Jun 27

Shouldn’t Players Association Assume Some Responsibility In Cause Of Niese Injury?

Jon Niese is in the second season of a five-year, $25.5 million contract with the New York Mets. He can thank the MLB Players Association.

Regardless of how this shoulder injury plays out, Niese will collect every penny, again thanks to the MLBPA.

However, MLBPA should also bear some responsibility for the injury in the first place.

NIESE: Cold conditions led to injury.

NIESE: Cold conditions led to injury.

For years, the MLBPA’s priority in dealing with the owners in labor talks centered around money and protecting players in disciplinary and PED cases. Unfortunately, such things as interleague play, which contributed to issues as scheduling and playing conditions has been ignored.

The norm in MLB these days is the absurdity of teams playing in frigid conditions in April, traveling cross-country for one-game make-ups and waiting out four-hour rain delays. The owners are making huge financial commitments to these players, yet have them play in conditions that contribute to injuries.

It’s like owning a high-end sports car, yet leaving it out in the rain and snow. Makes little sense.

Because the MLBPA hasn’t emphasized these areas in collective bargaining, management has rammed through such things as the circumstances of having the Mets playing back-to-back series in snowy and frigid Minneapolis and Denver.

“I think it beat up his body,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters today in Denver. “ I think he had to work extra hard. It’s freezing cold. … He’s the only guy who is really starting to get warm when he’s on the mound.

“Everyone else is standing out there. He and the catcher are really the only two guys with continual movement. When he’d come in, he’d get so chilled between innings, it was tough to go back out there and get loose. So now he had to work even harder to keep himself warm. I just think it took a beating on him.’’

Niese struggled in his subsequent starts and missed one after complaining of back stiffness and soreness. With every pitch Niese placed more stress on his body. As a pitcher, the brunt of it lands on the shoulder.

Sure, it is possible his rotator cuff tear has been an accumulation of all the pitches he’s thrown, but it also is likely pitching in the cold exasperated the stress and contributed to the injury.

Somebody has to play in those games, but the Mets, with reasonable, limited-greed scheduling, shouldn’t have been there.

Major League Baseball is trying to squeeze too much into the schedule and too much out of its players, and has been given carte blanche by the Players Association, which is content to bypass playing conditions for a bigger piece of the pie.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 26

Are Mets’ Forcing Wheeler’s Development?

Here’s what the New York Mets can make of Zack Wheeler: He still has a lot of work to do. Wheeler tripped Tuesday night, but I’m inclined to agree with Ron Darling in that it was the Mets who stuck their foot out.

WHEELER: White Sox know what pitch this is.

WHEELER: White Sox know what pitch this is.

Darling, who has forgotten more pitching than most of us will ever know, said the Mets might have done Wheeler a disservice by having him go away from his fastball, which can be overpowering, and throw more of his slider.

Wheeler hasn’t refined his secondary pitches and pitching coach Dan Warthen told reporters last night the Mets’ prized rookie was tipping his pitches by having a different arm angle for his breaking balls.

Wheeler said he was “bad,’’ after he gave up four runs on four hits and three walks in 5.2 innings. Surprisingly, Wheeler struck out one, but you’d think with a 95-mph. plus-fastball he would have had more. He would have had he mixed in more fastballs among his 109 pitches.

Wheeler is clearly not as far along and polished as Matt Harvey was last year at this time. He is more advanced with his fastball than his breaking balls, and that’s the pitch he should have used more often, if for no other reason it was an interleague game.

Seriously, when will Wheeler see the White Sox again? Just throw the fastball until they prove they can hit it.

Throwing unrefined breaking balls is even more risky when behind in the count, and of the 24 batters he faced, he threw only 11 first-pitch strikes.

Wheeler said he was bad. He might over stated things a bit, because the Mets have shown us a lot worse this year. Speaking of which, today is Shaun Marcum Day.

It wasn’t as if the White Sox knocked him around the park, but they were usually ahead in the count and generally had comfortable at-bats.

Unless Wheeler goes into a dive, the plan is for him to be here, and learn on the fly. That’s not the best way as the Mets have rushed him. By Wheeler’s own admission he wasn’t ready, but he’s not going to say, “no, I’ll stay in Vegas.’’ After all, there are only so many $3.99 all-you-can-eat buffets one you can enjoy.

