Jul 05

Should The Mets Shut Down Jon Niese?

One had to wonder what the New York Mets were thinking when they said Jon Niese would undergo an MRI on July 4. The exam was re-scheduled until Monday because the doctor was, now get this, on vacation for the holiday.

Couldn’t somebody have figured that out ahead of time?

NIESE: Should the Mets shut him down? (AP)

NIESE: Should the Mets shut him down? (AP)

So, it won’t be determined until Monday whether Niese’s slightly torn rotator cuff will need surgery. Sending Niese to the mound without surgery or at least a longer period of rest with rehabilitation can’t be a good idea.

Sure, you want the Mets to be competitive, but not at the expense of Niese’s future.

With the way things currently are in the Mets’ rotation, they might need another starter because Shaun Marcum’s durability is in question, but its more prudent to dip below to Triple-A Las Vegas than it would be to go back to Niese.

Of course, Niese wants to pitch, but remember this is a transition year with little expected of the Mets. They are fourth in the NL East and 12 games below .500. With little reason to think they’ll suddenly flip a switch and become a contender, the prudent option might be to shut Niese down for the remainder of the season.

Rotator cuff surgery isn’t as debilitating as it once was, so if surgery were done know there’s a greater chance of him being ready next season, if not by spring training.

Remember, his injury isn’t deemed as serious as that of Johan Santana, so a shutdown might be the way to go. It is better to do it now when nothing is expected of the season than risk losing him later, perhaps next year when more is on the line.

PENDING ROSTER MOVES: The Mets must make a roster move to accommodate the promotion of first baseman Ike Davis. Optioning current first baseman Josh Satin isn’t going to happen.

One option is to send down Gonzalez Germen, however, the Mets are concerned about Marcum’s back for Saturday’s game and might need another pitcher.

ESPN reports a consideration could be sending out Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Jordany Valdespin, the latter whose playing time has greatly been reduced since the failed attempt at leaving him at second base for a week.

Reliever Greg Burke is returning on the Las Vegas shuttle after Brandon Lyon was designated for assignment after Thursday’s game.

SERIES ROTATION: Zack Wheeler (1-1, 5.06 ERA) goes against Johnny Hellweg (0-1, 20.25) tonight; Marcum (1-9, 5.03) is tentatively scheduled against Yovani Gallardo (6-8, 4.78) Saturday, and Jeremy Hefner (3-6, 3.54) starts against Wily Peralta (5-9, 5.27) Sunday.

Interesting but no pitcher in the series has a winning record. I wonder when the last time that occurred this late in the season.

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

Jun 20

It Is Time Niese Prove His Worth

In all this talk about the New York Mets and their bright pitching future, Jon Niese has been overlooked. His upside has not been projected as high as that of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, but it was lofty enough at one time for the Mets to give him a long-term deal.

The Mets eschewed numerous trade overtures for him, instead opting to keep him as a building block because he’s a hard-throwing left-hander who experienced success and has a controllable contract.

However, he’s overlooked for a reason.

NIESE: Underachiever. (AP)

NIESE: Underachiever. (AP)

The Mets extended Niese’s contract with the expectation he’d lift them in games like tonight in Atlanta, where he’d be the difference between a winning and losing series. There’s not a high degree of confidence in him tonight.

After winning a career-high 13 games last year, Niese has not progressed. Yes, a case can be made to explain his 3-6 record because of a lack of run support, but there’s that sticky matter of a 4.15 ERA.

Niese pitched in consecutive sub-30 degree games in Minnesota and Denver and came away with stiffness in his back. No doubt, that is a contributing factor to his mediocre numbers, but what about his 1.57 WHIP?

In only four of his last ten starts has he gone into the seventh inning or further. The Mets have lost eight of those starts, and Niese has one victory in that span to his ledger.

One could argue Niese’s ERA is attributable in large part to giving up seven and eight runs in consecutive starts, but you could counter that by saying staff anchors must find away to minimize the damage, something Niese has yet to master.

This year Harvey, despite his limited experience, has proven more adept at escaping big innings than Niese. What Wheeler showed three times Tuesday night was something the Mets needed from Niese last weekend against the Cubs.

