May 14

Latest Loss May Be Best Thing To Happen To Mets’ Harvey

Last night may be the best thing to happen to Matt Harvey and the Mets. In defeat, he showed us a humility we haven’t often seen from him, which can be the first step up from rock bottom.

Sometime between Rockies’ hits in the fifth inning I flashed to the summer of 2013 when Harvey first flirted with stardom. Do you remember the video piece Harvey did on the Jimmy Fallon show when he roamed the streets of New York asking people their thoughts of Matt Harvey?

HARVEY: All smiles in 2013. (USA Today)

HARVEY: All smiles in 2013. (USA Today)

To listen to the answers, and Harvey’s response – both verbally and his body language – was priceless. Harvey was talking to his fan base about himself and they didn’t recognize him. He was funny and showed real humility.

It made us like him for more than what he did on the mound because he seemed
approachable.

However, since then Harvey has been sidetracked by injury, off-the-field issues and media clashes. Both Harvey and those who followed him ventured into the dark night of judgment. Unlike that day in Central Park when he was anonymous, Harvey lived with a target on his back and hasn’t responded well.

Neither has anybody else.

His body language spoke loudly last night; louder than the cheers that greeted him at the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field when he seemingly held the world in his hand like the baseball he threw which such force and artistry.

Gone last night was the cockiness and arrogance which made people root against him. Also gone was the confidence that made him stare down a hitter then climb the ladder for another strikeout.

His head was down when he handed the ball to manager Terry Collins and slumped off the mound. The cameras caught him with his head bowed in the dugout talking to himself. He wasn’t getting any answers and it was a very human moment from a man Mets fans and media insist on labeling a superhero.

“A great statement I heard the other day is there’s two kinds of players in this league: Ones who have been humbled and ones who will be,” Collins told reporters. “When it’s your turn, it gets tough to take sometimes, because you have got to learn how to adjust from it and how to bounce back from it.”

However, before he can bounce back from a problem it must be identified.

Mechanics? Perhaps. Injuries or health? He says no. Is he feeling the pressure to perform after Game 5? Could be, but he’s repeatedly expressed no regrets in how he handled that night.

Most recently, is he trying to pitch up to the expectations of the contract he’ll seek when he becomes a free agent? Maybe, but it’s something I can’t see him admitting because after all, that’s something few players admit.

What then?

To his credit, and I really liked his answer, he refused to blame the altitude of Coors Field, a place he’s never pitched before.

His answer was a polite, yet forceful, “No, it’s me.”

Humility defined.

“I’m just not feeling comfortable throwing a baseball right now, so it’s frustrating,” Harvey told reporters. “Something I have obviously done my whole life is gone on a mound and thrown a baseball, and right now it’s not an easy task.

“Right now it’s just not feeling great out there — you start overthinking everything. That’s kind of the way it feels every pitch, and hopefully you get past that.”

Harvey cast no blame, although catcher Kevin Plawecki might have given him an out by saying his pitch recommendations might have been predictable. Not many pitchers win games with two runs, but he didn’t point fingers at the offense.

Instead, Harvey spoke of square one.

“It’s taking a lot longer than expected,” said Harvey, who must remember some pitchers hit the wall after Tommy John surgery in the second year back. “You can’t give up. You’ve just got to keep going. It’s start-to-start for me right now.

“I don’t look at it as ups and downs. It’s trying to continue figuring stuff out. … It’s not easy, but there’s another day tomorrow. And it’s a long season. There’s a lot of hope in that regard and drive toward figuring it out.”

I was glad to see Harvey get ripped because it might be the first step toward him getting to where he wants to be.

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May 11

Why We Love Jacob DeGrom

It wasn’t Jacob deGrom at his best, but perhaps it was vintage Jacob deGrom nonetheless.

DE GROM: True Grit. (AP)

DE GROM: True Grit. (AP)

Who didn’t have flashbacks to Game 5 of last year’s NLDS when deGrom gutted out six innings to give the Mets a chance to win? On Tuesday, despite lacking his best stuff and perfect mechanics, deGrom was all grit in guile in giving the Mets seven innings in the 3-2 loss to the Dodgers.

Sure, it would have been great for him to be rewarded with a win, even so watching deGrom squirm his way out of trouble was akin to John Elway scrambling to avoid the pass rush.

Watching deGrom is watching sport at its finest and why we love this guy. No drama, no excuses, just a player competing at the highest level.

“This night showed what Jake deGrom is made of,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters. “We all talk about the ‘plus’ stuff. He’s fighting through some mechanical things right now, and this guy was in trouble for the first five innings.

“And yet you looked up and he gave you seven innings. That tells me a lot about him. … This guy is usually pinpoint, and he hasn’t been that. That’s why he’s been struggling. I’ll tell you one thing: I like running him out there every fifth day.’’

And I love watching him every fifth day.

Hopefully, fifteen years from now, when those long dark locks have been shorn and faded to gray, we’ll enjoy him at the end of a spectacular career.

All done in a Mets’ uniform.

May 06

Today In Mets’ History: Happy Birthday Willie Mays

In 1969, the 100th Anniversary of Baseball, Joe DiMaggio was voted the game’s greatest player. That was wrong then and certainly was for the next 30 years of DiMaggio’s career. The voters slighted Mays.

You could make valid arguments for Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Hank Aaron. You might also lobby on behalf of Willie Mays, who on this day in 1931 was born in Westfield, Ala.

My vote goes to Babe Ruth as the greatest player in history, with Mays second. In addition to his prodigious power and five tools, Mays will always be remembered for his catch in the 1954 World Series (video) against Cleveland.

Mays’ professional career began in 1947, the same year Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. His major league in 1951, the year DiMaggio retired. They faced each other in the World Series that season.

Mays is first, and foremost, a Giant. He became a Met in 1972 when he was traded for Charlie Williams (perhaps the ultimate trivia question answer) and $50,000 in cash. The driving force behind the trade was, of course, money.

MAYS: Not the best memory. (AP)

MAYS: Not the best memory. (AP)

Giants owner Horace Stoneham, who moved the Giants to San Francisco, was operating a team hemorrhaging money. Mays was nearing retirement and the Giants could not guarantee a job when he stopped playing. The Mets could and brought the icon back to New York.

/a>Mays played a year-and-a-half with the Mets, appearing in only 133 games, but played in the 1973 World Series, in which in went 2-for-7, but is best remembered for falling down in the outfield and his plea after being called out at the plate.

Mays looked like he was playing hurt, and later said, “growing old is a helpless hurt.’’

Mays’ last at-bat was grounding into a force play in Game 3. He retired after the season with a career .302 average with 660 home runs. He appeared in a record 24 All-Star Games. He was a 12-time Gold Glover and three-time MVP.

Mays was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979, the first year of his eligibility, but amazingly didn’t appear on 23 ballots.

May 04

If Issue Is 2015 Innings, Harvey Deserves Responsibility

I couldn’t help but laugh after hearing Terry Collins last night talking about Matt Harvey’s problems.

Collins, who admitted the Mets don’t have a real answer as to Harvey’s mechanical issues, but threw out it could be “one of those years where it’s due to all of the innings last year, we’re going to see the effects of it.’’

HARVEY: Must accept responsibility. (ESPN).

HARVEY: Must accept responsibility. (ESPN).

Apparently, one of the effects is a loss of memory, at least by Collins.

If we can rewind a moment to the end of last spring training, I wrote how the Mets needed to come up with a definitive innings plan for Harvey and offered a couple of suggestions, none of which they adopted.

Instead, GM Sandy Alderson – echoed by Collins – a “fly by the seat of his pants,’’ approach. Their approach was to acquiesce to Harvey’s whims, from where to do his rehab and delaying when to have surgery.

I made a big deal about this at the time how important it was to have a concrete plan, which included limiting his innings in blowout games, skipping occasional starts, and definitely pulling him out of games in which he was hurting or ill.

Do you remember the start against the Yankees when he insisted on going after a complete game shutout when he had a huge lead?

And, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the strep throat game when he wanted to pitch and Collins gave in when the smart thing would’ve have been to skip him.

Then, fast-forward to late August when agent Scott Boras leaked out the limit was 180 innings. Harvey first said he would follow his agent, then after the backlash against him he said wanted to pitch.

This made everybody connected with the Mets look bad.

Neither Alderson nor Collins had the backbone to stand up to Harvey, which ultimately brings us to the ninth inning of Game 5.

Harvey threw 216 innings last year – 36 more than Boras’ number. I estimated skipping one start a month would have saved Harvey at least that number, and even more if they pulled him early from blowout games.

So now, Collins is telling us Harvey threw too many innings in 2015. Well, whose fault is that? If Collins stood up to Harvey, this wouldn’t be an issue.

Now, we learn Harvey was ill before he pitched Tuesday night. Didn’t Collins learn anything from last year?

Obviously not.

 

Apr 23

Mets’ Wrap: Collins Shows Confidence In Pitchers

One would think a manager shouldn’t make too many key pitching decisions in an 8-2 rout, but the Mets’ Terry Collins made a pair Saturday night in Atlanta that could serve to benefit him down the road.

MATZ: Another solid start. (AP)

MATZ: Another solid start. (AP)

The first was sending starter Steven Matz out for the seventh inning in the left-hander’s second straight start. Matz was stellar last Sunday in Cleveland and was also brilliant against the Braves. Collins could have played in conservatively and gone to the bullpen, but his confidence in sticking with Matz was refreshing.

Matz didn’t make it out of the seventh, but the important thing was that Collins stretched him out. Matz gave up nine hits – but didn’t walk a batter – and had nine strikeouts in 6.1 innings. He threw 98 pitches, which should only help him later.

Collins’ second key decision was allowing right-handed reliever Hansel Robles to stay in and face left-handed hitter Freddie Freeman. The Braves already had a run in and a runner on, but Robles struck out Freeman.

Granted, Freeman has been struggling, but when the easy thing would have been to go by the book, Collins stuck with Robles. That can only benefit both the Mets and Robles in the future.

Were they outlandish gambles? No, but the confidence Collins displayed in Matz and Robles could pay dividends. I especially liked him sticking with Robles.

METS GAME WRAP

Game:  #16   Record:  9-7  Streak: W 2

SUMMARY: A solid start by Matz, a strong performance from the bullpen and the Mets continued to rake with 15 hits and two more homers.

KEY MOMENT: The Braves cut the Mets’ lead to 2-1 in the third, but Matz minimized the damage and benefitted from tack-on runs in the fourth.

THUMBS UP: A pair of doubles from David Wright, who also drove in two runs. … Two more hits from Curtis Granderson. … Two hits by Michael Conforto, who also stole his first career base. … Strong relief efforts from Robles, Addison Reed and Logan Verrett. … Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera hit back-to-back homers in the ninth. … Two hits by Travis d’Arnaud.

THUMBS DOWN: Eleven strikeouts, 12 runners stranded and going 2-for-16 with RISP.

EXTRA INNINGS: With the win the Mets have won three straight series. … Walker leads the team with seven homers. Tonight’s was the 100th of his career … The Mets have 23 homers in their last eight games.

QUOTEBOOK: “Focus. Taking it one pitch at a time.”- Matz on the key to his success.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6: Consecutive victories by the Mets at Turner Field. Who would have ever thought that could be possible?

NEXT FOR METS: Jacob deGrom makes his second start of the season and first since April 8.