Sep 27

Mets Wrap: Pitching Should Be Mets’ Offseason Priority

By definition, Carlos Torres gave the New York Mets a quality start tonight – three runs in six innings – which is usually good enough to win most starts.

However, the Mets aren’t scoring much these days, and didn’t again tonight in a second straight 4-2 loss to Milwaukee, a team they should beat.

Terry Collins started his 128th different batting order out of 160 games tonight, which is as telling a stat as there is to define the 2013 Mets. Most of that is attributable to injuries and poor performance – notably Ike Davis – but indicates a lack of offensive consistency and depth

TORRES: Could get spring training invite.

TORRES: Could get spring training invite..

The popular belief is the Mets need to upgrade their offense, which is true, but is it really their top priority?

Factoring having David Wright for a full season; improvement that comes from experience with Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker; having Eric Young for a full season; developing a consistent batting order; and, of course, the annual hope of whether Davis or Lucas Duda will find it, the Mets’ offense should be better in 2014.

Adding a bat is important, but is it imperative?

As is usually the case, pitching should be their primary concern, especially considering general manager Sandy Alderson has just three starters heading into spring training: Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler, the latter who was scratched from his final start with shoulder soreness.

Torres’ start tonight underscores the Mets’ need to add pitching. Theoretically, if the Mets pitch well their offense should improve enough to manufacture enough runs to be competitive.

The odds are long the Mets will have Matt Harvey for 2014, so they have two slots to fill in the rotation.

Torres has been valuable out of the bullpen in long relief and as a spot starter. He’s pitched well enough to get a spring training invite. What he did tonight is what the Mets need in a fifth starter, but he might be more valuable in long relief.

Saturday’s starter, Aaron Harang, should also be invited to spring training. I had my doubts, but Daisuke Matsuzaka has pitched well recently and would likely also be invited to spring training.

Prior to the game Collins said he doesn’t anticipate Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard cracking the rotation coming out of spring training, which means adding a veteran arm, especially one who has a taste of playing on a winning team, should be their priority.

When Citi Field opened, the Mets said they would build around pitching, speed and defense. Power is great, but it isn’t essential in building a winner. The Mets should emphasize that mentality in constructing their 2014 team.

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Sep 25

Mets’ Collins Can’t Say Goodbye To Summer With Matsuzaka

Terry Collins has been endorsed by this blog several times to come back to manage the New York Mets next season, but only if that is a multi-year contract. Collins should tell the Mets “no thanks,’’ and walk away if the contract offer is for one year or one plus an option. Anything else puts him in lame duck status and that’s not fair.

Collins doesn’t have many “serious’’ choices left season, excluding the naming of his lineup. In that regard, Collins would be absolutely foolish to start Daisuke Matsuzaka as the starter in the season finale Sunday at Citi Field.

NIESE: Want to see him one more time. (AP)

NIESE: Want to see him one more time. (AP)

“I’ll probably go with Daisuke,’’ Collins told reporters in Cincinnati prior to today’s game. “He’s one of those guys who loves to pitch. He could throw 125 pitches in a game and be ready to go three days later without being the worse for wear.’’

I don’t give a damn if he loves to pitch. And, regardless of how many pitches he throws he won’t have another game three days later. Based on his performance for the Mets, he might not get a spring training invite to Port St. Lucie. He should only get one if the Mets are thin on starters, definitely not on merit.

So, why bother starting him? The ball has to go to Jon Niese, and if the reasons aren’t obvious to Collins, allow me the liberty to point them out.

Matsuzaka’s body of work with the Mets has been slightly above that of bad. It is the last day of another loss season, so why would you want to leave the fan base of that as the season’s last memory? Why give them a foul taste?

It is reminiscent of Jerry Manuel’s decision to pitch Oliver Perez in the final game of the 2010 season. Perez had been a cancer, both on the mound and in the clubhouse, that year yet Manuel decided to leave that image. Maybe, and I don’t discount this, he was sticking it to the Mets, whom he knew wouldn’t bring him back.

Maybe he was telling the fans who continually booed him to go to hell. Who knows? We haven’t heard from Manuel since.

In contrast, the Mets are negotiating to bring back Collins, so why, on a day the franchise is honoring Mike Piazza, will he want to leave Matsuzaka as the “good-bye to 2013’’ image?

Just not smart.

The start has to go to Niese, who will be part of the franchise’s future. Don’t chance injury by taxing him, although it will be on short rest. Give him five innings max and turn it over to the relievers who have a chance to make next year’s team: Vic Black, Jeurys Familia, LaTroy Hawkins.

If the Mets had a sense of imagination, they would have had Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard throwing all this time and had them pitch in the season finale, only if for an inning or two. Say good-bye for the summer with a real look at the future.

I know, I know, it never would have happened because it would have meant tinkering with the 40-man roster. That’s a rule that should be modified so a team can showcase it’s minor league talent for one game in September, but only if has been eliminated.

But, it would have been a way of giving their frustrated fan base a glimpse into spring training.

And, one more thing, since David Wright is back, I don’t want to hear anything about resting him for a day this weekend.

If you’ve hung around this summer and you’re buying a ticket for this weekend, you deserve a chance to see him play.

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

Sep 17

Matt Harvey Opts For Rehab Over Surgery; Mets Must Prepare To Not Have Him

The New York Mets haven’t said anything on Matt Harvey not having to undergo surgery other than it is his decision. Multiple news agencies report Harvey will opt for rehabilitation over surgery after getting a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews Monday in Alabama.

The plan is to rehab for up to two months to see how his elbow responds. After that, he’ll have another MRI, and then possibly opt for surgery at that time.

HARVEY: Taking a gamble.

HARVEY: Taking a gamble.

Whether he has surgery now or in two months, Harvey won’t be available until 2015.

Surgery, of course, has no guarantees, but neither does rehab. If I were Harvey, I’d have the surgery and be done with the issue. But, I am not, and I understand it is his decision on his career.

If he has it now, there could be a possibility of him being ready next September. Wouldn’t it be great to have him activated and help them compete for a wild card?

The risk Harvey is taking is not feeling discomfort in November, and making a decision based on that information. He will not be throwing under game conditions. So, if he’s ready to start the season, that’s great, but the gamble is he’ll stay healthy the entire season.

What if he doesn’t? What if there’s more pain and he further tears his ulnar collateral ligament? If he re-injures the elbow and has surgery next summer he would miss the rest of the 2014 season and all of 2015.

That adds another year to when he won’t be pitching.

I understand Harvey’s competitive nature and desire to pitch. It is admirable. I don’t believe he’s being selfish, but I wonder if he’s seeing the entire picture about potential lost time. Although there are no givens in surgery, the odds have greatly improved for undergoing the Tommy John procedure.

Whatever route Harvey chooses in two months the Mets must make starting pitching their priority, even over an outfield bat. Currently, the Mets are looking at their 2014 rotation consisting of Dillon Gee, the staff leader in victories; Zack Wheeler, who’ll be on an innings limit; and Jon Niese, who had his own injuries this year.

Jenrry Mejia underwent surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow. Noah Syndergaard will not be ready to start next season and Rafael Montero is questionable. The Mets can’t count on Montero to make the team coming out of spring training.

So, that leaves two starters to find for next year. We can safely say Shaun Marcum won’t be an option.

For all the talk of adding a power hitting outfielder and the Mets’ other voids, any chance they have for a winning season is dependent on their pitching. It has been that way for 100 years, and nothing has changed.

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

Aug 23

Seven Years Later, Daisuke Matsuzaka Starts For Mets

Falling under the category of “somebody has to do it,’’ the New York Mets will throw out Daisuke Matsuzaka to start tonight against Detroit.

The 32-year-old Matsuzaka, who never came close to living up to expectations when Boston outbid the Mets for him in 2006, is now a retread hanging on to his career.

Maybe, just maybe, if he shows something the final month of the season the Mets will bring him to spring training. That’s a peak into the future, but personally I’d rather see prospect Rafael Montero, who, like Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler has an innings cap.

Montero isn’t done, yet, this season, but I’m intrigued about seeing what he could have against the Tigers tonight at Citi Field, rather than against Detroit in Port St. Lucie in spring training. Even if it is for just one start, I’d like to see Montero, just to give us another glimpse into the future.

It won’t happen because of 40-man roster considerations.

With the Mets still mired nine games under .500, second place and a winning season appear to be slipping away, making the last month a spring training preview. In addition to Harvey and Wheeler, we’re getting to see Travis d’Arnaud, Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores.

They haven’t disappointed; they have us anxious about the future, which is closer than we might have originally thought.

The rosters can be expanded Sept. 1, but I’d like to see some creative thinking and for the one weekend of the month have Major League Baseball waive the 40-man roster listing and enable teams not in the running to have a prospect promotion.

Bring up guys such as Matt den Dekker, Montero and Noah Syndergaard and let the Mets have their own Futures Weekend. Wouldn’t you rather see that as one of the games of the Sept. 14 doubleheader against Miami rather than guys such as Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Robert Carson?

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 19

Opening Day II For Mets Lays 2014 Foundation

Welcome to Opening Day II of the New York Mets.

This is the time last year when the great collapse began.  In early June in 2012 the Mets were eight games over .500, and seven games over heading into the last game of the first half, but were routed, 7-0, by the Cubs at home. They went on to lose 10 of 11 coming out of the break. The chance to upgrade was lost and the season spun out of control.

HARVEY: What's in store for second half? (AP)

HARVEY: What’s in store for second half? (AP)

That would be a valuable reminder for Terry Collins to tell his players. Nobody is thinking playoffs, but .500 is a reasonable and realistic goal. GM Sandy Alderson seems inclined to keep a pat hand to see if the Mets can sustain their recent play. Adding a bat would be helpful, if for no other reason, to demonstrate his confidence.

The Mets have had four straight losing seasons in which they finished in fourth place. The Mets open the second half 4.5 games behind third place Philadelphia and five behind second place Washington. Both are within reach.

If Matt Harvey can sustain and Zack Wheeler gains command of his fastball, improvement is possible. Yesterday, I asked several questions the Mets must answer in the positive if they are to lay the foundation for 2014.

“I don’t think there is any question about it,’’ manager Terry Collins said after the team won in Pittsburgh to close the first half. “We’ve been preaching, ‘Hey, it’s coming.’ We have to fix our minor leagues, we have to find some players, and they’ve done that.’’

The Mets have been surprised by Dillon Gee, Jeremy Hefner, Eric Young, Josh Satin and Omar Quintanilla. If these players have strong second halves, it could shorten GM Sandy Alderson’s shopping list.

We probably won’t see Rafael Montero in the second half, but maybe Jenrry Mejia can show he’s healthy and become a viable member of the bullpen. That would help that need.

Daniel Murphy has played well enough to warrant eliminating the need for a second baseman. Once and for all, they will not make a run at Robinson Cano. Not happening.

We’re not going to see Noah Syndergaard, but perhaps he can show he’s worthy of Triple-A next year.

The forecast wasn’t positive after the R.A. Dickey trade and coming out of spring training, but the Mets broke the gate at 7-4, then went on a long slide that had them bottom out at 15 games under .500. They are nine games under now, but it’s not totally gloomy.

“You have a star at third,’’ Collins said of David Wright “You have a star on the mound in Harvey and you have another one coming in Zack Wheeler. I plan on seeing a lot more games like the one [Wheeler] pitched the other night in San Francisco. The more confidence he gets, the better he is going to be.

“We’re not by any means happy where we are,’’ Collins said. “We know we have to get better.’’

Ironically, they have gotten better despite three major disappointments in what was to be their core. Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda have not come close to producing as expected. Davis is now in a platoon with Satin, Tejada is in Triple-A, and Duda is on the disabled list and they shouldn’t even be thinking about cutting into Young’s playing time.

Answers to those three players, and the center field platoon of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, are something Alderson wants to get. Plus, there’s the question of Jon Niese’s shoulder, whether the bullpen will continue to improve and if Marlon Byrd is worthy of an extension.

Not all of things will be answered in the positive. It rarely happens that way. But, if enough are getting out of fourth and a winning season are possibly, and that’s something few of us could have predicted.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos