Oct 09

Mets A Team To Embrace Destiny

Can the Mets beat Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, two of the best pitchers in the National League in the first two games of the Division Series?

Hell yes. They can do it because they are throwing Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, who are also two of the best pitchers in the National League. They also have Matt Harvey going in Game 3.

DeGROM: It begins with him tonight.  (Getty)

DeGROM: It begins with him tonight. (Getty)

The Dodgers have been in the playoffs in recent years and made early exits, and they’ve done it with Kershaw. There’s nothing new about them that suggests this year will be any different.

The Mets on the other hand have been on a roller coaster ride this season to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006. I’ve written it several times this summer – when I’m not tweaking Harvey (yeah, yeah, I know I get on him a bit) – that this can be a team of destiny.

Think about how many significant players who’ve been out at times because of injuries: David Wright, Lucas Duda, Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler, Josh Edgin, Jerry Blevins, Michael Cuddyer and Bobby Parnell.

All important players they couldn’t afford to lose, yet here we are, hours away from Game 1 of the NLDS.

How many playoff teams entered the season without a commitment to a shortstop? I can only think of one, and that’s the Mets. Yet, here we are. Wilmer Flores took to the position, was almost traded, and then captured our hearts with his tears.

The Mets lost their closer Jenrry Mejia to suspension, yet Jeurys Familia stepped in to tie a club record in saves. He could be the team’s MVP. That stuff doesn’t usually happen.

The Mets don’t have a traditional lefty specialist, yet they are finding a way.

This is a team that didn’t have a leadoff hitter, yet Curtis Granderson stepped in and produced to the point where he could be the Mets’ MVP, if not Familia. Championship teams always have that one player who expands his role, that for the Mets, that’s Granderson.

They lose Wright for nearly five months, yet in his first at-bat off the DL he hits a homer. You don’t call that storybook?

To get to the playoffs this year, the Mets needed to play even with the Nationals. I don’t want to hear that the Mets backed in because the Nationals choked. The Mets kicked the stuffing out of them to the point where the likely NL MVP, Bryce Harper, said he wants to win.

When the Mets were floundering in July, there was an infusion of new blood when Michael Conforto was called up, and the trades for Yoenis Cespedes, Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and Tyler Clippard.

There’s something special about this group that through the injuries and changing roles of players that it has persevered.

Special teams find a way to get it done despite the obstacles and that’s what this team has done.

So, to answer the first question, yes the Mets can beat Kershaw and Greinke. And, for that matter, they can beat anybody else, too.


Oct 08

Darling Misses Plate On Latest Harvey Mess

Normally, I enjoy Ron Darling’s insight on baseball and the Mets. I think he’s one of the best in the business. However, this time we deserved better from him when it came to weighing in on the latest Matt Harvey fiasco.

I thought Darling and his mates on SNY – Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez – let Harvey off easy during the innings limit drama by taking the path of least resistance and blaming agent Scott Boras. However, Boras wasn’t a factor in Harvey being late to Tuesday’s workout at Citi Field, but what do you know, Darling again passed on blasting the Mets’ diva ace.

DARLING:  Should have told us more.

DARLING: Should have told us more.

“It’s really hard for me to criticize [Harvey],’’ Darling told Newsday. “Half our team didn’t make the [1986 World Series] parade. … We had guys who barely showed up to games. … To me it’s not such a big thing because he’s not pitching for so many days.’’

But, it is a big deal. Harvey’s job required him to do one thing that day, and that was to show up to work on time. And, it wasn’t as if he had to be there at 9 and fight rush hour traffic. He had to be there at noon. He still could have slept in and been there on time.

In fairness, at the time Darling might not have heard several reports Harvey had been out partying, but does it really matter? Darling saw how partying destroyed the careers of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Cocaine was their drug of choice; for Harvey, it is alcohol. Harvey relished talking about his drinking and nightclubbing in a national magazine article. He boasted of wanting to be a womanizer like Derek Jeter.

If you’re the Mets, how do you not connect the dots between that and being late? How does Darling, educated at Yale and in the major leagues, not see that coming?

Especially when it came to the conflicting stories.

On Tuesday, manager Terry Collins said Harvey called to say he was stuck in traffic and turn around and go home. However, Harvey showed up anyway and took the questions. He admitted to screwing up and I wrote he was stand-up and was willing to let it go. However, Harvey didn’t get his story straight with Collins and said he lost track of time.

Huh? You tell us pitching for the Mets in the playoffs is important to you and you’re late? Did you forget your statement after the innings mess? I didn’t, and Darling should’ve remembered, also.

Harvey wrote in early September: “Right now we’re hunkered down in a fight to make the postseason. All of our efforts are focused on that task. As a team, we understand that there’s still a lot of baseball left to play. The chance to make a run in the playoffs will require our full dedication, energy and passion. This is an incredibly exciting time to be part of the Mets.’’

“All of our efforts.’’ “our full dedication.’’

Once there are conflicting stories there will be digging. And, it didn’t help Harvey’s cause any when David Wright expressed his controlled annoyance.

How could Darling overlook all that? He’s better than that, and as a New York athlete who saw first-hand the falls of Gooden and Strawberry, he had to know it wouldn’t end with a lame story or Collins’ weak jokes.

During his career, Hernandez hit whistling line drives, and did it again when he told the newspaper: “I’m astounded after all that’s gone that this happened. I’m flabbergasted about it. But, as my father used to say: `You make your bed, you’ve got to sleep in it.’ I just think at this particular point of the season it’s really, really not good.’’

That is, of course, unless Harvey has Darling to fluff up his pillows for him.


Oct 07

Mets’ Three Keys To Beating Kershaw

The Mets won their season series against the Dodgers primarily because of pitching. So, let’s assume starters Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey pitch lights out, what then will be the three keys to beating the Dodgers?

MURPHY: Needs to stay in lineup.  (AP)

MURPHY: Needs to stay in lineup. (AP)

First, they have to split in Los Angeles. There’s no way they’ll win the series if they lose the first two games, against Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. So, how do they beat two Cy Young Award candidates, beginning with Kershaw Friday night?

Since Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is a disciple to pitch counts, the Mets must work the count. If leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson squeezes out a nine-pitch at-bat to lead off the game but strikes out, that’s still productive.

If nothing else, if the Mets lose Game 1 but force Kershaw to throw 120 pitches, that puts a strain on him for Game 5.

Secondly, the Mets can’t reinvent the wheel. All year, manager Terry Collins played Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda against left-handers. There’s no reason for him to deviate now.

Finally, assuming deGrom turns the game over to the bullpen in good shape, it must hold the lead or at least keep the game close. For the most part, Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard did the job, but the question of how to pitch to left-handed hitter Adrian Gonzalez remains an issue.

There you go, one, two, three. Simple as that,


I’d like to thank my friend Joe DeCaro for posting the feature on Justin Turner.

Oct 06

METS MATTERS: Harvey Misses Workout; Matz Throws

Mets Game 3 starter Matt Harvey missed a mandatory team workout today. He will be disciplined in-house, which would entail a fine.

mets-matters logo“One thing about having rich players: There’s a nice donation they’ll be making,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters this afternoon at Citi Field.

Harvey said he lost track of time, but phoned the Mets to tell them he was caught in traffic. Because of the conflicts Harvey has had with the Mets over his innings, it is easy to imagine the worst, but who among us hasn’t been caught in traffic?

Then again, there’s the old saying, “if you’re early you are never late.’’

Collins told Harvey to turn around and go home, but to his credit, Harvey showed up at Citi Field to work out, face the questions and not have his teammates bothered by the distraction.

That really is a plus on his behalf.

“Obviously today was not the greatest,’’ Harvey told reporters. “I know we had a mandatory workout. The last thing I ever want to do is not be here with my team. Basically there’s no excuse. I screwed up. I wasn’t here.

“I showed up a little late. I’ve talked to [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] and I’ve talked to Terry and my teammates and apologized to them and apologized to everybody. They understand. I’m here to get my workout in and be with the team.

“Unfortunately, today I screwed up. There’s not really anything else to say. They know what happened. I told everybody and apologized to everybody and told them it’s not going to happen again. It’s never happened before. Unfortunately, it happened kind of at a bad time, a mandatory time. Truly I just screwed up.’’

That’s as stand-up as a player can be. He didn’t blame Alred for not setting the alarm or Robin for warming up the Batmobile for him. He accepted responsibility and that’s all you can ask.

MATZ WORKS OUT: Rookie lefthander Steven Matz, earmarked to start Game 4 over Bartolo Colon despite only six career starts, threw a pain-free bullpen session. He will make a simulated game Thursday, and if there are no setbacks will start Game 4.

Matz, who has been sidelined with back spasms, is expected to throw 90 to 95 pitches in the game.

If Matz can’t go, the Mets are inexplicably considering using Jacob deGrom on short rest.

URIBE TO MISS NLDS: Infielder Juan Uribe, who hasn’t played since Sept. 25 because of a bruised cartilage in his test, will be left off the NLDS roster. Expect his sport on the roster to be taken by outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.


Oct 06

Colon Should Get Start Over Matz

Why do the Mets continually try to re-invent the wheel? GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins will wait until after Thursday’s instructional league start by Steven Matz to make a decision on whether the rookie lefthander will start Game 4 of the NLDS against the Dodgers.

COLON: Should get NLDS start. (AP)

COLON: Should get NLDS start. (AP)

The 4-0 Matz has made six major league starts, but hasn’t pitched since Sept. 24 because of a stiff back that required an injection over the weekend. At 24 and with a bright future, I understand the long-term attraction in Matz.

Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon, whom the Mets paid $20 million the last two seasons, and has won 29 games and pitched 397 innings in that span. Colon, who during his 18-year career – which he says will continue – has won 218 games. Matz can only hope to win that many games or pitch as long.

What Colon did 10 years ago is irrelevant, but unlike corporate America, let’s not devalue the variable known as experience. I like Matz’s fastball and his future, but the Mets still win the NL East without him. They don’t win without Colon.

This is too much thinking on Alderson’s part. Colon has been there, done that, and regardless of his losing record outside the division, he has earned the right to pitch in the postseason.

Instead, he’ll be shuffled off to the bullpen.

Meanwhile, if Matz can’t go, Alderson – and I say Alderson because Collins doesn’t have the power to make these calls – is toying with starting Jacob deGrom, the Game 1 starter, on short rest. Doing so would handicap deGrom in the NLCS if the Mets are fortunate enough to advance.

It has been a long, but fun season, and the Mets are in the playoffs for the first time since 2006. However, they are there in large part because of Colon and not Matz.

Colon in the rotation is the right thing to do.