Mar 16

Lost Velocity Could Be Best Thing For Harvey

The issue of Matt Harvey’s lost velocity could be the best thing to happen to him in his effort to rejuvenate his career.  The headlines after Wednesday’s loss asked if Harvey would ever be the same.

HARVEY: He shouldn't hold his head. (AP)

HARVEY: He shouldn’t hold his head. (AP)

What exactly is “the same?” Outside of four spectacular months in 2013 and several scintillating starts in 2015 – which culminated in a hissy fit in Game 5 of the World Series – we must remember for all the hype, he is 29-28 lifetime, which, unlike his string of model girlfriends, is nothing to get excited about.

That 2013 All-Star start and career 2.94 ERA and 1.08 WHIP give us reasons to be hopeful, but for all his sparkling moments there has considerable diva tarnish.

Harvey’s scouting report in 2013 showed a fastball in the high 90s, impeccable control and a bulldog, don’t-give-in mentality that culminated in him pitching through the pain of a strained forearm leading to Tommy John surgery.

Back then, Harvey’s high profile personality was outlined by his high 90s heater. Pitching coach Dan Warthen said we might not know until May whether his velocity will return. If two surgeries aren’t enough of a wake-up call, perhaps the velocity issue could be. It’s important Harvey stay in Florida at the start of the season to find his confidence more than his fastball.

Nolan Ryan was a freak who threw triple digits into his 40s. A chemically-induced Roger Clemens threw high heat late into his career. However, they, like Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, Tom Seaver, eventually lost what made them great. Age and injury reaffirmed their pitching mortality.

Harvey is lucky in comparison. He’s only 27 and hopefully will take advantage of his lost fastball to learn how to pitch. Let’s hope he’ll learn how to pitch like Mike Mussina, Jack Morris, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine – don’t snicker on the last one, because after all, he won over 300 games and is in the Hall of Fame – which could extend the career of the pitcher many have given up on.

I wrote yesterday how the Mets should leave him off the Opening Day roster and send him for an extended spring training. I didn’t say Harvey’s career was over and the column didn’t bash him. To the contrary, I still think he can become a solid major league starter.

I have previously been hard on Harvey for his attitude and I’m not backing off. I don’t expect Harvey to consistently throw 98, but I do hope he’ll be smart enough to capitalize on being given the great gift of being young enough in his career to reinvent himself.

Hopefully, he was taking notes the past two years from watching Bartolo Colon. Harvey’s career is not over unless he mentally gives up.

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 24

Optimal Time For Wright To Return

In some respect, it will be Opening Day II for the Mets with the return of David Wright tonight in Philadelphia. Only this time the Mets are 11 games over .500.

“For me it almost feels like Opening Day, where you have some butterflies, kind of nervous excitement,” Wright told reporters this afternoon.

The last time they had a record this good was Sept. 28, 2008 when they lost to the Marlins – and consequently the pennant – on the last day of the season for the second straight year and finished 89-73.

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (AP)

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (AP)

No, this wasn’t the Tom Glavine game, but Johan Santana pitched a 2-0 gem the previous day to give the Mets life. They were in first place as late as Sept. 19 and held a 3.5-game lead on Sept. 10.

This was the last time the Mets were truly relevant in the concept of October baseball.

This is the optimum time for Wright to come back because how well they are playing with a five-game lead on Washington, and their rejuvenated offense has to alleviate the pressure he would normally face when coming off the disabled list.

If the Mets go on and in the words of Bob Murphy, “win the damn thing,’’ it will be because they played over .500 during his absence with four players – Daniel Murphy, Eric Campbell, Ruben Tejada and Juan Uribe – trying to take his place.

For the longest time the Mets weren’t hitting or winning on the road. They are doing both now. And, concurrently the Washington Nationals are floundering. However, five-game leads can quickly evaporate as the Mets learned in 2007 and 2008. Those were completely different teams then, deeper offensively but not with this pitching. That pitching provides optimism they won’t fade this time.

As September approaches, Wright will complement the offense and not be required to carry it on his shoulders. With less pressure, and manager Terry Collins knowing he can plug in Juan Uribe any time if he needs to rest him, the situation is such once Wright catches up to the speed of the major league game as opposed to the minors, he can resume raking.

And, the Mets can build on this lead.

Apr 14

Harvey Excited About Tonight; Knows He Must Be Better

For all his self-confidence, and yes, arrogance as well, the best thing Matt Harvey brings to the Mets is the sense that when he pitches, they can win. They last had that feeling in 2006 when Hall of Famers Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine took the ball.

Harvey gave that aura in 2013, and it is back.

HARVEY: Will be pumped tonight. (Getty)

HARVEY: Will be pumped tonight. (Getty)

Harvey is coming off a nine-strikeout performance in his first regular-season start since having Tommy John surgery. The best part was that despite being amped up, there was no pain or discomfort. He will again be pumped up for his return to Citi Field tonight against the Phillies.

“I know he’s excited,” manager Terry Collins said yesterday. “I know the team is excited. And I know the fans are excited.”

Harvey said: “`I don’t want to make a story about it, but it’s obviously exciting to be home.”

But it is a story, and his presence is a big deal to the Mets, who are giving away Matt Harvey T-shirts Friday. Hell, the organization even held back his start until today so it can sell a few more tickets. The gate for tonight is over 30,000.

The organization sees dollar signs when Harvey pitches, but there’s more than that to Harvey, who looks at his starts as artwork. Despite the zeroes and strikeouts last week against the Nationals, Harvey colored too much outside the lines. He knows the need to improve his command.

Harvey reached his pitch count of 90, but in six innings. That must get better for a number of reasons: 1) it shows his command wasn’t always there, and eventually it will catch up to him, and 2) it means more work for the bullpen.

Harvey knows what is expected of him, and more importantly, what he expects of himself.

“I definitely can be a little bit more fine,” Harvey said. “For me, I think 90 pitches through six innings is not good enough. If I’m throwing 90 pitches, I’d like to at least get into the seventh.”

There’s definitely a buzz with these Mets, although it is early. You sense it when you’re in their clubhouse, but talk is cheap.

“We’ve talked a lot about how good we can be,” David Wright said. “But true confidence is in winning.”

And, Harvey gives them the belief winning is attainable.

 

Jul 27

Glavine Gets Inducted Into Hall of Fame

glavine-739958The Baseball Hall of Fame will induct its 2014 class today in Cooperstown, NY and standing among them will be two former Mets. Joe Torre, who was elected by the Veterans Committee, played for the Mets from 1975-1977, where he hit .267 with 12 home runs and 75 RBI in 254 games. Torre began his managerial career with the Mets in 1977 and skippered the team through 1981, going 286-420. LHP?Tom Glavine will also be enshrined today. Glavine was 61-56 with a 3.97 ERA?in five seasons (2004-2007) with New York.

To baseball fans, Glavine was one of the best pitchers of his generation.  He won 305 games over his 22-year career, including five 20-win seasons.  He finished in the top three in Cy Young Award balloting six times, while winning the award twice (1991, 1998).

Mets fans might remember him for something different.  Some will remember Glavine for picking up his 300th career victory in 2007 as a member of the Mets. Others will remember his outstanding 2006 campaign; a year in which he finished with a 15-7 record in the regular season and followed that up with two more victories in the postseason, which included a sparkling 1.59 ERA in three starts.

Some of us will only remember Glavine for his final appearance in a Mets uniform…

On September 30, 2007, just one day after John Maine pitched his near no-hitter against the Marlins to help the Mets tie the Phillies in the standings going into the regular season finale, Glavine was only able to record one out against Florida in what would be the worst start of his career.

The veteran southpaw was tagged hard for seven runs – all earned – by the Marlins that day in a devastating 8-1 loss.  Coupled with Philadelphia’s victory over the Washington Nationals, the Mets failed to repeat as division champions in 2007 and the late-season collapse was etched in stone. With a seven-game division lead on September 12, the Mets lost 12 of their last 17 games in what is regarded as one of the worst collapses in MLB history.

If his poor performance against the Marlins wasn’t enough to enrage Mets fans, his post-game comments surely managed to do the trick when Glavine told reporters he was disappointed but not devastated.

“I spent a pretty big hunk of my career in New York. And I know at first I was just a guy coming in. But after a while, I became comfortable, and I think I was accepted. Winning the National League East in 2006 made it better, and then I won my 300th with the Mets. I felt I had the city behind me. If we had beaten the Marlins in the last game, I don’t think I would have lost any standing. But the way it worked out wasn’t as good as it could have been.”

As a baseball fan, I appreciate what Tom Glavine did on the baseball field.  While I rooted for him everyday as a Met. for some reason I never quite looked at him as a Met. Whenever I saw him I saw Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox. The Tomahawk Chop would be playing in my head. He’ll be joining his teammate Maddux this afternoon on that podium.

I want to congratulate Glavine, who was always a class act on and off the field. He was a great competitor, a quality postseason pitcher, and he was always a plus in the clubhouse.

However, as a Mets fan, every time I think of the final 17 games of the 2007 season, I think of Tom Glavine. In many ways we are still trying to recover from that historic collapse.

Congratulations on your Hall of Fame enshrinement, Mr. Glavine.

MMO footer

Jan 08

Tom Glavine Gets Into Hall; Examining The Process

The baseball writers got it both right and wrong with the today’s Hall of Fame announcement, and in the process issued a strong statement on the PED issue.

