Patience was never really a word you would hear when it comes to New York fan bases. Now, possibly more than ever, Mets fans with the exception of a vocal minority are practicing patience with regard to their expectations for this franchise.
I know it’s tough to be a fan especially in New York and think “we’re almost there,” especially after 2006 – but the situation is what it is. I’m trying to embrace it and hope for the best rather than live in a constant state of negativity toward a baseball team.
Zack Wheeler is going to be the ultimate test for so many fans, and even the coaches and front office.
Control was always Wheeler’s biggest flaw, and what Wheeler becomes will be the truest form of evaluation for Dan Warthen. I didn’t even want Wheeler called up in 2013 because I feared the possibility of being sent back down to work on his control which could crush the kid. He’s here, he needs to stay here and Warthen needs time to work with him first before we decide anybody’s fate.
Everybody loves to mention the pitching coach when a pitcher fails. Nobody mentions that Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell or even Matt Harvey when it comes to evaluating Warthen. The truth is, none of us know what impact he’s had whether it be positive or negative. With Wheeler, I think we’ll all be able to tell – but we have to be patient and allow him some time to actually work with Wheeler.
In my lifetime, nobody was better with his control than Greg Maddux. Maddux threw over 400 major league innings before he turned 23. His WHIP was a 1.42, and his BB/9 was a 3.4 with a K/9 at 5.4. In all reality, Maddux didn’t really figure it all out until he was 25 years old. From 25-37, Maddux’s BB/9 rate went down to a 1.5 with his K/9 rate jumping to a 6.5 paired with a 1.055 WHIP.
Isn’t it interesting that Maddux’s control success seemed to coincide with his arrival in Atlanta under pitching coach Leo Mazzone?
I’m in no way comparing Wheeler to one of the greatest pitchers of all time. However, I am trying to point out that control issues can be something a pitching coach can help a pitcher with and for Warthen there is no greater opportunity than with Wheeler. If Wheeler cannot get it together under Warthen, then it will be time to bring a new coach in.
For fans, the realization that not every young pitcher can be Matt Harvey out of the gate and that it takes time to figure out how to pitch in the big leagues. I’ve gone on record to say I think Wheeler should be the main trade chip to acquire Giancarlo Stanton, but if that cannot happen – then we need to be patient with him as he figures out a way to be a big league pitcher.
There was a lot of hype around Wheeler, there’s no denying that. The hype was created when fans and local media learned who Wheeler was on the day Beltran was traded. We all read the reports, and we judged the trade from that standpoint. I’d still make the trade happily, but I think some of us penciled him in as an automatic. The truth of the matter is, there’s nothing automatic about baseball players whether young or old.
If I told you that in 1,705 games Albert Pujols would hit 445 Homeruns, drive in 1,329 runs and hit with a 1.037 OPS you’d call him one of the greatest players to ever play the game. We all did. At 31 years old, names like Fox, Aaron, Mantle and Robinson were being tossed around when comparing Pujols in a historical sense.
Now, in 234 games he has hit 43 HR, driven in 154 runs and has an OPS of .822. An OPS of .822 isn’t really all that bad, but when you were on a path to becoming one of the greatest players ever – it’s borderline horrifying.
If Pujols isn’t a guarantee, then nobody is.
We as fans as well as the franchise itself need to practice the art of patience. Patience would have meant Nolan Ryan in a Mets uniform long term. Patience could have meant Heath Bell as the Mets closer during the two years the Mets desperately needed relief help. Patience is a funny thing, nobody likes to lose – but sometimes you need to go through some rough times before things get better.
The truth of the matter is, nothing Wheeler does or can do will turn this franchise around overnight. The Mets still need to figure out their 1B and SS situation, along with a long term solution in the OF.
The best thing for Wheeler right now is to continue to work, and figure out a way to get the talent that everybody says he has and translate it into a big league pitcher.
He doesn’t need to be an ace, he just needs to be an effective pitcher. His success is in all of our best interests, and so I hope everybody, fans, coaches and executives practice a little patience when it comes to Wheeler. Every bad outing doesn’t make him a hopeless cause, and every successful outing doesn’t make him Tom Seaver.
“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”