By Lenn Robbins
Throughout all the years of Mets misfortune, ineptitude, dysfunction and, well, you name it, this one stings like no other.
Maybe it’s because we don’t have the luxury of time. The 162-game grueling march to the top that we have savored as a baseball season has been transformed into a brisk, 60-game sprint to the finish. Every injury is magnified. Every slump or hot streak will be more impactful.
So Wednesday’s news that Marcus Stroman suffered a left calf tear and will be evaluated week to week in nine-week season, feels as if the Mets season has ended before it begins with Friday’s opener against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.
The Mets already lost Noah Syndegaard to Tommy John surgery. Ace Jacob deGrom had to leave his July 15th outing with tightness in his back. He’s scheduled to start against the Braves but back tightness and pitchers go together like Canada and Blue Jays, or Pittsburgh and Blue Jays, or…
Now the Mets have lost Stroman, who was expected to offset the loss of Zach Wheeler, who left in free agency to division rival Philadelphia. Syndegaard, Wheeler, now Stroman. Is that the Grim Reaper warming up in the Mets bullpen?
Those off-the-field losses feel like an omen for on-the-field losses. The season with an asterisk hasn’t even begun and Mets have gotten a kick in the ass-terisk.
“Man, it’s really unfortunate,” manager Luis Rojas told reporters. “[Stro] put a lot of work and brought such great shape and it was real exciting to have the five guys here to go right before the season started and he’s grinding through it. He got hit by that line drive, he finished his pitches … he’s good to throw, it’s just moving where the challenge is, getting off the mound.
“It’s just really unfortunate. This guy is a fighter, he wants to go, and it’s unfortunate that he’s not going to start in the rotation for us in the season.”
Stroman will start the season on the injured list. There’s no telling how long he’ll stay there. That’s the rub with many soft tissue injuries – fine today, pop tomorrow.
Suddenly one of the Mets’ strength – starting pitching – is no longer strong. It’s solid but consider this: The rotation the Mets expected to have this season was comprised of deGrom, Syndegaard, Stroman, Steven Matz and Rick Porcello. It now looks like this: deGrom, Matz, Porcello, Michael Wacha and, take your pick of The Replacements – Corey Oswalt, Erasmo Ramirez and David Peterson.
“We have a lot of depth as far as a starting pitcher,” said Rojas.
Rojas must have been reading from that eternal baseball tome, “Hope Springs Eternal.” Let’s get real. In a division with the defending World Series champion Nationals, the formidable Braves and the Joe Girardi-led Phillies, the Mets can’t lose their Nos. 2 and 3 starters in a nine-week season and say “Postseason,” in the same sentence.
Perhaps the absence of sports made the anticipation and hope for this season feel as if were fueled by PEDs. Or maybe the tantalizing thought of Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes combined with that riches of starting pitching warranted unbridled optimism.
Whatever the reasons for the hope of a Subway Series, no less an NL East title were, they’re gone today. In the blink of an eye in this blink of a season the Mets championship dreams are all but over.