May 08

Will Matt Harvey Ever Get That Great Moment?

Alex Rios’ two-out infield single was the only thing that stood between Matt Harvey and a perfect game.

Managers don’t usually say these things, but Terry Collins thought in the fifth inning Harvey was heading toward history. Even Harvey knew he was on Tuesday night.

HARVEY: Sniffs perfection. (AP)

HARVEY: Sniffs perfection. (AP)

“Everything was obviously working,’’ Harvey told reporters last night. “When I can throw my slider for a strike and also bounce it when I need to, that’s when it starts getting fun. That was definitely the best I felt all year.’’

He was that on and didn’t get it. The way baseball works, and Harvey understands this, is he could get it on a night he feels awful.

While we are engrossed in the no-hitter pursuit, they are rare because of the nuances in the game. Jim Qualls broke up Tom Seaver’s perfect-game bid in 1969 with a clean single, but as Rios showed they all aren’t line drives.

Rios beat out a dribbler in the shortstop hole. Other no-hitters have been broken up by broken-bat bloops or balls lost in the sun, or bunts. And, who doesn’t remember how Armando Galarraga lost his perfect game on Jim Joyce’s blown call?

Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone threw no-hitters with other teams, when their electric stuff lost some voltage.

No-hitters are flukes, thrown by forgettable names, and not thrown by the greatest arms the sport has ever witnessed. That Nolan Ryan threw seven and Sandy Koufax threw four, and Johnny Vander Meer had them in consecutive starts is incomprehensible. They had skill and stuff, but perhaps it was a matter of the Baseball Gods smiling on them those days.

Harvey has already lost two no-hitters after seven innings this year, so we know the stuff is there, but it isn’t always about stuff. Hey, if a guy swings a bat anything can happen.

What I liked about Harvey was his stuff, his demeanor and his concentration. Do you know how hard it is to breathe and focus when you nose is stuffed with cotton? Harvey started the game with a bloody nose that continued in the early innings.

His focus only sharpened.

What I also liked about him was his acceptance in losing the perfect game. He didn’t regret the slider he threw Rios, and praised Ruben Tejada’s effort.

“In that hole it’s tough,’’ Harvey said. “Obviously anything going away and then making that long throw, I knew it was going to have to be absolutely perfect. He made an awesome attempt.’’

Harvey remains at 4-0 after three straight no-decisions. His 58-12 strikeouts-to-walks ratio illustrates dominance on both the stuff and command levels. What can you say about a 1.28 ERA?

One more number about Harvey is intriguing, and that is his “24 Hour Rule,’’ in which he gives himself a day to relish in a good start or lament something negative, such as losing a perfect game.

Then, it is back to work. On Thursday he will start focusing on Sunday’s start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Yes, Harvey has no-hit potential. No, I can’t say he will ever throw one, but I don’t care. Harvey might not ever get that great moment, but he’s on the way to a great career, and I don’t want to miss a start.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

 

 

Mar 30

Pelfrey arguably key to season.

Now, was that so hard?

After so many stinkers last year and this spring, Mike Pelfrey finally came up smelling like roses last night. At least somebody wearing Pelfrey’s number did.

PELFREY: Time to get serious.

Yes, I realize it is one game after so many bad ones, but spring training is for getting your hopes up, and if not for Pelfrey, then for whom?

One run on three hits in 6.1 innings is a quality start, one I’d take every time, and one reminiscent of 2010 when for most of the summer he was all the things he was supposed to be.

Pelfrey significantly regressed last year and by his own admission said this could be a make-or-break season for him. If he duplicates last year, it is easy to see the Mets cutting ties with him. They’ve already bounced that around in passing this spring, but realistically had no other choice but to keep him.

He had a bum ankle early in camp, but his arm seems fine. He has experience. He’s been successful at times, although inconsistently so. He has a reasonable salary ($5.68 million). He’s young enough to turn it around. There have been a lot of late bloomers in the sport (Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax come to mind). While not saying he has the potential of either, two summers ago he had months of dominance worthy of the hope of seeing it again.

Because of his inconsistency, Pelfrey’s value to the Mets is greater with the hope of him turning it around. And, with pitching their biggest concern – and no guarantees with Johan Santana – if the Mets are to have any semblance of a competitive team they need Pelfrey to start cashing his potential chips.

A lot of things must happen for the Mets to avoid the season everyone is projecting for them, and it begins with Pelfrey to quit licking his fingers and start pitching to his expectations. Beginning now.

Aug 30

Today in Mets’ History: Casey, then Sandy bid farewell to Shea

Casey Stengel, who broke his hip five weeks earlier, announced his retirement as manager of the Mets on this date in 1965.

The following year on this date, Bob Friend beat Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers, 10-4, at Shea Stadium. It would be his final decision against the Mets as he retired after the 1966 World Series. Davey Johnson, then the second baseman of the Baltimore Orioles and the future manager of the Mets, would get the last hit off Koufax.

Stengel eventually had his number retired while Koufax is a frequent visitor to the Mets spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

 

Jun 30

Today in Mets’ History: No-hit by Sandy Koufax.

On this date in Mets History, the Mets fell to one of the great ones in 1962 when Sandy Koufax threw the first of his four career no-hitters, winning 5-0, at Dodger Stadium.

KOUFAX: Said to have had the ``left arm of God.''

To illustrate the strange nature of the sport, the previous day the Mets drew 16 walks to win 10-4.

Koufax issued five walks and struck out 13 Mets, including Rod Kanehl, Cliff Cook, Elio Chacon, Chris Cannizzaro and Ray Daviault twice each.

BOX SCORE

In 20 career starts against the Mets, Koufax was 17-2 with a 1.44 ERA, including 14 complete games.

KOUFAX CAREER

Koufax had a dominating six-year run from 1961-66, when he was named the National League MVP in 1963, and won the Cy Young Award in 1963, 65 and 66. His career was cut short at the age of 30 with arthritis.

At 36 years and 20 days, he was the youngest entry into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Koufax played basketball at the University of Cincinnati, and played for the baseball team in 1954. He was scouted by the Dodgers, but the report was lost.

Koufax later tried out for the Giants and Pirates – neither of which offered a contract – and the Dodgers again. This time, he was signed for $6,000 with a $14,000 signing bonus.

A close friend of owner Fred Wilpon, Koufax is a frequent visitor to the Mets’ spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and tutors the pitchers most every spring.

After a long drought, Koufax is back in the Dodgers’ family. The Dodgers hired him to be a minor league pitching coach in 1979, but he resigned in 2000, the departure blamed on an uneasy relationship with then Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.

Koufax severed ties with the Dodgers in 2003 when a New York Post article wrote of his sexual orientation and implied he was gay. Both the Post and Dodgers were owned by Rupert Murdoch at the time. Koufax resumed his relationship with the Dodgers when Frank McCourt purchased the team in 2004.

Mar 08

March 8.10: Maine goes today.

John Maine isn’t a project the way Mike Pelfrey and Oliver are, but he’s a question nonetheless. When healthy, the Mets have a reasonable idea what to expect from Maine, once considered a throw-in in the Kris Benson with Baltimore.

But, how healthy is Maine?

“It feels fine,’’ Maine said at the start of spring training when asked about his surgically repaired shoulder. “It feels like it did three, four years ago.’’

Three years ago appeared to be a breakout year for Maine, who made 32 starts and went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA. However, Maine complained of fatigue in his shoulder the following summer and eventually missed his last seven starts because of surgery to remove bone spurs in his shoulder.

Surgery was deemed successful, but by his own admission he rushed his comeback saying “maybe I was trying to make up for lost time.’’

Maine made only 15 starts last season and went 7-6 with a 4.43 ERA. Maine’s biggest problem last year was an inability to amp it up and pitch out of trouble. He came back at the end of the year to show he was recovering, then modified his off-season program by starting later and throwing less.

Today’s start against the Florida Marlins won’t be about getting people out as it will be another test for his shoulder and to see what he might have picked up working with Sandy Koufax earlier this spring.

Koufax had Maine using a longer stride when delivering his fastball and concentrating on working on the inner half of the plate.

When healthy the Mets have a good idea from what to expect from Maine, although the organization believes the potential ceiling is higher with Pelfrey and Perez.

“I think being able to go out there every five days,’’ Maine said when asked the key for a successful season from him. “When I do go out there I generally give the team a chance to win.’’

Here’s the line-up behind Maine:

Angel Pagan CF
Fernando Martinez RF
David Wright 3B
Jason Bay LF
Daniel Murphy 1B
Rod Barajas C
Russ Adams 2B
Ruben Tejada SS
John Maine RP