The New York Mets starting rotation will have to answer the recurring question of health in 2018, but that’s not the only thing they’ll have to prove moving forward.
Mickey Callaway said it best a week into camp when he claimed that he’d never been around a collection of pitching talent resembling that of the staff he is currently working with at New York Mets camp.
This group of pitchers is supremely talented, but often not together. It remains a fact that we’ve never seen the “Five Aces” pitch five days in a row, and at this point, it seems we may never see that materialize.
Beyond the question of health, there’s another real problem festering in this rotation. Will they be able to grow up?
If you believe that this rotation is a group of guys who don’t deserve that criticism, sadly you’re mistaken.
The proof is in the pudding. In his first spring training as the Mets pitching coach, Dave Eiland’s comments should make you take notice. In response to the idea of moving some of their excess starting pitchers to the bullpen for 2018, Eiland responded with the following.
“In theory this is a tremendous way to go,” Eiland told NY Post’s, Joel Sherman. “But do you have the personnel that has not just the resiliency, but the mentality? Are you all-in for the team to help us in the best way for the team or are you in for yourself?”
These comments come just a couple weeks after Zack Wheeler made it known he was not happy about the possibility of moving to the bullpen after the addition of Jason Vargas.
"I'm just here to be a starting pitcher. That's what I've always been and that's what I'm going to be," Zack Wheeler said when asked what the Vargas signing means for him. "When I'm healthy, I know I'm just as good as anybody out there." pic.twitter.com/JmV1pRiTCc
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) February 16, 2018
Wheeler seems to have channeled this emotion positively, as he was impressive in a scoreless spring debut on Wednesday following Matt Harvey’s start.
But why can’t Wheeler make the move to the bullpen? The Mets certainly do not owe him a spot in the rotation based off of his track record, because well, there isn’t much of a track record to speak of.
Wheeler played a minuscule role in the organization’s success during 2015 and 2016 seasons. So the idea that he can only be a starter for a team with eight quality options for five rotation spots is misguided.
Even beyond Wheeler, the Mets starters have had a handful of incidents just last year that has displayed a lack of maturity.
A broken down Matt Harvey never reported to Citi Field for a game in early May last season.
Although he claimed he came down with a headache, the lack of communication, while also being a no-show at the game was a sign of immaturity.
And what about Robert Gsellman infamously telling NJ.com’s Abbey Mastracco, “I don’t really care,” response to Sandy Alderson’s public criticism? For a guy who had recently been demoted, a response of that magnitude was unwarranted and worrisome.
Finally, we can touch on the Noah Syndergaard lat tear debacle in Washington last season. This was a 24-year-old who refused an MRI after the Mets brass implored that he get his side evaluated.
The real question we should be asking is what has brought this sense of immaturity? Is it entitlement?
It’s hard to believe a player like Harvey could be entitled to anything after posting a 9-17 record with an ERA over five in the last two seasons.
How can Gsellman not care about being demoted to Triple-A in a season where the Mets were in desperate need of quality innings from their rotation.
Obviously, life is full of second chances. A new manager and pitching coach will mean a clean slate for everyone on the 2018 roster.
These pitchers are talented beyond belief, but 2018 could be the last chance for many of these starters to right their wrongs. Being questioned publicly by their pitching coach will hopefully be remembered as the start of the growing up process.