May 27

Where Were You Went The Ball Got By Buckner?

The Mets are honoring their 1986 championship team this weekend. That World Series had numerous moments capable of being etched into our memories forever, but one clearly stands out: Mookie Wilson’s ground ball that scooted between Bill Buckner’s legs.

I was in the family room of my ex-wife, watching the game with her and my father-in-law. It was pretty quiet.

METS' SHINING MOMENT. (AP)

METS’ SHINING MOMENT. (AP)

Anthony Arthur was a Mets’ fan and he took me out to Shea that summer. The game, and what had been a marvelous season, were slowly and agonizingly slipping away in the tenth inning of Game 6 with Boston holding a 5-3 lead.

After Calvin Schiraldi retired the first two Mets, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Well, they had a great season. Maybe next year.”

Gary Carter singled, and Kevin Mitchell followed with the same. As ’86 Mets lore has it, by this time Keith Hernandez was in manager Davey Johnson’s office, his feet propped on the desk as he sipped a beer.

I wonder if it was a Reingold?

Ray Knight singled and it was 5-4.

Enter Bob Stanley, who threw a wild pitch and all of a sudden the game was tied. Technically, it was tied, but we all knew the game was over. And likely the World Series.

I always wondered, as those in New England probably still do, why Roger Clemens wasn’t called in to pitch?

Wilson was up and after fouling off six pitches, dribbled a ground ball towards first on the tenth pitch of an epic at-bat. VIDEO OF VIN SCULLY’S CALL.

It might be the most memorable moment in Mets’ history. VIDEO OF BOB MURPHY’S CALL.

I wonder, where were you when “the ball gets by Buckner?’’

I’d love to know.

 

May 26

Matz Passes Watershed Moment; Collins Should Be Applauded

There comes a time in every player’s path from prospect to star when he faces a watershed test he must pass, which is what happened to Mets pitcher Steven Matz Wednesday afternoon in Washington. Hopefully, it will be something Matz will wistfully recall down the road, perhaps before All-Star and playoff games.

MATZ: Passes the test. (AP)

MATZ: Passes the test. (AP)

Pitching coach Dan Warthen immediately recognized it and told manager Terry Collins, “we’re going to see what the kid is made of.”

The Mets were hanging to a slim 2-0 lead when the Nationals had a runner on with two outs in the eighth. Collins knew it, too, when he glanced into the Nationals’ dugout and saw Bryce Harper, the 2015 NL MVP, selecting a bat.

Matz was at 100 pitches and this was his last inning regardless and Collins had a warmed-up Jerry Blevins in the bullpen. The conventional choice, one Collins has frequently made in the past, was to go to the mound with his hand extended for the ball and pat Matz on the back.

Instead, Collins nodded to Warthen and did nothing.

“When you have a young player in certain situations, you have to challenge him,” Collins would say to reporters. “If he’s going to be a big winner for us, he’s got to learn to get the big out.”

It was an important gesture Collins and it was more than symbolic. It was one of confidence not lost on the young left-hander. It might turn out to be the most important decision Collins will make this season.

“It definitely means something,” said Matz, now 7-1 this year and already 11-1 in his young career. “As a competitor, you don’t want to come out in that situation. And for your manager to have faith in you to leave you out to face arguably the greatest hitter in the game right now, it’s pretty awesome.”

And, awesome was Matz’s response as he threw four more pitches – all fastballs – to wrap up his gem, the last one to get Harper to meekly ground out to second. From the other dugout, Nationals manager Dusty Baker made a comparison Mets’ fans should appreciate.

“You don’t see many lefties like that,” Baker told reporters. “He was very determined. He’s a good athlete. He reminded me of Jon Matlack back in my day, with the Mets. He was throwing the heck out of the ball, working quick. He threw a heck of a game. A heck of a game.”

Yeah, “heck” was a good term for Baker to use. We can go on for a long time raving about Matz, but for now Mets’ fans should settle for being grateful to have him.

And, for Collins’ unconventional, yet essential decision of loyalty to trust him.

As Matz’ career hopefully progresses to stardom, this will be a moment he will frequently recall.

May 25

Mets Opt To Keep Harvey In Rotation

As beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, the same can be said of a Matt Harvey start.

Harvey has been awful most of this season, so I would have sent him to the minor leagues for a couple of starts. However, Mets manager Terry Collins – after conferring with GM Sandy Alderson and pitching coach Dan Warthen – said enough was seen to let Harvey make his next start, Monday, against the Chicago White Sox at Citi Field.

HARVEY: Gets another chance.  (AP)

HARVEY: Gets another chance. (AP)

It isn’t the first time I disagree with a Collins decision and won’t be the last.

Harvey opened the game with three scoreless innings, but as has been the case with him this year, he lost it in the middle innings giving up five runs on three homers in the Mets’ 7-4 loss to the Nationals.

It could have been worse, but a diving play by Neil Walker in the second thwarted a potential big inning.

“You saw the game,” catcher Kevin Plawecki told reporters wanting to know what is wrong with Harvey.

