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 17

Lucas Duda At First For Mets; Jordany Valdespin Goes To Bench

So much for the Jordany Valdespin experiment at second base until Ike Davis returns, but the premise of what I wrote earlier remains the same: the New York Mets don’t have an idea of what to do with the mercurial role player.

Terry Collins said he would give Valdespin a week at second base leading off. Valdespin responded by hitting .130 (3-for-23) in that span, and one week later is back to the bench. The outfield is out for now, with Collins saying he needed to see more from Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Juan Lagares, and Marlon Byrd, one of the few Mets who is hitting.

Saying, `you’re allowed to change,’ ’’ Collins returned Valdespin to the bench for Monday’s series opener in Atlanta. Along with that move, Daniel Murphy will go back to second and Lucas Duda will move in from left to play first.

This juggling improves the Mets’ defense, which is a positive. The Mets claim second base is Valdespin’s natural position, but he had problems, especially turning the double play. Murphy is an upgrade, as is Duda an upgrade over Murphy at first base.

Duda deferred to Davis, calling it “Ike’s position,’’ and adding, “I played there most of my amateur career. Hopefully I can just get the job done, and catch the ball and throw it.’’

Collins insisted the job was still Davis’ when he returns, but could not elaborate when that might be. Davis is still struggling at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Collins attempted to soothe Valdespin’s now-bruised ego, saying he still has value coming off the bench. It will be interesting to see how Valdespin responds when Collins asks him to pinch-hit.

There’s rain in the forecast tonight in Atlanta, but should the Mets start their 65th game of the season, it will be with their 53rd different lineup.

TONIGHT’S BATTING ORDER

Juan Lagares, CF: Is hitting .308 over his last ten games.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Thrilled to be back at second. Hitting .336 on the road (38-113) this season.

David Wright, 3B: Has hit in eight of last nine games, going 16-for-38 (.421).

Lucas Duda, 1B: Back at first base, where he has played well. Hitting .146 (7-48) with RISP.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has eight RBI in last 11 games.

John Buck, C: Since May 5, is hitting .190, going 22-for-116 in that span, including 34 strikeouts.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, LF: His game-winning three-run homer Sunday will buy him some more time.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Takes a 0-for-17 slide into the game.

Dillon Gee, RHP: In four career starts at Turner Field, he is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA.

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

Jun 11

Alderson Dances Around Questions In Interview; Francesa Ignores Follow-ups

Sandy Alderson is infuriating with his “lawyer speak,’’ which is the art of answering a question without saying something. After hearing him Monday on Mike Francesa, who, of course, did not ask the appropriate follow-up questions, I will give you that public service:

ON FIRST BASE CHOICE WITH IKE DAVIS OPTIONED:

ALDERSON: Say what?

ALDERSON: Say what?

Alderson answer: Terry [Collins] will have three options. Daniel Murphy can move to first base and we can play Jordany Valdespin everyday at second base. A second option will be to play Josh Satin at first base and leave Murphy where he is. Third, but not likely would be playing Lucas Duda at first. We’ve told Murphy about first base and he understands that if we do move him, we’re not looking to shift him to first base permanently. But basically if we move Murph it gives us a chance to evaluate Valdespin who we need to look at closely.

Obvious follow-up: If they’ve been thinking about this for a while, then why didn’t they have an action plan in place? Three options is not a plan. In addition, after saying they wanted Murphy and Duda to stay in their new positions earlier, why the change? Does this indicate unhappiness with Murphy at second? If the move is not permanent, can we deduce they are doing this to ascertain Valdespin’s trade value?

ON DAVIS DEMOTION:

Alderson answer: With respect to Ike Davis, we went about it as long as we could. In retrospect we should have done it sooner. He needs to get away from the voices in his ear. Hopefully the hitting environment in Las Vegas will be the right environment to turn it around.’’

Obvious follow-up: If they waited too long on Davis, what was the turning point in making the decision? What kind of pressure did Alderson feel, if any, by hearing the crowds booing Davis? Was that not an indicator. We’ve heard so much about the Las Vegas climate as being detrimental to pitching, so wouldn’t the obvious be true with a bump in numbers be misleading in evaluating Davis? What exactly will Davis be evaluated on? The Mets, collectively, abandoned the club’s hitting approach, so will that be hammered into Davis’ psyche? Francesa should have also asked about Davis’ contractual status and whether the team is inclined to not tender a contract.

ON KIRK NIEUWENHUIS PROMOTION:

Alderson answer: “We felt that Kirk Nieuwenhuis needed to play here in the majors.’’

Obvious follow-up: How can he say that when Nieuwenhuis is still striking out at an alarming rate? If they want to find out about Nieuwenhuis, then why did they sign Rick Ankiel? Alderson said Ankiel bought them some time with Nieuwenhuis. How much? Three weeks?

ON LUCAS DUDA AND RUBEN TEJADA NOT BEING CONSIDERED CORE PLAYERS:

Alderson answer: Alderson said he didn’t look at either as being a core player or significant future player.

Obvious follow-up: When the decision to not re-sign Jose Reyes, you expressed optimism with Tejada. He hit over .280 last year and played well in the field. Yes, he’s had troubles this year, but was that a large enough window to make that decision? What does he have to do? … If Duda isn’t considered part of the core, then why move him to left? Didn’t the team have any other outfield options other than him, and if it didn’t, then who is responsible for void?

ON TERRY COLLINS’ JOB SITUATION:

Alderson answer: Anytime you hit a rough patch people speculate about players and staff, but this is about player performance and I don’t believe our staff performance has been bad. If its a player issue, then that’s on me. I’ve been in situations where we change hitting coaches every year but I honestly don’t think that’s our problem. Terry is working his butt off and we are not considering changing anything.’’

Obvious follow-up: Can that be interpreted as an endorsement for next year and beyond? Doesn’t endorsing the manager and coaching staff send a message to the players that the problem is on the field?

Fitness Gear or a Rope Hammock and more,

Jun 10

Mets Might Have Waited Too Late To Save Ike Davis

The first thing to cross my mind hearing about the Ike Davis demotion is:  What grievous thing did he do that he hasn’t done all season to finally cause Sandy Alderson to act?

Seriously, what took Alderson so long? All of a sudden Alderson watched the flailing first baseman and said, “Hey, this has to stop.’’ I find that hard to believe. What I don’t find hard to believe is Alderson and his GM posse started feeling their own heat and acted to deflect the attention from them. Davis’ mounting strikeouts – on a pace for nearly 200 – were too close to home to ignore any longer.

DAVIS: Needs to start over. (AP)

DAVIS: Needs to start over. (AP)

It was a move that had to be made, but should have been done a month ago. I wonder if doing it now will have the roster-wide impact it might have had if made before the season spiraled away.

Davis should have been out of here some thirty strikeouts ago. Sacking him, along with Mike Baxter and Robert Carson, barely registers a yawn, especially when they are to be replaced by Josh Satin, Josh Edgin and Collin Cowgill. Seriously, that’s going to turn things around?

This long overdue move after losing another series to the Miami Marlins – at least with Davis – smacks of knee-jerk panic. What better way to erase the image of last weekend than with a purge of a player who has become a fan target?

The Davis demotion reminds me of Oliver Perez in that two non-producing players became polarizing presences in the clubhouse. When Alderson finally got rid of Perez, it really didn’t matter because under-performing had become accepted.

Reportedly, Davis was kept afloat because he was supposedly “a good guy’’ and David Wright lobbied for him. If Alderson didn’t do something because of Davis’ personality, he’s at fault for not acting in the best interests of the team.

Personality-wise, Davis was the anti-Perez, but was he really? Like Perez, Davis resisted the minor leagues because he insisted he had to learn to hit pitchers on the major league level.

Contractually, Perez was within his rights, but that didn’t win him points in the clubhouse as the Mets continued to lose and others lost their jobs for not producing. It didn’t help Perez that he became sullen and moody and refused to go to the minor leagues to work on his mechanics.

Davis is the flip side; he is a good teammate. Even so, there’s not a lot of goodwill that can be purchased with a .161 batting average. Others, notably Cowgill and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, were sent down after long stretches of ineptitude that barely sniffed Davis’ droughts. Davis has more strikeouts than hits and walks combined, which is incomprehensible. Yet, he stayed?

The stock answer is Davis will be in Triple-A Las Vegas until he shows he’s capable of hitting, but his return can’t be a results-driven decision. The Mets can’t be seduced by a hot weekend from Davis and assume he’s better.

Success must be measured by an attitude and mechanics change, which is exceedingly difficult to judge as Davis is a mess in everything he does at the plate.

When asked Davis about his strikeouts totals this spring, his response was, “I am a home run hitter. I like to hit home runs. There’s going to be strikeouts.’’

That response is garbage on so many levels, beginning with the statement of being a home run hitter. Davis is NOT a home run hitter; he is a strikeouts machine. He is a rally killer. For him, home runs are the product of being lucky.

Davis resists the idea of using the whole field and is consumed by pulling the ball in the air. He knows nothing about patience at the plate and protecting himself. That’s a mental approach that must be torn down and rebuilt.

Mechanically, he’s off-balance and slowed by a horrid hitch. He drops his hands prior to the start of the swing and raises them again before striking at the ball. It’s going to take a long time to reshape his swing. With Davis, contact isn’t the by-product of hard work, but by accident.

I know what hitter Davis wants to become, but it won’t happen with that approach and those mechanics. Davis needs to start over, and if that means staying in Vegas the entire season, then so be it.

I hope Davis packed more than just a carry on bag for this trip.

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

Jun 05

Mets Matters: Is Kirk Nieuwenhuis An Upgrade?

I don’t understand all the hating of Rick Ankiel. Sure, he strikes out a lot, but he was brought here to plug a hole in the Mets’ shoddy outfield defense and hit the occasional home run. That, he’s done.

His throw in the ninth inning last night would have nailed Ryan Zimmerman at second had shortstop Omar Quintanilla been in position and stayed with the play. Had the play been made, perhaps the Mets would have won, but the point is no other outfielder’s throw would have made it close.

NIEUWENHUIS: On Mets' radar. (AP)

NIEUWENHUIS: On Mets’ radar. (AP)

I am all for playing the young players in a lost season, but Juan Lagares isn’t the answer. He has been clearly overmatched, but could get a chance against lefty Gio Gonzalez, who’ll replace Stephen Strasburg Thursday.

Terry Collins said Kirk Nieuwenhuis in back in the Mets’ thinking for a promotion, and I say, to do what? Strike out. The Mets already have enough of those hitters, including, Ankiel.

The rap on Triple-A Las Vegas is the climate makes it conducive for the long ball. That’s what Collins told Zack Wheeler, saying there would be less a premium on numbers. Using the same reasoning, why should Nieuwenhuis’ recent power surge of eight homers in 14 games – giving him ten overall – be regarded differently?

For his power, Nieuwenhuis only has 18 RBI, an indication he’s not hitting with runners in scoring position. Nieuwenhuis is still striking out at an alarming rate to prove he still doesn’t get it. He has more strikeouts (34) than hits (32) in 133 at-bats.

I don’t see where that is an upgrade.

PITCHING INJURY UPDATES: Jon Niese, who was scratched from his last start with shoulder tendinitis will throw in the bullpen this afternoon.

Niese hopes to start Saturday against Miami, but that is clearly in doubt. If his shoulder doesn’t respond, Niese could find himself on the disabled list.

Several weeks ago, Collins said back-to-back cold weather starts in Minnesota and Denver caused Niese’s back to tighten. It is possible this is a residual effect.

Also, Jeurys Familia will undergo surgery on his right elbow today to remove a bone spur.

PATRIOTIC OBLIGATION: As they always do when in Washington, the Mets will visit Walter Reed National Military Center this afternoon.

There are no reported exemptions from owner Fred Wilpon’s traditional, and urgent, request of his players.

IN TROUBLE: Cesar Puello isn’t in the major leagues, but the Double-A Binghamton outfielder is facing a suspension in the Biogenesis case now that founder Tony Bosch is willing to list names.

ON DECK: Tonight’s game.

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