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.

May 21

Collins Made Right Call To Pull De Grom

It would have been nice to see Jacob deGrom finish today’s start for the Mets, but manager Terry Collins‘ decision to pull him was totally reasonable.

At the beginning of the season Collins said deGrom and Matt Harvey would be watched carefully in terms of pitch counts and monitoring, which fell into line his decision to not let him come out for the ninth.

DEGROM: Pulled out of caution. (AP)

DEGROM: Pulled out of caution. (AP)

In fact, even though deGrom’s pitch count was at 104 and he was cruising having retired his last 23 hitters.

Collins volunteered deGrom was dealing with soreness in his hip and shoulder recently, so it was actually a no-brainer. All Collins has to do is think about the 134 pitches Johan Santana threw in his no-hitter.

“I already lived through one of those harrowing experiences,’’ Collins told reporters. “At my age, you can’t live through too many more.’’

In that regard, it didn’t hurt the lone hit deGrom gave up came in the first inning.

Sure, deGrom wanted to stay in, but didn’t push matters with Collins.

“I haven’t thrown a complete game in the big leagues,’’ deGrom said. “That’s something I want to do. But I had a lot of pitches early on. My goal was to try to stay in there for at least seven. Then, whenever they let me go back out for the eighth, I was just happy to do that.”

The prevailing theory is deGrom altered his mechanics to compensate for hip stiffness, which consequently lead to shoulder soreness. Whether or not this was the result of mechanics remains in question, but what isn’t in doubt is Collins made the right call.

May 21

Is Panic In The Mets’ DNA?

Sometimes, Mets manager Terry Collins sounds like a man who is trying to convince himself of something he’s not sure of, when he said, or vowed, his team would not panic.

As somebody who has been in on hundreds of such press briefings, I know why the topic of panic was raised. Believe me, it’s not because it’s New York and the media is prying. The question would be the same in Pittsburgh or Cleveland or even laid back San Diego. When you lose seven of ten games and nine games in the standings to your main division rival, nerves get frayed, no matter how loudly or vociferously, Collins denies it.

COLLINS: Looks concerned and should be. (AP)

COLLINS: Looks concerned and should be. (AP)

“There’s a lot – a lot – of baseball left,’’ Collins said last night. “There’s no sense of urgency here. We have things we have to continue to try to do. We have to continue to try to watch the workload of some guys. We need to continue to try to get healthy. But there’s no panic here, believe me. Not in the clubhouse. Not anyplace else.”

This is what Collins believes and I don’t doubt he thinks that way. He would be a fool to admit otherwise. That’s why I don’t get why some in my profession would even pose the question. They already know the answer.

I raised the issue yesterday the Mets are at a critical point to their season, and I did so because I’ve seen them fold before. Do you remember September of 2007 when they lost a seven-game lead to the Phillies with 17 games remaining?

Of course you do.

It has been in the Mets’ DNA to go into long, dry spells. That’s where they are now. Who knows what goes on behind closed doors. Reporters ask questions to find out.

The Mets’ primary issue now is a stagnant offense that has scored three or fewer runs in 16 of their past 22 games. Not surprisingly, they are 10-15 since their 11-game winning streak.

GM Sandy Alderson already said not to expect help from the outside, that the plan is to wait for David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud to return from the disabled list. There are other options, such as juggling the lineup, but that smacks of panic unless the move is justifiable, which it would be when Wright and d’Arnaud to come back.

The Mets don’t have a good bench, so benching somebody isn’t a great option. Plus, the guy they always look to sit is Wilmer Flores, who is their best home run hitter. Just who in their minor league system is an answer?

The Mets’ best option, as distasteful as this sounds because that’s been Alderson’s mantra, is to wait this out. Slumps happen in a 162-game schedule and that’s what’s going on with the Mets.

Getting out of a slump takes time, and I don’t know how patient the Mets will be. Unfortunately, neither does Collins.

However, when the story of this season is written, this period will be the watershed moment.

 

May 20

Mets Facing Critical Juncture To Season

Every season has its critical juncture and for the Mets it is now after Bartolo Colon‘s 41-year-old arm was mauled tonight by major league’s best team in St. Louis. The Mets’ 11-game winning streak and eight-game lead over Washington has faded from euphoria to the cusp of panic after Colon was ripped.

We’ve seen hot streaks from the Mets morph into inescapable slides before. The Mets’ 9-0 loss coupled with the Nationals beating the Yankees, 3-2, tonight, leaves Washington in sole possession of first place in the National League East and begs the question: Can manager Terry Collins‘ team recover?

COLON: Ripped again. (AP)

COLON: Ripped again. (AP)

After a 13-3 start, the Mets are 10-15, including 3-7 over their last ten games. They aren’t hitting. Their starting pitching has faltered recently with Colon, Jon Niese and Thursday’s starter, Jacob deGrom. They haven’t won behind Matt Harvey in three starts and blew 1-0 leads in his last two. Their defense has been poor.

In two respects, the Mets’ hopes to regroup are tied to two gambles by GM Sandy Alderson: 1) the signing of Colon, whom they hoped would stem the tide tonight, and 2) the decision to see how David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud come back from the disabled list before attempting to trade for a hitter to aid their faltering offense.

The estimate on their returns is at least two weeks, and nobody knows where the Mets will be in the standings by then. Don’t forget, they lost eight games in the standings to the Nationals in a little over three weeks. Bryce Harper is hot; Stephen Strasburg is back.

It is possible the Mets could respond from tonight’s mugging and win another 11 in a row. Then again, they could continue their funk. They have another game with the Cardinals Thursday, then three in Pittsburgh before playing the Phillies, who are now playing well.

In many ways Colon personifies Alderson’s patchwork approach in building this team. Colon was signed as a stopgap after Harvey was injured. They eschewed going after a big name free-agent in favor of Colon, who was signed to eat innings and win about a dozen games. Colon won 15 games last season and sought his seventh tonight. Colon gave up five homers in splitting his previous four starts, and was hammered tonight, giving up nine runs on 11 hits – including two homers – and a pair of walks in 4.1 innings.

Meanwhile, for all the talk about the Mets’ ailing offense, it wouldn’t have mattered tonight against Colon and Tuesday against Niese, who is also proving not to be an answer.

Lately, there have been more questions than answers for the Mets, including this big one: Can they pull it together?