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.

Sep 13

Lagares Auditioning For Playoff Roster Spot

While it is clear Juan Lagares lost his center field job to Yoenis Cespedes, what is in question is a possible postseason roster spot, and he’s yelling: “Don’t forget about me.’’

Lagares, buried on the bench behind Cespedes and later Kirk Nieuwenhuis, personified what has been going on with the Mets lately.

LAGARES: Auditioning for playoff spot. (AP)

LAGARES: Auditioning for playoff spot. (AP)

These Mets refused to give the Braves that third strike or third out. Sunday’s game was lost – that is L O S T – when Lagares came to bat in the ninth.

He fell behind 1-and-2, fouled off a couple of pitches before lining a ball into the right-center gap Cameron Maybin couldn’t hold after a diving attempt.

Curtis Granderson, who has excelled leading off, drew his second walk of the game, 12th of the month and 83rd of the season. Then Daniel Murphy, who isn’t a power hitter, crushed a game-tying three-run homer.

The three runs the Mets scored in the tenth inning was a formality, and with it, the Mets had their 82nd victory for their first winning season in seven years.

The Mets are on an unconscious roll the past six weeks, or since the deal for Cespedes, and it would be easy for a young player such as Lagares to get down on himself.

Lagares is 5-for-9 this month, with three of those hits coming off the bench. He’s started only one game in September. Those are numbers manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson will need to evaluate when deciding the postseason roster.

We know the outfielders will include Cespedes, Granderson, Michael Conforto – there’s no way they can even think about not keeping him now – and Michael Cuddyer. If they want a fifth outfielder the candidates are Nieuwenhuis, Lagares and Eric Young.

Nieuwenhuis offers a left-handed bat off the bench and Young gives them speed and a stolen base threat. Lagares offers a right-handed bat – as does Cuddyer – and defense. But, they won’t take out Cespedes for defense in the playoffs.

Where does that leave Lagares? Today he demonstrated his head is still in the game. If not for the playoffs, then for next season.

Sep 12

Mets Should Ride And Not Rest Cespedes

It came as no surprise Yoenis Cespedes was in the Mets’ lineup tonight in Atlanta. And, to listen to manager Terry Collins, Cespedes will be in the lineup tomorrow and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that …

Cespedes will play until he wants a day off, and why not? He’s 29 and firecracker hot with no signs of letting up. It should also come as no surprise Cespedes hit another home run, giving him 16 with the Mets. And, when he came to bat in the ninth with the bases loaded, another RBI that iced the Mets’ sixth straight victory was a formality.

CESPEDES: Does it again. (Getty)

CESPEDES: Does it again. (Getty)

With their lead over the Nationals having ballooned to 9.5, another soon to be a formality will be their first playoff appearance since 2006. Tonight they assured themselves of finishing .500 for the first time since 2008.

You wouldn’t be a Mets’ fan if you somehow were not worried Cespedes will eventually cool. Hopefully, that won’t happen until the season is over.

I wrote the other day I didn’t think the Mets would bring back Cespedes, but that’s strictly because of their track record with high-priced free agents. It’s not because I don’t want the Mets to sign him, but simply a gut feeling.

With every passing day, and each extra-base hit, his price keeps going up. Who knows how high it will go? Actually, on the radio today I heard he might pass the $240 million over ten years Robinson Cano got from Seattle. I wouldn’t give Cespedes either, as they’ll grow to regret it the last four or five years.

If Cespedes doesn’t want to rest, just ride him until the Mets clinch and then give him a day or two. That’s what Collins should be doing with everybody … keep the pressure on and go for the throat.