Sep 21

Ten Reasons Why Mets Won’t Collapse

A week ago today the Mets held a 9.5-game lead over the Nationals and we were talking about magic numbers. There were columns, including those written here, suggesting Matt Harvey’s limitations weren’t a big concern because the Mets opened a huge gap in the NL East and the Nationals were floundering.

After Sunday night’s disaster in Flushing the Mets’ lead is six games with 13 games remaining. Three of those games are with Washington the final weekend of the season.

WRIGHT: We'll see that smile in October. Trust me. (AP)

WRIGHT: We’ll see that smile in October. Trust me. (AP)

Despite growing anxiousness, I don’t see the Mets coughing up their lead, regardless of Harvey’s innings situation, and here’s why:

1. It’s hard to believe the Mets will have another collapse like 2007, or even 2008. Three dramatic collapses in less than ten years is almost impossible to comprehend. I mean, what are the odds? History won’t repeat itself.

2. There are a core of veterans that are real leaders who won’t let it happen. David Wright, Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson are veterans with a clue. You can add Daniel Murphy and Curtis Granderson to the list.

3. The Mets folded in 2007 because of their bullpen, but despite what happened Sunday, it is significantly better this year. Jeurys Familia is a dominating closer, and if Tyler Clippard gets over his back problems, the 2015 back end is much better. Addison Reed is a plus.

4. Yoenis Cespedes is in a dreadful slump. Better to get that out of the way now. If he can turn it on again it will work wonders with the offense.

5. The starting pitching everybody raved about is going through a rough stretch, but Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are just too good to go into a group free fall.

6. Bartolo Colon seems oblivious to pressure. He’s been strong this month and I don’t see signs of him letting up.

7. With the exception of the final weekend, the schedule is working in the Mets’ favor.

8. They have a group of young, talented players in Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores and Michael Conforto who are having solid seasons. Plus, Lucas Duda is showing breakout signs.

9. The 2007 team had chemistry issues and there were a segment of players not happy with then-manager Willie Randolph. Plus, the front office wasn’t behind Randolph, evidenced by assistant general manager Tony Bernazard spying in the clubhouse. There’s a disconnect between manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson, the players generally like and respect Collins. They haven’t quit on him. There are no dogs or cancers on this team.

10. While there’s a sense of anxiousness, these Mets have played too good for so long for there to be another free-fall into winter.

None of this is to suggest the Mets don’t have issues. They do, and I’ll get to them later this week, but for now just relax as this season will be over soon enough, and in a good way.

Sep 20

Robles Gives Glimpse Of Harvey Limits Nightmare

The horror Mets’ fans envision when it comes to Matt Harvey‘s innings limits surfaced in a disturbing way tonight. Harvey cruised for five scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out seven, before giving way to Hansel Robles.

Robles pitched two thirds of an inning and was hammered for five runs by the Yankees. It was the obvious fear whenever Harvey leaves the game.

Of course, there were boos, directed at Robles, at manager Terry Collins for pulling Harvey, for GM Sandy Alderson who didn’t have a definitive plan entering the season, and, at Harvey, who resisted any rest suggestions this summer.

HARVEY: Goes five tonight. (Getty)

HARVEY: Goes five tonight. (Getty)

We’ve been over this several times and the basic criticism is the Mets wanted to limit Harvey’s workload, but Alderson, Harvey, Dr. James Andrews and agent Scott Boras failed to come up with a workable plan.

Boras, Harvey and Andrews had their idea of a limit (180 innings total) and Alderson had his idea (around 190 for the regular season plus the playoffs).

The disconnect between the sides is wide, but the primary finger must be pointed at Alderson, who as the Mets’ chief executive, failed to come up with a concrete plan or stand up to his diva pitcher.

According to the recent, quickly thrown together plan, Harvey was to go five tonight and presumably five in his next two games, and with his playoff workload undetermined.

Barring another historic collapse, the Mets should make the playoffs, but what if there’s a repeat of tonight next month against the Dodgers? In the playoffs, don’t you want to see Harvey go six, or seven, or even eight innings?

Of course you do, and so would Harvey’s teammates. However, the Mets won’t make that commitment and that’s aggravating to all concerned.

 

Sep 19

Mets Have More To Worry About Than Beating The Yankees

Does anybody still look at the Yankees’ series as a battle for New York? If you do, then you’ve missed the point of the previous 148 games. To me, whether April or September, the “Subway Series” means nothing because the real prize is the NL East.

The next two weeks, not this weekend, will determine the success of this season. And, in that regard, the Mets are waving a few red flags. As with everything, it begins with starting pitching, and everybody has questions.

SYNDERGAARD: Home run issues. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: Home run issues. (Getty)

Manager Terry Collins said he’s not worried about the home runs given up by Noah Syndergaard, who gets in big trouble in the sixth with an ERA approaching nine. Syndergaard has given up 17 homers this year, with seven in the sixth inning.

That’s a problem. If you can’t make it out of the sixth, that will tax the bullpen, which is also the scenario for Matt Harvey, who will be going on half-starts.

Reportedly, the Mets, Harvey, agent Scott Boras and Dr. James Andrews reached a settlement. But, even if Harvey makes two more starts of 70 pitches, what have they really determined if Andrews’ evaluation is for him not to pitch, or to make an abbreviated start in the playoffs?

Ideally, the intent is to have Harvey ready to pitch deep in these games, but that’s not the case.

The Mets also want to have Jacob deGrom skip a start.

So, how confident are you with three starters working on limits? And, Bartolo Colon – who has been the most consistent the past three weeks – reportedly not in the rotation? And, another, Jon Niese, who has been horrible the last two months? And another, Steven Matz, with only a handful of major league starts?

