May 01

Why I Like Matt Harvey

There seems to be the feeling in cyberspace I have it in for Matt Harvey, that I don’t care for the Mets’ most exciting pitching prospect since Dwight Gooden. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have nothing against Harvey and he’s done nothing to me to warrant any anger.

He’s been gracious whenever I ask a question and is reasonably accessible despite the many demands on his time.

HARVEY: I love this passion. (Getty)

HARVEY: I love this passion. (Getty)

What I don’t like – and this is noted in every article in which many deemed anti-Harvey – has been the Mets’ inability, or refusal, to be consistent with him. What I don’t like about Harvey personally have been some of his decisions and actions, which are well-documented. There’s no need to go into them now.

Frankly, many of those negative perceptions go in part to explain what I admire and makes him potentially a great pitcher. He’s not yet Gooden or Tom Seaver – can he pitch one complete season first? – but he makes you wonder about a future that could be bright.

Most of all, I like his talent coupled with the rare ability to keep composed under pressure. Perhaps the most meaningful game of his career was last Saturday against the Yankees. That is, of course, until tonight against the Nationals. Strange as it sounds on May 1, this is a game the Mets need to win. If you want to say “must win,” go ahead, I won’t stop you.

Franchise pitchers stop losing streaks. Harvey did it last week and the Mets need for him do it again. Best of all, he’s not shy in wanting that responsibility. Shrinking violets don’t win 20 games, don’t win Cy Young Award and don’t go to the Hall of Fame. Sure, Harvey has a big ego, but most great athletes do.

Another thing I like is when he points fingers, it is usually at himself. You don’t hear him throwing coaches and teammates under the bus. If he makes a bad pitch, he admits it. Believe me, players get tired of having their pitchers blame them. Wilmer Flores took responsibility for his error last night, but Jacob deGrom said he needed to pick up his shortstop, whose confidence is shaky. Believe me, Flores appreciated that gesture, and it is one Harvey has also made.

As readers of this blog know, I stress pitching and Harvey is the real deal so far. He’s vital to their success this year and will be in subsequent seasons. That is why when I moan about his innings, it is because I don’t want him to get hurt. I’ve covered a lot of pitchers whose careers were cut short by injuries and I don’t want him to be one of them. We’ve already experienced losing him for a full season and don’t want it to happen again.

Who doesn’t love that he wants the ball, and will pitch even when not 100 percent? Sandy Koufax pitched in constant pain at the end of his career. So have many others. However, pitching in pain and discomfort and not offering full disclosure, while making good copy, contributed to his elbow injury.

I don’t want him to get hurt again. After all, haven’t Mets’ fans endured enough bad things without seeing that again?

About that bright future many project for him, well, I would like to see it.

ON DECK: Tonight’s lineup.

 

Jan 07

What Goes Through The Mind Of A Hall Of Fame Voter?

What goes through the mind of a Hall of Fame voter? I was upfront with my selections and a good number of my colleagues did the same. That’s not to say I understand the reasoning behind their votes or comprehend the logic behind their agendas, and, let’s face it, there are some with a plan or ax to grind.

I was glad my colleagues hung strong and didn’t vote for those clearly linked to steroids, and we’re talking Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.

I did not vote for a player directly linked to steroids, either by a failed test; testimony from other players on the record; or mentioned in the Mitchell Report. I don’t put much stock in a player accusing another off the record. That’s gutless.

I don’t buy the argument some had Hall of Fame careers before they were linked to steroids. They still cheated, but how do you determine when the cheating began? I agree these players are part of baseball history and should be recognized. However, don’t acknowledge them in the Hall of Fame unless there is a notation on the plaque and Major League Baseball puts an asterisk by their names and numbers. Given that, I would include Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, but with the notation being their connection to gambling.

Not only did those players tarnish their names and era in which they played, but continue to do damage to the game. Yes, there are writers with agendas, and one is to eschew voting because they believe the influx of those linked to steroids provided too many qualified players. Granted, if Bonds and Clemens were already in somebody else would get those votes.

It’s a privilege to vote and I can’t understand not voting because you can’t come up with ten under the thinking there are so many candidates. What garbage! After covering baseball for at least ten years any voter should know enough to pick ten players from the list. If he or she can’t, then maybe they aren’t qualified to vote in the first place.

All of a sudden, there are grumblings about increasing the number to more than ten.

This isn’t the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where everybody seems to get in, even the groupies. If you want to vote for a cheater, by all means that’s your right. But, what I can’t grasp is one writer who voted for Bonds and Clemens – the poster children of the steroid era – but not Mike Piazza, who didn’t make it largely because of circumstantial evidence. We’re talking about the greatest hitting catcher in history.

There are other puzzling ballots.

Some writers refuse to vote for an obvious candidate, say Randy Johnson, who appeared on 97.3 percent of the ballots. How do you not vote for a 300-game winner? Then again, there were some who didn’t vote for Craig Biggio and his 3,000 hits last year.

I’ve heard several explanations, neither of them any good. Their belief is no player is worthy of being a unanimous selection and want to make sure there isn’t. What a crock. Your job as a voter is to vote for a worthy candidate and not ignore him because they don’t believe in a unanimous selection.

Yes, there are players that good. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Cal Ripken Jr., Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax to name a few. And, I’d like to ask what those handful of writers were thinking when they ignored Tom Seaver.

Another explanation I heard for the non-unanimous vote was the writer figured others would vote for that player and he or she wanted to save a vote for a personal favorite.

That’s not right, either.

However, to me the worst thing a voter can do is throw away their ballot by refusing to vote because he or she wants to make a statement about the process.

If you want to make a statement don’t forfeit your vote one time, but give it up permanently.

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.