May 11

Jon Niese’s Injury-Related Bad Habits Root To Rout

Including today’s 11-2 flameout loss to Pittsburgh, the Mets have lost Jon Niese’s last five starts, with him giving up 22 runs and not getting out of the fifth inning in three of them. He has not come close to resembling what the Mets think he should be, and that’s the No. 1 starter in their rotation.

The first game in that slide, April 18 at Colorado, and the one preceding it, April 12, at Minnesota, were played in temperatures in the high 20s. Manager Terry Collins said the cold might have had a residual effect on Niese. Niese beat the Twins, but was given double-digit runs of support.

“I think there might be. He’s had some stiffness in his back,’’ Collins said when asked if there is a connection between working in the cold and his following ineffectiveness. “He’s had trouble getting loose and (prior to his May 5 start at Atlanta) he didn’t have a good bullpen session.’’

The only thing surprising about this issue with Niese is the injury wasn’t worse and there haven’t been more weather-related injuries. This has always been one of my pet peeves about playing in lousy weather. The owners have such steep investments in their players, and yet they have no qualms about playing games in precarious conditions. This is also an issue the Major League Baseball Players Association has glossed over. Playing conditions have never been high on the MLBPA’s pecking order in negotiating with the owners.

It’s usually about money and drug testing, but working conditions somehow get ignored.

Niese, who gave up eight runs in 4.1 innings today, said to compensate for the soreness and stiffness he developed the bad habit of dropping his arm angle during his release. Consequently, hitters have been able to pick up the ball out of his hand earlier.

“I think it’s to the point now where I created a bad habit with dropping down my arm angle, and I’m kind of opening everything up,’’ Niese said, adding he wasn’t bothered by pain today. “It’s something I’m going to work on in the bullpen to get it back.’’

Niese said there’s no deception in his delivery and hitters aren’t chasing the pitchers they normally might. They are able to pick up his release point earlier, and that split second makes a tremendous difference to the hitters.

Niese is hopeful of working his release point issue out in the bullpen this week before making Thursday’s start in St. Louis against Adam Wainwright.

May 02

Harvey Named NL Pitcher of the Month

MLB: New York Mets at Minnesota Twins

Matt Harvey was named the Pitcher of the Month for April, the first Met to win the honor since R.A. Dickey last did so in June, 2012.

Harvey, 24, went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA and 46 strikeouts in six April starts. His four wins tied for the National League lead, while his 1.56 ERA is third in the league for the month. His 46 strikeouts are tied for fourth in the league.

Harvey became the first pitcher in since 1900 to win his first four starts of the season, while allowing no more than 10 hits combined in those four starts.

This the second honor for Harvey this season as he was named National League Player of the Week during April 8-14. That was the week when he flirted with a no-hitter through 6.2 innings against the Twins in a frigid Minnesota.

Harvey now stands at 7-5 with a 2.26 ERA in 16 career starts, having given up only 63 hits in 99 2/3 innings.

It’s the first career monthly award for Harvey, who was selected ahead of pitchers such as Pittsburgh’s Jason Grilli, who logged 10 saves and a 0.82 ERA; San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner, who posted a 3-0 mark and 1.55 ERA; and Adam Wainwright, who went 4-2 with a 2.03 ERA.

In what has been a month full of questions, concerns and a losing record to start the season, seeing Harvey win this award is certainly one of the bright spots.

Congrats Matt, may you win many more.

Hey, if he keeps this up he may even win a Cy Young.

Jun 01

History Revised With Carlos Beltran Returning

Covering baseball for over two decades taught me several things, some simple and others more complex. Several of these valuable lessons will come into play tonight with Carlos Beltran’s return to New York to face the Mets as a member of the Cardinals.

Baseball has its ironies and Beltran comes back playing for the team that bounced the Mets from the 2006 NLCS. He also finds himself playing behind the pitcher, Adam Wainwright, who threw the knee buckling curveball that froze Beltran and forever placed him into the darkest recesses of Mets lore.

BELTRAN: Had some magic moments with that swing.

As far as irony goes, this is pretty delicious stuff, but not so savory are the remembrances of Beltran by Mets’ fans of his tenure here and comments made, and written, by several members of the New York media, beginning with WFAN’s Craig Carton, nothing more than a shock jock who vainly tries to entertain with vulgarity and cheap, crass humor.

This morning he crudely made fun of a mole on the side of Beltran’s face.

Making fun of a person’s looks or physical abnormality in the attempt of humor is simply low. It also does nothing to add to the supposed theory of New York fans and media being sophisticated. How sophisticated is it to joke about a person’s physical appearance or blemish? Are we still in the fifth grade, Carton? And, what is it Boomer Esiason always ends his show with? Stay classy New York.

Nothing classy about Carton this morning.

I don’t think much about Beltran’s reception tonight. He’ll get his fair share of cheers. Boos, too. There will also be indifference, which, to an athlete is more venomous than hate.

When it comes to Beltran’s career with the Mets, there’s nothing about it that warrants hate. Beltran was signed after a historic playoff run with the Houston Astros. The Mets, then on the verge of developing into a contender, were at an interesting phase in their history and Beltran was signed as a cornerstone.

The Mets wrestled Beltran from the Yankees that winter, but there would always be the wonder if he really wanted Queens because his agent, Scott Boras, made a last minute pitch to the Yankees.

Beltran struggled his first season with the Mets – a lot of players do in making the transition to the city – but what highlighted that summer was him playing with a broken face after a horrific outfield collision with Mike Cameron.

Say what you will about Beltran’s quiet, and low key demeanor and persona, but he played hurt and when healthy produced and posted significant numbers. He might have been one of the Mets’ best position players they have ever had if he was healthy his entire tenure here.

Beltran had an incredible 2006 season, which unfortunately for him has been reduced to one at-bat. More of those sophisticated fans at work, right?

The Mets haven’t been close to the World Series since, but that hasn’t been Beltran’s fault as much as it was their inability to bolster their rotation and bullpen, to overcome a long string of serious injuries and poor signings and acquisitions.

To say Beltran’s at-bat against Wainwright slammed shut the Mets’ playoff aspirations is an oversimplification because there is that matter of blowing a seven-game lead with 17 remaining in 2007 plus another late-season collapse in 2008. Totally unfair to pin that all on Beltran.

Beltran was a very good player on a flawed team and should be remembered for his ability to perform while frequently injured. Outside of the episode when Beltran had surgery on his own – and can you blame him considering the Mets’ shoddy history of handling of injuries? – he was pretty much a team player.

Much has been attempted to be made of about a divide in the Mets’ clubhouse between the Hispanic and American players with Beltran being made a cause. In reality, the central figure in that friction was more Carlos Delgado, brought on by his differences with then manager Willie Randolph.

Delgado had some clubhouse lawyer in him, while Beltran’s personality precluded him from being a vocal presence. And, Delgado had a deeper influence on Jose Reyes than Beltran, so keep than in mind, too, when laying the groundwork for Reyes’ departure.

Beltran was a very good player who didn’t live up to the expectations created  by that monster postseason when he was with Houston. He was never going to live up to those lofty expectations or that salary.

The important thing to remember, however, is he tried. And for that, he deserves your respect and cheers tonight.

 

 

 

 

Jul 21

Today in Mets’ History: A tip of the hat to Beltran.

Thanks to Ray Sadecki for noting today might be Carlos Beltran’s last home game as a member of the Mets. Will they trade him before the trade deadline or extend this out until August? All indications are the Mets will move before July 31.

Ray asked for some reflections on the Beltran Era, and what sticks out most for me is him playing with a broken face after his outfield collision with Mike Cameron. Most outfielders would have packed it in, but Beltran kept on playing while others weren’t. Beltran played hurt, and he played hurt often. He is a gamer.

In 2006, he carried the Mets like the All-Star he was. I’ll never begrudge him for Adam Wainwright because it was a nasty pitch and who wouldn’t get caught on that?

From 2006-08, Beltran hit at least 27 homers with 112 RBI, but injuries sapped his production those two seasons. I’ll remember how the Mets rushed him back for a few more at-bats rather than undergo surgery immediately. It got to the point where Beltran had surgery on his own, causing him to be late for the 2010 season. That was on Omar Minaya.

I’ll always regard Beltran as a player capable of carrying a team on his back for a week or two, but not to the point where he’d shape a game like Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds. Then again, I’ll always remember Beltran as a clean player, one who was good to the game.

It’s a shame the Mets’ financial problems forced this position. If this had been handled better during the surgery issue and the Mets’ not caught with their pants down in the Ponzi scandal, then perhaps we’d be talking about an extension for him.

Beltran had a good career here when healthy. His career is over with the Mets, but there will an extension for him somewhere.

 

 

 

 

Jun 24

Analyzing a Reyes move.

General manager Brian Cashman said the Yankees would not make a run at Jose Reyes at the trade deadline.

“That’s just not going to happen … we have an everyday shortstop in Derek Jeter,’’ Cashman said.

REYES: What will happen?

Barring a significant injury to Jeter or Alex Rodriguez – which would require Jeter to move to third – there’s no need by the Yankees for Reyes. Because they placated to Jeter last winter, the Yankees probably cost themselves a dynamic replacement in Reyes, who could easily be a 20-plus homer player in Yankee Stadium.

That doesn’t mean Reyes won’t draw interest at the deadline or in the free-agent market this winter. Reyes all but guaranteed he would test the market when he said he wouldn’t negotiate during the season. It doesn’t mean he’s gone for good, but the Mets aren’t expected to approach the reported seven-year, $145-million he could command.

Just because the Yankees might not be players, it doesn’t mean Reyes would automatically slide back to the Mets. Boston has the need for a shortstop, plus the resources to pry Reyes away. The Washington Nationals also have a willingness to spend.

There are several wild-cards to consider that could impact where Reyes goes, such as the presence on the market of potential big-ticker players Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Mark Buehrle, Adam Wainwright and possibly CC Sabathia (he has an opt out clause).

There’s also the matter of how much the Mets’ financial situation might change by then, and the outcome of a new collective bargaining agreement (the current one expires in December).