Jun 07

Mets Must Overhaul Handling Of Injuries

While introducing the Sandy Alderson Era, Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon promised a different mentality emanating from the top. The Mets would be more aggressive in obtaining talent, and perhaps just as importantly, more diligent and proactive in keeping that talent on the field.

The Mets have long been criticized for their handling of injured players, including David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Ryan Church, Pedro Martinez, Ike Davis and the list goes on.

WILPON: Needs to overhaul handling of injuries. (AP)

WILPON: Needs to overhaul handling of injuries. (AP)

Injuries haven’t been diagnosed properly, players played when they should’ve been benched or were rushed back. Players also haven’t been proactive in reporting injuries, which in the case of Matt Harvey, this likely lead to his surgery. Perhaps most bizarre was when Beltran opted to have surgery on his own.

This season has been about injuries and an 11-game winning streak. That streak is why they’re where they are considering they lead the major leagues with 12 players on the disabled list.

Eight players are gone from the Opening Day roster, and three players in the starting lineup in Sunday’s game at Arizona were injury related. There’s not a day when injuries aren’t the focal point. Injuries will dictate if the Mets make the playoffs; what, or if, they’ll make any trades; and possibly, their offseason agenda.

What should also happen is a complete overhaul of their injury protocol. From the trainers, to the team physicians, to the organization’s philosophy in handling and treating injuries, everything should be on the table for review. What they are doing now isn’t working.

Why, over the years, has there been a glut of arm injuries resulting in Tommy John surgery? Why have there been so many muscle pulls and strains? Is there a problem in the offseason training program? Are players encouraged or discouraged to report aches and pains?

Do the pitchers throw too much or not enough? Is nutrition an issue? Do the players stretch enough? Is there too much weight lifting during the season?

There’s not a constant with each injury, but something isn’t right and it must change. Teams like to say, “next man up,’’ but for the Mets it seems to be “who’s the next to go down?’’ Yes, injuries are part of the game, but for the Mets it seems to be all nine innings.

What should also be noted is playoff caliber teams need to overcome injuries and adversity, and that brings us back full circle to Wilpon and Alderson. Will ownership provide the financial resources, and does Alderson have the capabilities to fill the void?

We’re waiting.


Jun 06

Mets Bag Six-Man Rotation; Gee’s Trade Value Drops

Although the Mets did what I suggested and scrapped the six-man rotation, how this scenario unraveled depicts an organization without a compass. What began coming out of spring training with a short bench and an abandoned batting order, continued today with manager Terry Collins announcing the six-man rotation that was supposed to carry the Mets into August is something to be thought of in the past tense.

GEE: Sent to the pen. (Getty)

GEE: Sent to the pen. (Getty)

Of course, this being the Mets, Collins suggested you never what could happen in the future. Well, not exactly. We do know that no matter the issue, the Mets will continue to waffle.

Collins said he changed his mind after he and pitching coach Dan Warthen discussed the rotation and noticed there would be several times when pitchers would sometimes go on seven days rest. Just asking, but wouldn’t this have been something they would have mapped out before making the decision in the first place?

However, I am more inclined to believe this was the result of some pitchers – Matt Harvey, take a bow – moaning about their work schedules. It is unlikely it would be rookie Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. I doubt it was Bartolo Colon, who probably would benefit the most from the extra rest. I also doubt Gee went to the manager because he has no leverage. I also doubt it was Jon Niese, because he’s pitched so poorly lately that he also doesn’t have any pull. When you’re losing you shut the hell up.

I believe it was Harvey who screamed loudest because he has a history of confronting management. I also believe Collins went through this with Warthen beforehand and was falling on the sword to protect Harvey.

Don’t be surprised if that theory eventually surfaces soon.

There was nobody else but Gee to go to the pen. Obviously, it wouldn’t be Harvey, deGrom or Syndergaard. Niese is the only left-hander, plus he has a history of arm injuries, and you wouldn’t risk him in the up-and-down routine of a reliever. And, Colon isn’t one to work out of the pen.

When this began, I wrote one of the benefits of the six-man would be in showcasing Gee for a possible trade at the deadline, but that’s now a moot point.

Within the past year the Mets waffled on who would play shortstop; who would comprise the bullpen, and who would be closer; who would be the leadoff hitter; what would be the batting order; how many bench players and relievers the team would carry; and now, the composition of the starting rotation.

Frankly, it makes Collins look bad, but it’s not really him, is it? Doesn’t this all fall at the feet of GM Sandy Alderson? How can it not?

Jun 04

Harvey Must Carry Mets

Well, if you want to be called “The Dark Knight,’’ and aspire to be ace of the Mets, then Matt Harvey needed to come up as big as he did in Thursday night’s 6-2 win in Arizona.

The Mets, who limped through May and who are on their way to a June swoon, are looking for Harvey to grab them by the scruff on the neck and shake them awake. Harvey did so, giving up two runs in seven innings with nine strikeouts.

HARVEY: Needs to carry Mets. (Getty)

HARVEY: Needs to carry Mets. (Getty)

Harvey, who entered the game winless in his previous five starts, will be followed by Jon Niese Friday and Bartolo Colon Saturday and Jacob deGrom Sunday. Niese has struggled and Colon has won eight games – seriously, how long will this keep rolling? – so, without a Harvey victory, this had the makings of a dismal trip.

Then San Francisco comes to town next week.

The bullpen choked away back-to-back 1-0 leads by Harvey, but in his last two games he had given up 11 runs – including three homers – in 12 innings. He gave up two more tonight, so that could be a cause of bubbling concern.

Manager Terry Collins theorized of a dead arm, which Harvey rebuffed by clocking in at the high 90s. More to the point, Harvey had looked less than ordinary in his last two starts, and when that happens the Mets look rather ordinary. Actually, worse that ordinary.

“I didn’t feel like I was dead,’’ said Harvey, who struck out 11 in his last start, a one-run loss to Miami. “I felt like I was coming out of my mechanics.’’

In addition to mechanics, and the blown saves by the bullpen, the Mets’ offense has given Harvey all of seven runs in his previous six games. The Mets gave Harvey nothing through the first five innings, then broke it open after he left the game. Each one of his 106 pitches had meaning.

However, when you’re supposed to be the “Dark Knight,’’ there are going to be games when you have to carry your team.

May 31

Mets Who Should Be All-Stars

Some people believe Matt Harvey should be the Mets’ representative on the National League All-Star team. Sure, I can see that, but he’s no higher than fourth on my list. However, there’s no way the Mets will have four players, especially since they won’t have anybody voted in. David Wright is fourth among third baseman.

FAMILIA: Saved 15th game today. (AP)

FAMILIA: Saved 15th game today. (AP)

My first choice is Jeurys Familia, who threw two innings of relief today, which included striking out Giancarlo Stanton with a wicked slider in the eighth. The Mets head to San Diego this week in second place, and it isn’t hard to imagine where they would be without Familia, who has 15 saves. Familia won the and won’t give it up. When he returns Bobby Parnell will have to assume another role. Likewise for Jennry Mejia, if he ever comes back.

My next choice is eight-game winner Bartolo Colon. It’s a funny for some to watch him hit, but he’s total serious on the mound. He has won eight of the Mets’ 28 games. I again wonder where the Mets would be without Colon.

They certainly wouldn’t be in second place.

Finally, there’s Lucas Duda, but Adrian Gonzalez (Dodgers), Anthony Rizzo (Cubs) and Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks)  are the top three vote getters at first base. Duda is emerging into an All-Star. If not this year, but soon enough.

The All-Star voting system is extremely flawed – any election that lets you vote 35 times is a joke – and the idea every team must be represented is also far from perfect. This variable often keeps out deserving players.

Hopefully, it won’t keep out Familia.



May 28

Mets’ Six-Man Rotation Proof They Didn’t Get It Right With Harvey Initially

While some are giving the Mets kudos for the inventiveness of going to a six-man rotation, they are doing so to protect Matt Harvey and his surgically-repaired money elbow. More to the point, they are doing it because they didn’t properly calculate a program to monitor his innings in the first pace.

The Mets entered the season with a “play it by ear” approach with Harvey, but it didn’t take long to second-guess several decisions by manager Terry Collins, and yes, to take some jabs at the young star.

HARVEY: The fly in the six-man ointment. (AP)

HARVEY: The fly in the six-man ointment. (AP)

First, they let him pitch with a strep throat, when Collins should have told Harvey to stay home. However, Harvey wanted to pitch that day – of course, he did – and left the impression he wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer, which is to paraphrase Collins.

Starting him was bad enough. Letting him pitch into the seventh that day compounded matters.

When they had a chance to rest Harvey, the Mets spit the bit. Soon it would bite them in the butt.

Entering the season, part of the Mets’ “play it by ear,” plan was to take advantage of one-sided games to give Harvey a few innings off. But, when they could have pulled him after seven in a blowout win over the Yankees, he pushed the envelope because he wanted the complete game.

Collins, of course, caved.

What followed were back-to-back no-decision games for Harvey in which the bullpen coughed up 1-0 leads. Obviously, with benefit if hindsight the Mets would rather have had Harvey pitch longer in those games than stay in for a few more innings in a meaningless game against the Yankees.

Then Harvey was hammered in the worst start of his career and Collins thought he had a “tired arm.”

The goal, said pitching coach Dan Warthen, is to have the pitchers make 30 starts over the course of the year instead of 34.

The fatal flaw to this plan is pitchers are creatures of habit and it is difficult to jump into this format in midstream, a move that has all the pitchers annoyed to some degree.

At the start of spring training, I wrote the Mets should map out Harvey’s starts from April through September with a definitive idea of how many innings he would throw in each start. Well, the Mets didn’t want to do that because they didn’t want to come across as having a leash on Harvey, an idea he despised.

However, in the end it looks as if they will have to do what they should have done in the first place.

There’s a saying the smart carpenter measures twice but saws once. However, the Mets come across as Gilligan trying to build a grass hut.