Aug 31

On Shutting Down Matt Harvey

Enjoy it while you can. The Mets plan to shut down Matt Harvey after 175 innings max, which is about three more starts.

While he’s been one of the bright spots to a disappointing season, I have no problem with the decision as there’s nothing to be gained by running him into the ground. If he’s as good as projected, he’ll be throwing 200-plus innings soon enough.

Harvey has been impressive through his first seven starts, in particular in limiting the damage when he gets in trouble. The ability to fight through threats, whether it be by improvisation or pure power and guile makes for the foundation of a good career.

This is something we also so yesterday from Jon Niese, who was in constant trouble but held the Phillies to single runs in three straight innings. We’ve seen worse from Niese, so this is another good sign.

Overall, I expected more from Niese than 10-9 at this point. His sub-4 ERA says he hasn’t always gotten the most run support. While there have been rocky nights for him, in the long run there’s still a lot of potential there and the combination of him and Harvey, plus R. A. Dickey and comebacks from Dillon Gee and Johan Santana, gives the Mets the basis for a good rotation next season.

Now, if they can only score some runs and redo the bullpen.

Aug 23

Mets Face Bleak Offseason

How could anybody be anything but enthused about the Mets for 2013?

With GA Sandy Alderson telling us the budget hasn’t been set but don’t expect it to be much higher than it is now. Then he said trades might be the way to go. But, if the Mets aren’t willing to part with Matt Harvey or Zach Wheeler, will they purge the rest of their farm system? History says it isn’t likely.

A quick glance at the major league roster tells us there’s little to trade of value outside of David Wright, R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese. I like the potential of Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis, but outside of that, who would anybody want?

You’d love to trade Johan Santana and Jason Bay, but nobody wants those contracts, plus their limited production and injury histories.

There’s simply little of any value other teams would want. We are talking about a team that is ten games below .500 and facing another losing season. This is a team that since its last World Series appearance in 2000 has had five managers and four general managers. The latest, Alderson, is a fixer, brought in to clean up a mess brought on by the owner’s financial distress and hopefully field a competitive team in the process.

Considering all that, of course there’s limited talent available. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in this mess.

It wasn’t going to be pretty work, nor was it going to be easy. So far, Alderson has sliced nearly $50 million in payroll and said good-bye to Jose Reyes. He also cut ties with Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran, players with bloated contracts brought in when the team considered itself a contender.

The Mets have a myriad of issues they must face with limited dollars:

1.  Re-sign David Wright: He’s had a solid season and deserves it. Plus, if you let the face of the franchise leave who is going to want to come here? After losing Reyes it would be a disastrous decision. Wright will be a FA after 2013, so any dealing of him would be limited for the fear of him leaving. There is the possibility of next year being a huge distraction if there’s an unsigned Wright at the trade deadline. Talk about a potential mess.

2. A starting pitcher: The Mets got more from Santana than they could have hoped but eventually shut him down. They have to go under the assumption he’s a health question. Also, Jon Niese has not performed as hoped and is it realistic to think they’ll get a similar year from Dickey? No. They likely won’t bring back Mike Pelfrey – remember him? – and while there’s optimism, the Mets still don’t know what they have in Dillon Gee, Harvey, Wheeler or Jenrry Mejia.

3. The bullpen: This was Alderson’s area of concentration in the offseason and it blew up on him. Frank Francisco is a disaster and Bobby Parnell has yet to grasp a role. Maybe the Mets have run their course with Dan Warthen as pitching coach, I don’t know. But, that must be examined. Are their any viable pieces? Doesn’t look that way.

4. Outfield: Bay will be back because of his contract, but I’d eat it and start fresh. Lucas Duda will get a shot in left then, but they need power from the right side. They aren’t getting it from Andres Torres or Jordany Valdespin, both of whom aren’t any better than bench players.

5. Catcher: Josh Thole has not progressed either offensively or defensively as hoped. But, he’s a healthy body right now and for the Mets, that’s a positive.

When you come down to it, that’s an impressive shopping list to fill on a limited budget. It looks as if next year’s team will look similar to this year’s Mets, with the hope for improvement coming from more production from their current roster. They need breakout years from Davis, Duda, Thole, Harvey and either Wheeler or Mejia.

They need a monster year from Wright and more power from Daniel Murphy.

They need a hell of a lot.

