May 26

From One Miserable Week To Another For Mets

It was a rough week for your Mets and the upcoming week doesn’t figure to get any easier.

Whatever good feelings developed at Wrigley Field quickly evaporated when they returned home to be swept by Cincinnati. They followed that with losing their first two against the Braves, with once again Dillon Gee running into that one buzz saw inning that shredded him. They conclude their series at Citi Field with Atlanta today behind 0-5 Shaun Marcum on the mound.

No, he’s not one to inspire Matt Harvey-like confidence.

If there was a Game of the Week, it was Harvey’s no-decision Wednesday, in which they took him off the hook to keep him unbeaten.

The Met most in focus this week was Ike Davis, whose .148 average has him on the verge of being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas since before the Pittsburgh series. Davis can’t hit the high heat or low-and-slow breaking pitches. He’s lost at the plate and carried his funk out to the field.

Pitchers on this level give no quarter, and despite Davis’ proclamation he needs to learn to hit on this level, it is obvious this isn’t the place, not with quality arms against him and the cascading boos. That the Mets have waited this long is indication of their thin minor league system and lack of faith in those players down below.

The Mets escape the National League this week for the Subway Series, this time under the new format of two games each in Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are always a formidable obstacle for the Mets, but despite a bulk of their multi-million dollar talent on the disabled list, the Yankees are sizzling. It is sobering the Yankees’ minor leaguers and retreads are better than the Mets’ starters.

Jon Niese and Harvey start Monday and Tuesday, respectively, at Citi Field, where tickets – and plenty of them – are available. They can also be had at Yankee Stadium, an indication the interleague gimmick is cooling.

Interleague play has never appealed to me, but since it isn’t going away, this is a better Mets-Yankees format. Have the games dominate the week and be done with them. Four games are right while six is too many.

Everywhere he goes in his farewell tour Future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera visits with a selected group of fans and honored by the opposition. When the Yankees were in Cleveland, the home of Rock ‘n Roll, the Indians presented him a framed gold record of “Enter Sandman’’ his take-the-mound music as a gift. The Mets presented Chipper Jones with artwork of Shea Stadium.

The Mets will honor Rivera on Tuesday.

Noted for breaking bats with his fierce cutter, one of the best gift ideas I heard speculated was to presented him an autographed cracked bat from the opposition. It is such a novel idea.

I hope he gets one from David Wright. It is piling on, but I can’t help it, he won’t get one from Davis as that would mean making contact.

Yes, yes, that’s cruel. However, there is an element of truth to it, right?

The week ends in Miami for a series against the anonymous Marlins, whose lone reason for watching, Giancarlo Stanton, was injured when the teams last played.

Niese and Harvey are scheduled to go Saturday and Sunday.

Then comes June, but the good news is they can’t swoon any more than they already have.

Can they?

Apr 29

David Price-Tom Hallion Solution: Put A Mike On The Umpires

Call it a hunch, but I believe David Price on this one with his beef with umpire Tom Hallion, which again leads us to the issue of the “umpire problem,’’ in Major League Baseball.

As he walked off the mound to end the seventh inning yesterday, Price and Hallion exchanged words, and the pitcher said the umpire told him “to throw the ball over the f—– plate.’’

HALLION: Has to walk away.

HALLION: Has to walk away.

Hallion denied it and called Price a liar.

Later, as all athletes do these days, Price took to Twitter: “1. I am not a liar 2. I would not make that stuff up 3. My own dad doesn’t speak to me that way 4. Again I am not a liar. #accountability.’’

The quality of umpiring has long been an issue, and along with it the umpire’s sensitivity to criticism. The rub is they are too confrontational and have rabbit years, meaning they don’t let things slide and seek out an argument. It is as if they are looking for a fight.

The umpire is supposed to be the one who is objective and calm, so why was it necessary for Hallion to yell at Price from a distance? Walk up to him calmly and say your piece. Or, better yet, ignore it and realize that with players there’s going to be emotional displays of frustration, with not all of it directed at the umpires.

Major League Baseball is enjoying unmatched financial revenues so it can afford to make improvements in his area that should reduce the tensions between the players and umpires, and more importantly, get it right. There’s ways to make this a less adversarial relationship, at least on the surface.

Let’s start with instant replay. I concede they’ll never have replay on balls-and-strikes, but there’s no reason not to use it for more than just home run calls. Unlike football, the baseball action is primarily focused on fixed locations like the foul lines, outfield wall and bases.

