Up-and-down 2013 points way to Mets' bright future
Harvey electric before injury; Wheeler, d'Arnaud show flashes in rookie showings
NEW YORK -- The Mets are the first to admit it: 2013 did not go quite as well as they had hoped. Matt Harvey may have been sensational, but then he suffered a serious injury. Zack Wheeler and Travis d'Arnaud may have made their debuts, but they were inconsistent. Holes up and down the roster affected the Mets all summer long.
What they try to stress, however, is what did go right in 2013. With Harvey, Wheeler, d'Arnaud, David Wright and Noah Syndergaard, the Mets feel they have a dynamic homegrown core in place to supplement their new free agents -- Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon et al. They feel they can be competitive in 2014 and downright scary by '15, when Harvey returns and Syndergaard entrenches himself in the rotation.
Before any of that plays out, however, it is worthwhile to take a look back at the top five Mets storylines of 2013 -- what went right, what went wrong, and what hints the team provided as to its future path.
5. Kids in the hall
Ever since Sandy Alderson took over as general manager prior to the 2010 season, he has been espousing the organization's young Minor League talent. Headlined by top prospects Wheeler and d'Arnaud, that group finally began to make its presence felt in 2013.
First was Wheeler, who threw six innings of shutout ball in his mid-June debut, overcoming some pitch-tipping issues to improve as the season progressed. From Aug. 10-Sept. 11, Wheeler was brilliant, posting a 2.44 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 12 walks in 44 1/3 innings. After the season, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon called Wheeler one of four players guaranteed roster spots heading into 2014.
Next up was d'Arnaud, who would have beaten Wheeler to The Show had he not broken his left foot in April. Though d'Arnaud struggled offensively throughout his six-week cup of coffee, he drew rave reviews for his pitch framing and work with the staff.
Less anticipated was the emergence of outfielder Juan Lagares, who was not even the team's top center-field prospect heading into the season. Leapfrogging everyone on the depth chart, Lagares established himself as one of the top defensive players in baseball, carving out a significant future role for himself so long as he begins to hit with consistency.
And in the Minors, Syndergaard transformed into one of the most exciting prospects in all of baseball, primed to join the Mets in 2014.
4. An All-Star show at Citi Field
For years, the Mets had been yearning to show Citi Field off to the world. That chance finally came in July, when they hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game for the first time in more than half a century.
Superstars from throughout baseball descended upon Flushing, with Wright and Harvey representing the Mets in the National League's starting lineup. Wright also participated in the Home Run Derby for the second time in his career, going out in the first round but calling the experience "awesome … really awesome."
Wright compared the experience to his only playoff run with the Mets in 2006, citing the energetic crowd at Citi Field. In that sense, it gave the Mets a taste of what they hope is a regular occurrence at their still-new ballpark: big games and packed crowds with all eyes on Queens.
3. Captain America saves the planet (but not himself)
Mets fans aching to see Wright play in meaningful games were treated to his World Baseball Classic run in March, when he hit .438 with 10 RBIs over his first four games. During his five-RBI performance in a second-round game against Puerto Rico, television announcers began calling Wright "Captain America," and the nickname stuck.
Unfortunately for Wright, the success was short-lived; he sat out Team USA's next game with midsection soreness, which turned out to be an intercostal strain that would sideline him for most of the rest of Spring Training.
Still, Wright and the Mets enjoyed the honeymoon of his new eight-year, $138 million contract. Shortly after Wright arrived back at Mets camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla., the Mets named him the fourth captain in franchise history, dropping "America" from his new nickname.
2. As the baseball world watches, the Wilpons open their checkbooks
Heading into November, it had been four years since the Mets last spent seriously on offseason acquisitions. Alderson spent his first three winters as GM reducing payroll and investing lightly in free agents, all while pointing to Winter 2013 as his next opportunity to make a Hot Stove splash. As promised, Alderson invested $87.25 million in new players by the end of the Winter Meetings, after handing out a total of $5 million in guaranteed contracts last winter. Newcomers Chris Young and Granderson came with the promise of outfield power, while Colon gave the Mets a bona fide Harvey replacement for the rotation.
Though the Mets still expect to enter next season with a payroll less than $90 million, their roster is balanced in a way it has not been in years. Gone are the weighty contracts of Johan Santana, Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran and others, replaced by smaller, more flexible commitments.
1. The rise and fall of The Dark Knight of Gotham
For five months this summer, Harvey captured a city's imagination. Drawing comparisons to Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver, Harvey transformed into a homegrown ace while developing a personality to go along with that stature.
On the mound, Harvey was simply electric, posting a 2.27 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning, and more than six times as many whiffs per walks. Thrice, Harvey took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He became the first Mets pitcher to start an All-Star Game since Gooden, doing so on his home mound at Citi Field.
Off the field, Harvey became an A-list Manhattan celebrity, gracing magazine covers and dating a Victoria's Secret model.
But it all came crashing down in late August, when an MRI revealed that Harvey had partially torn the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Following more than a month of debate, Harvey decided to undergo Tommy John surgery, which will sideline him for the entire 2014 season. The Mets expect him back by Opening Day 2015.