Jan 30

What Would Define A Successful Season For The 2014 Mets

Some teams define a successful season by the pouring of champagne. The New York Mets are not one of them.

The Mets last tasted champagne in 2006, after beating the Dodgers in the NLCS. They last tasted the good stuff in 1986, and if a baseball hadn’t squirted between Bill Buckner’s legs, we’d have to back to 1969, the year man walked on the moon.

After five straight losing seasons, the Mets did enough adding this winter to warrant the thought this summer might be different.

It’s wishful thinking to think the Mets will play into October, but it isn’t premature to wonder what could define a successful season. After winning 74 games last year and finishing in third place, there’s room for improvement.

The Mets finished 22 games behind first-place Atlanta and 12 behind Washington, and it is unrealistic to believe they can make up those games.

However, it isn’t out of the question to think .500 can’t be reached. The additions of Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon – plus the anticipated improvement of Jon Niese, and dare I suggest, Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada – should be worth at least one more victory a month.

With the baseball season six months long, that’s six more victories. If the Mets could squeeze out one more win, that puts them at 81-81.

That’s plausible.

So, what’s it going to take for that to happen?

For one thing, Niese must win more than eight games and Zack Wheeler must continue to progress. They also can’t afford a setback from Colon. The Mets also need improvement from their bullpen, which was more than spotty last year. That begins with Vic Black adequately replacing closer Bobby Parnell.

Offensively, David Wright needs to approach the .300, 30-homer and 100-RBI levels expected of him. Granderson won’t hit 40 homers in Citi Field, but at least 25 shouldn’t be out of the question.

It’s folly to predict what Davis might provide, but then again, any improvement would be welcome. As for Chris Young, considering what he’s done the past few years, he falls into the Davis category of “anything is better than nothing.’’

Of course, slumps and injuries can’t be forecast. However, if most expectations are reached, I’m thinking .500 is possible, with 85 reachable in the best-case scenario.

It could happen.

Jan 26

Not Worth Risk To Push Matt Harvey’s Return

According to several published reports, Matt Harvey said he’s aiming to return at the end of the season, which would be a foolish decision by the New York Mets.

One might argue an advantage to having Harvey pitch in 2014 is it gives the Mets an opportunity to see where he stands in his recovery, but it’s a stretch because there’s no doubt he’s in their 2015 plans.

HARVEY: Don't rush him.

HARVEY: Don’t rush him.

Harvey is a given for 2015, but if there’s any doubt, that’s why Bartolo Colon received a two-year deal. Colon’s presence, coupled with the anticipated development of Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard, gives the Mets flexibility in when to bring back their ace.

The normal recovery time from Tommy John surgery is a year. If the Mets really wanted Harvey back for 2015, they should have scheduled surgery immediately after the injury, but instead they messed around with the idea of Harvey resting in the hope in coming back for spring training and pitching this year.

That was a pipe dream and most people knew it, but the Mets opted to placate Harvey’s whims, which could have been disastrous had he been ready for the season but re-injured his elbow.

“When you see stories of guys coming back in 10 months, I’m going to think, ‘Hey, I can come back in nine,’ ’’ Harvey told reporters recently at an event in Boston. “Unfortunately, I don’t make those decisions. I can’t throw the uniform on and go back on the mound without the permission of higher-ups.

“That’s my personality –  I always want to be out there. Like I’ve said all along, I’m not a doctor, so I don’t have those answers. But of course I want to get back on the mound.’’

As much as Harvey wants to pitch this season, he said he doesn’t regret changing his mind about having surgery.

Early in his young career, Harvey has already established a reputation for pushing the envelope when it comes to his health. He said nothing after tweaking his back and ended up missing a start. He was again quiet when he developed tightness in his forearm, which led to the elbow injury and then surgery..

Then, there was his insistence in not having surgery and taking the resting route in an effort to be ready for spring training. GM Sandy Alderson said he wasn’t going to push Harvey toward the knife, but later acknowledged a sense of relief when he relented to surgery.

There will come a time this summer after a string of minor league starts when Harvey will be asked how he feels. He’ll undoubtedly say he feels good and there will be a buzz about bringing him back for a handful of starts.

The buzz would grow exceptionally loud if the Mets were over .500 and/or close to a wild card slot. In short: the better the Mets, the louder the buzz.

The Mets would be wise to ignore the buzz, as nothing can be gained by rushing back Harvey. The odds would be long – even if Harvey were to pitch in September– of getting into the playoffs. They are even longer without him, and to rush his return is foolish.

The Mets have waited a long time to return to the playoffs, but a little longer won’t kill them. Pushing the envelope on Harvey and having him getting hurt again would be devastating.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 23

Mets Agree To Terms With Duda

The New York Mets have traditionally avoided the messy process of arbitration by agreeing to terms with Lucas Duda for $1.6375 million. That figure surpasses Duda’s career earnings over the previous three season combined.

Duda hit .223 with 15 homers and 33 RBI last season and filed for $1.9 million. The Mets countered for just over $1.3 million. Of all his numbers last season, most impressive was a .352 on-base percentage, up from .329 the previous season.

Where Duda fits in with the 2014 Mets is uncertain.

It was initially thought Duda would compete with Ike Davis for the first base job, but this was immediately after last season. At the time, Mets manager Terry Collins didn’t see it was possible Duda and Davis would be on the team together as they were essentially the same type of player.

Then, it was believed Duda would start as the Mets were trying to trade Davis. But, when they couldn’t unload Davis, GM Sandy Alderson said it was possible Duda and Davis could be on the Opening Day roster, and the idea of Duda in the outfield was revisited.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 23

Would Have Been Interesting To See A Grady Sizemore Comeback With Mets

The Red Sox did something yesterday I wish the New York Mets had done, and something I suggested before. I realize I’m in the minority on this, but I wish they signed Grady Sizemore.

SIZEMORE: Would have been fun gamble.

SIZEMORE: Would have been fun gamble.

You read that correctly. For the bargain-basement price of $750,000 – with incentive clauses on games played and plate appearances that could reach $5 million – the Red Sox took a gamble on a former All-Star.

From 2005-2008, Sizemore averaged 27 homers and 81 RBI with the Indians and was on the cusp for becoming one of the game’s best players before his career hit an injury-plagued tailspin. Then, from 2009 on, he’s had six operations, including his left (throwing elbow), two hernias, two knee operations – one on each side – and his lower back.

He missed all of last season rehabbing his right knee and back.

That’s a lot of cutting and the odds are long on him returning to star status. If he doesn’t, the Red Sox would only be out $750,000, which in today’s baseball economy is chump change – even by Mets’ standards.

It would have been a low-risk, high-reward gamble for the Mets. Conversely, they’ll give Chris Young $7.25 million, which I still can’t get over.

The probability of Sizemore reaching the 27-81 plateaus is long, but the Mets would take – and be happy with – a lot less for fewer than a million. Plus, his reputation of a hard worker and gamer would be good examples for a young team, and you don’t think Juan Lagares can’t learn a thing or two about playing centerfield from Sizemore?

I always liked Sizemore and hate to see a promising career go down as his has done. But, I also like comeback stories and Sizemore would have been a good one. Again, I know I am in the minority on this, but I’m allowed to cheer for good stories and it would have been fun to see it happen at Citi Field.

ON DECK: Mets sign Duda. All arbitration players locked up.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 22

What Can Mets Expect From Zack Wheeler?

What exactly should the New York Mets realistically expect from Zack Wheeler this summer?

He was 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts last year, and to double the victories would be a good progression especially if his starts were doubled to 34. What is unfair would be to think he’s have a Matt Harvey type season, one in which he captured the imagination of the city and made the All-Star team.

WHEELER: What can we expect?

WHEELER: What can we expect?

I’m not in agreement with those who debunk the traditional pitching statistics of victories and ERA, which have been fair measuring sticks for over 100 years. Just because something has been a staple for a century-plus does not make it outdated or obsolete.

Victories mean games won, and isn’t that the objective of the sport – to win games? I realize the game has changed and pitchers don’t throw complete games anymore, but even with limited innings, getting a “W’’ means you kept your team in the game. How is that not important?

If Wheeler can increase his victories by one a month, that’s six over the course of the season, and 13 total for the year. I’d take that for starters.

An ERA measures runs allowed, which is vastly more important for a starter, because even a few runs over a short number of innings greatly inflates a reliever’s ERA.

If Wheeler duplicates last year’s ERA, especially with an increase over last season’s 100 innings it would be more than acceptable. Manager Terry Collins suggested during the Winter Meetings 200 innings for Wheeler isn’t out of the question, but an innings limit hasn’t been ruled out.

What Harvey accomplished last year prior to his injury was exceptional, but that was his achievement, not Wheeler’s. Wheeler is unique in his own right and to say he’ll be just as dominant is unfair.

For now, I just don’t want to see a regression, just some improvement to suggest he’s heading in the right direction.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos