Mar 08

No Brainer Harvey Will Be Opening Day Starter

The Mets like to say they don’t have one ace, but a whole rotation full of aces. It’s the politically correct thing to say, of course. It’s also nonsense because everybody knows it’s a no-brainer Matt Harvey will get the ball on Opening Day in Kansas City.

HARVEY: Should be the OD starter. (Getty)

HARVEY: Should be the OD starter. (Getty)

Jacob deGrom had a better season statistically – traditionally a yardstick in naming an Opening Day starter – and Noah Syndergaard might have a higher upside, but Harvey is the arm the Mets first boast about.

Harvey, today’s starter against the Braves at Disney, last pitched in Game 5 of the World Series when he convinced manager Terry Collins to go out for the ninth inning, and we all know how that worked out for the Mets.

Harvey was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA last year, but most importantly in his comeback season from Tommy John surgery was he made 29 regular-season starts and threw 216 total innings without any hint of re-injury.

Many times in the second year back from surgery the pitcher will come back even stronger and there are reports from Florida Harvey’s slider is back and his fastball has that last-second bite it lacked at times in 2015.

Harvey will make over $4 million this year, more than deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz and Zack Wheeler combined. The Mets will say when they finally make the official announcement money had nothing to do with their decision, but that would be a misnomer.

Harvey makes the most because his age put him first in line. That’s a fact, but it’s also symbolic. You see, the Mets were going to rebuild with their young pitching and Harvey was the first. He was the one they were going to build around.

Then came Wheeler, and deGrom, then Syndergaard and Matz. Come July when Wheeler is back and Bartolo Colon is relegated to the bullpen, will the Mets’ rebuilding plan be whole.

But, symbolically Harvey was the first step, which is why he’ll get the ball in Kansas City. It’s symmetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 07

The Telling Distinctions Between Colon And Pelfrey

The unveiling of the 2016 Mets’ starting rotation this week unveils an interesting match-up Monday when Bartolo Colon goes against former Mets Ace of the Future Mike Pelfrey in a split-squad game against Detroit.

In the other split-squad game, Steven Matz starts against St. Louis. Matt Harvey starts Tuesday, followed by Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. No, you can’t determine from this who will be the Opening Day starter.

But, there’s intrigue with Colon vs. Pelfrey in it shows a contrast of styles and expectations. It also explains why one is a Met and another is not.

PELFREY: What could Wright say that would help? (Getty)

PELFREY: What could Wright say that would help? (Getty)

Colon was signed as a two-year stopgap when Harvey went down. However, he exceeded all expectations, kept the team afloat at times and even proved his worthiness working out of the bullpen. And, there was never any shortage of comic relief.Colon exceeded all expectations by mostly doing two things: 1) throwing strikes, and 2) minimizing the damage when things got dicey.

Colon exceeded all expectations by mostly doing two things: 1) throwing strikes, and 2) minimizing the damage when things got dicey.

For the most part, Colon cut off big innings before they developed. Had Pelfrey done those things with any consistency, he might still be with the Mets.

What do you remember most about Pelfrey? For me, it was his habit of letting little things get to him which eventually turned into big innings. This was never more apparent than three balks in one inning against San Francisco. Most pitchers don’t balk three times in one year. Guess how many career balks Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard have in their careers?

Yup, zero.

All three, while not perfect, have the ability to maintain their composure while under pressure and to throw strikes. There were times Pelfrey resembled a right-handed Oliver Perez. Enough said.

I always liked Pelfrey, but he drove me crazy to watch him at times. And, you could see it coming. If he didn’t get a strike call, or there was an error, or a broken-bat blooper, or any of a half-dozen other things.

When something went wrong Pelfrey would start chewing on that damned mouth guard and the strike zone would disappear. One walk would become two would become three and before you knew it the Braves or Phillies or whoever would have three runs.

Those were long days.

Meanwhile, nothing seems to bother Colon, who is always full of surprises, such as that behind the back flip in Miami.

Sep 20

Robles Gives Glimpse Of Harvey Limits Nightmare

The horror Mets’ fans envision when it comes to Matt Harvey‘s innings limits surfaced in a disturbing way tonight. Harvey cruised for five scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out seven, before giving way to Hansel Robles.

Robles pitched two thirds of an inning and was hammered for five runs by the Yankees. It was the obvious fear whenever Harvey leaves the game.

Of course, there were boos, directed at Robles, at manager Terry Collins for pulling Harvey, for GM Sandy Alderson who didn’t have a definitive plan entering the season, and, at Harvey, who resisted any rest suggestions this summer.

HARVEY: Goes five tonight. (Getty)

HARVEY: Goes five tonight. (Getty)

We’ve been over this several times and the basic criticism is the Mets wanted to limit Harvey’s workload, but Alderson, Harvey, Dr. James Andrews and agent Scott Boras failed to come up with a workable plan.

Boras, Harvey and Andrews had their idea of a limit (180 innings total) and Alderson had his idea (around 190 for the regular season plus the playoffs).

The disconnect between the sides is wide, but the primary finger must be pointed at Alderson, who as the Mets’ chief executive, failed to come up with a concrete plan or stand up to his diva pitcher.

According to the recent, quickly thrown together plan, Harvey was to go five tonight and presumably five in his next two games, and with his playoff workload undetermined.

Barring another historic collapse, the Mets should make the playoffs, but what if there’s a repeat of tonight next month against the Dodgers? In the playoffs, don’t you want to see Harvey go six, or seven, or even eight innings?

Of course you do, and so would Harvey’s teammates. However, the Mets won’t make that commitment and that’s aggravating to all concerned.

 

Sep 13

Lagares Auditioning For Playoff Roster Spot

While it is clear Juan Lagares lost his center field job to Yoenis Cespedes, what is in question is a possible postseason roster spot, and he’s yelling: “Don’t forget about me.’’

Lagares, buried on the bench behind Cespedes and later Kirk Nieuwenhuis, personified what has been going on with the Mets lately.

LAGARES: Auditioning for playoff spot. (AP)

LAGARES: Auditioning for playoff spot. (AP)

These Mets refused to give the Braves that third strike or third out. Sunday’s game was lost – that is L O S T – when Lagares came to bat in the ninth.

He fell behind 1-and-2, fouled off a couple of pitches before lining a ball into the right-center gap Cameron Maybin couldn’t hold after a diving attempt.

Curtis Granderson, who has excelled leading off, drew his second walk of the game, 12th of the month and 83rd of the season. Then Daniel Murphy, who isn’t a power hitter, crushed a game-tying three-run homer.

The three runs the Mets scored in the tenth inning was a formality, and with it, the Mets had their 82nd victory for their first winning season in seven years.

The Mets are on an unconscious roll the past six weeks, or since the deal for Cespedes, and it would be easy for a young player such as Lagares to get down on himself.

Lagares is 5-for-9 this month, with three of those hits coming off the bench. He’s started only one game in September. Those are numbers manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson will need to evaluate when deciding the postseason roster.

We know the outfielders will include Cespedes, Granderson, Michael Conforto – there’s no way they can even think about not keeping him now – and Michael Cuddyer. If they want a fifth outfielder the candidates are Nieuwenhuis, Lagares and Eric Young.

Nieuwenhuis offers a left-handed bat off the bench and Young gives them speed and a stolen base threat. Lagares offers a right-handed bat – as does Cuddyer – and defense. But, they won’t take out Cespedes for defense in the playoffs.

Where does that leave Lagares? Today he demonstrated his head is still in the game. If not for the playoffs, then for next season.

Jul 24

The Mets Add Conforto; Deal With Braves Pending

Michael Conforto was lifting weights when his minor league manager, Pedro Lopez, approached him with a cell phone to inform him of his promotion to the Mets. Now, comes the part of trying to withstand the temptation to lift the Mets.

Of course, that’s easier said then done, especially with the numbers screaming this is a team in desperate need of help. After Friday’s 7-2 loss to the Dodgers the Mets are losers of six of their last eight games. They have the worst team batting average in the majors at .233 and next to last in runs scored with 331.

Yes, the Mets are a team in need and along with the much-anticipated promotion of Conforto, they were on the verge of swinging a deal with Atlanta for third baseman Juan Uribe and left-handed hitting utility player Kelly Johnson.

Conforto, at least, seems to have his head screwed on straight regarding expectations.

“I haven’t played in big league games,’’ Conforto said. “So really there’s no way for me to really know if I’m ready.’’

Conforto is here because Michael Cuddyer was finally placed on the disabled list with a sore knee. That decision came at least three weeks too late by GM Sandy Alderson.

Alderson, as usual, spoke legalese when it came to talking about Conforto’s expectations, saying there was thought he would “super dramatically,’’ upgrade the Mets’ production. Conforto was hitless but drove in the Mets’ first run with a groundout.

Maybe Alderson was attempting to take the pressure off Conforto, but the game’s smartest general manager, according to his auto-biography, couched everything.

Alderson said the promotion might have occurred without Cuddyer’s injury, but since it was tied to a player going on the disabled list there was no guarantee how long he would stay up here. Alderson also said the promotion was no connection as to how active the Mets will be on the trade market.

By the end of the game, the Mets hadn’t announced the trade that would send pitching prospects Michael Gant and Rob Whalen to the Braves.

Figuring it does, the Mets could play Uribe at third, move Daniel Murphy back to second and Wilmer Flores back to shortstop. Of course, that means Ruben Tejada will likely return to the bench.

Johnson, who can also play both outfield positions as well as the infield, is hitting .275 with nine homers and 34 RBI, numbers which could arguably make him the Mets’ best hitter.

Do Conforto, Uribe and Johnson make the Mets decidedly better?

Not really.

Uribe, who is hitting .272 with eight homers and 23 RBI, this year with Atlanta and the Dodgers, and Johnson, bring with them batting averages that would put them at the top of Mets, but they are essentially complementary players. And, Conforto, whom Alderson didn’t want to bring up in the first place, remains a Double-A prospect.

You could say they make the Mets better because what has been here has been so bad.

That’s not really that comforting, is it?

Surely, there has to be more. There just has to be.