Apr 22

Mets Wrap: Harvey Not Sharp, But Wins

The answer was an empathic NO, Matt Harvey did not find it. Regardless of how Friday night’s game would turn out, the main storyline for the Mets was going to be Harvey, and whether he could avoid hitting the wall that marked his three losses to start the season.

HARVEY: Still searching for answers. (Getty)

HARVEY: Still searching for answers. (Getty)

Harvey was far from sharp, but came away with his first victory, 6-3, over the Braves, whom you must remember aren’t the Braves of old who routinely tormented the Mets.

Harvey, backed by a pair of Curtis Granderson home runs, struggled but pitched well enough to temporarily take the collective fingers off the Mets’ off the panic button. Even so, Harvey was pushed and despite winning the Mets know it can’t keep going on like this for the pitcher who craves the moniker of “ace.”

Manager Terry Collins finally admitted Harvey’s light spring training workload, compounded by a bladder infection, has been a strong contributor to his career-high four-game losing streak (dating back to last year).

Harvey gave up two runs on seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts in five arduous innings in which he threw 101 pitches. For that many pitches, the Mets would want at least another two innings from Harvey. His primary problem was not keeping the ball down and his slider didn’t have the bite he must have to succeed.

Staked to a 4-0 lead in the second on Granderson’s grand slam homer, Harvey labored through a 33-pitch bottom of the inning to give back two of the runs.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #15   Record: 8-7    Streak: W 1

 SUMMARY: Granderson’s two homers and five RBI carried Harvey to his first victory in a performance that can kindly be called “not a gem.”

 KEY MOMENT: Granderson’s slam.

 THUMBS UP: Yoenis Cespedes threw a runner out at the plate to end the fifth. … His RBI double in the seventh marked his seventh straight game with an extra-base hit. … Strong showings by relievers Antonio Bastardo and Addison Reed.

THUMBS DOWN: Harvey’s short start forced the Mets bullpen to log four more innings. … David Wright struck out two more times and already has 21. … Juan Lagares was doubled off second in the ninth when another run would have helped. … Jeurys Familia got the save, but wasn’t sharp. … Cespedes aggravated his leg injury on the double.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Jacob deGrom threw a successful bullpen session in Port St. Lucie Fla. He will rejoin the team Saturday and start Sunday. Collins said deGrom could be limited to 85 pitches. DeGrom last pitched April 8 and has been away from the team when his son, Jaxon, was born with medical complications. … Collins was a passenger in a taxi involved in a minor traffic accident Thursday. There were no injuries. … Pitching coach Dan Warthen is away from the team for his mother’s funeral. … The Braves haven’t announced Sunday’s starter. … The game was delayed by rain in the bottom of the eighth inning.

QUOTEBOOK: “Matt can be a little aloof at times.” – Keith Hernandez on Harvey after the pitcher seemingly walked away from a conversation between innings with catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

 BY THE NUMBERS: 4: Granderson became the fourth player to hit grand slams for both the Mets and Yankees, joining Robin Ventura, Darryl Strawberry and Carlos Beltran.

NEXT FOR METS: Steven Matz (1-1, 7.27 ERA) attempts an encore of last Sunday’s gem in Cleveland. He’ll go against Jhoulys Chacin (0-0, 2.38).

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Feb 26

Hypothetical Terry Collins Address To Mets

By all accounts, Mets’ manager Terry Collins‘ address to his players today was positive with him stressing the expectations will be higher this season and they should embrace being the hunted. Using that information, I’ve put together a hypothetical speech Collins should have said to his team this morning prior to their first full-squad workout in Port St. Lucie.

“Good morning, gentlemen. It’s great to see all of you. Of course, most of you have been here now for several days, which tells me a lot. It tells me how serious you are about the work ahead of us, which it get back to the World Series and win it this time.

COLLINS: Starts another year. (AP)

COLLINS: Starts another year. (AP)

“I know we all remember how great it felt after we clinched in Cincinnati, and after we beat the Dodgers and Cubs. I also know how bad we all felt after we lost the World Series. I’m sure you thought about it during the winter. I want you to carry that feeling with you this summer and use it to your advantage.

“Yes, last year was great. But, last year is also last year. Last year doesn’t guarantee us anything this year. Washington will be better. The Cubs are better. The Giants are better. St. Louis is good. The Dodgers and Pirates are good. Nobody will hand us anything. We have to earn anything we get, and that begins with us taking care of our business.

“The media will say David Wright and Matt Harvey are the leaders of this team, and they will right … but only a point. To me, a leader isn’t just a player who produces in a big spot, but somebody whose teammates can rely on at all times. A leader is somebody who does his job. That means keeping your head in the game and keeping your focus at all times.

“It means knowing what to do in the field before the pitch is thrown. It means not giving away at-bats. When we weren’t hitting last year it was mostly because we gave away too many at-bats. We have to do a better job of moving up runners, we have to be more aggressive on the bases and we have to take advantage of opportunities when we get them. Remember, nobody will give us anything.

“It’s a long season and we’re going to need everybody at one time or another. So, when your name is called you have to be ready to play.

“Last season taught us a lot of things. It taught us how great winning can feel. It also told us how bad losing can feel. Above all else, last year taught us how difficult winning can be and we’ll need everybody if we’re going to achieve what we want to do.”

Collins isn’t a rah-rah type, so there wasn’t any “win it for the Gipper,” emotion. So, all this is what he might have said to his team. Collins isn’t one to single players out in a team meeting. He’ll likely meet with his players individually. Hopefully, he’ll stress to Wright the need for him to be honest about how he feels and not fight him about rest.

And, along those lines, and you knew I would get to this eventually, in speaking to Harvey they would have to relive that ninth inning of Game 5. I hope Collins made Harvey understand he went against his better judgment when he let back out for the ninth inning. But, Collins let Harvey stay in the game because he trusted him.

That being said, I hope Collins made it known Harvey would have to regain that trust. And, that would start with Harvey not fighting his decisions when it comes to taking him out of a game.

 

Dec 11

Wright Welcomes Walker To Mets

This hardly comes as a surprise, but David Wright was the first to welcome Neil Walker to the Mets. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the former Pirate said Wright called him, even before the Pirates and Mets.

WALKER: Wright welcomes him. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

WALKER: Wright welcomes him. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Wright called to wish him well and offer advice and support in making the move to New York, which can be slightly more intimidating to live in than Pittsburgh.

“I guess that kind of shows what kind of guy he is,” Walker told the Post-Gazette. “Talking to David, it seems like a very invited and open-arms kind of situation over there. As we’ve seen in Pittsburgh, that carries a lot of weight when you’re talking about team camaraderie and chemistry and all that.”

Walker became a trade target with the Ben Zobrist signing fell through. He’ll replace Daniel Murphy at second and can also back-up Wright at third if necessary. The trade is probably harder for Walker than it would be a younger player because he’s been in the Pittsburgh organization for 12 years. Walker’s first impression is to look at this with an open mind.

“It’ll be exciting,” Walker said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing these guys work and watching these guys and in spring training, getting to know them.

“We all saw how capable they are of competing and reaching their goal. “Seems like they’re probably not done looking for more pieces. … It’s really exciting to see the work that [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] and [manager] Terry [Collins] and the team are doing right now.”

The Mets have a stable of young power arms, and to a lesser degree so do the Pirates. The Mets are on the cusp, just as the Pirates have been for the past three years.

“I guess I can compare it to playing behind Gerrit Cole and playing behind Francisco Liriano,” Walker said when asked about the Mets core of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz.

Unlike Jon Niese, who took a parting shot at the Mets’ defense, Walker had a group text with his former teammates.

“It was sad,” Walker said. “A lot of us were somewhat prepared for this to happen either this year, last year or next year. We kind of saw the writing on the wall, but that certainly doesn’t make it any easier.”

However, winning makes everything better.

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Dec 10

Niese Traded Because He Wasn’t That Good

After being pushed out the door by the Mets, Jon Niese took a jab at his former teammates by praising the Pirates’ defense. That’s fair game to a point as the Mets didn’t always field or hit behind him.

However, he could have been a little more delicate because it is a two-way street. A hard-throwing lefty at 29 and with a manageable contract, Niese is a commodity most clubs want. He wasn’t just traded because of the Mets’ young core. Niese was also traded because since 2008 he’s just 61-61 lifetime with a 1.361 lofty WHIP.  He did give the Mets innings, but many times those were precarious innings.

Niese was traded because he wasn’t that good. Some of that silver hair on Terry Collins’ head was NIese related.

NIESE: Takes unfair jab at teammates. (AP)

NIESE: Takes unfair jab at teammates. (AP)

Niese had his fair share of injuries, but his biggest problem is he wasn’t a winner, and it goes beyond his record. Winning pitchers find a way to minimize damage. In close games they find a way to get out of innings and eventually win the game.

Yes, Niese often played behind a patchwork defense, but even so it is his job to overcome adversity. He has to pick up a fielder, but all too often for him, an error, or a broken-bat hit that fell in, or a bad call was followed by a walk, then a hit, then another. Too often, one run became three and turned into a loss.

Niese has made 177 starts during his career, of which 55 turned into a no-decision. There’s no denying he was willing to take the ball, but there were too many times he didn’t know what to do with it once it was in his hand. Many times his post-game comments boiled down to, “I pitched good, but didn’t get any luck.”

The Mets are interested in re-signing Bartolo Colon primarily because he knows how to get out of trouble, which is something Niese hasn’t learned.

Maybe he will in Pittsburgh.

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Dec 09

Niese Traded To Pirates For Walker

Just as the Mets quickly rebounded by getting Yoenis Cespedes when the Carlos Gomez trade fell through, they did it again as they have traded for Pirates second baseman Neil Walker the day after losing Ben Zobrist to the Cubs.

WALKER: Newest Met. (Getty)

WALKER: Newest Met. (Getty)

All it cost is Jon Niese, who wasn’t in their plans in the first place. I wrote last night I wasn’t all that broken up about Zobrist falling through because he was too pricey and there were other options. Zobrist’s 162-game averages are .265 with 17 homers and 77 RBI, while Walker hit .269 with 16 homers and 71 RBI last year. The difference is one hot weekend.

Niese was to make $9 million this year, which is the projected arbitration award for Walker.

Walker doesn’t play the outfield corners like Zobrist, but like him is a switch-hitter and is four years younger. However, with Zobrist they would have him locked up for four years. Walker could only turn out to be a rental as he’ll be a free agent after this season. That could mean the Mets could be going through this again next winter if Dilson Herrara doesn’t show them anything this year.

As for Niese, 29, he was being phased out because of the Mets’ young core of arms. Niese was projected to be in the rotation until Zack Wheeler comes off the disabled list, but are now expected to go with Rafael Montero. The trade of Niese could also spur the Mets to re-sign Bartolo Colon.