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.

 

Sep 05

Harvey Not Blameless In Mess

On a day Matt Harvey was in the process of possibly letting down his Mets teammates, they were picking up their diva pitcher. As Harvey let the Mets and their fans twist in the wind about the number of innings he’ll throw this season, the Mets and Bartolo Colon were rocking the Marlins Saturday night.

Harvey said the politically correct thing about concentrating on Tuesday’s start in Washington and added:  “As far as being out there, being with my teammates and playing, I’m never going to want to stop.”

HARVEY: Diva not blameless. (AP)

HARVEY: Diva not blameless. (AP)

However, the stop sign is set at 180 innings and Harvey has already thrown 166.1. Harvey reiterated agent Scott Boras’ comments from Friday his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, had set a limit for him.

Presumably, Andrews set this limit entering the season, which would mean the Mets and Harvey knew all along. Given that, why wouldn’t the Mets come up with a defined plan and why would Harvey fight the Mets on the six-man rotation and push at times during the season to pitch when the prudent thing would have been to rest him?

However, that question suggests Andrews came up with this number recently. When asked numerous times this season, neither Harvey nor the Mets acknowledged the limit confirmed Saturday, with less than a month remaining in the season.

“I’m the type of person, I never want to put the ball down,” Harvey told reporters. “Obviously I hired Scott, my agent, and went with Dr. Andrews as my surgeon because I trusted them to keep my career going and keep me healthy. As far as the surgeon and my agent having my back and kind of looking out for the best of my career, they’re obviously speaking their mind about that.”

It must be noted the interests of Boras and Andrews don’t coincide with that of the Mets.

Meanwhile, the Mets are saying Harvey will make four more starts and work a “reasonable” number of postseason innings. However, they have not defined “reasonable.” Also, Harvey would not say if he would exceed 180 innings or would be around for the postseason.

However, in an incredible amount of hubris, Harvey said: “The biggest thing is getting us to where we need to be. I’m thrilled that we’re into this conversation because that means I’m healthy and pitching and had a lot of innings throughout the year.”

Harvey said he spoke with Andrews and his agent, but not whether he spoke with Mets GM Sandy Alderson. Reportedly, that will occur Monday in Washington.

“Dr. Andrews said his limit was 180,” Harvey said. “That’s what Scott, or Dr. Andrews had said. But, for me, I’ve got 166 innings. I don’t know any much more than what I have to do Tuesday. And that’s go out and beat the Nationals.”

How about winning the NL East? Or, how about pitching in the postseason? Harvey didn’t mention either of those things.

Harvey dodged all relevant questions. and instead threw out the same old cliches.

“Like I said, I’m going out Tuesday to try to beat the Nationals,” Harvey said. “That’s our focus right now. I’ve stayed out of it. … I’ve heard both sides. I’ve heard different sides all along. My job as an athlete and as a player and as part of this team is to concentrate on one start at a time.”

One start at a time? What nonsense. Stayed out of it? Please, even more nonsense.

He stayed out of it by squawking about innings and pitch counts? He stayed out of it by pushing to pitch when he was ill and should of rested? He stayed out of it by pushing to stay in games when he should have been pulled? He stayed out of it by complaining about the six-man rotation, which was designed to protect him?

When Andrews came up with 180 innings isn’t sure, but Harvey said it had been “awhile” that it had been reached. Whenever it was, Harvey shouldn’t have done anything this year that would conflict with efforts to conserve his innings, but he clearly did.

No question the Mets mishandled this by bowing down to their diva’s demands, but a major reason why your team could be without Harvey soon is because of the pitcher himself.

If Harvey were as smart and the team player he proclaims to be, the Mets wouldn’t be in this position. They also wouldn’t be in this mess if Alderson if he stood up to the temperamental Harvey.

However, in trying to keep a positive focus on things, if Harvey isn’t available for the postseason, that will leave him time to watch the Rangers’ preseason. I mean, that’s what’s important, right?

Aug 16

Barring Collapse, Collins Deserves Multi-Year Extension

It was typical ManagerSpeak by Terry Collins when he recently told reporter he wasn’t thinking about his contract status.

Really? It’s only natural to wonder just little. He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t. I don’t think Collins wants to go the Walter Alston route and sign 24 consecutive one-year contracts although the Mets would love that scenario.

COLLINS: What's he really thinking? (AP)

COLLINS: What’s he really thinking? (AP)

I’m telling you, I don’t think about it,’’ Collins said.

O.K, if you don’t, then allow me.

GM Sandy Alderson’s are to: 1) keep going year-to-year with Alderson, which is probably the Mets’ preference, but not to Collins’ liking, 2) cut Collins loose, which would be blatantly unfair, especially if the Mets make the playoffs, and 3) sign Collins to a multi-year extension, which is the fairest option of all, especially with a playoff appearance.

The last few years Collins was extended despite coming off losing seasons, but was given a pass because of injuries and management’s inability to acquire serious talent in the offseason. Other teams might not have given him that benefit of doubt and would have cut him loose.

Injuries have definitely affected the Mets this season – David Wright, Zack Wheeler and several relievers – and it wasn’t until recently that Alderson went into the trade market.

Should the Mets’ playoff ship be scuttled with September’s schedule – which isn’t brutally hard – then I can see Alderson getting a new manager.

But, starting over isn’t what this club needs. It requires consistency, and that’s keeping Collins and his staff. Being swept by the Pirates over the weekend at Citi Field should have no bearing on Collins stature. But, what it should do is serve as a reminder there are no givens. If nothing else, the Mets should be grateful the Nationals are in a horrific slide.

Should the Mets make the playoffs – and it doesn’t matter how – Collins should be rewarded with a multi-year extension. I’m thinking two years, or two plus an option.

Through injuries and a minimal influx of talent, Collins has the Mets playing exciting, competitive baseball. They will “play meaningful baseball in September.’’

That’s what we’ve always wanted and it looks as if it will happen. Collins is part of that and should be rewarded.

Aug 08

Want Mets To Go For The Throat

Let’s not have any of this wild card talk, it’s up to the Mets to go for the throat, and as Bob Murphy once so eloquently said, “win the damn thing.’’

For the first time in franchise history, the Mets overcame deficits in each of the last three innings to beat Tampa Bay last night.

MURPHY: ``Win the damn thing.'' (Mets)

MURPHY: “Win the damn thing.” (Mets)

It was an effort manager Terry Collins correctly labeled “pure character,’’ as the Mets increased their winning streak to seven straight.

Noah Syndergaard takes the ball tonight with the objective of putting the Mets games over .500, where they were when they won 11 straight games.

The Mets have won 18 of their 59 games – tied for eighth with the game’s best record – in those two winning streaks. It’s numbers like those that win pennants.

With things going their way and their lead over the Nationals now up to 2.5 games, the Mets want to win this thing going away as to avoid the wild-card play-in scenario and to set their rotation as they please. Honestly, I never thought I would write those words this year.

If the season ended today, the Mets, Cardinals and Dodgers would be the division winners and Pittsburgh and Chicago would be the wild cards.

Things frequently fluctuate this time of year and there’s so much more of the season to be played. The Mets are starting their push down the stretch at a good time, and they are gradually improving on some important team stats. They’ve now won four straight on the road to improve to 21-32 (still the worse among those National League teams that would qualify for the postseason) and their runs differential is now plus-16.

In addition, Lucas Duda is hitting homers; David Wright could begin a rehab-assignment on Monday; and the team was energized by the acquisitions of Yoenis Cespedes, Tyler Clippard, Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe.

The Mets still have issues, including their bullpen (which is always critical in the playoffs), but as they were in April they are again a thrill to watch.

But, let’s not have them be content with playing well, but let’s have this be like the college football rankings and go heavy on the style points. Let’s have them put this away and “win the damn thing.’’

Aug 06

Mets In Nationals’ Heads

The Mets aren’t saying, but I would guess they were thrilled to hear of the comments made by Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth this week.

On the heels of being swept by the Mets, Nationals outfielder – and NL MVP frontrunner – Harper, when asked about the Mets, snapped: “I don’t give a crap about what the Mets are doing.’’

CLiTBzaUMAE6ODqHarper is diving into braggadocio, but with the Nationals trailing the Mets by two games, he sounds like a man trying to quell his own doubts.

Same goes for Werth, who all but discounts the Mets when he said the NL East still belongs to the Nationals, that it is their division to lose.

“I think it’s a matter of time really,’’ Werth said. “We’re a great second-half team. … Half our team has been hurt all year. That’s the reality of it. When we all get back, we’re right there, in first place.

“We’re [two games out] But I think going forward we can get all back healthy and get rolling and it’s our division to lose.’’

He might end up being right, but pennants aren’t won in the papers; they are won on the field and currently the Mets have the Nationals’ attention, regardless of what their players say.

Both Harper and Werth speak with a sense of entitlement, that all they have to do is show up. It is reminiscent of the Nationals’ front office when it shut down Stephen Strasburg at the end of the 2012 season, acting under the assumption the playoffs were a given.

They are not.

It doesn’t work that way, and the mere fact they are commenting about the Mets, seemingly by-passing them as threats is interesting. The Mets, wisely haven’t responded. Nor should they.

That the Nationals are talking tells me the Mets are in their heads. And, will stay there for a while.

The teams have six games remaining with each other, Sept. 7-9 in Washington and Oct. 2-4 at Citi Field.

Interesting doesn’t begin to describe it.