Sep 21

Ten Reasons Why Mets Won’t Collapse

A week ago today the Mets held a 9.5-game lead over the Nationals and we were talking about magic numbers. There were columns, including those written here, suggesting Matt Harvey’s limitations weren’t a big concern because the Mets opened a huge gap in the NL East and the Nationals were floundering.

After Sunday night’s disaster in Flushing the Mets’ lead is six games with 13 games remaining. Three of those games are with Washington the final weekend of the season.

WRIGHT: We'll see that smile in October. Trust me. (AP)

WRIGHT: We’ll see that smile in October. Trust me. (AP)

Despite growing anxiousness, I don’t see the Mets coughing up their lead, regardless of Harvey’s innings situation, and here’s why:

1. It’s hard to believe the Mets will have another collapse like 2007, or even 2008. Three dramatic collapses in less than ten years is almost impossible to comprehend. I mean, what are the odds? History won’t repeat itself.

2. There are a core of veterans that are real leaders who won’t let it happen. David Wright, Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson are veterans with a clue. You can add Daniel Murphy and Curtis Granderson to the list.

3. The Mets folded in 2007 because of their bullpen, but despite what happened Sunday, it is significantly better this year. Jeurys Familia is a dominating closer, and if Tyler Clippard gets over his back problems, the 2015 back end is much better. Addison Reed is a plus.

4. Yoenis Cespedes is in a dreadful slump. Better to get that out of the way now. If he can turn it on again it will work wonders with the offense.

5. The starting pitching everybody raved about is going through a rough stretch, but Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are just too good to go into a group free fall.

6. Bartolo Colon seems oblivious to pressure. He’s been strong this month and I don’t see signs of him letting up.

7. With the exception of the final weekend, the schedule is working in the Mets’ favor.

8. They have a group of young, talented players in Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores and Michael Conforto who are having solid seasons. Plus, Lucas Duda is showing breakout signs.

9. The 2007 team had chemistry issues and there were a segment of players not happy with then-manager Willie Randolph. Plus, the front office wasn’t behind Randolph, evidenced by assistant general manager Tony Bernazard spying in the clubhouse. There’s a disconnect between manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson, the players generally like and respect Collins. They haven’t quit on him. There are no dogs or cancers on this team.

10. While there’s a sense of anxiousness, these Mets have played too good for so long for there to be another free-fall into winter.

None of this is to suggest the Mets don’t have issues. They do, and I’ll get to them later this week, but for now just relax as this season will be over soon enough, and in a good way.

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.