Oct 31

Four Items On Van Wagenen’s Plate

New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said there are 11 parts to his plans to remaking the Mets. He wouldn’t elaborate what they were, but it is believed he touched on one when he said he wanted Mickey Callaway to return as manager.

I’m speculating the following four are on his list:

Increase the Payroll: They should come in no higher than $160 million. Given the money they’ll save with David Wright’s retirement ($15 million for this summer) and what insurance will pick up with Yoenis Cespedes not likely to return before July, offset by raises earmarked for Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo and what the Mets might do in upgrading their bullpen, don’t expect them to splurge on free agents Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.

The Mets are expected to bring back second baseman Jeff McNeil to a raise and need to bring in a center fielder, a catcher and perhaps a first baseman, not to mention a significant reliever. Whether that reliever is top shelf or middle tier, it will cost.

Keep the Rotation Intact: The Mets entertained trading all of their starters last season, and are expected to keep them all this winter. DeGrom and Syndergaard will get hefty raises. Since they aren’t anticipated to do a bullpen game for the fifth slot, they’ll need a fifth starter. Is it Seth Lugo, Jason Vargas or Robert Gsellman, or somebody from the minors?

Van Wagenen will confer with Callaway, John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi this week to get a handle on the rotation. The rotation is potentially the team’s strength and the first four must be kept, but it will increase payroll.

Improving the Lineup: Don’t expect the Mets to dive deep into the free-agent or trade markets despite the optimism Van Wagenen and COO Jeff Wilpon portrayed. The Mets must upgrade at catcher and I don’t see them tendering a contract to Travis d’Arnaud. First base is a concern and decisions must be made on Peter Alonso or Dominic Smith, or will Van Wagenen fool around with Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores or Todd Frazier? If the Mets are serious about winning now they must improve catcher and first base. They could have traded for Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona, but that boat sailed when they picked up his option yesterday. The radio call-in shows in New York were filled with callers chiming for Machado, but that would be a horrible mistake.

I was against signing Cespedes because the money would have been better spent on filling the numerous holes the Mets have and still do. Considering Machado is reportedly due twice as much as Cespedes, think of all the improvements the Mets could make.

Upgrade the Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Joe Kelly are the most enticing names in the market. Of course, all will want long-term, expensive contracts. Former GM Sandy Alderson failed to build a bullpen and consistently used the scrap-heap approach. Van Wagenen has to sign a name reliever, and that discounts the possibility of a reunion with Jeurys Familia. Rookies Tyler Bashlor and Drew Smith, and Lugo or Gsellman all pitched well last season at times.

They need to sign one of the four because they desperately need a closer. Bringing back Familia would be a step back. The Mets have plenty of inexperienced hard-throwing relievers, who didn’t distinguish themselves last summer. They have a half-dozen hard-throwers but need at least two or three to show something during spring training.

These four items say the Mets aren’t ready to win now. And, there are at least seven more issues to go.

 

Sep 26

DeGrom Makes His Final Cy Young Case

As he has been all summer, Jacob deGrom was simply brilliant tonight in his final start of what could be a Cy Young Award-winning season. Despite an alarming lack of run support, deGrom overcame frequent criticism for a lack of wins and said he coveted winning the annual pitching award.

“I don’t think it has set in yet,’’ deGrom said of his season which included beating the Braves tonight, 3-0, giving up only two hits and struck out ten to give him 1,000 so far in his young career.

In 32 starts, deGrom, 10-9, with a 1.70 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 269 strikeouts. Perhaps, most impressive was that hitters batted .142 with RISP and he finished the season with 29 straight starts of giving up three runs or fewer. He gave up one or no runs in 18 starts.

“I try not to look at the numbers,’’ deGrom said. “I try to put this team in position to win. I am very happy with how the night went.’’

One pitch at a time is a standard cliché for pitchers, but deGrom said was his secret.

“In the past where I got in trouble it was because I thought too much,’’ deGrom said. “I’m not letting things get to me. I learned to not worry about things I can’t control. I wish I had more wins, but it is what it is.’’

HARVEY SHOWS TRUE COLORS … AGAIN: The Mets have moved on from Matt Harvey, but the team remains in the mind of the temperamental former starter.

Traded to Cincinnati earlier this season, Harvey will be a free agent after this season, and without mentioning “Mets,’’ when asked about this winter, said: “There’s only one team out there I would not sign with, that’s about it.”

He didn’t have to say what team.

Injuries and his late-night partying sabotaged Harvey’s tenure with the Mets. He didn’t help himself any when he feuded with management about injury rehab and was suspended last year for blowing off a game without permission.

Harvey further alienated himself with the Mets when he refused a minor league rehab assignment to work on his mechanics.

