Jul 18

Many Questions Loom For Mets In Second Half

Although the New York Mets closed the first half on an up-note, it’s too soon to say they have turned things around. The wildcard would take a near historic run, but .500 is not out of the question.

On this date in 1973, a year they went to the World Series, they were 40-50, so there is precedence. No, I have not forgotten that team had Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, but the rest of the team weren’t all shining lights, either.

It can be done. To finish .500 they have to be at least three games over each month, and they are already 8-5 in July. When it is broken down into little pieces it’s much easier to grasp.

Even so, for it to happen the following questions must be answered in the positive:

Q: Will the Mets keep the status quo and not blow up this team?

A: GM Sandy Alderson said the plan is to maintain the present team and not be sellers. Then again, he’s changed his mind before. The first ten games of the second half are key. If the Mets unravel in that span, there are no guarantees.

Q: Can Matt Harvey continue his run?

A: Harvey had a great first half highlighted by starting the All-Star Game. He also had ten no-decisions. He’s going to need more offensive and bullpen help, but there are times he’ll have to bear down even more as great pitchers find a way. But, that might be difficult if they are cutting his innings.

Q: What can they get out of Zack Wheeler?

A: He has pitched well at times since his promotion, but not as good as his 3-1 record would indicate. Wheeler needs to focus more on fastball command. That’s the first step.

Q: Can Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee continue to pitch well?

A: Arguably, they might be two of the biggest factors to the Mets showing turnaround signs. Remember, each started slowly but something clicked. Also, remember neither have pitched well for a complete season.

Q: Can Bobby Parnell keep grasping the brass ring?

A: Parnell is finally taking to the closer role. But, there are two halves. If they don’t trade him, and management said they won’t, he has to keep mixing in that fastball with his knuckle-curve.

Q: Can they stay healthy, especially in the rotation?

A: Gone are Johan Santana, Jon Niese and Shaun Marcum, three-fifths of the projected rotation entering spring training. Niese is expected back by mid-August, but the others will never play for the Mets again.

Q: What do we make of the bullpen?

A: It has been good at times, bad at times and atrocious at times. It’s been good over the past three weeks, but there’s still not an overwhelming feeling of comfort. Also, they must avoid burning out Scott Rice?

Q: Can Terry Collins avoid not driving John Buck into the ground?

A: Anthony Recker has been getting more playing time and coming up with the long ball. After a fast start Buck tailed because he was getting worn out. Tired catchers aren’t a plus. And, let’s forget about Travis d’Arnaud. This is a lost season for him.

Q: Can All-Star David Wright sustain?

A: On the field and in the clubhouse, Wright has lived up to his captain status. He is a good reason to keep watching. He might not be spectacular, but he’s more than solid. Looking at .300, 25 and 90 from him, minimum.

Q: Omar Quintanilla and Eric Young were positive surprises. Can they keep it up?

A: Quintanilla and Young replaced Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda, respectively, and frankly, neither are missed. Collins said Tejada must win back his job and Young is playing so well, Duda isn’t an option at all anymore. They’ll keep him around in the chance they lose Ike Davis.

Q: Speaking of Davis, does he have a strong second half in him?

A: It sure doesn’t look that way. They won’t get anything for Davis in a trade, and Alderson said the team is running out of patience. With a poor second half, don’t expect the Mets to tender him a contract.

Q: Who plays center field?

A: Both Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Juan Lagares have shown glimpses, but nothing sustainable. Nieuwenhuis is getting most of the time now.

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

 

 

 

 

Jul 16

Matt Harvey’s Moment In National Spotlight Is Here

 

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IT IS MATT HARVEY’S TIME (MLB)

For the first time since the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, the New York Mets will have their moment under the national spotlight tonight as they host the All-Star Game, with the maître being Matt Harvey.

The whispers were first heard when Harvey had a 5-0 record in mid-May. The no-decision kept coming, but they didn’t deter the whispers that finally became a shout: Harvey will start in his home ballpark before a sell-out crowd and national television audience.

Both the Mets and Harvey wanted this night, so let’s hope he comes out of it unscathed and with another notch on this 2013 belt, which includes national magazine covers and photo shoots, a hilarious spot on Jimmy Fallon’s show last night and the tabloids chasing him all over town to find him in a lip lock with his model girlfriend.

When his pitching days are over, he said he wants to be a movie star. No, with the exception of his biting slider in the dirt, Harvey does not lay low.

He reminds one more of Joe Namath and Walt Frazier in that regard than Dwight Gooden. But, when Harvey takes the mound, you can’t help but see No. 16, who has taken over Twitter in his praise of Harvey.

The year was 1985 and the Mets were a budding powerhouse, and in the twilight of San Francisco’s Candlestick Park he struck out Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon and Alvin Davis. He didn’t actually strike them out as much as he overpowered them.

