Jul 28

Collins Lets Down Mets

Welcome back to “Panic City.” While some of us are residents, the mayor isn’t you or me, but Mets manager Terry Collins. No doubt the population could be growing after the Mets lost in agonizing and aggravating fashion for the second straight game, this time, 2-1, Thursday to the Colorado Rockies on Jeurys Familia‘s second blown save in less than 24 hours.

Of course, while it is easy to blame Familia and their chronic failure to hit with runners in scoring position, the primary culprit was Collins, whose game management wasted a brilliant effort by Jacob deGrom, who threw seven scoreless innings.

DE GROM: Mets waste his effort. (AP)

DE GROM: Mets waste his effort. (AP)

The Mets had a 1-0 lead and were poised to break the game open in the seventh when they had runners on second and third with no outs. They had ten hits, one walk, and had a runner reach on an error, so getting on base wasn’t the problem.

One would have thought they would have scored at least one run even by accident with deGrom due up. However, Collins sent up pinch-hitter Yoenis Cespedes – a temporary hitter from the previous night – despite knowing the Rockies would intentionally walk him.

“Let’s load the bases and make them get out of it,” the baseball lifer Collins told reporters. However, he must have conveniently forgotten defensive teams traditionally walk the bases full to set up a force at the plate or a double play. That strategy applies to the seventh as well as the ninth.

The force at the plate came soon enough when pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson – battling for Juan Lagares – hit a grounder to shortstop and Trevor Story‘s throw nailed Rivera. Curtis Granderson struck out on a wild swing, and Wilmer Flores popped out.

So, by batting Cespedes for deGrom, Collins lost his starter, Cespedes for a pinch-runner and Lagares. Had deGrom stayed in it would have enabled Addison Reed to close, which was the original plan.

After Familia’s blown save the previous night – in which he threw close to 30 pitches – Collins matter-of-factly said he would rest today. He didn’t because Familia told him before the game he was available. Add this to the growing list of statements Collins makes yet retreats on.

After Story singled, stole second and David Dahl walked, you knew this wasn’t going to end well. Daniel Descalso beat out a bunt in front of the plate when Rene Rivera gambled to let the ball roll foul, which it didn’t.

There’s bad luck, dumb luck and Mets’ luck, which is the worst kind. As it turned out, that would be the Rockies’ only hit of the inning. Colorado tied it on a fielder’s choice grounder and Familia’s wild pitch.

So, Collins went against his better judgment and used Familia just because the closer said he could pitch. We all know how that turned out in Game 5 of the World Series. But this time the season didn’t end.

Not yet, anyway.

 

 

Jul 08

Harvey Made Right Call On Surgery

Mets’ pitcher Matt Harvey unquestionably made the right decision to undergo surgery for treatment of the thorasic outlet syndrome in his pitching shoulder. It was the best option for his pitching and financial future, and to the Mets for the remainder of this season and beyond.

Dr. Robert Thompson is expected to perform the procedure next week in St. Louis. The surgery, which would entail removing one of his ribs, is designed to relieve pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the space between the neck and shoulder. The increased pressure caused numbness in his arm and fingers.

HARVEY: Made right choice (Getty)

HARVEY: Made right choice (Getty)

Harvey’s options were surgery or a nerve-blocking injection, the latter being a temporary solution with surgery eventually required.

Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras, whose comments last year on the pitcher’s innings limit created a stir, strongly advocated the surgery to ESPN: “The doctors clearly recommended that he have this done, mainly so that he can be ready for ’17.’

“The rehab on this is six months. Now, if there was a small window of a season, you might be able to take a shot. It’s actually Botox, which relaxes the muscles. That’s not a long-term solution. `The only way this is going to be treated appropriately –  and obviously, we don’t want to do anything to affect next year – is to get this surgically taken care of.”

That’s the understandable driving force behind the decision. This was chosen to set up Harvey for his turn at free agency. Had he chosen the injection and gotten through the season, that would be great. But, if it only lasted a few months and he had the surgery later this year, or in the offseason, or next year, all or most of 2017, could be lost. That would leave Harvey with one year to make an impression on his future suitors when he hits the free agent market after the 2018 season.

And, nobody knows how he’ll pitch coming off surgery. If you’re Harvey – not to mention the Mets or any team that would go after him – you want two years to make an impression. That’s why Harvey’s decision is a no-brainer. But, how does losing Harvey help the Mets the rest of this year?

Knowing the Mets won’t have him in the second half enables GM Sandy Alderson to freely pursue another arm before the July 31 trade deadline, even if it jacks up the asking price. That’s preferable to waiting through at least two Harvey starts before hitting the market late, which would increase the price even more.

This also allows manager Terry Collins to determine his rotation now and eliminates the inevitable questioning and excuse making after each of his starts. And, who would want to see Harvey go down for surgery in a September pennant-race game or the playoffs?

Harvey hasn’t pitched well, going 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts, and this ailment is an obvious explanation. Harvey frequently complained about not having his mechanics, but not having feelings in his arm and fingers could explain a change in mechanics.

However, left unanswered is why Harvey hadn’t complained about a lack of feeling before his disastrous start on Monday. Boras’ answer to that question explains both the good, and bad, about Harvey.

His bulldog approach on the mound, for example, his eight innings in Game 5 of the World Series, is to be applauded. It’s the spirit that defines an ace. That’s the good.

But, here’s the bad, as delivered by Boras.

“He’s felt this way since spring training, but he wanted to gut it out, try to do it, until finally, he’s going, ‘Look, I’m just feeling like I don’t feel the baseball the same.’ Once we heard that, I was like, ‘Maybe we have a TOS situation,’ and got him over to Dr. Thompson.”

Sounds plausible, but it underscores the increasingly, maddening, “I’ll do what I feel like” aspect that has defined Harvey’s short career. It also raises the inevitable question of what could have happened had this been discovered a month or two earlier.

If he had surgery in May or June perhaps he could have come back in late August, or September, or even the playoffs.

We’ll never know.

May 27

Where Were You Went The Ball Got By Buckner?

The Mets are honoring their 1986 championship team this weekend. That World Series had numerous moments capable of being etched into our memories forever, but one clearly stands out: Mookie Wilson’s ground ball that scooted between Bill Buckner’s legs.

I was in the family room of my ex-wife, watching the game with her and my father-in-law. It was pretty quiet.

METS' SHINING MOMENT. (AP)

METS’ SHINING MOMENT. (AP)

Anthony Arthur was a Mets’ fan and he took me out to Shea that summer. The game, and what had been a marvelous season, were slowly and agonizingly slipping away in the tenth inning of Game 6 with Boston holding a 5-3 lead.

After Calvin Schiraldi retired the first two Mets, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Well, they had a great season. Maybe next year.”

Gary Carter singled, and Kevin Mitchell followed with the same. As ’86 Mets lore has it, by this time Keith Hernandez was in manager Davey Johnson’s office, his feet propped on the desk as he sipped a beer.

I wonder if it was a Reingold?

Ray Knight singled and it was 5-4.

Enter Bob Stanley, who threw a wild pitch and all of a sudden the game was tied. Technically, it was tied, but we all knew the game was over. And likely the World Series.

I always wondered, as those in New England probably still do, why Roger Clemens wasn’t called in to pitch?

Wilson was up and after fouling off six pitches, dribbled a ground ball towards first on the tenth pitch of an epic at-bat. VIDEO OF VIN SCULLY’S CALL.

It might be the most memorable moment in Mets’ history. VIDEO OF BOB MURPHY’S CALL.

I wonder, where were you when “the ball gets by Buckner?’’

I’d love to know.

 

May 24

Mets Wrap: Time To Send Out Harvey; A Dozen Reasons Why He Stinks

HARVEY: Send him down. (AP)

HARVEY: Send him down. (AP)

The question regarding Matt Harvey is basic: What next?

It would be a controversial decision, but should be a very simple one for the Mets. Either the Mets stick with Harvey to let him work his way out of this – even if it means taking more lumps – or he should be sent to the minor leagues or disabled list to rediscover himself.

“We’re not going to do anything rash tonight,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “We’re going to sleep on it and discuss it tomorrow.”

Harvey had nothing to say because in a bush league move he bolted after the game without speaking and left it up to Collins, catcher Kevin Plawecki and his teammates to speak for him.

Twice Plawecki told reporters, “you watched the game.”

Previously, I advocated sticking with Harvey, but after giving up three homers in Tuesday night’s 7-4 loss at Washington, I’ve gone to the replay and upon further review think a change of scenery is the best option.

Going to Las Vegas should be seriously discussed, but the Mets have always gone out of their way to massage Harvey’s fragile ego, so they could manufacture a reason to put him on the disabled list, which eliminates the stigma of the minor leagues.

Either one should be GM Sandy Alderson’s choice for a variety of reasons:

* They can send him down to Triple-A Las Vegas or Double-A Binghamton if they want a closer look and let him work on everything, from conditioning to mechanics. The disabled list accomplishes the same objective. It’s the best option in it enables him to pitch without costing the Mets games.

* Harvey’s brief outings deplete the bullpen.

* It eliminates the between-starts distraction Harvey has become. What’s wrong with him? Will he make his next start? What’s wrong with him? And, another question: What’s wrong with him?

The answer could be one of many or a combination of a several. His velocity is down and command is off, but why?

Here are my theories, which I call “Harvey’s Dirty Dozen,’’ to explain why Harvey is 3-7 with a 6.08 ERA:

* Not enough work in spring training: Collins suggested Harvey’s early sluggishness was because the Mets reduced his workload to almost half of what is considered normal for a starter. That’s on Collins and Alderson. This would partially explain Harvey’s mechanical issues.

* Innings workload in 2015: This is on Collins and Alderson for not developing a definitive workload or program. It’s also on Harvey for continually pushing the envelope. Even his agent, Scott Boras, said Harvey wanted to pitch

* He’s hurt: Harvey denies this, but considering his history of withholding physical ailments, this option can’t be ignored.

* He’s out of shape: Yes, there have been cases with Mickey Lolich and Sid Fernandez, but there’s his growing paunch. His stamina is down and his mechanics aren’t crisp, so his conditioning must be considered. How can that not be a factor in his inability to make through the middle innings?

* Overcompensation for Game 5: He continually says he has no regrets for arguing with Collins to stay in the game and imploded in the ninth. How can he not think back on that game?

* Jealousy in the rotation: In 2013 Harvey was deemed the clear cut ace, but for all the talk of this being a close knit group that thrives on the competition, how can Harvey realistically ignore he’s fifth behind Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon? As a competitor, how can it not eat at him he’s not “the man,’’ anymore?

* Lack of run support: He’s 2-7 this year with less getting five runs support. But, how does that explain his 6.02 ERA in those games? Bottom line, if you’re a stud pitcher, you have to suck it up and figure out a way to win those games.

* He buys into the hype: It’s not the media or fans that wrongly placed Harvey on a pedestal, but for him believing he’s a superhero beyond reproach. After Tuesday, Harvey is 28-25 lifetime so let’s go easy on calling him great.

* He’s too sensitive: Harvey has openly clashed with the media to the point where he had a snow globe of a hand extending a middle finger, unquestionably directed at the press. He also had a photo taken of him in his hospital room flashing the bird. He couldn’t handle the innings flap last year or his urinary infection this spring.

* He thinks he knows it all: From withholding his physical problems, which was the first step towards Tommy John surgery. Then there was the arguing over his rehab, and where it would take place, to him forcing his way to the mound. He’s not shy in letting it known he doesn’t trust those around him.

* Tommy John let down: Sometimes a pitcher hits a wall in the second year following Tommy John surgery. Harvey didn’t  just hit a wall, but ran into it head first.

* Supernova: I floated this idea after his last start against the Nationals and it still applies. Maybe this is a good as it will get for Harvey. Maybe Harvey is not the ace the Mets thought. Maybe that’s something we should get used to.

Harvey said the simulated game over the weekend helped, but he gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings against the Nationals. He’s given up 14 runs in his last two games. He’s not close to figuring things out.

Collins gave Harvey the option of skipping Tuesday’s start, but he wanted the ball, which is to be applauded. However, leaving the ballpark without talking was classless.

Maybe he’ll post something on The Player’s Tribune.

METS GAME WRAP

May 24, 2016, @ Washington

Game: #45           Score:  Nationals 7, Mets 4

Record: 26-19     Streak: L 1

Standings: Second, NL East 1.5 games behind Nationals. Playoffs Today: First WC vs. Philadelphia

Runs: 178     Average: 3.95  Times 3 or less: 21

SUMMARY:  The middle innings did in Harvey again. After opening the game with three scoreless innings to provide a glimmer of optimism, but he gave up five runs in the fourth and fifth innings, including homers by Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy.

KEY MOMENT:  Back-to-back homers by Zimmerman and Rendon in the fourth erased a brief Mets’ lead.

THUMBS UP: Asdrubal Cabrera’s homer in the fourth. … Two more hits from Yoenis Cespedes. … Eric Campbell’s two-run homer. … Kudos to SNY’s Nelson Figueroa and Gary Apple for taking Harvey to task for not talking after the game. Also to Ron Darling for suggesting the minor leagues was the best option. … Neil Walker’s diving stop saved Harvey a run in the second.

THUMBS DOWN:  Harvey gave up three homers and the bullpen gave up two more. … Stephen Strasburg and two relievers struck out 15 Mets. … Just five hits. … Lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo gave up a homer to lefty hitter Revere.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright did not play, but is expected back in the lineup Wednesday. … Ty Kelly went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his major league debut.

QUOTEBOOK: “It is what it is,” Plawecki commenting on Harvey leaving him to answer questions.

BY THE NUMBERS:  15: Strikeouts by the Mets for a season high.

NEXT FOR METS:  Matz starts Wednesday afternoon for the Mets.

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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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