What you’re talking about is the starters pitching limited innings and the bullpen being overworked. And, that bullpen is not without issues now as Tyler Clippard has a barking back. If you’re expecting the Mets’ bullpen to work up to four innings a game, then you need Carlos Torres healthy, Hansel Robles to develop consistency, and for Addison Reed to keep pitching well.

They also need Jeurys Familia to remain oblivious to the mounting pressure.

And, there will be pressure.

Sep 18

From Matz To Duda, A Lot To Like About Mets

There are several things to take out of Friday’s Mets-Yankees game, none of which pertains to so-called bragging rights. Tell me, does anybody really believe in that?

The first is Steven Matz. All along, I’ve advocated leaving Matz out of the playoff rotation, simply because I didn’t believe he has the experience to pitch in that high-pressure atmosphere. Now, the playoffs are more intense than the Yankees, but Matz showed a lot tonight.

MATZ: Strong impression. (AP)

MATZ: Strong impression. (AP)

After a rocky first inning, which included a leadoff walk, Matz turned in a masterful performance. He went after hitters and pitched ahead in the count. He never pitched afraid.

I like Matz and still think the Mets might have something there as a lefty specialist in the playoffs, but know they won’t go there. Where they might go, and this would be delicious, would be to pass over Matt Harvey because of his “innings limits,’’ and go with Matz.

That would be terrifically ironic.

Also important was the revival of Lucas Duda with a mammoth homer and double. He would have also had a single if not for the shift. The Mets have crushed the ball since the Yoenis Cespedes trade, but widely absent in that power display has been Duda. When the playoffs arrive, they’ll need power from the left side.

Speaking of which, Daniel Murphy hit another clutch homer tonight for the go-ahead run. He also hit a game-tying homer on the last road trip in Atlanta, and prior to that, a key homer in Miami.

Murphy, by the way, is a scream with a great sense of humor. After his triple did you notice how he pushed away third baseman Chase Headley’s glove? Just a funny moment in a tense evening. How can you not love that stuff?

I can’t help but think that with the development of Wilmer Flores as a second baseman, and with David Wright seemingly healthy, the Mets won’t bring back Murphy. That becomes even more probable if they earmark money for Cespedes and their young pictures.

Finally, there was Addison Reed, who has been overpowering in his bid for becoming the seventh-inning answer.

As a devout interleague play hater, I took nothing out of beating the Yankees. However, I saw a lot to like in preparation for October.

Sep 14

If Harvey Remains An Issue, Let Him Go Home

This won’t go over well with many, but so be it: I don’t care if Matt Harvey pitches in the playoffs for the Mets. I don’t care if he pitches for them again this season or not.

This “will he or won’t he?’’ crap is boring with much of it Harvey’s fault. If Harvey wants to pitch that badly in the playoffs, then pitch. The easy thing is to blame agent Scott Boras, which SNY wrongly did last week. Once and for all, eliminate this innings issue. Supposedly this was done when he pitched in Washington.

HARVEY: Won' be throwing tonight. (AP)

HARVEY: Won’ be throwing tonight. (AP)

Harvey didn’t clear things up yesterday in Atlanta, and it will surface Monday when Logan Verrett starts over him against Miami. Harvey is supposed to pitch this weekend against the Yankees, but after that, nobody knows. There’s talk of keeping Harvey in a regular rotation, but have him pitch a half-game, with Sean Gilmartin or Erik Goeddel pitching multiple innings.

How sharp he’ll be in this format, and if he can extend himself again in the playoffs are in question.

The Mets are fortunate to have broken open the NL East. They are also fortunate the Nationals collapsed and might not even finish .500. Imagine what a mess this would be if there was still a race.

When Harvey spoke recently about selecting Boras for a reason, we knew it was to cash in for the bucks during his 2019 free-agent season. That’s fine. That’s his right. That’s his prerogative.

But, if you’re going to take that stance, don’t insult us with how badly you want to pitch this season and in the playoffs. If 180 innings is your ceiling then you, and the Mets, should have handled things differently this season. (He’s at 171.2 innings now.)

The Mets are going out of their way saying Harvey’s innings aren’t a distraction. Maybe they aren’t once the game starts, but we can’t escape hearing about it. This remains an issue as the Mets bear down on their first playoff appearance since 2006 because nothing has been defined.

“We’re all on the same page,’’ Collins said. “We need to get him out there a little more consistently. … If we get in the postseason, we’ve got to have Matt Harvey ready to pitch, and I don’t need him to have 15 days off. So we’ve got to come up with a plan that’s going to get him out there a little bit more.’’

Today is Sept. 14, and now you say you have to come up with a plan? If the Mets had a plan entering the season, they wouldn’t have to be scrambling for one with the playoffs less than four weeks away.

There are many unanswered questions:

Who will be in the playoff rotation? Will it include Jon Niese or Bartolo Colon? If Harvey is there, but limited, will they need to carry an extra reliever at the expense of a position player?

If Harvey goes into the playoffs with too much rust, how will it affect him? It’s the playoffs and one bad start can mean the difference between winter and the next round?

If the Mets advance, what will happen with Harvey in the next round?

With their pitching, the Mets could run the table. But, Harvey is part of that pitching. If they get to the World Series, what is Harvey’s availability?

This is something that shouldn’t be on the Mets’ plate at this point.  If the Mets can’t go into the playoffs without Harvey being an issue, perhaps the best option is to leave him off the playoff roster. This would give him plenty of rest for his start next March in Port St. Lucie.