Jun 28

Harvey Needs To Pitch Bigger Than His Ego

Readers of this blog know I have been critical of Matt Harvey and this “Dark Knight” and “Today is Harvey Day” nonsense. It comes with a gut feeling he’s been seduced by the trappings of being a “New York Sports Star” and being a celebrity is what drives him.

HARVEY: Needs to pitch bigger than his ego. (AP)

HARVEY: Needs to pitch bigger than his ego. (AP)

However, with a 29-27 career record, can he really be considered a star?  He’s more celebrity than star. More smoke than fire. More sizzle than steak. Perhaps a Kardashian in cleats. I could go all day, but the bottom line is for a variety of reasons ranging from injuries to poor performance to a mental block, he hasn’t developed into what we think he could be. Or, maybe what he should be.

Two games over .500 is not a big deal, and never mind the new wave stats: wins and losses are important.

Harvey craves the attention and spotlight. The Mets have tread water the last two months, but with a grueling schedule entering the All-Star break they face the real possibility of falling into a downward spiral. Yes, there is such a thing as a “must win” game in June.

Monday night might have produced their worst performance of the season in an 11-4 trouncing to the Nationals. They are in third place in the NL East and would fall five games back with a loss Tuesday night. From a team perspective, a case can be made tonight is one of Harvey’s most important starts. The Mets desperately need not only a victory, but a stellar performance from the pitcher they still consider an ace.

If Harvey gets torched tonight, and with the prospect of not having Steven Matz on Wednesday, the party that is 2016 could soon be over. It’s quite simple, Harvey needs to pitch bigger than his ego.

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Jun 28

There Should Be No Rush On Wheeler’s Return

Zack Wheeler’s return from around July 1 to after the All-Star break is now sometime in early August. Wheeler long-tossed at 90 feet Monday in Port St. Lucie for the first time since getting a cortisone injection last week. From long toss to the mound can be a long journey.

WHEELER: No rush needed. (AP)

WHEELER: No rush needed. (AP)

Like everybody else, I’d like to see Wheeler pitch, but I’m in no rush. If it’s August 1 or in September, does it really matter? For that matter, if he can’t pitch until next year, that’s fine, too.

Unless Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz go down – both have complained of elbow problems – there’s not a sense of urgency to bring up Wheeler. And, when he does arrive the Mets are sure to baby him, which would be the right action.

It is important to see Wheeler pitch this year in the major leagues if for no other reason than for the Mets to get a handle on their starters for 2017. But, it’s not so important as to rush him. What is a certainty is Wheeler’s trade value is down should they be inclined to deal his as they did last summer.

If Wheeler can’t go again this year then so be it. Next season will be fine.

 

Jun 27

Mets Wrap: Blitzed By Nationals

Manager Terry Collins said this was the start of an important two-week stretch for the Mets and they better bring their “A’’ game to the table. Can you imagine what would have happened had they not thought it was important?

Whatever d'Arnaud told him it didn't work. (AP)

Whatever d’Arnaud told him it didn’t work. (AP)

I’m being sarcastic, which is the best way to handle a game like the Mets’ 11-4 loss at Washington.

Noah Syndergaard started despite having a barking elbow from his previous game. Syndergaard clearly didn’t have it, giving up five runs on seven hits and three walks in three innings in which he threw a grueling 71 pitches.

Syndergaard imploded in a five-run third, and again couldn’t hold runners as the Nationals stole five bases against him.

Collins said Syndergaard’s elbow wasn’t an issue. Syndergaard refuted multiple media reports he had a bone spur or bone chips in his elbow.

METS GAME WRAP

June 27, 2016, @ Washington

Game: #75          Score:  Nationals 11, Mets 4

Record: 40-35     Streak: L 2

Standings: Third, NL East, four games behind Washington.

Runs: 274    Average: 3.65     Times 3 runs or less: 37

SUMMARY: It unraveled for Syndergaard in a five-run third in which the Nationals stole four bases. It would have been worse had Bryce Harper not had a brain cramp on the bases.

