Oct 11

Utley Slide Helps Tie NLDS And Ends Tejada’s Season

Cal Ripken Jr., said it was a “hard, clean’’ play, but not dirty, and if anybody should know about take-out slides it is him. That’s not to say others didn’t have their own opinion. Chase Utley took out Ruben Tejada to break up the double play in the seventh inning Saturday night, and in doing so knocked the Mets’ shortstop out of the playoffs with a fractured right leg.

UTLEY SLIDE: Fuels Mets emotions. (Getty)

UTLEY SLIDE: Fuels Mets emotions. (Getty)

Not only did the game-tying run score on the play, but when Dodgers manager Don Mattingly appealed Tejada never touched the bag, Utley was ruled safe, and with the out taken off the board, it enabled Adrian Gonzalez to hit a two-run double that lifted the Dodgers to a 5-2 victory to change the complexion of the series.

Mets manager Terry Collins said the umpires made the right call, and added his players were an angry bunch.

“You have to take the emotion and keep your focus,’’ Collins said. “You can’t lose control.’’

Instead of returning to New York with a chance to finish the sweep behind Matt Harvey, the NLDS goes back to Citi Field tied at a game apiece.

Until then, there will be continued debate on the nature of the slide – clean or dirty?

“Only Chase knows what the intent was,’’ Mets captain David Wright said. “My opinion is he wasn’t close to the bag.’’

Utley, known for being a hard-nosed player, defended his actions.

“It was one of those awkward plays,” Utley said. “There was no intent to injure Ruben, whatsoever. My intent was to break up the double play.”

Speaking of Harvey, what immediately came to mind with the Utley slide was of him getting plunked by the Mets’ Game 3 starter before he was traded by the Phillies. Utley wasn’t thinking that when he slid into Tejada, but if there wasn’t bad blood between Utley and the Mets before, there probably is now.

One thing for sure, what has been a compelling series by its stellar pitching, now has an edge to it.

Oct 08

Darling Misses Plate On Latest Harvey Mess

Normally, I enjoy Ron Darling’s insight on baseball and the Mets. I think he’s one of the best in the business. However, this time we deserved better from him when it came to weighing in on the latest Matt Harvey fiasco.

I thought Darling and his mates on SNY – Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez – let Harvey off easy during the innings limit drama by taking the path of least resistance and blaming agent Scott Boras. However, Boras wasn’t a factor in Harvey being late to Tuesday’s workout at Citi Field, but what do you know, Darling again passed on blasting the Mets’ diva ace.

DARLING:  Should have told us more.

DARLING: Should have told us more.

“It’s really hard for me to criticize [Harvey],’’ Darling told Newsday. “Half our team didn’t make the [1986 World Series] parade. … We had guys who barely showed up to games. … To me it’s not such a big thing because he’s not pitching for so many days.’’

But, it is a big deal. Harvey’s job required him to do one thing that day, and that was to show up to work on time. And, it wasn’t as if he had to be there at 9 and fight rush hour traffic. He had to be there at noon. He still could have slept in and been there on time.

In fairness, at the time Darling might not have heard several reports Harvey had been out partying, but does it really matter? Darling saw how partying destroyed the careers of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Cocaine was their drug of choice; for Harvey, it is alcohol. Harvey relished talking about his drinking and nightclubbing in a national magazine article. He boasted of wanting to be a womanizer like Derek Jeter.

If you’re the Mets, how do you not connect the dots between that and being late? How does Darling, educated at Yale and in the major leagues, not see that coming?

Especially when it came to the conflicting stories.

On Tuesday, manager Terry Collins said Harvey called to say he was stuck in traffic and turn around and go home. However, Harvey showed up anyway and took the questions. He admitted to screwing up and I wrote he was stand-up and was willing to let it go. However, Harvey didn’t get his story straight with Collins and said he lost track of time.

Huh? You tell us pitching for the Mets in the playoffs is important to you and you’re late? Did you forget your statement after the innings mess? I didn’t, and Darling should’ve remembered, also.

Harvey wrote in early September: “Right now we’re hunkered down in a fight to make the postseason. All of our efforts are focused on that task. As a team, we understand that there’s still a lot of baseball left to play. The chance to make a run in the playoffs will require our full dedication, energy and passion. This is an incredibly exciting time to be part of the Mets.’’

“All of our efforts.’’ “our full dedication.’’

Once there are conflicting stories there will be digging. And, it didn’t help Harvey’s cause any when David Wright expressed his controlled annoyance.

How could Darling overlook all that? He’s better than that, and as a New York athlete who saw first-hand the falls of Gooden and Strawberry, he had to know it wouldn’t end with a lame story or Collins’ weak jokes.

During his career, Hernandez hit whistling line drives, and did it again when he told the newspaper: “I’m astounded after all that’s gone that this happened. I’m flabbergasted about it. But, as my father used to say: `You make your bed, you’ve got to sleep in it.’ I just think at this particular point of the season it’s really, really not good.’’

That is, of course, unless Harvey has Darling to fluff up his pillows for him.


Sep 19

Mets Have More To Worry About Than Beating The Yankees

Does anybody still look at the Yankees’ series as a battle for New York? If you do, then you’ve missed the point of the previous 148 games. To me, whether April or September, the “Subway Series” means nothing because the real prize is the NL East.

