(Photo: Brad Penner — USA Today Sports)
The Mets aired their first telecast on over-the-air TV Sunday afternoon. It was a big deal in the sense many people in the tri-state area cut the cord on cable or never had cable in the first place.
Mets fans hoped it was Jacob deGrom that would make his 2021 debut that day since he hasn’t made a start so far in spring training. He started Saturday afternoon against the Houston Astros since Mets manager Luis Rojas preferred to have him start his first spring training outing on the road. Instead, they settled for watching Marcus Stroman starting against the Miami Marlins at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie, home of Mets spring training games.
This was not a bad thing. This gave them a chance to see what Stroman can do after missing the entire season by opting out for COVID-19 reasons. He offers more questions than answers heading to the 2021 season in what is his walk year. He bypassed free agency to settle with a one-year deal to show what he deserves in the open market next season.
If fans judged Stroman on this result, they would say he has so much work to do.
The loquacious starter allowed two runs on three hits with a walk in his three innings of work against the Marlins. He did strike out two.
Stroman mentioned excuses such as windy conditions as a reason for his struggles. He displayed a bravado about the process such as preparation for the regular season rather than results. He cited his velocity as a reason he feels good about himself. He did not offer an apology for his performance. If anything, he was smiling when he got out of the first inning.
So much for accountability.
If he pitched like deGrom, we would have shrugged it off.
Here’s the problem: This is what we saw from him as a Met so far. He has one bad inning, and he does well after the game is out of reach. He can’t seem to pitch well when he is in jams. He struggles with his control.
He can’t be mediocre if the Mets view themselves as a playoff team. If he thinks he deserves to be paid what he’s worth, he is going to have to pitch like an ace every fifth day. Is he capable of that? That’s a question mark heading to this season.
Stroman likes to talk like a boxer when he talks to the media. He acts like the baddest man on the mound. Yet, he pitches like a lightweight than a heavyweight.
He needs conditions to be just right to be effective out there on the mound. His presser on Sunday spoke a lot about his mentality out there: It is not good.
Stroman needs to toughen up since it’s hard for great conditions to take place in a game setting. If the weather affects him this much, how will he pitch in the fall or in early April when the weather is cold at night? If he does not have control with his pitches as he demonstrated by hitting Jorge Alfaro and Lewis Brinson, he must pitch through it because that’s what the great pitchers do.
This happens way too often with him. In a jam, he often wilts than rising through it. His second spring training start reinforced everything about him. He showed why he is a gamble than a sure thing when he is out there every fifth day based on what we saw.
The righthander does show flashes he can be great. He worked all offseason to work on his split changeup. It worked in his first spring training outing last week when he used it six or seven times to help him pitch a perfect two-inning performance against the Astros.
This is why it was disappointing to see Stroman be ineffective. The Mets hoped he can build on his first outing. He showed once again he can vow and frustrate fans at the same time. He demonstrated more of his immaturity on the mound like he always does.
It’s hard to trust him when he has been so inconsistent throughout his Major League career. He has potential, but this is his seventh year in the majors, and at some point, this is who he is. Potential must turn into results.
When Mets general manager Sandy Alderson addressed the Mets trying to resign Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard before the season starts in what likely is wishful thinking, he never mentioned Stroman as a priority. This spoke volumes about how the Mets really feel about him. They feel he has to prove it before he gets a lucrative contract from them.
With the way he pitched on Sunday, not only he reinforces doubt, but he gave the Mets a reason not to bring him back next season.