KEY MOMENT:  Anthony Rendon’s two-run single to right in the third completely erased the Mets’ 4-0 lead. You knew it was over then.

THUMBS UP: The Mets had 14 hits, getting two each from Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, Wilmer Flores and Brandon Nimmo. Travis d’Arnaud had three hits.

THUMBS DOWN:  The Mets had 14 hits, but scored only four runs. … Syndergaard was all over the place with three walks. … Rumor had it Rene Rivera was to catch Syndergaard to but the brakes on the opponent’s running game. … Reliever Sean Gilmartin gave up five runs on seven hits in two innings.

EXTRA INNINGS:  The Mets began a stretch of playing 11 of 14 games against first-place teams. … The Mets are now 16-16 vs. NL East teams. … The Mets are 11-13 in June.

QUOTEBOOK: “[Syndergaard] threw almost 40 pitches in the third and that was enough. … His velocity was good but his command was off.” – Collins on Syndergaard’s performance. 

BY THE NUMBERS:  6: Stolen bases by the Nationals. Overall, opposing runners have stolen 28 bases in 31 attempts against Syndergaard.

NEXT FOR METS: Matt Harvey will try to get back on track after two mediocre outings.

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Jun 27

Mets Matters: Matz Hurting; Lineup At Nats

If the Mets aren’t sure whether Steven Matz should make Wednesday’s start in Washington because of elbow soreness, then maybe he shouldn’t. That’s especially necessary if the ESPN report is true he’s had elbow soreness in at least three of his last eight starts.

The most recent diagnosis, as reported by ESPN, is Matz has a bone spur.

I always react on the conservative side when it comes to pitcher’s injuries, primarily because the interests of the team and players sometimes differ. Sometimes greatly.

Matz has already had arm problems, so why push it? Noah Syndergaard has complained of elbow soreness twice already this season, including after his last start. I’m already on record saying the Mets are pushing him tonight.

No structural damage was found when Matz was examined, but he’s still saying he feels uncomfortable.

Pitchers always want to pitch, that’s in their DNA. It is to be expected. They are also not to be believed when they say they are fine.

As I’ve said before, caution is the way to go with pitcher’s arms.

NEXT STEP FOR REYES:  After Monday’s game for Class A Brooklyn, Jose Reyes‘ climb back to the majors next step will be to go to Class AA Binghamton. How long he plays there remains to be seen. Also to be determined is if he’ll remain there or go to Class AAA Las Vegas before joining the Mets.

The Mets are saying a week to ten days, which means he could rejoin the team for the second series with the Nationals at Citi Field.

TONIGHT’S LINEUP

Curtis Granderson – RF: Expect Granderson to be dropped in the order when Reyes returns. Hitting .109 (5-46) with RISP.

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: Is a career .257 hitter (9-35) lifetime vs. Nationals. Has six hits in six games against Washington this year.

Yoenis Cespedes – CF: Is hot again, hitting .350 (21-60) over his last 16 games. Playing with sore hip and ankle. Is batting .327 with four homers in 14 games vs. Nationals since joining Mets.

Neil Walker – 2B: Lifetime .301 hitter (43-143) vs. Washington. His 14 homers are tied for second with Detroit’s Ian Kinsler in the majors for a second baseman behind Seattle’s Robinson Cano.

James Loney – 1B: Has reached base in 21 of the 24 games he’s played with the Mets. Loney Is batting .294 (5-17) with RISP. Has more than adequately filled in for Lucas Duda.

Wilmer Flores – 3B: Is batting .308 (20-65) since replacing David Wright at third base, yet he’s the one the Mets want to replace.

Brandon Nimmo – LF: Went 0-4 with a strikeout in his debut Sunday. Was the Mets’ first-round selection in the 2011 draft.

Travis d’Arnaud – C: Is a lifetime .333 hitter (15-45) lifetime at Washington. Hit .317 in 11 rehab games after going on DL with sore rotator cuff.

Noah Syndergaard – RHP: Pitched seven scoreless innings vs. Nationals, May 17. Is 2-0 with 1.33 ERA in four starts lifetime vs. Nationals.

Jun 27

Mets Must Give Us Reason To Care

Sometimes listening to Terry Collins makes me want to scream. I know I’ve written that before, but Collins keeps making “I want to throw my shoe at the TV” type of comments. The Mets’ manager said several things over the weekend in preparation for tonight’s game in Washington that were simply puzzling. He means well, but it becoming clearer with each press briefing he can’t think on his feet.

First, after Jacob deGrom‘s start – his tenth straight without a win – Collins said he was looking forward to coming out of the break so he could set up his rotation. Well, what about setting things up now for the next two weeks, which includes seven games in two series against the Nationals. three with the Marlins and four against the Cubs?

COLLINS: Facing toughest stretch of season. (AP)

COLLINS: Facing toughest stretch of season. (AP)

I would begin by skipping Noah Syndergaard tonight in Washington because of his second complaint of soreness in his right elbow. Would I sacrifice a game in Washington to preserve Syndergaard for the second half? Damn straight I would.

After Monday’s butt whiping, the Mets are now four games behind the Nationals – who won’t have Stephen Strasburg for either series – because Washington’s seven-game losing streak kept them in the race. If the Nationals had any killer instinct they could be up by eight games or more with a chance to put away the Mets. Who knows, maybe they were waiting for the Mets to come to town to do it.

Collins told reporters Sunday in Atlanta in preparation for the Nationals series: “The worst-case scenario is: Go to the break no worse than we are sitting right now. Right after the Nats we’ve got the Cubs – arguably the best team in baseball right now. We’ve got to be ready. We’ve got to get the `A’ game going and maintain it. Right after them you’ve got the Marlins, who are playing very, very well right now. And then back come the Nationals again. I think the next 14 days are very, very important to us.”

Good for Collins; he can read a schedule. But, with |these games so important, why send the message of mediocrity? We watched the Mets pull things together and get to the World Series last year. Now their manager is talking about treading water until the break. At least that’s the perception.

Standing pat in the standings for the next two weeks and at the trade deadline aren’t acceptable for a World Series team. I don’t want Collins to panic, but a sense of urgency would be nice. The disadvantage of getting to the World Series is the expectation to go every year. That’s pressure, but also why they play.

We’ll watch Syndergaard tonight with crossed fingers and the hope we won’t get Antonio Bastardo. I don’t trust the bullpen now, with even Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia giving me pause. The offense is beyond awful. No homers, no wins. Manufacturing runs and playing fundamental baseball seem beyond their comprehension. There were more than a few times in June when they didn’t hustle.

As far as their `A’ game, we haven’t seen it since the end of April. Nothing has been reported as to what Collins has said to his team behind closed doors. Evidently he hasn’t read the riot act or we would have heard about it. Somebody always talks.

Yes, there are injuries, but championship caliber teams overcome them. Otherwise, they are just excuses. There were holes in the batting order even before David Wright and Lucas Duda were hurt and Michael Conforto was sent down. Hopefully, there will be more stability when Jose Reyes is activated and Curtis Granderson can hit lower in the order. But, whether Granderson bats first, second, third or fourth, will it really matter if he doesn’t hit?

The remaining two weeks could determine whether Citi Field experiences October. You and I both know the Mets won’t run the table from until the All-Star break, but I want more than 7-7, for which Collins – at least publicly – seems willing to settle.

I want a sense of urgency. I want hustle and heaven forbid, their hitters to manufacture runs. I know Collins cares, but dammit, show some fire. Kick your players in the ass, because they need it. And, that includes Yoenis Cespedes. If your “star” can get away dogging it, it’s a license for everybody else to drop it down a gear.

Playing .500 for the next two weeks or the rest of the summer isn’t acceptable. It’s like going to school hoping for a `C’ grade. It’s average, which is the worst of the best or best of the worst. Being average gives us little reason to care.

Damn, I want to care about this team again.