“`Even though his command wasn’t good, we saw great movement on his fastball,” began Collins’ explanation of why Harvey is getting another chance. “His velocity was up. There was tightness in his slider. These are all things we haven’t seen in his last couple of starts.

“We have to quit looking at the negatives and start looking at some positives. We’re going to try to build on it and see what he’s like next Monday. … This guy is too big a piece to write-off.”

Although I would have done it differently, I do applaud Collins’ loyalty toward his player, even when it backfired on him before.

Collins wouldn’t speculate as to what might happen with Harvey if he bombs again; most likely more drama. Collins certainly won’t say this is his last chance before Vegas because that put added stress on him.

Collins ruled out the disabled list because there apparently is nothing wrong with him, although players have been stashed there before. Reportedly, the minor leagues and bullpen weren’t options, but pushing him back was discussed.

Former Mets pitcher turned SNY analyst Ron Darling disagreed, saying he didn’t see much to build on, saying his slider looked good only 30% on the time and it is no big deal for a pitcher to amp it up occasionally.

Darling also criticized Harvey for not speaking after the game, saying “he lost some street cred’’ in the clubhouse, because it forced his teammates – in particular, Plawecki – to clean up his mess.

“His teammates are thinking, `we’re not here to clean up your mess, you clean up your own mess.’

“Part of being a professional athlete is you have to answer the questions,’’ Darling said.

Collins didn’t comment on Harvey’s unprofessional silent act, but Nationals manager Dusty Baker noticed.

“`It’s his prerogative to do what he wants to do,” said Baker, probably recalling his time when Barry Bonds was on his team. “`If he [doesn’t want to talk], he doesn’t have to talk. But he’s making it harder on himself. New York will eat you up.”

The nibbling has begun.

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May 24

Mets Wrap: Time To Send Out Harvey; A Dozen Reasons Why He Stinks

HARVEY: Send him down. (AP)

HARVEY: Send him down. (AP)

The question regarding Matt Harvey is basic: What next?

It would be a controversial decision, but should be a very simple one for the Mets. Either the Mets stick with Harvey to let him work his way out of this – even if it means taking more lumps – or he should be sent to the minor leagues or disabled list to rediscover himself.

“We’re not going to do anything rash tonight,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “We’re going to sleep on it and discuss it tomorrow.”

Harvey had nothing to say because in a bush league move he bolted after the game without speaking and left it up to Collins, catcher Kevin Plawecki and his teammates to speak for him.

Twice Plawecki told reporters, “you watched the game.”

Previously, I advocated sticking with Harvey, but after giving up three homers in Tuesday night’s 7-4 loss at Washington, I’ve gone to the replay and upon further review think a change of scenery is the best option.

Going to Las Vegas should be seriously discussed, but the Mets have always gone out of their way to massage Harvey’s fragile ego, so they could manufacture a reason to put him on the disabled list, which eliminates the stigma of the minor leagues.

Either one should be GM Sandy Alderson’s choice for a variety of reasons:

* They can send him down to Triple-A Las Vegas or Double-A Binghamton if they want a closer look and let him work on everything, from conditioning to mechanics. The disabled list accomplishes the same objective. It’s the best option in it enables him to pitch without costing the Mets games.

* Harvey’s brief outings deplete the bullpen.

* It eliminates the between-starts distraction Harvey has become. What’s wrong with him? Will he make his next start? What’s wrong with him? And, another question: What’s wrong with him?

The answer could be one of many or a combination of a several. His velocity is down and command is off, but why?

Here are my theories, which I call “Harvey’s Dirty Dozen,’’ to explain why Harvey is 3-7 with a 6.08 ERA:

* Not enough work in spring training: Collins suggested Harvey’s early sluggishness was because the Mets reduced his workload to almost half of what is considered normal for a starter. That’s on Collins and Alderson. This would partially explain Harvey’s mechanical issues.

* Innings workload in 2015: This is on Collins and Alderson for not developing a definitive workload or program. It’s also on Harvey for continually pushing the envelope. Even his agent, Scott Boras, said Harvey wanted to pitch

* He’s hurt: Harvey denies this, but considering his history of withholding physical ailments, this option can’t be ignored.

* He’s out of shape: Yes, there have been cases with Mickey Lolich and Sid Fernandez, but there’s his growing paunch. His stamina is down and his mechanics aren’t crisp, so his conditioning must be considered. How can that not be a factor in his inability to make through the middle innings?

* Overcompensation for Game 5: He continually says he has no regrets for arguing with Collins to stay in the game and imploded in the ninth. How can he not think back on that game?

* Jealousy in the rotation: In 2013 Harvey was deemed the clear cut ace, but for all the talk of this being a close knit group that thrives on the competition, how can Harvey realistically ignore he’s fifth behind Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon? As a competitor, how can it not eat at him he’s not “the man,’’ anymore?

* Lack of run support: He’s 2-7 this year with less getting five runs support. But, how does that explain his 6.02 ERA in those games? Bottom line, if you’re a stud pitcher, you have to suck it up and figure out a way to win those games.

* He buys into the hype: It’s not the media or fans that wrongly placed Harvey on a pedestal, but for him believing he’s a superhero beyond reproach. After Tuesday, Harvey is 28-25 lifetime so let’s go easy on calling him great.

