Jun 18

Harvey And Wheeler Give Mets Glimpse Of Future

There might be some question if Zack Wheeler is ready to assume the role of savior for the New York Mets, despite his and manager Terry Collins’ proclamations to the contrary of those lofty expectations.

With the statistical and financial numbers having been crunched, the decision is it is time to start the clock on Wheeler. The Mets don’t know who’ll be dropped from the rotation. Because of today’s doubleheader, the Mets will go at least one cycle through the rotation with six starters.

WHEELER: Future is now.

WHEELER: Future is now.

Wheeler will start the second game with Matt Harvey the opener. That pitching future the Mets have been bragging about? Well, we’ll get a glimpse today.

Ideally, the Mets don’t want to return Wheeler to the minor leagues after today. As their thinking when Harvey came up last year, they want him here to stay. Because Wheeler won’t be activated until between games, rules prohibit him of being in the dugout to watch Harvey.

That will happen soon enough.

“[It will be] a fun day,’’ Collins said this afternoon at Turner Field. “It’s a great thing for this organization and its fan base to see what the future is going to be like. We’ve got two young guys that are going to be very, very, very good.

“Pitching is the name of this game. We’re going to run two guys out there [Tuesday] that can take this organization north pretty fast.’’

Harvey has been exceptional this season, but is just 1-1 with eight no-decisions in his last ten starts. In that span Harvey has given up 19 runs. If nothing else, what Wheeler should learn quickly about pitching on the major league level is there will be times when he’ll have to do it without run support, which is what Harvey is currently experiencing.

Harvey has been successful in large part because of his composure, self-confidence and sense of worth. Harvey understands his stature and expectations of him, but hasn’t let it go to his head.

Wheeler might as well have been reciting a script given him by Harvey.

“I don’t think I’m the savior at all,’’ spoke Wheeler in a press conference Monday afternoon at Turner Field, almost a half-hour where he grew up watching Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine.

Continuing his refreshing travel down humility road, Wheeler said: “We might not be doing too well right now, but I know the talent of these guys, and hopefully we can turn it around soon. … I’m just trying to come up here and play the best that I can, help out the team any way I can.

“I know people are going to scrutinize. We aren’t doing too well right now, but hopefully we can turn it around and everybody will like us again.’’

Mets fans have liked Wheeler all spring in hope of what he might give them. Today is his first chance to deliver.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 28

David Wright Proves Captaincy Every Day

There was no other choice but David Wright to be Mets’ captain, and throughout this disappointing season showed again Monday night why he is special and the best position player they ever produced.

Daniel Murphy drove in the game-winner and Jon Niese was superb in a bounce-back start, but the Mets don’t win – period – without Wright.

WRIGHT: Proves worth daily.

              WRIGHT: Proves worth daily.

With the life sucked out of the Mets the previous inning on Brett Gardner’s homer-robbing catch of Murphy’s drive and Mariano Rivera looming for the Yankees, Wright drilled a Phil Hughes pitch for a game-tying homer in the seventh. And, with the Yankees threatening the following inning, he made a scintillating play to start a 5-4-3 double play.

“Big players make big plays,’’ manager Terry Collins would later say. “ That’s what he is. That’s why he’s the captain. It’s amazing how many times those guys come through for you.’’

However, Wright comes through in other ways.

With the fan base showing absolutely no faith in ownership, and despite knowing he could have gotten more money elsewhere – not to mention being able to produce better numbers in another park – Wright opted to stay with the Mets.

Yes, he’ll get $138 million over the next eight years, but it will come with more headaches and definitely more losing. The Mets are on their way to a fifth straight losing season, and there will likely be a lot more before they are on the north side of .500, let alone seeing October again.

As the losing continues, Wright is the spokesman for his teammates. That’s the price of being captain.

“Well, we’re not playing good baseball,’’ said Wright. “That’s easy to see. But it’s a resilient group. And you have to understand that we know there’s going to be tough times over the course of this season. … It’s not time to hold your heads down and mope around. We’ve got to find a way to compete, find ways to execute.’’

It gets tiring night after night to speak for and take the heat off his frequently over-matched teammates. Wright is stand-up. When the team implodes, or is stung with disappointment, it is Wright who gives the analysis.

Surely, there are times he’d much rather soak in the whirlpool or stretch out in the player’s lounge munching on fresh fruit, if not savoring a cold one, but giving answers comes with being a captain, of which Wright still insists, “it is an honor.’’

His responsibilities also include offering support for Ike Davis after one of his several multi-strikeout games. Wright does this willingly because Davis is a good guy with a pleasant demeanor despite being lost at the plate.

However, it also means acting as a buffer for the unpopular and polarizing Jordany Valdespin. Like everybody else in his clubhouse, Wright didn’t agree with Valdespin’s styling after a meaningless home run, but he is a teammate, and Wright had to speak on his behalf.

Even now, Wright will be delicate in how he handles Valdespin and other delicate topics. When managers Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel were fired, Wright properly said the onus should be on the players.

Earlier in his career, when veterans such as Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez surrounded Wright, he was the voice of this franchise.

When Jose Reyes was injured and wanted to stay in a game, Wright rightfully told his manager because the team came first. It is Wright who goes to the mound and settles a pitcher, which he frequently did with Mike Pelfrey. It is Wright who pulls a player aside, as with Lastings Milledge and Fernando Martinez, to tell them in a stern, yet not embarrassing way, to show up on time or run out a ball.

Murphy calls Wright “a professional,’’ and it might be one of the best descriptors for the Mets’ captain, a player who personifies what is good about his team.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 12

Mets Must Be Careful If They Trade Wheeler And D’Arnaud

 

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at New York MetsIt is fun to speculate Andre Ethier and Carlos Gonzalez in the Mets’ outfield. I would also take Josh Willingham, but pass on Carl Crawford and Alfonso Soriano. It would take a lot in terms of prospects and cash down the line to make a run at Giancarlo Stanton.

These names have been suggested as outfield possibilities for the Mets, but of all of them, only Willingham in terms of salary and talent they would surrender, makes the most immediate sense.

The Mets claim to have the resources, but we’ve heard that refrain before. Don’t tell us who is out there; tell us when you sign somebody. Until then, it is all just running in place. I want the bird in hand.

Either and Gonzalez represent an exorbitant cost in terms of salary and prospects if they trade, or just salary if they wait for the free-agent market.

They would have to wait several years for Stanton to become available on the free-agent market, and quite frankly they would be diving into the deep end of the pool if they went after him now. But, that might be their only chance because in an open market, the Mets won’t be able to compete.

However, I don’t think the Mets would be willing – or daring enough – to go in that direction.

Crawford and Soriano would just cost too much money for little production. If they went in that direction, they might as well have kept Jason Bay.

Every time I read these names, also mentioned are Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud. But, the Mets aren’t dealing them, although there is no guarantee of their stardom.

For the past few years the Mets sold us on the belief of the future with those prospects and Matt Harvey. They preached the future to the point where they let Jose Reyes walk and traded R.A. Dickey.

I might be willing to deal d’Arnaud because they have Kevin Plawecki, who is 22, in the minors. He’s in Single-A and still a few years away, but having John Buck means they could take the risk with d’Arnaud if it’s the right deal.

As far as Wheeler goes, he’s wild in Triple-A and not close to being ready. The Mets have seen wildness in Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez, so they don’t need another scatter arm. Wheeler also has blister issues, so it would be premature to give up on him now, because that might be the cause of his problems.

It would likely take both Wheeler and d’Arnaud for Stanton. The Marlins might be willing to trade in the division, but are the Mets willing to face Wheeler and d’Arnaud 18 times a year?

I’m inclined to guess not, so the path with them would be to see what develops.

The Mets are making an investment in the future, so it’s ridiculous to change course and go back to the days when they chased the big names.

They chased Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar when they were in the twilight of their careers. They chased Carlos Beltran, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez and Carlos Delgado, but didn’t have the complimentary pieces. They were unlucky with Bay and Johan Santana. They were lucky not to get Alex Rodriguez.

In all cases, the timing wasn’t there. I don’t think it is there with Stanton. The Mets have hit the bottom and are now showing signs of growth. There’s still a lot of work to do, but there will be even more if they reverse course now and guess wrong.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Mar 21

Mets Have Habit Of Placating Pitchers For The Worst

What is it with the Mets and their starting pitchers? Giving them near total control hasn’t worked. It didn’t for Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel, and it isn’t for Terry Collins.

