May 14

Latest Loss May Be Best Thing To Happen To Mets’ Harvey

Last night may be the best thing to happen to Matt Harvey and the Mets. In defeat, he showed us a humility we haven’t often seen from him, which can be the first step up from rock bottom.

Sometime between Rockies’ hits in the fifth inning I flashed to the summer of 2013 when Harvey first flirted with stardom. Do you remember the video piece Harvey did on the Jimmy Fallon show when he roamed the streets of New York asking people their thoughts of Matt Harvey?

HARVEY: All smiles in 2013. (USA Today)

HARVEY: All smiles in 2013. (USA Today)

To listen to the answers, and Harvey’s response – both verbally and his body language – was priceless. Harvey was talking to his fan base about himself and they didn’t recognize him. He was funny and showed real humility.

It made us like him for more than what he did on the mound because he seemed

However, since then Harvey has been sidetracked by injury, off-the-field issues and media clashes. Both Harvey and those who followed him ventured into the dark night of judgment. Unlike that day in Central Park when he was anonymous, Harvey lived with a target on his back and hasn’t responded well.

Neither has anybody else.

His body language spoke loudly last night; louder than the cheers that greeted him at the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field when he seemingly held the world in his hand like the baseball he threw which such force and artistry.

Gone last night was the cockiness and arrogance which made people root against him. Also gone was the confidence that made him stare down a hitter then climb the ladder for another strikeout.

His head was down when he handed the ball to manager Terry Collins and slumped off the mound. The cameras caught him with his head bowed in the dugout talking to himself. He wasn’t getting any answers and it was a very human moment from a man Mets fans and media insist on labeling a superhero.

“A great statement I heard the other day is there’s two kinds of players in this league: Ones who have been humbled and ones who will be,” Collins told reporters. “When it’s your turn, it gets tough to take sometimes, because you have got to learn how to adjust from it and how to bounce back from it.”

However, before he can bounce back from a problem it must be identified.

Mechanics? Perhaps. Injuries or health? He says no. Is he feeling the pressure to perform after Game 5? Could be, but he’s repeatedly expressed no regrets in how he handled that night.

Most recently, is he trying to pitch up to the expectations of the contract he’ll seek when he becomes a free agent? Maybe, but it’s something I can’t see him admitting because after all, that’s something few players admit.

What then?

To his credit, and I really liked his answer, he refused to blame the altitude of Coors Field, a place he’s never pitched before.

His answer was a polite, yet forceful, “No, it’s me.”

Humility defined.

“I’m just not feeling comfortable throwing a baseball right now, so it’s frustrating,” Harvey told reporters. “Something I have obviously done my whole life is gone on a mound and thrown a baseball, and right now it’s not an easy task.

“Right now it’s just not feeling great out there — you start overthinking everything. That’s kind of the way it feels every pitch, and hopefully you get past that.”

Harvey cast no blame, although catcher Kevin Plawecki might have given him an out by saying his pitch recommendations might have been predictable. Not many pitchers win games with two runs, but he didn’t point fingers at the offense.

Instead, Harvey spoke of square one.

“It’s taking a lot longer than expected,” said Harvey, who must remember some pitchers hit the wall after Tommy John surgery in the second year back. “You can’t give up. You’ve just got to keep going. It’s start-to-start for me right now.

“I don’t look at it as ups and downs. It’s trying to continue figuring stuff out. … It’s not easy, but there’s another day tomorrow. And it’s a long season. There’s a lot of hope in that regard and drive toward figuring it out.”

I was glad to see Harvey get ripped because it might be the first step toward him getting to where he wants to be.

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Mar 06

All eyes on Santana

“Kid gloves,’’ is the term with how the Mets will treat Johan Santana’s return this afternoon in a split-squad game against St. Louis.

SANTANA: Rehab takes a huge step today.

Santana, recovering from shoulder surgery, is scheduled for two innings or 35 pitches – whichever comes first – and regardless of how he’s doing there will be no debate.

“I’m not going to do anything crazy,’’ said Santana, a phrase he’s uttered several times during his rehab from shoulder surgery. Santana has repeatedly said this is a process and nothing good can come from him overthrowing.

Mechanics and how he responds are what’s important at this stage. Results don’t mean anything, even if he sets down the side in order twice.

“I’m really excited to see him out there,’’ Collins said.  “Obviously (in two days) is when I want to really see how he’s doing, because that will be a test on how he’s going to bounce back.’’

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Aug 27

Mets Chat Room; Pelfrey to continue rebound.

Games #128-129

At one time this season Mike Pelfrey was 9-1 and headed for the All-Star Game in a breakthrough season.

Then July came to derail his year and leave us wondering whether the first half was a fluke, a mirage and whether the good times were over and he had regressed as he went 3-6.

True growth comes from adversity and it looks as if July might become a watershed moment for him as he fought his way out of a tailspin to pitch great ball with a 1.64 ERA over his last three starts.

He’ll continue the rebound tonight against the Houston Astros at Citi Field.

I thought Pelfrey had pitched too good for too long in the first half to lose it completely, but I was concerned. Was it an injury? A loss in mechanics and subsequent loss in confidence?

Whatever it was, Pelfrey is once again pitching aggressively and quickly. That aura about him has returned.

If it comes back to say, it will be one of the highlights of this season.

NOTE: I have programmed the chat room to open around game time. I am currently getting ready to go to New Jersey for a wedding. No, not mine. I won’t be able to monitor t0night or tomorrow, but should be back in time for Sunday’s game.

My best to you, JD

Aug 10

Mets Chat Room; Pelfrey’s slide continues.

It was June, not that long ago when the Mets were surging – 11 games over .500 – and Mike Pelfrey and Ubaldo Jimenez were mentioned in the same sentence as budding pitching stars.

Game #112 vs. Rockies

Jimenez (17-2, 2.61) has been hit briefly, but still has electrifying numbers. Pelfrey, meanwhile, has gone from 9-1 to 10-6 with a 4.16 ERA. Pelfrey’s ERA has spiked nearly two runs a game, and it was eight starts ago that he pitched six complete innings.

Tired arm, tipping his pitches, poor mechanics, losing control of this splitter and sinker and a psychological step backward are just some of the partial explanations for his slide.

There’s not just one answer, but all of the above have contributed to Pelfrey’s slide to where he’s one again a reliability question.

The Mets have been waiting for Pelfrey to take that next step bit of five seasons now. At 200 innings and a 13-11 record in 2008 was a positive. Pelfrey won his first four decisions the following year to give the believe things might have sunk in, but he went 6-12 the rest of the way and the same of problems resurfaced.

Pelfrey seemed to put it together through most of June. He pitched quickly and efficiently; he had command of his secondary, breaking pitching; and he had confidence in his fastball.

All that’s gone now, and based on performance both Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey are ahead.

The slide didn’t happen overnight and neither will the recovery. The Mets falling out of contention coincided with Pelfrey’s fall.

Now, it’s in the remaining two months where Pelfrey needs to right himself and remove his name from being an off-season question.

Aug 05

Pelfrey spits bit; Mets reeling.

The talk prior to the game was how the Mets could ride the momentum behind Jeff Francoeur’s game-winner the night before if Mike Pelfrey would step up.

PELFREY: No positive signs.

Jerry Manuel said he would stress upon Pelfrey the importance of the game – as if he didn’t already know – and the pitcher spoke about snapping out of his funk.

In the end, that’s all it was. Talk.

Pelfrey spit the bit last night in arguably one of the most important starts of his career.

“The team needed me to step up and be a lot better than I have been,’’ Pelfrey said. “I take full responsibility for tonight.’’

Actually, there was plenty of responsibility to go around as Pelfrey complemented perfectly the Mets’ total breakdown. Four errors, three in one nightmarish sixth inning, and a sluggish offense was how the Mets responded to their most important game of the season.

Today, the Mets could have been showing signs of life only 5 1/2 games out of first. Instead, they are 7 1/2  back and floundering as they head into Philadelphia. The Phillies won’t have Ryan Howard or Chase Utley, but does anybody really think that will make a difference this weekend?

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