Harvey could draw some interest this winter, but he needn’t worry, the Mets have no thought of bringing him back.

WRIGHT WON’T PLAY AGAINST BRAVES: Third baseman David Wright has been activated but assistant general manager John Ricco said it is unlikely he will play against the Braves because they are trying to earn home-field advantage in the Division Series.

However, Ricco left open the possibility he could pinch-hit in a blowout game. He is expected in pinch-hit Friday against the Marlins.

“I hope to go out there and do something that doesn’t embarrass me, but it’s going to be difficult, not having an at-bat for a while,” Wright said.

Manager Mickey Callaway said Jose Reyes will start alongside Wright at shortstop Saturday.

“When I’m hurt, I never put my uniform on. I wear a hoodie or something like that,” he said. “So, to put that thing on again means the world to me, and is something that you tend to take for granted.

“I’m really nervous, I’ll tell you that. I’m really excited. Got the butterflies going. It’s going to be a weird, yet fulfilling feeling,” he said. “I want to put on as good a show as I possibly can — and at the same time soak it all in.”

Wright hasn’t played in the majors since May 27, 2016, due to the neck, back and shoulder injuries that required surgery. Last month, Wright batted .171 (7 for 41) with a double and two RBIs in 10 rehab games for Class A St. Lucie and two with Triple-A Las Vegas.

CALLAWAY COMING BACK: Ricco said he won’t be a candidate for the GM position next year, but indicated Callaway was likely to return next season as manager.

“I think what’s impressed me the most is for a rookie manager in New York, he’s got the team playing hard all the way down to the end,” Ricco said. “He’s really got a lot of guys trending in the right direction. The young guys are playing hard and winning games, and our pitching, we’ve seen guys take big steps forward.”

 

Aug 06

Harvey Recalls Good, Bad And Ugly

In the end, Matt Harvey finally relented and spoke to the New York media – the group that built him up to folk hero status, but in his eyes lived to torment him – in his return to Citi Field Monday afternoon.

HARVEY: In the beginning.  (MLB)

HARVEY: In the beginning. (MLB)

After threatening not to speak with the press, Harvey, perhaps convinced by his agent Scott Boras, to do the right thing or have everything bad about his stay with the Mets dredged up all this week, gave in and talked about what was and what could have been.

As he recalled both the good and bad times of being both a fictional superhero and a prima donna, there were no regrets, no “do-overs,’’ and certainly no apologies.

But, there was an admission of mistakes.

In describing what went wrong with the Mets, Harvey always brought it back to his injuries. Unquestionably, they derailed his career. What was supposed to be a career of Cy Young Awards, no-hitters and World Series wins has turned out to be a 39-42 lifetime record and season-ending trips to the disabled list in four (including missing all of 2014) of his six partially controversial drenched seasons with the Mets.

“I kind of put myself in a bad position,” Harvey said. “Health was the biggest thing. Being as competitive as I am, and as all these guys are, when the injuries took a toll on me, and I wasn’t able to do my job the way I wanted to, I made a lot of mistakes. That was something I’ve definitely looked back on, and I wouldn’t say regret. People make mistakes, and I definitely made a lot of them.”

Harvey has gone through deep introspection since the trade that brought him to Cincinnati for Devin Mesoraco, and suggested the mistakes that made him back-page fodder for the tabloids stemmed from basic psychology of the need to be recognized.

“You realize that you don’t want to fail,” Harvey said. “I definitely didn’t. I never wanted to fail, especially when I spent my time here. The success that I had, I didn’t want to let anybody down — family, friends. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I put a lot of pressure on getting back to perfection. Kind of the way the 2013 season, the ’15 season, all those great games that I threw, I put a lot of pressure on making sure that that happened every time. And obviously, it couldn’t. It was tough. Mentally, it was very tough.”

Harvey will be a free-agent after this season, and while it’s possible he could still end up with the Yankees, which has been heavily speculated since he let it be known that was his childhood team. The Reds did not trade Harvey at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, but he said he would welcome a deal before the end of the month to a contender.

“I do want everybody to know I do regret a lot of mistakes I made,’’ Harvey said. “But I did put my heart into this organization, as I will with future teams, and this team that I’m on now. I really enjoyed every minute here.”

May 27

Pitching Lets Down Mets In Lost Weekend

Pitching was supposed to carry the Mets as far as they’d go this season. Right now, after a blistering start, it has taken them one game over .500 as they head into Atlanta for the start of a four-game series against the no-fluke Braves.

The Mets’ pitching was horrible in losing three of four over the weekend in Milwaukee, with both the starters and bullpen combining to give up 29 games in the series.

The highlight of the weekend was Steven Matz giving up no runs in six innings, but threw 94 pitches in that span. Noah Syndergaard, again, showed he can’t hold runners on base as two of the stolen bases against him scored. Jason Vargas encored a solid start with a sinker Saturday, and Zack Wheeler was so-so today.

The bullpen was awful giving up 17 runs.

Making matters worse heading south is AJ Ramos (shoulder tightness) could land on the disabled list and Wilmer Flores returned to New York to have his sore back examined.

I hate to say it, but if the Mets leave Atlanta less than .500, then never get there again this year.

 

 

May 04

Mets Banish Harvey From Gotham

In the end, Matt Harvey’s Mets’ career ended in the way in which he lived it, with stubbornness and selfishness. The Mets’ long, tumultuous nightmare with Harvey ended today when the hard-partying, formerly hard-throwing right-hander was told he would be designated for assignment because he refused to help himself by taking a Minor League assignment.

The Mets didn’t want Harvey to go to Las Vegas as punishment for partying last weekend in Los Angeles on the team’s first night in San Diego, but in the hope he could rediscover his mechanics that one time produced 98 mph., fastballs and had him destined for superstardom.

HARVEY: In the beginning. (MLB)

HARVEY: In the beginning. (MLB)

The Mets will designate Harvey for assignment prior to tomorrow’s game, which will give them a week to either trade him, which won’t happen, release him or place him on irrevocable waivers.

With teams knowing they can just sign Harvey after he’s released rather than give up talent, it will be a miracle if there’s a trade. The Mets are destined to eat the remainder of his $5.6 million contract.

“This was a long time coming,” GM Sandy Alderson said. “This is something we’ve tried to address, we’ve struggled with, we’ve wrestled with over two managerial regimes. The move to the bullpen was dramatic in itself. So I think that at this point, pragmatism, realism far outweighed other considerations.”

Harvey, who twice refused to speak to reporters when the Mets were on the West Coast, left Citi Field without a word and a 34-37 record with a 3.66 ERA over six seasons.

Manager Mickey Callaway, whose reputation of helping pitchers rediscover themselves was in part why he was hired, accepted responsibility, ironically which was something Harvey rarely did.

“We feel like we failed Matt Harvey,” said Callaway. “Our job is to help every player in there. It’s not a good feeling when you can’t.”

Harvey’s career began as the seventh overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. Two years later, he debuted in 2012. The following season Harvey blossomed into part star/part comic book character after he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated calling him “The Dark Knight of Gotham’’ after the Batman movie.

Nobody knew it at the time, but the moniker would hurt Harvey as he seemed more interested in being a New York hero instead of a New York star. Ironically, Harvey’s downfall started before his career highlight, which was starting the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field.

Harvey initially withheld tightness in his right forearm after a start prior to the All-Star Game. The Mets didn’t do Harvey any favors when rather than pull him from the game they let him start.

It didn’t take long before it all started to unravel for Harvey, who was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Rather than immediately opt for Tommy John surgery, which several doctors recommended, Harvey chose to rehab the elbow, which was his right, but a bad decision as it set him back several months.

After spring training in 2014, Harvey fought with the Mets as to where he would rehab. The Mets wanted him to train in Port St. Lucie, but Harvey insisted on staying in New York where he could date models, go to the Rangers games, and party.

Harvey was quoted in a magazine article about how much he wanted to squire women like Derek Jeter and boasted of his drinking like a college sophomore.

Harvey returned in 2015, but not without controversy. The Mets began the season saying they would monitor Harvey’s innings, but there didn’t seem to be a concrete plan and former manager Terry Collins handled it poorly by letting him start with a strep throat and work into the late innings when the Mets were routing the Yankees.

Rather the closely monitor Harvey’s innings, they became an issue when his agent, Scott Boras, raised the possibility he might not pitch in the postseason. This painted Harvey in a bad light until the agent backed down.

Harvey did pitch in the postseason, but skipped a workout prior to the NL Division Series because he was hung over from a night of drinking. Harvey’s signature moment came when he pitched a hissy fit in the dugout and talked Collins into let him go out for the ninth inning of Game 5.

The next year Harvey developed thoracic outlet syndrome. He also missed time in 2017 with shoulder weakness, but also drew a three-game suspension for blowing off a game because he was sleeping off another party fest.

Harvey continued to struggle this season, then cursed at reporters who questioned him about going to the bullpen. Then was his night of partying in Los Angeles, the plans were made while the team was playing a game in St. Louis.

“I like Matt, in spite of all the stuff that’s gone on, certainly because of a lot of the stuff that’s gone on,” Alderson said. “He’s a human being. He’s a vulnerable human being, and kind of leaves himself open for those of us who know him and whom he semi-trusts. I’m going to miss him in a lot of ways.”

And, probably won’t miss him in a lot of other ways.