Monday, March 23, 2015

For Openers

The word, which to me seemed kind of inevitable, that Bartolo Colon had been named the Mets Opening Day starter on April 6th was met with certain furor. After all, Colon was, prior to the Zack Wheeler injury, supposed to be the 5th starter in this loaded rotation, and even as it slots out now, he's still probably the #4. Opening Day is generally reserved for the Ace, and on the Mets, that's Matt Harvey and even if it's not, it's Jacob deGrom. It's not Bartolo Colon. Colon is probably being given this assignment based solely on tenure, if not some odd ploy to pump up ticket sales during the first homestand of the season the following week. The move has been derided as stupid and short-sighted and already Terry Collins is getting blasted for screwing things up and the team hasn't even taken the field yet.

But somehow, I'm OK with the move. It doesn't bother me that Colon will get the ball on April 6th, and it doesn't bother me that deGrom gets the ball in the Home Opener on April 13th, and although I'll probably have to buy tickets if I decide to go, it doesn't bother me that Matt Harvey's return to Citi Field will fall on the following night, April 14th.

Colon is the veteran here, obviously, but he's also the only pitcher on the staff right now that has meritable Opening Day experience (Jon Niese in 2013 notwithstanding—Niese earned that particular nod simply because someone had to and he had the tenure). True, the logical choice is Matt Harvey, who's looked so good so far in Spring Training that his stardom is beginning to rocket into other dimensions. But let's hit the brakes on Harvey for a second. He's more than likely going to have many more Opening Day assignments fall his way and although he, and a majority of Mets fans may not like it, it probably makes more sense to ease him back into things, and not throw him out there on a day where he'll be more amped up than he usually is. Jacob deGrom, coming off a Rookie of the Year campaign, would also be a good choice, but he seems to be more of a sentimental choice than the kind of presence you look for on the mound on Opening Day. This isn't a knock on deGrom at all, but the understated deGrom doesn't posit as quite the Hollywood type that, say, Harvey is. Niese and Dillon Gee have also started Opening Day games for the Mets, but among this group, they really don't quite rate.

So, Colon is the choice, and I really don't think it's a bad thing. Colon, for his age and his general lack of conditioning still managed to lead the Mets in wins last season and basically performed as well as we could have hoped for in 2014, and there's no good reason to think he won't duplicate his performance in '15. I don't think we need to vilify Collins or Alderson for the move as much as people are doing. Perhaps this is me drinking a little too much of the Met Management Kool-Aid, but after so many losing seasons, I have to believe in the plan they're feeding us. Part of the team being exciting again is getting the asses in the seats by any means necessary. It's not quite as crazy as it sounds.

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