May 14

Latest Loss May Be Best Thing To Happen To Mets’ Harvey

Last night may be the best thing to happen to Matt Harvey and the Mets. In defeat, he showed us a humility we haven’t often seen from him, which can be the first step up from rock bottom.

Sometime between Rockies’ hits in the fifth inning I flashed to the summer of 2013 when Harvey first flirted with stardom. Do you remember the video piece Harvey did on the Jimmy Fallon show when he roamed the streets of New York asking people their thoughts of Matt Harvey?

HARVEY: All smiles in 2013. (USA Today)

HARVEY: All smiles in 2013. (USA Today)

To listen to the answers, and Harvey’s response – both verbally and his body language – was priceless. Harvey was talking to his fan base about himself and they didn’t recognize him. He was funny and showed real humility.

It made us like him for more than what he did on the mound because he seemed
approachable.

However, since then Harvey has been sidetracked by injury, off-the-field issues and media clashes. Both Harvey and those who followed him ventured into the dark night of judgment. Unlike that day in Central Park when he was anonymous, Harvey lived with a target on his back and hasn’t responded well.

Neither has anybody else.

His body language spoke loudly last night; louder than the cheers that greeted him at the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field when he seemingly held the world in his hand like the baseball he threw which such force and artistry.

Gone last night was the cockiness and arrogance which made people root against him. Also gone was the confidence that made him stare down a hitter then climb the ladder for another strikeout.

His head was down when he handed the ball to manager Terry Collins and slumped off the mound. The cameras caught him with his head bowed in the dugout talking to himself. He wasn’t getting any answers and it was a very human moment from a man Mets fans and media insist on labeling a superhero.

“A great statement I heard the other day is there’s two kinds of players in this league: Ones who have been humbled and ones who will be,” Collins told reporters. “When it’s your turn, it gets tough to take sometimes, because you have got to learn how to adjust from it and how to bounce back from it.”

However, before he can bounce back from a problem it must be identified.

Mechanics? Perhaps. Injuries or health? He says no. Is he feeling the pressure to perform after Game 5? Could be, but he’s repeatedly expressed no regrets in how he handled that night.

Most recently, is he trying to pitch up to the expectations of the contract he’ll seek when he becomes a free agent? Maybe, but it’s something I can’t see him admitting because after all, that’s something few players admit.

What then?

To his credit, and I really liked his answer, he refused to blame the altitude of Coors Field, a place he’s never pitched before.

His answer was a polite, yet forceful, “No, it’s me.”

Humility defined.

“I’m just not feeling comfortable throwing a baseball right now, so it’s frustrating,” Harvey told reporters. “Something I have obviously done my whole life is gone on a mound and thrown a baseball, and right now it’s not an easy task.

“Right now it’s just not feeling great out there — you start overthinking everything. That’s kind of the way it feels every pitch, and hopefully you get past that.”

Harvey cast no blame, although catcher Kevin Plawecki might have given him an out by saying his pitch recommendations might have been predictable. Not many pitchers win games with two runs, but he didn’t point fingers at the offense.

Instead, Harvey spoke of square one.

“It’s taking a lot longer than expected,” said Harvey, who must remember some pitchers hit the wall after Tommy John surgery in the second year back. “You can’t give up. You’ve just got to keep going. It’s start-to-start for me right now.

“I don’t look at it as ups and downs. It’s trying to continue figuring stuff out. … It’s not easy, but there’s another day tomorrow. And it’s a long season. There’s a lot of hope in that regard and drive toward figuring it out.”

I was glad to see Harvey get ripped because it might be the first step toward him getting to where he wants to be.

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May 13

May 13, Mets’ Lineup At Rockies

Matt Harvey is coming off his best start of the season and will attempt to start the Mets on another winning streak tonight in Denver against the Rockies.

Tonight will be Harvey’s first career start at Coors Field. You might recall he was scratched from last year’s start by Logan Verrett. The Mets enter with an 11-game winning streak against the Rockies.

Here’s the Mets batting order:

Curtis Granderson, RF

David Wright, 3B

Michael Conforto, LF

Yoenis Cespedes, CF

Lucas Duda, 1B

Neil Walker, 2B

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Kevin Plawecki, C

Harvey, RP

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May 12

Are Mets On Verge Of Blunder With Matz?

When it comes to the Mets and injuries ALWAYS bet the over.

The latest is Steven Matz‘s sore forearm and the Mets’ apparent lack of urgency to do something. When will these people learn? Will they ever learn?

MATZ: Hello. Anybody home. (AP)

MATZ: Hello. Anybody home. (AP)

Matz pitched six quality innings against the Dodgers Monday, but needed 98 pitches to do so. That’s way too many and could explain – in part – why he’ll miss Saturday’s start in Colorado.

After the game, Matz said he pitched with a sore forearm, which he evidently hid from manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen. It was obvious with the pitch count Matz was having some trouble.

“It was pretty sore,” Matz told reporters. “I was still able to throw, but it was enough concern for me to say something to the trainers and just kind of tell them what was going on. Before I see the doctors, they just want to play it safe.”

Presumably, had Matz said something to the trainers during the game they would have said something to Collins. You would like to think so, anyway.

Matz has already had Tommy John surgery. Shouldn’t he be smart enough to say something when he’s hurting? The Mets don’t need any heroes; they need healthy arms.

Then, there is the Mets’ puzzling response or lack of a substantive one. Matt Harvey pitched through a sore forearm in 2013 and look what happened to him. Don’t these guys talk to each other?

Stephen Strasburg signed a $175-million contract this week. If Matz keeps pitching as he has, someday he could earn that kind of deal. However, if he keeps making foolish decisions with his arm, his value might not be more than $1.75.

Matz won’t pitch Saturday and will be replaced by Logan Verrett. Matz didn’t throw Wednesday, but could try to throw today. The Mets are in Los Angeles, which has hundreds of accomplished orthopedic specialists. Couldn’t the Mets – through the Dodgers – arranged for an exam and MRI? How hard would that have been?

Reportedly, Matz won’t be examined until the Mets return home Monday. I understand back-dating to place a player on the disabled list, but the Mets constantly delay making these appointments.

Why?

It shows a haphazard, lazy response. GM Sandy Alderson isn’t, but that’s the perception. When Alderson was hired, COO Jeff Wilpon promised an overhaul would be made of the Mets’ medical practices.

From Jose Reyes to David Wright, from Carlos Beltran to Ryan Church, from Ike Davis to Harvey, the Mets have misdiagnosed and mishandled numerous injuries.

If nothing else, why didn’t they learn from Matz last year, when a strained lat muscle landed him on the disabled list for a couple of months?

Collins said – and apparently with a straight face – the Mets are being cautious with Matz because of last year. Matz felt discomfort after his major league debut, yet made his next start. Then came the disabled list.

“Last year I tried to pitch through it and ended up missing two months,” Matz told reporters. “So it’s better to play it safe and give it the rest when I need it.”

Rest plus anti-inflammatories, which is another way of saying, “take two aspirins and call me in the morning.”

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Aug 23

Things Falling Into Place For Mets

Maybe there are omens, if you believe in such things, but there is so much to like about what’s happening for the Mets, and it could be personified by Logan Verrett. Not only did the Mets get five innings from Verrett in his start for Matt Harvey, but got eight strong – with eight strikes in today’s series clinching win over the Rockies.

Things don’t often fall into place the way did for the Mets today. After a rocky first inning Verrett settled down to where you thought you were actually seeing Harvey. Funny line from Verrett, telling Harvey, “I don’t know why everybody is freaking out because everybody knows I’m a better pitcher than you.”

Not only did the Mets rest Harvey, but got a victory and their first sweep of the Rockies in Coors Field. For one day at least, Verrett made us believe this innings-saving program with Harvey might just work after all.

Conventional wisdom had the Mets sending down Verrett to Triple-A Las Vegas after the game, but he was so impressive the Mets optioned out left reliever Dario Alvarez instead. Verrett also gives manager Terry Collins a reliable choice should he need to rest Harvey again or Noah Syndergaard. As a manager, you don’t want to do a lot of searching in September.

The Mets’ bullpen – evidenced by the first two games of the Colorado series – has been shaky lately, but Verrett can offer stability.

There were other season-falling-into-place signs for the Mets this week.

All right, I thought they dragged their feet placing Lucas Duda on the disabled list, but they appear to be surviving his absence. Daniel Murphy, who supposedly can’t play defense, started a key double play. Speaking of defense, Wilmer Flores – with tears out of his eyes – is showing he can play shortstop when he has to. He saved a run, today.

And, the more I see him, the more I like Yoenis Cespedes. He made two scintillating plays in center field that undoubtedly saved a few runs. Since the Mets got him their offense has transformed into something to be feared.

I didn’t think GM Sandy Alderson had it in him, but getting Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson and Tyler Clippard jumpstarted this team.

Once struggling for runs, the Mets are scoring at a rate where the pressure was lessened on Michael Conforto, and will be for David Wright when he’s activated from the disabled list Monday in Philadelphia. The Mets need Wright to be Wright, but with the way the Mets are hitting – thanks in large part to Cespedes – they can ease him back. The last thing the Mets want is for Wright to force things, and if the offense keeps producing it makes things easier for Wright.

And, with Uribe, they have a reliable option at third. Uribe, with the Latin pitchers, can be a calming influence. He was today with Hansel Robles.

The Mets are a season-high 11 games over .500 as they go to Philadelphia. However, these Phillies are a different bunch than the team the Mets have beaten up on this year.

The Mets have pitched well all season, recently started to hit and their defense is better. If Verrett can stabilize the bullpen when he’s not pitching eight strong, then the Mets could be doing more than playing meaningful games in September.

They could be playing meaningful games in October, and wouldn’t that be sweet.

 

May 13

Trading Syndergaard Or Matz Not A Good Idea

Less than 24 hours after Noah Syndergaard made his Mets’ debut, the radio call-in shows were buzzing today with talk of trading him or Steven Matz for Troy Tulowitzki, or Addison Russell, or any other hot-shot shortstop.

Personally, I don’t want Tulowitzki. He’s too expensive salary wise and in terms of prospects that would need to be dealt and has a significant injury history.

SYNDERGAARD: Keep him.

SYNDERGAARD: Keep him.

Here’s another thing, of his career numbers, how much is because of Coors Field? Yes, we’ve seen him hit at Citi Field, but how much of that was against crummy Mets’ pitching?

Syndergaard showed good things last night and I can see why teams would want him, but on this issue I agree with GM Sandy Alderson, I don’t want to give up him or Matz just yet.

There are lots of reasons why the Mets shouldn’t give up Syndergaard, most significantly is the future state of their pitching.

* Matt Harvey has pitched well coming off Tommy John surgery, but for at least the next year the Mets need to be cautious with him. They have said so themselves. Sometimes pitchers hit a wall coming off this surgery.

* Bartolo Colon will be gone after this year and most likely so will Dillon Gee. Won’t the Mets need to replace them?

* The Mets won’t get Zack Wheeler back until next July at least, and nobody knows how he will be then. Without Colon and Wheeler, I’m counting two spots that must be filled for sure at the start of next year.

* Jacob deGrom is off to a slow start, which, if it continues should make us wonder how much last year was a fluke. I like deGrom a lot, but if he continues to struggle somebody must pick up the slack.

* They’ve been trying to trade Jon Niese, who is basically a career .500 pitcher with an injury history.

* And, realistically the 5.1 innings Syndergaard gave the Mets last night isn’t enough to dust off a shelf at Cooperstown just yet. We don’t know how he and/or Matz will perform.

Also, we know the Mets’ offense has been weak and nobody can project when David Wright will return and at what level. And, because the Mets have other issues other than Wilmer Flores, they must hold onto their pitching if they are to compete this year or next.

Other teams aren’t stupid. They won’t trade the Mets a top-flight shortstop in exchange for guys like Niese, or Gee, or Flores. It won’t happen.

Consequently, the idea of trading Syndergaard or Matz isn’t something they should be considering, no matter who is on the other end of the phone line.