May 04

Mets Banish Harvey From Gotham

In the end, Matt Harvey’s Mets’ career ended in the way in which he lived it, with stubbornness and selfishness. The Mets’ long, tumultuous nightmare with Harvey ended today when the hard-partying, formerly hard-throwing right-hander was told he would be designated for assignment because he refused to help himself by taking a Minor League assignment.

The Mets didn’t want Harvey to go to Las Vegas as punishment for partying last weekend in Los Angeles on the team’s first night in San Diego, but in the hope he could rediscover his mechanics that one time produced 98 mph., fastballs and had him destined for superstardom.

HARVEY: In the beginning. (MLB)

HARVEY: In the beginning. (MLB)

The Mets will designate Harvey for assignment prior to tomorrow’s game, which will give them a week to either trade him, which won’t happen, release him or place him on irrevocable waivers.

With teams knowing they can just sign Harvey after he’s released rather than give up talent, it will be a miracle if there’s a trade. The Mets are destined to eat the remainder of his $5.6 million contract.

“This was a long time coming,” GM Sandy Alderson said. “This is something we’ve tried to address, we’ve struggled with, we’ve wrestled with over two managerial regimes. The move to the bullpen was dramatic in itself. So I think that at this point, pragmatism, realism far outweighed other considerations.”

Harvey, who twice refused to speak to reporters when the Mets were on the West Coast, left Citi Field without a word and a 34-37 record with a 3.66 ERA over six seasons.

Manager Mickey Callaway, whose reputation of helping pitchers rediscover themselves was in part why he was hired, accepted responsibility, ironically which was something Harvey rarely did.

“We feel like we failed Matt Harvey,” said Callaway. “Our job is to help every player in there. It’s not a good feeling when you can’t.”

Harvey’s career began as the seventh overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. Two years later, he debuted in 2012. The following season Harvey blossomed into part star/part comic book character after he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated calling him “The Dark Knight of Gotham’’ after the Batman movie.

Nobody knew it at the time, but the moniker would hurt Harvey as he seemed more interested in being a New York hero instead of a New York star. Ironically, Harvey’s downfall started before his career highlight, which was starting the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field.

Harvey initially withheld tightness in his right forearm after a start prior to the All-Star Game. The Mets didn’t do Harvey any favors when rather than pull him from the game they let him start.

It didn’t take long before it all started to unravel for Harvey, who was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Rather than immediately opt for Tommy John surgery, which several doctors recommended, Harvey chose to rehab the elbow, which was his right, but a bad decision as it set him back several months.

After spring training in 2014, Harvey fought with the Mets as to where he would rehab. The Mets wanted him to train in Port St. Lucie, but Harvey insisted on staying in New York where he could date models, go to the Rangers games, and party.

Harvey was quoted in a magazine article about how much he wanted to squire women like Derek Jeter and boasted of his drinking like a college sophomore.

Harvey returned in 2015, but not without controversy. The Mets began the season saying they would monitor Harvey’s innings, but there didn’t seem to be a concrete plan and former manager Terry Collins handled it poorly by letting him start with a strep throat and work into the late innings when the Mets were routing the Yankees.

Rather the closely monitor Harvey’s innings, they became an issue when his agent, Scott Boras, raised the possibility he might not pitch in the postseason. This painted Harvey in a bad light until the agent backed down.

Harvey did pitch in the postseason, but skipped a workout prior to the NL Division Series because he was hung over from a night of drinking. Harvey’s signature moment came when he pitched a hissy fit in the dugout and talked Collins into let him go out for the ninth inning of Game 5.

The next year Harvey developed thoracic outlet syndrome. He also missed time in 2017 with shoulder weakness, but also drew a three-game suspension for blowing off a game because he was sleeping off another party fest.

Harvey continued to struggle this season, then cursed at reporters who questioned him about going to the bullpen. Then was his night of partying in Los Angeles, the plans were made while the team was playing a game in St. Louis.

“I like Matt, in spite of all the stuff that’s gone on, certainly because of a lot of the stuff that’s gone on,” Alderson said. “He’s a human being. He’s a vulnerable human being, and kind of leaves himself open for those of us who know him and whom he semi-trusts. I’m going to miss him in a lot of ways.”

And, probably won’t miss him in a lot of other ways.

 

Apr 21

Harvey Should Get Another Start, Then What?

The Mets should know more about their options on what to do with Matt Harvey after Jason Vargas is re-examined later today. Barring no setbacks, Vargas will then pitch in a Minor League rehab start Monday.

HARVEY: What options does he have remaining.  (AP)

HARVEY: What options does he have remaining. (AP)

With Harvey’s next start scheduled for Tuesday in St. Louis it stands to reason he’ll make at least one more start before Mickey Callaway makes the most important decision since becoming the manager.

There will eventually be a messy divorce with Harvey, but it’s up to Callaway to determine when the papers are filed.

Since Harvey’s contractual status allows him to block a move to the minors, the only way for it to happen is for him to have a drastic change of heart. If he doesn’t, the Mets’ options are to invent a phantom injury so they can place him on the 10-day disabled list. They could also work him out of the bullpen, but he clearly won’t have his heart in it.

Finally, the Mets can attempt to trade him, but considering Harvey’s performance and injury history since the end of the 2015 season, his value is limited. Of course, in the end, they could simply release him, but things would have deteriorated beyond recognition if that occurred.

I gave up on the pipe dream of Harvey turning his career around and re-signing with the Mets in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. I’m a proponent of Harvey getting at least one more start because that is the only way the Mets can salvage anything from this fractured relationship.

No doubt, Harvey has spoken with his agent Scott Boras, whose advice should be is to do whatever the Mets want him to do. That’s the only way for Harvey to maximize whatever value he has remaining.

Nov 30

Updating the mess that is Perez

News Oliver Perez has thrown 10 scoreless innings in the Mexican Leagues is best greeted with a who-cares yawn. Afterall, we’ve heard news of such prowess during spring training and rehab assignments before only to watch him unravel when facing major league hitters.

Word his fastball barely touches 90 isn’t encouraging news. Low-velocity pitchers can be successful, but only if their control is impeccable and they know how to set up and work hitters. That has never been the case with Perez.

When Perez was having problems several years ago, I wondered how he might do in situational relief because he still had his fastball. But, that’s gone and he must rely on guile and smarts, both of which he has in short supply.

Even so, Perez will probably get a chance to earn a role in spring training because the Mets don’t have many options and it doesn’t appear as if they’ll be signing anything significant this winter.

They’d love to trade him, but that’s not going to happen. Nobody wants to pay $12 million for all that baggage. Even if the Mets eat a large portion of his contract, Perez isn’t attractive based on what has happened.

Cutting him loose is something we all think about, but Sandy Alderson isn’t likely to do that because the Mets don’t want to pay for nothing. Solution? They will role the dice in the hope Perez finds something that will make him viable. With Hisanori Takahashi gone and Pedro Feliciano declining arbitration today, Perez will get an opportunity by default.

Even when he was Coin Flip there was a chance of him throwing a good game. Now, there is none.

If Perez doesn’t have it in the spring and refuses a minor league assignment again, then I can see the Mets ditching him. Alderson is here to change the culture and I don’t see him putting up with another year of carrying Perez on the major league roster and not using him.

Perez’s attitude and performance last year was poisonous and no good can come with duplicating last year.

Nov 06

New York Mets notebook

A lot of things happening with the Mets right now, beginning with the managerial interviews:

1) BACKMAN INTERVIEWS TODAY: Sandy Alderson will interview Wally Backman in California today and it is not a courtesy interview as the general manager doesn’t have time to waste. I’ve been hearing the Wilpons have some apprehensions concerning Backman, but nothing specific other than his lack of major league experience has come to light.

I’m still wary about Backman because of the experience factor, believing there are others that bring more immediately to the table.

2) COLLINS THE FRONTRUNNER: I don’t see how anybody can come to the conclusion Terry Collins is the frontrunner without all the interviews being conducted. The Mets do like Collins in his current role working with the minor leagues and could prefer him to stay in that role. Don’t forget, if Collins is reassigned then the Mets will need somebody else for the minor league job.

3) TAKAHASHI GONE: The Mets did not bring back reliever Hisanori Takahashi. The difference in gap  isn’t $1 million as people have suggested, but closer to $10 million if what has been reported is close. At 36, three years is a long time to give to a reliever with only one year in the major leagues.

4) CHARLIE SAMUELS: What was he thinking? The gifts Samuels received from the players is irrelevant. It’s the position he had and the betrayal factor. How much he bet on baseball, or if he bet on the Mets, is uncertain. The argument if he bet on baseball it would be OK if he wagered on the Mets doesn’t make it because of the message it sends if he didn’t bet on the Mets. Why?

I’ve always liked Charlie, but investigations like this don’t happen if there isn’t some degree of truth to the claims.

Too bad.

Nov 02

Looking at the make-up of the new Mets’ manager.

Sandy Alderson is back from teaching in California and at Citi Field working on hiring the next manager of the Mets. There should be some interviews scheduled by the end of the day, with some to happen this week.

While Alderson said he’s not adverse to hiring a “fiery,” manager – relief to Wally Backman supporters – his preference is of an analytical and knowledgeable type. Middle management, if you will. Speculation has Bob Melvin and Clint Hurdle emerging as early favorites.

Yes, the manager could be important to sell tickets – in that regard Backman might have it over Melvin – but winning is the most important criteria and if Alderson believes a low-key, almost vanilla personality is better equipped to implement his vision he’ll get the job. If the Mets play a fundamentally sound, aggressive brand of baseball and prove to always be in the game, that will sell the tickets and steady the ship until they start spending after the 2011 season.

In addition to Melvin, Hurdle and Backman, also on Alderson’s list is third-base coach Chip Hale, Triple-A Buffalo manager Ken Oberkfell, Minor League field coordinator Terry Collins, Double-A Binghamton manager Tim Teufel, and former Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu.

Not an established genius on the list, then again, neither was Bruce Bochy, whom Alderson had in San Diego.

The new Mets manager must have these traits:

SMARTS/ANALYSIS: It’s a complicated game and a manager must always be thinking two, three innings ahead. Bochy was flawless this October in how he juggled his lineup and bullpen. It’s an oversimplification to blame injuries for an unstable batting order and bullpen, but Jerry Manuel showed he didn’t think things through with his insistence in batting Jose Reyes third and for overworking his bullpen. Those were the most glaring as it showed he didn’t have an understanding of the talent of his players.

Sometimes a manager must act on instincts and guts, but hoping and flying by the seat of 0ne’s pants isn’t the best strategy. Alderson is big on probabilities and that comes in being prepared which puts the odds in your favor.

HAVE A PLAN: The bullpen and batting order were all over the place with Manuel. Perhaps the most difficult thing for a manager to do is assess bullpen roles and keep them in place. The bullpen was solvent and stable in 2006 under Willie Randolph but hasn’t been since even though the Mets spent lavishly on closers Billy Wagner and Francisco Rodriguez.

ABILITY TO CONVINCE THE PLAYERS OF THE BIG PICTURE: The Giants proved it is possible to win without marquee players in the starting lineup. (As long as you have four quality starters, a strong bullpen and dominant closer, then the batting order doesn’t have to mash). Neither Manuel nor Omar Minaya could convince Oliver Perez to do what was right, and they didn’t have the backbone to broach moving Carlos Beltran to right field.

Convincing Beltran to move to another position in his walk year will require a delicate, yet firm touch, as it is likely we won’t see him after 2011. The new manager will have to convince Beltran to do what is best for a team  he won’t  be a part of after this season. Tough task.

The Giants won with serviceable, productive role players who performed in a relatively stable lineup. Their lineup might not be as talented as the Mets’ order, but they all knew their roles and had a disciplined approach at the plate. One thing watching the Giants during the year and in the playoffs is they gave away far less at-bats than the Mets.

The new manager and his hitting coach must overhaul the Mets’ far too often careless and sloppy approach at the plate, and this begins with convincing the stars Reyes to improve his on-base percentage and David Wright and Jason Bay to cut down on their strikeouts.

It was almost a novelty when the Mets worked counts, manufactured runs and hit with runners in scoring position. It should be common place.

One of the most memorable at-bats during the World Series was Aubrey Huff sacrificing late in the game last night to set up Edgar Renteria. Arguably their best power hitter was bunting. Clearly, the Giants bought into what Bochy was selling. We rarely saw that here.

THE ABILITY TO MOTIVATE: It’s hard to believe major league players with the money they make need motivation, but it’s true. This is personified by Reyes, whom Manuel lost by juggling in the order and pushing his return from injuries. Reyes is still the Mets’ offensive key and requires delicate handling at times because he does lose focus.

HAVE PATIENCE WITH THE YOUNG PLAYERS: This team has a young core with Ike Davis, Josh Thole and Ruben Tejada. Angel Pagan, Reyes and Wright are also in the prime of their careers. Part of this is surrounding himself with the proper staff. Hale and Dan Warthen, reportedly, could stay in some capacity and this should ease the transition.

It was Manuel who insisted on Jenrry Mejia opening the season in the bullpen when it was clear he was not suited for that role. A manager must put his players in position where they have a chance to succeed. Not only was Manuel wrong here, so was Minaya for letting him.

KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH THE MEDIA: There were many instances Manuel criticized and threw a player under the bus in the press, which showed he didn’t trust them. Conversely, those players returned that lack of trust. Two of the more enduring images of the season was Mike Pelfrey turning his back on Manuel when he took him out and the John Maine incident. Both illustrated the players’ lack of respect and trust in their manager and it filtered down.

Manuel also failed several times when it came to informing players of change. When it came to informing Wright of an off day or Jeff Francoeur of his role with the return of Beltran, Manuel handled it sloppily. If you’re a manager and you’re selling a new system, you must have diplomacy, tact and consideration, knowing you’re going to rely on those players in the future. The new guy needs this trait.

Manuel did a lot of double-speaking when it came to the press and wasn’t believable, and with that neither the Mets were as a contender.