Feb 25

Too Early To Name Opening Day Starter

Mike Puma of The New York Post recently wrote the Mets are strongly considering going with Zack Wheeler as their Opening Day starter. While I like Puma and don’t dispute his sources, naming Wheeler, or anybody else for that matter, as the Opening Day starter now is premature and a bad idea.

Of course the media wants to know. I want to know, but considering the make-up of the Mets’ rotation it serves no purpose announcing a starter this early.

WHEELER: No reason to name his Opening Day starter now. (Getty)

WHEELER: No reason to name him Opening Day starter now. (Getty)

The Mets already said it will not be Matt Harvey, but what if that changes? It already changed from him being the home opener starter to working in of the first five games.

With six weeks remaining until Opening Day and the Mets lacking a legitimate ace such as Johan Santana or even a healthy Harvey, simply too much can happen that could change Terry Collins’ mind:

* What if Harvey has a great spring training? Surely he then would get the nod.

* What if Wheeler has a lousy spring training, or worse, is injured?

* What if one of the other starters emerges strong this spring. What then?

The Opening Day starter should be based on two things: 1) experience, and 2) merit. Wheeler, despite showing promise last year and is a cornerstone of the future, doesn’t meet either.

If he’s healthy, it should be Harvey because of his brief window of success and what he means to the franchise. If not, the best choice should be Bartolo Colon.

It is highly improbable he won’t be traded this spring, so it has to be him. He’s best equipped to handle the distractions and pressure, and last year was the Mets’ most accomplished starter winning 15 games and working over 200 innings.

Wheeler is the sexy pick, but for the best results, it should go with Colon.

But, even so, the same rules apply. It is too early and every manager should know not to make a decision until absolutely has to … and Collins has not need to make an announcement now.

ON DECK TODAY: Mets’ Matters: Today’s notebook.

Feb 23

Here’s A Thought Why Mets Won’t Announce Set Plan For Harvey

Unquestionably, the primary focus for the Mets this spring training will be on Matt Harvey. GM Sandy Alderson said there would not be severe restrictions on Harvey, who remains on schedule and is to throw to hitters by the end of the week.

That’s encouraging, but what is puzzling is wondering if the Mets even have a concrete plan for Harvey’s first year following Tommy John surgery. There’s supposed to be an innings cap, but so far there’s no announced number, with Alderson saying he didn’t want this to become an issue over the next eight months.

HARVEY: Why won't they announce plan? (Getty)

HARVEY: Why won’t they announce plan? (Getty)

Memo to Alderson: Announced number or not, Harvey’s workload will always be an issue. Not knowing drives the media crazy and encourages it to bombard Alderson, Harvey and Terry Collins with the same questions before and after every start.

How can Alderson be that naïve about the New York press to think the issue will go away, especially as the season wears down and there is a prospect of a postseason?

First, it was thought Harvey would not pitch in the six games the Mets have on the road to open the season, but start the home opener. Now, Collins says he’ll start in the season’s first five games. How much do you want to bet he starts Opening Day and the home opener?

Alderson says the Mets have “an idea,’’ of Harvey’s limit, but not a definitive number. Harvey threw out 200, but not 215 or 220.

Alderson said Harvey will start in the postseason, but what does that mean toward the innings total?

Let’s assume the Mets get in as a wild card and run the table. That’s a potential six or seven starts; that’s at least another 40 innings. And, if they are in a race there’s no way they’ll cut him short in a game.

How does that compute? Do the Mets think 170 innings and keep adding on until their season is done? Don’t think for a second if the Mets reach the playoffs they would consider limiting him.

But, all innings count.

The ideal way is to map out a schedule that utilizes skipping one start a month, which is a possible savings of 42 innings, figuring seven innings is the magic number for a start. This can easily be done when scheduled off days are considered. And, it would not impact the rest of the rotation.

Then, Collins can pull Harvey depending on how he’s pitching that day and the tenor of the game. Those are bonus saved innings. I would hope on days Harvey doesn’t have it he’ll have a short leash.

That seems the easiest way, but the Mets won’t commit to this format. Instead, they floated the idea of sometimes earmarking a start for five innings. That’s a terrible idea because what if Harvey is throwing a gem? What if they pull him and the bullpen gives it up? That’s a backlash Collins doesn’t want to face.

This way also puts undue pressure on the team if they think they’ll have Harvey for five innings. A team must go into a game believing the starter will be with them. Plus, you would be putting the bullpen in the situation of working four innings that night. But, what if they were overused in an extra-innings game the night before? What if the next game’s starter is shelled? All of a sudden the bullpen is taxed.

The Mets’ reluctance to carve out a concrete plan for Harvey this year has nothing to do with trying to alleviate a distraction. At least not the one they think.

I believe their caution is they don’t want to risk of aggravating or annoying their temperamental pitcher, who has already in his young career has shown a willingness, if not eagerness, to spar with management.

They don’t want Harvey to become angry and create a different distraction. What they don’t understand it is better to face this now rather than have this become a lingering issue.

And, you know it will.

Feb 22

Wright’s Comeback Is Key Met Issue; Acknowledges He Must Adjust

Numerous times I’ve said the most pressing issue with the Mets is David Wright’s health – regardless of what happens with Matt Harvey.

Wright is entering the third season of an eight-year, $138-million, an award for being the face of the franchise and the promise of what he could bring to the Mets through the 2020 season. When Wright is whole, the Mets have a chance of being the same.

WRIGHT: Change in the air. (AP)

WRIGHT: Change in the air. (AP)

He had a decent 2013 season hitting .307, but injuries limited him to 112 games. A shoulder injury cut last year short and held him to eight homers and only 63 RBI. He hasn’t hit at least 25 homers with 100 RBI since 2010, and that’s the basis for him being the key issue – if he doesn’t start post real All-Star numbers then the contract becomes a burden and consequently a distraction.

