Oct 12

Utley Appeals Leaving Us To Wonder Harvey’s Response

You knew it wouldn’t be as easy for the Mets as Chase Utley simply taking his two-game suspension and quietly waiting until Game 5.

As for Matt Harvey, who always has a swirl of non-pitching issues about him, now has one more thing to contemplate: Should he impose his own brand of frontier justice by drilling Utley in the back if he plays?

“We’re definitely moving forward with him in our minds,’’ Harvey said at the Mets workout Sunday afternoon at Citi Field.

HARVEY: What's he thinking  as Utley appeals?  (MLB)

HARVEY: What’s he thinking as Utley appeals? (MLB)

Like most everything Harvey says, it is open to interpretation, just like his following comment, which at first means winning is the best revenge, but ends with a clipped warning.

“I think the most important thing is going out and doing my job and doing what’s best for the team,’’ Harvey said at the workout. “For me, in my mind, that’s going out and pitching a long game and being out there as long as I can, and keeping zeros on the board.’’

That’s the perfect response, but he couldn’t let it go, and added: “But you know, as far as sticking up for your teammates, I think being out there and doing what’s right is exactly what I’m going to do.’’

Harvey nailed Utley in an April game, so we know he’s willing to get his hands dirty. But, if he hits him this time, would part of his intent be to clean his reputation with his teammates?

Many Mets players, notably David Wright, have not been enamored with Harvey after his innings-limits fiasco was brought to light by agent Scott Boras, and most recently for showing up late for a workout last week, reportedly after partying the night before.

Utley’s decision to appeal Major League Baseball’s knee-jerk reaction to suspend is not surprising. Baseball executive Joe Torre a former player, manager and leader of the Players Association, knows hardball plays of which this was, and the emotions of it happening in New York.

Torre said numerous times when he managed the Yankees the players take care of these things themselves, and that’s probably what he is afraid of. This happened Saturday night so the emotions and tensions remain raw. It is easy for him to think things could break loose, especially when fueled by the anger of a crowd with lynching on its mind.

Torre rightly wanted to defuse a potentially ugly situation, but in doing do may he be wrongly persecuting Utley?

Sure the slide was late, Torre said so at the time. But, at the time he did not deem it dirty. Neither did the umpires, who had the authority to call the runner out and eject him from the game.

While Torre said the slide violated the rules, he never called it dirty when he issued the suspension. What are we supposed to make of that? Did Torre change his mind by simply watching the replays, or by reading the quotes from the Mets’ clubhouse and hearing the ire of the man of the street?

What about the neighborhood play, you ask?

It does not apply because Daniel Murphy’s throw pulled Tejada off the bag and put him in a position where he could not defend himself. Replays showed Tejada put himself at risk for attempting to spin and then throw. The spin put him directly in the path of Utley’s slide.

There are rules in place, which Torre quoted, designed to protect the fielder. Apparently, the umpires did not feel they were violated. However, Harvey does and we are all wondering how he will respond. He would be foolish if he did because it could mean an ejection for him or an injury if the result is a brawl.

Of course, MLB is likely to uphold the suspension, which raises an interesting question: What if Utley were to get the Players Association involved or pull a Tom Brady and take this to court?

Jun 20

Not Enamored With Collins’ Decisions Or Reasoning Friday

Jacob deGrom had only thrown 97 pitches when he was pulled in the eighth inning of Friday night’s 2-1 loss at Atlanta. He deserved better, from his defense, his bullpen, and his manager. Come to think about it, he deserved better from his general manager, too.

DE GROM: Should have stayed in. (AP)

DE GROM: Should have stayed in. (AP)

Betrayed is too strong a word, but he was definitely let down. DeGrom took a slim 1-0 lead into the eighth because the Mets’ anemic offense stranded six and was 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position. This offense has done little for much of the year, and even less the past month.

After Andrelton Simmons doubled to lead off the eighth, most everybody in the park knew Eury Perez was going to lay down a bunt to the third base side. DeGrom pounced on the ball and immediately looked to third, but Ruben Tejada wasn’t by the bag. Had he been there, deGrom would have nailed the runner.

Not a natural third baseman, Tejada botched the play, but manager Terry Collins said he had no problem with his handling of the play.

