Sep 09

Mets Matters: Flushing Farewell To Chipper Jones Today

The Mets honored Chipper Jones Friday night and he makes his last appearance in Flushing this afternoon. You can tell by his reception feelings toward him have mellowed. As they should. It’s one thing to jeer an opponent, sometimes viciously. However, in the end you have to admire how Jones played the game.

CHIPPER: Farewell. (AP)

I covered Cal Ripken’s last game at Yankee Stadium and he got several standing ovations as the game went long and nobody knew when he’d take his last at-bat. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer in my book and I believe most Mets fans – perhaps grudgingly – have reached that acceptance. Honestly, in his last at-bat I hope he gets a standing ovation.

In other Mets Matters:

* Jeremy Hefner was rocked yesterday, but he’s shown enough to warrant another couple of starts. I don’t know where he fits in next year. That’s what this time is about.

* Chris Young starts today in hope of averting the sweep. Young is 4-7 with a 4.48 ERA and has been rocked lately. Like a lot of others, I don’t know where he fits in. There’s uncertainty in the rotation with Johan Santana and Dillon Gee coming off injuries and not knowing if they’ll return Mike Pelfrey. Young is a veteran, cheap alternative who can usually be counted on to give the Mets five innings. After that it gets dicey. They’ll look inside first, but I can see Young getting another contract.

* Triple-A Buffalo manager Wally Backman will join the team for the rest of the season. I think Backman is the next Mets’ manager after Terry Collins. Not sure how long Collins plans to manage. He’s gotten one extension and deserves another past 2013. I don’t want him to go into next year as a lame duck.

* GM Sandy Alderson admits it’s a long shot for Zach Wheeler to crack next year’s rotation. Just as well. Let him go into spring training with limited pressure and earn a spot.

* Jenrry Mejia is scheduled to start Sept. 19 against the Phillies. I hope the Mets finally has decided on his role as a starter. Have him already stretched out and if starting works out they can always switch him back. That’s an easier transition than bullpen to rotation.

 

Sep 05

Mets Should Consider Returning Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey surfaced on the Mets’ radar yesterday when he showed up in St. Louis to participate in the team’s fantasy football draft. Pelfrey was shelved almost immediately and underwent Tommy John surgery, May 1.

PELFREY: What is to become of him? (AP)

Most likely, he’ll be non-tendered in December because he’s arbitration eligible and made $5.6875 million this season. The rules state players must make at least 80 percent of their previous year’s salary, but in reality rarely take a pay cut.

Should the Mets re-sign Pelfrey for a lower salary, Terry Collins said he’d consider him in the bullpen, which is not the first time the Mets have done so. Willie Randolph thought about it during the epic collapse of 2007.

I realize Pelfrey has fallen short of expectations, especially when now compared with Matt Harvey. However, the Mets’ rotation is precariously thin with Johan Santana and Dillon Gee coming off injuries – Harvey unproven, and not knowing what to expect from their minor league system.

Pitching is always at a premium and three years ago Pelfrey looked as if he was making a breakthrough. That potential could still be there. I’d rather that the chance on Pelfrey regaining that previous form than the Mets shopping in the dark in the discount aisle.

Because, after all, who doesn’t expect a rotation breakdown next year?

 

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.