May 13

Mets Better Off Without Valdespin

Two weeks ago I wondered why Jordany Valdespin wasn’t getting more playing time. Now, I’m wondering why I bothered to care.

Why should I, or anybody else for that matter – outside his immediate family – care about Valdespin, of whom GM Sandy Alderson recently said is testing his limits of tolerance?

Answer: There is no reason.

VALDESPIN: Will never be the man.

VALDESPIN: Will never be the man.

The Mets finished in fourth place last year and are in fourth now. They are a season-high six-games below .500, and after losing three of four to Pittsburgh, are about to start a stretch that could flatten them for the season.

Bottom line: They can lose with or without Valdespin.

Valdespin’s actions over the weekend illustrate he’s a me-first player. His posing after a homer in a blowout loss defined “bush league.” His post-homer comments put that assessment in bold.

“When you hit the ball, you got to enjoy your hit,’’ Valdespin said. “Every time I hit the ball, homer or something, I enjoy that. Every hit, I’m enjoying, my family’s enjoying, my friends enjoying.’’

Kind of says it all about him, doesn’t it?

Mets manager Terry Collins, thinking old school, acknowledged payback could be coming, but his response was inadequate and weak. It made me wonder why he should be manager.

“We’ve talked about this individually and as a group,’’ Collins said. “In the game today, you have to turn your head on some things. It’s done everywhere. Do I like it? I don’t know if it really matters. I can’t change the game.’’

Maybe not, but he damn sure can change his little role in it. Collins’ answer and willingness to put up with Valdespin’s histrionics, shows how dysfunctional the Mets are as an organization.

Valdespin styling after a meaningless home run was the epitome of selfishness and Collins knows it. While it might be the way of the world elsewhere, the only appropriate thing for Collins to say was: “Other managers can put up with that, but I won’t tolerate it on my team.’’

That Alderson didn’t say the same and send him down as punishment was also weak. In Alderson’s Sabremetric world, is there an adequate measure for Valdespin’s actions?

The next day Collins suggested there could be payback, and that it might be directed at David Wright was sobering. That the Pirates didn’t retaliate against Wright was a classy gesture on their part. Go after the real culprit was their reasoning.

They were right to plunk Valdespin, and I don’t want to hear any more Pollyanna crap about a fastball to the ribs wasn’t right. That’s the baseball code.

In that code you take your punishment and shut up. However, Valdespin went berserk in the dugout and slammed his helmet, drawing more attention to himself.

Wright, as captain, did an excellent soft-shoe trying to defend his teammate, although his words seemed hollow, as if deep down, he knew he didn’t believe what he was saying.

I wonder if Wright would have been so generous had the Pirates went after him in retaliation, or if Valdespin’s slammed helmet ricocheted and hit somebody in the eye?

Somehow, I doubt it.

Valdespin had no business being incensed, as he was the one who created the mess. His anger also indicates he either wasn’t aware of the circumstances or didn’t care. Valdespin doesn’t get that this is a team sport and not about him.

His actions scream “look at me,’’ as if he were a NBA diva. However, Valdespin doesn’t bring enough to the table to warrant the Mets putting up with him. They can finish fourth with or without him.

I prefer the latter.

May 12

Mets Waste Another Matt Harvey Start

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METS CAN’T AFFORD TO WASTE HARVEY (AP)

Terry Collins said the Mets are a different team with Matt Harvey, and that he gives them a presence a chance to win once every five days.

That makes it is especially troubling when they waste one of his starts, as they did in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Harvey, who flirted with perfection in his previous start Tuesday against the White Sox, has given up two runs over 16 innings in his last two games. After winning his first four starts, he’s had four no-decisions in his last four, giving up just five runs.

“He did his job,’’ Collins said of Harvey. “He can’t do the hitting for us. We needed him to take us deep into the game and that’s what he did. Matt did exactly what we wanted.’’

In defeat, the Mets lost three of four to Pittsburgh – a team they thought they should to beat, or at least compete against – and finished their homestand 2-4. They didn’t score more than three runs in any game of the homestand, and scored four or fewer runs in 15 of their last 17 games.

