Oct 11

Despite Utley’s Suspension, Keeping Mets Composed Could Be Collins’ Toughest Job

There are many, myself included, who believe Terry Collins should be National League manager of the year for all his team had to overcome this summer. Despite numerous injuries and controversies, and low expectations, the Mets won 90 games to win the NL East.

For that he would have earned my vote.

COLLINS: Needs to keep Mets composed. (Getty)

COLLINS: Needs to keep Mets composed. (Getty)

However, for as good a job as Collins did, his most important work will come now as he attempts to temper his team’s raw emotions in the wake of Chase Utley’s hard take-out slide that broke Ruben Tejada’s right leg.

After the game, Collins said the umpires handled the play properly. Since the umpires have the discretion to eject Utley if they deemed it a dirty play. They saw enough replays before the reversal and their no-call has to be interpreted as it being a legal play.

However, Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre, after reviewing more replays decided to suspend Utley for Games 3 and 4 in New York. Torre’s statement did not include an indictment of the umpires’ actions. After the game, Torre said it was a judgment call by the umpires.

“After thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley’s action warrants discipline,” Torre said in a statement released by MLB Sunday evening.

It can’t be discounted that Torre, who has managed both New York teams, understands the fans’ passion and anger, and hearing what came out of the Mets’ clubhouse, made his decision to defuse a potential ugly situation. On Saturday, Torre called it a late slide by Utley. However, on Sunday his statement did not call Utley’s slide illegal. Shouldn’t the label of being illegal been a part of Torre’s statement?

The Mets’ clubhouse was visibly angry, with David Wright and Kelly Johnson the more vocal players who questioned Utley’s intent.

“He’s a second baseman. If he wants guys sliding like that into him, then it’s perfectly fine,’’ Wright said. “He knows how to play the game. If he doesn’t mind guys coming in like that when he’s turning a double play, then we don’t have any problem with it. It’s a legal slide. It’s within the rules. But somebody is going to get hurt.’’

Whether Utley’s take-out slide was clean or dirty depends on whom you ask. Utley was clearly the villain according to Mets players and the talking heads on SNY.

“Yeah, they’re angry,’’ Collins said. “You lose in a playoff series to that serious of an injury, yeah, they’re not very happy about it.’’

Will there be retribution, and if so, in what form? I’m figuring a warning will be given prior to the game, which should diffuse headhunting. If nothing else, the Mets won’t have Utley to throw at unless there’s a fifth game.

Mets Game 3 starter Matt Harvey said “the most important thing for me is to do me job,’’ and he’s right.

Harvey plunked Utley in April, but these are the playoffs and he can’t afford to be ejected. Another factor to consider is if they take a shot and the Dodgers retaliate, who is to say another key Met is injured that could prevent them from advancing.

What Collins must do is tell his team, “we received a bad break, but the best way to respond is to win.’’

If the Mets play dirty and out for blood, it would be a sign Collins lost control of his team. Especially considering Utley’s suspension.

As for Utley, he defended his actions.

“The tying run’s on third base, I’m going hard to try to break up the double play. I’ve always played that way,’’ Utley said. “I feel terrible that he was injured. I had no intent of hurting him whatsoever.’’

Utley also texted an apology to Tejada through Wright. Utley texted the contents of his apology to FOX Sports: “In no way shape or form was I trying to hurt Ruben… I slid in hard like I have for 12 years. I feel terrible about the outcome. I’ve reached out to Ruben via David Wright.’’

Whether Utley’s apology gesture is accepted remains to be seen, but it is up to Collins temper his player’s emotions.

The season could depend on it.

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.

Sep 09

Things Couldn’t Have Worked Out Better For Matt Harvey

It was Matt Harvey‘s worst outing of the season for the Mets, yet he came out smelling like roses. He’s the guy who doesn’t find loose change under his seat cushions, but $20 bills. At least so far, it has been that way.

HARVEY: Comes up golden. (Getty)

HARVEY: Comes up golden. (Getty)

We don’t know yet how much Harvey will pitch in September and his availability for the playoffs, but things are looking good for now. After four days in which he took a public relations hit for the innings flap issue after agent Scott Boras dared remind GM Sandy Alderson of the 180 innings magic number.

