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 09

The Dream Continues

Not only did the Mets sweep the Nationals for a second straight series, all three games this time were done in come-from-behind fashion. Not only that, the Mets’ pitchers in the first two games – Jon Niese and Matt Harvey – were torched, and Jacob deGrom was off Wednesday night.

None of that mattered as the Mets found away to win because they willed the outcome. As good as Stephen Strasburg was, you never had the feeling the Mets were out of it, but instead, it was only a matter of time.

“ I love where we’re at. We’re rolling,” said Kelly Johnson, who tied the game with a pinch-hit homer off Strasburg in the eighth. And. of course, Yoenis Cespedes, continued his push for MVP consideration, with a game-winning homer in the eighth.

That roll included Michael Conforto driving in an insurance run and making a run-saving catch. It seems like a long time ago that the Mets were reluctant to bring up Conforto as not to damage his confidence. It doesn’t seem like anything can phase Conforto these days.

And, for the third straight night, the bullpen pitched well, despite Bryce Harper‘s cosmetic homer in the eighth.

The Mets left Florida Sunday night having lost two walk-off games to the Marlins and their lead down to four. The Nationals were hot, having won five straight.

For those who remember the titanic collapse of 2007, when they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play, there’s the thought that these are the Mets so anything can happen. However, it’s a different year with different players, and above all, a different chemistry.

For the past several years, the Nationals simply bullied the Mets. But, this year, the little guys have the muscle.

 

Sep 09

Things Couldn’t Have Worked Out Better For Matt Harvey

It was Matt Harvey‘s worst outing of the season for the Mets, yet he came out smelling like roses. He’s the guy who doesn’t find loose change under his seat cushions, but $20 bills. At least so far, it has been that way.

HARVEY: Comes up golden. (Getty)

HARVEY: Comes up golden. (Getty)

We don’t know yet how much Harvey will pitch in September and his availability for the playoffs, but things are looking good for now. After four days in which he took a public relations hit for the innings flap issue after agent Scott Boras dared remind GM Sandy Alderson of the 180 innings magic number.

The print media took its shot at Harvey, but SNY continued to treat him with kid gloves as it failed to acknowledge Boras doesn’t say anything without Harvey’s knowledge. Guys, Boras is Harvey’s mouthpiece.

Harvey wants to tread lightly in September and pitch in October, but that might not be possible to his liking. However, Tuesday’s game and the completed sweep tonight gives the Mets a seven-game lead with 23 games remaining, to create a gap seemingly wide enough where missing Harvey a couple of times might be possible without creating any angst. Whether it is Logan Verrett or Steven Matz, it doesn’t matter.

The key here is Harvey got what he wanted with a limited amount of friction from the front office. Even a loss or two might not be the end of the world now. Had Harvey been beaten, he would have gotten all sorts of questions if the controversy was a distraction.

However, if Harvey only starts two more games – against the Yankees and Washington as reported – the question of how sharp he’ll be could become an issue. But for now, that’s just conjecture. For now, the Harvey issue doesn’t seem so intense.

 

 

Sep 08

Amazing Comeback All But Seals NL East For Mets

The Mets might as well put the champagne on ice, because this baby is over. The Mets won’t say it, they kept talking about tomorrow, but it is hard to imagine them blowing this now.

In a game the Washington Nationals had to win, they blew a six-run lead as the Mets scored six runs after two were out in the seventh inning as eight straight hitters reached base. The Mets have been a comeback team all year, but tonight they took it to another level.

NIEUWENHUIS: Unloads clutch homer. (AP)

NIEUWENHUIS: Unloads clutch homer. (AP)

Only teams that have destiny smiling upon them does stuff like this. Four times this season they rallied from five or more runs to win.

It was a season-high six-run hole they climbed out of tonight in the 8-7 victory over the team that bullied them the past few years. They have come from behind in the first two games of this series.

“I thought yesterday was pretty good,” David Wright said. “This was amazing. It goes back to the term resiliency. We truly believe we’re in every game. After tonight, we believe it even more.”

“I’m not sure I’ve ever been involved in a bigger win than this,” manager Terry Collins said after the game. “There’s no sense of panic with this team. … To come in here and do what they did tonight was huge.”

I wonder what the over/under was on the times “huge” was said after the game.

When Kirk Nieuwenhuis crushed a pinch-hit homer in the eighth off Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon for the game winner, long forgotten was Matt Harvey‘s disappointing start in which he gave up seven runs. The camera flashed on Harvey several times that inning, and you couldn’t help but wonder what was going through his mind.

He supplied the answer.

“I was frustrated with my start,” Harvey said. “But, it was awesome to see. This was huge for us.”

The game began with a cloud over the Mets pertaining to Harvey’s innings, and that scenario couldn’t be ignored as the Nationals slapped him around. Now, with the Mets’ lead back up to six games with 24 remaining, Harvey’s innings might now be a moot point because they can afford to skip him several times without worrying about coughing up their lead.

“But, we have to keep him sharp,” Collins said, adding he thought Harvey tried to do too much early, “to show everybody who he is.”

Harvey said, “I left too many many pitches out over the plate,” then said what he should have said the other day in Florida.

“I don’t know,” Harvey said when asked when he’ll pitch again. “I’ll be ready whenever they decide to pitch me.”

Collins likes to say Harvey is human, but he is leading a charmed life. It was his muff on a bunt play that seemingly opened the door for the Nationals to blow it open, 7-1, in the sixth.

“He went out there with a lot hanging over him,” Collins said. “I’m proud of him.”

