Sep 09

The Dream Continues

Not only did the Mets sweep the Nationals for a second straight series, all three games this time were done in come-from-behind fashion. Not only that, the Mets’ pitchers in the first two games – Jon Niese and Matt Harvey – were torched, and Jacob deGrom was off Wednesday night.

None of that mattered as the Mets found away to win because they willed the outcome. As good as Stephen Strasburg was, you never had the feeling the Mets were out of it, but instead, it was only a matter of time.

“ I love where we’re at. We’re rolling,” said Kelly Johnson, who tied the game with a pinch-hit homer off Strasburg in the eighth. And. of course, Yoenis Cespedes, continued his push for MVP consideration, with a game-winning homer in the eighth.

That roll included Michael Conforto driving in an insurance run and making a run-saving catch. It seems like a long time ago that the Mets were reluctant to bring up Conforto as not to damage his confidence. It doesn’t seem like anything can phase Conforto these days.

And, for the third straight night, the bullpen pitched well, despite Bryce Harper‘s cosmetic homer in the eighth.

The Mets left Florida Sunday night having lost two walk-off games to the Marlins and their lead down to four. The Nationals were hot, having won five straight.

For those who remember the titanic collapse of 2007, when they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play, there’s the thought that these are the Mets so anything can happen. However, it’s a different year with different players, and above all, a different chemistry.

For the past several years, the Nationals simply bullied the Mets. But, this year, the little guys have the muscle.

 

Sep 09

Things Couldn’t Have Worked Out Better For Matt Harvey

It was Matt Harvey‘s worst outing of the season for the Mets, yet he came out smelling like roses. He’s the guy who doesn’t find loose change under his seat cushions, but $20 bills. At least so far, it has been that way.

HARVEY: Comes up golden. (Getty)

HARVEY: Comes up golden. (Getty)

We don’t know yet how much Harvey will pitch in September and his availability for the playoffs, but things are looking good for now. After four days in which he took a public relations hit for the innings flap issue after agent Scott Boras dared remind GM Sandy Alderson of the 180 innings magic number.

The print media took its shot at Harvey, but SNY continued to treat him with kid gloves as it failed to acknowledge Boras doesn’t say anything without Harvey’s knowledge. Guys, Boras is Harvey’s mouthpiece.

Harvey wants to tread lightly in September and pitch in October, but that might not be possible to his liking. However, Tuesday’s game and the completed sweep tonight gives the Mets a seven-game lead with 23 games remaining, to create a gap seemingly wide enough where missing Harvey a couple of times might be possible without creating any angst. Whether it is Logan Verrett or Steven Matz, it doesn’t matter.

The key here is Harvey got what he wanted with a limited amount of friction from the front office. Even a loss or two might not be the end of the world now. Had Harvey been beaten, he would have gotten all sorts of questions if the controversy was a distraction.

However, if Harvey only starts two more games – against the Yankees and Washington as reported – the question of how sharp he’ll be could become an issue. But for now, that’s just conjecture. For now, the Harvey issue doesn’t seem so intense.

 

 

Sep 08

Mets Lineup, Sept. 8, at Nationals

Here’s the Mets’ lineup for tonight’s game against the Nationals in Washington:
LINEUP COMMENTS:  Welcome back Lucas Duda. Interesting that he’s hitting fifth and not cleanup. … Glad to see Conforto still playing. When the time comes, I want to see him in there against lefties.

 

Sep 08

SNY Misses Boat On Harvey Coverage

Normally, I buy into most things SNY commentators Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez say about the Mets, but they missed the essence of the Matt Harvey fiasco when they both took the easy way out and ripped agent Scott Boras. It’s not that Boras doesn’t do some infuriating things, but in this case he was only doing his job, which is looking after Harvey.

SNY:  Keith and Ron miss boat on Harvey issue. (SNY)

SNY: Keith and Ron miss boat on Harvey issue. (SNY)

Blaming Boras is easy because he’s an outsider, but the real architects for this mess are Mets GM Sandy Alderson and Harvey. We know of the financial link between the Mets and SNY, but that never prevented Hernandez and Darling from being critical of the Mets’ performance on the field before.

I wrongly thought they would shed significant light on this issue, but they have not.

As former players, both are acutely aware of the athlete-agent relationship, and should have pointed out Boras works for Harvey and doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Boras doesn’t do anything without Harvey knowing about it, and however the story got out, Harvey knew it was coming. How could he not? Instead, Harvey acted like the innocent victim and let Alderson take the heat.

I’m not buying for a second Alderson was confused about how the innings limit included the postseason and wasn’t just for the regular season. Say what you want about Alderson, he’s not naive enough to make that mistake.

I’m also not buying Alderson’s lame excuse he wasn’t counting on the Mets being in the postseason. Huh? This year, 2015, was what they’ve pointed to since Harvey was injured. When you talk about contending, your goal is the postseason – and subsequently the World Series. So, you must calculate six postseason starts – two in each round – and include that in the 34 starts he would normally make during a season.

That would be 28 in the regular season and six in the playoffs. If you figure six innings a start – which is on the low side – that’s 204 for the year. As I suggested numerous times, the Mets needed to come up with, and announce so there is no misunderstanding, a concrete number. Hell, the Mets had the schedule since November so there was plenty of time to figure this out.

