Oct 13

How Mets Should Handle Matt Harvey’s Innings

Operating under the assumption Matt Harvey will be ready for spring training and subsequently the start of the season, there will undoubtedly be an innings limitation.

In theory, the Mets want him ready for a postseason push. They haven’t announced what the cap would be, but let’s figure on 175-180 innings – which is at least three starts shy of the hoped for 200.

HARVEY: Innings will be an issue. (AP)

HARVEY: Innings will be an issue. (AP)

So, what are their options?

The first is to do nothing and let him pitch … pitch … and pitch. Undoubtedly, that’s Harvey’s choice, but it won’t happen. Why risk another injury?

Another is to pitch him without game or innings restrictions, then cut him in September if the Mets aren’t in contention. However, if they go that route and the Mets are in the race, they would be doing a disservice to their players and fans, and actually the integrity of the game because they wouldn’t be putting their best team on the field.
That’s not ideal, and neither is the pick-and-choose method, which would be to juggle him with off days and selected starts.

Also, not preferred is to pull him if the Mets are winning late in a game. Harvey will moan about this, and his noise would be amplified if the Mets’ bullpen blew the game.

One option because of the off days in April and the high probability of bad weather is to bag that month entirely or at least the first two weeks.

On the positive, it would keep him out of the cold weather. On the negative, he would still pile up innings in extended spring training games.

Finally, and I think it is the best – it’s something the Nationals didn’t do with Stephen Strasburg – is to have their figure in mind from the start and schedule accordingly.

That would mean making a schedule for the entire season and not deviate. Rainouts would only help the Mets because it would push him back.

In this format, the Mets could schedule skip days now for Harvey and not go on the fly. In addition, they could put him a rigid innings cap, but that would irritate him and lead to an occasional blown save.

However, if the Mets and Harvey knew from the outset his cap would be seven innings both parties could plan accordingly.

Harvey wouldn’t necessarily have to pace himself and Collins would know his bullpen options before the game started. They would accept the blown save as part of the deal.

This format would require discipline from Collins and acceptance from Harvey, which would be more likely because there wouldn’t be any surprises.

Like it or not, this is the hand the Mets have been dealt and must play.

In addition, they might consider plans for Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler.

All of this proves the cliché “you can never have too much pitching.’’

As frustrating as this might be, the Mets are set up for this complicated option because they have Rafael Montero, Carlos Torres and sometime in June, Noah Syndergaard. They also have depth with Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee.

 

Oct 05

Will Backman Get A Chance – Anywhere?

One thing the Mets’ coaching decisions this week means is Wally Backman will likely stay at Triple-A, which is fine.

Bench coach Bob Geren didn’t do anything to warrant being replaced by Backman, or anybody else for that matter. Backman, the 2014 Pacific Coast League Manger of the Year, is not being considered for the Mets’ vacant hitting coach position, but was offered the chance to stay at Triple-A Las Vegas.

BACKMAN: Waiting (AP)

BACKMAN: Waiting (AP)

This isn’t to say Backman won’t someday deserve of an opportunity, just that currently the timing isn’t right. Terry Collins elicits a lukewarm response from most Mets’ fans, but in fairness the team is improving despite missing several key pieces.

Backman wants to manage on the major league level, and the best way to get there is to keep working at Las Vegas or get a bench job in the majors. It has been ten years since he was hired – then fired several days later – by Arizona because of his off-the-field behavior. Ten years is long enough.

In the interim, Backman is gaining valuable experience at Las Vegas and should be the primary candidate to replace Collins when the time comes.

I do have a question when it pertains to Backman: When other managerial positions open, how come nobody asks about Backman? Yes, he’s had some off-the-field issues, but is he that toxic?

Former Met Joe McEwing, currently the White Sox’s third base coach, is being considered for the openings in Texas and Arizona.

Why not Backman?

Sep 23

It’s Official: Alderson And Collins To Return

The news many Mets fans didn’t want to hear – a three-year extension for GM Sandy Alderson and with it a new contract for manager Terry Collins – was announced this afternoon.

And, that’s a good thing.

“We are excited about the direction the team is headed and look forward to Sandy continuing his efforts to build the Mets into a postseason contender,’’ Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon said in a conference call. “Sandy and his staff have built our minor league system into one of the best in baseball, and will continue to balance player development along with making key additions that will help us reach our goals.’’

ALDERSON/COLLINS: Coming back (AP)

ALDERSON/COLLINS: Coming back (AP)

The minor league system has been greatly improved with the drafting of Zach Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, and trades for Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Vic Black and Dilson Herrera. (Note: Matt Harvey was drafted in the Omar Minaya regime).

Alderson, hired after the 2010 season, is signed through 2017 while Collins’ option for 2015 was picked up. Alderson hired Collins at that time.

“Terry Collins has done an excellent job for us this season,’’ Alderson said. “The team has played hard throughout the year and this is a reflection of Terry’s energy and his passion for the game and for the Mets. We look forward to his leadership again next season.’’

Both were given “Get out of jail free’’ cards after the news Matt Harvey would miss the season. Despite that, a weak offense and myriad of other issues, the Mets are 76-80 this season after 156 games compared to 71-85 at the same time in 2013, an improvement of five games.

If they finish .500 by winning five of their remaining six games, it would be the first time in the Alderson-Collins tenure.

Just how could the Mets not bring them back, especially considering their mantra has been to make improvement?

There have been the usual grumblings of not spending – they had an $85-million payroll this season – but that’s better than the wasted money spent on the contracts for Jason Bay, Francisco Rodriguez, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez.

Alderson rid the Mets’ of the clubhouse cancers Perez and Castillo; traded Carlos Beltran for Wheeler; and R.A. Dickey for Syndergaard and d’Arnaud.

On the downside, there were the free-agent signings of Chris Young ($7.25 million over one year); Frank Francisco (two years, $12 million) and right-hander Shaun Marcum (one year, $4 million plus incentives).

Nonetheless, despite not breaking the bank, Alderson has the Mets in better position than when he was hired.

Collins does make some head-scratching comments, such as suggesting New York isn’t that far from Washington, which only makes sense if your measuring stick is miles and not player talent.

The Mets surpassed Philadelphia and Miami in the NL East and enter tonight’s game tied with Atlanta for second.

Be honest, you would’ve taken that in a heartbeat if that were offered coming out of spring training. The Mets still have a lot of issues after this season, but they aren’t the hopeless mess they used to be, even with their murky financial picture.

 

Sep 21

DeGrom Shines Again In Sweep Of Braves

There isn’t any doubt in my mind Jacob deGrom should be the National League’s Rookie of the Year. What he did in today’s 10-2 rout of the Braves to complete a rare sweep in Atlanta – one earned run with ten strikeouts in six innings – should seal it.

What today also might have sealed – although Terry Collins isn’t saying – is deGrom’s ledger for the season. The Mets figured 180 innings for deGrom this year and he’s at 178.2.

Collins will make a decision early this week.

“We’ll regroup here in a couple of days and decide what we’re going to do with him as far as his next start goes,’’ Collins told reporters after the game. “He’s real close to where we wanted him to get anyway on the season. We were talking from 180 to 185 was going to be max anyway. We’ll just see if he starts the next game.’’

DeGrom: Impressive again. (AP)

DeGrom: Impressive again. (AP)

Collins said he’s impressed with deGrom’s stuff, both on the mound and from within.

“I know one thing: He walked in here and he said he wanted to pitch,’’ Collins said. “He’s not sitting back saying, ‘OK, I’ll just shut her down.’ He wants to go back out there.

“That was impressive to hear. This time of year, in our situation, it would have been very easy for a lot of guys to say, ‘I’m done. I’m washed up.’ He’s not like that.’’

Collins has been impressed with the Mets’ unwillingness to pack in the season, and that’s a good reflection on him and why he’ll be back.

I have no problem with the Mets shutting down deGrom now, although it would be nice for him to take a bow at Citi Field in the season’s final weekend. The Mets are being ultra cautious, which is what to expect from them evidenced by their treatment of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.

If today was deGrom’s final start, he finished at 9-6 with a 2.63 ERA, 43 walks and 144 strikeouts. Those are definitely Rookie of the Year credentials.

Assuming deGrom is shut down, Rafael Montero would start next Saturday against Houston

Sep 10

Don’t Buy Into Thinking Wright Injury Could Pave Way For Murphy Trade

My first question stemming from the Mets’ shutting down David Wright for the remainder of the season is: What took them so long, especially considering his propensity for playing through pain and injury?

Seriously, Wright has had a sore left shoulder for weeks. He’s played through worse. Last night, Sandy Alderson said Wright “did what captains do,’’ and he “preserved.’’

MURPHY: Think he's staying. (AP)

MURPHY: Bet on him staying. (AP)

But, could the Mets have been more proactive? It’s easy to say so, but as unlikely as it seemed, the wildcard was still possible, they hadn’t had a winning season since 2008, so their thinking was to go with their best shot, that being Wright.

I won’t bury the Mets for sticking with Wright, but analyze where they are headed without him for the remainder of this season and the future, which some suggest are linked.

It has already been decided Daniel Murphy will replace Wright at third and Dilson Herrera coming off the bench and back to second. In theory, the Mets would be showcasing Murphy for a possible trade this winter.

What’s not to like about Murphy in the eyes of another team? He’s an All-Star; he’s worked hard to become an above average second-baseman; his natural position is third; he doesn’t make a lot of money; and he never stops hustling.

The problem other teams see in him is the same the Mets do, and that’s he doesn’t hit for power, especially at an infield corner position. Nine homers this year and 48 in just less than 3,000 career at-bats won’t have a contender drooling.

The Mets covet a power hitter, and Murphy won’t get them one by himself. The only way Murphy nets the Mets a slugger – especially a corner outfielder – is if he’s packaged with one of the young pitchers they covet.

Bottom line, unless the Mets ease up on their young pitching, I don’t see Murphy going anywhere this winter. That’s because they want to keep their pitching more than they desire a power hitter.