May 28

Mets’ Six-Man Rotation Proof They Didn’t Get It Right With Harvey Initially

While some are giving the Mets kudos for the inventiveness of going to a six-man rotation, they are doing so to protect Matt Harvey and his surgically-repaired money elbow. More to the point, they are doing it because they didn’t properly calculate a program to monitor his innings in the first pace.

The Mets entered the season with a “play it by ear” approach with Harvey, but it didn’t take long to second-guess several decisions by manager Terry Collins, and yes, to take some jabs at the young star.

HARVEY: The fly in the six-man ointment. (AP)

HARVEY: The fly in the six-man ointment. (AP)

First, they let him pitch with a strep throat, when Collins should have told Harvey to stay home. However, Harvey wanted to pitch that day – of course, he did – and left the impression he wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer, which is to paraphrase Collins.

Starting him was bad enough. Letting him pitch into the seventh that day compounded matters.

When they had a chance to rest Harvey, the Mets spit the bit. Soon it would bite them in the butt.

Entering the season, part of the Mets’ “play it by ear,” plan was to take advantage of one-sided games to give Harvey a few innings off. But, when they could have pulled him after seven in a blowout win over the Yankees, he pushed the envelope because he wanted the complete game.

Collins, of course, caved.

What followed were back-to-back no-decision games for Harvey in which the bullpen coughed up 1-0 leads. Obviously, with benefit if hindsight the Mets would rather have had Harvey pitch longer in those games than stay in for a few more innings in a meaningless game against the Yankees.

Then Harvey was hammered in the worst start of his career and Collins thought he had a “tired arm.”

The goal, said pitching coach Dan Warthen, is to have the pitchers make 30 starts over the course of the year instead of 34.

The fatal flaw to this plan is pitchers are creatures of habit and it is difficult to jump into this format in midstream, a move that has all the pitchers annoyed to some degree.

At the start of spring training, I wrote the Mets should map out Harvey’s starts from April through September with a definitive idea of how many innings he would throw in each start. Well, the Mets didn’t want to do that because they didn’t want to come across as having a leash on Harvey, an idea he despised.

However, in the end it looks as if they will have to do what they should have done in the first place.

There’s a saying the smart carpenter measures twice but saws once. However, the Mets come across as Gilligan trying to build a grass hut.

May 27

Flores Not Mets’ Biggest Flaw

Critics of the Mets, and there are many, are missing the point when it comes to Wilmer Flores. I just read somewhere of a list of the Mets’ biggest flaws, and of course, Flores is right up there as they point to his errors.

FLORES: Comes through in clutch. (AP)

FLORES: Comes through in clutch. (AP)

Unquestionably, Flores is a flawed player, but who isn’t? He’s in the lineup for his bat, plain and simple. That’s it. Nobody expects him to be Ozzie Smith, or Cal Ripken, or Jimmy Rollins in the field. Yes, he has problems with errors, mostly throwing and his range is limited.

But, the Mets knew that going in. Flores is in the lineup because of his hitting potential. Like Daniel Murphy, he’s a player without a natural position and the Mets needed to find a place for him to play. He will improve with more work, playing time and better positioning. He’ll never be Ripken, but he’ll get the job done.

Flores is starting to hit, evidenced by six RBI in his last three games. Last night he tied the game with a sacrifice fly and won it with a single. How many of you were complaining about him then? Or when he hit that homer earlier in the week?

Not many, I presume.

One of the best things manager Terry Collins has done is to not panic when Flores throws one away. Unlike GM Sandy Alderson, who has thrown quite a few verbal daggers at Flores, Collins has stayed the course, which is something I was concerned about before the season started.

“He realizes there’s going to be a day that you’re going to make an error,” Collins told reporters last night. “He’s got to play through that. And I think he’s doing that. You’re starting to see a guy who is going to start swinging the bat like we know he can. He’s going to put up some offensive numbers that people are going to be pretty impressed by.”

In the end, Flores will win more games for the Mets with his bat than he will cost them with his glove.

Sure, I wish he were better defensively, but so does he. Yes, he’s flawed, but he’s not the biggest on a team of flaws.

As a Mets’ fan, I would be less concerned with trying to replace the team’s leading home run hitter, and more concerned with David Wright‘s injury … the bullpen … cracks in the starting rotation … and an overall lack of hitting.

ON DECK: Today’s lineup.

May 26

All The Numbers Add Up To Good News For Harvey

Matt Harvey topped out at 96 mph., Saturday when the Mets were routed in Pittsburgh. That velocity belied manager Terry Collins‘ guess of a tired arm, which often it the first choice of those who really don’t know.

So far, everything adds up to just a bad start.

