Jul 09

Terry Collins’ Obligation With Matt Harvey Is To Mets, Not National League All-Star Team

His marketing dilemma is understood, but New York Mets manager Terry Collins would be making a mistake if he were to juggle Matt Harvey’s spot in the rotation, or even cut it short, just so his young ace can start Tuesday’s All-Star Game.

As of now Harvey’s next start would be Saturday in Pittsburgh, which would leave him enough rest to throw two innings Tuesday.

HARVEY: Another no-decision. (AP)

                     HARVEY: Another no-decision. (AP)

Collins’ first obligation is to manage the Mets and put them in position to win. That means having Harvey ready and able to pitch for the Mets and not attempt to give the Cincinnati Reds or Atlanta Braves home field in the World Series.

Isn’t tinkering with Harvey’s rest or pitch count reminiscent of letting Johan Santana throw over 130 pitches just so he could throw a no-hitter, and a tainted one, at that?

Of course, skipping Harvey’s start because of a blister on his right index finger will make this a moot point.

Then again, does it?

Collins said the blister prevented Harvey from making his between-starts bullpen session. If that was the case, Harvey entered the game with a blister, so what was he doing pitching in the first place? Did Collins start Harvey with the intent of showcasing him for National League manager Bruce Bochy? Believe me, Bochy knows enough about Harvey without Collins letting his ace audition for him.

Pitchers are fragile creatures, even physical workhorses like Harvey. The slightest thing, whether it be a bruise on the shin, or stiff neck, or blister on the finger can throw off his mechanics to the point where it can cause a serious injury to the arm.

Who is to say Harvey’s blister didn’t impact the pitch thrown to Buster Posey, which he took out of the park? Without Harvey admitting as much, there’s nothing definitive to say it did. There’s also nothing definitive to say it did not. There’s reasonable doubt.

I understand the importance of Harvey starting in the All-Star Game, not only to the Mets, but Major League Baseball. MLB wants television sets on at the start of the game so those around the country who haven’t seen him pitch will have an opportunity to see what the fuss is about.

Major League Baseball knows fans have a short attention span, and with the way pitchers are shuttled into the game, viewers aren’t going to hang around to see Harvey. Bud Selig can envision viewers channel surfing or clicking off the game. They want to see Harvey now, and Collins is doing everything he can to ensure it happens.

Even if it means the Mets lose a game now.

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

Jul 08

Tim Lincecum Should Be Model To Matt Harvey

With the New York Mets in San Francisco for a three-game series, one of the obvious story lines will be Matt Harvey “auditioning’’ in front of Giants-National League manager Bruce Bochy to be the All-Star Game starter.

One of the best things about Harvey is his competitive drive, and his motivation isn’t the All-Star Game as much as it is to be the best pitcher in the sport.

LINCECUM: Harvey should be paying attention to him.

LINCECUM: Harvey should be paying attention to him.

It wasn’t too long ago his opposition tonight, Tim Lincecum, was considered the best. Not anymore. Here’s a guy who last year was relegated to the bullpen for the World Series.

The reports on Lincecum is he’s lost several mph., off this fastball, a pitch like Harvey’s that was in the high 90s, and danced and darted within the strikezone. Lincecum does not have the same dominance and there are numerous theories, including the torque and violence of his delivery has sapped him.

Whatever it is, Harvey should be paying attention, for what he’s experiencing now – from the cover of Sports Illustrated to dating a model to all the attention – is fleeting. It is the icing on the cake, but not the cake itself.

Harvey appears to have it all, which those around him say includes perspective and attitude. Harvey has nine no-decisions, including seven in games decided by three or fewer runs. Cut those in half to the positive and there shouldn’t be any debate as to whether he starts next Tuesday at Citi Field. Harvey brushes them off with a “that’s baseball,” shrug.

The one thing we haven’t seen from him is his reaction to true adversity. Not getting a few wins is one thing, but Harvey has not experienced losing his stuff, an injury or going on a long slide. He’s not experienced what every great pitcher goes through. From Sandy Koufax to Greg Maddux to Roger Clemens to Pedro Martinez; they’ve all endured getting knocked around by the fickle nature of their sport.

It has been smooth sailing so fair, but it’s never that way from beginning-to-end in a pitching career. So, when Harvey takes the mound tonight, it won’t be about starting an All-Star Game, but maintaining a star status.

Harvey won’t do it tonight because he’s too focused, but in that 24-hour reflective window of his after, he will do himself well to look at Lincecum’s career and understand the fragility of being the top dog.

Understanding it’s not all cream, but at times sour milk, is vital when it comes to being the best. What Harvey has now is the foundation for a great career, but it is something never to be taken for granted.

Nobody understands that more than Lincecum.

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

Jun 24

Mets’ Matt Harvey Should Start All-Star Game

The starting role for the All-Star Game is Matt Harvey’s for the taking. With three more starts for the New York Mets, including an audition for San Francisco and National League manager Bruce Bochy, should Harvey run the table and go into the break at 10-1 with an ERA close to 2.00, it is totally realistic.

Unless Harvey tanks, he should get the ball.

HARVEY: Should get All-Star nod, (AP)

HARVEY: Should get All-Star nod, (AP)

“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Harvey told reporters Sunday in Philadelphia. “ … Hopefully, the performance will take care of itself.’’

Meanwhile, speaking on SiriusXM, Bochy said with all things being equal, letting Harvey start in his home city could be the deal breaker. Based on record, Harvey trails Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman (10-3), St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright (10-4), Arizona’s Patrick Corbin (9-0) and Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee (9-2), especially should they continue to win their remaining starts.

However, if any of them pitch on Sunday preceding the July 16 All-Star Game, they would not be able to pitch in the game. Of course, the same applies to Harvey, but Mets manager Terry Collins won’t let that happen.

Because of how well Harvey has performed, it would not be a token gesture by Bochy, but a decision based on merit. Bochy, one of the best managers in the game, understands the rarity of starting the All-Star Game in one’s home park, and would not deny Harvey the privilege if the numbers were equal.

And, from a strategic point of view, why would Bochy do anything to alienate Harvey or the Mets? Why make an enemy?

It wouldn’t make sense.

Prior to Sunday’s victory over the Phillies – Harvey only worked six innings because of rain – I wrote how other pitchers were having better statistical seasons and stand by that feeling. However, that doesn’t mean Harvey isn’t having his own special year, even if he isn’t the “best pitcher on the planet.’’

Harvey’s window is less than a full year with 26 career starts, but he’s demonstrated he definitely is a cornerstone pitcher, an ace to build around. He puts the odds in the Mets’ favor every five days, something that can’t be underestimated.

While he has his share of special numbers, what I like best about Harvey is his 24-hour rule, which is win or lose, he won’t dwell on a game for longer than a day. It demonstrates focus and his head is in the right place.

However, physically the right place for Harvey on July 16 will be on Citi Field’s mound.

It feels right.

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

Nov 02

Looking at the make-up of the new Mets’ manager.

Sandy Alderson is back from teaching in California and at Citi Field working on hiring the next manager of the Mets. There should be some interviews scheduled by the end of the day, with some to happen this week.

While Alderson said he’s not adverse to hiring a “fiery,” manager – relief to Wally Backman supporters – his preference is of an analytical and knowledgeable type. Middle management, if you will. Speculation has Bob Melvin and Clint Hurdle emerging as early favorites.

Yes, the manager could be important to sell tickets – in that regard Backman might have it over Melvin – but winning is the most important criteria and if Alderson believes a low-key, almost vanilla personality is better equipped to implement his vision he’ll get the job. If the Mets play a fundamentally sound, aggressive brand of baseball and prove to always be in the game, that will sell the tickets and steady the ship until they start spending after the 2011 season.

In addition to Melvin, Hurdle and Backman, also on Alderson’s list is third-base coach Chip Hale, Triple-A Buffalo manager Ken Oberkfell, Minor League field coordinator Terry Collins, Double-A Binghamton manager Tim Teufel, and former Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu.

Not an established genius on the list, then again, neither was Bruce Bochy, whom Alderson had in San Diego.

