Sep 22

Who Are The Targets Of Collins’ Anger?

It was obvious manager Terry Collins is disturbed, angry and frustrated with the Matt Harvey situation, but for some writers and blogs that are writing his angst is directed at the situation and not one individual is taking the easy way out. There are plenty of people Collins should be annoyed with, but he’s not saying because he’s too low on the food chain. Let me do that for him.

COLLINS: Looks concerned and should be. (AP)

COLLINS: Looks concerned and should be. (AP)

As I wrote yesterday, Harvey’s innings won’t keep the Mets from getting into the playoffs. After last night only a collapse of historic proportions would keep them out. Collins’ anger is justified, and some of it should be directed at himself.

Here’s where Collins’ anger should be aimed:

SANDY ALDERSON: The biggest bullseye has to be on GM Sandy Alderson’s back for not having a definitive plan for Harvey coming out of spring training. He also gets heat for not standing up to Harvey. I understand the uncertainty of innings vs. pitches and the concept of “stressful innings.” That’s not the point. The point is the Mets had a vague idea of measuring his workload with innings. So be it.

Had Alderson TOLD Harvey his limit would be six innings, this would be a moot point, including for the playoffs. With that limit, Harvey’s thrown 25.1 extra innings of his 176.2 innings (after the sixth and including the sore throat game). If the limit had been seven innings, then he’s five over (again including the sore throat game). But when your general manager is afraid to stand up to the pitcher, these things happen.

Alderson acting surprised is ridiculous, because he had to have known the limit prescribed by Dr. Andrews. Playing dumb after agent Scott Boras’ e-mail was, well, just dumb. Also, Alderson saying he didn’t think the playoffs would be an issue this year is blatantly absurd. After all, when Harvey went down for 2014, Alderson pointed to this season as to when the Mets would be competitive. And, being competitive includes making the playoffs, especially when the idea of 90 wins are thrown out.

The bottom line is Alderson’s responsibility is to put the best team on the field, and he’s not doing that by putting Harvey’s health on the line and not giving Collins the best chance to win. Collins must also be disturbed at his general manager for consistently undercutting him. While Collins was taking heat for defending the organization’s stance, Alderson was freelancing and at a public function said if Harvey’s “pitch count” was lower he could have stayed in.

On national TV, Collins told ESPN Harvey had one more inning. Yet, Alderson was counting pitches. Well, which is it? Again, “the game’s smartest general manager,” according to his biographer has complicated things.

MATT HARVEY: For being such a diva overall, and initially for not disclosing his injury in 2013. Harvey wasn’t open with the medical staff when he first suffered pain in his forearm. Not only did he hide it, but pitched with it. The result was Tommy John surgery. Sure, I understand he wants to pitch, but you have to be smart and he wasn’t.

Had the Mets immediately given Harvey an MRI at the time and shut him down, all this might have been alleviated.

Collins should also be angry with Harvey’s unwillingness to stick with the program. From the initial injury, to wanting to avoid surgery, to where he would rehab, to wanting to pitch last year, to fighting the six-man rotation, Harvey has been a pain.

And, once again, Boras works for Harvey, and the player knows what the agent is going to say. Harvey knew Boras was going to mention the innings limits, and allowed him to do so because he figured most media (SNY for example), would rip the agent and give him a free pass. Harvey was stunned at the criticism.

THE WILPONS: Harvey is one of their most important commodities, and they should have told him to stop complaining and get with a program. They could have also leaned on Alderson to give him the message. It also would have helped had ownership not been so driven to showcase him in the 2013 All-Star Game and been more concerned with the big picture.

HIMSELF: Collins is a baseball lifer and for the first time the playoffs are within his grasp, and with them a likely contract extension. He’s not going to take the shotgun approach. This isn’t the time for him to point fingers and blow this opportunity.

Here’s where this fiasco is partly Collins’ fault. Against what should have been his better judgment, Collins allowed Harvey to pitch in the sore throat game (April 19) and work into the ninth inning in a blowout win over the Yankees, April 25. He threw 8.2 innings in those two games. Had he stood up to his pitcher this could be a lesser issue, at least as far as the regular season is concerned.

SNY: They have continually blamed Boras for having an agenda, but the truth is the network also had an agenda, which was to be kind to the Mets and paint Harvey as the victim, which he is not. For as objective as the network is during its in-game coverage, all hands dropped the ball on this one.

I expected more from Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, especially since they know of the working relationship between the player and his agent. They knew Boras didn’t spring anything on Harvey.

 

All these forces conspired to fan the flames at Collins, The Wilpons are keeping a low profile; when he does speak Alderson does it clipped tones; and after his first press conference, Harvey is in full cliche mode.

However, Collins is there night after night. It’s going to get frustrating. The surprise is he didn’t let loose earlier. But, there’s more. The Mets haven’t announced a playoff plan for Harvey. I’m speculating they’ll hold him back or severely limit him, neither which will go over well.

Jul 15

Frazier Not Coming

Sure it would be a great story. But, I hate to rain on your parade, but Todd Frazier’s recent visit to Citi Field will be his only one this year. There’s no way the Mets will trade for Cincinnati’s All-Star third baseman.

Not happening, and for the same reasons we’ve always known. The Mets won’t trade their young stud pitchers, and without them there’s not enough chips to offer.

If the Reds were smart they’d sign him long-term, but let’s assume they aren’t and Frazier enters the free-agent market after the 2016 season. Well, he’ll be one of those guys who could break the bank. And, if the Mets live up to their reputation, they won’t be writing any checks.

Frazier, at 29, is having a marvelous season, and with David Wright, 32, having played at least 150 games only twice since 2008, he would be a terrific addition. Trouble is, a lot of other teams would think the same thing.

 

Jul 02

Collins Will Take Hit From Failures By Alderson And Ownership

The Mets’ Terry Collins isn’t a great manager, but far from a terrible one. The hitting slump continued today as the Mets scored only one run in being swept by the Chicago Cubs, which erased any positive thoughts garnered from sweeping the Reds.

April’s 11-game winning streak is forgotten; archived in Mets’ trivia.

ALDERSON: His manager is on the hot seat. (AP)

ALDERSON: His manager is on the hot seat. (AP)

With the Mets not hitting, there was nothing Jacob deGrom could do, although he was lucky he didn’t break his hand or a couple of fingers when he punched out a water cooler. That would have been typical Mets, wouldn’t it?

Collins told reporters after the game, “we have to lighten up a bit. … More guys fail in this game from fear than they do a lack of talent.”

Although Collins remains supportive of his team – and his players generally play hard for him – radio talk shows roast him on a regular basis, and stories are percolating about his future. One writer I greatly respect, Newsday’s David Lennon, did so in Thursday’s editions, and nailed it when he said pressure on Collins is “not fair, or right … but it’s reality.’’

Also reality is Collins isn’t getting help from ownership or general manager Sandy Alderson, who said in his book – that proclaimed him as the game’s smartest general manager – he didn’t have any confidence in his manager.

Nice, huh? What a way to instill confidence in your team. You say stuff like that when the manager is not under your employ. Do you think that didn’t go unnoticed by the players? It will certainly be brought up when the ax falls on Collins.

The Mets, a team whose rotation was largely put together by former general manager Omar Minaya, is good enough to win most games with even a little support. They haven’t gotten much, if any, this year. Of their 40 losses, 21 have been by two or fewer runs. They have been shut out nine times; and 29 times (including wins) scored two or fewer runs.

Yeah, that’s Collins’ fault.

Shouldn’t we instead dish blame on the Wilpons for not allowing for a budget needed to acquire a top-drawer hitter? Especially considering they received positive nods in the courts – not to mention a $167 million windfall – in the Madoff case.

Or, how about Alderson, whose only offensive acquisition of quality, was the project Curtis Granderson? The Mets have also had a long line of hitting coaches – they haven’t had a collective clue at the plate since firing Rick Down – with Kevin Long the latest not to reach them.

Yes, the Mets have had injuries, but all teams do. Washington has arguably been hit harder.

Ultimately it comes down to the players.

Collins can’t hit for his players, and as hard as he tries to pound fundamentals into them, it just hasn’t sunk in. Too many strikeouts, not enough walks, not enough situational hitting, and too many wasted at-bats.

The Mets’ team batting average is a league-low .232 by nine points. They have a paltry .297 on-base percentage. I don’t need any of the new sexy stats to tell me how badly they’ve hit. I see it with my own eyes.

Including today, they’ve scored 277 runs (3.4 a game). The Mets have also struck out 620 times (7.7).

No worries, things should be better when the Mets go into Los Angeles and face Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Then, it’s on to San Francisco where they get Chris Heston, who threw a no-hitter at them at Citi Field, and Matt Cain.

By that time, they could be four games under .500, maybe more, heading into the All-Star break. Perhaps by then Alderson would make a trade or two, only as a seller and not a buyer.

Collins will eventually take the fall for Alderson’s inability to put a representative team on the field. Alderson wasn’t able to fill the void created by Wright’s injury. For years now, Alderson failed to bring in any quality hitters – or even one.

Instead, Alderson has worked on his comedy routine – several times at the expense of Wilmer Flores – with his latest quip calling the media and fans “residents of Panic City.’’

Of course, the condescending Alderson was telling us we’re not as smart as him. Sandy, I might not be able to build a watch, but I can tell time.

And, what you’re doing isn’t working.

If Collins goes, you should, also.

Jun 28

Matz Makes It All Right For One Day

Quality start doesn’t even begin to describe what Steven Matz gave the Mets today at Citi Field in his major league debut. His pitching, power and poise highlighted a 7-2 victory over Cincinnati. He also broke up a double play and started one after fielding a hard comebacker to the mound.

“He was as good as advertised,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He was ready for this. It was time. … He was ready to show he belonged.’’

MATZ: Shines in debut. (AP)

MATZ: Shines in debut. (AP)

Matz was making his major league debut five years removed from Tommy John surgery; after the Mets toyed with the decision to bring him up; and, after more than a three-hour delay so the Mets could finish a 2-1 victory over the Reds in a completion of suspension game.

“The more time I had, the more the anxiety went away,’’ said Matz, a sign of his composure.

His composure also surfaced when his first pitch of the game was something out of “Bull Durham,’’ a fastball to the backstop. On his fifth pitch, Tony Phillips hit a replay-reviewed homer.

Matz set the Reds down in order in the second and then, using Las Vegas teammate Matt Reynolds’ bat, ripped a two-run double. He would later hit a hit-and-run single and two-run single.

All the while, he toyed with the Reds on the mound, giving up two runs – Todd Frazier also hit a solo homer – on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts in 7.2 innings.

Matz went further in his debut than Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler went in theirs.

While Harvey grew up rooting for the Yankees, Matz’s childhood passion growing up on Long Island was the Mets and spent many nights at Shea Stadium. Of course, the Mets want to play on that emotional attachment and as the team struggled through the past month there was a growing groundswell for his promotion. And, for the Mets, it was to attract more than the 130 family and friend he could sometimes hear from the stands.

There’s speculation the Mets promoted Matz to divert frustrated their fan base from their recent plunge in the NL East standings and a woeful offensive slide. That’s for another day, as this one was to enjoy a glimpse into a promising future.

However, while it was gray at Citi Field, there was a glimmer of sunlight, and he wore No. 32.

Oct 21

This Series Could Be Special

For as long as I have loved baseball, first as a Little Leaguer with an active imagination, and then as a journalist covering the game I was not good enough to play on the major league level, the World Series always held a special place for me.

I remember bits and pieces of the 1969 Series, but confess I was shocked like most of the country. I admit to playing hooky from school to watch the 1970 Series, but maybe it served me right because I pulled for the Reds.

searchMy favorite Series was the 1975 Red Sox-Reds. Although disappointed in the outcome, it was compelling because of it went seven and Game Six was arguably the best game in history. There was Bernie Carbo’s game-tying homer; Carlton Fisk’s game-winner; and Dwight Evans’ game saving catch.

One of the great stories coming from that Series was Pete Rose telling Fisk something along the lines of, “this is a great game, isn’t it?’’

Next up was Twins-Braves with the classic Jack Morris-John Smoltz Game 7. If not the Fisk game, maybe this was history’s best.

I covered all the Yankees’ titles under Joe Torre, but the most dramatic of them was one they lost, in 2001, to Arizona. Go figure, perhaps the worst throw of Mariano Rivera’s career was after fielding that bunt in the ninth inning of Game 7.

A lot of historic homers were hit in that Series, but my favorite moments the fans chanting Paul O’Neill’s name; the bald eagle Challenger scattering the Yankees before the anthem; and George Bush throwing a ceremonial pitch perfect strike.

Each Series has its defining moment or story line, and I can only imagine what it will be this year.

Some match-ups are more compelling than others, but Giants-Royals – regardless of what ESPN says – will be a Series worthy of our attention. There was actually a Sports Center lead-in actually daring to ask if these teams “deserved,’’ to be there.

The fact is, baseball itself bears responsibility for the appearance of an “unworthy’’ match-up because it tampers with the integrity of its season with interleague play and the unbalanced schedule forcing teams to run different courses to the finish line.

However, these teams, based on being a wild-card entry, each played an additional game. They took on all comers – each having to beat the team with the best record in their league.

They also play the game the way it should be, with pitching, defense, timely hitting and solid bullpens. Both can also hit the long ball when needed, but neither survive by the homer, which is refreshing.

I believe this one has the capability of going seven, which defines “classic,’’ to me. Both teams have reason to believe they can be considered a team of destiny.

I can’t wait to find out which one.