Turn The Kids Loose
“The Red Sox hitters are too good, too patient to attack any other way than with power, and the Cardinals blueprint worded to perfection in Game 2. If St. Louis is to win this series that’s the only way it’s going to happen, as they can’t out-slug the Red Sox. The Cardinals need to manufacture enough runs, and then let the young power arms close the door.”
That’s how the New York Post’s Kevin Kernan put it in a recent column discussing Cardinals power pitching — pitching that is wearing out the Redbird’s catcher, Yadier Molina’s mitt. Kernan goes on to suggest that the Cardinal power pitching plan could be the Yankees’ blueprint to a return to prominence in the future.
Yankees? Power pitching has to be the prescription for better days ahead for our Mets. Reading the ‘across the spectrum’ suggestions from Met fans on MMO threads about who the Mets should pursue this winter or even if the Mets have the wherewithal to pursue any high value baseball talent can keep your head spinning. The free agent selection pool doesn’t look all that impressive and continues to whither in value every hot stove campaign.
To secure high value talent by trade, the Mets will need to give up some of their coveted young pitching arms. In a high end trade to get something of value, you have to give up something of value. That’s a thought that leaves many Met fans anxious. A huge part of the frustration for Met fans is the sense that we have the same kind of power arms in our farm system but, like a fine wine, they spend so much time aging before they get a crack at our major league roster.
I understand as a business decision it makes sense to maximize the time a young prospect remains under a team’s control. But, winning baseball games, stoking the flames of fan interest, and filling your baseball stadium with paying fans makes a bit of baseball and business sense, too.
I remember the day the news broke that Matt Harvey suffered from a partial elbow tear. I was scheduled to substitute at the radio station for a good friend who has a Monday night sports show, a professional tennis pro, who had taken some of his students to New York City to watch the opening rounds of the U.S. Tennis open.
My friend called in from Arthur Ashe Stadium. I knew he was an avid Met fan, and I wondered if he had heard the news about Harvey, so I asked. After his initial wails of pain and suffering he said something like this, “Oh, well, I guess it gives me some added time. Now there’s only one day out of five where it’s worth watching the Mets.” Of course, Met fans like you and I know what he meant. That one day was the day Zack Wheeler would take the hill, a day that disappeared shortly after when Wheeler was shut down for the year.
Think about that for a second. Dillon Gee was having a second half of the ages. Jon Niese had recently returned from injury and Met fans were interested is seeing how he would do testing his arm. Yet, it was the power arm of a young Met pitching prospect that generated the only interest compelling enough for many Met fans to watch.
It troubled me at the end of the season to hear Terry Collins tell the media there was no way either Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero would be with the squad when the Mets broke spring training camp and headed north. I understand the Mets can protect Montero and don’t need to include him on the 40-man roster if he pitches in Las Vegas next spring. That’s all well and good as long as the guy who replaces him on the roster or in the starting rotation truly has more skills and is not simply a place holder to allow the Mets to max out his time for business purposes. The same could be said for Syndergaard.
As we anticipate the summer of 2014, compare the interest a starting rotation of Wheeler, Gee, Niese, place holder 1, place holder 2, against Wheeler, Gee, Niese, Syndergaard and Montero. The second rotation would boost the excitement of the Met fan base dramatically providing much needed doses of interest and hope and perhaps a greater chance to play compelling and competitive baseball.
With the available free agent options and the understandable reluctance to trade away the young pitching prospects we have worked so hard to stockpile, perhaps a rewrite of Kevin Kernan’s theory that opened this post is in order.
For the 2014 Mets to be relevant, to rekindle interest in a disheartened fan base, it won’t happen any other way than with young power pitching. For the Mets to compete for the baseball hearts and souls of New York City, that’s the only way it’s going to happen in 2014, because constructed as they are, they can’t out-slug almost anyone in baseball. The Mets need to manufacture enough runs, and then let the young arms close the door. Thank you, Kevin Kernan.
Like the arms of Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Jose Fernandez, and on and on and on, the arms of Montero and Syndergaard or Mazzoni, deGrom and Walters are not fragile viewing pieces that have to be stored behind protective glass in a museum. The time is now, turn the kids loose and let’s see what they can do.
About the Author: John Bernhardt
John Bernhardt is a retired public school teacher and administrator, who still coaches high school baseball. Growing up in a Yankees household, Bernhardt was an ardent Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra fan. When the Yankees fired Yogi in his first season as the Bomber manager, curiosity turned to passion when the Mets signed Berra as a player/coach and he has pulled for the Mets ever since. In retirement, John writes the sports for a local weekly, The Catskill Mountain News and hosts Tip-Off, a Friday morning sports hour, from 8:00-9:00 on WIOX, 91.3 F.M.
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