It was a sign of dominance to come.

Let’s be clear, the 1985 Mets were on the brink of becoming a power. The 2014 Mets are on the verge of becoming relevant again. There’s a big difference, the first step in both is pitching.

The Mets have been on national television before from Citi Field, but this time is different as the entire sports world is watching. That’s different than a Saturday afternoon game against the Phillies.

The Mets want to show off their ballpark, and perhaps at the same time state their case they are a franchise worth watching.

I disagreed with placing Harvey’s start tonight over pitching against the Pirates on Saturday, but I understand where the Mets are coming from. I understand what they are trying to attain.

They are screaming to the baseball world that they should be taken seriously again, and there are few things in the sport more serious than a 98-mph. fastball.

Mike Trout, Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera will be the first three hitters he faces. Who knows what will happen, but a fastball under Cabrera’s chin might be a delight to build on.

NOTE: Please accept my apologies for the late post and not being online yesterday. My server was down and it was unavoidable.

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

Jul 12

Mets Should Stay Intact And Try For Strong Second Half

Rarely does a major league roster go unchanged from Opening Day to the end of the season and the 2013 New York Mets are no exception. The roster Terry Collins will be playing with this weekend in Pittsburgh and taking into the All-Star break barely resembles that of the one that left Port St. Lucie.

WRIGHT: Not the only positive. (AP)

WRIGHT: Not the only positive. (AP)

Less than a month ago the Mets were 15 games below .500, and with a sweep of the Pirates could be five games under. Nobody expects a sweep, but nobody thought they could go 5-0-2 in their past seven road series, either.

Think about it, the Mets are playing their best ball of the season and the Pirates are cooling. It can be done. But, if not, that still leaves the Mets with two weeks before the trade deadline. Should they be buyers or sellers?

Next winter is when the Mets tell us they could be active in the free-agent market, but who wants to wait that long? History tells us the Mets came from behind in 1969 and 1973 to reach the playoffs, so why not at least be thinking along those lines now, even if the odds are long?

A Mets executive recently told me a successful season would be defined as finishing .500, which would be a 14-game improvement over 2012. That is not unrealistic and should be ownership’s commitment to its fan base. The mantra should be: There will not be a fifth straight losing season.

The Mets are where they are because:

* An All-Star first half from David Wright. Even if  he’s not hitting a lot of home runs, he’s driving the ball, getting on base, playing a strong third base and producing with runners in scoring position.

* A strong first half from Matt Harvey, who could start the All-Star Game despite ten no-decisions. With a little support, .500 would be even more realistic.

* The acquisition of Eric Young, who as the tenth option, became the leadoff hitter the Mets have sought. Young is the kind of player the Mets, if they got creative again, could add. The Giants won two of the last three World Series with mid-season acquisitions such as Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff and Angel Pagan. None were marquee players, but pushed the Giants over the top. Proof the Mets don’t have to splurge to make second-half noise.

* Marlon Byrd has become the productive outfielder the Mets have been seeking. Why trade him now? Maybe he’ll cool, who knows? But, he’s produced and there are others like him out there.

* John Buck had a monster April. After a prolonged cooling off period, Buck is hitting again. He’s also been a stabilizing influence for Harvey.

* Josh Satin gave the Mets production they lacked from Ike Davis. While Davis will get most of the playing time, the Mets can’t afford to ignore Satin. Collins said he wants to get a look at Satin at second and the outfield. He’s waffled before, but needs to see what Satin can do.

* If Ruben Tejada hadn’t been hurt, he would have been demoted to the minor leagues. Omar Quintanilla is hitting and playing the kind of shortstop the Mets hoped from Tejada, who doesn’t deserve to have his old job handed to him.

* Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee rebounded from slow starts to become reliable starters. Hefner, especially, has been terrific, even better than Harvey over the past month. There’s the temptation of dealing Hefner now with the thought this is a fluke, but why not ride him out and see what you have over a full year?

* When the Mets become serious contenders they will need a closer, so trading Bobby Parnell, as I suggested yesterday, would be counterproductive.

Yes, we’ve been here before, seduced by a good run from the Mets. However, this is a season we never expected much from them. They are giving us more than we could have envisioned despite adversity.

In each of the past four seasons the Mets have gone into the All-Star break thinking they would be sellers at the break, only to have them do nothing but let talent slip away during the winter.

This year has a different feel to it. After a miserable start, they have stabilized and are playing competitive, aggressive baseball. There are still holes, but this time management should reward its players and fan base and give us something to watch after the national attention goes away following the All-Star Game.

Stay intact and give us a reason to come out in the second half.

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

Jul 10

What Message Are Mets Sending With Matt Harvey Decision?

The New York Mets officially pulled the plug on Matt Harvey’s start Saturday in Pittsburgh, but did they do it for the right reasons? Was it to give his blisters a chance to heal and begin a program to limit his innings or prepare him to pitch in the All-Star Game?

