Feb 25

Harvey: “I Want To Be Part Of The Mets.”

Speaking to ESPN today, Matt Harvey said what Mets’ fans have wanted to hear for a long time. Several issues were glossed over in the interview, but the essential nugget was Harvey saying he wants to stay with the Mets. He didn’t say anything about home-team discounts or what it would take, but just saying that is cause for hope.

HARVEY: Walking away after World Series collapse. (AP)

HARVEY: Walking away after World Series collapse. (AP)

Harvey addressed the innings controversy ignited by agent Scott Boras by very diplomatically, saying, “as a young player, you want to play this game for a long time. I want to be part of the Mets and help this organization get to where we want to be.”

As for Boras, last year Harvey defiantly supported him by saying he hired the fire-balling agent to maximize his career, so naturally, speculation was – which I admit was voiced here – he’d take the last dollar and bolt for his childhood team, the Yankees. Harvey said the main issue Boras focused on was, “is helping this team getting as far as we can and not only getting there for one year but getting there multiple times.”

For that to happen, serious precautions needed to be taken to protect his arm, which generated a conflict between Harvey and his agent, his doctor and Mets GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins.

“As a young guy you want to have a long career,” Harvey said. “ A doctor is telling you one thing, but as a competitor you want to be out there.”

When Boras leaked the innings story, Harvey, who was coming off Tommy John surgery, was to be shut down at 180 innings. Instead, and not without some tension, he threw 216. Unfortunately for him and the Mets, he didn’t reach 217, which would have been the ninth inning of Game 5.

Of course, as we all remember, manager Collins went against his better judgment and acquiesced to Harvey’s demand to remain in the game. He expended a lot of energy arguing with Collins and sprinting to the mound to start the ninth. Perhaps that’s when he ran of juice.

After reflecting on that night, Harvey admitting “some heartbreak and some sadness” and said: “Nobody wants to lose. Nobody is trying to lose. It’s one of those things. Once you sit back and realize what we did and what we’re capable of for years to come, and with who we have, and getting [Yoenis] Cespedes back, and getting a healthy David Wright, followed by the starting staff we have. It was a great experience for us. Something we can learn from, but not dwell on, but really pick up from where we left off and finish what we started.”

It’s spring training, a time for new beginnings, and with that comes the hope Harvey really wants to stay here and possibly the Mets can keep the band together.

Would be nice.

 

Feb 24

Wright, Collins Talk Playing Time

Mets manager Terry Collins met with David Wright today to begin discussing limiting his playing time during spring training and the season. Not surprisingly, a definitive games number was not reached.

WRIGHT: Talks limits with Collins. (AP)

WRIGHT: Talks limits with Collins. (AP)

It will begin by limiting his exhibition at-bats and time in the batting cage. During the season, Wright could sit in an afternoon game after a night game. However, there was no mention in sitting him in a game before, or after, an off day.

“It went great because he’s David Wright,” Collins told reporters.“It was all about the scheduling. It was all about what needed to take place before he’s in games. And David obviously was on board with it.”

GM Sandy Alderson set a target of 130 games for Wright, who missed four months last year with spinal stenosis, but that won’t appear to be the case.

“As much as I’ve tried to be in the lineup as much as possible, I think that I understand it’s probably best for me and best for the team where I get some rest because of the condition of my back,” Wright said. “I like to play. I think Terry is just trying to be proactive. And he’s trying to look out for me and look out for the long term.

“I felt like we did a good job last year, toward the end of the year, spacing out rest. I think this is going to be a little different because you’re starting in February rather than only having to worry about a couple of months doing this. So I think he just wants to get out in front of it and be a little bit more proactive and maybe help me look out for myself.”

Of that was Wright talking so you know he’s not going to complain. That’s just not his style. But, these are the Mets we’re talking about, and I bet you thought of Matt Harvey and his innings limit last year. I sure did. I just hope this was just the beginning and there will be further talks and this won’t be forgotten.

Wright’s health is too important.

 

Feb 19

Suggesting A Plan For Wright

Some time next week, David Wright will meet with Mets manager Terry Collins to devise a plan on how much their former All-Star third baseman will play this summer. It’s this year’s version of Matt Harvey‘s innings limit.

WRIGHT: What's the plan? (Getty)

WRIGHT: What’s the plan? (Getty)

How many games will Wright play this summer?

Of course, it comes down to his health and how strong he feels, but for now there’s no definitive number or plan. Wright played in only 38 games last summer, and earlier this spring GM Sandy Alderson suggested 130, but that’s only a hope.

“I have to be smart about it,” Wright told reporters Friday. “One thing I need to mature and need to become better at is being honest with how I feel on a daily basis — being able to communicate a little better than I have in the past. I’ve been very stubborn when it comes to giving an honest assessment of injuries or how I feel.”

That’s always been an issue with Wright, who has always tried to play through pain and injuries. You’ll recall several years ago when he played nearly a month with a small fracture in his back. One can only wonder the connection with that injury to his current back problems.

“If I feel good and I’m producing and it’s not hurting my back or hurting the team, then I’m going to be out there,” Wright said.

“We just have to be wise enough to know that every so often you’re going to get a day off,” Collins said. “We’ve got to do a better job of monitoring some off days. How many? How? When? Right now I can’t answer that.”

There are a multitude of things Wright and the Mets can do to keep him fresh. Among them:

* It has to begin in spring training. Part of the plan has to be limiting his innings during spring training. It could include playing mostly home games and staying away from the bus rides.

* Undoubtedly, Collins will sandwich the games he gives Wright off around off days in the schedule, which would amount to consecutive days off.

* Who is to say when Wright plays it has to be for all nine innings? If up or down by three or four runs in the seventh or later, then it should be time to give Wilmer Flores some time. Given that, I wonder if Collins will replace Wright for late-inning defense. Of course, there might be times when it backfires, but when that happens Collins can’t abandon his plan.

* Tough pitching match-ups could be avoided. I know Wright wants to be out there, but if he has a low career average against a pitcher, why send him out there for three or four fruitless at-bats?

* Be aware of the weather. Wet grounds and cold weather should be avoided whenever possible.

Wright said he needs to be more honest with himself and Collins needs to hold him to that promise. Wright is 33 years-old and is obviously not the same player. But, that doesn’t mean he can’t still be a viable and productive asset. Both he and the Mets have to be smart about things.

 

 

 

Feb 17

Mets’ Top Ten Spring Training Questions

Mets pitchers and catchers officially report today, something we’ve waited for since the final out of the World Series. Of course, most Mets – including position players – have already been in Port St. Lucie for several days, if not weeks, now.

Numerous questions will surface between now and Opening Day, but until then I’ve come up with a list of what I consider the ten most pertinent questions heading into spring training:

Q: What did the Mets learn from the playoffs?

A: There’s some validity to having been there. The Royals benefitted from playing the Giants in the 2014 World Series. Much of it is a team learning how to pace itself down the stretch and dealing with pressure in the postseason. Both players and managers learn about themselves, and the acquired knowledge can only help.

WRIGHT: How healthy is he? (AP)

WRIGHT: How healthy is he? (AP)

Q: Who is healthy and who isn’t?

A: David Wright’s back, of course, is the most important health question. Will Terry Collins have a concrete plan for Wright regarding playing time and rest? Lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Josh Edgin are on the mend. The target date for Zack Wheeler to come off the disabled list is late June.

Q: Will the starters have innings limitations?

A: Matt Harvey doesn’t want to hear anything about restrictions, which comes as no surprise. Harvey threw 216 innings last season – including the playoffs – and around the same number is what the Mets are hoping. There shouldn’t be any limits on Jacob deGrom, either, but the same probably won’t apply to Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Presumably, Bartolo Colon will be the fifth starter until Wheeler is ready.

Q: What is the composition of the bullpen?

A: This is the position area of most concern. Jeurys Familia is the closer and Addison Reed gets the set-up role. If Blevins and Edgin are healthy, and Antonio Bastardo pitches to expectations, the lefty question that hindered them most of last season should be alleviated. Hansel Robles must mature as does Rafael Montero. Everybody else is a question mark. Getting back to the World Series is far from a given, but it will be more likely will a productive bullpen.

Q: Will the big bat feel any contract-related pressure?A: Hopefully, Yoenis Cespedes won’t be thinking about his opt-out clause after one year and instead will play free and easy as he did last August. Wouldn’t that be something?

Q: Will the double-play combination mesh?

A: Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are considered to be an upgrade over Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores/Ruben Tejada. Pennant winners must be strong up the middle. The Mets were lucky regarding this last year. It will take some time.

Q: Who is trying to steal center field?

A: That’s the way it appeared when Travis d’Arnaud came off the disabled list last summer. Defense up the middle includes behind the plate and d’Arnaud’s ability to combat the running game. When a runner knows he can take liberties on a catcher, it goes beyond stealing bases, which puts him into scoring position. Those are potential runs.

Q: Will the lefty power show some consistency?

A: Lucas Duda can hit eight homers in two weeks, then not go deep for a month. Curtis Granderson excelled in the leadoff slot last year and with the absence of a prototypical No. 1 hitter, he’ll need to duplicate that performance. There’s also the matter of Michael Conforto not having a falloff from last year’s strong first impression.

Q: How strong is the bench?

A: GM Sandy Alderson finally promoted Conforto and traded for Cespedes after his limited bench showed the overall weakness of the Mets’ offense. The Mets’ bench enters spring training substantially better than the 2015 version. Juan Lagares provides Gold Glove caliber late inning defense coming off the bench. Flores will sub for Wright so he should get a lot of reps at third base. He’ll also need time at first base. Alejandro De Aza gives them a left-handed bat and the ability to play all three outfield positions.

Q: Will the Mets make a deal during spring training?

A: There’s always the possibility of adding a reliever. Most likely, it would be a free-agent signing of another team’s castoff at the end as the start of the season draws closer. Barring an injury, I don’t anticipate them making any significant moves as there are no position battles.

Jan 21

Wright Remains Mets’ Most Overriding Issue

Yesterday I examined the top ten issues facing the Mets with spring training five weeks away. It isn’t hard for me to pick out the player shouldering the most pressure.

The bullpen is the positional area of most concern, but individually the player remains David Wright. Somehow, last year the Mets withstood playing without him for over four months, but several things combined to make that possible, notably the ineffective Washington Nationals and acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes.

WRIGHT: We want to see that smile again. (AP)

WRIGHT: We want to see that smile again. (AP)

Will the Mets be as fortunate if Wright goes down this year?

Baseball-reference.com projects Wright to hit .275 in 2016 with nine homers and 37 RBI, which would be terrible news for the Mets. The scary part is based on Wright’s recent injury history I can envision that before I can him returning to 30-homer form.

Wright hasn’t hit 30 homers since 2008 and has only hit at least 20 twice since then. He has a combined 31 in his last three years, and only once since 2013 has he played in as many at 130 games. Including the 2009 season, he’s had as many as 500 at-bats only four times.

You can talk about OPS and WAR all you want, but all statistics are predicated on at-bats and Wright hasn’t had many in recent years. Look, readers of this blog know I am one of Wright’s biggest supporters, but I can’t ignore the facts he hasn’t been healthy lately.

He missed over four months last year with spinal stenosis, and that he even returned late in the season was remarkable. Considering the good feelings about his return, recovery and playing in the playoffs, it would be another devastating blow is he were to go down again.

The Mets did not add a right-handed hitting power bat during the winter, perhaps with the outside hope Wright would come back close to form. As of now, they won’t have Cespedes back and it could be a dangerous gamble if they are thinking they can make another at-the-wire trade.

Let’s face it, as long as Wright is here he’s the face of this franchise, but if he’s hurt again and doesn’t produce, that contract with five years and $87 million remaining will be an albatross.

Imagine how much better things will be if Wright plays in 130 games, hits at least 20 homers and drives in 80 runs. Could make for another fun year, and for me that’s why Wright is the Mets’ most overriding issue.

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