HARVEY: Encouraging news.  (AP)

HARVEY: Encouraging news. (AP)

Harvey, who is coming off a career-worst seven-run hammering at the hands of the Pirates, had his normal between-starts throw-day today, and left without saying anything. This normally could be interpreted as troubling news, but pitching coach Dan Warthen said things went well.

Why would Warthen say that if it weren’t true?

To date, Harvey has not been seen by an orthopedic specialist, nor has he had X-Rays or an MRI – at least the Mets aren’t reporting such – so all that has to be looked at in a positive light.

Harvey will be working with an extra day of rest Friday because the Mets are off Thursday, but if Collins is sure something was wrong with his pitcher’s arm, it would be a no-brainer to totally skip him.

So, unless the Mets are concealing something, it all adds up to Harvey stinking up the joint last Saturday. It happens.

 

May 25

Collins, Alderson Continue To Guess At Mets’ Physical Ailments

Just because we’re in a world where immediate answers are demanded, it doesn’t mean Mets manager Terry Collins is obligated to improvise with one on Matt Harvey. After Harvey’s worst major league outing Saturday in Pittsburgh, without having benefit of a medical exam, Collins suggested to reporters the pitcher might have a “dead arm.’’

While this may or not be true, I’m tired of Collins and GM Sandy Alderson throwing out guesses on possible medical issues.

HARVEY: Tired arm? (AP)

HARVEY: Tired arm? (AP)

Collins told reporters: “I have not talked to Matt yet, but it looks like he might be going through some of that dead arm stuff that sometimes happens. This might help him to have an extra day to get him back on track. He’s going to pitch Friday with five days’ rest, be ready to go.”

OK, let’s get this straight.

* Collins had not talked to Harvey.

* Harvey, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, isn’t scheduled to be examined by a doctor.

* Collins said Harvey will be “ready to go,’’ on Friday.

Harvey said after the game there’s nothing wrong with him physically, and although he hasn’t been forthright about injuries before, we have to give him benefit of doubt on this because he is coming off consecutive no-decision starts in which he held 1-0 leads late before the bullpen crashed. Harvey was brilliant, if not overpowering, in those games.

“I wasn’t locating, obviously,’’ Harvey said Saturday’s start. “My arm feels fine, my body feels fine. It was one of those days where if I tried to spin it, it was over the middle. If I tried to throw a fastball in, it was away and vice versa. It’s just a pretty terrible outing.”

So, before Collins gives us a diagnosis, let’s see what happens with Harvey after Friday’s start.

It could have been just a bad game for Harvey on Saturday. He’s entitled.

Meanwhile, the news remains dark for David Wright, who was sent to California for a consultation with Dr. Robert Watkins on his back pain and spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column).

Alderson said he hopes with a “week of rest that he will be able to resume his progression.’’

However, there’s no guarantee a week will help, especially when that suggestion comes before Watkins’ diagnosis. It seems neither Collins nor Alderson have learned when it comes to Mets’ physical ailments.

I wrote the other day I wouldn’t be surprised if Wright is gone for a considerable length of time, perhaps even the rest of the season. After all, I have been around the Mets for a long time and used to bad news.

 

May 24

Mets At Crossroads

After his Mets were swept out of Pittsburgh, manager Terry Collins insisted his team was not at a “critical juncture,’’ in the season – which I said they were several days ago – and wasn’t “dead in the water.’’

COLLINS: What's he really thinking? (AP)

COLLINS: What’s he really thinking? (AP)

It’s still May and they are 2.5 games behind Washington – after being ahead by eight – so dead might be stretching things. However, “critical juncture,’’ still applies after scoring four runs while hitting .211 with 36 strikeouts in the Pirates’ series.

Truth is, the Mets are closer to third place than first. They are also closer to being the team they are now than the one that won 11 straight games. Not too long ago, the Mets’ run-differential was plus-25. Today it is minus-one. Instead of being ten games over .500, they are only three.

Collins can talk all he wants about not panicking, not quitting and, of course, that his team plays hard. “Effort isn’t a problem,’’ Collins said this afternoon.

Talent, however, or lack of it, is the problem.

They were outscored by a composite 21-4 score by the Pirates, with their two best pitchers losing. Matt Harvey had the worst outing of his career Saturday, just a few hours after the team said David Wright would remain on the disabled list.

This team isn’t hitting; the pitching has struggled; the defense has been poor; and there’s no consistency in the batting order. Compounding matters, they don’t have imminent help coming from the minor leagues and aren’t close to making a trade.

Collins has been in this business for a long time. He knows when a team is playing well and when it isn’t. He’s not about to admit it publicly this is a critical time for the Mets.

But, he’s a smart guy. He knows it is.

He also knows the team the Mets have now is the one that will have to turn things around.