Since beating the Dodgers, April 24, the Mets have gone from 10-9 to 14-20. The Mets will try to get better Monday when they begin a four-game series at St. Louis, which has the best record in the National League.

RECORD/STANDINGS: 14-20, 4th place NL East.

ON THE MOUND: Harvey did not have his best stuff, but gave up only two runs on five hits in seven innings. He walked two, but struck out a season-low four. It was still a quality start, and one the Mets would take every time.

“That’s what we’re going to come to expect from that guy,’’ Collins said.

The Mets’ bullpen wasn’t able to pick up Harvey, with the Collins inexplicably letting lefthander Scott Rice in to walk Andrew McCutchen with one out in the eighth.

AT THE PLATE: Collins juggled his batting order once again, making it 30 different lineups in 34 games. For the first time this season he had Ike Davis and Lucas Duda back-to-back. He said he’ll leave it that way for the immediate future.

Duda homered, but Davis continued to give them nothing, striking out two more times, including taking three miserable swings on balls out of the strike zone with one out and the tying run on third in the eighth.

THEY SAID IT: “It was a disappointing at-bat for him,’’ Collins said of Davis’ strikeout in the eighth.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28: Strikeouts by Mets’ hitters the past two games.

ON DECK: Jeremy Hefner (0-4), Dillon Gee (2-4), Shaun Marcum (0-3) and Jon Niese (2-4) is the schedule rotation as the Mets begin a four-game series Monday in St. Louis. That’s a combined 4-15 before Harvey starts again.

Following the Cardinals, the Mets have a three-game series at Wrigley Field before three games each against Cincinnati and four against the Yankees.

May 11

Jon Niese’s Injury-Related Bad Habits Root To Rout

Including today’s 11-2 flameout loss to Pittsburgh, the Mets have lost Jon Niese’s last five starts, with him giving up 22 runs and not getting out of the fifth inning in three of them. He has not come close to resembling what the Mets think he should be, and that’s the No. 1 starter in their rotation.

The first game in that slide, April 18 at Colorado, and the one preceding it, April 12, at Minnesota, were played in temperatures in the high 20s. Manager Terry Collins said the cold might have had a residual effect on Niese. Niese beat the Twins, but was given double-digit runs of support.

“I think there might be. He’s had some stiffness in his back,’’ Collins said when asked if there is a connection between working in the cold and his following ineffectiveness. “He’s had trouble getting loose and (prior to his May 5 start at Atlanta) he didn’t have a good bullpen session.’’

The only thing surprising about this issue with Niese is the injury wasn’t worse and there haven’t been more weather-related injuries. This has always been one of my pet peeves about playing in lousy weather. The owners have such steep investments in their players, and yet they have no qualms about playing games in precarious conditions. This is also an issue the Major League Baseball Players Association has glossed over. Playing conditions have never been high on the MLBPA’s pecking order in negotiating with the owners.

It’s usually about money and drug testing, but working conditions somehow get ignored.

Niese, who gave up eight runs in 4.1 innings today, said to compensate for the soreness and stiffness he developed the bad habit of dropping his arm angle during his release. Consequently, hitters have been able to pick up the ball out of his hand earlier.

“I think it’s to the point now where I created a bad habit with dropping down my arm angle, and I’m kind of opening everything up,’’ Niese said, adding he wasn’t bothered by pain today. “It’s something I’m going to work on in the bullpen to get it back.’’

Niese said there’s no deception in his delivery and hitters aren’t chasing the pitchers they normally might. They are able to pick up his release point earlier, and that split second makes a tremendous difference to the hitters.

Niese is hopeful of working his release point issue out in the bullpen this week before making Thursday’s start in St. Louis against Adam Wainwright.

May 10

Wally Backman Out Of Line On Wheeler Comments

Like everybody else, I am anxious to see Zack Wheeler with the Mets. Even if he’s half of what he’s been cranked up to be, he has to be some improvement, if not a gate draw, from what the Mets have now.

BACKMAN: Out of line.

BACKMAN: Out of line.

Yesterday, Las Vegas manager Wally Backman told a local radio station: “Personally, I think if he has a couple of more starts like his last start he’ll be headed to the big leagues, and rightfully so.’’

