Jun 06

What Is Special About Mets?

Somebody asked me the other day if I thought the Mets were done for the year. As a follower of pennant races, I don’t like giving up on a season this early. I mean, it is only June. We’ve seen teams come from farther behind and later in the season to reach the World Series, so it could happen.

CESPEDES: He won't be enough. (AP)

CESPEDES: He won’t be enough. (AP)

However, before we can give up on the 2017 Mets, we must ask ourselves is there anything special about this team that makes one wonder if it has the capability becoming a historical icon.

Even when Yoenis Cespedes returns, he’s not enough to turn around the Mets, not with their multitude of pitching problems. Pitching was supposed to carry the Mets, but none of their vaunted young power arms have more than five victories. How can that be?

Seth Lugo and Steven Matz are due off the disabled list this weekend, with the side benefit of transferring Robert Gsellman to the bullpen. There is nothing guaranteed about either development. There’s also the unknown about Matt Harvey recovery from thoracic surgery and now Jacob deGrom is having issues.

And, no, we can’t expect Noah Syndergaard and/or Jeurys Familia to return this year.

Among the hitters, Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, Travis d’Arnaud and Jose Reyes are all having off years with no signs of turning things around.

There are too many Mets battling injuries and struggling through off years to believe they can all come together to salvage this summer.

 

 

Jun 02

Today’s Question: What Harvey Will We Get Tonight?

The Matt Harvey we saw last weekend in Pittsburgh was not the vintage pitcher we hoped would terrorize National League lineups for a decade. Two surgeries made sure that wasn’t going to happen.

HARVEY: Which one? (AP)

HARVEY: Which one? (AP)

However, he was good enough to throw a season-high six innings to come away with the victory. That leads to the obvious question: Was his last start a fluke or something to build on?

Harvey beat the Pirates that evening throwing in the mid-90s, but with sharp command (two walks). If Harvey is to become a consistent winner, he’ll need to do it with command and location, more than overpowering velocity.

“Obviously, it’s just taken a little bit of time,” Harvey said after the Pittsburgh game. “It’s been frustrating for me. But a lot of the work has been paying off, and really, it’s a huge, huge positive for me being able to execute those pitches.”

So, what will we get tonight? Was his last start the real thing or just a tease?

May 29

Harvey Not Vintage, But Good Enough

We’ve seen Matt Harvey better, but we’ll take the version we saw last night in Pittsburgh. Last night Harvey pitched with more poise than we’ve seen in a long time; he pitched out of trouble and survived through a season-high six innings in carrying the Mets over the Pirates.

Harvey threw in the mid-90s last night, not the 98 he carried as a punch-them-out weapon in 2013 when he terrorized National League batting orders. His command last night was better as he issued only two walks, and most importantly gave up a season-low one run.

HARVEY: Good enough. (AP)

HARVEY: Good enough. (AP)

The Mets will win most games if he gives up one run, and if that’s the Harvey we’ve been waiting for, it will be worth the wait.

“We’ve been talking about it: He doesn’t have to throw 97 [mph] to get people out,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters. “Tonight he showed that.”

Harvey has endured two season-ending surgeries since he became a cartoon superhero in 2013. Once defiant, Harvey was acceptant of what has happened.

“Obviously, it’s just taken a little bit of time,” said Harvey. “It’s been frustrating for me. But a lot of the work has been paying off, and really, it’s a huge, huge positive for me being able to execute those pitches tonight.”

At the end of the 2015 season, when Harvey’s innings became an issue when he spoke of his agent Scott Boras, he said he hired him to secure his future, which we all know is his 2018 walk year for a crosstown trip to the Bronx.

The Mets would take that right now because it would mean a Harvey that could be good enough to pitch them into an October or two.

May 25

Last Night’s Meltdown Was On Collins

This one was on Terry Collins. For all the talk about the Mets’ faulty bullpen – and to be sure there aren’t enough quality arms – occasionally the manager has to step up and say, “this was on me.”

Such was the case in last night’s 6-5 loss to the San Diego Padres, a game in which the Mets held a four-run lead.

COLLINS: Bad game. (AP)

COLLINS: Bad game. (AP)

The box score will reveal the Mets used five pitchers from the seventh inning; not quite the formula it wants to use in getting to the closer.

Robert Gsellman had given the Mets a quality outing – three runs in six innings – but Collins wouldn’t let him come out for the seventh, instead, giving the ball to Fernando Salas.

Why? Gsellman was still strong after throwing 84 pitches. Sure, he had been struggling lately, but he appeared to have righted himself. At least it looked that way during his six innings.

“I knew that was going to get brought up,” was Collins’ reply to Gsellman’s pitch count. “This kid has really been struggling. At times, you want him to leave with a good feeling and he gave us six good innings and we just say, ‘Hey, look, he did exactly what we were hoping he’d do tonight to get us to that point.’ ”

Part of me likes Collins’ rationale, but the other part makes me scream: “Enough with the good feelings. Let the precious snowflake try to win the !@#$% game. What’s next, a participation trophy for playing?

At least let him pitch until a runner got on. That should have also been the plan with Salas, who got the first two hitters then unraveled.

A pinch-single, wild pitch and two walks loaded the bases Collins pulled Salas for Neil Ramirez. Why would you keeps s struggling reliever like Salas in long enough to load the bases, with two of the runners by walks?

The Mets had been getting decent production from Jerry Blevins and Paul Sewald, but neither was available having pitched the night before in a 9-3 win. A note: The bullpen was taxed that night before because Matt Harvey couldn’t give the Mets more than five. Incidentally, both Sewald and Blevins pitched with at least a five-run lead.

If you’re going to tinker with your bullpen, why not see what Ramirez can do with a six-run lead instead of with the game on the line?

It was almost a foregone conclusion Wil Myers would tie the game with a two-run single, just missing a grand slam by inches, and Hunter Renfroe would put the Padres ahead with a mammoth homer in the eighth against lefty Josh Smoker.

Why pull Gsellman when he’s throwing well? Why let a lefty pitch to Renfroe? Why save Addison Reed for the ninth when the Mets were losing? All those were questions Collins needed to address. We can point fingers, and rightly so, at GM Sandy Alderson for not providing quality arms in the bullpen, but this was in-game decision making by Collins, and it was bad.

May 23

Big Pitching Night Awaits Mets

Should the Mets put the brakes on their current slide, tonight might be circled as a potential turning point with regards to their battered starting rotation. Both Steven Matz and Seth Lugo will make minor league rehab starts, but the headliner will be Matt Harvey’s first home start since he was suspended for blowing off a workout the day before a start.

HARVEY: More questions. (AP)

HARVEY: More questions. (AP)

The hope is Matz and Lugo will replace Tommy Milone and Robert Gsellman in the rotation, and the vision the Mets always held for Harvey will finally emerge with no more health questions, or for that matter, no more diva issues.

Harvey alluded as much to that: “It’ll be good to go out and concentrate on the game plan that we go over before the game instead of thinking I have to stay with a certain mechanic. … We’ve figured out what I need to do and now it’s just about going out and executing pitches.’’

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said it wouldn’t be until the end of May or early June when his velocity would return for thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Harvey is throwing hard again, but his command has been off and there hasn’t been an edge to his game.

The Mets were to be defined by their pitching, and they have – it has been the single biggest disappointment to this season to date.

Warthen said the current issue for Harvey (2-3, 5.56 ERA) is mechanics, ranging from arm slots to his timing. In his last start at Arizona, Harvey gave up three runs with five strikeouts, but four walks.

The returns of Matz and Lugo could carry significant weight, even more if one of them eventually replaces Harvey.