Sep 13

Liking Matt Harvey More And More

Matt Harvey was not in a good mood when he was pulled last night with the bases loaded and nobody out in the sixth. In what might have been the best outing from a Mets’ reliever all season, Robert Carson bailed him out by getting two infield pop-ups and a fly ball.

Harvey gave up a run in five-plus innings – enough to win most games – but was clearly steamed in the dugout. He wasn’t much into handshakes and back pats, but his anger wasn’t directed at the Mets’ listless offense – 13 straight home games now scoring three or less runs and the tenth time they’ve been shutout – but at himself.

You see, Harvey is a perfectionist and last night he wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t impressed with striking out ten hitters. He would rather pitch to contact to reduce his pitch count and work longer into games.

“The biggest thing is going deeper into games and figuring it out a lot sooner, and not pressing to go for the strikeout all the time,” said Harvey. “I have to get early contact, like I’ve said before. That’s the biggest thing I’m going to work on.”

Harvey has a dominating fastball, but said his best pitch last night was his change-up. He wasn’t happy with his curveball and claimed his slider had little bite. Those are the pitches that will generate weak or awkward swings and get groundballs and pop-ups. That’s what will limit his pitch count. And, hopefully this year will be the last where he’s on an innings limit.

Manager Terry Collins said Harvey will get one more start and marveled at his maturation level at an early age.

“He’s been so impressive,” Collins said. “We’ve got something special. We’ve got something really special.”

If the Mets are inclined to keep Harvey on an innings count again next season, I hope they are paying attention to how poorly Washington handled the same issue with Stephen Strasburg. To announce it early was counterproductive. Davey Johnson, who doesn’t agree with the limit, said Strasburg’s heart wasn’t in his last start, knowing that would be it for him.

Strasburg hates it too, saying he feels he’s abandoning his teammates. You figure Harvey feels the same way.

If the Mets are going to limit Harvey’s innings next season, there’s a gradual way to achieve that goal. They can skip the occasional start or back it up to where he makes one less start a month. Over the course of the season, that’s six starts. And, they can be juggled around off-days as to give him more rest.

The only problem with that theory, is that Johan Santana is again coming off an injury and the Mets should be inclined to give him more rest.

 

Sep 06

Can The Mets Be Next Year’s Orioles?

The Mets are off today giving us other things to think about, such as the Giants’ secondary and inability to put together a running game. Also a chance to lament about another September of non-meaningful games for the Mets.

The Mets are mired in fourth place, thinking about how a hot run could have them chasing .500, which would be a successful season. Personally, I’d rather have the collapses of 2007 and 2008 than what they are today. At least they were in a pennant race, and if you’re a baseball fan, that’s all you can ask for from your team.

Since 1997, when Orioles manager Davey Johnson was named manager of the year and fired the same day by Peter Angelos, the franchise that long symbolized baseball excellence had hit the skids.

The Orioles showed some improvement last year, but were still projected to finish last in the AL East. But the Orioles have some power, their bullpen has pitched well and they took an impressive 24-7 record in one-run games. That record, despite a negative run differential, is the probably the single most significant stat to explain why the Orioles are in a pennant race.

Conversely, the Mets are 17-18 in one-run games, symbolic of a team with sporadic power and an inconsistent bullpen.

Can the Mets improve enough from within to be a contender like the Orioles?

Baltimore has more power, where the Mets’ anticipated power from David Wright – he’s fallen way for of expectations in that area- Jason Bay and Lucas Duda hasn’t been there. Maybe Wright and Duda will produce next year to bring the Mets’ power numbers up.

Building a bullpen is a tricky proposition and should Sandy Alderson accomplish that objective, perhaps Citi Field will be alive as Camden Yards will be tonight. It could be if the Mets split their losses in one-run games. Add nine wins and subtract nine losses and the Mets are right there in wild-card contention.

Split those losses in one-run games and the Mets are playing meaningful baseball in September.

 

 

 

Aug 24

Astros, Mets Kindred Spirits?

They were born the same year, 1962, as expansion teams, and in the¬†Houston Astros’ final National League appearance against the Mets in New York, both teams are playing like expansion teams.

Although linked by their entry, the Mets and Astros never developed an substantive rivalry in these 50 years. Playing in different divisions dulled the potential of a rivalry.  Both had long stretches of mediocrity, or worse, and there were few times they were good at the same time.

Then there was 1986.

The Mets rolled through the regular season. They dominated as manager Davey Johnson boasted at the start of the season. But, the Astros wouldn’t cave and made it a memorable series.

The Mets prevailed, 4-2, but needed 16 innings to oust the Astros in Game 6. They were on the brink of elimination in the ninth inning but rallied for three runs to force extra innings. The teams traded runs in the 14th inning. The Mets scored three in the top of the 16th, but the Astros’ rally fell a run short.

With the win, the Mets avoided facing Astros ace Mike Scott in a Game 7. The Mets could not touch Scott and to this day Keith Hernandez admits he was in their heads. The Mets were convinced Scott was scuffing the ball, but never caught him.

The series that begins tonight is the last time time the Astros will play here as a National League team as they will move to the American League in 2013.

I don’t like the idea of the Astros leaving the league. It will be odd not playing them, but then again things have been odd since interleague play and the unbalanced schedule. It’s just not the same race for every team.

As bad as the Mets have been since the break, going 11-28 and having just been swept by Colorado, the Astros have been a horrid 6-33. Part of it is playing poorly and going with young, inexperienced players, but a lot of that has to do with gutting their team in a July fire sale.

While the Mets have played some incredibly horrid baseball in August, the month did produce a bright spot in the emergence of Matt Harvey and yesterday’s stunning debut by Collin McHugh.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll look back at this month as the time when the Mets found the core of a new pitching rotation.
 

Nov 07

Good for Backman

I like that Wally Backman was finally offered the Mets’ Triple-A managerial job. It appeared Backman would take a bench coach job with Washington, which I said he should take because at the time the Mets didn’t offer him the Triple-A position.

Well, the Mets did offer that job and it is good he stays in the organization.

Backman could learn a lot by working with Davey Johnson, but he would learn significantly more by making his own decisions. Backman would stand to better his future position by managing in Buffalo rather than interning under Johnson.

Of course, we don’t know who will be on the managerial market when Terry Collins leaves, but should Backman steadily progress and he’s still in the organization, it stands to reason he’ll have the inside track for the Mets’ job.

Yes, Backman is showing loyalty to the Mets, and the organization is doing the same for him. But, this is also a business decision for Backman, who realizes his fastest road to the majors goes through Buffalo.

 

 

Aug 30

Today in Mets’ History: Casey, then Sandy bid farewell to Shea

Casey Stengel, who broke his hip five weeks earlier, announced his retirement as manager of the Mets on this date in 1965.

The following year on this date, Bob Friend beat Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers, 10-4, at Shea Stadium. It would be his final decision against the Mets as he retired after the 1966 World Series. Davey Johnson, then the second baseman of the Baltimore Orioles and the future manager of the Mets, would get the last hit off Koufax.

Stengel eventually had his number retired while Koufax is a frequent visitor to the Mets spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, Florida.