Nov 23

Backman Paying His Dues; Should Get Another Chance

It is clear Wally Backman wants to manage in the major leagues. His decision this week to accept an offer to manage in the Dominican Republic indicates the Mets, and other teams, should take that pursuit seriously.

BACKMAN: Paying his dues.

BACKMAN: Paying his dues.

Backman was hired to replace the fired Jose Offerman for Licey in the winter leagues, when he could have taken the rest of the offseason off shows how badly he wants to gain experience and refine his craft.

The Mets haven’t announced it, but Backman is expected to return to manage Triple-A Las Vegas.

Backman has been trying to get another job at the major league level since he was hired, then fired, in a four-day span by Arizona ten years ago for off-the-field issues and then, according to the Diamondbacks, lying about them.

Baseball has forever been giving people second chances – excluding Pete Rose, of course – and it should be about time he’s given one. The Mets didn’t give him an opportunity to be their bench underneath Terry Collins, giving the impression he was being snubbed by his own organization.

There have been numerous managerial openings in recent winters and Backman’s phone hasn’t rung and that’s not right.

Nov 17

Mets’ Collins Optimistic About 2015

As far as guarantees go, it was rather weak, but considering the boast came from Terry Collins it was bold enough. Not only will the Mets’ string of six losing seasons come to an end, but they should make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Pointing to a young core and return of David Wright and Curtis Granderson that should be enough to get them over the hump.

“We should be playing in October,’’ Collins told reporters this week. “Our young guys are starting to grow, with the addition of some offense, and … we’re not done. … I think 2015 is going to be a good year for us.’’

The key, or course, is Matt Harvey’s recovery from elbow surgery; development of Zack Wheeler; and a encore season from Jacob deGrom that comprise the core of a young pitching staff.

If the pitching holds up and Wright and Granderson have bounce back seasons, that should put them into contention for a wild-card berth. The NL East title? Not so much.

 

Nov 14

Mets Bracing For Innings Showdown With Harvey

It’s getting close to spring training because the topic of limiting innings for Matt Harvey is again a topic. GM Sandy Alderson indicated as such at the GM meetings this week in Phoenix and manager Terry Collins said so Thursday during a public appearance at a food pantry.

HARVEY: Caution, caution, caution. (AP)

HARVEY: Caution, caution, caution. (AP)

It’s a no-brainer with Harvey coming off Tommy John surgery. With Harvey’s return, the Mets are pointing toward 2015 as when they believe they will be competitive. The one thing they can’t afford is to lose Harvey.

“Certainly we might skip him here and there once in a while, just to save him,’’ Collins told reporters. “That will all be explained to him and there’ll be arguments and he’ll throw a tantrum in the office but it’s all part of the job because he wants to pitch and he wants to win.’’

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That sounds good. Sounds heroic. Sounds inspiring. Sounds like a lot of nonsense.

If Harvey can’t understand the Mets’ reasoning for limiting, then he’s not as bright as he has been portrayed. Then again, pitching smarts and off-the-field smarts are two different things.

Don’t get me wrong, I like what Harvey brings to the table, but he can’t bring anything if he’s hurt. He’s already been a thorn to Alderson and Collins for how he handled his rehab and insistence of wanting to spend more time in New York instead of Florida.

He made a big deal about wanting to be with his teammates, yet went to Yankee Stadium to watch Derek Jeter. Nobody connected with the Mets says anything negative about Harvey for fear of alienating him.

Never mind that, my take is Harvey tweaking the Mets’ brass and Alderson’s often testy relationship with the pitcher’s agent, Scott Boras, says he’s a goner once he becomes a free agent.

Of course, that’s a bridge Alderson has to jump off of later. For now, it’s now to cut the innings.

The best way is to tell Harvey during spring training and making sure he understands this isn’t negotiable.

There are six months in a baseball season, so missing one start a month shouldn’t be hard to figure out. Assuming six innings a start, that’s 36 innings saved. They might also consider missing more time in April when the weather is still cold and there’s a greater chance of hurting his arm. Then, there are shaving innings in blowouts, one way or another. Put a cap on his starts at seven innings.

This shouldn’t be hard to figure out for Alderson and Collins. As for Harvey, he has to realize he’s not in charge. With only 12 major league victories, he’s hardly in position to be calling the shots.

