Nobody started more Opening Days on the mound for the New York Mets than “The Franchise,” Tom Seaver. The greatest pitchers in team history started 11 Opening Days for the club. It was the easiest decision a Mets manager ever had to make.
It wasn’t such an easy choice in the years that followed. Sometimes, pitchers were a little more evenly matched with each other. Other times, the manager just had to go with whoever had the most experience or let them draw straws.
In all of the years of Mets baseball, there have been some terrible Opening Day starters but also some very good pitchers who never got that opportunity. Three rather fantastic Mets pitchers stand out as the best ones who never got to take the ball first in a given season.
R.A. Dickey won a Cy Young with the Mets but never got the Opening Day start
R.A. Dickey wasn’t with the Mets long. The time he did spend in New York was incredibly impactful, most notably with his 2012 Cy Young Award victory.
That year, it wasn’t Dickey who got to start the first game of the season. Veteran lefty Johan Santana got the nod and nobody could question it. Santana was the obvious choice for Opening Day starts in that era.
Dickey’s best opportunity to get the selection was one year prior in 2011. Instead of Dickey, Mike Pelfrey started for the Mets to open the season. In one of the worst Opening Day lineups in recent franchise history where half of the infield included Brad Emaus and Willie Harris, the club had a rare loss in game one of the season.
If Dickey was never traded, he was a sure bet to start Opening Day in 2013. Instead, Jon Niese got the thumb up.
Jon Matlack was overshadowed by Tom Seaver’s excellence
There’s no arguing against Tom Seaver starting on Opening Day. Because of this, it’s no surprise to see Jon Matlack failed to ever start on Opening Day.
Seaver started every single Opening Day during Matlack’s time in New York. Jerry Koosman had to wait to get his turn, finally starting on Opening Day in 1978 following the Seaver trade from the summer prior.
Matlack was often thought of as the third-best pitcher on the Mets during his time with the team in the 1970s. Behind Seaver and Koosman, the excellence Matlack brought to the field was not enough for him to ever open the season.
Sid Fernandez is an underrated Mets pitcher with zero Opening Day starts
Finally, there’s Sid Fernandez. An incredibly underrated member of the franchise’s history, he’s another great pitcher whose reason for being absent from the Opening Day starting lineup is quite obvious.
During many of Fernandez’s years, the first start went to Dwight Gooden. The team’s ace at the time, Gooden made eight Opening Day starts in his time with the orange and blue. Only Seaver has made more.
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Bob Ojeda and David Cone did each get an Opening Day start sandwich in between Gooden’s first and last with the Mets. Unfortunately, Fernandez’s name was never called for the duty to begin the season on the mound.