The Mets traded Steven Matz to the Toronto Blue Jays last week for a bunch of prospects that the Mets hope will pan out.
It’s telling that the Mets were just happy to send him away and get quantity than quality for him, isn’t it?
Outside of Matz’s Major League debut against the Cincinnati Reds, he went 3-for-3 with a double and 4 RBI while holding the Reds to two runs in 7 ⅔ innings that had his grandfather be a social media sensation, he offered nothing for the Mets. Injuries and inconsistency plagued the Long Island native in his time with the Mets.
Matz could use a fresh start elsewhere. There was no way he could have pitched for Mets manager Luis Rojas after he never got the nod to start despite the Mets losing starters to injury this past season. Once he lost his manager and vice versa, there was no going back.
It also could be pitching for the hometown team became too much for Matz. It’s not easy to pitch or play for a team that a player grew up rooting for, especially in New York. Forget friends and family. The feeling of letting people in the tri-state area down could have worn on Matz.
Of course, Matz and the Mets will deny all this.
Human nature tells you differently.
Injuries affected his ability to pitch to his potential. It’s hard to be good and consistent when he is making appearances on the injured list often. He was useless for the most part since he was constantly hurt.
Matz reached his low point last season when the Mets demoted him to the bullpen after a rough start as a starter. He allowed 23 runs in 23 innings that earned him a 9.00 ERA. The Mets gave him another shot to start on Sep. 19 against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. He stunk by surrendering six runs on eight hits in the Braves’ 15-2 whopping on the Mets.
Maybe it was COVID-19 or the shortened season that got Matz off-track here, but something just did not seem right.
He becomes the Blue Jays’ problem. For the Jays, it gives them a chance to fix him. Maybe they know something the Mets didn’t. Maybe a change of scenery benefits him. No one expects much out of him so that he could pitch with no pressure on him. If he stinks, oh well.
He was never going to get the luxury to work out his problems here after all the expectations heaped on him. The Mets touted Matz as a starter who could lead them to a championship and Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom; only deGrom panned out while Syndergaard has been injury-prone inconsistent, and Harvey just lost it altogether after he underwent thoracic outlet surgery.
Matz will spend this offseason reviewing what went wrong and fix it. He knows he is in the critical juncture of his career where he figures it out now or be pitching in the independent league. One thing he can do is stop thinking too much and just pitch. He shouldn’t worry about overpowering hitters. His problem sometimes stems from between the ears rather than his arm. He struggles to apply what he is being taught. This will be Toronto’s challenge after the Mets had several pitching coaches try to fix him.
Matz was a victim of high expectations. It happens to players with potential. Everyone talks potential to the point they are accomplished for what they can do before they actually do it. Everyone thought Matz would be great because he did so well in the minors that it would translate into major leagues.
Matz is 29 years old. He still has time to show he can be good. Maybe he won’t be the pitcher he was first touted anymore, but he can be serviceable to pitch for several more years if he can figure it out.
For the Blue Jays, getting him is taking a flier on him, hoping it works out.
For Matz, he needs to find a way to make it work for him.
This is what we call being at a crossroads for a once-touted pitcher that lost his way.
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