May 17

Alderson Must Take Responsibility Of Mets’ Pitching Collapse

Going against Zack Greinke, it was expected the Mets’ losing streak would reach six, and this morning the fingers would start being pointed.

ALDERSON: Faces a lot of questions. (AP)

ALDERSON: Faces a lot of questions. (AP)

What didn’t happen in the Mets’ 5-4 loss to Arizona was another bullpen meltdown. If you want to call it a moral victory, go for it. I looked for moral victories in the standings and the only thing I could were the regular ones, which have them six games under .500 and nine games behind Washington.

But, wasn’t this team supposed to be a World Series contender if not win the whole thing? They sure were, because many; including GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets possessed the game’s best pitching.

I never bought into that because it simply wasn’t true. How could it be if the vaunted five of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler had never started a complete cycle in the rotation?

How could it be if there isn’t a 20-game winner among the group?

How could it be if they only have two with at least 30 victories (deGrom 32-23) and Harvey (31-31), with Syndergaard (24-18), Wheeler (20-18) and Matz (13-8) to follow? That’s not greatness, that’s potential.

How could it be, if four entered the season coming off significant surgery, and a fifth – Syndergaard – currently on the 60-day DL?

Wishful thinking is nice to have, but building on it is like a house of cards, capable of collapsing at the slightest nudge or breeze.

The Mets tried to build a group of back-ups, but Seth Lugo is on the DL, Robert Gsellman needs be optioned or sent to the bullpen to work on his mechanic, and Rafael Montero can’t find the plate.

New acquisition Tommy Milone was passable tonight, but you don’t win on passable. The best thing Milone did was work into the sixth, which was followed by Paul Sewald (1.1 innings), Fernando Salas (0.2 innings) and Jerry Blevins (0.1) not allowing a run.

The pen worked just 2.1 innings, but most nights it goes three or four, if not longer.

When fingers are pointed, they are initially directed at manager Terry Collins, but that’s too easy. It’s also too easy to blame pitching coach Dan Warthen. In finding out who is responsible for the Mets’ pitching problems, we must look at the nature of the injuries, and who acquiesced in the handling of Harvey and Syndergaard.

That would be general manager Sandy Alderson.

 

May 01

MRI Results Reveal Bad News We Saw Coming; Alderson’s Decision To Start Syndergaard

UPDATED:  Adding GM Sandy Alderson comments at 6:30 p.m.

Who didn’t see this coming for the Mets?

When Noah Syndergaard refused an MRI exam after being diagnosed with biceps tendinitis, yet remained scheduled to pitch Sunday, it was figured the following could happen: a) he’d get roughed up by the Nationals, b) he’d still have arm soreness, c) that arm soreness would be deemed serious.Syndergaard hitting the trifecta, which happened today when an MRI at the Hospital

Syndergaard hit the trifecta, which happened today when an MRI at the Hospital of Special Surgery revealed a partial tear of his right lat muscle. He was immediately placed on the 10-day disabled list with no timetable for his return.

SYNDERGAARD: Walks away, wheels turning. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Mets get bad news they feared. (AP)

As a measure of reference, Steven Matz missed two months in 2015 with a similar injury.

The news came less than a week after Yoenis Cespedes was rushed back into the lineup and re-pulled his left hamstring and placed on the disabled list and tempered any positive feelings from winning the first two games of their weekend series against the Nationals.

Oh yeah, Syndergaard’s injury in Sunday’s 23-5 rout also closed their hellish 10-14 April. One thing Syndergaard’s MRI did not do is answer the questions of responsibility.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said “It was my decision for him to pitch.” He said it was based on input from several sources, including Syndergaard’s.

Syndergaard’s refusal to take the MRI is beyond comprehension as the mighty Thor must have dropped that hammer on his head. You’re a major league pitcher whose livelihood is based on the health of your arm and yet you refuse an exam that could reveal a problem?

I’m waiting … go ahead, tell me how smart that is. And, while you’re at it, spare me talk there is a difference between a lat and biceps so an MRI would have shown nothing, although that’s how Alderson tried to spin things.

However, there’s no telling how the muscles interact. Syndergaard was overthrowing in the second inning, muscling up to throw harder. Was this to compensate for something bothering his biceps? And you is to say an MRI wouldn’t have discovered some wear – but not yet a tear – in his lat muscle?

Alderson did admit “anything is possible,” when asked if Syndergaard was overthrowing to compensate for the previous discomfort in his arm. Alderson also admitted it was conceivable Syndergaard bulked up too much in the offseason, adding 15 pounds by weight lifting.

That leads to the further question of whether – and how closely – Syndergaard’s offseason conditioning program was monitored.

We can’t ignore Alderson has to be the adult here. His comment, “I can’t tie him down and throw him in the tube” could become the epitaph on the tombstone of this season. Alderson said a team can’t put a player who is not injured on the disabled list, but he can tell Syndergaard that he either takes the MRI or goes on the disabled list.

That’s part of protecting his players, something manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen, didn’t do a good job of either.

Didn’t anybody in that dugout notice this valuable asset struggling, and this has nothing to do with the radar gun still showing the high 90s? Weren’t those five runs in the first inning a tip off?

When Alderson was hired, Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon promised a complete evaluation of the club’s medical operations. That hasn’t been done, unless of course, you consider letting the players call the shots.

 

Mar 21

Harvey Not There, But Better

What can we make of Matt Harvey‘s latest start, one in which he threw 74 pitches and worked into the fifth inning (4.1 innings) for the first time this spring?