 

Aug 17

Matt Harvey Gives Us Something

I’ll admit, there are two things I want to see from the 2012 Mets. The first is to finish over.500, which, while demonstrating a strong positive step, is becoming more remote. The second is for R.A. Dickey to win 20 games.

While watching Dickey get hammered earlier this week I started to wonder if 20 wins was a long shot and whether there was anything interesting and compelling to concern myself with this team.

Matt Harvey answered that question last night in a scintillating performance against the Reds, perhaps the NL’s best team.

Harvey ended a personal three-game losing streak with 7.2 strong innings iced by hitting a two-run double as the Mets salvaged the series. In this recent stretch of their second half freefall, the Mets have lost eight of their last 12 games.

Yes, it is one start, but for the most part he has been solid in each of this first four starts. Last night was easily his best. Since 2006, when the Mets last saw a meaningful October, the Mets received similar strong glimpses from guys such as Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee, but there’s something different about Harvey, a first-round pick from North Carolina.

He just seems polished beyond his experience.

Unlike some of the previous flashes mentioned, Harvey leaves the impression of working with a plan. Maybe there was a chemistry click with Kelly Shoppach, and Terry Collins needs to pair those two again. It is fun watching Harvey work quickly and pound the corners for strikes. He’s not afraid to go inside on a hitter, works efficiently and with poise.

Maybe Harvey won’t be electric like Doc Gooden, but he doesn’t figure to be an enigma such as Pelfrey, either.

 

Jul 18

Mets In Dire Straits; Chris Young Gets The Ball

Every season has one, a stretch of games defining how the year plays out. The Mets are in such a stretch and it is all right to wave the red flag.

Their losing streak is at five after last night’s devastating loss at Washington. They’ve lost eight of 11. Eight games over .500 is down to a shaky two. All season there was a nagging feeling the Mets were playing over their heads.

Could it be true?

The Mets are in the midst of 20 straight games without an off-day, including five more games with the Nationals and a West Coast trip to Arizona, San Francisco and San Diego, places they traditionally have not played well.

It also includes the trade deadline and whether the Mets will add pitching. They need a starter with Dillon Gee out. And, of course, you didn’t need to see last night’s game to know they need bullpen help.

The Royals designated Jonathan Sanchez for assignment. If the Mets have a chance to sign him they should. He’s still a raw talent, one with a no-hitter on his resume.. A change of scenery and return to the National League could be what he needs. And, it allows Matt Harvey more developmental time.

Reportedly, the Mets are considering Royals closer Jonathan Broxton. Perhaps the most important number regarding to Broxton is the roughly $2 million they’d have to pay him for the balance of the season. That’s a very affordable price for a chance to salvage a season.

Will the Mets get both or either? Should they regroup, beginning with Chris Young’s start tonight, and get on a roll in the two weeks left before the deadline, there’s still a chance for this to be a fun year. But, for that to happen, they must add pitching.

What was it Tug McGraw once said?

“You Gotta Believe.” It doesn’t matter if we do. It only matters if they do, and play like it.

 

 

 

Jul 14

Mets Matters: Rough Start To Second Half

The Mets limped into the break and continued that luck into the second half.

It began with Dillon Gee undergoing shoulder surgery and continued with Frank Francisco aggravating his strained left oblique. He’ll be out indefinitely.

Then there was last night’s game, which began with a 36-pitch first inning from Chris Young, who gave up five runs in three innings.

Let’s take a look at them individually:

1. GEE:  Underwent surgery Friday to repair an artery in his right shoulder in St. Louis and will be discharged from Barnes-Jewish Hospital on Tuesday or Wednesday. In all probability Gee is done for the year. Miguel Batista could take his spot in the rotation for a few starts and the Mets could dip in the minors for another starter. The odds are slim the Mets will make a trade, but if they do they won’t give up any of their highly touted pitching prospects such as Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler.

2. FRANCISCO: Oblique injuries, as the Mets learned with Jose Reyes, have a tendency to linger. While there doesn’t appear to be a drop off with Bobby Parnell assuming the closer duties, losing Francisco weakens an already thin bullpen. If the Mets do something prior to the trade deadline, it will be adding a reliever.

3. YOUNG: Last night was a serious red flag. Having already lost Gee, the Mets can’t afford  a problem with one of their starters. They know Young is a five, six-inning starter tops. Last night he wasn’t even that good.