Jul 13

Mets Must Overhaul Pitching Protocols



The only one of the Mets starters not currently waving a health red flag is the one whose roots are not in the organization – Bartolo Colon. To be fair, Colon had health issues earlier in his career and a PED history, but he’s clean now and save a ball hit off his thumb has been fine.

Colon, at 43, has been a source of stability on the mound since joining the Mets, but his greatest contribution might be the suggestion to Noah Syndergaard, whose 23-year-old arm suddenly lost its steam, to back off his between-starts throwing.

HARVEY: Symbolizes Mets' pitching problems. (Getty)

HARVEY: Symbolizes Mets’ pitching problems. (Getty)

When Syndergaard told Bob Klapisch, one the most knowledgeable baseball writers I know, his arm felt “like there are parachutes attached to it,”  there was the image of swimming against the current.

Syndergaard is pitching through a bone spur in his elbow. Syndergaard experienced a sudden five-mph., drop off his fastball in his last start against the Nationals, similar to turning an oscillating fan from high to medium. Every pitch was a change-up.

Matt Harvey, who at 27, is out for the season following shoulder surgery; the second time in four years the knife cut him out of the rotation. Jacob deGrom was given a chance to be on the National League All-Star team but told manager Terry Collins he was too tired. The word he used was “beat.”

He’s only 28.

Then there’s Steven Matz. He had Tommy John surgery before he was 25, and like Syndergaard is pitching with a painful bone spur.

Finally, there’s Zack Wheeler, who at 26, also experienced Tommy John surgery. He was supposed to come off the disabled list in late June and send Colon to the bullpen. Then it was July, then after the All-Star break. Now, it is mid-August.

I’m waiting for the announcement he will not pitch this year.

Realistically, nobody expected all these guys to blossom into 20-game winners at once. However, also realistically, nobody expected them all to break down all at once, which is closer to happening than one might think.

Is this a coincidence or something deeper?

I would love to see the Mets get back to the World Series. However, I would rather they not make the playoffs, even have a losing season, if it meant seeing each of these guys healthy. For that to happen, the Mets need a serious and comprehensive plan. And remember, wishing is not a plan.

The first step is to recognize how they’ve handled things in the past. The second step is to recognize it hasn’t worked.

I’ve been on the record and will not back off saying they mishandled Harvey from the outset of his arm problems in 2013. It should be noted Harvey back then, and today contributes to his own problems.

Syndergaard won’t pitch until the Mets are in Chicago next week. They’ll ease him back in the rotation, which is a wise decision. Not so wise is their inexplicable decision not to schedule a new MRI. The Mets are going on a previous set taken several weeks before the Washington meltdown.

Just stupid.

GM Sandy Alderson said of Syndergaard and Matz their bone spurs is a matter of pain tolerance. More than once they’ve said the pitchers – the keys to the Mets’ future – couldn’t risk further injury.

Wrong answer.

There are no guarantees when it comes to injuries. The only guarantee is if you continually do something wrong and it doesn’t work, it won’t get better.

The Mets have the possibility to have a great pitching staff, but that’s all it is now – potential. It will remain potential unless the Mets do a complete overhaul in how they handle their pitchers.

From throwing between starts, to pitch counts, to days off, to dealing with pain and discomfort, to a myriad of other things, there must be a complete change. There should be uniformity in policy and procedure from the rookie league to Citi Field.

I don’t know if these Mets will develop into a staff for the ages or fizzle out like the Oakland staff under Billy Martin. Both could happen.

Something is wrong and priority one for the Mets is to find out what it is and fix it.

I don’t care about what happens this year, it’s probably too late, anyway. I care about what happens in the years to come.


Feb 12

Mejia Gets Third PED Suspension

Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia, who was serving his second suspension for PED use, was nailed a third time Friday and with it became the first player to receive a lifetime ban. This time, his drug of poor choice was Boldenone.

MEJIA: Just plain stupid. (AP)

MEJIA: Just plain stupid. (AP)

Technically, it’s not lifetime because Mejia can apply for reinstatement in one year. It’s probably a given the Mets aren’t going to give him another chance.

“We were deeply disappointed to hear that Jenrry has again violated Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” the Mets said in a statement. “We fully support MLB’s policy toward eliminating performance enhancing substances from the sport. As per the Joint Drug Program, we will have no further comment on this suspension.”

Mejia’s first suspension was for 80 games and came last April when he tested positive for Stanozolol, which created the opportunity for Jeurys Familia to become the closer last year. While serving that suspension he tested positive for Stanozolol and Boldenone. That got him 162 games.

Even so, because of their vulnerability in the bullpen the Mets re-signed the 26-year-old Mejia in December. They thought it was a good gamble because he would get a prorated portion of his salary, which would come at less than a $1 million.

Believing they would have Mejia back in July, the Mets opted not to bring back dependable reliever Carlos Torres, who recently signed with Atlanta.



Jan 06

Writers Do Right By Piazza

Finally. The Baseball Writers Association of America did right today by putting slugging catcher Mike Piazza into the Hall of Fame along with Ken Griffey. As far as I’m concerned my colleagues also got it right by keeping PED cheaters Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa out. I also think the writers whiffed with Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Mussina.

Piazza, who fell 28 votes shy last year, received 365 votes for 83 percent of those cast to go in as history’s top home run hitting catcher and is arguably one of the top three of all time at the position along with Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra.

PIAZZA and SEAVER: The Mets' best. (AP)

PIAZZA and SEAVER: The Mets’ best. (AP)

“It’s the first time in a long time I’ve been speechless,” Piazza told the MLB Network. “Nothing can prepare you when you do get that call. It’s just something you can’t describe. …To be in an institution such as the Hall of Fame, is an amazing honor.”

Not surprisingly, Piazza mentioned his home run against Atlanta following 9-11 as a milestone memory.

“Obviously, a lot of people remember the home run in the first game after 9/11,” Piazza said. “When I think back now I start to get emotional. … From the first day in New York to the great teams we had in the late-90s, early 2000s was just very special.”

While the post 9-11 homer was clearly emotional, another memory came during the 2000 season when the Yankees’ Clemens beaned him, and then during the World Series – perhaps in a fit of Roid Rage – threw part of Piazza’s broken bat at him.

Piazza fell short in his previous three chances on the ballot because of the suspicion of PED use. But, other than a few busy-body writers talking about his back acne, Piazza never failed a drug test, did not appear on the Mitchell Report findings and never had another player accusing him on the record.

The same could not be said about Bonds, Clemens, McGwire and Sosa.

Because there was never any doubt he played cleanly, it was speculated Griffey would become the first unanimous selection, but inexplicably there were three writers who did not vote for Griffey. Presumably, their twisted line of thinking was there should not be a unanimous selection.

Normally I defend my colleagues, but not this time. While I don’t agree with those who vote for the PED users, there is no defending their logic. They got it right with Piazza, but these three voters hurt the BBWAA. Even so, Griffey went in with the highest percent of the vote to pass Seaver.

What remains for Piazza is the decision as to what cap he’ll go in with – the Hall says it should be where the player “made his biggest mark,” and that probably will be the Dodgers, and when the Mets will retire his number.

There should be not a matter of “if” Piazza’s No. 31 will be honored.

Jan 21

Cheating Isn’t Trying, It Is Cheating

They say if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. That’s garbage.

The New England Patriots are in the news for cheating and it stinks. It reminds me of how the balls were stored at Coors Field. My thinking is the balls had little to do with it and was mostly the altitude and Rockies’ lousy pitching.

But, it created doubt.

The intrinsic beauty of sports is for the fan, the paying customer, to watch the game with the knowledge what they are seeing is true. That’s why I am against PED use, and why, although I was a big Pete Rose fan growing up, I understand his banishment from baseball for gambling.

The common argument from Patriots’ fans, who have the same entitlement as Yankees’ fans, is for them to point to the scoreboard and say the deflated balls had no bearing on the outcome of the game. But, that’s wrong. By definition, it is cheating. It is bending the rules and that violates the essence of sports.

As far as PED’s are concerned, yes, you still have to hit the ball and you still have to pitch it, but that’s an overly simplistic approach.

I keep hearing of Barry Bonds’ work ethic and Roger Clemens’ work ethic. I saw Clemens work out and I watched Alex Rodriguez train at 8 in the morning during spring training. I was taken in by their effort. I was fooled.

What steroids do for a hitter is it enables him to work and train harder in August when he’d normally wilt in the heat and be tired. That ability to work gives him more strength and energy, and consequently lets him generate more bat speed, which is the key to power. That comes into play not with the 450-foot homer, but when the ball just clears the fence.

That’s why I don’t use the words “home run” with Bonds. I call him “balls hit over the fence,” because they aren’t legitimate home runs. That’s just me.

Aaron Rodgers likes the ball firm and perhaps over inflated. Apparently, Tom Brady likes the ball when it is easier to grip. Obviously, this had to be conveyed to whoever pumps up the balls where the Patriots play. Stands to reason, doesn’t it? And, how can a control freak like Bill Belichick not know what’s going on? Just like with SpyGate he had to know.

Because he cheated, how can we be sure he didn’t cheat other times? How can we be sure everything the Patriots achieved was on the level? The argument Bonds and Clemens had Hall of Fame numbers before they cheated must also be discounted, because we don’t know exactly when they cheated.

We can’t and this puts everything they’ve done into question. It goes beyond gamesmanship. It’s cheating, and it’s wrong. Who is to say the Patriots didn’t film illegally before they were caught? And, the NFL destroying the tape is reprehensible. You realize they haven’t won a Super Bowl since.

The NFL suspended Sean Payton for a year because BountyGate damaged the integrity of the sport. Considering this is the second cheating charge against Belichick, a year suspension wouldn’t be out of line.

Just like what Bonds and Clemens did was wrong and will likely keep them out of the Hall of Fame forever. But, what about Brady and Belichick? I wonder if the football voters will hold this against them.

If you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. But before you dismiss me, ask yourself this question: How would you feel if your doctor cheated his way through med school?


Jan 08

Numbers Could Favor Piazza Next Year

Timing plays an important factor when it comes to being voted into the Hall of Fame. It was that way for Gary Carter and figures to be that way for Mike Piazza.

Piazza fell short this time, garnering 69.9 percent of the votes. It is possible he could pick up the six percentage points needed to reach 75 percent next year in what could be a thin class with Ken Griffey Jr., and Trevor Hoffman as the marquee names in their first year of eligibility.

Piazza is being painted with a broad brush linking him to the PED camp of Roger Clemens (37.5 percent) and Barry Bonds (36.8 percent). Not fair, but that’s the way it is.

Apparently, the 30 percentage points separating him from Clemens and Bonds indicate a large number of voters aren’t buying the circumstantial evidence. Piazza had 384 votes, compared to 206 for Clemens and 202 for Bonds. That’s almost double, and there certainly are enough voters currently on the fence, not to mention first-time voters next year, that might fall into Piazza’s camp.

There’s not a mathematical formula for induction, but rather a subjective analysis that includes a player’s statistics, plus the writers’ perception on a player’s character and contributions to his team and the sport.

An argument can be made as the best-hitting catcher in history Piazza should already be in. Then again, it could be a lot worse and his numbers could be down to that of Clemens and Bonds.

All in all, things are looking promising.

LATER TODAY: Mets figure to be done for the winter.