Dec 17

Cold Weather Has Me Thinking Spring Training

There’s a foot of snow on the ground, the wind chill at 20 degrees, Christmas eight days and the Dolphins crushing the Jets. What better time than this to think about spring training?

Spring training has always been one of my favorite times of the year, for reasons both on and off the field.

From landing in Florida and taking off for the chill that’s still in New York, it’s a great time and a terrific experience.

The best part was the time you could spend with the players. Earlier in his career, the ten minutes David Wright said he’d give you could turn into a half-an-hour with the conversation touching a wide ranging variety of subjects, to playing the bunt, to going to the opposite field, to watching North Carolina play Duke in the ACC Tournament, to dozens of other topics.

I remember a long conversation with Carlos Beltran, who told me of his rookie season while with Kansas City. His eyes watered when he spoke of not being able to speak English.

I used to love talking pitching with Mike Mussina and David Cone, with Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez, with Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom. With Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner.

How great is it to go to work wearing shorts and a windbreaker?

I remember running laps around the fields after practice in Port St. Lucie. That was, until somebody on the grounds crew told me snakes came out at dusk.

Better still was playing basketball after practice, then going out for seafood and a movie. I played a lot of miniature golf and went to the dog track.

You never knew who would show up to spring training. Sandy Koufax was terrific. I ran into him one day told him of the time my dad told me “you have to see this guy pitch.’’ When he asked what game, I sheepishly told him of a game the Mets shelled him at Shea Stadium, 10-4. His response? “I remember that game, too.’’

There were others, too. Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson.

There have been dozens of cross-state drives passing through places like Yeehaw Junction, a truck stop of a town with a population of 240. There is also the long drive across the state on Alligator Alley, named for the obvious reason

It was a lot of fun to sit in the stands behind the plate and talk with scouts.

There was so much more. Countless hours watching the NCAA Tourney … picking my Home Run Derby team with the other writers … eating at hole-in-the-wall barbeque joints. … it is Florida, so good pizza and Italian was hard to find.

By my calculation, I spent over 120 weeks in Florida for spring training. I’m looking forward to going there again next year.

Dec 14

Harvey Optimistic, But Fingers Crossed

When it comes to Matt Harvey proclamations, I’ll believe it when I see it. How can it be any other way for the Mets’ “it’s always something” former All-Star? Harvey, who underwent season-ending surgery for the second time in three years last season, said he’s optimistic about his return from surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome.

HARVEY: So far so good. (AP)

HARVEY: So far so good. (AP)

It’s a complicated procedure because it entailed removing a rib on his right side to relieve pressure on nerves connecting between the neck and shoulder. The ailment caused a lack of feeling in his pitching hand and subsequently cut off circulation that made his hand feeling cold.

Talking to reporters at a Mets’ charity function in Queens, Harvey expressed optimism.

“I’d like to think so,” Harvey said about making a strong rebound season. “Obviously, I don’t have a crystal ball. The way things are feeling now, the way the body feels, I’m feeling great.”

Harvey said he’s feeling warmth in his hand and the tingling sensation is gone.

Harvey was struggling at 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts before his season abruptly ended. In one respect the diagnosis was a positive, because after each lackluster start there was the second-guessing the 216 innings he threw in 2015 after coming off Tommy John surgery had drained him.

There are no problems so far, said Harvey.

“The ball is coming out really good right now, especially for December,” he said. “I’m feeling great. My workouts are going well. I’m just looking forward to getting down to spring training and having a good time. … Obviously being healthy through spring training and getting to the season and continuing to be healthy through the season is a big plus for me and something I’m looking forward to doing.

“As far as the offseason goes, I’m right where I want to be.”

We’ve heard this before about Harvey and we all know him being where he wants to be in December isn’t the issue.

The Mets didn’t have a definitive innings plan for Harvey in 2015, and so far there’s been no mention of a plan for Harvey. Or for Jacob deGrom, who is also coming off surgery. Or for Steven Matz, who is also coming back from surgery.

 

Dec 13

Wright Deserves Opportunity To Call Future

Last year at this time, Mets GM Sandy Alderson projected 130 games for third baseman David Wright. Prior to the Winter Meetings, Alderson again said Wright was his third baseman, but failed to put a number on the games he thought he might play.

WRIGHT: What's he thinking? (AP)

WRIGHT: What’s he thinking? (AP)

That’s just as well considering Wright played 37 games last year and 38 in 2015. Wright has been seeing his doctor in California and receiving treatment. The Mets are saying he should be ready by Opening Day. Let’s hope so, but there are no guarantees. None. There never is when it comes to health.

Of course, I want him to return full strength, but we must realistically accept that might not happen and simply hope for the best. He deserves the opportunity of testing his back and drawing his own conclusions.

I don’t know what will happen, but believe Wright has been too good a player, and too good an ambassador to the Mets and the sport not to get the chance to call the shots on his future. Of course, he’ll get plenty of advice from his doctors; his wife, Molly; and the Mets from the Wilpons to Alderson and maybe manager Terry Collins. He might even call some of this former and current teammates to find out what they are thinking.

