PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.
Upon his arrival at Tradition Field, Noah Syndergaard told us Sunday that he spent the winter devouring bowls of venison, as often as five days a week, and wants to throw harder this season.
Cue the mic drop.
How could there possibly be any follow-up questions to that? Turns out, Thor isn’t just a nickname for Syndergaard. It’s a way of life.
He already owns the highest average fastball velocity in baseball, checking in at 97.9 mph, and apparently that still isn’t enough. He chooses a diet that would make even a Norse god crave an occasional stem of asparagus or orange slice.
If Syndergaard wasn’t saddled with the upcoming duty of knocking off the Cubs and Nationals, he’d be starring in “Game of Thrones.” That’s how huge he is right now. And we’re not talking about the additional 17 pounds of muscle he packed on this offseason, thanks to numerous helpings from that “Bowl of Doom.” Yes, that’s the name for his favorite venison concoction, which also includes sweet potato hash, bacon, avocado, scrambled eggs — and maybe buffalo meat, if he’s in the mood.
“It’s plenty,” he said.
As appetites go, they don’t come any bigger on the Mets, and that’s a great thing for this franchise. Like Yoenis Cespedes, who proved that he only grows larger under a spotlight, Syndergaard looks twice his size on the New York stage, and there’s no longer any doubt who is the unquestioned No. 1 of this crew. Line ’em all up, and Syndergaard stands head and shoulders above the rest of the staff, and not just because of his 6-6 frame.
Syndergaard ducked away from Terry Collins’ suggestion last month that he’d likely be the Opening Day starter and was quick to praise the other members of the rotation, a group that he labeled as “five aces.” He’s right, to some extent. The Mets are loaded with elite potential. But only Syndergaard is a sure thing at the moment, and the team recognizes that.
In a break from the usual procedure, the Mets essentially gave Syndergaard his own news cycle Sunday, setting up Thor’s media briefing a full day before Collins was scheduled to address reporters for the traditional spring training kickoff.
Matt Harvey — remember him? — played catch on Field 2 and stayed under the radar, having to wait for his turn at the podium until later in the week.
Not that long ago, Harvey was the alpha dog on the Mets, so much so that a young(er) Syndergaard used to be skittish doing interviews near him. It was typical rookie behavior, feeling intimidated by a veteran star, especially one with the whole “Dark Knight” persona.
Harvey took to New York like baseball’s Bruce Wayne, a real-life millionaire playboy, and the city, for a while, worshipped him right back.
Once Harvey was forced to step aside because of a pair of season-ending surgeries, however, his star flickered, then dimmed. So for the Mets, Syndergaard’s ascent came just in time, as they were able to swap one superhero for another.
It wasn’t difficult to see coming. Syndergaard catapulted his growing popularity to a different level during the 2015 World Series by challenging the Royals to meet him on the mound if they had a problem being in his crosshairs. Not only did he possess a terrorizing fastball, he had the bad attitude to match.
The fun-loving Twitter account (@Noahsyndergaard) balances that out some, at least for those of us who don’t have to stand 60 feet, 6 inches away with a bat in our hands, staring back at an angry, bullet-throwing giant. Syndergaard also has benefited by seeing some of his rotationmates as cautionary tales, from Harvey’s health-related pitfalls to the two-year derailment of Zack Wheeler’s promising career. It can all change on one pitch, which is why Syndergaard was determined this offseason to protect himself the only way he figured he could — by getting bigger and stronger. Somehow.
“I always try to raise the bar,” Syndergaard said.
Along with his velocity and protein intake. The only limits for him, it seems, are the boundaries of our imagination.
Noah Syndergaard wants to improve his fastball velocity that was the highest among MLB starters last season:
Rank Player, team Avg. FB Velo.
1. Noah Syndergaard, Mets 97.9
2. Yordano Ventura, Royals 96.1
3. Carlos Martinez, Cardinals 95.6
4. Jose Fernandez, Marlins 95.2
5. Jon Gray, Rockies 95.1
6. Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays 94.7
7. Kevin Gausman, Orioles 94.7
8. Chris Archer, Rays 94.3
9. Max Scherzer, Nationals 94.3
10. Jeff Samardzija, Giants 94.3