* He’s too sensitive: Harvey has openly clashed with the media to the point where he had a snow globe of a hand extending a middle finger, unquestionably directed at the press. He also had a photo taken of him in his hospital room flashing the bird. He couldn’t handle the innings flap last year or his urinary infection this spring.

* He thinks he knows it all: From withholding his physical problems, which was the first step towards Tommy John surgery. Then there was the arguing over his rehab, and where it would take place, to him forcing his way to the mound. He’s not shy in letting it known he doesn’t trust those around him.

* Tommy John let down: Sometimes a pitcher hits a wall in the second year following Tommy John surgery. Harvey didn’t  just hit a wall, but ran into it head first.

* Supernova: I floated this idea after his last start against the Nationals and it still applies. Maybe this is a good as it will get for Harvey. Maybe Harvey is not the ace the Mets thought. Maybe that’s something we should get used to.

Harvey said the simulated game over the weekend helped, but he gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings against the Nationals. He’s given up 14 runs in his last two games. He’s not close to figuring things out.

Collins gave Harvey the option of skipping Tuesday’s start, but he wanted the ball, which is to be applauded. However, leaving the ballpark without talking was classless.

Maybe he’ll post something on The Player’s Tribune.

METS GAME WRAP

May 24, 2016, @ Washington

Game: #45           Score:  Nationals 7, Mets 4

Record: 26-19     Streak: L 1

Standings: Second, NL East 1.5 games behind Nationals. Playoffs Today: First WC vs. Philadelphia

Runs: 178     Average: 3.95  Times 3 or less: 21

SUMMARY:  The middle innings did in Harvey again. After opening the game with three scoreless innings to provide a glimmer of optimism, but he gave up five runs in the fourth and fifth innings, including homers by Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy.

KEY MOMENT:  Back-to-back homers by Zimmerman and Rendon in the fourth erased a brief Mets’ lead.

THUMBS UP: Asdrubal Cabrera’s homer in the fourth. … Two more hits from Yoenis Cespedes. … Eric Campbell’s two-run homer. … Kudos to SNY’s Nelson Figueroa and Gary Apple for taking Harvey to task for not talking after the game. Also to Ron Darling for suggesting the minor leagues was the best option. … Neil Walker’s diving stop saved Harvey a run in the second.

THUMBS DOWN:  Harvey gave up three homers and the bullpen gave up two more. … Stephen Strasburg and two relievers struck out 15 Mets. … Just five hits. … Lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo gave up a homer to lefty hitter Revere.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright did not play, but is expected back in the lineup Wednesday. … Ty Kelly went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his major league debut.

QUOTEBOOK: “It is what it is,” Plawecki commenting on Harvey leaving him to answer questions.

BY THE NUMBERS:  15: Strikeouts by the Mets for a season high.

NEXT FOR METS:  Matz starts Wednesday afternoon for the Mets.

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May 24

Time For Matt Harvey To Man Up

It has come to this for the Mets’ Matt Harvey: Like a minor league call-up, his manager said he’s pitching to raise his confidence. The key isn’t to beat the Nationals – which would put the Mets back in first place – but to look good. Get some style points.

What is this, figure skating?

“I’m hoping, more than anything that he goes and gives us quality innings just to raise his confidence,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “Because once that confidence starts to come up, he’s going to be fine.”

HARVEY: Head up or head down tonight? (AP)

HARVEY: Head up or head down tonight? (AP)

“More than anything,” huh? “Just to raise his confidence,” huh? I’d rather have Harvey get chased in the second inning and the Mets rally to win than have this pitcher puzzle leave with a good feeling about himself and they lose. What’s next, giving him a participation trophy?

“Once that confidence starts to come up,” is another way of saying he doesn’t have any right now. And, offering him the out of not pitching is another way of Collins saying he doesn’t have much confidence in his “ace.” That might be true, but you don’t broadcast it. That’s a fine pat-on-the-back. What must the Nationals be thinking? After Harvey was booed off the mound last week, even Bryce Harper said he felt empathy for him.

Sweet.

As with most things surrounding Harvey, the Mets turned it into a drama.

Collins initially said he wasn’t sure if Harvey would start. Then, they floated the idea of moving him up to Monday, which would have bumped Bartolo Colon. In hindsight, that would have been a huge mistake.

Harvey threw a simulated game Saturday, was given the choice of skipping tonight if he wanted, then was given the start.

If you’re Collins, after Harvey was torched for nine runs in 2.2 innings, unless he’s hurt you say, “we have no intention of taking him out of the rotation.”

Collins said he was encouraged Harvey didn’t back down and wanted to pitch, but what else was he going to say? What other choice does Harvey have?

There’s a list of at least a dozen deep as to what is wrong with Harvey. Reasons or excuses? Take your pick.

Screw the issue of looking good, confidence and style points. If he’s the star both he and the Mets believe he is, then just pitch.

And if gets ripped again, Collins should send him out again. But, if there are any doubts, any thoughts of needing to do something, then send him to the minor leagues to get his head on straight.

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