Mar 16

Wheeler Injury Raises Questions

When it comes to the New York Mets and injuries, specifically their pitchers, never take the initial news at face value.


Wheeler facing the knife.

Wheeler facing the knife.

GM Sandy Alderson was adamant initially saying Zack Wheeler didn’t need a MRI. Manager Terry Collins, after saying Wheeler had two MRIs over the winter, indicated prior to Saturday’s start, “everybody could use a little rest.’’

The Mets finally gave into common sense and Wheeler had a MRI, which showed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow that will likely require Tommy John surgery. That rest Collins was speaking of, well, we’ll get a lot between now and next spring.

“Everybody gets MRIs today,’’ Collins told reporters. “That’s the nature of the beast. You come in with an upset stomach and they give you an MRI. And then you have an abdominal strain. It’s what you do to protect yourself.’’

So, why the delay?


Just a couple of days ago, Alderson said a MRI wasn’t necessary. Today, he told reporters: “This is what happens to pitching. You see guys going down all over the place.’’

What exactly changed his mind? Could it have been the potential of negative backlash?

I’m not blaming Alderson or Collins for Wheeler’s injury, because the right thing was done in shutting him down when he reported persistent pain. But, I am criticizing them – and Wheeler, too – for downplaying this whole thing. None of the three are doctors and Wheeler especially, since it is his arm and career, should have been concerned.

However, the perception garnered from this case follows that of how the Mets handled injuries in recent years, and that’s they don’t know what they are doing.

This raises several questions:

* Collins said Wheeler managed the discomfort last season. If that’s the case, why wasn’t he shut down and examined when he first complained of pain?

* Of course, that’s predicated on whether Wheeler reported the pain in the first place. Did he fail to disclose this, something Matt Harvey did the previous year?

* Collins said Wheeler underwent two MRIs in the offseason. Why wasn’t anything discovered at that time?

* If Wheeler was clean, as Collins said, it stands to reason he injured it at the start of camp. If so, did he throw too hard, too soon? If so, why wasn’t he monitored better? If Wheeler pushed himself, why wasn’t he more careful? How come he wasn’t smarter?

* If Wheeler did everything properly this spring, it would seem this injury was “just one of those things,’’ or it was missed in the two offseason MRIs. If it is the latter, shouldn’t the Mets go back and look at that film to see if that’s the case?

* While the surface issue is Wheeler being hurt and down for the season, underneath there are a lot of nagging questions that paint the perception something was amiss in how this was handled.

When it comes to the Mets and pitching injuries, perception is reality. Bottom line, if I were a Met pitcher and felt something in my arm, I would be concerned.

Very concerned.

NOTE:  Will update later after Alderson conference call.


Feb 21

Collins Says Mets Capable Of Playoffs

Is it genuine optimism for the New York Mets or simply unfounded wishful thinking? In the past two days, both GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins alluded to the playoffs. No guarantees, and with the qualifier, “capable of” if they execute. Hell, anybody could have told you that.

“Now we’ve just got to go play,’’ Collins told reporters Saturday in Port St. Lucie. “It’s all about execution. As we’ve seen in the past, there are teams that were world champs and the next year they’re in last place. And there are teams that were in last place that the next year they’re in the playoffs.

“If we play up to expectations and what we think are the caliber of players we have, we’ll be playing in October.’’

Collins’ thinking is based on the potential of the Mets’ pitching; the additions of Michael Cuddyer in right field and John Mayberry for the bench; and healthy returns of David Wright and Matt Harvey.

There are other issues: Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler must progress; the bullpen is seemingly sound, even without Bobby Parnell available at the start of the season; the leadoff spot is unsettled between Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson; Wilmer Flores is an unproven commodity at shortstop.

Harvey is a huge key, and Alderson acknowledged there’s nothing concrete about his innings ceiling. It was initially reported Harvey would probably miss the start of the season, but likely pitch the home opener. Collins said today Harvey would start one of the season’s first five games.

I prefer something more definitive, but it is early. Things change.

“We’ve been sitting around for four years asking everybody to be patient and even the players,” Collins said. “Well, it’s time.’’

A lot has to happen if the Mets are to reach the playoffs, let alone have their first winning season after six straight losing summers.

Sure, there’s reason to be hopeful, but the playoffs? Well, I’ve heard this before from the Mets so I’m not swallowing this hook, line and sinker.

October baseball? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Feb 20

Mets Should Cherish Own History And Forget Yankees

I keep reading how this is the time for the New York Mets to “take control of the city and make this their town.’’

That’s an impossible venture based on history as the Yankees have a huge head start. I’ve been told this was once a National League town, but how can this be if the Yankees usually won?

METS: Their own history is pretty good. (MLB)

METS: Their own history is pretty good. (MLB)

Math says the Yankees have 27 World Series titles while the New York Mets, Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers won a combined eight. I was never good at math in school, but understand those numbers.

Only the 1921, 1922 Giants and 1955 Dodgers beat the Yankees head-to-head in a World Series.

The Mets will never take permanent control of the city. Just as the Jets won’t take it from the Giants; the Nets from the Knicks; and Islanders from the Rangers.

Those teams will always be the younger brother.

But, that doesn’t mean for one glorious summer, or two, or three, the Mets can’t be New York’s darlings. It happened in 1969 and 1986. But, temper that because from then to the present the Yankees won seven titles.

The Yankees’ mission statement always has been to win the World Series. That hasn’t changed since George Steinbrenner’s passing and won’t as long as long as the team remains in that family. The Mets want to win, but that’s not their mission statement. And, for readers of this blog who have long complained about their spending, you understand that concept. Worry about the perception of who owns the city once the Mets change their philosophy.

I’m not interested in the Mets catching the Yankees. That’s beating their head against a brick wall. What I am interested in is seeing the Mets catch the Washington Nationals, St. Louis and whoever comes out of the West.

You can also throw in the Braves and Marlins in that group. Those are their real rivals. The Mets and Mets’ fans should keep their eyes on the real prize, which is winning their corner of the world.

I didn’t grow up here, but can’t count the number of times I’ve walked through the concourses at Shea Stadium and Citi Field after a Mets’ victory and heard fans chant, “Yankees suck.’’ And this wasn’t after an interleague game with them. Why couldn’t they enjoy what they had just seen? Somebody please explain that to me.

Boston fans did the same for years. Even at a Patriots’ Super Bowl rally Bostonians chanted “Yankees suck.’’ I also heard it when the Red Sox finally won as I walked from Busch Stadium back to my St. Louis hotel.

The Mets – and I include Mets’ fans in this – should ignore what the Yankees are doing and take care of their own business. If they do that, they’ll own the damned back pages of the tabloids. It’s the hot team, the one that makes the most noise, that grab the back pages.

Growing up in Cleveland, Indians’ fans had that same fascination with the Yankees. I always thought it was acknowledging an inferiority complex. Don’t worry about keeping up with the Yankees’ Joneses and take care of your own house and you’ll get the attention.

The Mets will never convert a true Yankees’ fan just as the opposite is true. But, for one summer they can get those straddling the fence to find their way to Queens instead of the Bronx.

The Mets have their own history and it is worth cherishing. Never forget that.


Feb 10

Mets Have No Significant Position Battles

For a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2008, the New York Mets are in a unique situation of not having any position battles. There will be roster decisions, but every position has a body that barring injury, won’t change from now and Opening Day.

Currently the rotation is six deep, with the lone questions being whether Matt Harvey will be ready for the start of the season, and all indications are he will.

That leaves Dillon Gee. The Mets have been trying to trade him all winter, and most recently said they would take a minor leaguer. Gee could be in the rotation if Harvey isn’t ready, and barring a trade could possibly be optioned or used in long relief. Whatever happens, there is value to Gee.

For the first time in GM Sandy Alderson’s tenure, the bullpen isn’t a mess. Manager Terry Collins said Bobby Parnell is the closer, but he’s coming off elbow surgery and could miss the first month of the season. That means last year’s closer, Jenrry Mejia, will have the job again to start the season.

However, don’t expect anybody that wasn’t in the pen last year top to bully his way into the pen.

There is no position battle behind the plate with Travis d’Arnaud starting. The infield, from third to first, is set with David Wright, Wilmer Flores, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda. So is the outfield, from left to right, of Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares and Michael Cuddyer.

Sure, there will be decisions regarding the bench, although the likely candidates are already on the 40-man roster. There will also decisions regarding the batting order, notably the leadoff slot.

Sure, the Mets have questions as spring training approaches, but for the first time in a long time the eight position players have already been determined, as is the rotation and bullpen.

That gives them a sense of stability they haven’t always had and that’s a positive.

Feb 09

Niese Faces Pivotal Season

Every spring there is that singular player whose career might hang in the balance as is Jonathon Niese’s with the New York Mets.

NIESE: Will it ever happen for him?

NIESE: Will it ever happen for him?

It was in 2012 when the Mets signed him to a long-term contract through 2016. They signed him for all the right reasons. He threw hard; is left-handed; the contract provided cost certainty; he had some degree of major league success; and at the time was relatively healthy.

In the three years since, he’s won just 30 games, hadn’t pitched 200 innings in any season, and sustained one form of injury or another every year.

With Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard and left-hander Steven Matz waiting in the wings – and let’s not forget Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee remain on the 40-man roster – it doesn’t take much to figure Niese’s value to the Mets is rapidly diminishing, especially since they put him on the block over the winter.

All the reasons why the Mets signed Niese, and why he was coveted by other teams in trade talks, aren’t as prevalent. If 2015 is anything like the last three seasons, next year at this time we might not even be talking about him in the rotation as Matz could supplant him.

Of all the Mets who need a big and healthy season, Niese ranks at the top of my list.