For the Mets, the name Tommy John is uttered so often that you begin to wonder if the former left-handed pitcher is making a comeback. At least it feels like the name is mentioned every fifth day in the team’s Port St. Lucie clubhouse.
Spring Training comes with its own measure of swagger. Optimism is the size of a grapefruit. Predictions of an October pennant race sound as sweet as a sun-kissed Florida orange. From Florida to Arizona, managers and coaches spew sweet accolades on the crop of prospects while players gush giddy gibberish sweeter than the citrus of a pomelo.
When Matt Harvey announced he would undergo Tommy John surgery and likely miss the entire 2014 season, the New York Mets were forced to rethink their off-season plans.
My (bloodshot) eyes dropped, not in shame, but in search of explanation. My iPhone read 10:54 a.m.
By the time I arrived at Shea Stadium in mid-June, a Dwight Gooden start had become a New York event. I had been watching Gooden baffle opponents on television over the first two months of the 1985 season. The first month he shut out the Philadelphia Phillies twice and the Cincinnati Reds. From May and early June he pitched into the seventh inning in all seven of his starts. He was four days younger than I was for goodness sakes. It was time to see this with my own eyes, in person.
When the day arrives, and it’s clear Zack Wheeler has “figured it out,” this will be the day he will appreciate most. New York Mets fans will prefer to reflect on Wheeler’s first MLB start, six shutout innings vs. Atlanta, but Sunday will be one of those starts that will educate the Mets rookie most as he moves forward.