May 19

Collins Must Share Blame For Wright; DL Should Be Considered

In the 20-plus-years I have written about major league baseball, there are a handful of players I admire and respect as much as David Wright.

Even so, I am still objective as to what I see and it currently isn’t good. Wright was scratched Tuesday because of a sore back, and then returned to go 0-for-4 with three more strikeouts Wednesday.

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

Wright is in persistent discomfort and needs up to two hours to get ready to play. He is not suited to pinch-hit, especially in cold weather, as he did Sunday in Colorado. Wright knows not to push it, but when asked he will play. That’s in his DNA.

Translated: Manager Terry Collins did Wright a disservice when he asked him to pinch-hit. Winning one game in mid-May isn’t as important as risking losing him for the long haul.

I know Collins wants to win, but he was wrong, selfish and shortsighted for asking Wright to pinch-hit. It isn’t the first time Collins pushed the envelope with Wright or other players. Don’t forget his panic move of labeling the eighth game of the season “must win,’’ and pushing Wright, Jim Henderson and Jeurys Familia, none of whom should have played that day.

Wright would never finger-point at his manager. The bottom line is Collins should have been smart enough to not put Wright in that position.

“I don’t know,” Wright told Newsday on whether pinch-hitting took him out of Tuesday’s lineup. “Again, it’s probably not the ideal circumstances. But this is the National League, you really don’t have that much leeway especially when you’re playing with a short bench.”

That puts the onus on the manager to pay attention to what he has available.

Wright is batting .221, which is a career-low for this point in the season. He already has 47 strikeouts in 113 at-bats, with four homers and eight RBI. He’s on pace to strike out 195 times, hit 17 homers and drive in 33 runs. His on-base percentage of .362 gives us glimpses of him still being a productive player.

“The back thing is just something that I’m going to have to get used to because it’s not changing,” Wright told reporters. “But I feel like I can play at a much higher level than I’m playing at right now.

“I think that there are certainly some things I’m having to make adjustments with as far as preparation, as far as playing schedule, that I’m going to have to get used to. But when I go take the field I expect to play much better than I am right now.”

Is Wright done?

I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows. It’s worth sticking with him to find out, but that means staying with the plan and not deviating. That’s all on the manager.

Can Wright play Thursday night? That’s up in the air. If his availability is day-to-day and Collins doesn’t know what he has on any given night, he should go on the disabled list.

Go back to the beginning. Get re-examined and concentrate on nothing but getting stronger for the next couple of weeks. And, during this time, management should have a sit-down with Collins and tell him to get with the program and stick with it.

A lot of things must happen for this to work, including the manager being smarter than he has been.

 

May 16

Mets Should Skip Matz Against Nats

Steven Matz’s sore left forearm will be examined today, if it hasn’t already, at The Hospital of Special Surgery. If he gets a good review, he’ll throw off the mound Tuesday and possibly pitch Wednesday or Thursday.

I’m guessing Wednesday, because unless there is something wrong with him, I don’t see manager Terry Collins bumping Matt Harvey. Harvey is a basket case now and there’s no telling what demons would pop into his head if he’s skipped against the Nationals. If anything, after Harvey’s last start, he must get back on the mound. The last thing the Mets need with Harvey is for him to think more than he’s already doing.

MATZ: No need to rush. (AP)

MATZ: No need to rush. (AP)

I don’t see the urgency for Collins to juggle his rotation for the Washington series, regardless of what happened in Denver. The Mets are 1.5 games out of first place, and even if Washington sweeps them that leaves them 4.5 games behind with 16 games remaining against the Nationals to be played over 121 games with over four months to go in the season.

There’s plenty of time.

Frankly, juggling the rotation for one Matz start against Washington smacks of panic. The Mets had a plan with their pitching that until the weekend had them in first place, so there’s no reason to deviate now. Although Colon and Harvey were hit hard in their last starts, the problem is the offense.

The Mets are coming off a 4-7 trip, including being swept in Colorado. They scored 32 runs during the 11 games (2.9 average per game), and scored less than three runs six times. They were shutout twice.

They are playing poorly and this isn’t the best time to face the Nationals regardless of whom the Mets start. This series won’t make or break the season, but that’s the impression the Mets are giving by pushing Matz. If this is that crucial a series they should have skipped Jacob deGrom Sunday, or bring him back on three days rest.

