In Matt Harvey (26), Jacob deGrom (27), Noah Syndergaard (22), Steven Matz (24), and Zack Wheeler (25), the Mets have some of baseball’s best young starters, and hope to have them for a very long time. That staff just received a ringing endorsement from John Smoltz, who’s as qualified as anyone to talk about historically great rotations.
Smoltz anchored the mid-’90s Braves staff along with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine (Smoltz will join the other two in Cooperstown next week), and says that on pure ability, not even Atlanta’s trio can stack up to the potential of the Mets’ young arms.
“They’re way better,” Smoltz said of the Mets in comparison to his Braves rotation. “They’ve got more talent than we could ever have.”
With Wheeler out recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the rotation shored up by veterans Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese, the Mets—who can’t hit a lick—are just a game out of a playoff spot. It’s impossible to praise the starters too much.
But there’s a distinction between praise and hype; the latter has to be lived up to, and usually isn’t. A lot of things can go wrong for the Mets’ young starters. Players get hurt. Free agents leave. Potential doesn’t manifest.
So Smoltz draws a line between identifying talent, which his Braves possessed and these Mets possess, and actual success, which the Mets would be hard-pressed to top.
“The opportunities that exist today won’t allow a lot of staffs to find out what kind of staff they can be. That’s the shame of the game. The injuries have taken over. The inability to learn how to pitch [and] fast-tracking a lot of kids.
“There’s no doubt that the dynamic arms are way better than we’ve ever seen. And the issue is how long can we keep them healthy and how long can they stick together financially?”
With the notoriously cheap Mets owners still paying off their debts, it’s not hard to envision a near future where the team can’t afford to keep the rotation together—or at least can’t surround them with enough talent to seriously contend. That’d be a shame, but it’ll fun to watch the next few years play out regardless: either the Mets return to relevancy on the shoulders of the next generation of star pitchers, or they squander it all away. The silver lining for Mets fans, ever fatalist, is that they are at least somewhat protected from crushing disappointment by their unshakable assumption that everything beautiful will end up hurting them in the end.