We’re barely past intrasquad games, and already the Mets social media feed is filled with stories about limiting innings, pitch counts and debut dates for our young arms.
And I ask again, “Why?”
I began watching this team in the mid-’80s. I watched every game religiously, listening to Ralph Kiner and Steve Zabriskie wax theoretical about that team’s young trio of golden arms. I even paid heed to Tim McCarver’s myriad stories about Bob Gibson.
You know what I didn’t hear in 1984? “Ron Darling is throwing 90+ and working a 4-0 shutout. But Mel Stottlemyre is on his way to the mound because he’s approaching 85 pitches tonight.”
And I definitely didn’t hear, “Dwight Gooden is mowing down all takers at Tidewater, but the Mets won’t bring him up until May, to preserve player control over him six years from now.”
Nope. When a player was ready, he played. And he played as much as the team needed him to.
Today, Stephen Strasburg is pulled from the Nationals rotation in the midst of an impressive playoff surge. You know – the playoffs – the reason baseball players are paid what they are. Young Strasburg helped that team reach this goal, but was yanked because Nationals management wanted him ready for possible future playoff runs – runs that may never happen.
Now, the Mets are doing the same with their young guns. Zack Wheeler can miss every bat he throws to this spring, and the team already knows they’ll sacrifice him until at least May to preserve a sixth year of team control — a sixth year that might not even happen, either.
Matt Harvey will be on a restrictive pitch count. Jeurys Familia will probably be told he needs “more seasoning” for the fourth consecutive year. Noah Syndergaard will wait for the team to simply fit his name on a jersey.
I know the game has evolved, and that this may be for the best. Maybe this is the unfortunate byproduct of little leaguers throwing 45-foot cutters, jacking up their arms before puberty. Maybe — well, likely — it’s just a financial decision.
But, at the risk of sounding like an old man on a porch, I’m starting to long for the days when arms were tested, not coddled. When players worked harder for half a mil than today’s superstars do for five times the amount.
I’m a fan — one who pays good money to see a team put out their best product. And, come April, if Zack Wheeler is ready, he had better be in the Mets rotation. Hypothetical sixth year be damned. If the Mets (and these players) are as good as they anticipate, working a contract extension will likely happen well before the next half-decade, anyway.
Likewise, if Matt Harvey is destroying the Pirates, I had better not hear that Warthen is yanking him to preserve his next start in Miami.
The kids are alright.Â Let them show us.