It is absurd not to take advantage of the high-definition technology. Have a representative from MLB in the pressbox, or have the video examined in a central location like the NHL does for its replays or the networks have for their “instant replay’’ expert on the NFL telecasts.

Finally, all umpires should be have microphones they can’t control so exchanges like the one Price and Hallion had can be properly evaluated and eliminate the “he said, he said,’’ issue.

A miked-up Hallion would tell us instantly who is telling the truth, and perhaps more importantly, prove a deterrent to umpires compelled to interject themselves into the emotions of the game.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

ON DECK: Harvey goes for Mets in Miami.

 

Apr 29

Has Mets’ Freefall Begun Early This Year?

Rocky might be sugar coating what is going on with the Mets these days. Do you remember the beginning of the month when the Mets were off to a semi-good start and the Yankees – beset by injuries – stumbled out of the gate and the talk was could they actually finish with a better record?

Not happening. We are looking at a fifth straight losing season, and please, don’t delude yourselves into thinking the Mets will suddenly go on a spending spree this winter. Now that the Mets have substantially reduced their payroll and after this year will be finally rid of the contractual anchors of Johan Santana and Jason Bay, do you honestly believe they’ll be writing a lot of checks this winter?

HARVEY: Bright spot. (AP)

HARVEY: Bright spot. (AP)

Next year could be more of the same.

After being swept over the weekend by Philadelphia, going 3-6 on their recent homestand and losers of nine of their last 12 games overall, all appearances have the Mets are packing it in before the All-Star break this season. I’m not saying the effort isn’t there, just the talent.

The weekend proved the Mets don’t need Arctic conditions to play their worst. Without Matt Harvey to protect them against the Phillies, the Mets had breakdowns with their rotation, bullpen, defense and hitting this weekend. It was as complete a sweep as can be.

* The Mets are 5-0 when Harvey starts and 5-13 when he doesn’t. He goes tonight at Miami against fellow phenom Jose Fernandez.

* The last two winters GM Sandy Alderson made rebuilding the bullpen the priority. However, this year’s nightmarish edition is the major league’s worst with an ERA nearing 5.50. It doesn’t even matter how close Frank Francisco is to returning as he proved he’s not the answer, either. Typical Mets. Their best reliever is closer Bobby Parnell and they can’t even get to him.

* Terry Collins said at the beginning of the season he wanted to use set line-ups. Twenty-three games later he has used 20 different batting orders/line-ups. That’s not even close to being stable.

* The outfield remains fluid, with something different each day. Jordany Valdespin provides a spark and then sits. Does anybody really think Juan Lagares is the answer? Collin Cowgill won the starting center field job coming out of spring training, but was sitting by the fourth game of the season and only has 47 at-bats.

* Ike Davis continues to flounder and look overmatched at the plate with half as many hits (13) as strikeouts (26). He’s on pace to strike out 183 times. He’s also on track to hit 28 homers, but drive in only 56 runs. Need I say he’s hitting less than .200?

With the way the Mets are playing, there’s no guarantee they’ll get better with three games in Miami. About the only encouraging thing you can come up with concerning this series is even if the Mets are swept, they can’t fall into the cellar behind the Marlins.

Ah, good times.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

ON DECK: David Price vs. Tom Hallion

Apr 06

Niese Must Grasp Role As No. 1 Starter

By definition, Jon Niese is correct, he is not a No. 1 pitcher, an ace if you will. However, in relation to his status on the Mets, he is the man.

There is no denying Niese’s importance, but his designation of being the leader of the staff should be emphasized more today against Miami than in the status of an Opening Day starter. After two victories to open the season, the Mets have dropped two in a row, and have not looked good in the process.

NIESE: Announcing his presence with authority.

NIESE: Announcing his presence with authority.

Today, the Mets need Niese to stop the losing. That’s the primary goal of a stopper. That’s what staff leaders do.

“As far as leading the staff, I really don’t want to fulfill that role,’’ Niese said. “Everybody, all the guys in the rotation, have something different to offer.

“So I’m willing to learn from them, and I’m sure they’re willing to learn from me. We all have a job to do. Each one of us has a different way of going about it.’’

I can’t buy for a second Niese doesn’t want that role or responsibility. He’s a competitor; you see that every time he pitches. Saying that gives the perception of him willing to be complacent with what he’s achieved, and his 13 career-high victories in not where he wants to peak.

