Jul 13

Mets Must Overhaul Pitching Protocols



The only one of the Mets starters not currently waving a health red flag is the one whose roots are not in the organization – Bartolo Colon. To be fair, Colon had health issues earlier in his career and a PED history, but he’s clean now and save a ball hit off his thumb has been fine.

Colon, at 43, has been a source of stability on the mound since joining the Mets, but his greatest contribution might be the suggestion to Noah Syndergaard, whose 23-year-old arm suddenly lost its steam, to back off his between-starts throwing.

HARVEY: Symbolizes Mets' pitching problems. (Getty)

HARVEY: Symbolizes Mets’ pitching problems. (Getty)

When Syndergaard told Bob Klapisch, one the most knowledgeable baseball writers I know, his arm felt “like there are parachutes attached to it,”  there was the image of swimming against the current.

Syndergaard is pitching through a bone spur in his elbow. Syndergaard experienced a sudden five-mph., drop off his fastball in his last start against the Nationals, similar to turning an oscillating fan from high to medium. Every pitch was a change-up.

Matt Harvey, who at 27, is out for the season following shoulder surgery; the second time in four years the knife cut him out of the rotation. Jacob deGrom was given a chance to be on the National League All-Star team but told manager Terry Collins he was too tired. The word he used was “beat.”

He’s only 28.

Then there’s Steven Matz. He had Tommy John surgery before he was 25, and like Syndergaard is pitching with a painful bone spur.

Finally, there’s Zack Wheeler, who at 26, also experienced Tommy John surgery. He was supposed to come off the disabled list in late June and send Colon to the bullpen. Then it was July, then after the All-Star break. Now, it is mid-August.

I’m waiting for the announcement he will not pitch this year.

Realistically, nobody expected all these guys to blossom into 20-game winners at once. However, also realistically, nobody expected them all to break down all at once, which is closer to happening than one might think.

Is this a coincidence or something deeper?

I would love to see the Mets get back to the World Series. However, I would rather they not make the playoffs, even have a losing season, if it meant seeing each of these guys healthy. For that to happen, the Mets need a serious and comprehensive plan. And remember, wishing is not a plan.

The first step is to recognize how they’ve handled things in the past. The second step is to recognize it hasn’t worked.

I’ve been on the record and will not back off saying they mishandled Harvey from the outset of his arm problems in 2013. It should be noted Harvey back then, and today contributes to his own problems.

Syndergaard won’t pitch until the Mets are in Chicago next week. They’ll ease him back in the rotation, which is a wise decision. Not so wise is their inexplicable decision not to schedule a new MRI. The Mets are going on a previous set taken several weeks before the Washington meltdown.

Just stupid.

GM Sandy Alderson said of Syndergaard and Matz their bone spurs is a matter of pain tolerance. More than once they’ve said the pitchers – the keys to the Mets’ future – couldn’t risk further injury.

Wrong answer.

There are no guarantees when it comes to injuries. The only guarantee is if you continually do something wrong and it doesn’t work, it won’t get better.

The Mets have the possibility to have a great pitching staff, but that’s all it is now – potential. It will remain potential unless the Mets do a complete overhaul in how they handle their pitchers.

From throwing between starts, to pitch counts, to days off, to dealing with pain and discomfort, to a myriad of other things, there must be a complete change. There should be uniformity in policy and procedure from the rookie league to Citi Field.

I don’t know if these Mets will develop into a staff for the ages or fizzle out like the Oakland staff under Billy Martin. Both could happen.

Something is wrong and priority one for the Mets is to find out what it is and fix it.

I don’t care about what happens this year, it’s probably too late, anyway. I care about what happens in the years to come.


Jul 05

Three Mets’ Storylines: Did Alderson Push Reyes’ Return?

On a night when several issues swirled around the Mets, there was little doubt the headliner in their 5-2 loss to Miami was the return of Jose Reyes.

REYES: Did Alderson rush him back? (AP)

REYES: Did Alderson rush him back? (AP)

Reyes topped the list of three key storylines, with the others being a second straight encouraging outing by Steven Matz, who is battling a bone spur in his left elbow and the selection of three Mets to the National League All-Star team.

Reyes was hitless in four at-bats and only touched the ball on a throw from catcher Travis d’Arnaud in a steal attempt.

However, that only touches the surface of the timing of his return.

REYES’ RETURN: There were reports in Tuesday’s papers that had manager Terry Collins saying Reyes wouldn’t be activated because he wasn’t ready, and the player himself said he didn’t think he was comfortable with a promotion based on how he was hitting.

Considering the Mets scored 40 runs in their previous five games – all wins – and with Wilmer Flores hitting well, there seemed no sense of urgency for this move.

This again smacks of a disconnect between GM Sandy Alderson and his manager. Why would Collins say Reyes wouldn’t be brought up unless that was his understanding after communicating with Alderson?

Somebody isn’t communicating and the feeling here it is Alderson for pushing Reyes’ return when both the manager and player said he wasn’t ready.

MATZ PUSHED IT: Matz, who hasn’t won since May 25, made his second start since the reports of a bone spur in his elbow. Matz gave up a single to open the seventh, but considering his elbow, why would Collins let the left-hander pitch to Giancarlo Stanton, who responded with a two-run homer?

Oh well, maybe it wouldn’t matter as Stanton hit a three-run homer in the eighth. Considering Matz has a health concern, I wouldn’t have let him pitch to Stanton.

ALL-STAR METS: In addition to Yoenis Cespedes, who was voted in by the fans, and homered Tuesday, Noah Syndergaard and closer Jeurys Familia, will represent the Mets in San Diego.

All are deserving but I was hoping for Bartolo Colon over Syndergaard, but the latter is also bothered with a bone spur and could use the rest.

As for Colon, he’s 43 and pitched well enough to go. I always root for good storylines, and Colon going would have been a great angle.

Jun 12

Things Better Change Quickly For Mets

Last week I asked if there was a reason to be concerned with the Mets, but stopped short of saying they were in trouble. I’m not stopping short any longer. If the season ended today the Mets would make the playoffs as the second wild card, but there are more than a few reasons to believe they aren’t heading in the right direction.

MATZ: Roughed up Sunday. (Getty)

MATZ: Roughed up Sunday. (Getty)

There’s plenty of season left to turn things around, but also enough time has gone by to conclude despite their young pitching – and Bartolo Colon – that if there’s not a reversal soon the playoffs many of us took for granted on Opening Day might not happen.

Following their 15-7 April, including Sunday’s 5-3 loss in Milwaukee the Mets have gone 19-21. They are 4.5 games behind Washington, and one of seven teams lumped under the 4.5-game umbrella of wild-contenders.

Teams will lose, but the Mets didn’t play well during their 5-5 road trip. They weren’t just beaten, they beat themselves. On Sunday, they had breakdowns in all phases: 1) Steven Matz was roughed up in his second straight start; 2) the defense committed three errors and could have had a fourth; and 3) and their hitters struck out ten times and went 2-for-9 with RISP.

April’s storyline was the Mets’ propensity for hitting homers, but more importantly in their 62 games they have scored three or fewer runs in half (31) of them. That’s an alarming number. Overall, they are hitting .214 with RISP; and average around nine strikeouts and close to the same in runners left on base in a game.

Nine strikeouts mean in three innings they did not put the ball in play. For all those who don’t give credence to strikeouts as an important statistic, it is time to get a clue. Not putting the ball in play means no chance for hits; no chance to reach on an error; no sacrifice flies; and no productive outs to put runners in scoring position.

A positive note is Matt Harvey seems to have turned it around, but could that be offset by Matz’s two straight stinkers? And, Jacob deGrom hasn’t won in his last seven starts. The bullpen, so positive in April, is showing cracks. Closer Jeurys Familia is far from a sure thing. Their most reliable reliever is Addison Reed; with everybody else you hold your breath.

Injuries are a concern with David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud on the disabled list. They could get d’Arnaud back in a week or so, but he wasn’t hitting or throwing runners out on the bases before he got hurt. Michael Conforto has a sore wrist and is in a dreadful slump; Neil Walker has a tight lower back; and Juan Lagares has an injured left thumb.

The upcoming schedule is brutal as from now until the All-Star break they have three more games with Pittsburgh; two against Kanas City; three with the Marlins; four against the Cubs and seven with the Nationals. Beginning Tuesday, the Mets start a stretch of 26 games in 27 days.

Seriously, there’s a chance the trade deadline could be moot.

The Mets can get on a hot streak, turn things around and maybe add a couple of pieces just as they did last season. However, since the end of April we’ve seen precious few signs of that happening.

There’s reason for concern, and yes, they are in trouble.

May 28

Mets Wrap: Plenty Of Deserving Fingers To Be Pointed In Syndergaard Fiasco

The Mets ignored the ancient Chinese proverb, “when pursuing revenge remember to dig two graves.”

The Mets finally chose Saturday night to seek retribution against Chase Utley for his hard take-out slide during last year’s NLDS against the Dodgers that resulted in a broken leg for their then shortstop Ruben Tejada.

SYNDERGAARD: Payback is a bitch. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Payback is a bitch. (AP)

The only grave filled was by the Mets and Noah Syndergaard.

The Mets eschewed retaliation against the Dodgers for the rest of the playoffs; during the four-game series in Los Angeles earlier this month; and Friday night. One school of thought was the Mets would continue to let Utley wonder, which would have been the best choice.

Instead, Syndergaard threw behind Utley’s back with one out in the third. Plate umpire Adam Hamari booted Syndergaard before the ball stopped rolling at the backstop. Utley calmly kept his head down and smoothed the dirt with his foot.

Utley homered in the sixth. If that wasn’t enough to rile Mets’ fans, then surely his grand slam in the seventh that sealed the Dodgers’ 9-1 blowout win should have been.

Utley maintained a stoic look throughout the game showing zero emotion. None.

Hamari had no choice but eject Syndergaard because whenever a pitcher deliberately wants to hit a batter he throws behind him, the thinking being the hitter will step back into the pitch.

Please, let’s not insult our intelligence by saying the ball got away because he had only walked nine hitters entering the game. Please, also don’t blame our intelligence, as SNY did, by saying Hamari didn’t have a handle on the situation because he is only a third-year umpire.

Since it’s all about blame these days, my finger is pointed at three parties for Syndergaard’s ejection.

First, let’s look at Syndergaard, who should be smart enough to know that after the buildup there would be no way he could go after Utley and skate. He’s young, but not naïve.

Second, there’s manager Terry Collins, who is not having the good start to this season. Collins has to understand the ramifications of losing Syndergaard. He made a big deal of wrongly justifying his poor decision to bring in Jeurys Familia in a non-save situation Friday because he wanted to win the game.

Don’t you think the Mets’ chances to win are enhanced with Syndergaard? When the teams played in Los Angeles, Collins warned his team about retaliation, saying he didn’t need to have anybody hurt or suspended. He didn’t have a similar message prior to this series.

For his efforts, Collins was also tossed. Collins said he was “surprised” Syndergaard was ejected so quickly without a warning. Seriously? Hasn’t he been paying attention?

Finally, Major League Baseball needs to take a bow for totally screwing up this whole situation. Here’s how:

* The umpires have discretion for ejecting a player they believe intentionally tried to injure a player. They did not.

* In response to the uproar from media and Mets fans about the play, MLB feared an incident at Citi Field when the NLDS moved to Citi Field. MLB suspended Utley for two games not because they judged it a dirty play, but because they feared an ugly scene. Joe Torre, who handles these decisions for MLB, should know more than most that is not the basis for a decision.

* When Utley’s appeal was heard this spring the original suspension was not upheld. MLB would say it was because of a new rule change, but the incident was committed under the old format.

* Finally, knowing the tension heading leading into the series – surely, the Commissioner’s office reads the New York papers – it would have been prudent to issue a warning.

This has been a total screw up from the beginning, and if Syndergaard is suspended – as Collins fears – it will only get worse.


May 28, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #48          Score:  Dodgers 9, Mets 1

Record: 28-20     Streak: L 1

Standings: First, NL East, four percentage points ahead of the Nationals.  

Runs: 187    Average:  3.87   Times 3 or less: 23

SUMMARY: Syndergaard’s retaliation attempt at Utley failed and resulted in his ejection. The Dodgers homered five times, including two by Utley, who drove in five runs.

KEY MOMENT:  Syndergaard’s ill-fated attempt to put the hammer down.

THUMBS UP:  At least they didn’t need Familia. … Juan Lagares homered for the second straight game. … Nobody got hurt. … The Nationals also lost.

THUMBS DOWN:  The whole night. … Now they have to face Clayton Kershaw. … Just three hits. … They gave up four homers. … They still don’t have a clue as to how to pitch to Utley. … The bullpen gave up nine runs and the hitters struck out ten times.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright did not play because of pain in his neck. There exists a possibility he could be placed on the disabled list Sunday. … Wilmer Flores could be activated from the DL Sunday. … The Mets sent cash to San Diego for first baseman James Loney.

QUOTEBOOK:  “It would be fair.’’ – Collins on if he was upset with the decision to eject Syndergaard.

BY THE NUMBERS:  34: Pitches thrown by Syndergaard.

NEXT FOR METS:  Bartolo Colon against Kershaw Sunday night.

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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.


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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