Jun 18

Harvey And Wheeler Give Mets Glimpse Of Future

There might be some question if Zack Wheeler is ready to assume the role of savior for the New York Mets, despite his and manager Terry Collins’ proclamations to the contrary of those lofty expectations.

With the statistical and financial numbers having been crunched, the decision is it is time to start the clock on Wheeler. The Mets don’t know who’ll be dropped from the rotation. Because of today’s doubleheader, the Mets will go at least one cycle through the rotation with six starters.

WHEELER: Future is now.

WHEELER: Future is now.

Wheeler will start the second game with Matt Harvey the opener. That pitching future the Mets have been bragging about? Well, we’ll get a glimpse today.

Ideally, the Mets don’t want to return Wheeler to the minor leagues after today. As their thinking when Harvey came up last year, they want him here to stay. Because Wheeler won’t be activated until between games, rules prohibit him of being in the dugout to watch Harvey.

That will happen soon enough.

“[It will be] a fun day,’’ Collins said this afternoon at Turner Field. “It’s a great thing for this organization and its fan base to see what the future is going to be like. We’ve got two young guys that are going to be very, very, very good.

“Pitching is the name of this game. We’re going to run two guys out there [Tuesday] that can take this organization north pretty fast.’’

Harvey has been exceptional this season, but is just 1-1 with eight no-decisions in his last ten starts. In that span Harvey has given up 19 runs. If nothing else, what Wheeler should learn quickly about pitching on the major league level is there will be times when he’ll have to do it without run support, which is what Harvey is currently experiencing.

Harvey has been successful in large part because of his composure, self-confidence and sense of worth. Harvey understands his stature and expectations of him, but hasn’t let it go to his head.

Wheeler might as well have been reciting a script given him by Harvey.

“I don’t think I’m the savior at all,’’ spoke Wheeler in a press conference Monday afternoon at Turner Field, almost a half-hour where he grew up watching Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine.

Continuing his refreshing travel down humility road, Wheeler said: “We might not be doing too well right now, but I know the talent of these guys, and hopefully we can turn it around soon. … I’m just trying to come up here and play the best that I can, help out the team any way I can.

“I know people are going to scrutinize. We aren’t doing too well right now, but hopefully we can turn it around and everybody will like us again.’’

Mets fans have liked Wheeler all spring in hope of what he might give them. Today is his first chance to deliver.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 17

Where Does Jordany Valdespin Fit In With Mets?

Should the New York Mets pull the plug on the Jordany Valdespin experiment, manager Terry Collins and management will be able to look in the mirror and say they tried.

They would be fooling themselves.

VALDESPIN: What is his future? (Getty)

VALDESPIN: What is his future? (Getty)

A week is clearly not enough for most players to come off the bench to make a solid statement at second base, or any other position for that matter. They might give Valdespin more time, but it won’t be a significant chance because the Mets don’t even know if they want him to play second base.

Valdespin is 3-for-23 at the plate and hasn’t been effective in the field. If second is his natural position, he’s in trouble. Then again, Daniel Murphy didn’t have a natural position and it has taken him nearly two years to get a feel for the position.

The Mets are going out of order in the Valdespin experiment. The first issue isn’t whether they think he can play second, but whether they want him in the organization in the first place. Next, is where do they envision Valdespin playing? And, who is his competition in the organization?

In the short term, it is Murphy, but if he’s their “real second baseman of the future” they never should have been playing him at first this past week. The time should have gone to first baseman Josh Satin to get an idea what they have in him.

On the minor league level, the Mets’ seventh-ranked prospect is Wilmer Flores, who is a natural third baseman. However, with David Wright signed long-term, the Mets are playing Flores at second base. Finding a place for him is a higher priority than finding a place for Valdespin.

If Flores is the second baseman of the future, it stands to reason neither is Valdespin nor Murphy – so they must be showcasing the latter. Flores could be tested at shortstop, but Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were all tall, lanky and strong shortstops, so that’s not a real argument if they want to look at Flores over Ruben Tejada.

The Mets seem to have two second base options – three if they consider moving Tejada back – ahead of Valdespin, so what exactly are they trying to find out?

They definitely can’t learn much in a week enough to showcase him in a trade, especially with his previous baggage. They have a better chance of building Valdespin’s value it they play him in the minor leagues every day for the next mont than if he played part time on the major league level.

There’s clearly room for Valdespin in the outfield; there’s room for a lot of options in the outfield.

If the Mets decide they want Valdespin a part of their future, they will eventually find him a spot if he can hit. And, save a handful of pinch-hit homers, what do they know about this guy offensively?