The print media took its shot at Harvey, but SNY continued to treat him with kid gloves as it failed to acknowledge Boras doesn’t say anything without Harvey’s knowledge. Guys, Boras is Harvey’s mouthpiece.

Harvey wants to tread lightly in September and pitch in October, but that might not be possible to his liking. However, Tuesday’s game and the completed sweep tonight gives the Mets a seven-game lead with 23 games remaining, to create a gap seemingly wide enough where missing Harvey a couple of times might be possible without creating any angst. Whether it is Logan Verrett or Steven Matz, it doesn’t matter.

The key here is Harvey got what he wanted with a limited amount of friction from the front office. Even a loss or two might not be the end of the world now. Had Harvey been beaten, he would have gotten all sorts of questions if the controversy was a distraction.

However, if Harvey only starts two more games – against the Yankees and Washington as reported – the question of how sharp he’ll be could become an issue. But for now, that’s just conjecture. For now, the Harvey issue doesn’t seem so intense.



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.


Sep 05

Comparing Schedules Of Mets And Nats

There have been several stories recently, not to mention comments made on SNY, how the Mets have the easiest schedule of the playoff contenders for the rest of the season, with their opponents having a .440 winning percentage.

So, what does this mean?

Other than fodder for gamblers, bookies and radio talk show hosts, absolutely nothing of substance.

The Mets went into the Labor Day Weekend holding a six-game lead over the Nationals, and with six games remaining between them. Should they go into Washington Monday with such a lead or less they would not be controlling their own destiny. Which is a phrase you’ll be hearing over the next few weeks.

Here’s how the schedules of the Mets and Nationals compare until the end of the season:

Today: Mets: at Miami; Nationals: Atlanta.

Tomorrow: Mets: at Miami; Nationals: Atlanta.

Monday: Mets: at Washington; Nationals: Mets.

Tuesday: Mets: at Washington; Nationals: Mets.

Wednesday: Mets: at Washington; Nationals: Mets.

Thursday: Mets: at Atlanta; Nationals: Off.

Friday: Mets: at Atlanta; Nationals: at Miami.

Saturday: Mets: at Atlanta; Nationals: at Miami.

Sunday: Mets: at Atlanta; Nationals: at Miami.

September 14: Mets: Miami; Nationals: at Philadelphia.

September 15:  Mets: Miami; Nationals: at Philadelphia.

September 16:  Mets: Miami; Nationals: at Philadelphia.

September 17:  Mets: Off; Nationals: Miami.

September 18: Mets: Yankees; Nationals: Miami.

September 19: Mets: Yankees; Nationals: Miami.

September 20:  Mets: Yankees; Nationals: Miami.

September 21: Mets: Atlanta; Nationals: Orioles.

September 22: Mets: Atlanta; Nationals: Orioles.

September 23: Mets: Atlanta; Nationals: Orioles.

September 24: Mets: at Reds; Nationals: Off.

September 25: Mets: at Reds; Nationals: Phillies.

September 26: Mets: at Reds; Nationals: Phillies.

September 27: Mets: at Reds; Nationals: Phillies.

September 28: Mets: Off; Nationals: Reds.

September 29: Mets: at Phillies; Nationals: at Atlanta.

September 30: Mets: at Phillies; Nationals: at Atlanta.

October 1: Mets: at Phillies; Nationals: at Atlanta.

October 2: Mets: Nationals; Nationals: at Mets.

October 3: Mets: Nationals; Nationals: at Mets.

October 4: Mets: Nationals; Nationals: at Mets.

From here until the end of the season, the Mets have a slightly tougher schedule with their three games against the Yankees. Other than that series, their schedules are identical.

In addition, the Mets are confronted with several issues, including injuries to Michael Cuddyer, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy; Jacob deGrom in his worst stretch of the season; the emerging issue of Matt Harvey’s innings and it being a distraction; Jon Niese‘s struggles; the uncertainty of Steven Matz; how their young starters will respond to playoff pressure; and their porous bullpen.