Mar 16

Wheeler Injury Raises Questions

When it comes to the New York Mets and injuries, specifically their pitchers, never take the initial news at face value.

NEVER.

Wheeler facing the knife.

Wheeler facing the knife.

GM Sandy Alderson was adamant initially saying Zack Wheeler didn’t need a MRI. Manager Terry Collins, after saying Wheeler had two MRIs over the winter, indicated prior to Saturday’s start, “everybody could use a little rest.’’

The Mets finally gave into common sense and Wheeler had a MRI, which showed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow that will likely require Tommy John surgery. That rest Collins was speaking of, well, we’ll get a lot between now and next spring.

“Everybody gets MRIs today,’’ Collins told reporters. “That’s the nature of the beast. You come in with an upset stomach and they give you an MRI. And then you have an abdominal strain. It’s what you do to protect yourself.’’

So, why the delay?

UNBELIEVABLE.

Just a couple of days ago, Alderson said a MRI wasn’t necessary. Today, he told reporters: “This is what happens to pitching. You see guys going down all over the place.’’

What exactly changed his mind? Could it have been the potential of negative backlash?

I’m not blaming Alderson or Collins for Wheeler’s injury, because the right thing was done in shutting him down when he reported persistent pain. But, I am criticizing them – and Wheeler, too – for downplaying this whole thing. None of the three are doctors and Wheeler especially, since it is his arm and career, should have been concerned.

However, the perception garnered from this case follows that of how the Mets handled injuries in recent years, and that’s they don’t know what they are doing.

This raises several questions:

* Collins said Wheeler managed the discomfort last season. If that’s the case, why wasn’t he shut down and examined when he first complained of pain?

* Of course, that’s predicated on whether Wheeler reported the pain in the first place. Did he fail to disclose this, something Matt Harvey did the previous year?

* Collins said Wheeler underwent two MRIs in the offseason. Why wasn’t anything discovered at that time?

* If Wheeler was clean, as Collins said, it stands to reason he injured it at the start of camp. If so, did he throw too hard, too soon? If so, why wasn’t he monitored better? If Wheeler pushed himself, why wasn’t he more careful? How come he wasn’t smarter?

* If Wheeler did everything properly this spring, it would seem this injury was “just one of those things,’’ or it was missed in the two offseason MRIs. If it is the latter, shouldn’t the Mets go back and look at that film to see if that’s the case?

* While the surface issue is Wheeler being hurt and down for the season, underneath there are a lot of nagging questions that paint the perception something was amiss in how this was handled.

When it comes to the Mets and pitching injuries, perception is reality. Bottom line, if I were a Met pitcher and felt something in my arm, I would be concerned.

Very concerned.

NOTE:  Will update later after Alderson conference call.

 

Mar 15

Re-Visiting Spring Training Questions

The Mets opened spring training with ten significant questions. A month later, let’s take a look at the status of those questions to see what progress the Mets have made in answering them:

Q: How healthy is Matt Harvey?

A: This is arguably the most important question of the season. So far, indications are positive regarding Harvey’s health. The Mets still don’t know how they’ll break down Harvey’s innings or where he will slot into the rotation.

HARVEY: So far healthy this spring.  (AP)

HARVEY: So far healthy this spring. (AP)

Q: Who breaks camp as the leadoff hitter?

A: This remains undecided, but it appears Juan Lagares is the frontrunner based on his speed. However, Lagares must still improve his on-base percentage and reduce his strikeouts. Curtis Granderson had some success hitting leadoff last year, but has more value hitting in the middle of the order.

Q: How healthy is David Wright?

A: A weak shoulder sapped Wright of his power last season and it wasn’t until Saturday when he hit his first homer of the spring. Improving their offense to complement the potential of their young pitching is largely dependent of Wright.

Q: What will be the rotation order?

A: This much we know: Harvey will pitch in one of the first five games. I am not totally sold on the notion Harvey won’t be the Opening Day starter. If not Harvey, I had been thinking about Bartolo Colon, but he’s been getting hammered. So, it is now up in the air, with possibly Jacob deGrom over Jon Niese – who I would slot in the middle of the rotation – and Zack Wheeler, who is bothered by a sore shoulder.

Q: Will Dillon Gee be traded?

A: The Mets wanted too much for Gee when they dangled him during the winter. With Wheeler ailing, the need to keep Gee has been enhanced. The Mets currently are thinking of using Gee out of the bullpen.

Q: How good is Wilmer Flores?

A: Flores needs a legitimate opportunity, and that includes sticking with him even if with a poor spring training. Flores is off to a good start offensively and has committed only two errors.

Q: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

A: Bobby Parnell and Josh Edgin will open the season on the disabled list. Jenrry Mejia will come out of spring training as the closer and Jeurys Familia as the set-up closer. The Mets currently have a handful of candidates to replace Edgin as the situational lefty.

Q: Will there be any additions?

A: It stands to reason the Mets will sign a free-agent lefty reliever if they are unable to trade for one. Once teams start making roster cuts there will be a flood of free agents.

Q: Who makes an impression?

A: None of the left possibilities have been impressive, which means Rafael Montero could steal a spot in the bullpen. GM Sandy Alderson said Steven Matz would not go to the bullpen to replace Edgin. Noah Syndergaard won’t make the rotation, even with Colon having a rough spring.

Q: Any injuries?

A: This is always the wild card. Edgin is lost for the season following Tommy John surgery. Lucas Duda missed three weeks with a strained intercostal muscle. And, there’s a lot left to the spring.

Mar 14

So Far Flores Making The Grade

Wilmer Flores has done nothing to thwart the Mets’ confidence in him to open the season at shortstop.

He’s made several nice plays in the field, and will only get better as his knowledge of opposing hitters and his positioning improves. Look, he’s not going to be the second coming of Rey Ordonez, but for now the Mets want him to make the basic plays, and for the most part that’s what he’s done.

FLORES: Holding his own.

FLORES: Holding his own.

Flores short-hopped a ball to Eric Campbell for an error Friday (his second of the spring), but that throw could have been handled by an accomplished first baseman. However, Flores made a diving stop to start a double play in the sixth.

“He’s got to get comfortable at shortstop,’’ manager Terry Collins said after Friday’s 13-2 rout of Atlanta. “He’s got to relax and realize what it takes to play there. He’s got to slow the game down a little bit. It’s natural when you’re young to try to hurry things. … Last year he looked comfortable out there, and we’ve got to get him that way this spring.’’

Flores had three hits Friday, including a three-run homer, and overall is batting .455 with four extra-base hits and five RBI.

Currently, Flores is going unchallenged for the shortstop job. Ruben Tejada will make the team as a bench player an Wilmer Flores has done nothing to thwart the Mets’ confidence in him opening the season at shortstop.

Specifically, he’s made several nice plays in the field, and will only get better as his knowledge of opposing hitters and his positioning improves. Look, he’s not going to be the second coming of Rey Ordonez, but for now the Mets want him to make the basic plays, and for the most part that’s what he’s done.

Flores short-hopped a ball to Eric Campbell for an error Friday (his second of the spring), but that throw could have been handled by an accomplished first baseman. However, Flores made a diving stop to start a double play in the sixth.

“He’s got to get comfortable at shortstop,’’ manager Terry Collins said after Friday’s 13-2 rout of Atlanta. “He’s got to relax and realize what it takes to play there. He’s got to slow the game down a little bit. It’s natural when you’re young to try to hurry things.”

Flores had three hits Friday, including a three-run homer, and overall is batting .455 with four extra-base hits and five RBI.

Currently, Flores is going unchallenged for the shortstop job. Ruben Tejada will make the team as a bench player and Matt Reynolds – who has a game-winning homer – will go to the minor leagues.

Mar 13

Memo To Alderson: Stop Treating Mets Fans Like Chumps

I understand as a longtime baseball executive, Mets GM Sandy Alderson knows more about the inner workings of the sport, and his team, than I do.

By definition, he has to.

ALDERSON: Has shades when it comes to Met fans. (AP)

ALDERSON: Has shades when it comes to Met fans. (AP)

However, I am not stupid, and I don’t think my readers are, either. Sandy, I don’t know how to build a watch, but I know how to tell time.

And, the time has come to say again Mets fans are loyal and passionate, and don’t deserve to be treated like idiots, because they are not.

In the book, “Baseball Maverick,’’ Steve Kettmann – who covered the Oakland Athletics – revealed a disturbing nugget about Alderson.

Alderson said: “Madoff wasn’t even a topic of conversation in my interview for the Mets job. I didn’t raise it. Maybe I should have. The bottom line is, I would have taken the job anyway. It just added to the challenge.’’

The reason Alderson didn’t ask about Madoff is because it wasn’t a real job interview. Of course, Alderson was going to take the job. Alderson was gift-wrapped to the Wilpons by commissioner Bud Selig, and Madoff was a non-issue.

As part of his job in the commissioner’s office, Alderson was re-assigned to be Mets’ general manager.

The Alderson-Selig-Wilpon relationship was too cozy and underscored the deserved criticism of the former commissioner in that he gave Wilpon a free pass. In doing so, it also highlighted his biased handling of the Frank McCourt case when he owned the Los Angeles Dodgers. Selig disliked McCourt intensely and wanted him out, even though his handling of the Dodgers was not as clumsy as Wilpon has been sometimes with the Mets.

Regarding the Mets’ finances over the past four years, Alderson told reporters yesterday payroll has increased by $15 million over last year. It irritates me no end to hear Alderson say the Mets’ payroll is of no relevance to him.

“I never talked about the payroll as an unfortunate limitation to us,” Alderson said. “I haven’t talked about it recently. I haven’t talked about it in the past. I don’t intend to. It’s not relevant to me.”

Let’s get this straight. Alderson is the GM of a major league baseball team and the payroll doesn’t matter to him. What then is relevant to him?

For a New York franchise supposedly on the upswing, that $15 million is a drop in the bucket, and didn’t do anything to upgrade: shortstop, the lefty situation in the bullpen and the offense.

The Mets are going with the hope of cheap patchwork from outside – Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry – the hope of injured players on the mend – David Wright and Matt Harvey – and hope of young players making progress, namely Zack Wheeler, Juan Lagares and Jacob deGrom.

But, as I’ve said before, hoping is not a viable strategy.

 

Mar 12

Edgin Facing Surgery; Lefty Pen Void Critical

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said treating Josh Edgin’s left elbow isn’t a black and white decision, but that’s clearly not the case.

“It’s not a black-and-white situation,’’ Alderson told reporters Thursday morning. “There’s a certain amount of gray area that requires some judgment on the physician’s part as well as Josh deciding exactly how he wants to approach it. … The question is whether this condition can be managed over time. That’s where we are.’’

EDGIN: Facing season-ending surgery. (AP)

EDGIN: Facing season-ending surgery. (AP)

Not true. Based on the reported information, if Edgin wants to continue his career Tommy John surgery is the only option. Managing over time? Well, that’s when Edgin will make the decision, and even Alderson said it must be made by the end of the month as to not impact next year.

Yes, time is of the essence.

Edgin will first confer with a doctor – this would be a second opinion – then talk with teammates Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, both of whom have had the surgery.

Alderson said there’s no harm in first trying rest and rehab for two weeks, but that won’t repair a stretched ligament by itself. The pain could subside, but eventually it will resurface, and who is to say there might not be more damage, like the ligament snapping?

The gamble is how long can Edgin pitch without blowing out the elbow entirely?

If anybody suggests this isn’t a big deal, they would be wrong. I’m not a doctor, but this much I know, things like this don’t repair themselves.

What is clear regardless of how Edgin decides, is he won’t be on the Opening Day roster, whether he opts to rest or have surgery, and the Mets have a huge void to fill. The internal options are Scott Rice, Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin, Dario Alvarez and Jack Leathersich, with Duane Below and Darin Gorski in the minor league camp.

They could also wait until the end of spring training and hope somebody who has been released.

They also have prospect Steven Matz, whom they refuse to try in that role even though he has the best stuff of any of them.

All of this means the Mets must make a deal. Remember Alderson’s talk about being capable of winning 90 games and possibly contending? Well, that possibility is gone without a left reliever.

If the Mets are as good as they claim, then it is time to show it and make a deal.

Now.

ON DECK: Today’s game and lineups.