Mar 09

Wheeler Struggles With Same Old Problems

It is a measure of our expectations of the Mets’ Zack Wheeler that we are disappointed when he pitches poorly – even less than two innings in an exhibition game.

Wheeler entered spring training with a checklist of issues to work on, including command, not letting things bother him, and learning how to work out of trouble.

WHEELER: Same old problems.

WHEELER: Same old problems.

So, what can we take from him getting ripped by the Marlins, 13-2, Monday? Saying it is early doesn’t really cut it.

His numbers don’t mean much with the exception of one – 47 pitches. That’s way too many, as normally that many pitches should take you to, if not through, the fourth inning.

“Honestly, it’s early for everybody,’’ Wheeler told reporters. “But, I was supposed to throw to one side of the plate and it was on the other. That’s always hard to call a strike. You and I both know that if you’re not consistent, it’s harder to get strikes.’’

That’s what happened in the second inning – and defines his fatal flaw.

After a perfect, 10-pitch first, things unraveled in an excruciatingly hard-to-watch 1.2 innings, when he walked two, hit two, gave up two hits and six runs.

You can argue it would have been better if not for a controversial umpire’s call when Jordany Valdespin – of all people – was called safe at first when replays clearly showed he was out.

That is irrelevant, because if Wheeler is to reach the next level, he must learn to slam the door when he gets in of trouble. Yes, a call went against him, but good pitchers overcome such things. They happen, just as broken-bat bloop hits and fielding errors. A good pitcher doesn’t let such things get to him.

As the inning unfolded, so did his command, and 47 pitches in two innings is a wasted start. Actually, it was reminiscent of when he got into trouble last season.

Wheeler was 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA last year and threw 185.1 innings. Wheeler averages nine strikeouts per nine innings, which is ace worthy. However, his four walks per nine innings is something that must be reduced – by at least half.

Depending on whom you talk with, Wheeler’s stuff might be better than Harvey’s. Command is a different issue. Wheeler must improve his control, and doing so would enable him to work deeper into games. In 32 starts last year, Wheeler worked into the seventh only 13 times. He also threw 100 pitches 24 times and 110 pitches 13 times.

If Wheeler is to be evolve into the pitcher the Mets hope, that must change.

Mar 07

Mets Must Earn Right To Have Swagger

About this swagger thing Mets manager Terry Collins wants his team to have, well, it just doesn’t happen. It is something a team grows into having, something the Mets haven’t had since 2006. They lost it with their September collapse in 2007, and haven’t come close to regaining it with the possible exception of every fifth game in 2013 when Matt Harvey pitched.

“You know, for years and years, you used to watch those teams that won all of the time, they had an air about them,’’ Collins said this week. “You used to play the Braves and they’d walk out there and, they weren’t cocky, but they were confident.They weren’t overbearing, they knew how to play, they knew what they had to do to win games.’’

The Braves earned the right to have swagger by getting into the playoffs for a decade straight. Jose Reyes used to dance in the dugout after scoring and thought that was swagger.

It wasn’t.

LeBron James and other NBA players flatter themselves into thinking they have swagger, but most really don’t. If you have to carry yourself in such a way where you want people to get the impression you’re tough, then you really aren’t. If you’re really tough you don’t have to pound your chest as if to say “look at me,’’ which seems the standard in the NBA and NFL these days.

I know what Collins is getting at, but it just doesn’t happen overnight. True swagger isn’t forced. For your opponents to fear and respect you, that must be earned and the Mets aren’t there, yet.

After six straight losing seasons you just don’t snap your fingers and say you have swagger. The Mets need to be tougher, and that includes winning close games; winning within the division; taking the other team’s second baseman out on a double play; and when your hitters get plunked, then plunk one of their batters.

Swagger needs to first come from the top. It’s having a general manager not afraid to roll the dice at the trade deadline. It’s about being decisive on a player who doesn’t have it and not being afraid to cut ties with past disasters like the Mets had in guys like Ike Davis and Jordany Valdespin.

The bottom line is if you’re good you don’t need to tell anybody because they will know. And, nobody knows that about the Mets. Not yet, anyway.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s notes.

Feb 23

Could Matt Harvey Become A HIgh Maintenance Super Nova?

Could the New York Mets have a potential problem with Matt Harvey?

There are already signs of him being high maintenance … signs he enjoys the trappings of New York too much … signs he doesn’t handle injuries well … signs of being too sensitive … signs he knows he’s good and isn’t afraid to let you know.

HARVEY: No hiding there are questions (ESPN)

HARVEY: No hiding there are questions (ESPN)

Harvey has never pitched a complete season and is 12-10 lifetime. While we’re not talking about the second coming of Tom Seaver, Harvey seems to be caring himself with a sense of entitlement and a “you can’t touch me’’ aura.

The latest is his reported reluctance to want to undergo his rehab in Port St. Lucie, which the Mets prefer, and desire to work out in New York.

After Harvey threw for the first time Saturday, general manager Sandy Alderson backed off saying where the 24-year-old 2010 will rehab, but made clear his preference.

“As a general rule, our players rehab in Florida,’’ Alderson said Saturday. “But that’s not a decision we’re going to make or mandate [now]. When we get to the end of spring training we’ll see where he is, and I’m sure there will be discussion between now and then.’’

For somebody with 36 career starts, why should there even be discussion? If Port St. Lucie was good enough for David Wright and Pedro Martinez to rehab, it should be good enough for Harvey.

In fairness, we haven’t heard Harvey’s reasoning for his preference of New York, which leads to speculation, with little of it showing him in a good light.

Making this more touchy is this could go before the Players Association, as the collective bargaining agreement mandates a player can refuse his rehab in a spring training locale during the season for longer than 20 days.

“The CBA imposes limitations. Yeah,’’ Alderson said. “But in the past, for the most part, our players have been here and it’s been a good situation.’’

We know New York is Harvey’s home, has superior Italian food and a better nightlife than Port St. Lucie.

But, what’s the purpose here?

New York’s nightlife makes one wonder, as Harvey clearly enjoys the perks of being a star – even though that might be a premature characterization of his professional status. Harvey likes the clubs and openly spoke about his drinking in a Men’s Journal magazine piece.

“I’m young, I’m single,’’ he was quoted as saying. “I want to be in the mix. … I have a 48-hour rule. No drinking two days before a start. But, those other days? Yes, I’m gonna go out.’’

The bottom line: If you’re 24 and a high-profile figure, you shouldn’t need a rule about drinking. If he finds it necessary to have a rule, he shouldn’t be drinking in the first place.

Everybody these days has a phone with a camera. Harvey has already been caught several times in incidents of public displays of affection with his former supermodel girlfriend, Anne Vyalitsyna at Rangers and Knicks games, where he is gifted the tickets. More trappings.

He’s now seeing another model, Ashley Haas, which has his comments of wanting to be like Derek Jeter resurface. Of course, It is doubtful Harvey would have ever posed nude.

“That guy is the model,’’ he said. “I mean, first off, let’s just look at the women he’s dated. Obviously, he goes out – he’s meeting these girls somewhere – but you never hear about it. That’s where I want to be.’’

New York’s nightlife has burned out dozens of athletes. Look what it did for Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Imagine what Mickey Mantle would have been able to accomplish with a little less drinking and womanizing.

And, as for Jeter, he’s not the Teflon he’s made out to be. Stories of sending his conquests home with a gift basket of memorabilia and forcing houseguests to surrender their cell phones don’t portray him in a flattering light. Mom must be so proud.

Shortly after the magazine piece came out, Harvey complained about being misquoted and taken out of context. A reporter for a magazine profile records everything, so it is doubtful the quotes were manufactured. Backing off his comments shows a lack of accountability.

Harvey also got into it with WFAN talk-show host Joe Beningo, ripping him on Twitter and then deleting the post.

When it comes to fighting with a radio personality or the media in general, it is futile as it comes off as petty and unprofessional, plus, he’ll never have the last word.

The media isn’t as easy to bully as was former teammate Jon Rauch, whom Harvey forced out of town after challenging the former Mets reliever to a fight because he didn’t appreciate the rookie hazing, which included getting doused with water while sleeping on the trainer’s table.

If Harvey had a problem he could have confronted Rauch in private rather than making an uncomfortable clubhouse scene. That’s something somebody with a professional grasp on things would have done. Instead, he came off as behaving like Jordany Valdespin.

That’s not the only thing Harvey hasn’t handled well. Twice he wasn’t immediately forthcoming in disclosing injuries to the training staff, and arguably it led to his elbow surgery.

I want the best for Harvey. I want him to have a long and brilliant career. However, he has a long way to go, on and off the field. He hasn’t always shown good judgment and a case can be made it cost him this season.

He needs to reign himself in off the field, and that includes not making a big deal about where he rehabs. If reflects poorly on him and makes one wonder if this isn’t about carousing the bars with Haas and watching the Rangers.

If he maintains this course, instead of a franchise pitcher, he could end being a high maintenance super nova.

Dec 10

David Wright Likes Curtis Granderson Signing On Many Levels

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Where Curtis Granderson will fit in with the New York Mets outfield is still to be determined, David Wright has no doubt he does fit with his team.

Granderson is penciled in to hit fourth behind Wright, giving him the protection he hasn’t had since Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado were here. Manager Terry Collins doesn’t know which of the three outfield positions Granderson will play, but Wright said wherever he plays, he provides an immediate upgrade.

WRIGHT: Likes Granderson signing on many levels.

WRIGHT: Likes Granderson signing on many levels.

“Curtis instantly makes us a better team both offensively and defensively,’’ Wright said in an email.

Offensively, Granderson hit 40 homers with the Yankees, but even with Citi Field’s spacious dimensions, he should be good for at least 25.

Defensively, he’s a natural centerfielder. Collins hasn’t decided his outfield rotation, but speculation is it will be – from left to right – Granderson, Juan Lagares and Chris Young.

Collins said Granderson should also take pressure off Wright in the batting order.

“I think, number one, they’ve got Curtis hitting behind him now, they’ve got to make a decision,’’ Collins said of opposing pitcher’s plans against the Mets.

“David’s patient enough to take the base on balls, especially if he knows the guy can bat behind him,” Collins said. “He’ll get better pitches to hit each at-bat.  And if David gets pitches to hit, he does damage.’’

Granderson is GM Sandy Alderson’s highest-profile free agent signing, but if things work out as hoped, Wright said it would not be his last. If the Mets get better, other players will notice.

“I think it paves the way for other elite players to want to play for us,’’ wrote Wright, whom Granderson said was influential in him signing with the Mets.

From his perspective, Granderson said one of the reasons he wanted four years was to be around when the Mets’ building plan reached fruition, and that includes signing future free agents.

While Granderson provides Wright protection in the order, he’ll also give him a respite in the clubhouse. Even prior to his appointment to team captain last season, Wright was the clubhouse voice, commenting on an array of issues, ranging from Willie Randolph’s firing in 2008 to the Wilpon’s financial situation to Ike Davis’ plate troubles to Jordany Valdespin’s emotional meltdowns.

Quite simply, he has been the go-to guy for all issues on the Mets.

By all accounts, Granderson will be a positive presence, and Wright echoed what Alderson said earlier today.

“He’s a true professional and great guy to have in the clubhouse,’’ wrote Wright. “He has a confidence about him that I think will rub off on other players.’’

ON DECK: Wrapping up day two of the Winter Meetings.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 02

Mets Non-Tender Valdespin; A Good Move

What should have been done months ago finally occurred today when the New York Mets non-tendered the moody and limited-talented outfielder Jordany Valdespin, making him a free agent.

If some team is stupid enough to sign Valdespin and he becomes a star, then so be it because he never was going to do anything with the Mets.



Valdespin supposedly had a flair for the dramatic, but in reality he was simply a showboat with a volatile temperament.

Valdespin was suspended for a lack of hustle, but things boiled over for him when he posed after a meaningless homer in a blowout loss to the Pirates and then became aggravated when he was hit by a pitch the following day and complained saying his teammates didn’t have his back.

Manager Terry Collins didn’t seem too upset when Valdespin was plunked citing an old school mentality. Collins later lamely tried to justify Valdespin’s actions by his upbringing and background, and praised his emotional spark, which everybody could plainly see was a “look-at-me’’ scream.

Not soon after, Collins gave Valdespin a week tryout at second base, which he failed miserably and it was clear he had no future with the Mets.

On May 13, I wrote the Mets would be better off without Valdespin, and during spring training – noting his me-first attitude – I wrote how he was throwing away his career.

David Wright, as team captain, was the only Met to support Valdespin on the record after the beaning incident, but it was lukewarm at best. Several teammates off the record said Valdespin was generally hated in the clubhouse.

One of the last things a young, building team such as the Mets need is a divisive presence in their clubhouse, either on the major league or minor league level.

The topper came when he was suspended for 50 games in the Biogenesis scandal. Evidently, his performance wasn’t enhanced enough.

If I seem harsh on Valdespin, it is because I am. Valdespin was given a chance to play major league baseball because of his raw physical ability and he threw it away.

Nobody should feel sorry for him.

The Mets also non-tendered reliever Scott Atchison and shortstop Omar Quintanilla.