Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen isn’t the only one who thinks his team should be considered the favorite in the National League East this season.
Wagenen made headlines this past week when he delivered his “come get us” message to the rest of the division. Former Met Ed Lynch, a man who knows a thing or two about young pitching and how it can lead to big success in Flushing, tends to agree with him.
“They have a window right now,” said Lynch, 62, who pitched for the Mets from 1980-86 and was named pitching coach of the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League last week. “I think they’re in a very good position to be competitive in the National League East in 2019.”
Why does Lynch think this? Veteran starting pitching. Despite the Mets staff’s relative youth, he believes that having a bunch of rookies and second-year pitchers isn’t conducive to winning a division title.
“Nowadays, if you have a rookie starting pitcher, it’s not going to be like Dwight Gooden in 1984,” said Lynch, who was the Cubs’ general manager from 1994-2000 and a scout for the Blue Jays from 2010-15. “He’s not going to go out there and pitch  innings. They’re going to shut him down at about 150 or 160 innings. It’s very difficult to win with very young starting pitching. The one thing the Mets have, and it’s very hard to get, is veteran starting pitching.
“Even though those guys are young, they’re veterans. That means you can put them out there every fifth day if they’re healthy.”
Veteran starting pitching is not a phrase typically associated with this Mets staff, but they certainly aren’t rookies anymore. Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom is entering his sixth season and Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard, who missed most of 2017 with a partially torn lat muscle, will be entering their fifth years.
Lynch specifically pointed out Wheeler as a starter whose best is yet to come. The oft-injured righthander had his best season in 2018, going 12-7 with a 3.31 ERA and 179 strikeouts in 182 1⁄3 innings (29 starts).
“His stuff is as good as those guys we had back in the ’80s,” Lynch said.
He would know. He spent the early ’80s watching the Mets transform from a 67-win team in 1980 to a World Series champion in 1986.
Lynch, however, didn’t get to see it all the way through. He was traded to the Cubs for Dave Liddell and minor-leaguer Dave Lenderman on June 30, 1986, four months before the World Series.
But Lynch could see it coming many years before Mookie Wilson’s ground ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs and forever changed Mets history.
“Every spring when I would come into spring training, here would be another guy who was in his early 20s throwing 100 miles per hour,” Lynch said. “ . . . By 1984, when we first started contending, I was 28 years old and one of the oldest pitchers on the staff.”
Strong, relatively young pitchers. Sounds a lot like the current Mets.
“In a lot of ways,” he said, “they’re very similar to the clubs we had in the early ’80s.”