Sep 26

Mets’ Wright Savors Moment He Thought He Lost

The last time David Wright tasted champagne with the Mets, he thought it was something he would grow accustomed to, like annual All-Star Games and feeling healthy. As a young star on a powerhouse team in New York, he thought he could duplicate what Derek Jeter had done with the Yankees.

It couldn’t be that hard, could it?

However, the years slowly passed, and at times frustratingly so. As the injuries and disappointments mounted as the teammates slowly departed – from Carlos Beltran, to Tom Glavine, to Pedro Martinez to Jose Reyes – Wright came to appreciate what he once had and at times thought he’d come to expect.

“I a??m not taking this one for granted,” Wright said in the Mets’ champagne-soaked clubhouse in Cincinnati, moments after the Mets clinched the sixth division title in franchise history with a 10-2 rout of the Reds. “I can’t even describe this. I can’t be more excited to be able to do it with this group of guys. I canâ??t be more proud.”

WRIGHT: Sweet celebration. (AP)

WRIGHT: Sweet celebration. (AP)

The Mets were going to the World Series in 2006, but Yadier Molina derailed them in the ninth inning of Game 7. The following year, the Mets coughed up a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining to lose on the season’s final day. They lost in the final weekend in 2008, the final year of Shea Stadium.

Willie Randolph was fired, then Jerry Manuel. Reyes left. Wright’s body started to break down, as did the financial solvency of the Wilpons. The fan base grew more than frustrated, it grew angry.

The Mets gambled on Wright over Reyes, and unbelievably, many fans who cheered Wright questioned why he would bother to stay when GM Sandy Alderson offered him an eight-year, $138-million package that was as much for his future production as it was for his past numbers and what he represented to the franchise.

Stung from the Madoff scandal, signing Wright was a goodwill gesture to Mets fans, who were staying away from the Wilpons’ jewel of a ballpark. Alderson promised Wright that with the Mets’ promising young pitching – including Matt Harvey, who surprisingly worked in the seventh inning today – and with patience, the franchise could be relevant and viable again.

“I’m especially happy for David,” Alderson said. “He made a commitment to us on faith.”

And, that faith is being rewarded.

“This is exactly what I dreamed of when I sat down with Sandy and Jeff Wilpon,” Wright said. “I wanted to celebrate with this organization. I bleed orange and blue.”

However, there were land mines along the way. Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of the 2014 season, and back problems sidelined Wright for over four months this summer. Wright was asked if he ever thought this team couldn’t win, even as it struggled at mid-season.

“Never,” Wright emphatically said. “I looked at the way this team is built. This team is built to win not just now, but for the future.”

And, for Wright and the Mets, the future is now.


Sep 25

Duda Powers Mets Closer To Title

As scintillating as Noah Syndergaard was, the most important thing for the Mets Friday night was Lucas Duda‘s continued breakout signs. Duda, on the disabled list from Aug. 22 to Sept. 7 with soreness in his lower back, is on a three-game tear, highlighted by a pair of three-run homers Friday.

DUDA: Getting power stroke back. (Getty)

DUDA: Getting power stroke back. (Getty)

The concern about Syndergaard was to get through the sixth, an inning in which he had an ERA over eight, but he was positively brilliant in giving up two runs with 11 strikeouts in 7.2 innings. However, Duda carried the Mets with his bat.

Syndergaard is damn good, but he will pitch in the playoffs. But, believe it or not, there had been talk about Duda not being on the playoff roster. Hard to believe, but true.

In his last three games, Duda is 5-for-9 with three doubles, two homers, seven RBI, three walks and no strikeouts. In fact, Duda hasn’t struck out since Sept. 20.

Prior to those last three games, Duda had driven in just two runs in his previous 14 games.

Duda’s offensive revival will be essential in the playoffs as he and Curtis Granderson represent the bulk of the Mets’ left-handed power.

With their 12-5 rout of the Reds, coupled with Philadelphia’s torching of the Nationals, the Mets’ magic number for winning the NL East for the first time since 2006 was reduced to one. Once the Mets’ clinch, manager Terry Collins will undoubtedly rest some of the regulars, but after the game Duda said there’s more work for him to do.

