Apr 02

Mets Still Loaded With Questions

David Wright was all smiles yesterday.

“If you like grand slams and scoring lots of runs, what’s not to like?’’ Wright said. “Of course, we’re not going to score 11 runs every game.’’

COLLINS: Over/under date when he stops smiling.

COLLINS: Over/under date when he stops smiling.

His qualifier continued: “It’s only the first game.’’

That it was, and as good as they looked in mauling the Padres, the Mets remain loaded with questions.

When the Mets introduced their team, only nine players were the same time last Opening Day.

One question is not Johan Santana, and in several respects that’s a good thing because the Mets won’t have to deal with the lingering questions of about when, or if, we’ll see him. Or, was he worth the money.

All three can be answered in the negative.

Actually, there was a Santana sighting. He’s on the cover of the media guide. So is Terry Collins with a broad smile. Wonder how long that will last?

It depends on the answers to the following questions, five each on the mound and at the plate:

PITCHING QUESTIONS

 Q: Will Jon Niese assume the role of No. 1 with Santana done with the Mets?

A: Niese downplays the ace title, but that doesn’t alter the fact he is No. 1. He showed what he is capable of yesterday. The Mets need 200-plus innings and for him to exceed his career high of 13 victories.

Q: Matt Harvey: Boom or bust?

A: The anticipation for Harvey is intense after just ten starts last year. Fans want him to be another Dwight Gooden or Stephen Strasburg. His teammates expect it of him, too. Not fair, but that’s the way it is.

Q: What will they get from Shaun Marcum?

A: He’s on the DL, but expected to come off and pitch Sunday. He needs to win at least 12 games as the No. 4 starter in the rotation and be an innings eater. The Mets got him on the cheap, but he must outpitch his contract.

Q: Will Bobby Parnell seize the closer opportunity?

A: He’s had chances before and did not. Frank Francisco figures to be out at least a month and Parnell can take this job for good. If he does, and Francisco is healthy and pitches well in whatever role he is in when he returns, he gives the Mets a trade chip.

Q: How good is the bullpen?

A: Parnell is the only one from last year’s Opening Day pen. GM Sandy Alderson has built a pen with the combination of unproven and veteran arms. Basically, it is Parnell and six questions. Come to think of it, Parnell is also a question.

HITTING QUESTIONS

 Q: Will David Wright respond to his contract?

A: Wright is not one who will coast. Looking for .300, 25-30 homers and over 100 RBI.  That’s the minimum requirements for your best hitter. Wright said he didn’t feel any differently being named captain. That’s because he’s had the role long before it became official.

Q: Can Ike Davis put together two strong halves?

A: Mets got little from him at the start last year, but he rebounded to finish with 32 homers. With his power 40 is reasonable. Unfortunately, so are 160 strikeouts. He had four yesterday.

Q: How will the outfield shake out?

A: Collin Cowgill beat out Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but nothing is etched in stone. Yesterday’s grand slam is a good start, but the key is sustaining. Marlon Byrd and Lucas Duda are in the corners. The Mets desperately need Duda’s power. If he hits 20, he could out-homer the rest of the outfield.

Q: When will we see Travis d’Arnaud?

A: For future free-agent considerations, he shouldn’t be here before June. However, Alderson said if he’s needed that wouldn’t be a barrier. We’ll see.

Q: What will the Mets get from Ruben Tejada?

A: He was solid last season, but hit less than .100 in spring training. He’s good with the glove, but Mets need something from him and his double yesterday was a good sign. He’ll never replace Jose Reyes’ numbers, but if he fields the position and hits around .275 the Mets will be happy.

Mar 07

Harvey And d’Arnaud Could Be A Long Time Team

Matt Harvey in PSL (Photo credit: Larry Marano, NY Post)There’s a twinge of anticipation this morning as Matt Harvey gets the ball today against the Miami Marlins. Stephen Strasburg is an exceptional talent in Washington, but in Harvey the Mets also have a young arm this franchise can build around.

If there’s one thing the Mets are noted for it is the development of young pitchers. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden and now Harvey.

How long, or now successful he will become is one of baseball’s delightful mysteries because this could be the start of something special.

“I am excited about getting the chance to work and grow with him,’’ said catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, who isn’t in the lineup today against the Marlins “It has been fun so far.’’

Harvey is coming off a start in which he and d’Arnaud were crossed up, but there was a show of poise on both parts as they met at the mound to get their signs correct.

“It’s a matter of trust,’’ d’Arnaud said. “He has to trust what I put down, and he has to trust himself that it is the right pitch.’’

Continue reading

Mar 04

Will Dwight Gooden Ever Turn His Life Around?

It usually is not a good sign when a name not recently in the news shows up on the “What’s Trending Now,’’ list when one logs onto the Internet.

Dwight Gooden was there this morning and we can expect to see future postings as his latest issue with the law unravels.

GOODEN: Once upon a time. (AP)

Gooden, long out of baseball but not forgotten by Mets fans, allegedly threatened his estranged wife, Monique, on Friday, when he should have been on a back field in Port St. Lucie tutoring what he once was – a hot, young prospect.

It would have been nice if Gooden had a second career in the sun, literally and figuratively. It’s not like he hasn’t had chances. The Yankees gave him several when George Steinbrenner was alive and he would have been welcomed by the Mets had he not struggled with drug, alcohol and law issues.

Monique Gooden called police and filed a restraining order. He was forced to move out of the house he and his wife are living in until their divorce becomes final.

Reportedly, Gooden threatened his wife, saying: “All bets are off and I will hurt you and your family. You’ll see, just wait.’’

A DUI, well, a team can live with that on a player’s record. Not pleasant, but doable. It is especially possible if the player had a remarkable career and once was a face of that franchise, as Gooden was with the Mets.

However, such a threat, especially if carried out, is not the image a team wants to project. There has to be considerable damage control if Gooden is to ever again represent the Mets.

Or, any other major league team for that matter.

That is, of course, unless something bad happens to him, such as jail, or worse.

Gooden will no longer have visitation rights with his two children until a hearing, March 11. In the interim, Gooden can contemplate where it all went wrong.

The drug problems began shortly after the 1985 and 1986 seasons, which were his early days with the Mets, and unfortunately, the highlight of his career. There once was a night a decade later, when nearing the end with the Yankees, he threw the no-hitter one expected of him whenever he took the mound at Shea Stadium.

Throwing what Kevin Costner said in “Bull Durham’’ was “ungodly stuff in the show,’’ Gooden was the inspiration of the “Ks’’ banners fans hung over the stadium railings. Gooden was electric in those days when he owned the summer nights at Shea.

We knew it wouldn’t last forever as it never does, but were shocked and angered and saddened knowing Gooden was throwing away his career with drugs and booze. We once were enthralled with the hard- partying Mets of 1986 and even glorified them, but also knew at the same time knew life on the ledge couldn’t end happily.

For different reasons, but ultimately the same one – a lack of self-control – it didn’t well for Gooden. For Darryl Strawberry. For Lenny Dykstra. Wally Backman is still paying the price.

Nearing the end of his life, Mickey Mantle talked of role models and said, “don’t be like me.’’ At one time, there wasn’t a kid around who didn’t want to be like Gooden, standing alone on the mound awash in the cheers and adulation that comes with greatest.

Gooden is again alone as he faces another life crisis, but there’s nobody who wants to be like him.

And, that’s just sad.

Aug 29

A Lot To Like About Matt Harvey, Who Doesn’t Remind Us Of Mike Pelfrey

It is premature to say Matt Harvey will surpass Dwight Gooden and become one of the Mets’ career aces. Even so, there’s a lot to like about him, which we can enjoy watching tonight in his start at Philadelphia.

HARVEY: A lot to like. (AP)

Harvey is already in the Mets’ history books with 43 strikeouts through his first six starts. That’s an average of seven a game – and only once did he work past the seventh – is indicative of potential dominance. If he gets nine strikeouts tonight, he’ll pass Gooden’s mark of 51 strikeouts in his first seven games, set in 1984.

Harvey’s money-pitch is a high fastball that has hitters wailing in the air. Harvey has shown an ability to “climb the latter,” and the higher he gets in the strike zone the harder it is for hitters to resist. It is if the ball is teasing the hitters, saying “swing at me.”

Doing so subsequently enables him to so far be effective with his secondary pitches. That’s something Mike Pelfrey has been unable to consistently master. It has been a small sample, but Harvey is ahead of Pelfrey at a similar stage of their careers. Who knows? He might already be ahead of Pelfrey.

There are all kinds of numbers to measure a pitcher’s dominance, and ESPN posted hitters are batting .085 (6-for-71, 43 strikeouts, 10 walks) when Harvey gets two strikes. That’s slamming the door.

The inability to put a hitter away when the count is in the pitcher’s favor has been something Pelfrey, John Maine – he burned out quickly – Bobby Parnell and a few others haven’t been able to master.

Harvey’s emergence makes it more and more unlikely the Mets will re-sign Pelfrey, who is making $5.68 million this season while on the disabled list. Knowing that number would be the bottom of what the tight-fisted Mets would pay, and with Harvey and a few others knocking at the door, strongly suggest the Mets will walk away.

 

Jan 19

On honoring Gary.

It is very sad to hear the discouraging medical reports about Gary Carter. After reading doctors are evaluating their next course of treatment I know from my father this isn’t good news. All you can do now is pray and hope he’s not in too much discomfort.

CARTER: In a happier time.

Not surprisingly, Carter’s illness raised the question of whether his No. 8 should be retired.

There is little question Carter was an integral part of the Mets’ 1986 World Series winning team, but in truth he played only four full seasons with the team, and 50 games into a fifth. Retiring a player’s uniform number should be based on long term contributions to the team and not as a sympathy gesture because of his illness.

If the Mets were to do it, they should have done it years ago. Doing it now would be cheesy and an almost empty gesture. If the Mets do it now, entering the 50th anniversary of their existence, it wouldn’t mean anything unless he went in with company, meaning Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, the only others from that team worthy of that honor. In looking at Mets history, also worthy – and overlooked – is Jerry Koosman.

I was glad to see Carter inducted into the Hall of Fame, an honor he truly deserved. At the time Carter said he was torn between going in as a Met or Montreal Expo. The Hall of Fame rules state a player would go in wearing the cap of the team where he carved his niche, and with Carter, that was Montreal, regardless of the ring he earned with the Mets.

And, that ring, as good as it was, isn’t enough to putting No. 8 on the outfield wall.