May 10

Wally Backman Out Of Line On Wheeler Comments

Like everybody else, I am anxious to see Zack Wheeler with the Mets. Even if he’s half of what he’s been cranked up to be, he has to be some improvement, if not a gate draw, from what the Mets have now.

BACKMAN: Out of line.

BACKMAN: Out of line.

Yesterday, Las Vegas manager Wally Backman told a local radio station: “Personally, I think if he has a couple of more starts like his last start he’ll be headed to the big leagues, and rightfully so.’’

Huh? I don’t recall GM Sandy Alderson saying something like that.

I’m not saying Backman is right or wrong in his analysis or projection of Wheeler, just wrong in saying anything of that nature in the first place.

Backman manages Triple-A Las Vegas. He does not speak for the Mets’ organization, and his comments put undue pressure on everybody, from Backman, to Wheeler, to Terry Collins, to Alderson.

Once somebody from the organization, even Alderson, suggests a timetable, a clock starts ticking. So, what happens if Wheeler isn’t up in two starts? What then? Another timetable? You can’t keep teasing the fan base that way.

Backman is out of line in making such statements. But, could it be he spoke because the Mets don’t have a policy in place on how to publicly handle Wheeler?

There were no such conflicting messages with Washington about promoting Stephen Strasburg. Why aren’t similar precautions and guidelines in place for Wheeler?

There was more structure to Matt Harvey’s promotion this year in that everybody knew he would go north with the team coming out of spring training. There seemed more structure to Harvey’s promotion last year, primarily because Alderson did most of the talking.

The only structure with Wheeler is we knew he wouldn’t be up at the beginning of the year because of the contractual links to his arbitration and free-agency eligibility seasons. The best-guess estimate for that is the end of the month or early June, but either way that exceeds a couple of more starts.

At least the Mets made a determination, although there was the caveat of “if we really needed someone,’’ that could be waived. Wheeler wasn’t pitching well enough early in his season to warrant a promotion, but he has been good his last two starts. Perhaps, two or three more and he’ll be ready, but that’s Alderson’s call and not Backman’s.

It’s confusing when not all the parties are on the same page. It is Alderson’s responsibility to define that page, and Backman’s to follow the guidelines.

There should be no loose cannons here, just one voice. That’s the case with winning organizations.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 09

Mets Shouldn’t Even Think Of Extending Ike Davis

During the offseason and in spring training I wrote in the interest of financial certainty, that the Mets should consider signing Ike Davis to a long-term contract as to bypass his arbitration years.

After 32 homers last season because of a strong second half, I thought Davis might be a keeper and they should do for him what they did for Jon Niese and David Wright. Lock up your investments early to keep them out of arbitration and the free-agent market is sound business. Lots of teams sign their can’t-miss youth at prices they can control in the future. In 2006, the Mets did it with Jose Reyes and Wright.

DAVIS: Another stroll to the dugout. (AP)

DAVIS: Another stroll to the dugout. (AP)

Only problem is Davis isn’t a can’t miss, but a swing-and-a-miss.

When he first arrived, Davis showed great power potential, but also was able to be selective and go to the opposite field. He showed an ability to act like a hitter. He did it the other night when he drew a walk in the tenth inning and scored the winning run in the Matt Harvey game.

“In that situation the pitcher knows the batter will be trying to hit it out of the park,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He’ll be trying to get the batter to chase after a bad pitch, but Ike resisted.’’

It was a good piece of hitting, but one we’ve not often seen from Davis, who tries to go for the homer, even on pitches low and away.

Davis’ slow start should definitely cause the Mets to resist the temptation of signing him to a multi-year extension. Davis is hitting a paltry .170 with a .270 on-base percentage. He already has 35 strikeouts with just 17 hits and 13 walks. He has four homers and eight RBI.

None of those numbers warrant giving Davis an extension, or even thinking of it.

We know Davis has the potential to hit 32 homers because he’s already done it. However, whatever run production Davis is capable of providing isn’t worth his 186 projected strikeouts. Davis said earlier this spring that “I’m a home run hitter and strikeouts are going to happen,’’ which illustrates a refusal to work on the finer points of hitting.

That sizes up Davis in one short, compact stroke, something we don’t see from him at the plate.

Mechanically he’s a mess, with a dramatic hitch and propensity for lunging at pitches. His mental approach is much worse. You just have to watch a few at-bats to know he has no plan or patience at the plate. Davis is supposed to be a young lion, a future face of the franchise, but they are already starting to pinch-hit for him.

For this, any talk of a long-term deal is not only premature, but absurd.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

May 08

Mets Wrap: Offense Fails Again

In one game out of five the Mets play an alert, aggressive brand of baseball. That’s when they have Matt Harvey on the mound. Wednesday night wasn’t one of those nights. Jeremy Hefner kept the Mets in the game for much of the night, but the offense gave him little support and the bullpen let the game get away in a 6-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

RECORD/STANDINGS: 13-17, 4th place. Last 10: 3-7.

ON THE MOUND: Hefner gave up four runs on eight hits in six innings. Not a quality start, but with any support the Mets might have had a chance. Hefner has given up seven-first inning runs. “Bottom line, I could have made better pitches,’’ Hefner said. “I need to pitch better.’’ … Two more runs given up in three innings by the bullpen.

AT THE PLATE: The Mets were 2-for-8 with RISP, and stranded seven runners. … Lucas Duda homered, but struck out three times. … Two more strikeouts by Ike Davis. … Overall, Mets hitters fanned 12 times, the 12th time this season they’ve struck out 10 or more times.

THEY SAID IT:  “He didn’t let the game get out of control, and that’s all you can ask from your starting pitcher.’’ – Manager Terry Collins on Hefner’s performance.

BY THE NUMBERS: 12: The number of strikeouts the Mets; and the number of double-digit strikeout games their offense has had this season.

ON DECK: The Pittsburgh Pirates are in tomorrow for the start of a four-game series. Dillon Gee (2-4, 6.16) goes against lefthander Jeff Locke (3-1, 3.21).

May 07

Mets Wrap: Matt Harvey Dominant Again

It wasn’t a perfect game, but it was close. Matt Harvey gave up one hit in nine scoreless innings, and Bobby Parnell threw a 1-2-3 tenth, as the Mets beat the Chicago White Sox, 1-0, tonight at Citi Field.

HARVEY: Over comes bloody nose to stuff White Sox. (AP)

HARVEY: Over comes bloody nose to stuff White Sox. (AP)

ON THE MOUND: Harvey struck out a career-high 12 and didn’t walk a hitter. … Combined with Parnell, Mets pitchers retired 30 of 31 hitters. … Alex Rios was Chicago’s lone baserunner with an infield single after two were out in the seventh.

AT THE PLATE: The Mets were unable to touch Chicago lefty Hector Santiago, who is from Newark. … The Mets won it when Ike Davis walked, advanced on a sacrifice and scored on Mike Baxter’s pinch-hit single to right.

THEY SAID IT: “In the fifth inning, I was thinking `he’s going to pitch a no-hitter.’ ’’ – Manager Terry Collins on watching Harvey pitch.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 – Near perfect-games lost by Mets pitchers, including Harvey, Tom Seaver twice and Rick Reed.

NO CHANGES IN PEN: Now that Frank Francisco has worked on consecutive days in his rehab assignment for Single-A St. Lucie he’s closer to coming off the disabled list. Another rehab appearance or two should do it, but that doesn’t mean he’ll automatically reclaim his closer role.

ON DECK: Jeremy Hefner (0-3, 4.34) will be going after his third straight quality start tomorrow night against Jake Peavy (3-1, 3.38). Hefner gave up a combined three runs on seven hits in 15 innings. The Mets are 0-6 in the six games Hefner started for them this season.

May 07

Robin Ventura Returns To Face Mets

One of the players I most enjoyed covering was Robin Ventura for those two years he played for the Yankees. In that clubhouse full of stars and egos, Ventura was a voice of calm, reason and humorous relief.

VENTURA: In town tonight.

VENTURA: In town tonight.

I enjoyed stopping by his locker to shoot the breeze for a minute or two, talking about things other than baseball. Very smart, clever and possessing an insight on numerous issues. When there was the inevitable blow up or moment of absurdity, Ventura was always there to put it into perspective with a quip as short and hard-hitting as his swing.

Once I asked him about his fight with Nolan Ryan, and his response was he knew he had made a mistake halfway out to the mound, but couldn’t turn around. You’ll even notice in the video he slowed down.

Was it an embarrassing moment? Yes, but years later he handled it with humor. He even joined with Ryan to autograph photos of the brawl.

When I covered the Orioles and he was with the White Sox, I’d make time to go over to his clubhouse for a few moments. He was accessible to anybody who would take the time to ask a question.

I am sure there will be a lot of questions for Ventura pre-game tonight when he brings his White Sox into town. There will be rehashing about his time with the Mets and Yankees, about being in New York during September 11 and what he remembers about Mike Piazza’s homer the first game back in the city.

He’ll also get a question or four about his grand-slam single against the Braves in the 1999 playoffs.

That night is one of the greatest team displays of enthusiasm outside of winning a championship I have ever seen. That, and I suppose, the Piazza post 9-11 homer. Both were amazing to watch.

Ventura wasn’t a five-tool player, but was consistent and clutch. With a runner in scoring position you wanted him at the plate because he’d usually make contact.

Ventura was a .267 lifetime hitter and only once hit over .300, that being .301 in 1999, his first season with the Mets. Considering his 66-game hitting streak in college, I always wondered if he thought he should have hit for a higher average. He also hit 32 homers with a career-high 120 RBI in his first year with the Mets.

What the Mets wouldn’t give for a player with that production now.

Ventura had three solid years with the Mets, who, during that span had arguably one of the best defensive infields in history. Few balls got by Ventura, Rey Ordonez, Edgardo Alfonzo and John Olerud.

Both Olerud and Ventura would later play for the Yankees. When they left the Yankees, I believed I’d see both again managing in a major league dugout. I’m still waiting on Olerud.