The next two weeks, not this weekend, will determine the success of this season. And, in that regard, the Mets are waving a few red flags. As with everything, it begins with starting pitching, and everybody has questions.

SYNDERGAARD: Home run issues. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: Home run issues. (Getty)

Manager Terry Collins said he’s not worried about the home runs given up by Noah Syndergaard, who gets in big trouble in the sixth with an ERA approaching nine. Syndergaard has given up 17 homers this year, with seven in the sixth inning.

That’s a problem. If you can’t make it out of the sixth, that will tax the bullpen, which is also the scenario for Matt Harvey, who will be going on half-starts.

Reportedly, the Mets, Harvey, agent Scott Boras and Dr. James Andrews reached a settlement. But, even if Harvey makes two more starts of 70 pitches, what have they really determined if Andrews’ evaluation is for him not to pitch, or to make an abbreviated start in the playoffs?

Ideally, the intent is to have Harvey ready to pitch deep in these games, but that’s not the case.

The Mets also want to have Jacob deGrom skip a start.

So, how confident are you with three starters working on limits? And, Bartolo Colon – who has been the most consistent the past three weeks – reportedly not in the rotation? And, another, Jon Niese, who has been horrible the last two months? And another, Steven Matz, with only a handful of major league starts?

What you’re talking about is the starters pitching limited innings and the bullpen being overworked. And, that bullpen is not without issues now as Tyler Clippard has a barking back. If you’re expecting the Mets’ bullpen to work up to four innings a game, then you need Carlos Torres healthy, Hansel Robles to develop consistency, and for Addison Reed to keep pitching well.

They also need Jeurys Familia to remain oblivious to the mounting pressure.

And, there will be pressure.

Sep 06

If Dispute Not Resolved, Mets Should Explore Trading Harvey

It’s too late for the Mets to do what they should have done with Matt Harvey, but the timing might be right for them to do what they now should do.

Torched, and rightfully so, by the New York media for his comments that suggested only 14 innings were left in his season, Harvey, posted on Derek Jeter‘s website Sunday he would indeed pitch for the Mets should they reach the postseason.

HARVEY: Credibility in doubt. (MLB)

HARVEY: Credibility in doubt. (MLB)

“As an athlete, when your surgeon explains to you the risks of exceeding a certain number of innings, it can be alarming,” Harvey wrote. “You listen. I love to play baseball, and I love winning even more. I would not give that up for anything. I also know I want to be able to play and win for a long time.

“But there has never been a doubt in my mind: I will pitch in the playoffs. I will be healthy, active and ready to go. I am communicating with my agent, my doctor, [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] and the entire Mets organization. I can assure everyone that we’re all on the same page.”

We shall see.

I’d like to give Harvey the benefit of doubt, but his recent track record for believability isn’t strong.

Harvey’s next start is Tuesday – as he repeated ad nauseam Saturday – and if he and GM Sandy Alderson aren’t on the same page by the time he takes the mound, the Mets should take a hard line, aggressive stance with their diva. It should also be noted that if Harvey sides with Alderson, he would be going against agent Scott Boras and Dr. James Andrews.

I’m not sure Harvey is ready to take that stance.

If Harvey and the Mets don’t work things out and the innings limit remains at 180, Alderson should make it clear the pitcher will make his next start in five days and then tell him to disappear to remove the specter of his distraction.

Harvey’s comments Saturday regarding Boras made it clear his intent is to not leave a dollar on the table. At least, that’s his impression.

I never believed Harvey would re-sign with the Mets when he becomes a free agent in three years and still don’t. This flap might assure that scenario. So, if Harvey gets his 180 innings and is proclaimed healthy, considering he has a reasonable salary and the Mets’ starting depth, it might be time to explore the trade market.

Aug 12

Contend And They Will Come?

For years we heard complaints as long as the Wilpons put out a mediocre product on the field there was no reason for fans to come out to Citi Field. In fact, there were pockets of protesters calling for boycotts of the Mets because the Wilpons weren’t putting out a representative team on the field.

Well, the Mets are winning – with Jacob deGrom‘s shutout of the Rockies tonight they are now ten games over .500 – but they aren’t coming. I’m not here to sell tickets for the Mets, but c’mon people, deGrom shuts out the Rockies tonight and Matt Harvey shut them out last night, but where’s the love?

Only 27,000 tonight and 25,000 last night isn’t much. Actually, for a first-place team it is barely anything. While attendance usually spikes the year after a team wins, there are plenty of tickets available. Your team is playing winning, exciting baseball; it is in first place; it’s summer in New York; and the selection of your seats figure to be better now then next year at this time.

The complaints for not supporting the Mets previously were fair, but fair is fair. Although they took their time doing so, the Mets did make several moves to improve themselves. Yes, there have been a limited amount of home games, and the Rockies aren’t the greatest draw, and hopefully the last two nights have been an aberration, but your ball club is in a pennant race and it is the best time to be a fan of the Mets.

You demanded, and rightfully so, of the Wilpons to put up or shut up. Well, now it’s time to support your team at the ball park. It’s a fun team to watch and they deserve it.