Apr 14

Harvey Excited About Tonight; Knows He Must Be Better

For all his self-confidence, and yes, arrogance as well, the best thing Matt Harvey brings to the Mets is the sense that when he pitches, they can win. They last had that feeling in 2006 when Hall of Famers Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine took the ball.

Harvey gave that aura in 2013, and it is back.

HARVEY: Will be pumped tonight. (Getty)

HARVEY: Will be pumped tonight. (Getty)

Harvey is coming off a nine-strikeout performance in his first regular-season start since having Tommy John surgery. The best part was that despite being amped up, there was no pain or discomfort. He will again be pumped up for his return to Citi Field tonight against the Phillies.

“I know he’s excited,” manager Terry Collins said yesterday. “I know the team is excited. And I know the fans are excited.”

Harvey said: “`I don’t want to make a story about it, but it’s obviously exciting to be home.”

But it is a story, and his presence is a big deal to the Mets, who are giving away Matt Harvey T-shirts Friday. Hell, the organization even held back his start until today so it can sell a few more tickets. The gate for tonight is over 30,000.

The organization sees dollar signs when Harvey pitches, but there’s more than that to Harvey, who looks at his starts as artwork. Despite the zeroes and strikeouts last week against the Nationals, Harvey colored too much outside the lines. He knows the need to improve his command.

Harvey reached his pitch count of 90, but in six innings. That must get better for a number of reasons: 1) it shows his command wasn’t always there, and eventually it will catch up to him, and 2) it means more work for the bullpen.

Harvey knows what is expected of him, and more importantly, what he expects of himself.

“I definitely can be a little bit more fine,” Harvey said. “For me, I think 90 pitches through six innings is not good enough. If I’m throwing 90 pitches, I’d like to at least get into the seventh.”

There’s definitely a buzz with these Mets, although it is early. You sense it when you’re in their clubhouse, but talk is cheap.

“We’ve talked a lot about how good we can be,” David Wright said. “But true confidence is in winning.”

And, Harvey gives them the belief winning is attainable.

 

Apr 12

Wright’s Criticism Of Mejia Shows Why He’s Captain

Like anybody with a clue, Mets captain David Wright was upset, angry, disappointed – choose whatever word you want – in reliever Jenrry Mejia, who was suspended for 80 games for using Stanozol. I’d like to add stupid. These guys know the banned substances and the penalty. If there’s an “Idiot of the Year Award,” Mejia is deserving.

MEJIA: Idiot. (AP)

MEJIA: Idiot. (AP)

Unlike many players who stick their head in the sand when it comes to commenting on teammates who get busted, Wright pulled no punches. None.

“It’s obviously disappointing. Not only do you cost yourself 80 games and don’t get paid, but you’re hurting everybody in here,” Wright told reporters in Atlanta. “You’re letting down your teammates and I think that probably means just as much, if not more, than hurting yourself.

“As much as it hurts, as much as we love Jenrry as a teammate, you make mistakes, you need to be punished. Once Jenrry serves his punishment and comes back, we’ll welcome him and do whatever we can to make him feel like he’s part of this team. For right now, he messed up and he needs to be punished.”

How many Yankees spoke out against Alex Rodriguez? Certainly not Derek Jeter. I remember asking Jeter once about players who tested positive for PEDs, and his spineless answer was, “I don’t use them so it’s none of my business.”

What crap because the integrity of your sport should be your business.

When it came to taking a stand, Jeter was usually mute. Small wonder he has a “players only” website.

However, Wright is stand-up, even in speaking against one of his teammates. The Yankees weren’t when it came to Rodriguez and Roger Clemens; the Giants weren’t when it came to Barry Bonds; the Cubs weren’t when it came to Sammy Sosa.

Granted, Mejia isn’t as high profile as those others, but he’s an important Met.

When it comes to speaking out against PEDs, most players look the other way and that’s upsetting. It is also counterproductive when it comes to eliminating them.

But, it helps when the voice comes from a player such as Wright.

 

Apr 10

Whose Lineup Is It Really?

GM Sandy Alderson took a not-so subtle poke at Mets manager Terry Collins the other day when he interrupted the latter’s pregame press conference and said, “Hey, Terry, here’s your lineup for tomorrow.”

Now, I’m not saying Alderson handed Collins a lineup and said, “use this,” but I do believe he’s had a lot of influence in what is put on the field.

Curtis Granderson hitting first, David Wright second, projected leadoff hitter Juan Lagares sixth and the pitcher eighth is not what was practiced during spring training, and, of course, there are questions why?

The front office routinely talks with the manager about lineups, but I doubt a manager with far more job security would accept this influence, and definitely not the ribbing Alderson gave. Bruce Bochy wouldn’t have. Neither would have Joe Torre or Tony La Russa or Sparky Anderson.

All this seems to be a jab at Collins, whom Alderson said he wasn’t supportive of in his book. How can anybody not see that? Surely, it had to make Collins uncomfortable, although he wouldn’t say anything. How could he?

The Mets’ unconventional lineup has drawn attention throughout baseball, to which Alderson told reporters: “I think what happened is people were surprised by the lineup. People don’t like surprises, whether it’s the media or fans or other people in baseball who’ve got everything figured out. So when there’s a surprise like that, people are scrambling around for some sort of rationale or explanation. Sometimes it gets a little crazy. That’s what I chalk it up to — mostly.”

That’s one or the reasons why there is spring training as teams work to avoid surprises. Why practice something and then deviate?

It makes no sense.

 

Apr 05

Still Plenty Of Questions For Mets

The Mets have their Opening Day roster, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have questions or concerns. This is a team GM Sandy Alderson said has the potential to win 90 games.

But, it is the spring and everybody has the right to be optimistic – even overly optimistic.

Yes, Matt Harvey is back – and with a chip on his shoulder – but, remember he’s only won 12 games in the major leagues. Also, they are without four pitchers – Vic Black, Josh Edgin, Zack Wheeler and Bobby Parnell – expected to be key members of the rotation, and replacing them forced serious damage control to their roster.

There’s reason to be hopeful about the season, but for it to be a truly successful summer, the following questions must be answered in the positive: (Note: I will revisit these questions through out the season.)

1. What can the Mets reasonably expect from Harvey?

Answer: He had a good spring training, but coming off Tommy John surgery they’ll be cautious. Harvey has 12 major league victories in only 36 starts, so expectations must be tempered. Don’t go thinking 20 wins and a Cy Young. The Mets would take 15 wins and for him to be healthy by October.

2. What happens to Bartolo Colon this year?

Answer: The Opening Day starter had a horrible spring training. The decision was based on winning 15 games and throwing over 200 innings last season. The Mets wanted to trade him during the winter, but found no takers.

3. An encore year for Jacob deGrom?

Answer: Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year was 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA and with Zack Wheeler gone for the season, he’ll need a significant boost in his numbers for the Mets to entertain thoughts of being competitive.

4. Will it ever happen for Jon Niese?

Answer: Your guess is as good as mine. At one time Niese was a hot property. However, being left-handed and with a manageable contract have not been enough to offset his 52-51 career record over seven years; a career-high 13 wins in 2012; 17 victories in the past two years; and an injury history that has allowed him to make as many as 30 starts only three times.

5. How long a leash will the Mets give Dillon Gee?

Answer: Let’s face it, if he were pitching a no-hitter, they’d yank him in the seventh inning if somebody called with a trade offer. They waited to name him to the rotation, and if he falters at all there will be talk of Rafael Montero taking his place.

6. Can the Mets trio of lefty relievers do the job?

Answer: An on-going question this spring was whether they’d find a viable left-hander in the bullpen. In the final week they opted to keep Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin, and then traded for Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres. You wouldn’t be wrong asking yourself if something were deficient with these guys, otherwise why would they be so available?

7. Can Jenrry Mejia hold the fort until Bobby Parnell returns?

Answer: After being bounced around from the bullpen to the rotation, Mejia assumed the closer role when Parnell went down with an elbow injury and responded with 28 saves, which is six more than Parnell had in his best year. Terry Collins said it is Parnell’s job when he comes off the disabled list. When that happens perhaps the bullpen can settle down into roles.

8. Will the Mets stabilize the rest of their bullpen?

Answer: Mejia, Jeurys Familia and Carlos Torres haven’t had a great spring, and Collins is trying to find roles for Montero and Buddy Carlyle. It appeared at the start of spring training the Mets had the foundation of a solid bullpen. But, without Edgin, Black and Parnell, the Mets are in potentially a lot of trouble.

9. When will Travis d’Arnaud evolve from the prospect stage?

Answer: A trip to the minor leagues helped d’Arnaud in the second half of last season, but he’s still not close to where the Mets hope he’ll be. If d’Arnaud gets off to a slow start, there will be clamoring for Kevin Plawecki.

10. Is Lucas Duda worth that contract extension?

Answer: The Mets tabled talks on a four-year, $31-million extension until next offseason. If he comes through with another 30-homer, 90-RBI summer, he’ll be worth the deal.

11. What will the Mets do with Daniel Murphy?

Answer: Because he’s making $8-million this year and will not be resigned, the Mets will make every effort to deal him by the trade deadline. They might even make a trade regardless of how well they are doing just to save some money.

12. What kind of patience will they show Wilmer Flores?

Answer: Because he had a good spring training and the Mets were preoccupied with a myriad of issues and injuries, Flores was mostly ignored. Rest assured, however, if Flores gets off to a slow start, there will be mutterings of replacing him.

13. Will David Wright regain his stroke?

Answer: Wright’s 162-game averages are 25 homers and 101 RBI, figures he hasn’t reached since 2010. Injuries limited him less than 155 games played in all but two years since 2010. Wright’s stroke is totally dependent on staying healthy.

14. Will Juan Lagares be worth the extension?

Answer: This is not a move the Mets have traditionally made with their own prospects so this is a gamble in every sense. He’s already proven he can field as evidenced by winning the Gold Glove Award, but he must improve his on-base percentage and cut his strikeouts if he’s to excel in the leadoff slot.

15. What is the power range for Curtis Granderson?

Answer: The Mets don’t expect him to hit forty as he did twice with the Yankees, but they’d like him to hit more than the 20 he did last season in his first as a Met. There was talk of hitting him in the leadoff spot, but 141 strikeouts are contrary to success hitting first.

16. Can Michael Cuddyer hit like a former NL batting champion?

Answer: Cuddyer hit .331 in winning the NL crown in 2012, and was at .332 last year when injuries cut short his season. The Mets aren’t expecting him to hit for power, but he hit six homers this spring. The Mets are planning to bat him fifth behind Duda.

17. Just how long before their decision to use contractual decisions to build their Opening Day roster hurt them?

Answer: It could happen any time. Gilmartin, Carlyle and reserve outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis are on the Opening Day roster primarily because of contractual obligations. In addition, they will be without role player Eric Campbell and be forced to carry eight relievers. In addition, did the Mets put their best pitching staff together by leaving off Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz?

18. What one stat could best determine if the Mets are to become competitive?

Answer: There are dozens of stats the Mets must improve on, but their 4-15 record against the Washington Nationals is arguably the most telling. Even if they were just 8-11 last year that would put them over .500 for the season.

19. How important is a fast start?

Answer: Huge would be an understatement. Apart from screwed up notion of playing three interleague games against the Yankees, the Mets schedule is entirely within the NL East. They’ll have three games against the Nationals; six against Atlanta; three against Philadelphia and four against Miami. There should be no excuse not to make a statement within the division.

20. Will there be a time when Collins and Alderson clash?

Answer: Undoubtedly yes. The make-up of the Opening Day roster has already caused head scratching. What should really tell us something is what happens if the Mets are competitive at the trade deadline and Alderson doesn’t pull the trigger on a deal.