Jun 27

Time Is Right For Mets To Deal Shaun Marcum

With each scoreless inning Shaun Marcum threw Wednesday night in Chicago, I couldn’t help but think: What could the New York Mets get for this guy?

Marcum was stellar in shutting down the White Sox, 3-0, giving up four hits and two walks, and several times showed the guile needed to escape trouble. The eight innings was a terrific sign for a contender needing rotation depth.

MARCUM: Trade value could be high now. (Getty)

MARCUM: Trade value could be high now. (Getty)

The concept of dealing Marcum has been raised here several times, but the question was always raised of what the Mets could get for him.

They certainly won’t get a blue-chip prospect, but somebody in the lower levels. That’s not a lot, but for a rebuilding team the stockpiling of minor leaguers or draft picks are essential.

There’s roughly $2 million remaining on Marcum’s contract for this season, which is highly palatable these days. Plus, the Mets are highly unlikely to bring him back next season.

Marcum won for the first time last night, but strange as it sounds, he’s pitched better than his 1-9 record. He’s given the Mets innings and pitched both as a stater and reliever. He’s 31 and the injury issues in the spring are behind him. After last night, his value will never be higher.

The Mets are short in the rotation with Jon Niese on the disabled list and Collin McHugh traded, but this is an opportunity to take a look at somebody in their minor league system.

WEATHER FORECAST: The expected high today in Denver will be 94 degrees, 65 degrees warmer from when the Mets were here in April.

In the absurdity of the major league schedule, the Mets were scheduled for back-to-back April series in Minnesota and Denver, where the weather is traditionally raw that time of year.

Yes, somebody has to play in those cities, but it shouldn’t be an interleague or non-division team, which makes it difficult to reschedule. If Major League Baseball is adamant about interleague play and the unbalanced schedule, at least schedule within the division for the first three weeks.

Doing so makes it easier to reschedule rained-out games with day-night doubleheaders later in the season.

HEFNER GOES TODAY: Jeremy Hefner (2-6, 3.89 ERA) goes against Tyler Chatwood (4-1, 2.22) today at Coors Field.

Today’s game marks the return of Eric Young to Denver, where he played five seasons. The acquisition of Young provided a spark and apparently resolved the Mets’ leadoff issues. Young is the tenth player they’ve used at the top of the order and he has responded, hitting .414 in his first 29 at-bats with the Mets.

Young told reporters last night in Chicago: “It’s going to be my first time being on the visiting side when it comes to playing against the Rockies. … I’m sure a lot of emotion is going to be involved.’’

Terry Collins said David Wright will sit today, but since he’s hot and always hit well in Colorado, don’t be surprised. Wright has proved persuasive in staying in the lineup.

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 16

Terry Collins Questions Resolve Of Mets

There are roughly six weeks left of relevance in the season for the New York Mets. That takes into consideration the All-Star Game – Citi Field’s one chance to shine in the national spotlight – and past the trade deadline when we learn what Mets are rescued from the dark abyss of losing and brought into the shining light of a pennant race.

In praising Jon Niese’s spotty, yet gritty effort in another Mets’ loss Saturday to the Chicago Cubs, manager Terry Collins indirectly threw the rest of his team under the effort bus.

COLLINS: Alone with haunting thoughts? (Getty)

COLLINS: Alone with haunting thoughts? (Getty)

“Jon Niese didn’t have his good stuff,’’ an exasperated Collins told reporters. “He battled through six innings. He didn’t want to come out of the game. That’s what I want.’’

Huh?

“I want guys who don’t want to come out of the game,’’ Collins continued. “I want guys that say, ‘I care enough, as much as you do, that I want to stay in the game.’ We get more guys like that, we’ll win more baseball games.’’

Niese did not pitch well, but gutted into the sixth inning. It wasn’t a quality effort, but a starter must persevere. Collins praised Niese, but in doing so said he doesn’t have enough players with that resolve. He didn’t say players have quit, but read between the lines.

There must be players not named David Wright or Matt Harvey wondering if the manager was talking about them.