Of course, the primary reason Alderson didn’t do this was to avoid the inevitable conflict with Harvey about limiting his innings. It’s one thing to admire Harvey’s desire to pitch, but his judgment is in question, and that includes complaining about the six-man rotation.

So, this issue isn’t Boras’ doing, but that of Alderson not being forceful enough with Harvey to construct a plan, and for Harvey fighting any innings limits; for having his agent broach the inevitable issue; and not being stand-up about his responsibility in this mess.

Both Hernandez and Darling are smart enough to recognize this. Too bad they picked the most controversial issue of the season to lose their voices.

 

Sep 07

Thoughts On Amazing Day

If there is one word to describe the 2015 Mets, for me it would be resiliency. There have been numerous times this season when they could have fallen off the ledge, but found a way to get it done – which is the essence of any championship team.

From a multitude of injuries, including losing David Wright for nearly five months to a near two-month slump to a leaky bullpen to the circus around the trade deadline to the current mess pertaining to Matt Harvey‘s innings, it has been a wild ride. Today’s 8-5 come-from-behind victory in Washington capsulized the season in a wild three hours.

WRIGHT: Slides home in the seventh. (Getty)

WRIGHT: Slides home in the seventh. (Getty)

When Max Scherzer escaped a no-outs, runner-on-third threat in the first it looked like a bad omen for the Mets. However, momentum turned on solo homers by Michael Conforto – who, by the way, needs to play against all kinds of pitching, Kelly Johnson and Yoenis Cespedes, this would be a day to remember.

However, it would be an unforgettable day on the down side when the Nationals roughed up Jon Niese, including with Wilson Ramos‘ grand slam. Scherzer would settle down, but the Mets persevered. And, when Jeurys Familia blew away Ryan Zimmerman to end the game and make we wonder if Bryce Harper still doesn’t care about what’s going on with the Mets these days.

Here’s what I’ll take from today’s game, or as Collins said, Game 1 of the September playoffs:

TERRY COLLINS: He needs to sharpen his motivational skills. When you have a pitcher like Niese, whose confidence is shaken, you don’t tell him “this is the game of your life.” What manager does that? Niese’s confidence is peanut brittle tough as it is so you don’t apply additional pressure. Furthermore, your team has lost two games recently in walk-off fashion, but it still had a four-game lead heading into the series. So, Collins applied even more pressure. What’s the purpose? On a positive note, give Collins points for starting Johnson at second.

DAVID WRIGHT: He showed his captaincy mettle when he talked to Harvey for four innings Sunday in Miami. He underscored it in bold Sunday when he drove in the game-winning run and scored in the seventh. This guy is a winner. If anybody deserves this, it is him.

YOENIS CESPEDES: You don’t think he’ll get some MVP votes? If there was an MVP award for a late-season acquisition he would get it hands down. Cespedes will cost money, but he’s worth bringing back. With Curtis Granderson‘s contract up in two years and one more for Michael Cuddyer, there will be |money. Plus, I never bought the Mets’ cries of poverty.

BRYCE HARPER: Whether he cares what’s going on with the Mets or not is irrelevant. What matters is what he thinks of Nationals’ fans. For him to rip his fans for leaving early, it shows his head isn’t in the game and he’s looking for excuses. There aren’t many clearer signs the Nationals are showing signs of cracking. The teams have five games remaining, and the Nationals need to win them all.

MATT HARVEY/SANDY ALDERSON: If you’re scoring at home, the early rounds go to Harvey, who’ll make two or three more starts and not the four the Mets want. Alderson had a deer-in-the-headlights look when he spoke about Harvey prior to the game. What is clear is the Mets don’t have control over their diva pitcher as they have caved to his demands on nearly every turn.

Harvey wants to be limited during the September, but pitch in the playoffs. That could limit his effectiveness in October. Alderson wouldn’t say how much Harvey might pitch in the playoffs. Then, when faced with not having Harvey for two or more starts in September, Alderson doesn’t bring up Dillon Gee. Here’s a guy, Gee, who has done everything – and generally produced – the organization has asked, yet when they need another starter they ignored him. Rather shabby on Alderson’s part. Harvey pitches Tuesday and he damn well better produce. If he gets ripped and misses some starts and the Mets start falter, he’ll hear some boos next time he pitches at Citi Field.

THE BULLPEN: Today it threw 5.2 scoreless innings in relief of Niese. The bad news is they’ll lose Carlos Torres indefinitely with a pulled calf muscle. With Harvey’s innings uncertain, they could use a long man. It was sterling today, simply sterling. And, I’ve noted this before. Familia is the team’s MVP. That is, if Cespedes hasn’t moved ahead. One thing for certain, it isn’t Harvey.

JON NIESE:  Evidently, Niese’s wife didn’t wear her lucky panties. Today marked the 175th start of Niese’s career, and as Collins and SNY emphasized, it was his most important and he spit the bit. In parts of eight seasons, Niese is 60-61 and never has won more than 13 in a single season. Frankly, I’m thinking this might be as good as it gets for Niese. The Mets were wise to try to trade him last winter. They’ll increase those efforts this offseason.