 

Nov 10

Mets’ deGrom Should Win NL Rookie Award

The New York Mets should be in the national baseball news today as the postseason awards start this afternoon. It’s just another step in the Mets’ climb toward relevancy.

In an informal poll of voters, pitcher Jacob deGrom is favored to become the Mets’ fifth rookie of the year winner, joining Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). For those believing in omens, the Mets played in the World Series within two years of each previous winner.

DeGROM: Gets my NL Rookie vote. (Getty)

DeGROM: Gets my NL Rookie vote. (Getty)

To say deGrom could be the next Seaver or Gooden is a stretch, but there is a lot to like about him and it isn’t farfetched  to say he’s ahead of Zack Wheeler, and he’s definitely part of the core of young arms.

What was most impressive about deGrom was his composure and ability to command his secondary pitchers. These are things Wheeler must improve. Wheeler also has a tendency to run up his pitch count, frequently forcing an early exit. The Mets could count on deGrom getting into the sixth inning.

A ninth-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft, deGrom made the first of his 22 starts, May 15, and made an immediate impression by giving up just one run in seven innings in a 1-0 loss to the Yankees. He gave us a glimpse of his 96-mph. fastball and darting slider with six strikeouts and only walked one and gave up four hits.

DeGrom turned out to be the kind of workhorse the Mets need by working into the sixth or longer in 19 starts. Ten times he took a game into the seventh or longer.

DeGrom worked 140.1 innings this year, but in this era of pitcher preservation – not recognized by the Giants and Madison Bumgarner – he was pulled from his last start against Houston.

“Obviously, I wanted to make my last one, but they talked to me about it,’’ deGrom said at the time. “The decision was made for me not to, and to end the year healthy. I respect that decision and I look forward to next year.’’

The decision was made in large part by a season-low 92 mph., in his proceeding start against Atlanta, and manager Terry Collins said with a 9-6 record and 2.63 ERA, there was nothing left for him to prove. The lower speed is indicative of a tiring arm.

“We explained the big picture,’’ Collins said. “One more start isn’t going to vary any votes. One more start isn’t going to show everybody that he belongs here.

“One more start could lead to some trouble. The big picture was to make sure when this season was over that those five [rotation] guys were going to be healthy. We think we’ve reached that point.’’

By votes, Collins meant from the Baseball Writers Association, which concludes its voting after the season. Postseason performance is not included, for one reason it gives some players a larger body of work. For example, if the postseason were included, Bumgarner would easily win the NL Cy Young over the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.

The other National League candidates are Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton and St. Louis’ Kolten Wong. Hamilton fizzled at the end and Wong wasn’t a clear-cut standout, although he was impressive in the postseason.

The American League candidates are frontrunner Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees’ Dellin Betances and the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker.

 

Nov 08

Maddon To Mets Had No Chance

MADDON: Wouldn't have become a Met.

MADDON: Wouldn’t have become a Met.

There are a lot of crazy things floating around this time of year. I heard this today and it made me laugh because there’s no chance it could have happened.

One report said the Mets could have gotten Joe Maddon as their manager after his decision to bolt the Tampa Bay Rays.

Maddon is a tremendous managerial talent, one of the best, and he would look great in the Mets dugout, but several variables combined to make that impossible.

First, they already have a manager in Terry Collins. Now, managers and coaches have been fired before while under contract, but the Mets hate the idea of paying a manager’s salary to two people at the same time.

More importantly, even had Maddon been available to them, as they wouldn’t have acted as quickly, or decisively, as the Cubs. Reportedly, Maddon was given a five-year, $25 million package, which would have been well out of their price range.

Maddon left the Rays because of their austerity program, evidenced by the departures of James Shields – who’ll likely leave Kansas City – and David Price. The Cubs’ payroll last year was $92 million, which isn’t in the stratosphere, but far more than the Rays’ $76 million.

The Cubs have shown a willingness to pursue free agents, something neither the Rays nor Mets are inclined to do.

The Mets have made steady progress over the past few years, and Collins deserves some credit. The expectations are high with the return of Matt Harvey, bounce-back seasons from David Wright and Curtis Granderson, and the continued development of Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom.

Given that, do they really want to start over with a new regime?

Maddon as a Met is a fun idea, but there are a lot of fun ideas this time of year. But, this one had no chance.