a season ago, they are inspiring.
Mahomes would continue pitching well into the postseason where he had a 2.25 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP in eight innings over four appearances. Notably, Mahomes pitched four shutout innings in at epic Game 6 of the NLCS which permitted the Mets to get back into the game. What was once unfathomable when Leiter gave up five innings in the first inning, the Mets took the lead in the seventh inning. While the Mets did not win that game, they were in that position because Mahomes stepped up big in that spot. That was a theme for him during the 1999 season.
So to that extent, we know that big game ability is in the Mahomes gene pool. We also know the ability to play in New York in high pressure situations is as well. To that end, maybe, just maybe, Patrick Mahomes would be a fine fit with either the New York Giants, as Eli Manning’s successor in waiting, or the New York Jets as the latest franchise quarterback.
The talent is there. In a recent Peter King MMQB column, Mahomes was compared favorably to Brett Favre. With talent like that and his background, there should be no doubt Mahomes can thrive in not just the NFL, but also in New York. His name may not get called tonight, but it will likely get called on Friday.
Whatever the future holds for him, the best of luck to Mahomes. His father was one of the players that made one of the most enjoyable seasons in Mets history happen. Hopefully, wherever Mahomes lands, he can provide those fans the same joy his father provided Mets fans. With any luck, that will be with the Giants.
During Terry Collins‘ first Spring Training press conference, he overtly stated Zack Wheeler is a starting pitcher. With the Mets publicly considering using Wheeler in the bullpen, at least to start the season, Collins’ statements reminded me of how Bobby Valentine once held a similar opinion about Jason Isringhausen.
Back in 1999, the Mets were using Isringhausen, who had a litany of injuries and surgeries at that point, increasingly out of the bullpen. It was a natural fit for him with his having only made six major league starts over a two year period. And yet, Valentine preferred using Isringhausen in the rotation, as only Valentine could so eloquently put it, putting Isringhausen in the bullpen is like “us[ing] an Indy car as a taxi in New York City.” (New York Daily News).
As we know Isringhausen would be moved later that season in the ill-fated and ill-conceived trade for Athletics closer Billy Taylor. As an Athletic, Isringhausen would work exclusively out of the bullpen. From there, he would become an All Star closer amassing 300 career saves.
Given the relative injury histories, the reluctance to put the pitchers in the bullpen, and the hope both pitchers carried with them as part of future super rotations, the Wheeler-Isringhausen comparisons are unavoidable.
To that end, it is important to note one of the supposed issues with Isringhausen in the bullpen was his control. This is certainly understandable given his career 1.520 WHIP and 4.0 BB/9 as a starter. And yet, when moved to the bullpen, and allowed to focus on his two best pitches, Isringhausen dramatically cut down on the hits and walks. As a result, the things that made people believe he was a dominant starter came into focus as he became a dominant closer.
The consistently noted fear with Wheeler in the bullpen is his control. His 3.9 BB/9 is similar to what Isringhausen’s was as a starter even if his 1.339 WHIP is considerably better. It should also be noted Wheeler struck out more batters than Isringhausen did as a starter. That is probably because Wheeler’s pure stuff is probably better than Isringhausen’s. According to Brooks Baseball, Wheeler’s fastball sits in the mid 90s and he has a slider that almost hits 90.
Understandably, with Isringhause and Wheeler being different pitchers, the comparison may seem a bit contrived or imperfect. With that said, we have seen how the Royals have transitioned pitchers with similar skill sets to Wheeler, and they converted them into dominant relievers.
Luke Hochevar was a struggling starter who gave up too many walks. He was not having success in the rotation despite a low to mid 90s fastball and a high 80s cutter. He was transitioned to the bullpen where he thrived. Before showing the effects of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, he was dominant in 2013 going 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA, 0.825 WHIP, and a 10.5 K/9.
While the Royals didn’t try Greg Holland in the rotation, they saw how well his stuff played in the bullpen. From 2011 – 2014, he was among the most dominant closers in all of baseball. Over the stretch he was 15-9 with 113 saves, a 1.026 WHIP, and a 12.6 K/9. Similar to Wheeler, Holland throws a mid to high 90s fastball and a slider in the high 80s.
Basically what we see in Isringhausen, Hochevar, and Holland is pitchers with great stuff can truly succeed in the bullpen. Moreover, pitchers who have had control issues as starters can better harness their pitches by focusing one the two or maybe three pitches they throw best and work out of the stretch. By focusing on what makes the pitcher great can, at times, led a pitcher down the path to greatness. That is even in the event said greatness occurs out of the bullpen.
Given Wheeler’s past control issues, his not having pitched in two seasons, and the emergence of both Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, it might be an opportunity for the Mets to move Wheeler in the bullpen where he may truly thrive. Of course, we won’t know that unless the Mets are willing to try. At this point, given Collins’ statements, it appears the Mets are not quite at that point yet. Maybe they should be.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online