If you recall, Harvey’s problem first stemmed with a sore forearm he tried to pitch through. The best option would be to continue with Colon and Harvey, skip Matz and go through the rotation one more time before going with him. They should put Matz on the disabled list, backdated to May 11, the day after his last start, and re-insert him into the rotation on May 25, which coincidentally enough, is at Washington.

The Mets played short since Matz’s injury, and putting him on the disabled list would enable them to add a bench player, preferably, one who can hit.

Matz needs to rest and take his time with this. The Mets don’t need Matz this week, they need to score some runs.

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May 14

Latest Loss May Be Best Thing To Happen To Mets’ Harvey

Last night may be the best thing to happen to Matt Harvey and the Mets. In defeat, he showed us a humility we haven’t often seen from him, which can be the first step up from rock bottom.

Sometime between Rockies’ hits in the fifth inning I flashed to the summer of 2013 when Harvey first flirted with stardom. Do you remember the video piece Harvey did on the Jimmy Fallon show when he roamed the streets of New York asking people their thoughts of Matt Harvey?

HARVEY: All smiles in 2013. (USA Today)

HARVEY: All smiles in 2013. (USA Today)

To listen to the answers, and Harvey’s response – both verbally and his body language – was priceless. Harvey was talking to his fan base about himself and they didn’t recognize him. He was funny and showed real humility.

It made us like him for more than what he did on the mound because he seemed
approachable.

However, since then Harvey has been sidetracked by injury, off-the-field issues and media clashes. Both Harvey and those who followed him ventured into the dark night of judgment. Unlike that day in Central Park when he was anonymous, Harvey lived with a target on his back and hasn’t responded well.

Neither has anybody else.

His body language spoke loudly last night; louder than the cheers that greeted him at the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field when he seemingly held the world in his hand like the baseball he threw which such force and artistry.

Gone last night was the cockiness and arrogance which made people root against him. Also gone was the confidence that made him stare down a hitter then climb the ladder for another strikeout.

His head was down when he handed the ball to manager Terry Collins and slumped off the mound. The cameras caught him with his head bowed in the dugout talking to himself. He wasn’t getting any answers and it was a very human moment from a man Mets fans and media insist on labeling a superhero.

“A great statement I heard the other day is there’s two kinds of players in this league: Ones who have been humbled and ones who will be,” Collins told reporters. “When it’s your turn, it gets tough to take sometimes, because you have got to learn how to adjust from it and how to bounce back from it.”

However, before he can bounce back from a problem it must be identified.

Mechanics? Perhaps. Injuries or health? He says no. Is he feeling the pressure to perform after Game 5? Could be, but he’s repeatedly expressed no regrets in how he handled that night.

Most recently, is he trying to pitch up to the expectations of the contract he’ll seek when he becomes a free agent? Maybe, but it’s something I can’t see him admitting because after all, that’s something few players admit.

What then?

To his credit, and I really liked his answer, he refused to blame the altitude of Coors Field, a place he’s never pitched before.

His answer was a polite, yet forceful, “No, it’s me.”

Humility defined.

“I’m just not feeling comfortable throwing a baseball right now, so it’s frustrating,” Harvey told reporters. “Something I have obviously done my whole life is gone on a mound and thrown a baseball, and right now it’s not an easy task.

“Right now it’s just not feeling great out there — you start overthinking everything. That’s kind of the way it feels every pitch, and hopefully you get past that.”

Harvey cast no blame, although catcher Kevin Plawecki might have given him an out by saying his pitch recommendations might have been predictable. Not many pitchers win games with two runs, but he didn’t point fingers at the offense.

Instead, Harvey spoke of square one.

“It’s taking a lot longer than expected,” said Harvey, who must remember some pitchers hit the wall after Tommy John surgery in the second year back. “You can’t give up. You’ve just got to keep going. It’s start-to-start for me right now.

“I don’t look at it as ups and downs. It’s trying to continue figuring stuff out. … It’s not easy, but there’s another day tomorrow. And it’s a long season. There’s a lot of hope in that regard and drive toward figuring it out.”

I was glad to see Harvey get ripped because it might be the first step toward him getting to where he wants to be.

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May 13

Mets Considering Pushing Matz Up

Terry Collins reminds me of the weekend griller who can’t help poking at the coals – whether they need it or not. The Mets’ manager told reporters in Denver Friday they might bring left-hander Steven Matz prior to his next turn.

Matz will be skipped Saturday against the Rockies because of a sore forearm, which would put his next start Thursday against Washington.

As of now, Noah Syndergaard, Bartolo Colon and Matt Harvey are scheduled to start against the Nationals from Tuesday through Thursday. The Nationals are scheduled to go with Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and either Stephen Strasburg or Tanner Roark.

The Mets would clearly not skip Syndergaard or Harvey, but wbump Colon.

Yes, it’s Washington and the teams enter Friday’s schedule tied for first place in the NL East, with today’s game being the 35th of the season for the Mets. The speculated Matz start would be the 40th game of the season, or 25 percent into the schedule.

Is one game that important?

The division could boil down to one game, but for Collins to juggle his rotation this early in the season smacks of panic to me. All games are important, but it is way too early for this kind of move.  Even if Matz wasn’t nursing an injury, altering the rotation wouldn’t be a good move.

From his batting order to moving Michael Conforto around, Collins can’t resist poking the coals. Now, it’s the rotation.

It’s not even the middle of May and we’re already talking about the Mets screwing around with their rotation, placing ultra importance on a single game. Maybe if the Mets had Matz examined in Los Angeles, or sent him home early to be checked, I’d think differently, but the plan is for doctors to look at him on Monday.

Why is there such a rush to pitch Matz? The Mets won’t win the pennant in May, but their chances of winning could be compromised if they push the envelope and he’s re-injured.

Yes, when it comes to pitcher’s arms I am ultra conservative. I just wish Collins and the Mets were, also. That approach would serve them well.

But, they don’t and Collins keeps fooling around with the coals. That’s how you get burned.

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May 12

Are Mets On Verge Of Blunder With Matz?

When it comes to the Mets and injuries ALWAYS bet the over.

The latest is Steven Matz‘s sore forearm and the Mets’ apparent lack of urgency to do something. When will these people learn? Will they ever learn?

MATZ: Hello. Anybody home. (AP)

MATZ: Hello. Anybody home. (AP)

Matz pitched six quality innings against the Dodgers Monday, but needed 98 pitches to do so. That’s way too many and could explain – in part – why he’ll miss Saturday’s start in Colorado.

After the game, Matz said he pitched with a sore forearm, which he evidently hid from manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen. It was obvious with the pitch count Matz was having some trouble.

“It was pretty sore,” Matz told reporters. “I was still able to throw, but it was enough concern for me to say something to the trainers and just kind of tell them what was going on. Before I see the doctors, they just want to play it safe.”

Presumably, had Matz said something to the trainers during the game they would have said something to Collins. You would like to think so, anyway.

Matz has already had Tommy John surgery. Shouldn’t he be smart enough to say something when he’s hurting? The Mets don’t need any heroes; they need healthy arms.

Then, there is the Mets’ puzzling response or lack of a substantive one. Matt Harvey pitched through a sore forearm in 2013 and look what happened to him. Don’t these guys talk to each other?

Stephen Strasburg signed a $175-million contract this week. If Matz keeps pitching as he has, someday he could earn that kind of deal. However, if he keeps making foolish decisions with his arm, his value might not be more than $1.75.

Matz won’t pitch Saturday and will be replaced by Logan Verrett. Matz didn’t throw Wednesday, but could try to throw today. The Mets are in Los Angeles, which has hundreds of accomplished orthopedic specialists. Couldn’t the Mets – through the Dodgers – arranged for an exam and MRI? How hard would that have been?

Reportedly, Matz won’t be examined until the Mets return home Monday. I understand back-dating to place a player on the disabled list, but the Mets constantly delay making these appointments.

Why?

It shows a haphazard, lazy response. GM Sandy Alderson isn’t, but that’s the perception. When Alderson was hired, COO Jeff Wilpon promised an overhaul would be made of the Mets’ medical practices.

From Jose Reyes to David Wright, from Carlos Beltran to Ryan Church, from Ike Davis to Harvey, the Mets have misdiagnosed and mishandled numerous injuries.

If nothing else, why didn’t they learn from Matz last year, when a strained lat muscle landed him on the disabled list for a couple of months?

Collins said – and apparently with a straight face – the Mets are being cautious with Matz because of last year. Matz felt discomfort after his major league debut, yet made his next start. Then came the disabled list.

“Last year I tried to pitch through it and ended up missing two months,” Matz told reporters. “So it’s better to play it safe and give it the rest when I need it.”

Rest plus anti-inflammatories, which is another way of saying, “take two aspirins and call me in the morning.”

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