“It’s very exciting to be a part of this,” Duda said. “But, [after clinching] it’s important to use this time.”

As for Syndergaard, he not only pitched well and through the sixth inning, but also won on the road.

If the Dodgers get home field in the NLDS, Syndergaard could get Game 3 at Citi Field. However, if the NLDS opens in New York he could get Game 2.

Meanwhile, Collins is remaining mum on all things playoffs, as well as Matt Harvey‘s innings for Saturday. Reports have it anywhere from three to five innings.


Sep 24

What’s Mets’ October Thinking On Matz?

The Mets’ magic number is down to three games following tonight’s victory in Cincinnati, but getting a step closer to the postseason for the first time since 2006 doesn’t mean they are any closer to setting Steven Matz‘s playoff role.

Matz hasn’t lost in six career starts, but hasn’t been as good as he was prior to going on the disabled list in early July. Tonight the Reds hit him for three runs on 10 hits in 5.2 innings, in which he threw 93 pitches. The damage against him would have been greater had he not struck out eight.

MATZ: How will he be used? (Getty)

MATZ: How will he be used? (Getty)

Matz has a power left arm and a bright future, but does that future include a spot in the playoff rotation? He’ll make the playoff roster, but his role hasn’t been announced. We just know he’ll be there.

I’m thinking there are four potential roles for him:

* He could be one of four starters, with the others being Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. This would leave bullpen roles for Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese.

* Because of the uncertainty surrounding Harvey with his innings, Matz could be in the rotation along with Niese or Colon, with Harvey coming out to the bullpen. This would work when Harvey would come out to start an inning.

Because of the mystery surrounding this, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mets already know they might leave Harvey off the playoff roster, and in that case Matz would likely get the starting spot.

* Again, because of Harvey’s innings issue, if he is to pitch half-games in the playoffs, perhaps he could be used as the second arm in the game to pitch in short relief.

* Finally, because of injury questions with relievers Carlos Torres and Tyler Clippard, Matz could be utilized as a situational lefty or as the seventh inning specialist.

The wild card in all this is Harvey’s innings. Even without Harvey, or with him in a reduced role, the Mets have more of a need in the bullpen than in the rotation.


Sep 23

Berra’s Passing Rekindles Controversial Series Decision

While the passing of Yogi Berra gave us pause to remember a baseball treasure and American icon, it also forced one of the most controversial managerial decisions in World Series history to resurface when he skipped the well-rested George Stone in Game 6 of the Series against Oakland in favor of  Tom Seaver on short rest, and who, by the way, entered the playoffs with a sore right shoulder.

“I went with my best,” Berra said at the time, and to his credit, four decades later was quoted in Matt Silverman’s book, “Swinging ’73: Baseball’s Wildest Season,” as standing by his decision. Berra did not yield to hindsight, saying he had no regrets: “No. Seaver and [Jon Matlack]—they were the best we had.”

1973 World Series Program

1973 World Series Program

History hasn’t been kind to Berra in his decision, but that is largely because the nature of the game has changed. In 1973, there were no such things as pitch counts, innings limits and coddling pitchers. Plus, Berra’s Mets used a four-man rotation while Terry Collins‘ team this year – who went 3-6 on their home stand to keep this race alive – has gone with a six-man rotation and taken to skipping starts to give his young rotation extra rest.

Years later, the reaction from several of Berra’s players was mixed. The Mets were heading back to Oakland for Games 6 and 7, Oct. 20 and 21, ahead in the Series, 3-to-2. Berra’s thinking was to go for the throat and not play it safe. He had a fully-rested Stone, who went 12-3 that season and last started, Oct. 9, Game 4, of the NLCS against Cincinnati. Instead, he opted to go with Seaver and Matlack on three days rest each.

Seaver, Matlack and Jerry Koosman all threw more than 240 innings that year and the Mets’ rotation threw 46 complete games. Nobody on this year’s Mets will throw as many as 200 innings and the rotation only has one complete game, that coming from Bartolo Colon.

One school of thought was to go for the kill shot with Seaver, who went started seven games that year on short rest and worked at least seven innings in six of them. Seaver, who threw 290 innings that year, was their ace and arguably the best pitcher in baseball.

There were reports, which Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson did not refute, that Seaver lobbied Berra hard to pitch in Game 6. Berra acquiesced to Seaver, similarly how Collins and Mets GM Sandy Alderson caved to Matt Harvey at times this year.

Often overlooked, said Silverman, was Oakland’s Game 6 pitcher.

“People tend to forget that Oakland had Catfish Hunter going for them,” Silverman said.  “No matter who the Mets pitched, they would have had a hard time beating Hunter.”

Meanwhile, in the Oakland dugout, Athletics manager Dick Williams considered the news a break. In his book, “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” Williams wrote: “The Mets, having put our backs to the wall, could afford to blow off Game Six. Yogi Berra could pitch a decent starter named George Stone in Game Six.

“That would give their ace, Tom Seaver, an extra day’s rest so that if there was a Game Seven, he’d probably be damn near unhittable, considering he’d allowed just two runs in eight innings in Game Three. And if Seaver faltered, number-two pitcher Jon Matlack would be rested and in the bullpen to back him up. Either way, we figured, the Mets had us whipped.”

Of course, Williams didn’t share those thoughts at the time.

Also overlooked is the Mets losing Game 4 of the NLCS to the Reds, Oct. 9. Had they won that game, Seaver wouldn’t have had to start Game 5 of the NLCS, Oct. 10, and could have started the Game 1 of the World Series, Oct. 13, on normal rest instead of Matlack. Starting Seaver in Game 1 could have enabled him to make three starts instead of two, and would have prevented Matlack from making three starts.

That’s an illustration as to how the game has changed. Pitchers routinely made three starts in a seven-game playoff. No more. You won’t also see a closer, like Tug McGraw, pitch eight innings in the first two games of the Series, including six in Game 2.

However, if Berra didn’t lean on McGraw in Game 2, the Series might not have gone seven games.

“That’s what second guessing is all about,” was how Rusty Staub was quoted in Silverman’s book. “However Seaver got to be the pitcher, he did pitch and pitched a pretty good game . . . and we didn’t score enough. That’s just the way it is.”

“I think Yogi made the right decision at the time,” said third baseman Wayne Garrett. “I would have pitched Seaver on three days’ rest. Why do you want to save him until the last if you can win it before? Why do you want to give them a game? If George Stone had pitched, maybe he would have beaten them. Who knows?”

Meanwhile, first baseman Ed Kranepool offered an adamant dissenting opinion.

“We didn’t have to win the sixth game; Oakland did,” Kranepool said in the book. “We had to win the seventh game, if I do my math, you have to win four out of seven. The sixth game . . . we don’t have to win, we have to show up, we have to play. We might win, we might lose. But that’s [not] the end of the World Series, correct?

“The seventh game, you lose, we should go home for the winter. You could use your whole pitching staff for the seventh. Tom Seaver is not short-rested. That’s his regular day to pitch. He’s pitched a lot of innings. He’s struck out a lot of people. He’s the best pitcher in baseball. So on the last day of the year, I do not want my third pitcher pitching, as opposed to my number one pitcher.

“George Stone was bypassed. And you tell me why?. You come to your own conclusion. We should have won the World Series.”

But, they didn’t and the debate rolls on. Berra said that summer, “it ain’t over until it’s over,” and this is one debate that won’t ever end.


Sep 22

Who Are The Targets Of Collins’ Anger?

It was obvious manager Terry Collins is disturbed, angry and frustrated with the Matt Harvey situation, but for some writers and blogs that are writing his angst is directed at the situation and not one individual is taking the easy way out. There are plenty of people Collins should be annoyed with, but he’s not saying because he’s too low on the food chain. Let me do that for him.

COLLINS: Looks concerned and should be. (AP)

COLLINS: Looks concerned and should be. (AP)

As I wrote yesterday, Harvey’s innings won’t keep the Mets from getting into the playoffs. After last night only a collapse of historic proportions would keep them out. Collins’ anger is justified, and some of it should be directed at himself.