So, as long as he’s here let him throw his fastball, then mix in a curve and go with the slider as his third pitch.

By all accounts, Wheeler is ahead of Mike Pelfrey when he first came up, and that includes his secondary pitches. Pelfrey became ineffective because he didn’t have command of his secondary pitches and hitters sat on his fastball.

Ideally, the Mets should turn Wheeler loose with his fastball and work in the other pitches gradually. Let him throw the pitch he has the most confidence in and go from there.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them.

 Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 18

Harvey And Wheeler Give Mets Glimpse Of Future

There might be some question if Zack Wheeler is ready to assume the role of savior for the New York Mets, despite his and manager Terry Collins’ proclamations to the contrary of those lofty expectations.

With the statistical and financial numbers having been crunched, the decision is it is time to start the clock on Wheeler. The Mets don’t know who’ll be dropped from the rotation. Because of today’s doubleheader, the Mets will go at least one cycle through the rotation with six starters.

WHEELER: Future is now.

WHEELER: Future is now.

Wheeler will start the second game with Matt Harvey the opener. That pitching future the Mets have been bragging about? Well, we’ll get a glimpse today.

Ideally, the Mets don’t want to return Wheeler to the minor leagues after today. As their thinking when Harvey came up last year, they want him here to stay. Because Wheeler won’t be activated until between games, rules prohibit him of being in the dugout to watch Harvey.

That will happen soon enough.

“[It will be] a fun day,’’ Collins said this afternoon at Turner Field. “It’s a great thing for this organization and its fan base to see what the future is going to be like. We’ve got two young guys that are going to be very, very, very good.

“Pitching is the name of this game. We’re going to run two guys out there [Tuesday] that can take this organization north pretty fast.’’

Harvey has been exceptional this season, but is just 1-1 with eight no-decisions in his last ten starts. In that span Harvey has given up 19 runs. If nothing else, what Wheeler should learn quickly about pitching on the major league level is there will be times when he’ll have to do it without run support, which is what Harvey is currently experiencing.

Harvey has been successful in large part because of his composure, self-confidence and sense of worth. Harvey understands his stature and expectations of him, but hasn’t let it go to his head.

Wheeler might as well have been reciting a script given him by Harvey.

“I don’t think I’m the savior at all,’’ spoke Wheeler in a press conference Monday afternoon at Turner Field, almost a half-hour where he grew up watching Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine.

Continuing his refreshing travel down humility road, Wheeler said: “We might not be doing too well right now, but I know the talent of these guys, and hopefully we can turn it around soon. … I’m just trying to come up here and play the best that I can, help out the team any way I can.

“I know people are going to scrutinize. We aren’t doing too well right now, but hopefully we can turn it around and everybody will like us again.’’

Mets fans have liked Wheeler all spring in hope of what he might give them. Today is his first chance to deliver.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 17

Where Does Jordany Valdespin Fit In With Mets?

Should the New York Mets pull the plug on the Jordany Valdespin experiment, manager Terry Collins and management will be able to look in the mirror and say they tried.

They would be fooling themselves.

VALDESPIN: What is his future? (Getty)

VALDESPIN: What is his future? (Getty)

A week is clearly not enough for most players to come off the bench to make a solid statement at second base, or any other position for that matter. They might give Valdespin more time, but it won’t be a significant chance because the Mets don’t even know if they want him to play second base.

Valdespin is 3-for-23 at the plate and hasn’t been effective in the field. If second is his natural position, he’s in trouble. Then again, Daniel Murphy didn’t have a natural position and it has taken him nearly two years to get a feel for the position.

The Mets are going out of order in the Valdespin experiment. The first issue isn’t whether they think he can play second, but whether they want him in the organization in the first place. Next, is where do they envision Valdespin playing? And, who is his competition in the organization?

In the short term, it is Murphy, but if he’s their “real second baseman of the future” they never should have been playing him at first this past week. The time should have gone to first baseman Josh Satin to get an idea what they have in him.

On the minor league level, the Mets’ seventh-ranked prospect is Wilmer Flores, who is a natural third baseman. However, with David Wright signed long-term, the Mets are playing Flores at second base. Finding a place for him is a higher priority than finding a place for Valdespin.

If Flores is the second baseman of the future, it stands to reason neither is Valdespin nor Murphy – so they must be showcasing the latter. Flores could be tested at shortstop, but Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were all tall, lanky and strong shortstops, so that’s not a real argument if they want to look at Flores over Ruben Tejada.

The Mets seem to have two second base options – three if they consider moving Tejada back – ahead of Valdespin, so what exactly are they trying to find out?

They definitely can’t learn much in a week enough to showcase him in a trade, especially with his previous baggage. They have a better chance of building Valdespin’s value it they play him in the minor leagues every day for the next mont than if he played part time on the major league level.

There’s clearly room for Valdespin in the outfield; there’s room for a lot of options in the outfield.

If the Mets decide they want Valdespin a part of their future, they will eventually find him a spot if he can hit. And, save a handful of pinch-hit homers, what do they know about this guy offensively?

They know he has pop and can occasionally drive a ball.  However, from his limited 116-at-bats window the first impression is he’s undisciplined, which makes one wonder outside of his speed what are his attributes as a leadoff hitter.

Overall, Valdespin is hitting .207, but more concerning is .a 264 on-base percentage. Valdespin swings from his heels and often at breaking stuff away in the dirt. His 24 strikeouts-to-six walks ratio is alarming, and for all his speed, four steals to three times being caught is barely a wash.

I don’t know if, or where, Valdespin will fit in with the Mets two or three years from now. I don’t think the Mets know, either. Fact is, I’m not sure the Mets know where Valdespin will fit in a month from now.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 16

Terry Collins Questions Resolve Of Mets

There are roughly six weeks left of relevance in the season for the New York Mets. That takes into consideration the All-Star Game – Citi Field’s one chance to shine in the national spotlight – and past the trade deadline when we learn what Mets are rescued from the dark abyss of losing and brought into the shining light of a pennant race.

In praising Jon Niese’s spotty, yet gritty effort in another Mets’ loss Saturday to the Chicago Cubs, manager Terry Collins indirectly threw the rest of his team under the effort bus.

COLLINS: Alone with haunting thoughts? (Getty)

COLLINS: Alone with haunting thoughts? (Getty)

“Jon Niese didn’t have his good stuff,’’ an exasperated Collins told reporters. “He battled through six innings. He didn’t want to come out of the game. That’s what I want.’’

Huh?

“I want guys who don’t want to come out of the game,’’ Collins continued. “I want guys that say, ‘I care enough, as much as you do, that I want to stay in the game.’ We get more guys like that, we’ll win more baseball games.’’

Niese did not pitch well, but gutted into the sixth inning. It wasn’t a quality effort, but a starter must persevere. Collins praised Niese, but in doing so said he doesn’t have enough players with that resolve. He didn’t say players have quit, but read between the lines.

There must be players not named David Wright or Matt Harvey wondering if the manager was talking about them.

It’s also a dig at general manager Sandy Alderson for not getting him those players. And, in going full circle, it can be interpreted an indictment of himself; that he and his staff aren’t doing enough to motivate his players.

I wrote after the Ike Davis demotion if management believed it was heading in the right direction Collins should get an extension to avoid lame duck status. But, after what he said, you can’t help but think the manager believes this team lacks more than talent and is in deeper than just a hitting slump.

In one part of the clubhouse Wright held court and admitted it is tiring trying to come up with new answers to old questions. Wright spoke of guys needing to dig deep and use whatever motivators necessary to finish strong.

Finishing the season? Doesn’t that sound a lot like getting it over with?

Wright is captain for a reason, but it is time he takes off the gloves. It is time he takes this team by the scruff of the neck and shake it awake. It isn’t time to be a politician and say the right things. It is time to lead, and if it means being unpopular, than so be it.

Motivation? How about this being their jobs? How about pride? How about being a professional? How about manning up?

“A lot these guys are going to be part of the future,’’ said Wright. I know what he is getting at there, but if I hear the word “future,’’ pertaining to the Mets one more time I will scream.

Does anybody else remember the late football coach George Allen? Allen, in filling his roster with veterans, coined the phrase, “the future is now.’’

But, what about now?

The Mets won’t win now, but they can play hard now. They can play smart now. They can hustle now. They can give us a reason to watch now. They can earn their money now.

So, quit the crap and play ball. And, as for Collins – quit whining about what you don’t have and kick the group you do have in its collective butt.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos