Feb 16

Tejada Should Move On From Utley Play

Ruben Tejada is already in Port St. Lucie, but his mind isn’t there. His mind is nearly 3,000 miles to the west, in particular Los Angeles. Specifically, he’s back on Dodger Stadium lying in the dirt near the second base bag where Chase Utley mangled his right leg on an ultra-aggressive take-out slide last October.

TEJADA: Should move on from Utley. (AP)

TEJADA: Should move on from Utley. (AP)

Not surprisingly, he’s in favor of a proposed rule change designed to protect middle infielders, and told The Post’s Kevin Kernan he’s hoping to get an apology from Utley.

“I know it’s part of the game, but not like that,” Tejada said. “I would never do that to another infielder. That is the position I play and I would never want to hurt another player that plays that position like that.

“It would have been different if some other position player, a corner infielder or an outfielder had done that to me, but he is a middle infielder, he should know better.”

Tejada said Utley reached out to him and sent a gift, but wouldn’t elaborate. I’m sure it wasn’t an autographed photo of the play. But, Utley didn’t send what Tejada really wants.

“I would like to hear an apology,” Tejada said.

He won’t get it, and should stop thinking about it. Tejada should concentrate on moving on and not going back to that play. The umpires have the discretion to eject a player for something they consider a “dirty” play, but did nothing against Utley.

Only after an outcry from Mets’ fans and media about the play, and with MLB wanting to avoid an ugly scene when the series moved back to Citi Field, was Ultey suspended for two games. He is waiting for his appeal, which is one reason there hasn’t been an apology. An apology is an admission of guilt and there’s no way Utley would do that prior to the appeal.

Personally, I’m not so sure it was a blatantly dirty play. The throw from shortstop Wilmer Flores put Tejada out of position to make a play and directly into Utley’s path. So many things went into that play to the point where we can’t assume intent on Utley hurting Tejada. Actually, I’m betting the suspension will be reduced to one game.

Utley’s intent was to break up the double play and keep the inning alive, which he did. Doing so enabled the Dodgers to win the game and stay alive in the NLDS.

Tejada’s focus should be getting himself ready to play. As of now, he already lost his starting job to Asdrubal Cabrera and will enter the season as a bench player. His career has deviated sharply from when he was groomed to be Jose Reyes‘ replacement. One can easily envision Tejada being an ex-Met after this season and no apology can prevent that from happening.

Tejada has other things to focus on instead of holding out for an apology that might not even be warranted.

Feb 15

If Harvey Is Up For Deal, Mets Should Talk

Until today, the most definitive theory about the Mets signing Matt Harvey to a long-term contract extension was the prevailing belief his agent Scott Boras would play the market and hold out for the last dollar. We concluded this based in large part by what Harvey said last year during his innings fiasco when he said he hired Boras to take care of his career.

HARVEY: Willing to talk long-term. (Getty)

HARVEY: Willing to talk long-term. (Getty)

Harvey said today what we already knew, that the Mets hadn’t opened negotiations and don’t even have a timetable of doing so.

Harvey, who is under Mets’ control until after the 2018 season and will make $4.325 million this season, today said he’s not ruling out anything. He said he was open for discussion, but don’t forget spring training hasn’t started yet and Boras is still in the equation.

“I think whatever comes up is going to come up,” Harvey told reporters today in Port St. Luice. “I’ve never shied away from it. I’ve never said I wouldn’t consider it. But I haven’t heard anything considering that.”

Jacob deGrom has been more open about his willingness to sign a long-term extension, which is why I recently wrote he should be the Mets’ first choice, followed by Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz before Harvey. The reason for Harvey being down on the list was the presumption Harvey wasn’t interested because of Boras.

Zack Wheeler will be a free agent after 2019 season, with deGrom eligible after 2020, followed by Syndergaard and Matz after 2021.

Harvey will be arbitration eligible for the next two years, so his salary will continue to spike assuming he remains healthy and pitches to expectations. The 26-year-old Harvey was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA in 29 starts, and despite the innings issue he logged 216 innings, which included the playoffs.

Traditionally, pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery – Harvey had his in 2013 and missed all of 2014 – and with no innings limits projected for this season, there’s reason for optimism. Assuming the Mets can sign Harvey to a three-year deal, that would cover two arbitration years and his first season of free-agent eligibility.

There’s risk, of course, but if he stays healthy and produces it is a win-win for the Mets. Considering there’s the rest of the rotation to consider and several high-salaried Mets could be off the books over the next few years, this could be the time to act.

Jan 20

Top Ten Mets’ Issues Heading Into Spring Training

With spring training five weeks away, and a major storm due in two days, what better time to examine the top ten issues facing the Mets? Some projections have the Mets breezing back to the World Series, but I don’t see it. Things won’t be that easy for them. They never are. Other projections have them dropping off to 84 victories, which might not be enough for them to reach the playoffs.

I’m pegging them for at least 85, with the added expectation the Washington Nationals will be better.

1. What is the temperature of this team after its World Series run?

A. I recently wrote these guys are professional athletes and shouldn’t need a manager to motivate them. That being said, after 2006 the Mets entered spring training thinking all they needed to do was show up. Consequently, they didn’t do much to plug their holes, of which there were several, mostly pitching related. You, of course, remember the collapse of 2007? What Mets’ follower doesn’t? Actually, that bothered me more than the Carlos Beltran strikeout. The Mets don’t have to look any further than David Wright to know these opportunities are fleeting.

DeGROM: Can he get to 20? (GETTY)

DeGROM: Can he get to 20? (GETTY)

2. How strong is the bullpen?

A: This is the prevailing issue to me. It appears they are banking on the returns of Jerry Blevins and Jennry Mejia, and if Hansel Robles can develop. They’ll have Addison Reed for the full season, and hopefully Jeurys Familia learned something after taking his World Series lumps. We shall see. Bartolo Colon will go to the pen once Zack Wheeler comes off the disabled list. It doesn’t matter what power hitting outfielder they might find in the next five weeks (I’m betting none), if their bullpen is shaky then so are the Mets’ chances.

3. How healthy is Wright?

A: Wright is already in Port St. Lucie. Who wasn’t expecting that? Wright finished the season feeling strong, but that was after two months of playing time. He’s preparing himself for at least six months of playing time. He’ll have a special routine before each game. It will be interesting to see how Terry Collins carves out his playing time.

4. Who’ll be in center field?

A: My pick is Juan Lagares because I don’t see them bringing back Yoenis Cespedes. He’s still in play, but I’m not betting on it. Let Lagares run with the opportunity.

5. Will any of the starters have innings or pitch-count restrictions?

A: Obviously, Wheeler will have some. Perhaps the same goes for Steven Matz, but Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard should be fine. If there are restrictions, hopefully the Mets will have learned from last year with Harvey. They Mets are touting their young pitching, as well they should. But, either Harvey or deGrom must make a leap toward 20 wins. Here’s hoping Harvey pitches with a massive chip on his shoulder.

6. Will the double-play combination mesh?

A: Collins has a new double-play combination of Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker. This involves timing and positioning and things don’t happen over night. Collins still needs to find time for Wilmer Flores, Ruben Tejada and Dilson Herrera. Collins needs to give them all a chance to work together so there will be no surprises. A lot is banking on this.

7. Who’ll be the catcher?

A: The Mets like both Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, but will have to decide on one and possibly move to trade the other. Among other things, d’Arnaud has to improve his throwing. After all, the base runners are trying to steal second base and not center field. The guess here is d’Arnaud will open the season as the starter, but Collins needs to have a defined platoon in mind.

8. How strong is the bench?

A: As of now, Plawecki, Flores, Tejada and Alejandro De Aza are the main figures coming off the bench. I prefer Lagares gets a chance to win the center field job outright, but if there is a platoon I hope it is something definitive. Flores is expected to relieve Wright at third, and I wonder what Collins’ thoughts are on that?

9. Are hot starts in order for left-handed power?

A: If Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson don’t hit coming out of the gate there will be rumblings about the big-popper the Mets didn’t sign. We can probably expect that anyway, hot starts by Duda and Granderson will alleviate pressure from the rest of the offense, especially if Wright doesn’t hit for power early on.

10. Who’ll be the big surprises?

A: A lot is expected from Michael Conforto. Hopefully, he’ll live up to the billing even if he doesn’t become Ted Williams right away. But, what about Brandon Nimmo? Isn’t it time for him to make a statement, even if it is, “I’ll see you this summer.” On the mound, the Mets are high on Rafael Montero. Can he become a viable bullpen presence coming out of spring training?

 

 

Oct 01

Lefty Reliever Remains Concern For Mets

It is imperative the Mets get Jon Niese in a couple of games in this weekend, preferably in back-to-back outings, as the lefty bullpen specialist remains an issue. However, a poor weather forecast might prevent that from happening.

Although volunteering to go into the bullpen was admirable, Niese was not effective in two outings in Philadelphia against left-handed hitters (he gave up four hits against five hitters).

GILMARTIN: Effective today. (Getty)

GILMARTIN: Effective today. (Getty)

Overall this season lefty batters are hitting .297 against him with a .335 on-base percentage. Those aren’t numbers conducive to being a lefty specialist.

If you’re wondering about swapping Niese for Bartolo Colon in the rotation (assuming Steven Matz is left off for the NLDS), his numbers against lefties are a .290 average with a .309 on-base percentage, so that’s not practical.

A mitigating factor towards making this decision is the ability of each to get loose quickly. Niese knew when he would enter the game and given ample time to get ready.

However, neither he nor Colon could have that advantage in the playoffs. As of now, Colon seems slated for the rotation with Matz sidelined with a stiff lower back. The Mets want to get Matz work this weekend, but the weather might prevent that from happening. As a last resort, the Mets could send him to Port St. Lucie.

With Niese not working out, it might be tempting for manager Terry Collins to consider Tyler Clippard in that role as lefty batters are hitting just .138 against him. However, if Collins uses him in that role, what would it mean to the overall set-up of the bullpen regarding the set-up role?

They could explore Clippard against lefties and use Addison Reed in the set-up role, but changing roles on the fly is always tricky. Even so, the Mets must have separate concerns with Clippard, who has given up eight runs in his last ten appearances (ten innings).

Speaking of changing roles, there’s Sean Gilmartin. He’ll likely make the playoff roster if Matz can’t go. He was effective today, giving up two runs in five innings. This year, lefties are hitting .272 against him, but he hasn’t been showcased as a specialist.

A intriguing possibility is Hansel Robles, who has given up 13 hits in 78 plate appearances to lefty hitters (.167 average with a .214 on-base percentage). Dario Alvarez is getting a look-see, but his window (six appearances, including today) is too small.

This concern is primarily based on a potential late-inning match-up against Adrian Gonzalez (28 homers and 88 RBI). Of course, they could go the route the Angels took against the Giants’ Barry Bonds in the 2002 World Series and just intentionally walk him.

Sep 14

If Harvey Remains An Issue, Let Him Go Home

This won’t go over well with many, but so be it: I don’t care if Matt Harvey pitches in the playoffs for the Mets. I don’t care if he pitches for them again this season or not.

This “will he or won’t he?’’ crap is boring with much of it Harvey’s fault. If Harvey wants to pitch that badly in the playoffs, then pitch. The easy thing is to blame agent Scott Boras, which SNY wrongly did last week. Once and for all, eliminate this innings issue. Supposedly this was done when he pitched in Washington.

HARVEY: Won' be throwing tonight. (AP)

HARVEY: Won’ be throwing tonight. (AP)

Harvey didn’t clear things up yesterday in Atlanta, and it will surface Monday when Logan Verrett starts over him against Miami. Harvey is supposed to pitch this weekend against the Yankees, but after that, nobody knows. There’s talk of keeping Harvey in a regular rotation, but have him pitch a half-game, with Sean Gilmartin or Erik Goeddel pitching multiple innings.

How sharp he’ll be in this format, and if he can extend himself again in the playoffs are in question.

The Mets are fortunate to have broken open the NL East. They are also fortunate the Nationals collapsed and might not even finish .500. Imagine what a mess this would be if there was still a race.

When Harvey spoke recently about selecting Boras for a reason, we knew it was to cash in for the bucks during his 2019 free-agent season. That’s fine. That’s his right. That’s his prerogative.

But, if you’re going to take that stance, don’t insult us with how badly you want to pitch this season and in the playoffs. If 180 innings is your ceiling then you, and the Mets, should have handled things differently this season. (He’s at 171.2 innings now.)

The Mets are going out of their way saying Harvey’s innings aren’t a distraction. Maybe they aren’t once the game starts, but we can’t escape hearing about it. This remains an issue as the Mets bear down on their first playoff appearance since 2006 because nothing has been defined.

“We’re all on the same page,’’ Collins said. “We need to get him out there a little more consistently. … If we get in the postseason, we’ve got to have Matt Harvey ready to pitch, and I don’t need him to have 15 days off. So we’ve got to come up with a plan that’s going to get him out there a little bit more.’’

Today is Sept. 14, and now you say you have to come up with a plan? If the Mets had a plan entering the season, they wouldn’t have to be scrambling for one with the playoffs less than four weeks away.

There are many unanswered questions:

Who will be in the playoff rotation? Will it include Jon Niese or Bartolo Colon? If Harvey is there, but limited, will they need to carry an extra reliever at the expense of a position player?

If Harvey goes into the playoffs with too much rust, how will it affect him? It’s the playoffs and one bad start can mean the difference between winter and the next round?

If the Mets advance, what will happen with Harvey in the next round?

With their pitching, the Mets could run the table. But, Harvey is part of that pitching. If they get to the World Series, what is Harvey’s availability?

This is something that shouldn’t be on the Mets’ plate at this point.  If the Mets can’t go into the playoffs without Harvey being an issue, perhaps the best option is to leave him off the playoff roster. This would give him plenty of rest for his start next March in Port St. Lucie.