Huh? I don’t recall GM Sandy Alderson saying something like that.

I’m not saying Backman is right or wrong in his analysis or projection of Wheeler, just wrong in saying anything of that nature in the first place.

Backman manages Triple-A Las Vegas. He does not speak for the Mets’ organization, and his comments put undue pressure on everybody, from Backman, to Wheeler, to Terry Collins, to Alderson.

Once somebody from the organization, even Alderson, suggests a timetable, a clock starts ticking. So, what happens if Wheeler isn’t up in two starts? What then? Another timetable? You can’t keep teasing the fan base that way.

Backman is out of line in making such statements. But, could it be he spoke because the Mets don’t have a policy in place on how to publicly handle Wheeler?

There were no such conflicting messages with Washington about promoting Stephen Strasburg. Why aren’t similar precautions and guidelines in place for Wheeler?

There was more structure to Matt Harvey’s promotion this year in that everybody knew he would go north with the team coming out of spring training. There seemed more structure to Harvey’s promotion last year, primarily because Alderson did most of the talking.

The only structure with Wheeler is we knew he wouldn’t be up at the beginning of the year because of the contractual links to his arbitration and free-agency eligibility seasons. The best-guess estimate for that is the end of the month or early June, but either way that exceeds a couple of more starts.

At least the Mets made a determination, although there was the caveat of “if we really needed someone,’’ that could be waived. Wheeler wasn’t pitching well enough early in his season to warrant a promotion, but he has been good his last two starts. Perhaps, two or three more and he’ll be ready, but that’s Alderson’s call and not Backman’s.

It’s confusing when not all the parties are on the same page. It is Alderson’s responsibility to define that page, and Backman’s to follow the guidelines.

There should be no loose cannons here, just one voice. That’s the case with winning organizations.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 09

Mets Shouldn’t Even Think Of Extending Ike Davis

During the offseason and in spring training I wrote in the interest of financial certainty, that the Mets should consider signing Ike Davis to a long-term contract as to bypass his arbitration years.

After 32 homers last season because of a strong second half, I thought Davis might be a keeper and they should do for him what they did for Jon Niese and David Wright. Lock up your investments early to keep them out of arbitration and the free-agent market is sound business. Lots of teams sign their can’t-miss youth at prices they can control in the future. In 2006, the Mets did it with Jose Reyes and Wright.

DAVIS: Another stroll to the dugout. (AP)

DAVIS: Another stroll to the dugout. (AP)

Only problem is Davis isn’t a can’t miss, but a swing-and-a-miss.

When he first arrived, Davis showed great power potential, but also was able to be selective and go to the opposite field. He showed an ability to act like a hitter. He did it the other night when he drew a walk in the tenth inning and scored the winning run in the Matt Harvey game.

“In that situation the pitcher knows the batter will be trying to hit it out of the park,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He’ll be trying to get the batter to chase after a bad pitch, but Ike resisted.’’

It was a good piece of hitting, but one we’ve not often seen from Davis, who tries to go for the homer, even on pitches low and away.

Davis’ slow start should definitely cause the Mets to resist the temptation of signing him to a multi-year extension. Davis is hitting a paltry .170 with a .270 on-base percentage. He already has 35 strikeouts with just 17 hits and 13 walks. He has four homers and eight RBI.

None of those numbers warrant giving Davis an extension, or even thinking of it.

We know Davis has the potential to hit 32 homers because he’s already done it. However, whatever run production Davis is capable of providing isn’t worth his 186 projected strikeouts. Davis said earlier this spring that “I’m a home run hitter and strikeouts are going to happen,’’ which illustrates a refusal to work on the finer points of hitting.

That sizes up Davis in one short, compact stroke, something we don’t see from him at the plate.

Mechanically he’s a mess, with a dramatic hitch and propensity for lunging at pitches. His mental approach is much worse. You just have to watch a few at-bats to know he has no plan or patience at the plate. Davis is supposed to be a young lion, a future face of the franchise, but they are already starting to pinch-hit for him.

For this, any talk of a long-term deal is not only premature, but absurd.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos