What We Forgot

Originally published in The Fordham Ram on October 19, 2016.

wheeler

Zack Wheeler’s return was expected to be a major storyline in 2016, but he has remained sidelined due to injury. (Courtesy of Wikimedia).

In the Major League Baseball season, there are two separate yet equally important types of storylines: the pre-and-early season ones, which dominate the first few months, and the ones that close out the season, which we use as bookmarks in our memory. These are those storylines.

Before the entirety of the Mets’ starting rotation caught “end of Rookie of the Year-itis”, there was supposed to be yet another arm waiting in the wings: Zack Wheeler. Wheeler, who had Tommy John surgery in March of 2015, was expected back midseason. However, he kept experiencing setbacks and eventually was fully shut down in early September.

Towards the end of last semester, I published the unfortunately-named “Story Time in Colorado” about Rockies’ rookie shortstop Trevor Story and his electric start to the season, reaching seven career homers in his first nine hits at the time of writing. Story faded into that ether that is “west coast baseball” once he cooled off a little bit, and we never heard from him again, especially after another power hitting rookie, Gary Sanchez, seemed to only hit dingers, but this time at the end of the season in a pennant race.

Coming into 2016, the big question for Toronto was, as it seems to have been for the last few years, starting pitching. They had a young, talented arm in Marcus Stroman, a new $36 million man in J.A. Happ and a pitcher SI.com’s Jonah Keri described as “likely claiming the fifth starter role”: Aaron Sanchez. Sanchez’s 2016 numbers? An AL-leading 3.00 ERA, a 3.55 FIP (sixth in the AL), a 1.167 WHIP (ninth) and a 4.8 bWAR (also ninth, and 0.4 over Happ, the next Blue Jay). Sanchez was the unlikeliest part of an already unlikely three-headed monster.

In an early May series against the Cubs, Bryce Harper was treated like circa-2004 Barry Bonds (my favorite season of all time, in which Bonds either hit a homer or walked in just over 74 percent of his 373 at-bats) and obliquely pitched around, including six walks in the final game of the series. After that game, he went from assumed world-beater to someone you would almost walk a batter to face, slashing just .238/.358/.395 after the last game of that series. He wasn’t even top 10 on the team in bWAR after winning the NL MVP last season.

When Dee Gordon hit one of the most emotional home runs I have ever seen, a funny thought popped up in the back of my mind: Dee Gordon was suspended 80 games for PEDs earlier in the season and it seemed as though not a single person really cared except for the 50 Marlins fans (of whom I’m convinced Marlins Man isn’t one) and everyone who had him in fantasy baseball. In a year when David Ortiz is still getting flak for maybe failing a confidential drug test, one of the best young players gets popped for PEDs — with King Never Caught Doing Steroids himself Barry Bonds as his new hitting coach —  and everyone just kind of moves on. Chicks dig the long ball, but the general populace is willing to forgive you if you take PEDs but only have nine career homers.

At the very least, they’re willing to forget.

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