“We’re trying to get an out there,” Collins told reporters, adding Tejada did the right thing.

I beg to differ. Strongly. Yes, they are trying to get an out, but that out needed to be at third and not first. How were they going to do that if Tejada wasn’t covering third?

I can buy Collins if he was trying to protect the inexperienced Tejada’s fragile ego. But, here’s where I have a problem with GM Sandy Alderson. HIs job is to ensure the Mets have the appropriate talent needed to win games and this is not the first time they’ve been left with a thin bench and poor bullpen choice.

Pedro Ciriaco followed with a grounder to shortstop Wilmer Flores, who took too long looking the runner back to third and couldn’t get the runner at first.

The Braves now had runners on the corners with one out when Collins summoned Sean Gilmartin.

“I thought it was time,” said Collins. Yes, time to lose the game.

DeGrom is the Mets’ best pitcher and only had thrown 97 pitches. Collins mentioned the pitch count, but deGrom’s defense opened the door.

There was nothing deGrom did to warrant being pulled. Collins knows he has an unreliable bullpen with the exception of Jeurys Familia. If deGrom is to be considered ace-like his manager must show him the confidence to make it through the inning.

Collins’ best choice was to stick with deGrom or go to Familia to close the eighth.

Gilmartin was not the best decision, evidenced by Jace Peterson promptly doubling in two runs to waste another good start.

Yes, deGrom deserved better. Much better.


Dec 02

Tejada In, Young Out

Not surprisingly, the Mets non-tendered outfielder Eric Young and offered a contract to infielder Ruben Tejada projected to be $1.7 million.

Young, who was arbitration eligible, was projected to make $2.25 million in 2015, too rich for the Mets’ blood for a bench player.

Young was expendable because for all his speed – 30 stolen bases last season – he failed to develop into the prototypical leadoff hitter. One number said it all about Young and that was his .299 on-base percentage.

Consequently, left field remained a black hole the Mets chose to fill with Michael Cuddyer.

Dec 02

Look For Mets To Keep Tejada And Non-Tender Young

The Mets have until midnight today to decide whether to tender contracts to infielder Ruben Tejada and outfielder Eric Young. Speculation has the Mets keeping Tejada and cutting Young loose for economic and practical reasons.

The Mets are uncertain about shortstop but appear to be leaning to unproven Wilmer Flores. Given the high probability of not acquiring a “name’’ shortstop this winter, the Mets need a fallback if Flores doesn’t work out. And, at a projected $1.7 million, Tejada is an inexpensive option.

Meanwhile, Young, who’ll make over $2 million, won’t start because he can’t crack the outfield of Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson. Young’s 30 stolen bases would be missed, but the Mets prefer the friendly contracts of Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker.

So, unless something unforeseen happens the rest of the day, Tejada will stay and Young will go. Quite simple, really.

Oct 06

Leadoff Hitter Remains A Nagging Question

Of all the Mets’ off-season questions, the matter of their leadoff hitter is one of the most intriguing. That is especially if their intent is to fill it from within.

With no budding Lou Brock or Rickey Henderson in their farm system, their best hope is on their current 40-man roster. I say that because there’s no real answer in the free-agent market and they are reluctant to trade their young pitching.

The primary in-house candidates are Eric Young, Juan Lagares, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. All have something they could bring to the table, but all have issues to the negative.

Young, Lagares and Nieuwenhuis have speed, but also rather low on-base percentages and a penchant for striking out too much.

Of the group, Murphy is the best hitter, but for a relatively weak lineup he’s better suited for a run-producing slot in the middle of the order. Also, Murphy’s on-base percentage, at .332, isn’t as lofty as one might think.

If Murphy is still here – a substantial question – he should be hitting between second and sixth.

As for Young, there’s an excellent chance it will be a moot point and not be brought back.

Last winter, manager Terry Collins toyed with the idea of experimenting with Tejada. The catch here is Tejada needs a position to play and that means starting ahead of Wilmer Flores, which isn’t a given.

Mets’ 11 different leadoff hitters ranked last in the majors with a .235 average and paltry a .308 on-base percentage. If they want to change that, they’ll have to hope for a breakout season from the names suggested or be willing to spend.