Let’s give Niese the benefit of doubt and say it’s modesty or a reflection of his demeanor. He’s quiet, he’s modest, there doesn’t appear to be a brash bone in his body. But, he’s not a pushover on the mound who easily caves in to the hitter.

Niese wants that role, and manager Terry Collins indicated as much when he told him he would be the Opening Day starter almost a month ago.

“[Niese] said, `All right!’ That means he wanted it bad,’’ Collins recalled. “He got himself ready for it, for sure. He pitched a great game.’’

Niese held San Diego to two runs on four hits and two walks in 6.2 innings. He also had two hits himself.

“I’m not going to lie,’’ Niese said. “The adrenaline was pumping.’’

Catcher John Buck said Niese was easy to catch as everything fell into place for him.

“He had a good two-seamer going. His cutter in was working well for him,’’ Buck said. “So he was spreading the plate really well. And then that curveball, obviously, is a weapon to have with two strikes.’’

No. 1 starters don’t want to leave games. They want to start what they finish. Niese has gone the distance, but knows there have been too many times when he exits with the game still in the balance. That has to stop this year, says Niese, in acknowledging how he must continue to grow.

“I think last year was kind of a year where I kind of hit that sixth inning and had 95 pitches and they kind of shut me down,’’ said Niese, who pleaded for an extra inning and finished with 101. “I think this year I want to be that guy who goes back out and finishes my starts.’’

That won’t happen if Niese hits 100 in the seventh. He needs to be more efficient with his pitches. Too often he’ll work deep into the count, throwing four or five pitches to a hitter.

One less pitch to a hitter could mean two more innings. And, in their minds, staff leaders can’t throw enough innings.

Apr 04

Gee Hard Luck Loser To Padres As Offense Styfled

SCORE: San Diego 2, Mets 1, at Citi Field.

RECORD: 2-1.

GEE: Hard luck loser.

GEE: Hard luck loser.

SUMMARY: What, you expected this to last forever? When you pitch you always have a chance to win. When you don’t hit, that chance is negated. The Mets wasted a solid outing from Dillon Gee in suffering their first loss of the season today by the Padres. This coming after the Mets outscored the Padres, 19-6 in their first two games. “Dillon pitched well, we just weren’t able to pick him up,’’ said Ike Davis.

ON THE MOUND: Gee deserved more than a loss as he gave up a run on three hits and three walks, with four strikeouts in 6.1 innings. “That’s baseball,’’ he said, giving the stock answer for every pitcher’s hard luck loss. Gee, who is coming back from surgery that repaired an artery in his pitching shoulder, said he was not bothered by the cold. … Scott Rice gave up two hits in two-thirds of an inning, but did get out of a jam in the seventh when the Padres could have broken the game open. … Jeurys Familia threw a run-producing wild pitch in the eighth. That came back to haunt the Mets as John Buck homered to lead off the ninth. … Both of San Diego’s runs were the result of lead off walks.

AT THE PLATE: Five hits won’t get it done. Three of those hits were by Justin Turner, who was making his first start of the season. However, with a chance to get the Mets back into the game, Turner grounded out with the tying run on third to end the seventh. Manager Terry Collins said he considered pinch-hitting with Daniel Murphy, but opted to go with Turner, who was hot and had more at-bats during spring training. … Their lone run came on Buck’s homer. The Mets were 0-for-10 with runners on base, and 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Mets hitters struck out 14 times, including three times by Lucas Duda and David Wright, and twice by Marlon Byrd and Ike Davis. That’s ten strikeouts by their 3-4-5-6 hitters. Make it 11 if you count Murphy striking out as a pinch hitter in Duda’s spot (after a double switch).

METS MUSINGS: Despite having a need for a starting pitcher, the Mets didn’t have an interest in bringing back Chris Young. Instead, he signed with Washington to a minor league contract. The Mets also lost out on Josh Stinson, who signed with Baltimore. … Shaun Marcum was given a MRI that revealed neck inflammation. He was given an injection and will return to Port St. Lucie tomorrow, where he will be shut down for 48 hours.

ON DECK: The Miami Marlins are in tomorrow night for the start of a three-game series.

PROBABLES vs. MIAMI

Friday: RHP Alex Sanabia vs. RHP Jeremy Hefner, 7:10 p.m., SNY/WFAN

Saturday: RHP Ricky Nolasco vs. LHP Jon Niese, 1:10 p.m., SNY/WFAN

Sunday: RHP Jose Fernandez vs. TBA, 1:10 p.m., SNY/WFAN