That’s why what he told reporters Sunday was important. He acknowledged the need to slow it down from time to time. Only twice in the last five years has he played as many as 155 games, and even that might be too much.

“I think it is probably to the point where I have to be a little more realistic that it’s probably not in my best interest or the team’s best interest to go out there and play 162 games,’’ Wright said. “I think a good off day here and there probably can be beneficial for both me and the team.’’

But, that’s up to Terry Collins. If he left it up to Wright, he’d play. Collins must be disciplined enough to have a plan with Wright and stick to it. Usually, that means resting him the day before an off day. That’s a two-day rest.

Wright also acknowledged he must modify his game, meaning being more selective and concentrate on driving the ball in the gaps and not worrying about pulling.

“I remember our first year in Citi Field [in 2009], I think I hit 10 [homers] and I felt like I had a very productive season – and it was because of driving runs in, scoring runs,’’ Wright told reporters today in Port St. Lucie. “I don’t judge a season by how many home runs I hit. It’s more being productive, more being a middle-of-the-order-type hitter, where I’m driving in runs, scoring runs.

“The thing that bothered me last year wasn’t the lack of home runs. It was more that I just didn’t feel like I was the hitter I’m capable of being.’’

At 32, Wright’s best days are behind him, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be good ones ahead of him. After all, he has six more years, and with the Mets thinking playoffs, they can’t afford Wright being a shell of what he has been. He’s at the stage of his career when he knows he has to adjust. Professional hitters are able to do that – which is what he acknowledged this afternoon.

Wright has always been a pro, and I wouldn’t expect anything less of him now.

 

Feb 16

Mets Should Have No Rush To Trade Gee

Dillon Gee threw off the mound Monday, three days ahead of schedule, but how long will he remain with the Mets?

Gee is the Mets’ sixth-ranked starter, and that doesn’t include Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard, both of whom will be promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas this summer. Yes, the Mets are boast a glut of starting pitching, but exactly how deep is it?

GEE: Has value. (Getty)

GEE: Has value. (Getty)

Since I don’t believe the Mets will get immediate major-league help in exchange for Gee, the belief here is he has a higher value on the 40-man roster than as a trade chip. It’s realistic to say the Mets’ rotation isn’t without questions, beginning with health. Let’s forget for a moment the potential for any pitcher to develop arm problems at any time, and look at these issues:

Matt Harvey: He’s recovering from Tommy John and has only 12 career victories in parts of two seasons. Despite his confident statements to the contrary, nobody knows how Harvey will respond coming back from the knife.

Bartolo Colon: As they did with Gee, the Mets will listen to any and all offers for Colon. At 41, he threw 200 innings last season and would be a find for a contender. However, that’s a trade better suited for July.

Zack Wheeler: His command is an issue, and despite glimpses of being the real deal, he’s still largely unproven.

Jacob deGrom: The 2014 NL Rookie of the Year only has last year under his belt. He still has a lot to prove.

Jon Niese: His potential has always outweighed his production. The Mets were also willing to trade him over the winter.

Steven Matz: He’s unproven.

Rafael Montero: Glimpses, but nothing else.

Noah Syndergaard: He’s unproven.

The potential is great, but since there are no guarantees there could be enough chances for Gee to be slotted into the rotation. For now, the $5.3 million they’ll pay him this year represents a solid insurance policy, but for now will likely be used in long relief.

Just trading him for the sake of making a trade is foolish, especially considering the chance for something to go wrong and for him to fill a sudden void. And, if the rotation stays healthy for the first half of the season and Gee pitches well, there could be July interest in him that isn’t there now.

Gee has always been a gamer, and two years ago threw nearly 200 innings. The Mets have control over him for two more years, so there shouldn’t be any rush to trade him. Gee’s preference is to be a starter with the Mets, but that’s not happening right now. He told reporters in Port St. Lucie he’s willing to work out of the pen.

“If I’m asked to be a reliever, then I’m going to do the best I can. … I have no doubt that I can be successful,’’ he said.

And, I have no doubt if they keep Gee, he’ll be of value to the Mets.

Feb 14

Forget NBA, Baseball Still Has Best All-Star Game

For all the tinkering Major League Baseball does with its All-Star Game, it remains superior to the other All-Star Games, including the one we’ll see Sunday night.

Of course, all are commercialized to death, but the baseball edition still is played as a sport. They still play the game, unlike basketball and football, where defense is forgotten and it’s mostly showboating.

Those two are basically pick-up games.

I like the baseball game better because performances have to be earned. It’s also that way in hockey, where not much of anything can be predicted. The batter still has to hit the ball, whereas the basketball game can easily be taken over by a singular player.

In football, with no blitzing, there aren’t many quarterbacks who can’t light up a secondary.

This might sound weird, but one of the reasons I like the baseball game better is that players wear their own uniforms. In that, you get a sense of team. You don’t get in the other games, with the exception of football and their helmets.

Another reason is history.

Selected games in all sports have their moments, but there is a history, a tradition, to the baseball game. Ted Williams’ game-winning homer in 1941 in Detroit; Reggie Jackson going off the light tower, also in Detroit; the 15-inning 1967 game in Anaheim, when pitchers actually pitched, with Catfish Hunter going five innings in relief; Pete Rose running over Ray Fosse; Johnny Callison winning the 1964 game at Shea Stadium; how New York buzzed over Matt Harvey two years ago.

There are so many more, but after awhile the dunks all look the same in the NBA game. And, please, the fashion week adds nothing.