He’ll get plenty of advice from the press but none from me because I’m in the camp believing he accomplished enough to be given the chance to plot out his departure from the game on his own terms.

Wright, who’ll be 34 one week from today, has already earned $125 million in his 12-year career, and since he’s not reckless with his behavior, the presumption is he has enough to live on comfortably if not lavishly for the rest of his life. He’s signed through 2020 and will make $67 million through then.

The only thing Wright wants from the game is the game itself. It’s not about money, but determining his future and continuing to compete. I believe when Wright gets to spring training he’ll know enough about how he feels and what he can do. I can’t imagine he’ll force the Mets to put him on the Opening Day roster if he’s not physically able.

Unlike last season, the Mets are hedging their bets by holding onto Wilmer Flores and extending Jose Reyes. It would be terrific to trade for Todd Frazier. No trades are imminent on anything involving the Mets, but maybe something could happen in July. Hopefully, the season progresses to where they are in it by then and the trade deadline is meaningful.

Wright pressed the envelope with his health in the past, but the thinking is he learned and if he can’t play he’ll come to that conclusion gracefully. Numbers never meant anything to him, so I can’t imagine he’ll hang on to pad his stats.

Behind the scenes, I’m sure the Mets are talking to Wright about what he’s thinking and how he’s feeling, but so far there hasn’t been any pushing and that’s a good thing. He deserves to do this without any pressure from them.

The only pressure he’s getting is coming from within and that’s more than enough.

Dec 09

Mets Find Little Interest In Bruce

Once again the Mets’ eagerness to get rid of a player is hindering their ability to make a trade. And make no mistake, the Mets don’t just want to trade Jay Bruce, they want to dump him.

If they could take back the trade that cost them prospect Dilson Herrera, they would do it in a heartbeat. They’d be lucky to get as much back.

BRUCE: Little interest. (AP)

BRUCE: Little interest. (AP)

The Mets made it clear they wanted to trade Ike Davis and the return was scant. They also made no secret of their desire to get rid of Oliver Perez, subsequently released him during spring training of 2011. While trying him in the bullpen was a natural option, but they didn’t do that and he’s been effective in that role since.

The Mets were also vocal in their displeasure of Jason Bay and had to buy him out. And, what did they get for Lastings Milledge, Francisco Rodriguez or Luis Castillo?

You’re right, next to nothing.

The point is if a team doesn’t want a player, the industry will find out without having to take out an ad or go on Facebook. If you’re that vocal in wanting to deal him, his trade value plummets. In what industry does a corporation (a team) go to such great lengths to devalue the product (the player) it is trying to sell (trade)?

You’re right again, the Mets.

The Mets made no secret their intention was to pick up Bruce’s option first as a safety net and then trade after they extended Yoenis Cespedes.

The New York Post described the interest in Bruce as “tepid” and “minimal.” Maybe the Mets will eventually make a deal, but don’t count on them getting the reliever they need.

The market is such that there is currently a glut of outfielders, which makes it more difficult to trade an outfielder. Why trade when you can sign a player and not having to surrender players or prospects in return?

It’s common sense and the Mets should have seen this coming.

Please follow me on Twitter

Dec 08

Alderson Still Searching

The Mets left Washington this morning the way they often do after playing the Nationals – empty handed. The Mets’ big off-season move consisted of extending Yoenis Cespedes, which they did before leaving New York, but their other objectives were left unfulfilled.

ALDERSON: Still has work to do. (AP)

ALDERSON: Still has work to do. (AP)

They failed to deal Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson, bolster their bullpen or find a catcher. However, Alderson said the Winter Meetings shouldn’t be defined by three days of lobby fishing in a swanky Washington resort hotel.

“I think we laid some groundwork, as they say, and I’ve had conversations that will continue when we get back to New York,” Alderson told reporters this morning before leaving. “We were pleased with the face we had some dialogue. We’ll pursue things over the next couple of weeks.”The Mets want to trade Bruce (who’ll make $13 million in 2017) and/or Granderson ($15 million). Alderson said the preference is dealing Bruce – although many teams like Granderson – but if he could swing also swing a deal for Granderson, make no mistake, he’ll jump at the chance to save $28 million.

The Mets want to trade Bruce (who’ll make $13 million in 2017) and/or Granderson ($15 million). Alderson said the preference is dealing Bruce – although many teams like Granderson – but if he could also swing a deal for Granderson, make no mistake, he’ll jump at the chance to save $28 million.

However, Alderson’s phone isn’t ringing for either.

“Outfielders, hitters, there’s still a quite of few of them out there. Clubs are still trying to sort out their priorities,” Alderson said. “I think when there’s that kind of supply, things are going to go a little a slower initially as everybody considers their options.”

It’s slow going for the Mets because most teams would rather sign a free agent than give up prospects or players. This could drag into January and might not get done until spring training it at all.

While Alderson insists his priority is a playing time situation in the outfield, reportedly he won’t entirely spend the savings on the bullpen. There are reports Jerry Blevins wants at least $5.5 million and that the Mets are interested in Texas’ Jeremy Jeffress, 29, who had a 2.33 ERA in 59 games last year and is arbitration eligible.

ESPN reports the Mets’ current payroll to be $146 million.