Oct 08

Darling Misses Plate On Latest Harvey Mess

Normally, I enjoy Ron Darling’s insight on baseball and the Mets. I think he’s one of the best in the business. However, this time we deserved better from him when it came to weighing in on the latest Matt Harvey fiasco.

I thought Darling and his mates on SNY – Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez – let Harvey off easy during the innings limit drama by taking the path of least resistance and blaming agent Scott Boras. However, Boras wasn’t a factor in Harvey being late to Tuesday’s workout at Citi Field, but what do you know, Darling again passed on blasting the Mets’ diva ace.

DARLING:  Should have told us more.

DARLING: Should have told us more.

“It’s really hard for me to criticize [Harvey],’’ Darling told Newsday. “Half our team didn’t make the [1986 World Series] parade. … We had guys who barely showed up to games. … To me it’s not such a big thing because he’s not pitching for so many days.’’

But, it is a big deal. Harvey’s job required him to do one thing that day, and that was to show up to work on time. And, it wasn’t as if he had to be there at 9 and fight rush hour traffic. He had to be there at noon. He still could have slept in and been there on time.

In fairness, at the time Darling might not have heard several reports Harvey had been out partying, but does it really matter? Darling saw how partying destroyed the careers of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Cocaine was their drug of choice; for Harvey, it is alcohol. Harvey relished talking about his drinking and nightclubbing in a national magazine article. He boasted of wanting to be a womanizer like Derek Jeter.

If you’re the Mets, how do you not connect the dots between that and being late? How does Darling, educated at Yale and in the major leagues, not see that coming?

Especially when it came to the conflicting stories.

On Tuesday, manager Terry Collins said Harvey called to say he was stuck in traffic and turn around and go home. However, Harvey showed up anyway and took the questions. He admitted to screwing up and I wrote he was stand-up and was willing to let it go. However, Harvey didn’t get his story straight with Collins and said he lost track of time.

Huh? You tell us pitching for the Mets in the playoffs is important to you and you’re late? Did you forget your statement after the innings mess? I didn’t, and Darling should’ve remembered, also.

Harvey wrote in early September: “Right now we’re hunkered down in a fight to make the postseason. All of our efforts are focused on that task. As a team, we understand that there’s still a lot of baseball left to play. The chance to make a run in the playoffs will require our full dedication, energy and passion. This is an incredibly exciting time to be part of the Mets.’’

“All of our efforts.’’ “our full dedication.’’

Once there are conflicting stories there will be digging. And, it didn’t help Harvey’s cause any when David Wright expressed his controlled annoyance.

How could Darling overlook all that? He’s better than that, and as a New York athlete who saw first-hand the falls of Gooden and Strawberry, he had to know it wouldn’t end with a lame story or Collins’ weak jokes.

During his career, Hernandez hit whistling line drives, and did it again when he told the newspaper: “I’m astounded after all that’s gone that this happened. I’m flabbergasted about it. But, as my father used to say: `You make your bed, you’ve got to sleep in it.’ I just think at this particular point of the season it’s really, really not good.’’

That is, of course, unless Harvey has Darling to fluff up his pillows for him.


Sep 08

SNY Misses Boat On Harvey Coverage

Normally, I buy into most things SNY commentators Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez say about the Mets, but they missed the essence of the Matt Harvey fiasco when they both took the easy way out and ripped agent Scott Boras. It’s not that Boras doesn’t do some infuriating things, but in this case he was only doing his job, which is looking after Harvey.

SNY:  Keith and Ron miss boat on Harvey issue. (SNY)

SNY: Keith and Ron miss boat on Harvey issue. (SNY)

Blaming Boras is easy because he’s an outsider, but the real architects for this mess are Mets GM Sandy Alderson and Harvey. We know of the financial link between the Mets and SNY, but that never prevented Hernandez and Darling from being critical of the Mets’ performance on the field before.

I wrongly thought they would shed significant light on this issue, but they have not.

As former players, both are acutely aware of the athlete-agent relationship, and should have pointed out Boras works for Harvey and doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Boras doesn’t do anything without Harvey knowing about it, and however the story got out, Harvey knew it was coming. How could he not? Instead, Harvey acted like the innocent victim and let Alderson take the heat.

I’m not buying for a second Alderson was confused about how the innings limit included the postseason and wasn’t just for the regular season. Say what you want about Alderson, he’s not naive enough to make that mistake.

I’m also not buying Alderson’s lame excuse he wasn’t counting on the Mets being in the postseason. Huh? This year, 2015, was what they’ve pointed to since Harvey was injured. When you talk about contending, your goal is the postseason – and subsequently the World Series. So, you must calculate six postseason starts – two in each round – and include that in the 34 starts he would normally make during a season.

That would be 28 in the regular season and six in the playoffs. If you figure six innings a start – which is on the low side – that’s 204 for the year. As I suggested numerous times, the Mets needed to come up with, and announce so there is no misunderstanding, a concrete number. Hell, the Mets had the schedule since November so there was plenty of time to figure this out.

Of course, the primary reason Alderson didn’t do this was to avoid the inevitable conflict with Harvey about limiting his innings. It’s one thing to admire Harvey’s desire to pitch, but his judgment is in question, and that includes complaining about the six-man rotation.

So, this issue isn’t Boras’ doing, but that of Alderson not being forceful enough with Harvey to construct a plan, and for Harvey fighting any innings limits; for having his agent broach the inevitable issue; and not being stand-up about his responsibility in this mess.

Both Hernandez and Darling are smart enough to recognize this. Too bad they picked the most controversial issue of the season to lose their voices.


Mar 06

Harvey’s First Inning … Perfect

Matt Harvey struck out the first hitter he faced Anthony Gose. Got the second, Jose Iglesias, on a one-bouncer back to the mound and the third, Rajai Davis, grounded out to first.

It was an easy inning as he threw only 10 pitches. Ron Darling said Harvey was stepping on the gas, which Keith Hernandez confirmed, saying he was at 96. It is important to note neither said Harvey was overthrowing as he kept the same compact delivery he always had.


Nov 05

Lagares Wins Gold Glove Award

If Juan Lagares were as good with his bat as his glove, he would be a star. No, make that a superstar.

LAGARES: Gold Glove winner. (AP)

LAGARES: Gold Glove winner. (AP)

Seriously, he’s that good, and it became official around baseball last night when he won the Gold Glove Award, presumably the first of many.

“I’m very happy and excited,’’ Lagares told ESPN. “It’s a very special honor to win a Gold Glove for the Mets. I’m proud to win one this early in my career.’’

He’s the Mets’ third Gold Glove center fielder, joining Carlos Beltran and Tommie Agee, and the first to win the award since Beltran and third baseman David Wright in 2008.

He’s got a way to go to break the franchise record of six by Keith Hernandez. Other Mets to win are Ron Darling, Rey Ordonez, Bud Harrelson, Doug Flynn and Robin Ventura.

Among the “new’’ statistics, runs-saved is one of the most important for a defender, perhaps the most important. In that category, Lagares was second among outfielders with 28, impressive considering the leader, Atlanta’s Jason Heyward, played in 372 more innings and saved only four more.

Although he improved at the plate, the Mets still want him to improve his on-base percentage and cut down on strikeouts, and if he does so he could be a proficient leadoff hitter.

He’s got the defense down, said manager Terry Collins in a statement released by the team: “It’s to the point that I’m shocked when Juan doesn’t catch every ball hit to the outfield. He makes everything look so easy. After some of his catches, I would turn to my coaching staff and say ‘How did he do that?’ ’’

The answer is talent.

Championship caliber teams are built up the middle, and the Mets are on their way with Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate, their young pitching staff and Lagares. The double-play combination is a work in progress.

Lagares is one of two Mets finalists for regular season awards. The other is pitcher Jacob deGrom for Rookie of the Year.

Those awards will be announced next week.

 ON DECK: Mets’ 2015 uniforms.

Jun 26

Are Mets’ Forcing Wheeler’s Development?

Here’s what the New York Mets can make of Zack Wheeler: He still has a lot of work to do. Wheeler tripped Tuesday night, but I’m inclined to agree with Ron Darling in that it was the Mets who stuck their foot out.

WHEELER: White Sox know what pitch this is.

WHEELER: White Sox know what pitch this is.

Darling, who has forgotten more pitching than most of us will ever know, said the Mets might have done Wheeler a disservice by having him go away from his fastball, which can be overpowering, and throw more of his slider.

Wheeler hasn’t refined his secondary pitches and pitching coach Dan Warthen told reporters last night the Mets’ prized rookie was tipping his pitches by having a different arm angle for his breaking balls.

Wheeler said he was “bad,’’ after he gave up four runs on four hits and three walks in 5.2 innings. Surprisingly, Wheeler struck out one, but you’d think with a 95-mph. plus-fastball he would have had more. He would have had he mixed in more fastballs among his 109 pitches.

Wheeler is clearly not as far along and polished as Matt Harvey was last year at this time. He is more advanced with his fastball than his breaking balls, and that’s the pitch he should have used more often, if for no other reason it was an interleague game.

Seriously, when will Wheeler see the White Sox again? Just throw the fastball until they prove they can hit it.

Throwing unrefined breaking balls is even more risky when behind in the count, and of the 24 batters he faced, he threw only 11 first-pitch strikes.

Wheeler said he was bad. He might over stated things a bit, because the Mets have shown us a lot worse this year. Speaking of which, today is Shaun Marcum Day.

It wasn’t as if the White Sox knocked him around the park, but they were usually ahead in the count and generally had comfortable at-bats.

Unless Wheeler goes into a dive, the plan is for him to be here, and learn on the fly. That’s not the best way as the Mets have rushed him. By Wheeler’s own admission he wasn’t ready, but he’s not going to say, “no, I’ll stay in Vegas.’’ After all, there are only so many $3.99 all-you-can-eat buffets one you can enjoy.

So, as long as he’s here let him throw his fastball, then mix in a curve and go with the slider as his third pitch.

By all accounts, Wheeler is ahead of Mike Pelfrey when he first came up, and that includes his secondary pitches. Pelfrey became ineffective because he didn’t have command of his secondary pitches and hitters sat on his fastball.

Ideally, the Mets should turn Wheeler loose with his fastball and work in the other pitches gradually. Let him throw the pitch he has the most confidence in and go from there.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them.

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