By Joseph Staszewski
Much of the excitement around the Mets division title has centered on its young arms and new additions. However, it is not those players who make the moment extra sweet, it’s the validation and joy of the four homegrown players who have suffered along with Mets fans nearly ever step of the way.
The four almost weren’t here to enjoy the payoff.
David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell and Jonathan Niese were all members of the 2008 team that closed Shea Stadium one win shy of a postseason berth. That same group fought their way through six losing seasons after that, along with their own personal struggles, before getting to enjoy the taste of Champange and a 2015 National League Eastern Division title last week.
Wright’s season was in jeopardy after he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, but the captain rehabbed and returned from a more than three-month layoff to provide some of the biggest hits during the Mets’ run to the crown. That included an oh-so-fitting three-run homer in the clincher against the Reds to put all Mets fans at ease.
There were also some uneasy moments for Daniel Murphy during his time in Queens. The Mets had trouble finding a position for Murphy during his tenure and considered trading him at different points. He played left field early on, saw a little time at first base and was finally moved to second, where he found a home. Murphy’s bat has more than made up for the occasional wild throw to first. He collected two hits and scored twice against the Reds.
There were questions of whether Parnell would be able to help this year’s team after he underwent Tommy John surgery last April. It was the second major setback of the reliever’s career after a neck injury sidelined him in 2013. Those setbacks took him from closer to late inning reliever, a role he struggled in at times this year
He was the last person the Mets fans wanted to see come out of the pen after he allowed three runs without surrendering a hit in a 14-8 loss to the Phillies on Sept. 1. Parnell has given up just one run since then.
Niese, who battled shoulder injuries the last two seasons, hasn’t exactly lived up to the five-year, $25.5-million contract he signed back in 2012. He went from emerging ace to back-end starter with the emergence of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. He went a month without a win this season, before delivering a 4-0 victory over the Braves on Sept. 21. The Mets, however, have won seven of the last nine times he was on the mound.
While Mets fans have formed a love affair with the likes of Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Wilmer Flores, take time to consider the players for whom this title means the most. Just like fans, Wright, Murphy, Niese and Parnell have been through all the ups, and mostly downs, of the last eight years.
They suffered along with you. Celebrate with them and through them.