The no-brainers were Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas; three dominant players that did it cleanly. Glavine played for the New York Mets, as did Mike Piazza, who fell short again.

GLAVINE: Bound for Cooperstown.

GLAVINE: Bound for Cooperstown.

Maddux, Glavine and John Smoltz – the latter will be eligible next year – were the driving force behind those Atlanta teams that dominated the National League for nearly 15 years. Their manager was Bobby Cox, who will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer.

While the bulk of Glavine’s numbers were compiled with the Braves, he won his 300th game as a Met, and this afternoon reflected on his time in Queens.

“I would summarize it as a great five years of my career,’’ said Glavine, who was 61-56 with a 3.97 ERA in 164 starts as a Met. Of those starts, 56 were in games he either lost or took a no-decision while giving up three or fewer runs.

“I had a lot of fun in New York,’’ Glavine continued. “I certainly made a lot of great friends there as teammates and people within the organization. It was a fun five years, albeit a tough five years at times for my family with me being gone. But it was a fun five years for them. It was a great experience being in New York and playing in New York. It’s an experience, I think, every player should have.

“I’ll always have fond memories for the Mets organization for the opportunity, but also because I won my 300th game in their uniform. That’s something I certainly will never forget.’’

Unfortunately, many Mets fans – and some in the media – won’t forget Glavine’s last game when he didn’t make it out of the first inning in the 2007 season finale. That season the Mets lost a seven-game lead with 17 to play.

“On behalf of everyone at the Mets, we congratulate Tom Glavine on his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame,’’ Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said. “We are proud that Tom won his 300th game as a Met and were fortunate to have him on our club. His excellence as a player is equaled by his excellence as a person.’’

While Glavine’s outing that afternoon represents a black cloud in Mets’ history, Piazza’s homer against Atlanta in the first game played in New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, authored one the franchise’s golden moments.

Piazza gained percentage points in the balloting, rising from 57.8 percent last year to 62.2 percent. That could be an encouraging sign.

“On behalf of the organization and our fans, Mike is a true Hall of Famer,’’ Wilpon said. “We proudly display his plaque in the Mets Hall of Fame, and we’re hopeful that he’ll soon have one hanging in Cooperstown.’’

It might happen eventually for Piazza, but it should happen next year for Craig Biggio, who has over 3,000 career hits, of which 1,104 were for extra bases. That’s more than Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Honus Wagner, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.

Biggio actually has only 14 fewer extra-base hits than Thomas, whom many considered a slamdunk. Thomas was an outspoken critic of PED usage as a player and reiterated his position today.

“I’ve got to take the right stance, too,’’ Thomas said. “No, they shouldn’t get in. There shouldn’t be cheating allowed to get into the Hall of Fame.

“What I did was real that’s why I’ve got this smile on my face right now because of the writers. They definitely got it right.’’

Biggio is one I believe the writers got wrong. Also, Piazza. The others are debatable. Biggio should be rectified next year as he only fell two votes shy.

It’s unlikely Piazza will make up the percentage points needed to reach the mandatory 75 percent by next year. While there is no documented link to PED use by Piazza, steroids remained a hot button issue, one not likely to go away soon.

Roger Clemens dropped from 37.6 to 35.4 percent of the vote; Barry Bonds fell from 36.2 to 34.7 percent; Sammy Sosa went from 16.9 to 11.0 percent; and Rafael Palmeiro dropped off the ballot completely, going from 8.8 to 4.4 percent.

I did not vote for any player linked to PEDs either by failing a drug test, being named on a MLB sanctioned survey, such as the Mitchell Report; or one accused on the record by another player with proof.

This did not apply to Piazza or Jeff Bagwell. It does to Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Sosa.

While there is no mandate from the Hall of Fame or Major League Baseball banning PED users, there is one regarding gambling which applies to Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

PED use is a tangled mess in large part because it had tacit approval from Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig for allowing its use after the 1994-95 strike season – which killed the World Series in 1994 – in an effort to jack up attendance.

Some writers, such as myself, won’t vote for anybody with a PED link, but will submit an honest ballot after considerable research.

What irks me most about the process are writers who make a joke of their ballot. One Los Angeles-based writer submitted one name, Jack Morris, but ignoring 300-game winners Maddux and Glavine. What about the other nine slots? If you’re going to take the effort to vote in Morris, as I also did, how come you couldn’t find another worthy candidate?

Then there is Dan Le Batard, who gave his vote to Deadspin in form of protest. The Baseball Writers Association is researching ways to improve the process, for example allowing more than ten votes.

One suggestion I have would be to suspend Le Batard’s vote. It’s a privilege to vote, one earned after ten consecutive years in the BBWAA. It’s not a joke as Le Batard made his out to be.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos