Jul 08

Harvey Made Right Call On Surgery

Mets’ pitcher Matt Harvey unquestionably made the right decision to undergo surgery for treatment of the thorasic outlet syndrome in his pitching shoulder. It was the best option for his pitching and financial future, and to the Mets for the remainder of this season and beyond.

Dr. Robert Thompson is expected to perform the procedure next week in St. Louis. The surgery, which would entail removing one of his ribs, is designed to relieve pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the space between the neck and shoulder. The increased pressure caused numbness in his arm and fingers.

HARVEY: Made right choice (Getty)

HARVEY: Made right choice (Getty)

Harvey’s options were surgery or a nerve-blocking injection, the latter being a temporary solution with surgery eventually required.

Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras, whose comments last year on the pitcher’s innings limit created a stir, strongly advocated the surgery to ESPN: “The doctors clearly recommended that he have this done, mainly so that he can be ready for ’17.’

“The rehab on this is six months. Now, if there was a small window of a season, you might be able to take a shot. It’s actually Botox, which relaxes the muscles. That’s not a long-term solution. `The only way this is going to be treated appropriately –  and obviously, we don’t want to do anything to affect next year – is to get this surgically taken care of.”

That’s the understandable driving force behind the decision. This was chosen to set up Harvey for his turn at free agency. Had he chosen the injection and gotten through the season, that would be great. But, if it only lasted a few months and he had the surgery later this year, or in the offseason, or next year, all or most of 2017, could be lost. That would leave Harvey with one year to make an impression on his future suitors when he hits the free agent market after the 2018 season.

And, nobody knows how he’ll pitch coming off surgery. If you’re Harvey – not to mention the Mets or any team that would go after him – you want two years to make an impression. That’s why Harvey’s decision is a no-brainer. But, how does losing Harvey help the Mets the rest of this year?

Knowing the Mets won’t have him in the second half enables GM Sandy Alderson to freely pursue another arm before the July 31 trade deadline, even if it jacks up the asking price. That’s preferable to waiting through at least two Harvey starts before hitting the market late, which would increase the price even more.

This also allows manager Terry Collins to determine his rotation now and eliminates the inevitable questioning and excuse making after each of his starts. And, who would want to see Harvey go down for surgery in a September pennant-race game or the playoffs?

Harvey hasn’t pitched well, going 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts, and this ailment is an obvious explanation. Harvey frequently complained about not having his mechanics, but not having feelings in his arm and fingers could explain a change in mechanics.

However, left unanswered is why Harvey hadn’t complained about a lack of feeling before his disastrous start on Monday. Boras’ answer to that question explains both the good, and bad, about Harvey.

His bulldog approach on the mound, for example, his eight innings in Game 5 of the World Series, is to be applauded. It’s the spirit that defines an ace. That’s the good.

But, here’s the bad, as delivered by Boras.

“He’s felt this way since spring training, but he wanted to gut it out, try to do it, until finally, he’s going, ‘Look, I’m just feeling like I don’t feel the baseball the same.’ Once we heard that, I was like, ‘Maybe we have a TOS situation,’ and got him over to Dr. Thompson.”

Sounds plausible, but it underscores the increasingly, maddening, “I’ll do what I feel like” aspect that has defined Harvey’s short career. It also raises the inevitable question of what could have happened had this been discovered a month or two earlier.

If he had surgery in May or June perhaps he could have come back in late August, or September, or even the playoffs.

We’ll never know.

Jul 07

Mets’ Harvey Facing No-Brainer Surgery

For the second time within four years, Mets pitcher Matt Harvey is facing season-ending surgery. However, it should be remembered surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder should not be interpreted to mean it is career ending.

One day after being placed on the 15-day disabled list, Harvey was examined today in St. Louis by Dr. Robert Thompson. This syndrome is when nerves and blood vessels are compressed because of a closure in a passageway through the base of the neck and armpit.

HARVEY: Faces tough choice.  (AP)

HARVEY: Faces tough choice. (AP)

GM Sandy Alderson told reporters today at Cit Field the pressure could be caused by several ways, including muscle build up, contact with the bone and repetitive movement caused by pitching. Alderson said Harvey’s options are two-fold: 1) season-ending surgery which could take four months to recover, and, 2) a nerve-block injection, which is temporary.