The impression is the tail is wagging the dog when it comes to Mets’ starters, and this isn’t new. Pitchers tend to be divas by nature, but it has gone to another level with the Mets.

MARCUM: What's going on here?

MARCUM: What’s going on here?

Clearly, free-agent Shaun Marcum did not report to spring training ready to go by telling Collins and GM Sandy Alderson he only needed four starts to get ready. He was allowed to set his own pace, but obviously didn’t have the track record to deserve it.

Marcum received cortisone injections in each of the last three years, and last spring was down for nearly three weeks. Without question, this is a guy who should not be setting his own program.

Marcum vows 200 innings, a level he’s only reached once since 2005. His lifetime 57-36 record was why Alderson gave him the benefit of doubt, but his 124 innings last year should have accounted for something.

Wasn’t Marcum’s history and workout program discussed? If it was, then why agree to this?

Santana does have the resume to set his own program, but abused it when he threw off the mound without Collins’ knowledge the first week of March.

SANTANA: Won't make Opening Day.

SANTANA: Won’t make Opening Day.

The Mets said they monitored Santana in the off-season, and told him to go easy since he rehabbed the previous two winters. Something was lost in the communication as Santana wasn’t ready when spring training began and will open the season on the disabled list.

Collins said Santana knows his own body, but here’s a guy who hasn’t worked an inning all spring and at the beginning wanted to pitch in the World Baseball Classic. Had he done so, the results could have been career threatening.

Early in camp, after Alderson questioned Santana’s conditioning, the lefthander, angry with the Mets and media, threw off the mound without his manager’s knowledge. Collins wasn’t happy then and now must be fuming because Santana has done little since and has no set timetable. One must wonder how much that stunt set him back.

There are other examples of how the Mets let their starting pitches get away with setting their own routine that ended badly.

In 2009, Mike Pelfrey refused to go on the disabled list and miss a start and insisted on the start being pushed back. To placate him, the Mets brought up a starter from the minors, but to make room released reliever Darren O’Day, who only proved to be a key in the Rangers getting to the World Series twice.

O’Day has worked 247.2 innings in his five-year career with 217 strikeouts, 63 walks, a 2.73 ERA and 1.058 WHIP. The Mets don’t have anybody with that production in their current bullpen.

The Mets also let Pedro Martinez march to his own tune with mixed results for several years. Is Pedro pitching today? What’s going on with Pedro? It was like that every spring.

MARTINEZ: Where's Pedro?

MARTINEZ: Where’s Pedro?

The Mets did everything they could, including alienating a future Hall of Famer, Tom Glavine, to placate Martinez and his whims.

Of course, don’t forget Oliver Perez, whom former GM Omar Minaya signed to a disastrous three-year contract. The height of the absurdity is when Perez refused a minor league assignment – as was his contractual right – to work on his mechanics.

Consequently, the Mets carried him the rest of the season rather than release him and eat his contract, which they eventually did the following spring.

Funny, the Mets once had the stones – but no brains – and traded Tom Seaver, who wasn’t happy with his contract. Now it seems they don’t have either, as the trend is obvious, from Alderson to Minaya, and with each of the managers, to let some starters dictate to them how things would be and it turned out for the worse.

Will it be that way in 2013 with Marcum and Santana?

Feb 26

Hope it isn’t lip service from Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey came out and admitted it right away. Usually, when he pitches poorly – which was often last season – he’ll acknowledge his flaws.
Speaking to reporters in Port St. Lucie, Pelfrey threw high heat at himself.

PELFREY: He can't just look serious this season.

“I want to play this game for as long as I can and I can’t do that with having the kind of year I had last year,” Pelfrey said. “Going into the offseason, it kind of hits you like, ‘Man, what happened?’ So you go through it, you learn from it and you try to get better. I’m more determined not to let that happen again. Obviously, I need to have a good year or . . . I might not be back.”

Bingo on that part.
Pelfrey has not progressed has hoped for several reasons, including, 1) he loses concentration and poise when things start to unravel, 2) his command can be erratic, 3) his pitch selection is bad (he doesn’t always have to agree with the catcher), 4) he doesn’t command his secondary pitches consistently.