Zack Wheeler represented hope. The promise of a new day.
Of course, at the same time, welcoming him to Queens was a tough pill to swallow. Zack Wheeler was acquired in a trade for Carlos Beltran . So, by agreeing to that swap with the San Fransisco Giants, we were officially turning the page on one of the most disappointing chapters ever written.
ONE playoff appearance. How?
The post-Madoff years were rough. And by rough, I mean agonizing. Chinese water torture. At every opportunity, ownership was telling us everything was OK. We were told that being wrapped up in the biggest Ponzi scheme in world history wouldn’t affect the day to day operations of the team.
It wasn’t all bad. R.A Dickey was fun. Johan Santana threw 295 pitches in a game to bring the franchise it’s first no-hitter. Never mind the fact that Carlos Beltran, who was then a member of the Cardinals, recorded a base hit.
But if you ask me for my favorite memory from that time period… That’s easy.
Double-header in Atlanta. Hands down.
Harvey game 1. Wheeler game 2.
We’d finally get to see our crown jewel in action. For the first time in years, there was a positive buzz around the team. No reparations to victims. No loans to make payroll. No meddling with on-field decisions. No bare chested execs fighting players. No asinine medical decisions.
Two of the most promising pitchers in baseball were wearing Mets jerseys, and they’d both be pitching on June 19th, 2013. That was the story.
Matt Harvey, who may top Wheeler as being the most symbolic of the post-Madoff era, was brilliant. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and struck out thirteen Braves.
Wheeler, in the nightcap, threw six scoreless innings, leading the Mets to a 2-0 victory.
Blue skies were ahead. Sunny days were on the horizon.
Didn’t I tell you these were dark days? We didn’t even climb that high before crashing down to earth. Shortly after that masterful performance in Atlanta, it was announced that Matt Harvey would need Tommy John surgery.
The photograph of John Buck consoling Matt Harvey may be the image I associate most with the time following the Madoff scandal.
That was a stomach punch. But right before spring training was about to kick off in 2015, it was announced that Zack Wheeler would need Tommy John surgery. Personally, the Wheeler news hurt more.
Everything was just starting to come together when Wheeler went down. Jacob deGrom emerged as a front line pitcher. Matt Harvey was set to return. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz were waiting in the wings. (Las Vegas.)
We don’t need a history lesson here. We know that in 2015, the Mets went on an improbable run to the World Series. We know that while watching from the sidelines, Zack Wheeler asked the Mets not to trade him. He wanted to be a part of what the team had in place.
We know that Wheeler had difficulty coming back from the surgery and watched another playoff run in 2016 from the sidelines.
We know that Wheeler struggled mightily in 2017 when he was finally able to return to the mound.
We were given a reminder on why the Giants made Wheeler their first round pick when he was good as anyone in the second half of 2018.
Ultimately, we watched the Mets shy away from offering him an extension to stay in Queens. We watched the Mets make a decision to go on another improbable playoff run in 2019 rather than dealing Wheeler at the trade deadline.
Then we watched Zack Wheeler sign a deal which would make him a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Like so many other Met stories over the past decade, this one had a bad ending.
So, I guess this is it Zack. I can’t exactly wish you good luck, given where you signed and all, but no hard feelings?
Ironically, you’re leaving as Carlos Beltran is returning. In a way, your tale has come full circle. Again, fans of the team have hope. It’s not a player who have the supporters looking forward to the future, but a new owner. And with it, a new identity. A return to relevancy, and just maybe, a return to respectability.
I’m sorry that you can’t be here to experience it with us. And I know that deep down I’m being a little selfish by saying that. I mean they are talking about replacing you with Rick Porcello!