When the Mets had Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, Niese was projected as a No. 3 starter. Through attrition, he entered the season No. 1 and pitched like it in his first two starts.

Since then, he has been outpitched by Harvey consistently, and Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner over the past month. Currently, based on merit, Niese’s performance is indicative of a fifth starter at best, which is where he would be if the Mets dropped Shaun Marcum from the rotation.

I would still hold onto Niese for the same reasons: being a hard-throwing left-hander with a reasonable contract. There’s reason to believe there’s an upside to Niese, but he must start to outpitch his paltry support and perform to his expectations. He has to pitch better than his team, as all good pitchers must.

The Mets signed Niese to a long-term deal because they believed they could build around him. It is time Niese lives up to that faith.

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

Jun 19

Mets Should Enjoy Harvey And Wheeler For Now; Let Future Take Care Of Itself

Nobody can say with any certainty how the careers of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler will unfold. We’ve been bombarded with the comparisons to Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden for both.

Hell, Gooden even tweeted late last night about their future. Imagine how Twitter might have blown up if it was around when he played?

WHEELER: Enjoy him now. (AP)

WHEELER: Enjoy him now. (AP)

Will they live up to the expectations and follow Seaver into stardom, or they flame out as Gooden did?

Harvey was dominatingly spectacular in winning for the first time in over a month to break a long string of no-decisions. Wheeler, as anticipated, had control problems, but pitched out of three significant jams in six scoreless innings.

Since the trade of Carlos Beltran for Wheeler, the Mets have promised a bright future built on pitching. Throw in Jon Niese, and with Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero in the minors, and it didn’t have the feel the Mets selling us a bill of goods.

We got that feeling by watching their inaction at the trade deadline and in the free-agent market.

The Mets gave us reason to believe things might be improving with a 7-4 start and after beating the Yankees four straight. This morning, following Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ game-winning homer Sunday with Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep and there’s that rise in optimism again.

The starting pitching, with Johan Santana gone and the back end of the rotation horrid early in the season, has been remarkably good the past month. The bullpen, defense and especially the hitting have dragged them down.

Yes, the game is about pitching, but a team still needs to score some runs. The Mets finally did that yesterday, and they did it in a place, and against a rotation, that has made their lives miserable over the years.

It would be easy to get carried away about yesterday and say the Mets have turned the corner. But, we can’t go there because they have quickly faded and disappointed before.

In the big picture, we don’t know what will happen with Harvey and Wheeler. But, let’s not even think of it.

Let’s just enjoy them now and watch their journey.

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

Jun 15

Johan Santana Makes Appearance; Reminder Of Deal Lost

Johan Santana made an appearance, perhaps for the last time, to the New York Mets’ clubhouse Friday. Maybe it was to say good-bye to teammates or pick up a few things. Perhaps it was to get a Matt Harvey autograph. Maybe the Mets needed him to sign a few papers before he gets the last of the $31 million owed him.

No one can ever doubt Santana’s work ethic or determination on the mound, but when all the numbers are added, one can’t say the Mets got their $137.5-million’s worth. Or, should I say $143-million’s worth when the 2014 buyout is considered?

SANTANA: At one time there was a smile. (AP)

SANTANA: At one time there was a smile. (AP)

Yes, they did get the franchise’s only no-hitter last season, but a tainted one because it was the product of a blown call. But, that night also cost the Mets the rest of Santana’s career because Terry Collins wrongly kept him in to throw 134 pitches.

There were a few more good starts after, but Santana hit a wall and lost his last five decisions before he was shut down because of injury for the third time in his four seasons with the Mets. And, that  DOESN’T include 2011 and this year, in which he didn’t pitch at all because of a shoulder injury.

To be technical, you can also throw in 2014, when the Mets will pay him to go away and rehab on their dime while he attempts a comeback.

For all that money, Santana only had one season in which he made all his starts, and that was his first, in 2008, when he was 16-7 and worked 234.1 innings. It wasn’t a sign of things to come.

That was the year the Mets faded in the stretch to lose the division on the final day to the Philadelphia Phillies. The previous season, the Mets lost a seven-game lead with 17 to play because their pitching collapsed. They also lost on the final day in a loss always known as the Tom Glavine Not Devastated Game.

Santana was supposed to prevent a reoccurrence. He did not, but to be fair, Santana threw a masterpiece in Game 161 on an injured knee to give the Mets a chance in the season finale.

Santana’s effort was never in question as it was with Oliver Perez, nor did he fail to produce when healthy, as was the case with Jason BayStill, his contract falls in the grave disappointment if not bust category. What can be called into question was Santana’s judgment when he forced the issue in spring training out of pride by throwing unauthorized mound session in a snit in response to Sandy Alderson’s comments about him not being in shape.

Even at the time of the deal an argument can be made the Mets overpaid in terms of prospects given up and salary because they misjudged the market and bid against themselves.

At the time, the Yankees and Red Sox were in hot pursuit of Santana, but Minnesota kept jacking up the prospect price to the point where both opted out. The Mets, who weren’t on the Twins’ radar, suddenly were in the game, but as the only players.

The Mets surrendered prospects Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey. Gomez had moments of production, but not stardom. If nothing else, he would be playing in today’s Mets outfield. As for Humber, he pitched a perfect game not tainted by an umpire’s call.

After the deal was agreed to, there was the matter of working out a contract and the Mets went high, six-years, on a pitcher with a previous shoulder injury and a mountain of innings. Even had they gone less in terms of years and money, Santana had to accept if he wanted out of Minnesota because he had nowhere else to go as the Twins wouldn’t have come close.

The Mets had to know it wouldn’t end well, but gambled Santana might give them an October before breaking down. It was a gamble they would lose.

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

Jun 13

The Need To Extend Terry Collins’ Contract

If Terry Collins and his staff aren’t the problem as GM Sandy Alderson suggested, then why not extend their contracts through 2015, or at least, 2014? If they aren’t the issue and considered part of the solution, it would seem a prudent action if for no other reason but send a message to the players the organization has a plan.

The Mets do have a plan, don’t they?

Few things are more fragmenting to a team than a managerial search. It would be great to go into the offseason not having to worry about the manager. And, if the Mets had to search for a new manager, that would set things back.

My first choice is if the Mets believe they are headed in the right direction would be to extend Collins for two basic reasons: 1) the players have not quit on him, which is the classic sign, and 2) management has not given him enough quality players.

One can’t make a fair assessment on Collins based on the talent given him.

If you’re buying into Alderson’s opening hire comments about changing the culture and patience being needed, then Collins can’t go the first time there’s an appearance of having money to spend.

Collins was Alderson’s pick and he’s done everything asked of him. He’s even had the Mets competitive until the lack of talent wore thin.

If Collins isn’t the right guy, then neither is Alderson, who is the architect. The Mets say they are building with young pitching, and in Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler, there’s potential. They are even getting good pitching from unexpected sources, such as Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner.

They rotation overcame the losses of Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, and the early hole in the back end to have pitched well. They would have more to show for their efforts if there was a bullpen and hitting. Supposedly, that’s where the freed-up money will be spent next winter, and Collins should get the chance to benefit from that spending.

If the Mets aren’t happy with the job Collins has done, then by extension they can’t be satisfied with Alderson.

There are things I don’t like about what Alderson has done, but admit part of that comes from not knowing all he knows about what’s going on behind closed doors and being impatient about wanting results.

Alderson’s draft picks haven’t produced, but how many picks are playing after three years? That must get better.

It will be interesting to see how Alderson spends this winter because his patch-quilt approach the past three years haven’t gotten it done. I understand why they went in that direction, but if what you’re telling me is true, you should have more to spend.

And, remember it not about the willingness to spend, as the Wilpons have written checks before. It is about writing them wisely. Jason Bay, Frank Francisco, Frankie Rodriguez, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and the list goes on, were bad baseball decisions.

Alderson’s reputation is about making smart decisions. Now, let’s see it.

So, if the Mets believe they have the right plan in place, then Alderson needs to extend Collins. And, if not, can we assume they starting over again?

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