HARVEY: Takes a positive step. (AP)

HARVEY: Takes a positive step. (AP)

It was easily his best outing of the spring, not only in terms of length but also velocity when he threw three straight pitches at 95 mph., to strike out James McCann – who homered off him earlier in the game – in the fourth inning.

“A guy hits a home run off of you, and you always want to get him out the next time,” Harvey told reporters to show the competitive fire that has not abandoned him as he tries to come back following thoracic outlet surgery that has sapped his velocity and hindered his command and movement.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen estimates Harvey’s velocity should return full time in May. That he hit the radar gun at 96 tops is a very good sign.

However, we can’t say certainly he is back. He remains a work in progress. Don’t forget, before he broke down last summer Harvey had trouble getting out of the fifth and sixth innings. It was as if he hit a wall. Harvey gave up three runs on seven hits in his 4.1 innings, which, by definition, is not a quality start. That he reached that far for the first time is a positive, but Harvey would be the first to say he wouldn’t be satisfied with that in the regular season.

However, 74 pitches are way too many for not getting out the fifth. It signifies hitters are fouling off a lot of pitches, meaning he wasn’t able to put them away.

“Overall, I’m excited, and I made a lot of good pitches; unfortunately, in the last inning I didn’t,” Harvey told reporters.

Catcher Kevin Plawecki said Harvey’s command drifted in the fifth inning.

“Other than that last inning, I thought he hit his locations good,” Plawecki said. “[The fastball] was coming in real good, but more importantly, his location was what [he] wanted to see. That’s ultimately what it’s about — you can throw as hard as you want, but if you aren’t spotting anything, it really doesn’t matter.”

Harvey will get two more starts and said he needs to build up his arm strength, improve his command and refine his mechanics. That’s a lot of work to do for two more starts.

As of now, I’m still inclined to leave him back for now, but hopeful he’ll turn it around.

 

Feb 15

Wheeler’s Sore Elbow Illustrates Mets’ Depth

The issues of whether Zack Wheeler is a starter or reliever, or his innings limitations, are moot if the Mets can’t get him on the mound. Here we are, less than a week into spring training, and the Mets’ first red flag is already flapping with news Wheeler – who hasn’t pitched in two years while recovering from Tommy John surgery – has tenderness in his elbow.

The immediate plan is for him to play catch Thursday, and if there’s no pain then throw in the bullpen Friday.

It’s all about caution for Wheeler, who likely will open the season on the disabled list because let’s face it, there’s no reason to rush him, not with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman around to pick up the slack. When Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz were injured last season, Lugo and Gsellman – and don’t forget, Bartolo Colon – kept the rotation afloat.

Maybe the tenderness is because Wheeler hasn’t really thrown since last August, or perhaps it was scar tissue, but pitching coach Dan Warthen said they won’t rush him. There’s no reason.

“We’re not going to push it because we want to see this kid healthy and once we get healthy, we want him to stay healthy, so we’ll have kid gloves with him,” Warthen told reporters in Port St. Lucie.

Warthen said it would be great if Wheeler made 25 starts, and even projected how many innings he’d throw if that happened, He also said it might be difficult for Wheeler to work out of the bullpen, something he’s never down before. But none of that matters if he can’t get to the mound.

Lugo figures to be the fifth starter and Gsellman could make the final 25-man roster as a long reliever. As for Wheeler, just getting him healthy is imperative. If they can do that, perhaps we’ll see Wheeler sometime in June.

We won’t know what kind of setback this will be, but it underscores the potential depth the Mets have in their rotation. There has been sentiment the Mets could trade Lugo or Gsellman, but Wheeler’s elbow reminds us there’s no reason to go there now because of the fragility of the rotation.

 

Feb 08

Mets Send Huge Contingent To WBC

As they always do, the Mets will send a large group to the World Baseball Classic. The marquee names going will be Jose Reyes and Jeurys Familia, both of whom nraised interesting questions. I understand the pull for representing one’s country or heritage, but what about the significance of getting ready to play for the team that pays you?

First, look at Reyes. The Mets are talking about him being a super sub, capable of playing every infield position save first base and even seeing time in center field. Reyes will play for the Dominican Republic, traditionally a very strong team, and if they reach the finals the Mets might not have him back until March 22. That’s not giving Terry Collins a lot of time to see Reyes at second or center. Doesn’t Reyes owe some loyalty to the Mets who signed him – after a suspension for domestic abuse – when nobody else would?

As for Familia, his likely suspension will come down during spring training. How he’ll be used by the Dominican Republic remains to be seen, but I would think the Mets would like to see Familia pitch in save situations before possibly losing him for up to 30 games if not more.

Personally, I think he owes it to the Mets,

Also participating in the World Baseball Classic are Seth Lugo, Gavin Cecchini, Brandon Nimmo, Hansel Robles, Ty Kelly, Rene Rivera and T.J. Rivera, all of whom have compelling reasons to be in camp instead of getting perhaps sparse playing time in the WBC.

Lugo, who distinguished himself last year in a starting role, could be used as a fifth starter or out of the bullpen. If it’s the latter, pitching coach Dan Warthen would like to see it. With Familia expected to be suspended, it could mean an expanded role for Robles. Warthen would probably like to see that, too. Warthen would also probably like to see Rene Rivera work with the rotation.

Cecchini, Nimmo, Kelly and T.J. Rivera are all competing for spots on the bench. They arguably could get more playing time in spring training for the Mets than for Teams Italy, Puerto Rico and Isreal in the WBC.

The World Baseball Classic isn’t going anywhere, and the Mets have always been big supporters, but eventually they have to stress to their players they have obligations to them, also.

Neither Collins nor GM Sandy Alderson would say this, but I wonder what they are truly thinking.