Here’s where Collins’ anger should be aimed:

SANDY ALDERSON: The biggest bullseye has to be on GM Sandy Alderson’s back for not having a definitive plan for Harvey coming out of spring training. He also gets heat for not standing up to Harvey. I understand the uncertainty of innings vs. pitches and the concept of “stressful innings.” That’s not the point. The point is the Mets had a vague idea of measuring his workload with innings. So be it.

Had Alderson TOLD Harvey his limit would be six innings, this would be a moot point, including for the playoffs. With that limit, Harvey’s thrown 25.1 extra innings of his 176.2 innings (after the sixth and including the sore throat game). If the limit had been seven innings, then he’s five over (again including the sore throat game). But when your general manager is afraid to stand up to the pitcher, these things happen.

Alderson acting surprised is ridiculous, because he had to have known the limit prescribed by Dr. Andrews. Playing dumb after agent Scott Boras’ e-mail was, well, just dumb. Also, Alderson saying he didn’t think the playoffs would be an issue this year is blatantly absurd. After all, when Harvey went down for 2014, Alderson pointed to this season as to when the Mets would be competitive. And, being competitive includes making the playoffs, especially when the idea of 90 wins are thrown out.

The bottom line is Alderson’s responsibility is to put the best team on the field, and he’s not doing that by putting Harvey’s health on the line and not giving Collins the best chance to win. Collins must also be disturbed at his general manager for consistently undercutting him. While Collins was taking heat for defending the organization’s stance, Alderson was freelancing and at a public function said if Harvey’s “pitch count” was lower he could have stayed in.

On national TV, Collins told ESPN Harvey had one more inning. Yet, Alderson was counting pitches. Well, which is it? Again, “the game’s smartest general manager,” according to his biographer has complicated things.

MATT HARVEY: For being such a diva overall, and initially for not disclosing his injury in 2013. Harvey wasn’t open with the medical staff when he first suffered pain in his forearm. Not only did he hide it, but pitched with it. The result was Tommy John surgery. Sure, I understand he wants to pitch, but you have to be smart and he wasn’t.

Had the Mets immediately given Harvey an MRI at the time and shut him down, all this might have been alleviated.

Collins should also be angry with Harvey’s unwillingness to stick with the program. From the initial injury, to wanting to avoid surgery, to where he would rehab, to wanting to pitch last year, to fighting the six-man rotation, Harvey has been a pain.

And, once again, Boras works for Harvey, and the player knows what the agent is going to say. Harvey knew Boras was going to mention the innings limits, and allowed him to do so because he figured most media (SNY for example), would rip the agent and give him a free pass. Harvey was stunned at the criticism.

THE WILPONS: Harvey is one of their most important commodities, and they should have told him to stop complaining and get with a program. They could have also leaned on Alderson to give him the message. It also would have helped had ownership not been so driven to showcase him in the 2013 All-Star Game and been more concerned with the big picture.

HIMSELF: Collins is a baseball lifer and for the first time the playoffs are within his grasp, and with them a likely contract extension. He’s not going to take the shotgun approach. This isn’t the time for him to point fingers and blow this opportunity.

Here’s where this fiasco is partly Collins’ fault. Against what should have been his better judgment, Collins allowed Harvey to pitch in the sore throat game (April 19) and work into the ninth inning in a blowout win over the Yankees, April 25. He threw 8.2 innings in those two games. Had he stood up to his pitcher this could be a lesser issue, at least as far as the regular season is concerned.

SNY: They have continually blamed Boras for having an agenda, but the truth is the network also had an agenda, which was to be kind to the Mets and paint Harvey as the victim, which he is not. For as objective as the network is during its in-game coverage, all hands dropped the ball on this one.

I expected more from Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, especially since they know of the working relationship between the player and his agent. They knew Boras didn’t spring anything on Harvey.


All these forces conspired to fan the flames at Collins, The Wilpons are keeping a low profile; when he does speak Alderson does it clipped tones; and after his first press conference, Harvey is in full cliche mode.

However, Collins is there night after night. It’s going to get frustrating. The surprise is he didn’t let loose earlier. But, there’s more. The Mets haven’t announced a playoff plan for Harvey. I’m speculating they’ll hold him back or severely limit him, neither which will go over well.