The new Mets manager must have these traits:

SMARTS/ANALYSIS: It’s a complicated game and a manager must always be thinking two, three innings ahead. Bochy was flawless this October in how he juggled his lineup and bullpen. It’s an oversimplification to blame injuries for an unstable batting order and bullpen, but Jerry Manuel showed he didn’t think things through with his insistence in batting Jose Reyes third and for overworking his bullpen. Those were the most glaring as it showed he didn’t have an understanding of the talent of his players.

Sometimes a manager must act on instincts and guts, but hoping and flying by the seat of 0ne’s pants isn’t the best strategy. Alderson is big on probabilities and that comes in being prepared which puts the odds in your favor.

HAVE A PLAN: The bullpen and batting order were all over the place with Manuel. Perhaps the most difficult thing for a manager to do is assess bullpen roles and keep them in place. The bullpen was solvent and stable in 2006 under Willie Randolph but hasn’t been since even though the Mets spent lavishly on closers Billy Wagner and Francisco Rodriguez.

ABILITY TO CONVINCE THE PLAYERS OF THE BIG PICTURE: The Giants proved it is possible to win without marquee players in the starting lineup. (As long as you have four quality starters, a strong bullpen and dominant closer, then the batting order doesn’t have to mash). Neither Manuel nor Omar Minaya could convince Oliver Perez to do what was right, and they didn’t have the backbone to broach moving Carlos Beltran to right field.

Convincing Beltran to move to another position in his walk year will require a delicate, yet firm touch, as it is likely we won’t see him after 2011. The new manager will have to convince Beltran to do what is best for a team  he won’t  be a part of after this season. Tough task.

The Giants won with serviceable, productive role players who performed in a relatively stable lineup. Their lineup might not be as talented as the Mets’ order, but they all knew their roles and had a disciplined approach at the plate. One thing watching the Giants during the year and in the playoffs is they gave away far less at-bats than the Mets.

The new manager and his hitting coach must overhaul the Mets’ far too often careless and sloppy approach at the plate, and this begins with convincing the stars Reyes to improve his on-base percentage and David Wright and Jason Bay to cut down on their strikeouts.

It was almost a novelty when the Mets worked counts, manufactured runs and hit with runners in scoring position. It should be common place.

One of the most memorable at-bats during the World Series was Aubrey Huff sacrificing late in the game last night to set up Edgar Renteria. Arguably their best power hitter was bunting. Clearly, the Giants bought into what Bochy was selling. We rarely saw that here.

THE ABILITY TO MOTIVATE: It’s hard to believe major league players with the money they make need motivation, but it’s true. This is personified by Reyes, whom Manuel lost by juggling in the order and pushing his return from injuries. Reyes is still the Mets’ offensive key and requires delicate handling at times because he does lose focus.

HAVE PATIENCE WITH THE YOUNG PLAYERS: This team has a young core with Ike Davis, Josh Thole and Ruben Tejada. Angel Pagan, Reyes and Wright are also in the prime of their careers. Part of this is surrounding himself with the proper staff. Hale and Dan Warthen, reportedly, could stay in some capacity and this should ease the transition.

It was Manuel who insisted on Jenrry Mejia opening the season in the bullpen when it was clear he was not suited for that role. A manager must put his players in position where they have a chance to succeed. Not only was Manuel wrong here, so was Minaya for letting him.

KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH THE MEDIA: There were many instances Manuel criticized and threw a player under the bus in the press, which showed he didn’t trust them. Conversely, those players returned that lack of trust. Two of the more enduring images of the season was Mike Pelfrey turning his back on Manuel when he took him out and the John Maine incident. Both illustrated the players’ lack of respect and trust in their manager and it filtered down.

Manuel also failed several times when it came to informing players of change. When it came to informing Wright of an off day or Jeff Francoeur of his role with the return of Beltran, Manuel handled it sloppily. If you’re a manager and you’re selling a new system, you must have diplomacy, tact and consideration, knowing you’re going to rely on those players in the future. The new guy needs this trait.

Manuel did a lot of double-speaking when it came to the press and wasn’t believable, and with that neither the Mets were as a contender.