Talk about a buzz kill. On Monday New York Mets manager Terry Collins officially announced that 41-year-old veteran and portly right-hander Bartolo Colon will get the nod on Opening Day for New York, as they take on the Washington Nationals and prized free agent Max Scherzer in the nation’s capital.
Colon to Open
While the choice certainly isn’t bad, Colon led the Mets in victories with 15 and innings pitched with 202 1/3, it’s just not what fans had hoped for. Fans had been hoping for the return of ace Matt Harvey, or other young studs Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler before Wheeler got hurt. Colon had a decent year in his first season with the Mets, going 15-13 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, walking 30 batters and striking out 151, the veteran is not the exciting sexy choice fans hoped the organization would pick.
When asked why Colon was chosen over other candidates Collins said “It’s just one start, I know it’s a big deal to a lot of people. To me, it’s not. It’s one of 32 starts. You look back and look what Bart did all season long and he’s earned it.”
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The elder statesman will now be the fifth different pitcher to start for the Mets on Opening Day in the past five seasons, joining the ranks of Mike Pelfrey, Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese, and Dillon Gee. Colon also becomes the oldest pitcher ever to start for the Mets on Opening Day at 41 years and 317 days, beating out Tom Glavine who was 41 years and 7 days.
Even though he was ruled out for Opening Day at the beginning of camp, Matt Harvey would have been a fantastic option to be given the honor. After missing the last month of 2013 and the entire 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery Harvey looks to regain his peak form.
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In 2013 Harvey went 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA, a phenomenal .93 WHIP, 191 strikeouts, and just 31 walks, even starting the 2013 All-Star Game for the National League at Citi Field. Before getting hurt in late August, Harvey was considered to be a potential Cy Young favorite. So far in Spring Training, Harvey hasn’t missed a beat. The flame throwing righty has a 1.26 ERA and .84 WHIP, 11 strikeouts, with just one walk in Grapefruit League play and has an active scoreless streak of 9 2/3 innings.
Harvey has accepted the decision even saying he did not deserve the honor. "For not throwing at all last year, I'm happy to be playing again," Harvey said. "So whatever is decided on when I get to throw, I'm going to be all excited and all for it. Obviously Bartolo, throwing 200 innings and getting 15 wins, is well deserving of Opening Day. And all that Jacob did last year; he obviously deserves Opening Day at home. I'm happy to be throwing in the first series."
Reports before Spring Training began and at the start of camp suggested that Harvey would be chosen to start the first game at Citi Field, with some even suggesting the Mets would hold Harvey out of action so he could make his season debut in front of the home crowd. Mets GM Sandy Alderson quickly rebuffed that idea. Harvey will now pitch the third game of the year, which lines him up for the second home game on April 14th.
The move is brilliant from a business standpoint for the Mets, since it draws fans to a game they previously did not care about. But it’s upsetting with fans because they were lead to believe that Harvey would pitch the first home game of the year. Alderson did hint that money played a part in that decision, but also suggested that Harvey’s innings limit was the main driving force to make the unpopular choice.
“We take a lot of things into account," Alderson said. "I think the first and foremost is: Does any pitcher deserve to pitch in a game of that sort? And I think that was the primary focus. You're assuming people are more interested in seeing Harvey pitch than Jacob. That's probably true, but not something that I would acknowledge.”
deGrom at Home
Jacob deGrom was the other popular candidate passed over for the Opening Day nod. deGrom will instead take the mound for the New York in the second game of the year; which also sets up the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year to start the home opener against the Philadelphia Phillies. There is less outrage in the fan base over deGrom pitching the home opener than there is for Colon going Opening Day, which is a little surprising.
Many fans believe while deGrom doesn’t provide the same level of excitement as Harvey, the rookie right-hander was still a big bright spot for the 2014 team. deGrom went 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 140.1 innings with 43 walks and 144 strikeouts, leading all NL rookies in IP and strikeouts while leading all rookie starters in ERA. In his second to last start, deGrom broke the record for strikeouts to start a game, fanning eight batters against the Miami Marlins on September 15th. In exhibition play deGrom has looked equally as good as his 2014 campaign, pitching to a 3.00 ERA, .80 WHIP, 15 strikeouts and two walks.
With so much hope and potential for the Mets in 2015 especially in their starting rotation, it sets the wrong tone to not have one of the young arms start the first game of the year. Colon was a great pitcher in his heyday, but now is the time to start with something fresh and exciting.