There was little surprise when Terry Collins announced that Noah Syndergaard would be the Mets Opening Day starter for the 2017 season. And not just because he was the one Met who survived the attrition of the 2016 season; he was dominating throughout the year, and no game was ever too big for him. While I am curious why he felt the need to add close to 20 pounds of muscle and hope it does not impact his health during the upcoming season, he was quite simply the one dominant and healthy ace we had on a team that was supposed to be full of aces last year.
We need Noah this year, not only to help propel us to first place in the National League East but to break a curse that has gone back seven years. Because the when Noah takes the mound on Opening Day he will be the 7th starting pitcher we have had open the season in seven years…and for most of them, it was either the beginning of the end of their Mets career or just a disappointing season all around.
Going all the way back to the bleak year of 2011 (we were coming off a 79-83 2010 season, a fourth place finish and pretty non-competitive year) Mike Pelfrey took the ball opening day. Mike had had a pretty solid 2010, with 15 wins, but that was his last taste of success with the Mets, as he finished the 2011 season 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA and before you knew it he was pitching for the Minnesota Twins in 2013.
In 2012 we handed the ball to the Johan Santana who limped through the last year of his career with only six wins, but one of them was on June 1 and was the only no-hitter thrown in Mets’ history. Did the impact of the 134 pitch night really end his career or was it just coincidence? Regardless, he was nowhere to be seen for the start of the 2013 season and hasn’t pitched in a major league game since.
In 2013, Jon Niese was asked to take the hill on opening day. Like Mr. Pelfrey two years earlier, he was coming off the best season of his career, winning 13 and pitching to a 3.40 ERA. While he still pitched fairly well the next season (his ERA bumped up to 3.71) he managed to win only 8 games. In fact, he never won double digits again.
The cavalcade of mediocre starting pitchers opening the season continued into 2014 when Dillon Gee took the mound. Again, Gee was coming off a career best season when he pitched to a 3.62 ERA and had 12 wins. But the curse continued, and Gee followed this with a seven win effort in 2014, and seven starts into 2015 he had thrown his last pitch as a Met.
Of course 2015 is the one year the curse was defied. Why? Because Bartolo Colon started opening day that year and he can do anything. Win 15 games at 43? Check. Be the oldest player to hit his first home run, a moment Gary Cohen called “one of the greatest moments in baseball history”? Check. And defy the curse of the opening day starter, winning 14 games in 2015 helping us stay afloat till our magical September and postseason run? Check. Remind me again why isn’t he a Met in 2017? It’s rhetorical question, I know why.
Then 2016 was supposed to be different. Because we were going to break the new opening day starter every season run. Matt Harvey, the Dark Knight, was going to take the mound, and like Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden before him, it was time to start a new certainty; death, taxes, and Harvey dominating opening day for the foreseeable future. It wasn’t to be; the curse reared its ugly head and Harvey finished a disappointing year with 4 wins, a 4.86 ERA and major surgery.
And so we look to end this run with Thor, the Norse deity tasked to stop what even the Caped Crusader could not. Hopefully Noah will start a run of dominating opening day starts (and dominating seasons) that lasts well into the future…a la The Franchise.