The Mets are also leading a charmed life.

They got Lucas Duda back and he contributed a bases-loaded walk to tie the game. Then, in the ninth he pounced on a bunt to nail Jayson Werth at second. There was so much more on this night. Wright homered.  Yoenis Cespedes made a critical error that allowed three runs to score, but he got them back with a three-run double. Cespedes is a game changer, and the Mets need to sign him.

There was more. Nieuwenhuis homered and he isn’t even supposed to be here as the Mets released him earlier this year. Wilmer Flores, whom the Mets unsuccessfully tried to trade in late July, drove in the first run in the wild seventh.

The bullpen, all of a sudden, is menacing with 9.1 scoreless innings in this series with 15 strikeouts and just two walks. Addison Reed might be the seventh-inning answer as he struck out two, including Bryce HarperTyler Clippard, dealt by the Nationals, blew away is former team in the eighth, and Jeurys Familia earned his 38th save.

The game started miserably for the Mets, but couldn’t have ended any sweeter. Champagne sweet, if you will.

Sep 07

Thoughts On Amazing Day

If there is one word to describe the 2015 Mets, for me it would be resiliency. There have been numerous times this season when they could have fallen off the ledge, but found a way to get it done – which is the essence of any championship team.

From a multitude of injuries, including losing David Wright for nearly five months to a near two-month slump to a leaky bullpen to the circus around the trade deadline to the current mess pertaining to Matt Harvey‘s innings, it has been a wild ride. Today’s 8-5 come-from-behind victory in Washington capsulized the season in a wild three hours.

WRIGHT: Slides home in the seventh. (Getty)

WRIGHT: Slides home in the seventh. (Getty)

When Max Scherzer escaped a no-outs, runner-on-third threat in the first it looked like a bad omen for the Mets. However, momentum turned on solo homers by Michael Conforto – who, by the way, needs to play against all kinds of pitching, Kelly Johnson and Yoenis Cespedes, this would be a day to remember.

However, it would be an unforgettable day on the down side when the Nationals roughed up Jon Niese, including with Wilson Ramos‘ grand slam. Scherzer would settle down, but the Mets persevered. And, when Jeurys Familia blew away Ryan Zimmerman to end the game and make we wonder if Bryce Harper still doesn’t care about what’s going on with the Mets these days.

Here’s what I’ll take from today’s game, or as Collins said, Game 1 of the September playoffs:

TERRY COLLINS: He needs to sharpen his motivational skills. When you have a pitcher like Niese, whose confidence is shaken, you don’t tell him “this is the game of your life.” What manager does that? Niese’s confidence is peanut brittle tough as it is so you don’t apply additional pressure. Furthermore, your team has lost two games recently in walk-off fashion, but it still had a four-game lead heading into the series. So, Collins applied even more pressure. What’s the purpose? On a positive note, give Collins points for starting Johnson at second.

DAVID WRIGHT: He showed his captaincy mettle when he talked to Harvey for four innings Sunday in Miami. He underscored it in bold Sunday when he drove in the game-winning run and scored in the seventh. This guy is a winner. If anybody deserves this, it is him.

YOENIS CESPEDES: You don’t think he’ll get some MVP votes? If there was an MVP award for a late-season acquisition he would get it hands down. Cespedes will cost money, but he’s worth bringing back. With Curtis Granderson‘s contract up in two years and one more for Michael Cuddyer, there will be |money. Plus, I never bought the Mets’ cries of poverty.

BRYCE HARPER: Whether he cares what’s going on with the Mets or not is irrelevant. What matters is what he thinks of Nationals’ fans. For him to rip his fans for leaving early, it shows his head isn’t in the game and he’s looking for excuses. There aren’t many clearer signs the Nationals are showing signs of cracking. The teams have five games remaining, and the Nationals need to win them all.

MATT HARVEY/SANDY ALDERSON: If you’re scoring at home, the early rounds go to Harvey, who’ll make two or three more starts and not the four the Mets want. Alderson had a deer-in-the-headlights look when he spoke about Harvey prior to the game. What is clear is the Mets don’t have control over their diva pitcher as they have caved to his demands on nearly every turn.

Harvey wants to be limited during the September, but pitch in the playoffs. That could limit his effectiveness in October. Alderson wouldn’t say how much Harvey might pitch in the playoffs. Then, when faced with not having Harvey for two or more starts in September, Alderson doesn’t bring up Dillon Gee. Here’s a guy, Gee, who has done everything – and generally produced – the organization has asked, yet when they need another starter they ignored him. Rather shabby on Alderson’s part. Harvey pitches Tuesday and he damn well better produce. If he gets ripped and misses some starts and the Mets start falter, he’ll hear some boos next time he pitches at Citi Field.

THE BULLPEN: Today it threw 5.2 scoreless innings in relief of Niese. The bad news is they’ll lose Carlos Torres indefinitely with a pulled calf muscle. With Harvey’s innings uncertain, they could use a long man. It was sterling today, simply sterling. And, I’ve noted this before. Familia is the team’s MVP. That is, if Cespedes hasn’t moved ahead. One thing for certain, it isn’t Harvey.

JON NIESE:  Evidently, Niese’s wife didn’t wear her lucky panties. Today marked the 175th start of Niese’s career, and as Collins and SNY emphasized, it was his most important and he spit the bit. In parts of eight seasons, Niese is 60-61 and never has won more than 13 in a single season. Frankly, I’m thinking this might be as good as it gets for Niese. The Mets were wise to try to trade him last winter. They’ll increase those efforts this offseason.