Feb 25

Too Early To Name Opening Day Starter

Mike Puma of The New York Post recently wrote the Mets are strongly considering going with Zack Wheeler as their Opening Day starter. While I like Puma and don’t dispute his sources, naming Wheeler, or anybody else for that matter, as the Opening Day starter now is premature and a bad idea.

Of course the media wants to know. I want to know, but considering the make-up of the Mets’ rotation it serves no purpose announcing a starter this early.

WHEELER: No reason to name his Opening Day starter now. (Getty)

WHEELER: No reason to name him Opening Day starter now. (Getty)

The Mets already said it will not be Matt Harvey, but what if that changes? It already changed from him being the home opener starter to working in of the first five games.

With six weeks remaining until Opening Day and the Mets lacking a legitimate ace such as Johan Santana or even a healthy Harvey, simply too much can happen that could change Terry Collins’ mind:

* What if Harvey has a great spring training? Surely he then would get the nod.

* What if Wheeler has a lousy spring training, or worse, is injured?

* What if one of the other starters emerges strong this spring. What then?

The Opening Day starter should be based on two things: 1) experience, and 2) merit. Wheeler, despite showing promise last year and is a cornerstone of the future, doesn’t meet either.

If he’s healthy, it should be Harvey because of his brief window of success and what he means to the franchise. If not, the best choice should be Bartolo Colon.

It is highly improbable he won’t be traded this spring, so it has to be him. He’s best equipped to handle the distractions and pressure, and last year was the Mets’ most accomplished starter winning 15 games and working over 200 innings.

Wheeler is the sexy pick, but for the best results, it should go with Colon.

But, even so, the same rules apply. It is too early and every manager should know not to make a decision until absolutely has to … and Collins has not need to make an announcement now.

ON DECK TODAY: Mets’ Matters: Today’s notebook.

Feb 02

Today In Mets History: Traded For Santana

In 2008, the Mets pulled off one of the most stunning trades in franchise history with the acquisition of Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for prospects Deolis GuerraCarlos GomezPhilip Humber and Kevin Mulvey.

SANTANA: Became a Met today (AP)

SANTANA: Became a Met today (AP)

The Yankees and Red Sox were hot at the time after Santana in the free-agent market, but the Twins pitted them against each other until they got fed up and pulled out of the bidding. That opened the door for the Mets, but to seal the deal they were given a negotiating window and signed Santana to a six-year, $137.5 million contract.

It was a pricey deal in terms of salary and prospects, but it was supposed to put them over the top and return them to the playoffs. Santana’s first season was the only one in which the Mets had a winning record.

The fuel behind the trade was a late-season collapse in 2007 in which the Mets blew a seven-game lead with 17 remaining to reveal a lack of pitching. Santana’s best season with the Mets was his first when he went 16-7 with a 2.53 ERA in 34 starts, but underwent knee surgery following the year.

That would be a prelude of things to come, as he never again pitched a full season because of a variety of injuries and missed all of 2011 with a torn shoulder capsule. He returned in 2012 to pitch just 117 innings, but also author the only no-hitter in franchise history.

Santana re-injured his shoulder in spring training of 2013 when he rushed himself and threw against the program laid out for him and needed a second surgery. Santana went 46-34 with a 3.18 ERA during his tenure with the Mets, but his most important statistic was missing a potential 96 starts.

Santana is currently attempting a comeback with Baltimore.

Was it a good trade for the Mets?

In theory, they needed a pitching upgrade, but that wasn’t their only weakness. They especially needed to improve their bullpen. Of the players the Mets gave up, only Gomez became a viable player.

I thought the Mets gave up too much because there was no competition. With the Yankees and Red Sox gone, there was nobody else in the market. Plus, the Twins knew they had to deal him because there was no way they would re-sign him for anything close to what the Mets paid.

Nobody could question Santana’s heart, but I would have spent the money to fill other holes.

Dec 04

Tulowitzki Is Wishful Thinking

Unquestionably, a healthy Troy Tulowitzki makes the Mets a better team. I read something again today about the Mets dealing for him, but if you are a true fan of the team you know that’s not how they do business.

TULO: Just wishful thinking.

TULO: Just wishful thinking.

The last star the Mets traded for was Johan Santana, but they were closer to winning then than they are now. Plus, it is debatable how that trade worked out.

At 30, Tulowitzki is still in him prime and last year’s numbers of .340, 21 homers, 52 RBI, .432 on-base percentage and 1.035 OPS through 91 games before he was injured make a compelling argument for breaking the bank.

However, if you’re a true Mets fan – and I assume most of you are – then you also know “the bank,’’ is the franchise’s North Star. Tulowitzki is owed $129 million over the next seven seasons and to the Mets’ line of thinking, that number supersedes those at the plate.

And, we haven’t gotten to the part yet about the Rockies’ demands. Sorry, but Daniel Murphy and Dillon Gee – both of whom the Mets would love to trade because of their salaries, which combined are less than $13 million – won’t cut it. This isn’t talk-radio fantasy land when you give up nothing for a star.

At least two of those young arms the team is building around have to be included. There is also the possibility that to make this deal Tulowitzki’s contract would be modified. He has a clause that prohibits him being traded more than once, so, if the Rockies deal him the Mets would not be allowed if they believe the contract is a burden. At least, not without a cost.

A red flag is Tulowitzki’s injury history, which has prevented him from playing more than 140 games only once since 2009.

If the Mets were really on the cusp, then go for it. However, there are too many variables that scream this is not the right player at the right time. The Mets finally rid themselves of burdensome contracts and are making themselves competitive again.

This is too much of a gamble.

Mar 08

Harvey Pushes Envelope Again On Twitter; Wants To Pitch This Year

Who wouldn’t like to see Matt Harvey return to the New York Mets this season? Despite words of caution from his doctors, Mets management and even opponents such as Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, Harvey seems bent on wanting to pitch this season.

This morning, Harvey used Twitter and wrote: Harvey day will happen.

HARVEY: Wants to pitch. (Getty)

HARVEY: Wants to pitch. (Getty)

Every time I hear from Harvey about wanting to pitch this year I’m not overwhelmed by excitement as much as I am apprehension as it is never good to force an injury.

Strasburg warned Harvey through the media to take his time in his rehab, and to not look too far into the future. Strasburg said to treat his rehabilitation in chunks, and measure progress not in daily increments because there will be setbacks.

Right now we’re in March and Harvey is throwing four times a week, and off flat ground – currently 20 throws at 60 feet.

The Mets have a rough timetable at best for Harvey, because they’ve accepted the possibility of setbacks. Above all, the next step is contingent on how he responds to the last one.

Meanwhile, Harvey is forecasting what he wants to happen in September, giving the impression he’s oblivious to the rigors and grind of the rehabilitation process.

There are times he appears to pay lip service to this, for example, when he threw for the first time on Feb. 22, he said: “I’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s going to be a tough process [even] with how things felt today. But I’ve got to stick with it and move forward.’’

At the time, Harvey acknowledged his competitive nature and conceded, “I always wanted to push more.’’

When he does that, he fast-forwards months, making him vulnerable to pride and ego.

Don’t think it can’t happen?

Earlier this week, former Met Johan Santana, signed a minor league contract with Baltimore. It was only last spring when Santana disregarded a throwing program the Mets formatted and in a fit, responding to comments made by GM Sandy Alderson, threw off the mound and aggravated his shoulder injury.

He never threw another pitch for the Mets, but did collect all of the $137.5 million owed him.

Santana wasn’t cautious, and let his pride get the better of him. Will the same happen with Harvey? Nobody knows, including Harvey.

If the Mets lay down the law and say Harvey won’t pitch this year regardless, then that might be the thing to do. It would eliminate the risk.

Because, the way it sounds, if left unchecked Harvey might just push the envelope too far and never have the opportunity to sign a $137.5 million contract.

That would be a shame, because it would mean the career we all hope to enjoy will not have come to pass.

 

Mar 04

Johan Santana Signs With Orioles; It’s Official, Mets Lost Deal

Despite both sides saying continuing their relationship remained a possibility, we all knew when the New York Mets gave Johan Santana a $5.5 million buyout for this season that would never happen.

It’s what parting sides always claim when they don’t want to say what’s really on their minds.

SANTANA: Offiical: Mets lose trade (AP)

SANTANA: Offiical: Mets lose trade (AP)

From his part, Santana would liked to have kept on milking the cash cow. The Mets however, weren’t happy he threw before he was scheduled that final spring and ended up sitting out the entire 2013 season.

After spending $137.5 million, they weren’t about to throw good money after bad, especially since Santana made it clear he wasn’t going to offer a “home team discount.’’ Instead, Santana settled on a minor league contract today with the Baltimore Orioles.

Any contract is a risk, especially a six-year deal for a pitcher who had already experienced shoulder problems before he broke down with the Mets. In the end, for all that money, the Mets received one solid year, a tainted no-hitter, but without question, 100 percent effort whenever Santana took the mound.

They did not receive the repeated 20-win seasons and playoff appearances they had hoped. In short, they gambled and lost.

After they lost Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS and kicked away a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining in 2007, and in dire need of pitching, the Mets rolled the dice on Santana.

The Mets sent four prospects – one of them turning out to be All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez – for the overworked and already damaged left-hander. They then signed him for at the time was the richest contract in franchise history.

As what often has been the case with the Mets, in both the trade and subsequent contract negotiations, they bid against themselves.

Santana became available because both the Yankees and Red Sox backed off, so as the only real party to the table, they could have had him for less. And, because the Twins weren’t going to bend to Santana’s salary demands, the Mets agreed to giving him way too much money.

Outside a 15-7 record with a league-leading 2.53 ERA in 34 starts in 2008, his first season with the Mets, Santana never completed a full year in New York and didn’t pitch at all in 2011 and 2013 because of shoulder injuries.

With a full season is considered 34 starts, Santana left 95 starts on the table. That is far more glaring than his production of 46-34, a 3.18 ERA and the only no-hitter in franchise history.

The no-hitter came in his 12th start after rehabbing from shoulder surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule. To this day, manager Terry Collins laments letting him throw 134 pitches.

Ironically, it was a tainted no-hitter because a blown call on what should have been an extra-base hit for Carlos Beltran |was ruled a foul ball.

Had that call been made correctly, then Santana doesn’t throw that many pitches, then, who really knows?

Santana made only 10 more starts for the Mets before he was shut down in August of 2012. In spring training of 2013, in an angered response to GM Sandy Alderson’s comments he didn’t report in shape, Santana went against his prescribed rehab routine and without Collins’ knowledge, threw off the mound and aggravated the injury.

In another dose of irony, the pitcher often fueled by pride was done in by the same. Santana re-tore the capsule and underwent a second surgery.

To this day, Santana never acknowledged his mistake of throwing off the mound, and Anderson never admitted whether his dig at the left-hander’s condition was meant as motivation and backfired.

Either way, after that day, the Santana Era was over, regardless of what either side claimed.