Mar 08

No Brainer Harvey Will Be Opening Day Starter

The Mets like to say they don’t have one ace, but a whole rotation full of aces. It’s the politically correct thing to say, of course. It’s also nonsense because everybody knows it’s a no-brainer Matt Harvey will get the ball on Opening Day in Kansas City.

HARVEY: Should be the OD starter. (Getty)

HARVEY: Should be the OD starter. (Getty)

Jacob deGrom had a better season statistically – traditionally a yardstick in naming an Opening Day starter – and Noah Syndergaard might have a higher upside, but Harvey is the arm the Mets first boast about.

Harvey, today’s starter against the Braves at Disney, last pitched in Game 5 of the World Series when he convinced manager Terry Collins to go out for the ninth inning, and we all know how that worked out for the Mets.

Harvey was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA last year, but most importantly in his comeback season from Tommy John surgery was he made 29 regular-season starts and threw 216 total innings without any hint of re-injury.

Many times in the second year back from surgery the pitcher will come back even stronger and there are reports from Florida Harvey’s slider is back and his fastball has that last-second bite it lacked at times in 2015.

Harvey will make over $4 million this year, more than deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz and Zack Wheeler combined. The Mets will say when they finally make the official announcement money had nothing to do with their decision, but that would be a misnomer.

Harvey makes the most because his age put him first in line. That’s a fact, but it’s also symbolic. You see, the Mets were going to rebuild with their young pitching and Harvey was the first. He was the one they were going to build around.

Then came Wheeler, and deGrom, then Syndergaard and Matz. Come July when Wheeler is back and Bartolo Colon is relegated to the bullpen, will the Mets’ rebuilding plan be whole.

But, symbolically Harvey was the first step, which is why he’ll get the ball in Kansas City. It’s symmetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 07

The Telling Distinctions Between Colon And Pelfrey

The unveiling of the 2016 Mets’ starting rotation this week unveils an interesting match-up Monday when Bartolo Colon goes against former Mets Ace of the Future Mike Pelfrey in a split-squad game against Detroit.

In the other split-squad game, Steven Matz starts against St. Louis. Matt Harvey starts Tuesday, followed by Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. No, you can’t determine from this who will be the Opening Day starter.

But, there’s intrigue with Colon vs. Pelfrey in it shows a contrast of styles and expectations. It also explains why one is a Met and another is not.

PELFREY: What could Wright say that would help? (Getty)

PELFREY: What could Wright say that would help? (Getty)

Colon was signed as a two-year stopgap when Harvey went down. However, he exceeded all expectations, kept the team afloat at times and even proved his worthiness working out of the bullpen. And, there was never any shortage of comic relief.Colon exceeded all expectations by mostly doing two things: 1) throwing strikes, and 2) minimizing the damage when things got dicey.

Colon exceeded all expectations by mostly doing two things: 1) throwing strikes, and 2) minimizing the damage when things got dicey.

For the most part, Colon cut off big innings before they developed. Had Pelfrey done those things with any consistency, he might still be with the Mets.

What do you remember most about Pelfrey? For me, it was his habit of letting little things get to him which eventually turned into big innings. This was never more apparent than three balks in one inning against San Francisco. Most pitchers don’t balk three times in one year. Guess how many career balks Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard have in their careers?

Yup, zero.

All three, while not perfect, have the ability to maintain their composure while under pressure and to throw strikes. There were times Pelfrey resembled a right-handed Oliver Perez. Enough said.

I always liked Pelfrey, but he drove me crazy to watch him at times. And, you could see it coming. If he didn’t get a strike call, or there was an error, or a broken-bat blooper, or any of a half-dozen other things.

When something went wrong Pelfrey would start chewing on that damned mouth guard and the strike zone would disappear. One walk would become two would become three and before you knew it the Braves or Phillies or whoever would have three runs.

Those were long days.

Meanwhile, nothing seems to bother Colon, who is always full of surprises, such as that behind the back flip in Miami.

Mar 06

Why Utley’s Suspension Was Dropped

Mets’ fans won’t be pleased with this, but Chase Utley‘s two-game suspension was dropped by Major League Baseball. Utley was suspended for his aggressive take-out slide in Game 2 of the NLDS that broke Ruben Tejada‘s right leg.

Baseball’s policeman, Joe Torre, called the slide illegal for being a “rolling block” occurring away from the base. The suspension resulted from an outcry by Mets’ fans and New York media, and I believe was issued to avoid an ugly scene when the NLDS moved to Citi Field.

Utley appealed – as was his right – and didn’t play in the games in New York.

TEJADA: Suspension dropped. (AP)

TEJADA: Suspension dropped. (AP)

Here’s why I think the suspension was dropped:

* The umpire’s have discretion to eject a player if they deem it to be a dirty play and they did not.

* There was a take-out rule already in place dictating the runner must be able to reach the bag with his foot or hand and apparently the umpires believed this to be the case with Utley. (watch video)

* Replays showed Wilmer Flores‘ throw put Tejada in an awkward position, one in which he turned into Utley’s slide. This was not the runner’s fault.

* That Utley did not play in the two New York games could be viewed as a de facto suspension.

* Reaction among those in MLB is mixed between dirty and just aggressive. There was hardly a consensus in either position.

* MLB adopted a new rule on break-up slides.

When asked about the suspension Sunday, Tejada told reporters: “I don’t care really. I don’t care. I care about me. I’m healthy here. I’m happy here. So I don’t care about what’s going to happen there or what’s the decision they take there.”

Said Mets GM Sandy Alderson: “The most important thing is that the rule was changed.”

 

 

Mar 05

Understanding Lack Of Urgency In Signing Pitchers

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said there haven’t been any talks with their young rotation for long-term contracts, but added that doesn’t mean there can’t be negotiations later in spring training. But, if it doesn’t happen this spring there shouldn’t be a cause for great concern.

DeGROM: It's just business (GETTY)

DeGROM: It’s just business (GETTY)

I’ve long liked the idea of the Mets signing their young pitchers to long-term contracts. My thinking is the price will eventually increase so it makes sense to lock them up early for the sake of cost certainty. It makes sense, but I can also understand why Alderson hasn’t been more aggressive in that area.

It starts with a sense of urgency, and frankly there is none. Matt Harvey won’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season. Jacob deGrom won’t be eligible until 2020, which is four years away, and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz until 2021.

“I think that’s something that everyone needs to keep in mind,” Alderson told reporters. “There seems to be a fixation on some of our players and the brevity or length of their time with the Mets. I all of these cases, they’re going to be with us for a while. From that standpoint, is there urgency? From our standpoint, is there urgency?”

There’s time to do something and yes the price can increase. Conversely, there’s always the possibility of injuries and underperforming. That’s always the chance you take when you sign players to long-term contracts.

On the flip side, the Mets are taking a chance of alienating these pitchers if they continue to do things as they did with deGrom. Until a player becomes arbitration eligible, a team can assign a player his salary, which is what the Mets did when they issued him a $607,000 contract.

The conventional wisdom is the team holds the hammer early in a player’s career, and the athlete puts the screws to the team later on. If a team plays hardball all the time, it could come back to bite them.

For now, deGrom told reporters all is well with the team.

“That’s the business side of the game,” deGrom said. “That’s why I hired my agents. I feel like I have some of the best in the business. It was a business decision that we decided to make. We have great respect for the Mets and the system that they have, and I feel like I have a great relationship with them.

“As I’ve said before, I love playing here. And I want to be in this uniform for a long time. It was just a decision based on the business side of the game.”

It’s also the business side when the player takes it to the team in the arbitration and free-agent process.

Mar 04

Mejia Cries Foul; He’s Clueless

When you don’t have any cards your hand, you might as well bluff. That appears to be the strategy of Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia, who became the first MLB player to be permanently suspended after he failed three drug tests.

MEJIA: He's reaching. (AP)

MEJIA: He’s reaching. (AP)

Mejia told The New York Times that MLB is out to get him, that he is a victim of a witch hunt. Huh? Seriously?

After tangling with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun – two MVPs that are big names – why would MLB go outside the lines to nail Mejia? In the grand scheme of things, who is Jenrry Mejia?

Mejia told the Times he was only guilty of the first offense, but the second test wasn’t accurate and that he was pressured by MLB for information on his drug connections. I have to ask, if what Mejia said was true, why didn’t he cry foul at the time? Quite simply, you don’t complain about the second test shortly after failing a third.

I’m always skeptical of stories involving Spanish-speaking players because things get muffled and lost through an interpreter. I mention this because Mejia told the paper, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Seriously? Nothing? You failed three drug tests and wouldn’t change anything?

If nothing else, he might try a different drug as he was caught twice for stanozolol and twice for boldenone.

Sure, MLB resorted to dirty tricks with Rodriguez, so you can’t say it is above doing such things. But, if that’s the case, would you do it against Mejia? Hardly. Like I said, he has nothing.