Jul 03

Matt Harvey Making All-Star Push

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HARVEY: Should be named NL starter in All-Star Game

After tonight’s start for the New York Mets, the next time Matt Harvey steps on the Citi Field mound should be to start the All-Star Game.

Support for Harvey to start has gone on for several weeks to the point of it now being a brushfire. San Francisco and National League manager Bruce Bochy all but named Harvey the starter yesterday in a national radio interview. Speaking on MLB Network Radio, Bochy marveled at Harvey’s dominance and acknowledged the location of the game, “should play a part, if all things are equal.’’

After tonight, factoring in four complete days of rest, Harvey’s next starts should be July 8 at San Francisco in an up-close audition in front of Bochy and July 13 at Pittsburgh. The latter date is the Saturday prior to the break so there shouldn’t be any scheduling snags.

Terry Collins will undoubtedly speak with Bochy when the Mets are in San Francisco, and already said he would change his rotation if it meant getting Harvey a start.

St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw are having strong seasons, as are Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman and Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee. All are worthy in most years, but Harvey’s season is flying off the charts. He’s not first in wins, ERA or WHIP, but in the top five.

Harvey has just seven victories, but nine no-decisions, with him giving up three or fewer runs in seven of them.

“You look at Harvey, I don’t think what team he’s playing for,’’ Bochy said, which is a polite way of suggesting playing for the Mets shouldn’t count against him

“This guy should be strongly considered to start the game. It hasn’t been determined. That’s how good he is.’’

Starting the hometown pitcher is considered a goodwill gesture by the All-Star manager, but in Harvey’s case Bochy knows there’s no charity involved. Toronto’s Cito Gaston wouldn’t pitch the Orioles’ Mike Mussina in the 1993 game at Baltimore – Mussina made the team – and was booed the remainder of his career in Camden Yards.

Bochy is smart enough to know not to make any enemies if he doesn’t have to.

While the Mets have had a myriad of pitchers in the All-Star game, only Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver started.

While Harvey is nearly a given to make it three, David Wright is currently running away with the vote over the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval at third base to the point where he has nearly an 800,000-vote lead with two days remaining in the balloting.

For Wright, it will be his seventh All-Star Game and fifth as a starter. Seaver is the franchise leader with nine All-Star Games, while Mike Piazza and Darryl Strawberry each made it seven times.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 18

Mets’ Harvey Not Motivated By Wheeler Promotion

Don’t buy for a second Matt Harvey’s scintillating start this afternoon had anything to do with the attention piled onto Zack Wheeler. The New York Mets have been saying one of Harvey’s signature attributes is his focus. Harvey said the same thing with his “24-hour rule,’’ in which he gives himself a day to think about his performance, good or bad.

In doing so, he’s also telling us he’s about concentration, not letting little things get to him and being single-minded in purpose. He wouldn’t be doing any of that if he used Wheeler’s promotion as a motivational tool. And, the flip side is also true in that Wheeler has enough on his mind than to attempt to equal Harvey’s performance.

The two just aren’t related. It’s a nice story, but there’s nothing to it, simply talkshow and backpage fodder.

Harvey admitted after the game he was running out of gas and probably shouldn’t have gone out for the eighth. A couple of starts ago Harvey didn’t say anything until it was too late he had tweaked his back. I appreciate Harvey’s desire to stay in the game and compete, but eventually he’ll have to trust his teammates.

Harvey has shown to be a special talent with as bright a future as any young Met pitcher, including Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, but he can’t do it alone.

Hopefully, Wheeler shows that tonight. He said he’s not a savior, but much is expected of him. Wheeler was not dominant in Triple-A, and had some physical ailments this year in a blister problem, strained oblique in spring training and missed one start with a tender shoulder. Wheeler wasn’t going to be promoted until his Super Two status was no longer an issue, but even with that no longer an issue, there’s question of him being ready.

Nobody can realistically expect Wheeler to equal Harvey’s performance. For tonight to be successful for him you’d like to see him refine his command, as his velocity won’t be an issue. You’d like to see him work out of trouble and minimize the damage when he can’t.

Oh, and one other thing, when tonight is over, let’s hope Wheeler doesn’t say it was just another game. It is not. Tonight is the first of what could the first of many in what the Mets are hoping will be a long career.

It’s not important that Wheeler becomes the second Harvey, or Gooden, or Seaver. Let’s just hope he becomes the first Zack Wheeler.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 14

Lenny Dykstra To Be Released From Prison

Former New York Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra will be released from a California prison this weekend, almost 15 months into a three-year term.

Dykstra, nicknamed “Nails,’’ because of his gritty style of play while with the Mets, achieved All-Star status after being dealt to the Phillies in one of the worst trades in team history.

DYKSTRA: After his homer in the 1986 NLCS.

DYKSTRA: After his homer in the 1986 NLCS.

Dykstra hit one of the most memorable home runs in franchise history against the Houston Astros in the 1986 NLCS, and also hit a key homer against Boston in the World Series that year.

Dykstra, 50, ran into financial crisis several years ago, and was charged with grand theft auto and filing a false financial report in October of 2011. After the charge, Dykstra went into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.

Author Christopher Frankie, who wrote “Nailed: The Improbable Rise and Spectacular Fall of Lenny Dykstra,’’ told reporters he was surprised by the court’s decision.

“[He] blatantly disobeyed the court, and a lot of the stuff was very brazen,’’ Frankie said. “He was doing it in the full view of law enforcement. I hope for his sake, his family’s sake, and the public’s sake, that he doesn’t return to his criminal past.

“I think people in this country really love a comeback story, so he certainly has that opportunity. But, I’m not convinced that’s the path he’s going to take.’’

Dykstra has been noticeably absent in Mets’ functions since he retirement, and for obvious reasons hasn’t been around Citi Field. Mets fans have been open in their acceptance of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, and it will interesting to see if they will be that open to Dykstra.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 29

After The Bad And Ugly, Mets Show Us The Good

Nobody knows what will happen from here, but the New York Mets have given us a show the past three nights. They have given us a respite of thrills with three straight comeback victories in what has been a lifeless spring.

DUDA; Joyous moment.

                           DUDA: Joyous moment.

Let’s not be foolish enough to think the Mets will suddenly turn it on, reel off a 20-of-24 tear and cruise into the All-Star break as a contender. We can’t think that way because there still exist numerous holes and they’ve toyed with our emotions too many times for us to buy into it again.

They are my high school girlfriend, the ultimate tease.

However, the beauty of sports is its power to generate dreams and hope, and that forces us to ask this question about the past three nights: Why can’t they play like this all the time?

Even David Wright wonders from time to time.

“To win the last couple of games the way we have – coming back from behind – I think it gives everybody a little bit of confidence moving forward, especially against one of the upper-tier teams and against the best closer to ever do it. It means a lot,” said Wright, who for the second straight game drove in the tying run in the late innings.

Wright, the best the Mets have to offer, is having a superb season with a realistic chance to start an All-Star Game in his home park.

Although, Tuesday night had its blemishes, Matt Harvey – with Dwight Gooden looking on – gave us a juxtaposition of the Mets’ past and future, and a pretty damned good view of the present.

Harvey made one give-me-that-back pitch to Lyle Overbay, otherwise he could have pitched a shutout. He was that good; good enough for us to imagine him joining Wright in the All-Star Game.

Even so, Harvey was on the hook for his first loss when the Mets came to bat against Mariano Rivera in the ninth. Normally, Rivera might throw, say, nine pitches in a one-two-three night.

Rivera threw nine last night, but it was a double by Daniel Murphy, who again played a huge role, game-tying single by Wright, who advanced to second on an error by Brett Gardner, and scored on a broken bat single by Lucas Duda.

Terry Collins has preached aggressive base running, which is a way for an undermanned team to gain an edge. Wright hustled into scoring position on the error and pushed the envelope on Duda’s hit. Too many runners might have held up and waited for the ball to drop, but Wright got a tremendous jump.

Funny thing, as Wright slid home and Duda waived his teammates onto the field, I couldn’t help but think that would have been Ike Davis’ spot in the order. But, that’s a negative thought, and last night, the past three nights, are to be savored.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

May 08

Will Matt Harvey Ever Get That Great Moment?

Alex Rios’ two-out infield single was the only thing that stood between Matt Harvey and a perfect game.

Managers don’t usually say these things, but Terry Collins thought in the fifth inning Harvey was heading toward history. Even Harvey knew he was on Tuesday night.

HARVEY: Sniffs perfection. (AP)

HARVEY: Sniffs perfection. (AP)

“Everything was obviously working,’’ Harvey told reporters last night. “When I can throw my slider for a strike and also bounce it when I need to, that’s when it starts getting fun. That was definitely the best I felt all year.’’

He was that on and didn’t get it. The way baseball works, and Harvey understands this, is he could get it on a night he feels awful.

While we are engrossed in the no-hitter pursuit, they are rare because of the nuances in the game. Jim Qualls broke up Tom Seaver’s perfect-game bid in 1969 with a clean single, but as Rios showed they all aren’t line drives.

Rios beat out a dribbler in the shortstop hole. Other no-hitters have been broken up by broken-bat bloops or balls lost in the sun, or bunts. And, who doesn’t remember how Armando Galarraga lost his perfect game on Jim Joyce’s blown call?

Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone threw no-hitters with other teams, when their electric stuff lost some voltage.

No-hitters are flukes, thrown by forgettable names, and not thrown by the greatest arms the sport has ever witnessed. That Nolan Ryan threw seven and Sandy Koufax threw four, and Johnny Vander Meer had them in consecutive starts is incomprehensible. They had skill and stuff, but perhaps it was a matter of the Baseball Gods smiling on them those days.

Harvey has already lost two no-hitters after seven innings this year, so we know the stuff is there, but it isn’t always about stuff. Hey, if a guy swings a bat anything can happen.

What I liked about Harvey was his stuff, his demeanor and his concentration. Do you know how hard it is to breathe and focus when you nose is stuffed with cotton? Harvey started the game with a bloody nose that continued in the early innings.

His focus only sharpened.

What I also liked about him was his acceptance in losing the perfect game. He didn’t regret the slider he threw Rios, and praised Ruben Tejada’s effort.

“In that hole it’s tough,’’ Harvey said. “Obviously anything going away and then making that long throw, I knew it was going to have to be absolutely perfect. He made an awesome attempt.’’

Harvey remains at 4-0 after three straight no-decisions. His 58-12 strikeouts-to-walks ratio illustrates dominance on both the stuff and command levels. What can you say about a 1.28 ERA?

One more number about Harvey is intriguing, and that is his “24 Hour Rule,’’ in which he gives himself a day to relish in a good start or lament something negative, such as losing a perfect game.

Then, it is back to work. On Thursday he will start focusing on Sunday’s start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Yes, Harvey has no-hit potential. No, I can’t say he will ever throw one, but I don’t care. Harvey might not ever get that great moment, but he’s on the way to a great career, and I don’t want to miss a start.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos