Mar 19

Mets Playing Unreasonable Hardball With Harvey

The New York Mets have long been accused of mishandling injuries, from Carlos Beltran to Ryan Church to David Wright to Oliver Perez to Ike Davis.

That’s only a few.

HARVEY: Irritated by Mets' position. (AP)

HARVEY: Irritated by Mets’ position. (AP)

Mishandling ranges across a broad spectrum and you can see storm clouds forming with Matt Harvey.

A few weeks ago, I took Harvey to task for his adamant stance of wanting to rehab in New York instead of Port St. Lucie. I’ve softened on that approach following the incident stemming from a one-on-one interview the disabled pitcher had with Andy Martino of The New York Daily News.

Harvey has the union-negotiated right not to rehab the entire time in Florida, which is the Mets’ preference. Harvey prefers New York, and insists it’s not because of the Rangers and the nightlife the City offers.

By contrast, Port St. Lucie offers Chili’s and an Outback. You can’t even get a good pizza slice down there.

Harvey fully argued his position, and I better understand his desire and frustration, a product of his treatment by management.

“The biggest part is wanting to stay with the team,’’ Harvey said. “To learn the league. To learn Travis (d’Arnaud).  To learn how to bond with the other starting pitchers, and the guys in the clubhouse, and the David Wrights who I plan on playing with.

“I expressed that seven months in Port St. Lucie is a long time. For me, I strongly felt that my best opportunity, and my motivation to come back quicker, stronger, work harder would be to be with the teammates. That’s kind of what I have always said.  I have worked so hard to get to the big leagues and be with this team, it just felt like all of a sudden I was shooed to the back.’’

Unfortunately, it’s usually that way with injured players; they become invisible.

But, Harvey makes sense. In contrast, the Mets have not responded with a passionate defense of their position, other than to say most players have always rehabbed at the spring training site.

That’s like a kid questioning his mother and hearing,  “because I said so.’’ That answer doesn’t fly when one is eight, let alone 24.

General manager Sandy Alderson said the team would discuss a full rehab plan. Huh? He says that in March? This should have been decided in late October following Harvey’s Tommy John surgery.

Why did this issue have to be in the air for the better part of five months? Ridiculous.

Funny, but when Harvey was introduced as the GM, COO Jeff Wilpon said better handling of injuries was a priority.

Why can’t there be a compromise? Say, one month in New York and one month in Florida? Or, rehab when the team is home and return to Port St. Lucie when it is on the road?

Think of the frequent flier miles. This shouldn’t be all that hard.

Harvey also complained his locker was moved – along with Jeremy Hefner – to the corner of the room, which he said isolates him from the team. He is the Mets, or at least will be next season, so why agitate him?

Alderson claimed he didn’t order the move; instead saying it was the decision of the clubhouse manager. Since when does a clubhouse manager run things?

Harvey should have said something a month ago if he was unhappy. If he did, there’s no excuse why this has lingered when he should have been relocated to his original locker location. The same goes for Hefner. There’s not a good reason to do this and alienate Harvey.

Harvey was also peeved, and rightfully so, when his interview with Martino was intruded on by a Mets’ official. Not being allowed to talk with the press is unreasonable. Just as bad is having his discussion monitored.

That the official also lingered after Harvey said everything was cool, and had a testy exchange with the reporter, not surprisingly reached print to further make the Mets look bad.

On interviews, Alderson said: “My recommendation is to manage doing interviews in a way that doesn’t interfere with his day-to-day-activities.’’

That’s absurd. Players always do that. In over 20 years in major league clubhouses, I never experienced a player who didn’t leave when he was scheduled to be somewhere else. “I gotta go. Let’s finish this later,’’ is the stock statement.

Besides, Harvey’s work ethic would never prevent him from doing his rehab. He probably has his day structured tighter than the Mets’ format.

So, the player who wasn’t supposed to be a story became one because of three decisions, or indecisions, by Mets’ management.

The first thing I thought of is why would the Mets push Harvey when all of this could have been alleviated with a little common sense? Why irritate your best pitcher, the guy you’ve been touting as the key to your rebuilding process?

Just plain dumb.

This is so petty. Don’t think for a moment that if the Mets continue to play hardball with Harvey, that he won’t do the same with them in 2019, when he becomes a free agent.

Mar 18

This Is What The Mets Should Do Immediately

There’s a distinction between ideal and reality for the New York Mets. Ideally, they’d like a healthy Ike Davis or Lucas Duda at first base, to hit 30 home runs and build a consistent attack around them.

However, reality has the Mets – according to ESPN – still trying to deal Davis, and both with nagging leg injuries.

DAVIS:  Time to think DL. (AP)

DAVIS: Time to think DL. (AP)

Neither had significant time this spring and are not running. With Opening Day less than two weeks away, they won’t get the time needed and quite possibly be healed.

That leads us to the reality, and it is harsh.

GM Sandy Alderson is dreaming if he believes he can deal Davis now. Alderson’s bargaining power is even less than it was during the winter.

Davis is hard to move because of his recent production and health issues. He’s even harder now with a nothing spring training. The best option with Davis is for him to open the season on the disabled list and just get well.

The same goes for Duda. Nobody expects anything from either, so let’s move on. Do it now and give what is suggested a time to jell.

Putting Davis on the disabled list is the lead domino, because other moves will follow, and there’s precious little time remaining to get cohesive.

They begin with moving Daniel Murphy, who has the experience, to first base. I previously suggest this spring to use Wilmer Flores because he can play the infield corners, but force-feeding him another position could backfire.

Of course, first base is a power position and Murphy won’t give much. Then again, how much power have they been given by Davis and Duda? I’d rather have Murphy’s .285 average and unimpressive on-base percentage than Davis’ .205 average and thundering nine homers.

With Murphy at first, Eric Young can be moved from left field to second base.

I always wanted Young in the starting lineup because I believe he helps the Mets more offensively in the leadoff position than Juan Lagares would defensively in center field.

This enables the Mets to give Lagares at-bats on the major league level instead of at Triple-A Las Vegas.

There are potential glitches, but it at least keeps the Mets afloat.

Mar 18

Demotion Just The Beginning For Syndergaard

So much for the speculation Jon Niese’s elbow issues would prompt the New York Mets to promote Noah Syndergaard and/or Rafael Montero to the major league roster for Opening Day.

We are aware of the financial reasoning by the Mets, who, despite a more aggressive off-season still are bound by economic handcuffs.

SYNDERGAARD: Just a start. (MLB.com)

SYNDERGAARD: Just a start. (MLB.com)

No worries, because either or both will be at Citi Field soon enough. This is technically a demotion, but in reality a watershed moment in his career.

That’s the hope of Syndergaard, who said all the right things to reporters this morning. All the right things, much like Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler did in previous springs.

“I kind of knew it was coming,’’ Syndergaard said. “I think no matter how well I threw during spring training, if I struck out everybody, if I didn’t allow any runs whatsoever, I think I still was going to go over to the minor-league side regardless. There’s a business standpoint to it. And I know there’s other things I have to work on.’’

Syndergaard must refine his arsenal of pitches, including a change-up and consistency with his nasty curveball.

Also sent down were pitchers Montero, Cory Mazzoni, Ryan Reid, Joel Carreno, catcher Juan Centeno, and first basemen Brandon Allen and Matt Clark.

It was thought, as a long shot Syndergaard or Montero would be promoted in light of Niese’s elbow problems. Niese could get at least two more starts to prove his worthiness to make the Opening Day roster.

Syndergaard showed he can overpower hitters with his fastball and baffle them with the curveball manager Terry Collins calls a “hook from hell.’’ However, despite his composure, there’s the matter of learning how to set up hitters and slow the game down when he gets into trouble.

What Syndergaard most took from spring training is the knowledge he and his stuff are ready. It will only be a few months; a blip in what the Mets hope will be a long career.

“Just that my stuff can play out on the field. I mean, I can get big-league hitters out,’’ Syndergaard said of what he’ll pack in his duffle bag. “Just playing against guys I watched growing up, just being able to get them out as well.
“There’s a sense of relief just knowing that my repertoire of pitches, my demeanor on the mound, opens eyes up in the big leagues, opens eyes of the big-league hitters. It’s just a lot of confidence going into minor-league camp knowing that I had some pretty great success in big-league camp.’’

Syndergaard and Montero – who was considered for a relief role – will anchor a Triple-A Las Vegas rotation that includes Jacob deGrom, Logan Verrett, and possibly Jenrry Mejia.

The Mets don’t figure to promote Syndergaard until late June or July, delaying his arbitration eligibility by a year.

It’s a money move, plain and simple, but if Syndergaard is all that is advertised, he’ll be making plenty of money.

Mar 17

D’Backs To Go With Owings At Short

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Jim Bowden of ESPN is hearing that Chris Owings will be the everyday shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Although it hasn’t been officially announced yet, Bowden reports they are going to start him over Didi Gregorius because of his bat.

As a result, Gregorius should now be a good trade piece for the D’Backs at some point this summer and Bowden expects Owings will be a Rookie of the Year candidate.

John Sickels profiled Owings a couple of months ago and said he was supposed to open 2013 at Double-A, but after a solid spring training, the D’Backs sent him to Triple-A Reno.

He responded with a .330/.359/.482 line, with 31 doubles, 12 homers, 22 walks, 99 strikeouts in 546 at-bats. He also set a career high with 20 stolen bases, and was named to the All Star Futures Game roster.

The 21-year old phenom was named the Topps 2013 Pacific Coast League Player of the Year and will be looking to impress again this season with his team who are not exactly seen as potential contenders for the title.

There has been a some buzz about the Mets monitoring the shortstop situation in Arizona in the past two weeks, but neither team has confirmed any interest in making a deal.

Sandy Alderson continues to hold firm on his position that there will not be any changes at shortstop between now and opening day.

Additionally, two other team sources told the NY Post that despite his spring performance, Ruben Tejada will be the shortstop and “he’ll be fine.”

Mar 17

Little Time, Many Questions For Mets

Spring training is not just to get ready for the season, but for teams to sharpen their cliché skills. The New York Mets have used many this spring, but the prevalent one is: There’s plenty of time left.

Memo to Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins: No, there isn’t.

DAVIS: Still a question. (Getty)

DAVIS: Still a question. (Getty)

With Opening Day two weeks away, the Mets have many decisions left; way too many for a team that could win 90 games. I bet Alderson already regrets that thought.

Here’s what’s left to decide:

FIRST BASE: Ike Davis entered spring training as the frontrunner, but because of leg injuries, neither him nor Lucas Duda has played much.

Neither will get close to 70 at-bats, much less the 90-plus Collins hoped for Davis.

They could, but I don’t see them carrying both.

Speculation is Davis will open the season on the disabled list, with Duda playing. That’s presumably because Duda is further along.

They could run Josh Satin out there, but I believe they wasted this spring to learn more about Wilmer Flores.

Collins suggested using Flores at shortstop, but he’s barely played there. He has a promising bat, but scouts say he is better equipped for second base or the corner infield positions.

Flores won’t get third because of David Wright, and last I checked first base is a corner infield position. Why couldn’t they look at Flores there? Where’s the vision?

SHORTSTOP: Publicly, they support Ruben Tejada, but almost as visible have been their efforts to land Stephen Drew and trade for Seattle’s Nick Franklin.

Neither is imminent, and the Orioles and Rays also have interest in Franklin. If they really wanted him, they should have acted weeks ago.

Shortstop remains a black hole, but I see Tejada winning the job by default because the Mets are skittish about giving Drew the money and surrendering prospects for Franklin. Anticipate Tejada as the Opening Day shortstop, with much criticism to follow.

LEADOFF HITTER: Collins prefers Eric Young, which is the best choice. However, where does that leave Juan Lagares? That’s the rub.

If Young plays, the outfield would include him, Chris Young and Curtis Granderson.

This isn’t softball, so there is no extra outfielder. For the purposes of his development, Lagares should play fulltime, either up here or in the minor leagues.

If it is here, they are wasting Eric Young. They also have no idea if Lagares can hit at this level.

One possibility is to go with Matt den Dekker or Kirk Nieuwenhuis as the extra outfielder – both can play center – and give Lagares his at-bats in Triple-A Las Vegas.

PITCHING; Both the rotation and bullpen are seemingly set, but there’s the Jenrry Mejia question: Rotation or bullpen?

If they aren’t going to use Mejia in the rotation in the majors, they should use him as a starter in Las Vegas.