It’s also a dig at general manager Sandy Alderson for not getting him those players. And, in going full circle, it can be interpreted an indictment of himself; that he and his staff aren’t doing enough to motivate his players.

I wrote after the Ike Davis demotion if management believed it was heading in the right direction Collins should get an extension to avoid lame duck status. But, after what he said, you can’t help but think the manager believes this team lacks more than talent and is in deeper than just a hitting slump.

In one part of the clubhouse Wright held court and admitted it is tiring trying to come up with new answers to old questions. Wright spoke of guys needing to dig deep and use whatever motivators necessary to finish strong.

Finishing the season? Doesn’t that sound a lot like getting it over with?

Wright is captain for a reason, but it is time he takes off the gloves. It is time he takes this team by the scruff of the neck and shake it awake. It isn’t time to be a politician and say the right things. It is time to lead, and if it means being unpopular, than so be it.

Motivation? How about this being their jobs? How about pride? How about being a professional? How about manning up?

“A lot these guys are going to be part of the future,’’ said Wright. I know what he is getting at there, but if I hear the word “future,’’ pertaining to the Mets one more time I will scream.

Does anybody else remember the late football coach George Allen? Allen, in filling his roster with veterans, coined the phrase, “the future is now.’’

But, what about now?

The Mets won’t win now, but they can play hard now. They can play smart now. They can hustle now. They can give us a reason to watch now. They can earn their money now.

So, quit the crap and play ball. And, as for Collins – quit whining about what you don’t have and kick the group you do have in its collective butt.

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

Jun 08

Matt Harvey No Longer Sure Thing; Timing Suspect For Zack Wheeler

Remember when Matt Harvey was cruising and the talk was how great it would be if he got to start in the All-Star Game at Citi Field?

If it seems like a long time ago, that’s because it is. Harvey is 5-0, but there’s no longer the feeling of invincibility.

WHEELER: Is he ready?

WHEELER: Is he ready?

Harvey is coming off a four-run, 10-hit outing in which he lasted a pedestrian five innings. Outside that performance last week in Miami, Harvey is still giving the Mets innings, but he and the team have little to show for it as he’s had seven no-decisions in his last eight starts, with the Mets losing half those games.

He’s still the best the Mets have to offer, but the sense of the game being over when goes to the mound is gone for a variety of reasons, notably a pathetic offense and leaking bullpen. Simply, Harvey can’t do it by himself.

Of course, that makes me wonder about Zack Wheeler. The conventional thought process on promoting a stud prospect is the time is right when he starts to dominate, but that hasn’t been the case with Wheeler.

In theory, once promoted Wheeler will stay, but last night he didn’t make it through five innings for Triple-A Las Vegas. Wheeler has had flashes of what could be, but also shown us what we saw in Mike Pelfrey.

Reportedly, Wheeler is to start next Friday at Citi Field, but you can’t like the timing. Why give him a week to sit on the start and get tight? Why not spring it on him and let him go on adrenalin?

Either way could be fine or disastrous, but thinking about it for a week doesn’t seem like the best option, especially with how poorly the Mets are playing. As much as Terry Collins warned Wheeler isn’t the “savior,’’ the team is putting extraordinary pressure on him.

You would hope the Mets would put Wheeler in the best position to succeed, but there appears to be a lot of obstacles, beginning with the timing, and including the anticipation and how badly the team is going.

Is there ever a right time to bring up a prospect? Not really with a struggling franchise because of the lofty expectations. Perhaps Wheeler is ready for all this … I don’t know.

However, I wonder about the ramifications if he’s not ready. The Mets rushed prospects before with terrible results – Pelfrey and Jenrry Mejia to name a couple – and you’d hate to see it with Wheeler.

Another variable is how well Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee have pitched recently. Both have pitched well enough to stay in the rotation. If Jon Niese is physically ready to go Sunday, there doesn’t appear to be the need for Wheeler.

It looks as if the Mets are forcing this and that can’t be good.

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