Apr 11

Mets Week In Review: An Encouraging Start

If the Mets play out this season as they did their first week, I’ll take it. In a heartbeat I would take it.

mets-logoball-2They are 2-2 after four games, which is .500, the bullseye placed on their back. They played four tight, taut games, that if the breaks went a different way could have put them at 0-4.

The upside is they could also just as easily be at 4-0, which is the beauty of it all.

A clutch hit here or there by the Nationals against Bartolo Colon or Matt Harvey puts a different spin on the week. Just as easily, however, a tighter defense last night and a better pitch from Jacob deGrom spins the week another way.

What we can take out of the first week is the Mets figure to be a team that should tay in every game, and I’ll take that any time because it should mean being there in the end, which is another way of saying they will play meaningful baseball in September.

And, you must do that before you can play meaningful games in October, and isn’t that what we all want – regardless of who makes out the lineup card?

Here’s what I took from the first week:

* Bartolo Colon has something left in his tank. He overcame a rough first inning to beat Washington to show us all there’s nothing wrong with a little age.

* Something the Mets haven’t consistently done in recent seasons was to capitalize on opportunities, which is what they did in both their victories over the Nationals. So, when in doubt, hitting the ball to Ian Desmond is a good strategy.

* Matt Harvey is pitching with a chip on his shoulder aimed at those who tend to judge him on more than what he does on the mound. If that’s his motivation, so be it. Just keep pitching this way and all will be well. Do that and let the Mets worry about keeping him from the Yankees in the future.

* The bullpen is better than advertised. Rafael Montero took the loss Friday night in Atlanta, but the loss lies on Wilmer Flores’ errant throws, a bad decision by David Wright and not hitting in the clutch. Having fundamental breakdowns is how the Mets will likely lose most of their games this season. It will be maddening, but, then again, that’s the Mets.

* A week in and we haven’t seen a lot of power, and that’s probably the way it will go all season. This team needs Lucas Duda’s home run bat.

* Injuries helped shape the Opening Day roster and as always will play a significant role. The Mets lost Josh Edgin and Zack Wheeler before the season started, then lost Jenrry Mejia on Opening Day.

* An underlying theme this week has been the lineup. Whether it is all Terry Collins and not from above – which I doubt – it hasn’t produced an offensive explosion, and it has left Juan Lagares, the projected leadoff hitter, in a funk. He’s not the only one, as Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Flores are also running in mud. Wright, Duda and Travis d’Arnaud are having strong starts, but then again, it has been only four games.

* The closeness of the games is a good sign, but it should also be a nagging reminder of the red flag of their thin bench. Eventually, they’ll have a game when they’ll be caught short.

No, it hasn’t been a great start – although the starting pitching has been a positive – but we’ve seen far worse from the Mets. It has been an encouraging start, and if they are standing at .500 six months from now I’ll have a hunger for much more from them.

And, isn’t that what we want?

Apr 09

Memo To Harvey: Quit Whining And Just Pitch

Matt Harvey is pitching today, and with this event comes the question: Is he more interested in being a New York media darling or a Mets’ star?

It seems that way..

Like everybody else, I was enamored with the possibility of what Harvey could bring to the Mets and whether he could help them become a viable franchise again.

HARVEY: On his throne. (ESPN)

HARVEY: On his throne. (ESPN)

The operative word is “help,’’ because not one player can do it by himself, which I say because Harvey seems to be separating himself from the “common folk,’’ who are his teammates.

However, he comes off as someone not interested in the collaborative effort – that he knows best – but who rather marches to his own beat. So be it when you have the track record to back it up, but he has only 12 victories in the major leagues.

He is “potential over proven commodity,’’ which makes his threat for people to judge him by his pitching and not his off-the-field life laughable.

That’s hard to do because Harvey throws his off-the-field life into our faces on a regular basis, whether it be posing nude for ESPN; arguing with the front office where to do his rehab; letting himself be photographed in public kissing models or taking them to see the Rangers; or disregarding the perception of being seen at a Yankees game to watch Derek Jeter.

That didn’t go over well with management and some of his teammates, but he doesn’t care. He also doesn’t acknowledge his own recklessness of trying to pitch through obvious pain and not reporting the discomfort in his forearm could have contributed to his elbow injury.

Apparently, making that start in the All-Star Game was more important than anything else.

Take a look at his smirk in the accompanying photograph. Who, but somebody with a huge ego would allow himself to be photographed that way?

No, we don’t see the effort behind-the-scenes of his workouts and conditioning, but we do hear about his off-the-field exploits of wanting to bed as many women as Jeter and his clubbing and drinking.

Good for him. Joe Namath, Walt Frazier and Mickey Mantle were New York media icons, but had the accomplishments to back it up. Harvey has won 12 games.

In the end, the nightlife killed Mantle and destroyed the playing careers of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. It is also part of why the Mets didn’t bring back Jose Reyes.

However, Harvey is young and walks with the attitude “it won’t happen to me.’’

But, it can. The questions are “when’’ and “where.’’ Will it be in Queens or the Bronx as a Yankee? Crosstown, it seems, is where he really wants to be.

At least, that’s the perception, not that he wants to be a star with the Mets, who by the way, are his employers who have the right to judge him.

Sure, I’m all for honoring Harvey’s diva-like demand to judge him on his pitching. OK,  then just shut up and pitch and don’t distract us with the other stuff.

 

Apr 08

DeGrom A Most Intriguing Met

Of all the Mets’ young pitchers, I am most intrigued with Jacob deGrom, last year’s NL Rookie of the Year and Wednesday’s starter at Washington. Quiet and unassuming, unlike Matt Harvey, deGrom came out of the bullpen last season following an injury to Dillon Gee and never left the rotation.

Hopefully, he’ll stay in it for years.

Why deGrom over the others?

DeGROM: Captures the imagination.  (Getty)

DeGROM: Captures the imagination. (Getty)

Well, Harvey is Harvey, and despite his hype, all too often he leaves the impression he’s more interested in becoming a New York media darling instead of a Mets’ star. There’s a big difference.  Also, I can’t shake the feeling he’s just passing through Queens until he relocates to the Bronx.

Fair? Maybe not, but that’s the perception.

I get the feeling if deGrom stays healthy he’ll have a longer career with the Mets than Harvey.

The same applies with Zack Wheeler, but for a different reason.

Wheeler’s elbow injury went from bad to worse, and it won’t be until late in the 2017 season until we might really know something about him. By then, it is hoped he would have developed command to go with his natural stuff. So far, that lack of command lead to high pitch counts that stressed his arm.

But, for right now the main intrigue is his health.

As for Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, yeah, there’s interest. However, the intrigue meeter won’t click on until Sandy Alderson forgets this Super Two nonsense and brings them up here. Until then, they are wishful thinking.

But deGrom?

Well, he’s here and now. He seems real; he’s not a diva. We saw what he did last year coming out of nowhere, and it whet our appetite for more. He went 9-6 despite an offense that provided little support and a shaky bullpen. What was eye-popping was a 2.69 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 140.1 innings. That’s dominating stuff. And it continued in spring training as he showed no signs of letting up with a 2.08 ERA, .167 opponent batting average and 0.73 WHIP in 26 innings.

What I also like is he’s not a know-it-all. He exudes confidence without being abrasive, and also a willingness to learn evidenced by working hard on his breaking pitches during spring training. He also took copious mental notes watching Bartolo Colon on Opening Day.

“I watched what Bartolo did,” deGrom told reporters in Washington. “He just located and kept the ball down and threw the ball really well. That’s always my game plan, to throw strikes and keep it down.”

As with Harvey, the Mets will carefully monitor deGrom’s innings early in the season.

“I’ll just go out there and go as long as they’ll let me go,” he said.

And, that might be good enough.

ON DECK:  More on the lineup.

Apr 06

Colon Proves Mettle Again

The controversial decision to start Bartolo Colon paid off in spades as he gave up one run in six dominant innings.

While others clamored for Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom to get the start, Terry Collins opted for Colon based on leading the Mets with 15 wins and over 200 innings last season.

COLON: Threw like an ace today. (AP)

COLON: Threw like an ace today. (AP)

Colon not only justified Collins’ decision, but also served notice the 41-year-old still has something left in the tank evidenced by eight strikeouts.

“He’s a pro,” Collins said. “He knows what he’s doing. He was the right man for today’s game and he showed it.”

It was believed Colon would best be able to work under the microscope of an Opening Day start. He proved that when after the first two Nationals hitters reached, Colon got out of the inning unscathed. He also struck out Wilson Ramos with the tying run on base to end the sixth.

The Mets wanted to trade Colon over the winter, and it is believed he could still be made available at the July 31 deadline. That’s premature, but does leave the Mets with a potentially interesting dilemma.

Assuming Colon is pitching well he is certain to draw some attention. However, he’s pitching well and the Mets are in the hunt, why would they want to trade him?

The Mets signed Colon after the injury to Harvey – and is on an innings limit – and Zack Wheeler gone until at least June of 2016, and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz unproven, they might be less reluctant to deal him.

 

Apr 04

Mets’ Roster An Indictment Of Alderson

If this sounds like piling on Mets GM Sandy Alderson, so be it. An ESPN report from Texas has the Mets carrying eight relievers – at the expense of valuable reserve Eric Campbell – because of concerns over the bullpen, most notably the possible overkill of carrying three lefty relievers after spending most of spring training in search of one.

ALDERSON: Trouble could be coming from different direction.  (AP)

ALDERSON: Trouble could be coming from different direction. (AP)

Quite simply carrying three means limited confidence in any of them.

The Mets want to keep lefty Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin along other lefties Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres, plus Rafael Montero, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia, Carlos Torres and Buddy Carlyle. Of course, the Mets are without Vic BlackJosh Edgin and Bobby Parnell, but knew they would be without the latter.

Had Alderson acquired a lefty during the winter – Gilmartin would have been a gamble anyway because he’s Rule 5 – they would have carried only seven relievers, and thereby could have kept Campbell. Instead they are left with a bench of Ruben Tejada, Anthony Recker, Kirk Nieuwenhuis – whose fast spring training start fizzled – and John Mayberry.

And, according to recent reports, they were unwilling to go with Tejada at second base had Daniel Murphy opened the season on the disabled list.

The Mets knew they would need bullpen help because of the innings limitation on Matt Harvey. Plus, how certain are we of the durability of Bartolo Colon at 41, or for that matter, Jacob deGrom in his second year and the fragility of Jon Niese?

And, considering all that, and the unproven record of Montero, the Mets are still willing to trade Dillon Gee. Yeah, sounds like a good idea.

This leaves the Mets without a quality back-up for David Wright at third, and manager Terry Collins unable use Recker as a pinch-hitter for fear being without another catcher. Campbell had worked behind the plate in spring training. They are also in position where if they go to the bench early, they are pretty much sunk in extra innings.

They are also face the likelihood of taxing their position players.

They are in this precarious position with their bench because of their inability – or unwillingness to go after – needed help in the offseason and because three roster spots are taken by players because of contractual reasons: Carlyle, Gilmartin and Nieuwenhuis.

In the book about Alderson, I keep waiting for the part of how the Mets have been revived.