Keidel: Noah Syndergaard Injury Puts The Reality Of His Career Into Focus

The Mets Pitcher Has Never Really Lived Up To The Hype

Jason Keidel
March 25, 2020 - 12:49 pm

If beleaguered Jets fans have turned the team nickname into the acronym, "Just End The Season," then maybe the slogan for Mets fans is "Must End The Season." 

On a gray March day, with our nation in a headlock and New York City in a chokehold from COVID-19, the last thing local sports fans need is to hear that Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard needs Tommy John surgery. Yet he does, after tearing the UCL in his pitching arm. 

This from the man so tall, lean and seemingly sturdy. He was called "Thor" for his chiseled Nordic features, long blonde hair and the triple-digit fastballs that buzz past MLB batters. Now, the Mets can forget about having his services for this season, whenever it begins, or ends. 

Syndergaard has accepted his handle and his job with just the right amount of humility and humor, often making self-effacing, third-person remarks about Thor liking this and Thor approving that. As long as he could chuck that hammer down the black at 99 mph, we were along for the ride, the moniker and whatever mistakes he made. And like Matt Harvey before him, Syndergaard looked the part, a matinee idol who lorded over the game from the mound, literally above everyone else, playing the most important position in the game. 

Noah Syndergaard delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians on Aug. 22, 2019, at Citi Field.
Elsa/Getty Images

We've been waiting since 2015 for Syndergaard to have his breakout season - I foolishly predicted he'd win the NL Cy Young last year - and for the comic book metaphors to match his deeds. He has the size and the stuff to be an ace, but didn't have the pressure of being one with Jacob deGrom taking that torch for good. But with Zack Wheeler fleeing to Philadelphia, Steven Matz never quite hitting his ceiling and Markus Stroman still a variable, Thor was more crucial to the team than ever. 

But for now, Noah Syndergaard looks like just another Met who hasn't met his potential, who was halted by the injury beast that has swallowed so many Mets before him. He's missed time with a torn lat, a bum index finger, a viral infection and a tweaked hamstring. For some reason, some of us figured he would just grow out of the pesky pains that have crippled his career. Instead, the truth is he's reached one All-Star Game (2016), has never won more than 14 games, and is coming off his worst year as a Met.  

Syndergaard turns 28 this summer, which means he will be nearly 29 when he's ready to return. And most folks say it takes at least 18 months to truly return from Tommy John. For Syndergaard personally, he is eligible for arbitration in 2021, and will have no numbers to support a spike in salary. He becomes a free agent in 2022, when he turns 30, and teams may run from someone with Syndergaard's history and litany of injuries. 

This is bad news and bad for business. Whether the Mets, the Yanks, or their fans care to concede it, life is better, baseball is better, and the Big Apple is better when both our clubs are fit and fighting for playoff spots and World Series rings. The Bronx Bombers are deep enough to absorb an injured pitcher. The Mets don't have the depth to win without their top pitchers. They just have a long history of losing them. 

You can follow Jason on Twitter: @JasonKeidel