They know he has pop and can occasionally drive a ball.  However, from his limited 116-at-bats window the first impression is he’s undisciplined, which makes one wonder outside of his speed what are his attributes as a leadoff hitter.

Overall, Valdespin is hitting .207, but more concerning is .a 264 on-base percentage. Valdespin swings from his heels and often at breaking stuff away in the dirt. His 24 strikeouts-to-six walks ratio is alarming, and for all his speed, four steals to three times being caught is barely a wash.

I don’t know if, or where, Valdespin will fit in with the Mets two or three years from now. I don’t think the Mets know, either. Fact is, I’m not sure the Mets know where Valdespin will fit in a month from now.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 16

Terry Collins Questions Resolve Of Mets

There are roughly six weeks left of relevance in the season for the New York Mets. That takes into consideration the All-Star Game – Citi Field’s one chance to shine in the national spotlight – and past the trade deadline when we learn what Mets are rescued from the dark abyss of losing and brought into the shining light of a pennant race.

In praising Jon Niese’s spotty, yet gritty effort in another Mets’ loss Saturday to the Chicago Cubs, manager Terry Collins indirectly threw the rest of his team under the effort bus.

COLLINS: Alone with haunting thoughts? (Getty)

COLLINS: Alone with haunting thoughts? (Getty)

“Jon Niese didn’t have his good stuff,’’ an exasperated Collins told reporters. “He battled through six innings. He didn’t want to come out of the game. That’s what I want.’’

Huh?

“I want guys who don’t want to come out of the game,’’ Collins continued. “I want guys that say, ‘I care enough, as much as you do, that I want to stay in the game.’ We get more guys like that, we’ll win more baseball games.’’

Niese did not pitch well, but gutted into the sixth inning. It wasn’t a quality effort, but a starter must persevere. Collins praised Niese, but in doing so said he doesn’t have enough players with that resolve. He didn’t say players have quit, but read between the lines.

There must be players not named David Wright or Matt Harvey wondering if the manager was talking about them.

It’s also a dig at general manager Sandy Alderson for not getting him those players. And, in going full circle, it can be interpreted an indictment of himself; that he and his staff aren’t doing enough to motivate his players.

I wrote after the Ike Davis demotion if management believed it was heading in the right direction Collins should get an extension to avoid lame duck status. But, after what he said, you can’t help but think the manager believes this team lacks more than talent and is in deeper than just a hitting slump.

In one part of the clubhouse Wright held court and admitted it is tiring trying to come up with new answers to old questions. Wright spoke of guys needing to dig deep and use whatever motivators necessary to finish strong.

Finishing the season? Doesn’t that sound a lot like getting it over with?

Wright is captain for a reason, but it is time he takes off the gloves. It is time he takes this team by the scruff of the neck and shake it awake. It isn’t time to be a politician and say the right things. It is time to lead, and if it means being unpopular, than so be it.

Motivation? How about this being their jobs? How about pride? How about being a professional? How about manning up?

“A lot these guys are going to be part of the future,’’ said Wright. I know what he is getting at there, but if I hear the word “future,’’ pertaining to the Mets one more time I will scream.

Does anybody else remember the late football coach George Allen? Allen, in filling his roster with veterans, coined the phrase, “the future is now.’’

But, what about now?

The Mets won’t win now, but they can play hard now. They can play smart now. They can hustle now. They can give us a reason to watch now. They can earn their money now.

So, quit the crap and play ball. And, as for Collins – quit whining about what you don’t have and kick the group you do have in its collective butt.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 15

Johan Santana Makes Appearance; Reminder Of Deal Lost

Johan Santana made an appearance, perhaps for the last time, to the New York Mets’ clubhouse Friday. Maybe it was to say good-bye to teammates or pick up a few things. Perhaps it was to get a Matt Harvey autograph. Maybe the Mets needed him to sign a few papers before he gets the last of the $31 million owed him.

No one can ever doubt Santana’s work ethic or determination on the mound, but when all the numbers are added, one can’t say the Mets got their $137.5-million’s worth. Or, should I say $143-million’s worth when the 2014 buyout is considered?

SANTANA: At one time there was a smile. (AP)

SANTANA: At one time there was a smile. (AP)

Yes, they did get the franchise’s only no-hitter last season, but a tainted one because it was the product of a blown call. But, that night also cost the Mets the rest of Santana’s career because Terry Collins wrongly kept him in to throw 134 pitches.

There were a few more good starts after, but Santana hit a wall and lost his last five decisions before he was shut down because of injury for the third time in his four seasons with the Mets. And, that  DOESN’T include 2011 and this year, in which he didn’t pitch at all because of a shoulder injury.

To be technical, you can also throw in 2014, when the Mets will pay him to go away and rehab on their dime while he attempts a comeback.

For all that money, Santana only had one season in which he made all his starts, and that was his first, in 2008, when he was 16-7 and worked 234.1 innings. It wasn’t a sign of things to come.

That was the year the Mets faded in the stretch to lose the division on the final day to the Philadelphia Phillies. The previous season, the Mets lost a seven-game lead with 17 to play because their pitching collapsed. They also lost on the final day in a loss always known as the Tom Glavine Not Devastated Game.

Santana was supposed to prevent a reoccurrence. He did not, but to be fair, Santana threw a masterpiece in Game 161 on an injured knee to give the Mets a chance in the season finale.

Santana’s effort was never in question as it was with Oliver Perez, nor did he fail to produce when healthy, as was the case with Jason BayStill, his contract falls in the grave disappointment if not bust category. What can be called into question was Santana’s judgment when he forced the issue in spring training out of pride by throwing unauthorized mound session in a snit in response to Sandy Alderson’s comments about him not being in shape.

Even at the time of the deal an argument can be made the Mets overpaid in terms of prospects given up and salary because they misjudged the market and bid against themselves.

At the time, the Yankees and Red Sox were in hot pursuit of Santana, but Minnesota kept jacking up the prospect price to the point where both opted out. The Mets, who weren’t on the Twins’ radar, suddenly were in the game, but as the only players.

The Mets surrendered prospects Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey. Gomez had moments of production, but not stardom. If nothing else, he would be playing in today’s Mets outfield. As for Humber, he pitched a perfect game not tainted by an umpire’s call.

After the deal was agreed to, there was the matter of working out a contract and the Mets went high, six-years, on a pitcher with a previous shoulder injury and a mountain of innings. Even had they gone less in terms of years and money, Santana had to accept if he wanted out of Minnesota because he had nowhere else to go as the Twins wouldn’t have come close.

The Mets had to know it wouldn’t end well, but gambled Santana might give them an October before breaking down. It was a gamble they would lose.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 15

Mets’ Collins, Marcum Not Believable In Rotation Issue

It is difficult to believe either Terry Collins or Shaun Marcum regarding the New York Mets’ upcoming rotation decision to accommodate Zack Wheeler.

Whether he’s ready or not – and even he said he didn’t pitch his best at Triple-A Las Vegas – Wheeler is on his way to start the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves. The Mets already bought the plane ticket; he’s coming.

MARCUM: Hammered by Cubs. (AP)

MARCUM: Hammered by Cubs. (AP)

For now, Collins said the Mets will fly with a six-man rotation, but that’s probably once or twice through. Matt Harvey isn’t cool to the idea, so guess where this will go?

If based strictly on merit, the veteran Marcum, who fell to 0-8 Friday night against the Chicago Cubs, should be the odd-man out. But, he’s making $4 million this year, which amazingly, is the fifth-highest salary in the Mets’ payroll behind Johan Santana, David Wright, John Buck and Frank Francisco. And, this  does not include the deferred money owed Jason Bay, which could drop Marcum to sixth.

Collins, operating under the belief people are idiots, downplayed the salary angle.

“When it comes down to the time to make the decision, certainly I’m not sure salary is going to have anything to do with it,’’ Collins said Friday night. “I think we’re going to take the five guys that we need to make sure are the best five to go out there.’’

Of course, salary will have something to do with it as it always does with the Mets. And, it likely won’t be Collins’ call, either.

Salary is why they kept running Bay out there every day when it was clear he had nothing. Salary is why they hung onto Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo longer than needed. Salary is why they traded Carlos Beltran for Wheeler, and one can’t yet say the Mets won that deal. Salary might be why they resisted sending down Ike Davis to the minors, a decision that might have come too late.

Salary and cutting payroll has been the essence of everything the Mets have done in the Sandy Alderson era. You’d like to believe Collins in the decision will be based on merit, but Alderson’s track record indicates otherwise.

Marcum, who has had several good moments, notably his relief appearance in last week’s 20-inning loss to the Miami Marlins, has shown a propensity of working out of the bullpen, which makes it reasonable to figure he can do that job. However, Marcum’s dwindling trade value is as a starter and taking him out of that role could make that option difficult.

Marcum said, “I really haven’t thought about it,’’ which on second thought might be the truth because he knows he’ll get his money regardless.

ON DECK:  Johan Santana visits; a reminder of a lost deal.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos