Jun 13

These Mets Made You Watch

Yoenis Cespedes has turned out to be one of those hitters, the kind that grab your attention and keep your eyes transfixed to the plate, whether you’re at the ballpark or watching on television. When he steps up, whether you’re heading to the concession stand or the refrigerator your heads turn to him like a rubber necker staring at a highway accident.

STRAWBERRY: Stirred us. (AP)

STRAWBERRY: Stirred us. (AP)

Everything can wait until you see what Cespedes does. It could be another home run; a line drive into the gap; or he could screw himself into the ground striking out. It doesn’t matter because it was an event.

Cespedes is one of four Mets that I believe who mesmerized us with their power.

Dave Kingman was the first. He was long and lean, once a pitcher. But, strong and launched 154 homers in his six years in two stints with the Mets, most of them high, arching moonshots.

Kingman came to the Mets from San Francisco, purchased for merely $150,000. He was the total all-or-nothing slugger with 442 career homers and 1,816 strikeouts.

Another was Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, who hit 220 homers eight years with the Mets. Piazza came to the Mets from the Dodgers – after a week layover in Miami – and lead them to the 2000 World Series. Piazza’s swing uncoiled, almost in slow motion, but the ball jumped off his bat.

Piazza authored arguably the most memorable homer in franchise history with his game-winner over the Braves in the first pro sports event in New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Others hit longer or higher home runs. Others hit them in October. But, Piazza’s was undoubtedly the most emotional and will never be forgotten,

Finally, there was Darryl Strawberry, the only one of the group who was home grown. He hit 252 homers in eight years with the Mets, and things froze at Shea when he came to the plate. Strawberry played for the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers and Giants – all four of New York’s baseball teams.

If there was one Strawberry blast that defined his power and strength, it was his blast off the scoreboard clock in old Busch Stadium.

There were other Mets who hit significant, if not dramatic, home runs. David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Lenny Dykstra, Rod Swoboda and Tommie Agee also hit memorable home runs for the Mets.

But, Strawberry, Piazza, Kingman and Cespedes made us stop and watch.

 

May 25

Mets Opt To Keep Harvey In Rotation

As beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, the same can be said of a Matt Harvey start.

Harvey has been awful most of this season, so I would have sent him to the minor leagues for a couple of starts. However, Mets manager Terry Collins – after conferring with GM Sandy Alderson and pitching coach Dan Warthen – said enough was seen to let Harvey make his next start, Monday, against the Chicago White Sox at Citi Field.

HARVEY: Gets another chance.  (AP)

HARVEY: Gets another chance. (AP)

It isn’t the first time I disagree with a Collins decision and won’t be the last.

Harvey opened the game with three scoreless innings, but as has been the case with him this year, he lost it in the middle innings giving up five runs on three homers in the Mets’ 7-4 loss to the Nationals.

It could have been worse, but a diving play by Neil Walker in the second thwarted a potential big inning.

“You saw the game,” catcher Kevin Plawecki told reporters wanting to know what is wrong with Harvey.

“`Even though his command wasn’t good, we saw great movement on his fastball,” began Collins’ explanation of why Harvey is getting another chance. “His velocity was up. There was tightness in his slider. These are all things we haven’t seen in his last couple of starts.

“We have to quit looking at the negatives and start looking at some positives. We’re going to try to build on it and see what he’s like next Monday. … This guy is too big a piece to write-off.”

Although I would have done it differently, I do applaud Collins’ loyalty toward his player, even when it backfired on him before.

Collins wouldn’t speculate as to what might happen with Harvey if he bombs again; most likely more drama. Collins certainly won’t say this is his last chance before Vegas because that put added stress on him.

Collins ruled out the disabled list because there apparently is nothing wrong with him, although players have been stashed there before. Reportedly, the minor leagues and bullpen weren’t options, but pushing him back was discussed.

Former Mets pitcher turned SNY analyst Ron Darling disagreed, saying he didn’t see much to build on, saying his slider looked good only 30% on the time and it is no big deal for a pitcher to amp it up occasionally.

Darling also criticized Harvey for not speaking after the game, saying “he lost some street cred’’ in the clubhouse, because it forced his teammates – in particular, Plawecki – to clean up his mess.

“His teammates are thinking, `we’re not here to clean up your mess, you clean up your own mess.’

“Part of being a professional athlete is you have to answer the questions,’’ Darling said.

Collins didn’t comment on Harvey’s unprofessional silent act, but Nationals manager Dusty Baker noticed.

“`It’s his prerogative to do what he wants to do,” said Baker, probably recalling his time when Barry Bonds was on his team. “`If he [doesn’t want to talk], he doesn’t have to talk. But he’s making it harder on himself. New York will eat you up.”

The nibbling has begun.

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May 18

Will We See D’Arnaud Again?

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports Travis d’Arnaud is in California rehabbing his right shoulder with a private trainer, which makes me wonder if we’ll ever see him in a Mets’ uniform again, much less develop into an All-Star player anywhere.

His inability to stay on the field is rapidly derailing a career that has never gotten off the ground.

D'ARNAUD: Gone, but how soon forgotten? (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Gone, but how soon forgotten? (AP)

D’Arnaud working with a private physical therapist makes me wonder why he isn’t in Port St. Lucie or in New York where he can be around team doctors and officials. When I recall the controversy of where Matt Harvey would rehab his elbow, I wonder why the double standard.

It’s a given the Mets value Harvey more than d’Arnaud, but this detachment makes me think he’ll never make it as the player they hoped he’d be and are beginning the process of cutting ties.

D’Arnaud went on the disabled list April 26 with a right rotator cuff strain, which was aggravated when he tried throwing May 7 in Port St. Lucie. GM Sandy Alderson said the pain in his shoulder subsided, but couldn’t provide a possible return date. He couldn’t even pinpoint a month.

As for the California question, Alderson said: “He’s more or less as well off out there with somebody who knows him as well as our guys would know him. Right now I can’t give you chapter and verse on exactly what his return [date] is. We have to keep in mind that sometimes when we cite chapter and verse on when he will return, we’re kidding ourselves.”

That was a fairly evasive answer, which we’ve come to expect from Alderson.

The season began with d’Arnaud the starter and Kevin Plawecki the backup. Depending on how the year progressed, one ocould be traded as a catcher with major league experience is a valuable commodity.

Plawecki has proven good defensively, in fact, Mets’ pitchers have a better ERA with him behind the plate. He offense picked up on the last road trip, but he still needs a way to go. Gone are the days when a catcher was supposed to be an offensive force – Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson and Mike Piazza – as defense is now paramount.

Buster Posey and Yadier Molina are today’s premier catchers, but Plawecki has potential. Should d’Arnaud play again this season and the debate resurface between him or Plawecki, the Mets must consider his injury history.

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May 17

May 17, Mets-Nats Lineups (Updated)

NOTE: Tonight’s Mets’ lineup has been updated to reflect David Wright being scratched. He was originally scheduled to bat second.

Well, it’s here. What we’ve all been waiting for this spring is a few hours away at Citi Field when the Mets host the Nationals. It is the first of 19 games between the teams, which figure to battle for NL East supremacy this summer unless the Phillies prove to be no fluke.

Tonight we’ll see a classic pitching duel between the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard and Washington’s Max Scherzer, the latter who is coming off a 20-strikeout performance in his last start. Of course, Syndergaard has the stuff to reach that plateau some day.

The game will also feature the return of Mets’ 2015 postseason hero Daniel Murphy back to New York and the inevitable question of whether New York will pitch to Nationals’ MVP outfielder Bryce Harper.

Lucas Duda is not playing for the Mets because of a sore lower back.

Here are the lineups for both teams:

Mets

Curtis Granderson, RF

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Michael Conforto, LF

Yoenis Cespedes, CF

Neil Walker, 2B

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Kevin Plawecki, C

Eric Campbell, 1B

Syndergaard, RP

Matt Reynolds, 3B

Nationals

Ben Revere,  CF

Jayson Werth, LF

Harper, RF

Murphy, 2B

Ryan Zimmerman, 1B

Anthony Rendon, 3B

Wilson Ramos, C

Danny Espinosa, SS

Scherzer, RP

ON DECK: Murphy deserves your cheers this week.

May 14

Latest Loss May Be Best Thing To Happen To Mets’ Harvey

Last night may be the best thing to happen to Matt Harvey and the Mets. In defeat, he showed us a humility we haven’t often seen from him, which can be the first step up from rock bottom.

Sometime between Rockies’ hits in the fifth inning I flashed to the summer of 2013 when Harvey first flirted with stardom. Do you remember the video piece Harvey did on the Jimmy Fallon show when he roamed the streets of New York asking people their thoughts of Matt Harvey?

HARVEY: All smiles in 2013. (USA Today)

HARVEY: All smiles in 2013. (USA Today)

To listen to the answers, and Harvey’s response – both verbally and his body language – was priceless. Harvey was talking to his fan base about himself and they didn’t recognize him. He was funny and showed real humility.

It made us like him for more than what he did on the mound because he seemed
approachable.

However, since then Harvey has been sidetracked by injury, off-the-field issues and media clashes. Both Harvey and those who followed him ventured into the dark night of judgment. Unlike that day in Central Park when he was anonymous, Harvey lived with a target on his back and hasn’t responded well.

Neither has anybody else.

His body language spoke loudly last night; louder than the cheers that greeted him at the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field when he seemingly held the world in his hand like the baseball he threw which such force and artistry.

Gone last night was the cockiness and arrogance which made people root against him. Also gone was the confidence that made him stare down a hitter then climb the ladder for another strikeout.

His head was down when he handed the ball to manager Terry Collins and slumped off the mound. The cameras caught him with his head bowed in the dugout talking to himself. He wasn’t getting any answers and it was a very human moment from a man Mets fans and media insist on labeling a superhero.

“A great statement I heard the other day is there’s two kinds of players in this league: Ones who have been humbled and ones who will be,” Collins told reporters. “When it’s your turn, it gets tough to take sometimes, because you have got to learn how to adjust from it and how to bounce back from it.”

However, before he can bounce back from a problem it must be identified.

Mechanics? Perhaps. Injuries or health? He says no. Is he feeling the pressure to perform after Game 5? Could be, but he’s repeatedly expressed no regrets in how he handled that night.

Most recently, is he trying to pitch up to the expectations of the contract he’ll seek when he becomes a free agent? Maybe, but it’s something I can’t see him admitting because after all, that’s something few players admit.

What then?

To his credit, and I really liked his answer, he refused to blame the altitude of Coors Field, a place he’s never pitched before.

His answer was a polite, yet forceful, “No, it’s me.”

Humility defined.

“I’m just not feeling comfortable throwing a baseball right now, so it’s frustrating,” Harvey told reporters. “Something I have obviously done my whole life is gone on a mound and thrown a baseball, and right now it’s not an easy task.

“Right now it’s just not feeling great out there — you start overthinking everything. That’s kind of the way it feels every pitch, and hopefully you get past that.”

Harvey cast no blame, although catcher Kevin Plawecki might have given him an out by saying his pitch recommendations might have been predictable. Not many pitchers win games with two runs, but he didn’t point fingers at the offense.

Instead, Harvey spoke of square one.

“It’s taking a lot longer than expected,” said Harvey, who must remember some pitchers hit the wall after Tommy John surgery in the second year back. “You can’t give up. You’ve just got to keep going. It’s start-to-start for me right now.

“I don’t look at it as ups and downs. It’s trying to continue figuring stuff out. … It’s not easy, but there’s another day tomorrow. And it’s a long season. There’s a lot of hope in that regard and drive toward figuring it out.”

I was glad to see Harvey get ripped because it might be the first step toward him getting to where he wants to be.

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