Jul 13

Mets Must Overhaul Pitching Protocols

 

UPDATED

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.

 

Jun 06

Piersall Touches Them All… Backwards

Jim Piersall is one of dozens of major leaguers who played with the Mets at the tail end of his career. And, what a memorable career it was. He wasn’t always spectacular, but he was entertaining, such as on this date in 1963 while with the Mets he celebrated his 100th career homer by rounding the bases backwards.

PIERSALL: Magical Mystery Tour

While there are some pretty creative prop bets created for the MLB, even sportsbooks in modern times could not have predicted what happened next. Two days later he was released by manager Casey Stengel, who said of him: “He’s great, but you have to play him in a cage.’’

He wasn’t a Hall of Fame player, but definitely a Hall of Fame personality and character, who suffered from bipolar disorder was committed to a mental hospital in 1952. His experience led to his autobiography, “Fear Strikes Out,’’ which became a movie.

In his book, Piersall wrote: “Probably the best thing that ever happened to me was going nuts. Whoever heard of Jimmy Piersall until that happened?”

Piersall’s mother, Mary, suffered from mental illness and was committed to a sanitarium, and it wasn’t too deep in his career that her son began showing bizarre, uncontrollable behavior.

Piersall would take a bow after catches in the outfield. He brawled with Billy Martin – then again, who didn’t? – then fought with his teammate Mickey McDermott. He snorted like a pig at Satchel Paige.

Piersall’s best years were with the Red Sox, when he made two All-Star teams, including in 1956 when he hit .293 with 14 homers and 87 RBI. He hit 19 homers the following year, but after his average dropped to .237 in 1958 he was traded to Cleveland.

While with the Indians, he threw a ball at the Comiskey Park scoreboard in Chicago, and after being dusted by Yankees pitcher Jim Coates, threw his bat at him.

Piersall was eventually traded to Washington, and the Senators dealt him to the Mets for Gil Hodges.

Stengel, who managed Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, said of Piersall: “I thought Joe DiMaggio was the greatest defensive outfielder I ever saw, but I have to rate Piersall better.’’

Following his release from the Mets, Piersall signed with the Angels. After three seasons with the Angels, he was released in 1967 and eventually retired.

After he retired, Piersall bounced around baseball in several capacities, including being hired by Martin in Texas as an outfield instructor, and later as a broadcaster with the White Sox teamed with Harry Caray.

PIERSALL’s CAREER

Aug 15

Upon Further Review, Instant Replay Still Has Gaps

It is a start. That’s where we can begin to analyze Major League Baseball’s new instant replay format, which now includes giving managers up to three video challenges per game, with the final decision rendered in the MLB offices in New York.

Theoretically, this would eliminate the hat-flinging, dirt-kicking, bat-and-base throwing tantrums that elevated Earl Weaver and Billy Martin to folk status. I will miss those. Go ahead, Google Earl Weaver umpire fights, especially those with Ron Luciano.

There’s some good to the new system, but several shortcomings must be mentioned:

NUMBER OF CHALLENGES

The system calls for only one challenge through the first six innings and two for the remainder of the game, regardless of how long it goes. It was said on one radio call-in show this afternoon the intent is to speed the game along, which should never be the primary reason for anything. The primary goal should always be to get it right.

Why not allow one challenge every three innings, regardless of how long the game lasts? There’s a sense of proportion that way.

Technically, to allow for full integrity to the process, replay challenges should be unlimited, because getting it right is the only true goal. However, in leaving unlimited replays on the table, all it would take is one ANGRY manager to challenge every play.

WHAT IS REVIEWABLE AND WHAT IS NOT?

As of now nothing changed, just home runs. Balls and strikes will never be under challenge, but so many types of plays should be reviewable.

Unlike football, where the action can happen anytime and anywhere on the field, that isn’t the case with baseball. So much of what happens on a baseball field does so at a fixed location, such as the foul lines, bases and home plate and the fences. Even trapped balls in the outfield would seem easier than football, because there’s rarely an obstructed view.

Why not include everything but balls and strikes? Get it right, so there will never be another travesty as the botched infield fly rule play in Atlanta during the NLDS?

Major League Baseball, if it wanted, could readily identify where most of the contested plays are, and why. MLB has stats on everything and can pinpoint what plays created the most disputes, and getting back to the innings issue, where they occurred in the game. That’s why keying the bulk of the challenges in the last three innings is a misnomer.

What the makers of this rule don’t get is things can explode any time.

THE UMPIRE ISSUE

This gets us to the umpires, whose union had to be on board for this to happen. Hopefully, this format will diffuse many of the player-umpire confrontations.

I’ve always maintained each umpire should be wired for sound they can’t control. This way we know who said the words to ignite the argument.

The accusation against many umpires is they don’t care to improve. There’s a perception they can be lazy and confrontational.

Hopefully, this format will prove the umpires are more right than wrong, but that isn’t the current perception.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Oct 05

Just say no to Bobby V.

One of the most interesting things I’ve read lately in the papers and on the blogs has been the slow drumbeat for the return of Bobby Valentine as Mets manager. All these people who should know better, who blast the Mets for repeating their same mistakes over and over again, are clamoring for them to return to the not-too-distant past in bringing back the flawed Valentine.

Why?

Can you really go home again? Can you reheat a souffle? Can a torn relationship be made whole again? Experience tells me probably not. Valentine had his chance, and in 1999 and 2000 had playoff teams that fizzled out. Yes, they reached the World Series in 2000, but after blowing Game 1, they were essentially done.

VALENTINE: Returning to the past not good for Mets' future.

VALENTINE: Returning to the past not good for Mets' future.


Could Valentine without Steve Phillips work? I doubt it. Valentine is a lightning rod for controversy and in much the degree of Billy Martin, a quick fix. He energizes at first, but then things regress. He does not sustain.

As bad as Jerry Manuel was this year, it must be remembered the team was in first place until injuries sacked the season. We can’t say with certainty the Mets would be in the playoffs had they stayed healthy, but they were headed in that direction.

Manuel definitely has shortcomings, but the season was so hideously fractured by injuries it would have been unfair to not give him another chance. Remember, it wasn’t Manuel’s fault the Mets didn’t have the reserves to bring up from the minor leagues or to make a trade.

Yes, Manuel should have handled some things differently, but the argument can be made many of his mistakes were made because he didn’t have any other options. I’ve not been shy in listing what I didn’t like, but looking at things objectively, I can see his reasoning.

Given the same situation, I don’t believe Valentine would have been any better. I’m not sure anybody could have been any better.

For those wanting Valentine, it must be remembered no championships were won during his tenure, and that reaching the World Series was in large part because they didn’t have to face the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs that season.

From what I remember about the Valentine Era is there was always a controversy. There was always a distraction. Valentine was constantly at odds with somebody, whether it be his general manager, a player or somebody in the media. Valentine liked to play people off of each other and the clubhouse was about taking sides on one issue or another.

Those wanting Valentine either have short and selective memories, an agenda, or don’t know what they are talking about.

In the long run, we’ll need 2010 to see if Manuel is the answer, and odds are he’ll get a short leash because of the impatience that comes from being in New York. But, the Mets have been there and done that with Valentine.

A return to the past would not be good for the Mets’ future.

Sep 22

This day in baseball history ….

On this day ....

On this day ....

On this day in 1985, on the day following his scuffle with a patron in the Cross Keys Inn bar in Baltimore, Yankees manager Billy Martin has his right arm broken by pitcher Ed Whitson the next morning.

We talked about Milton Bradley yesterday, which makes me wonder how he and Martin would have interacted with each other. I have a feeling it would be worse than his relationship with Reggie Jackson. Martin would have to be the manager of the all bad-guy team.

George Steinbrenner kept going back to Martin. Each time it was “going to be different,” but it never was. Martin was a quick fix kind of guy. He turned teams around right away, which makes me believe that type of fiery personality is what could be needed for the Mets.

MARTIN: Five times a Yankee manager.

MARTIN: Five times a Yankee manager.


However, the danger of a quick fix manager is they become super novas and burn themselves out. If and when the Mets make another managerial change, they need to go with a commanding presence, a guy who doesn’t have to be a simmering volcano, but one that demands respect and doesn’t take any crap.

The team needs a disciplinarian type, a man who would make a player shiver just by his stare. They said Gil Hodges was that way. Joe Torre is that way as is Tony La Russa. Above all, they need somebody with success on his resume, somebody who has the ring his players do not.