Or, is it a matter of coincidence as to the timing? The Mets did not pull the plug on the All-Star Game, and if the blisters aren’t healed, they wouldn’t say if they’d keep him out of what is basically an exhibition game.

WHEELER: Stars against Giants. (Getty)

WHEELER: Stars against Giants. (Getty)

For the past three weeks the buzz has been not will Harvey pitch in the All-Star Game, but would he start? And, if not him, then how about Zack Wheeler after what he did today in San Francisco? Kidding, but if these guys develop as the Mets hope there will be plenty of All-Star opportunities for both, but admittedly this might the only chance to start at home.

Of course, the Mets want Harvey to start Tuesday night as it puts their franchise in the national spotlight in a positive way, and most assuredly Major League Baseball wants him to start for the TV ratings. Let’s face it, money is the great motivator, and always has been for the sport.

But, if you’re a Met player struggling to make something out of this season of lousy weather, extra innings, grueling travel, injuries and losing streaks, how good can you feel about being deprived of your best pitcher against the Pirates yet have him available for an exhibition game? Exactly what message does that send?

For his part, Harvey wants to pitch and downplays the All-Star angle.

“I don’t like not pitching,’’ Harvey told reporters in San Francisco. “But, I’d rather miss a start now then miss all of September with an innings limit. … It’s between the blister and the innings limit [as to why I’m not pitching Saturday]. My goal is to finish the whole season.’’

Harvey is on pace to pitch close to 250 innings, which won’t happen. Factoring in not starting Saturday, Harvey should start 14 more games in the second half. Six innings a game would be 84 more innings, which should put him close to 220 for the season.

After a brilliant start which includes the trappings of a national magazine cover, dating a model and posing nude in another magazine – he doesn’t need the attention of the latter, does he? – Harvey hasn’t been as sharp recently.

As good a season as Harvey has had, think of how much better it might be if not for ten no-decisions. He might have three more wins if the Mets chopped up the seven runs they gave Wheeler today over three of those no-decisions.

All Wheeler needed today was the three the Mets gave him in the first inning, but they were all appreciated.

“Any time you have a lead you can pitch to contact,’’ Wheeler said. “You feel more in control when you can throw everything for strikes.’’

That’s something Wheeler did on the first pitch to 19 of the 27 batters he faced. That’s what Harvey did a lot earlier this season. And, if Wheeler can keep it up, maybe he might pose next year.

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

Jul 09

Terry Collins’ Obligation With Matt Harvey Is To Mets, Not National League All-Star Team

His marketing dilemma is understood, but New York Mets manager Terry Collins would be making a mistake if he were to juggle Matt Harvey’s spot in the rotation, or even cut it short, just so his young ace can start Tuesday’s All-Star Game.

As of now Harvey’s next start would be Saturday in Pittsburgh, which would leave him enough rest to throw two innings Tuesday.

HARVEY: Another no-decision. (AP)

                     HARVEY: Another no-decision. (AP)

Collins’ first obligation is to manage the Mets and put them in position to win. That means having Harvey ready and able to pitch for the Mets and not attempt to give the Cincinnati Reds or Atlanta Braves home field in the World Series.

Isn’t tinkering with Harvey’s rest or pitch count reminiscent of letting Johan Santana throw over 130 pitches just so he could throw a no-hitter, and a tainted one, at that?

Of course, skipping Harvey’s start because of a blister on his right index finger will make this a moot point.

Then again, does it?

Collins said the blister prevented Harvey from making his between-starts bullpen session. If that was the case, Harvey entered the game with a blister, so what was he doing pitching in the first place? Did Collins start Harvey with the intent of showcasing him for National League manager Bruce Bochy? Believe me, Bochy knows enough about Harvey without Collins letting his ace audition for him.

Pitchers are fragile creatures, even physical workhorses like Harvey. The slightest thing, whether it be a bruise on the shin, or stiff neck, or blister on the finger can throw off his mechanics to the point where it can cause a serious injury to the arm.

Who is to say Harvey’s blister didn’t impact the pitch thrown to Buster Posey, which he took out of the park? Without Harvey admitting as much, there’s nothing definitive to say it did. There’s also nothing definitive to say it did not. There’s reasonable doubt.

I understand the importance of Harvey starting in the All-Star Game, not only to the Mets, but Major League Baseball. MLB wants television sets on at the start of the game so those around the country who haven’t seen him pitch will have an opportunity to see what the fuss is about.

Major League Baseball knows fans have a short attention span, and with the way pitchers are shuttled into the game, viewers aren’t going to hang around to see Harvey. Bud Selig can envision viewers channel surfing or clicking off the game. They want to see Harvey now, and Collins is doing everything he can to ensure it happens.

Even if it means the Mets lose a game now.

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