The New York Mets made a surprising announcement in naming Bartolo Colon their Opening Day starter, as well as Jacob DeGrom the starter for their home opener.
Young phenom Matt Harvey won’t be pitching in either the Mets season or home openers this year, with the honors going to Bartolo Colon and Jacob deGrom, respectively. Harvey is expected to make his season debut April 14 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The decision to go with Colon on opening day is certainly a head-scratcher. Colon, 41, went 15-13 with a 4.09 ERA a season ago, and looks to slot in to the back end of the Mets rotation. At 41 years and 317 days, Colon will become the oldest Opening Day pitcher in Mets history.
The next important date to look at is the Mets home opener, April 13 against the Phillies. While not as important as the opening day starter, the pitcher for the home opener is typically one that will please the fans after a cold winter with no baseball. Here, the decision to go with 2014 NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom is one that’s hard to argue. deGrom was absolutely electric towards the latter half of 2014 and according to coach Terry Collins earned this honor based on merit.
Matt Harvey won’t see the field until the following day, a move reported to be partially influenced by ticket sales. When healthy, ticket sales routinely spiked on “Harvey Day,” so the Mets can assure themselves two huge crowds by holding their first home game and Harvey’s return to the diamond on back-to-back games.
These choices raise a few different concerns.
First of all, Colon should not be the opening day starter. With Harvey and deGrom as well as the Mets two previous opening day starters in Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee available, Colon should have been the last possible choice here.
The order of the rotation is trivial at the end of the day, but it’s tradition to roll out your top pitcher in the season’s first game. Collins still calls Harvey his ace, and is ready to pitch this season, so why not give him the true ace treatment by naming him opening day starter?
If the starter is to be chosen based on recent merit, perhaps Collins could have elected to start deGrom in the season opener. The reasons Collins described as to why deGrom will start the home opener can easily be applied to opening day as well. This would have allowed the Mets to reward deGrom for his stellar rookie season as well as please the home fans by allowing them to see Harvey at Citi Field as soon as possible.
The reported motivation of ticket sales in this decision is especially unsettling. Yes, this is a business and the Mets need to sell as many tickets as possible. But there’s 81 home games in a season. Do the Mets really need to skimp out on their fanbase just to maximize profit in game two? A move like this would acceptable later in the season, but it’s unfair to the fans at the season’s start.
Matt Harvey is still the teams ace and none of this will matter after the first five games of the season. But it’s disappointing that a 41 year old pitcher in the final years of his career was chosen for one of the two important pitching dates and Harvey was not.