Alderson said surgery is likely unavoidable, which makes this a no-brainer of a decision.

“I do believe that surgery is probably inevitable and more a question of timing than anything else,” Alderson said. “So obviously to the extent that we’re backed up for a period of time, it begins potentially to encroach on 2017 as well.”

Alderson said pretty much the same thing in 2013 about Tommy John surgery. Harvey balked, but eventually relented to the obvious choice. Had he chosen surgery immediately, he might have had more time in rehab and consequently the innings limit might have become less of an issue.

Should Harvey choose the injection and makes it through the season, there’s no telling how it would impact his performance. However, if he takes the injection and eventually requires surgery, it could cost him all of 2017. And, with him becoming a free-agent after the 2018 season, that doesn’t leave much time for him to make a positive impression on potential suitors.

Harvey is in his second year following Tommy John, which can sometimes be the most difficult as proven by his 4-10 record and a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts. In Monday’s game he gave up 11 hits in 3.2 innings and avoided defeat by a late rally by the Mets.

After the game, manager Terry Collins said Harvey complained he couldn’t feel the ball.

“Obviously it was happening during the game,” Collins said. “He didn’t say anything until after the game.”

Why Harvey didn’t say anything is anybody’s guess, but falls into line with how he’s handled things in the past. I don’t know what option Harvey will choose about surgery, but based on the information already given, it would be the prudent choice both for his health, comeback and financial future.

As for the Mets, they will be forced to scramble, but with how he’s pitching so far, will they really be missing that much?

Jul 04

Three Mets’ Storylines: Don’t Forget Cespedes As MVP Candidate

As impressive as the Mets’ four-game sweep was of the Cubs, a case can be made it was validated by what they did Monday afternoon with their firecracker comeback victory over the Miami Marlins. You can even argue two of the Mets’ most important victories this season came during this home stand.

There was Thursday’s rally from three runs down – call it the Brandon Nimmo Game – in a 4-3 victory over the Cubs. Today, they overcame another poor performance from Matt Harvey to come from six runs behind to win their fifth straight game, 8-6, to pull within four games of Washington.

CESPEDES: MVP Candidate. (AP)

CESPEDES: MVP Candidate. (AP)

On Thursday they put the brakes on what was turning into a severe skid; today they pressed down on the accelerator in their playoff push.

There were three significant storylines from the game, with two – Harvey and the bullpen – intertwined. The third was Yoenis Cespedes‘ clutch hitting.

CESPEDES: I keep hearing about potential NL MVP candidates, among them Daniel Murphy and Kris Bryant.

But, Cespedes can’t be ignored. He has five of his 20 homers and 28 RBI coming with RISP. His 20 homers – fourth in the NL – suggest he’s in scoring position as soon as he leaves the on-deck circle. In his last 12 home games, Cespedes is batting .419 with four doubles and four homers, including that monster drive to jumpstart Thursday’s win.

Cespedes had no chance of being the NL MVP last year because of his limited time in the league. But this year, he’d be my choice, with his game-winning, two-run double in the eighth just another sample of what he’s been doing all year.

HARVEY: Gone are the feel-good thoughts Harvey might have turned around his season after making three strong starts. Harvey encored those three starts with four bad ones in which he gave up a combined 13 runs on 30 hits and five walks with only 15 strikeouts in 19.1 innings. For the second straight game Harvey worked just 3.2 innings. (In fairness, his outing was cut short in the Washington start by rain, but even so he wasn’t pitching well.)

Harvey hasn’t come away with a victory since, May 30, some seven starts ago.

On the bright side, he hasn’t given up a homer since his May 24 loss at Washington when he gave up three. However, of his 17 starts he’s only gone seven innings twice.

For someone who considers himself an ace, this is unacceptable. For those of you who still believe him to be an ace, kindly think again if his 4-10 record and 4.86 ERA haven’t convinced you. That’s not to say he can’t be an ace in the future, but not now.

The Mets will need Harvey because of looming physical questions of Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard.

BULLPEN: The pen has been maligned, but today it stepped up with 5.1 scoreless innings.

The Mets didn’t have Addison Reed, but were picked up by Erik Goeddel, Logan Verrett, Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins and Jeurys Familia. Kudos for Verrett and Robles for working out of trouble, and again for Familia, who always seems to be on the ropes only to escape with his 29th straight victory.

A point that requires no debate: Championship teams need a strong bullpen.

Jun 28

Harvey Needs To Pitch Bigger Than His Ego

Readers of this blog know I have been critical of Matt Harvey and this “Dark Knight” and “Today is Harvey Day” nonsense. It comes with a gut feeling he’s been seduced by the trappings of being a “New York Sports Star” and being a celebrity is what drives him.

HARVEY: Needs to pitch bigger than his ego. (AP)

HARVEY: Needs to pitch bigger than his ego. (AP)

However, with a 29-27 career record, can he really be considered a star?  He’s more celebrity than star. More smoke than fire. More sizzle than steak. Perhaps a Kardashian in cleats. I could go all day, but the bottom line is for a variety of reasons ranging from injuries to poor performance to a mental block, he hasn’t developed into what we think he could be. Or, maybe what he should be.

Two games over .500 is not a big deal, and never mind the new wave stats: wins and losses are important.

Harvey craves the attention and spotlight. The Mets have tread water the last two months, but with a grueling schedule entering the All-Star break they face the real possibility of falling into a downward spiral. Yes, there is such a thing as a “must win” game in June.

Monday night might have produced their worst performance of the season in an 11-4 trouncing to the Nationals. They are in third place in the NL East and would fall five games back with a loss Tuesday night. From a team perspective, a case can be made tonight is one of Harvey’s most important starts. The Mets desperately need not only a victory, but a stellar performance from the pitcher they still consider an ace.

If Harvey gets torched tonight, and with the prospect of not having Steven Matz on Wednesday, the party that is 2016 could soon be over. It’s quite simple, Harvey needs to pitch bigger than his ego.

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Jun 27

Mets Wrap: Blitzed By Nationals

Manager Terry Collins said this was the start of an important two-week stretch for the Mets and they better bring their “A’’ game to the table. Can you imagine what would have happened had they not thought it was important?

Whatever d'Arnaud told him it didn't work. (AP)

Whatever d’Arnaud told him it didn’t work. (AP)

I’m being sarcastic, which is the best way to handle a game like the Mets’ 11-4 loss at Washington.

Noah Syndergaard started despite having a barking elbow from his previous game. Syndergaard clearly didn’t have it, giving up five runs on seven hits and three walks in three innings in which he threw a grueling 71 pitches.

Syndergaard imploded in a five-run third, and again couldn’t hold runners as the Nationals stole five bases against him.

Collins said Syndergaard’s elbow wasn’t an issue. Syndergaard refuted multiple media reports he had a bone spur or bone chips in his elbow.

METS GAME WRAP

June 27, 2016, @ Washington

Game: #75          Score:  Nationals 11, Mets 4

Record: 40-35     Streak: L 2

Standings: Third, NL East, four games behind Washington.

Runs: 274    Average: 3.65     Times 3 runs or less: 37

SUMMARY: It unraveled for Syndergaard in a five-run third in which the Nationals stole four bases. It would have been worse had Bryce Harper not had a brain cramp on the bases.

KEY MOMENT:  Anthony Rendon’s two-run single to right in the third completely erased the Mets’ 4-0 lead. You knew it was over then.

THUMBS UP: The Mets had 14 hits, getting two each from Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, Wilmer Flores and Brandon Nimmo. Travis d’Arnaud had three hits.

THUMBS DOWN:  The Mets had 14 hits, but scored only four runs. … Syndergaard was all over the place with three walks. … Rumor had it Rene Rivera was to catch Syndergaard to but the brakes on the opponent’s running game. … Reliever Sean Gilmartin gave up five runs on seven hits in two innings.

EXTRA INNINGS:  The Mets began a stretch of playing 11 of 14 games against first-place teams. … The Mets are now 16-16 vs. NL East teams. … The Mets are 11-13 in June.

QUOTEBOOK: “[Syndergaard] threw almost 40 pitches in the third and that was enough. … His velocity was good but his command was off.” – Collins on Syndergaard’s performance. 

BY THE NUMBERS:  6: Stolen bases by the Nationals. Overall, opposing runners have stolen 28 bases in 31 attempts against Syndergaard.

NEXT FOR METS: Matt Harvey will try to get back on track after two mediocre outings.

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