Happy Opening Day, Mets Fans!
-Written by Alec Baicher
Mets fans, rejoice! It's Opening Day. Hope springs eternal. This is the day of the year that every Major League Baseball team has new life. Everyone starts 0-0. Some teams have lofty expectations, others prepare for a long season. Every beginning of April brings new hope for fans and teams.
I've been a die-hard Mets fan my entire life. I live and breathe Mets baseball. It's not just April-September (and October the past few seasons), its the off-season included. The Mets have been ingrained in my life and my family before I was born. Growing up in the Baicher household, the first two colors I learned were orange and blue.
Now, being a Mets fan was not always easy. When the Yankees were winning all those championships while I was in elementary school, I hated rooting for the lovable losers from Queens. It was tough. But there was one thing I always had as a Mets fan. That is hope.
Hope is what we come to for this season. The past two seasons for Mets fans have been some of the most fun seasons I've endured being a sports fan. With the unexpected World Series run in 2015, to lofty expectations in 2016 and seeing injuries take place and still making the playoffs was great. But this is 2017. This is the year the Mets and their fans want. 2017 is ours.
Let's jump right into it. The Mets are going to be lead by their rotation, which could quite possibly be the best in baseball. Syndergaard and deGrom are aces at the top of the rotation, no doubt about it. The long haired studs have enjoyed vast success in the early careers, and now they are veterans and ready to take the jump into legitimate Cy Young contenders to lead the rotation. The next two in line are Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. I will go on record stating I love Matt Harvey. I love his competitiveness, I love his drive, and I love how he wants to live a New York lifestyle. A ton of Mets fans are sick of Harvey's shit, but I think he has a nice comeback year. Does coming back from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery scare me? Of course, but knowing the type of player Matt is, I believe he will figure it out and adapt to being less of a power pitcher and more of a guy that can paint corners and still get an out.
Now we have Mr. Zack Wheeler, welcome back! Wheeler hasn't pitched in two seasons because of Tommy John surgery and nobody really knows what to expect. Wheeler was never a guy to go deep into games and he lacked command of his pitches. I expect a lot of the same again from Zack, but he might as well have the best stuff on the staff next to Syndergasrd. Wheeler was a competitor during spring and won this spot fair and square. It's great seeing these pitchers compete. Anything Wheeler gives the team that is above average is probably a win in the eyes of the Mets and their fans.
Rounding out the rotation is Robert Gsellman who burst on the scene last season and continued it through spring training this year. Gsellman doesn't have the overpowering fastball like the rest of the staff, but he hits corners and keeps the ball down in the zone consistently to keep hitters off balance. Gsellman has proved he belongs in the big league rotation, but the question is for how long?
Steven Matz is on the DL (AGAIN) and I'm honestly not sure what to think of Matz. He has had injuries every season of his professional career and it doesn't look like they are slowing down. Matz can't even begin to throw for another 3 weeks, meaning we won't see him until the middle of May minimum. Matz has all the talent in the world and Mets fans love rooting from the local boy from Long Island, but as long as he is off the field we will always continue with the "what if" conversation with Matz.
Seth Lugo, star of the Puerto Rico pitching staff in the WBC will also be another option after he pitched phenomenal down the stretch last season and in the WBC, but he opens the season on the DL with arm fatigue. The Mets have no more starting pitching depth in Triple-A like years past, so if more than one of these guys go down at a time, it could be a scary situation. All in all, I expect the Mets rotation to be the best in baseball by season's end.
Next is the lineup. The Mets may have their most potent lineup in quite some time. The reason being is they re-signed their superstar, Yoenis Cespedes, to a 4 year deal that he deserves. Cespedes is the biggest game changer the Mets have had since Piazza. I have no problem saying I adore this large Cuban man. What he has done for the Mets since his time coming over from Detroit has been outstanding. Cespedes is now locked in this year after getting his contract. But its not just him. The Mets lineup can be described in one word, "power". The Mets have a ton of it. Granderson, Walker, Bruce, Duda all have the ability to hit 25+ home runs a year. Even Asdrubal Cabrera hit 20+ last year.
The Mets relied on the long ball a lot last year. This season, they will need to be way better with runners in scoring position and getting runners in from third base with less than 2 outs. The one concern with the Mets position players is, you guessed it, injuries. Duda and Walker are both coming off significant back injuries and neither is getting younger. Asdrubal Cabrera played most of last season with a bad knee, and Travis d'Arnaud has not shown the Mets he can stay healthy for a full season. The Mets are going to need their core group to stay healthy. David Wright may have played his last game with the Mets. I really hope not, because I love David and I want to see Jose Reyes and Wright on the same side of the diamond again this year. Even with these injuries, the Mets have depth.
Wilmer Flores can play all 4 infield positions, TJ Rivera has become a super utility guy, and oh yeah, we have a 23 year old stud outfielder that needs to play everyday in Michael Conforto (CC: METS BRASS). Stud prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith are waiting in the wings. The Mets have a ton of depth to back them up, which is different from years past, but staying healthy will go a long way for this team.
I won't get into the bullpen because I'll go into them, the rotation, and lineup in more detail on my next episode of "Maybe Next Year" (another shameless podcast plug by Alec!) So tune in this week to hear about them.
Well, there it is Mets fans. I hope you're excited. I'm currently on my way to my 9th opening day and this is the most excited I've been for Mets baseball. As much as a realist and pessimist I may seem, i have hope and optimism for this team. Without further adieu, here is my official prediction for the 2017 New York Mets:
NL East Division Winners.
Beat the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS (3-1)
Beat the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS (4-2)
Beat the Boston Red Sox (4-3)
Let's get it Mets fans. We are in for a joyous ride through October this year. Parade will be on October 31st.
CUE THE MUSIC BOYS! #CapsOn #LGM #WeDemBoyz