Mar 26

Harvey Finishing Up Strong

Matt Harvey vowed his sputtering fastball would be amped up by the end of March. Well, he cranked it up to 97 mph., Sunday in easily his best start of spring training. And, coming on the heels of the news Steven Matz would miss his next start with irritation in his left elbow, the Mets were due for some positive pitching news.

Harvey also threw his slider in the upper 80s and went six innings.

HARVEY: Finishing strong. (AP)

HARVEY: Finishing strong. (AP)

“That was a big step, probably the biggest so far of the spring, and moving forward into the season,” Harvey told reporters.

Several weeks ago, I suggested the Mets consider leaving Harvey behind, but he’s improved in his last two starts, both in velocity and length. And, four strikeouts and one walk in the 8-2 victory over the Braves, was also a strong positive, so an extended spring training is a moot point.Harvey’s next start will come Friday at Citi Field against the United States Military Academy, and from there it’s back into the rotation.

Harvey’s next start will be Friday at Citi Field against the United States Military Academy, and from there it’s back into the rotation.

“I couldn’t be happier where I am now and moving forward,” Harvey said. “I feel I’m ready for a good season.”

That sound you hear isn’t the howling wind, but Mets’ fans sighing in relief.

Mar 27

Will Mets hold back Santana?

This injury-riddled spring for the Mets has had one bright spot and that is the rehab of Johan Santana. His velocity has increased, topped off at 92, then leveled off to the high 80s in yesterday’s start.

SANTANA: Will they hold him back?

Santana’s arm strength has improved, but not to where the Mets would have hoped to start the season. I don’t believe a final start will get him to the level the Mets want, so after all the work he and the Mets have put in, why push the envelope now?

It’s been two years, so what’s another couple of weeks? The Mets must be cautious with this decision because Santana could represent a competitive and fun summer. I see the Mets holding back a couple of weeks to give Santana more time to build his strength with an extended spring training.

 

 

 

Mar 06

Santana passes another test.

Johan Santana and the Mets couldn’t have asked for more in the lefty’s return to the mound to face major league hitters for the first time since Sept. 2010.

SANTANA: Looked good today in two solid innings. Kept that fire in check.

With a two-inning, 35-pitch limit, Santana threw free and easy, giving up a walk and hit in two shutout innings against the Cardinals. Manager Terry Collins said what’s next is to see how he responds in two days when the throws again.

Coming off shoulder surgery, Santana kept his competitive juices in check and didn’t give in to the temptation of overthrowing. He threw 29 pitches and touched the gun in the high 80s going with his fastball and circle change.

Santana said he “wouldn’t do anything crazy,” and that included staying away from breaking balls for now.

 

Oct 24

Real baseball fans are watching … just not enough of them.

The ratings for this World Series, which has been compelling, are down but should pick up by Game 6, which is a certainty. I’m betting on a Game 7, the game’s ultimate gem.

But, that’s not enough for Maj0r League Baseball because the East Coast giants aren’t involved. With MLB’s penchant for panic and knee jerk reaction, I am beginning to wonder what the response will be.

Tinkering has already done damage to the credibility of the regular season. With interleague play and the unbalanced schedule, not every team runs the same race to October, which had been a constant for nearly a century. I guess 100 years of a good thing is not enough.

Major League Baseball is seriously considering expanding the playoffs to create interest in more cities and to add extra gates. Another round in the postseason turns baseball into the NFL, the NBA and NHL, which rewards mediocrity.

What had been unique to baseball – and valuable to the sport’s identity – was the difficulty in getting to the postseason. Every team facing the same obstacles gave value and integrity to the regular season. That has  been diluted.

It’s now a crapshoot where just about anybody can get in, and this year we have two teams that play the sport correctly, but don’t attract a national audience. What MLB wants is for the playoffs to be expanded, but in the end have the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and Dodgers somehow involved.

It doesn’t work that way.

Ratings are down for a variety of reasons, beginning with conflicts from the NFL and college football, and so many other viewer options on cable and satellite. At one time, even when the Series started being played at night, baseball was the popular choice.

It’s not that way anymore.

For years, MLB operated in a fashion to discourage growth from a young fan base by scheduling the playoffs later in primetime and its regular season pricing for tickets. It is more inconvenient for a young fan base – and also for the older fans who long supported the sport – to follow baseball. Those in their 70s and 80s who watched games in Ebbets Field and in dozens of parks that no longer exist, can’t afford tickets and don’t stay up as late. They have been shut out, just like the youth who are choosing other convenient options.

MLB needs to re-evaluate its marketing strategy to get back the fans who long supported the sport and attract its future fan base. Its not enough to get cities to build new stadiums and ride that enthusiasm, because eventually the thrill fades.

As those of us who are watching can see, it is still a remarkable, attractive sport that when played well is a joy to watch. We should savor what we are seeing and not regret those teams that aren’t here.

MLB could start by starting the games an hour earlier as to not shut out the East Coast in the late innings. Start the telecast at 7:00 p.m., with first pitch a half hour later. I’d rather have a small West Coast following in the first two innings than lose the East at the end of the game where memories are made.

In doing so, MLB would sacrifice money in its TV deals now, but it will pay off in the future, and that’s what’s best for the game.

 

Jun 03

Mets’ Daniel Murphy injured; Oliver Perez still holding tight.

The experiment of Daniel Murphy as a role player is on hold. It remains to be seen about his career.

Weeks of hard rehab work were wasted last night when Murphy re-injured his right knee trying to turn a double-play as a second baseman while playing for Class AAA Buffalo.

“I don’t think it’s real good,’’ Buffalo manager Ken Oberkfell told The Buffalo News. “The way he turned the double play was nice. He made the right pivot. It just looked like the guy got there late, and when Murph came down he never got out of the way once he planted his foot.’’

So much for fundamentals.

MURPHY: More bad luck

There was also a school of thought the Mets could showcase Murphy’s bat in the minor leagues for a deadline trade for pitching. That hope is gone now, too.

It takes skill to play in the major leagues. Also, timing and a little bit of luck. Murphy has had little of the latter two and it’s shame because he’s one of the very good guys as he would have done anything to help the Mets.

That now brings us to Oliver Perez. You kind of figured he wouldn’t be going away – at least in the way you hoped.

Until now, Perez’s selfishness has merely inconvenienced the Mets, an annoyance at best. In the next two days it could really shorthand them.

The Mets are still lobbying Perez hard to accept a minor league assignment to clear way for Jon Niese’s return from the disabled list. Niese is scheduled to pitch Saturday at Citi Field; it’s not known when Perez will throw a ball again in anger.

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