Oct 10

Wondering About Matt Harvey Again

It’s about Matt Harvey, so the “What If Wonder Machine,” is whirling again. Since 2012, the question the Mets have been asking is: How good can this guy be?

However, the next Tom Seaver has not even become the next Gary Gentry, who went 41-42 in four seasons with the Mets.

HARVEY: Remember when? (AP)

HARVEY: Remember when? (AP)

Harvey is 29-28 in his four-year Mets career, but because of two arm surgeries in three years, consistently poor run support and his inability to close out games, has always left us wanting more.

Harvey’s climb back to becoming an elite pitcher – he has that potential – took another step as he’s begun throwing as part of his recovery after surgery in July in treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome. It is a complicated procedure that involved removing a rib.

Posting on his Instagram account, Harvey wrote: “He’s working the mechanics.”

Harvey, currently on the 60-day disabled list, is expected to be ready for spring training.

Before the ailment sidelined him, Harvey started 17 games and went 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA and a miserable 1.47 WHIP. In 92.2 innings he gave up 111 hits and 25 walks. He started poorly, seemed to right himself, then hit the skids again.

The year 2012, when he made ten starts to begin a career full of promise. His 3-5 record could be brushed off by inexperience and a lack of run support, but what caught everybody’s attention was an overpowering fastball, a confidence that belied his years and a stunning 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.

That greatness emerged – no, make that exploded – in 26 starts in 2013 which culminated in starting the All-Star Game at Citi Field.

However, in what began a disturbing career trend, prior to the All-Star Game Harvey developed tightness in his forearm, which he initially did not disclose. He tried to pitch through it and was adamant about starting the All-Star Game.

He continued to pitch after the All-Star break, but after losing three of his last four decisions in August, the discomfort continued and he was placed on the disabled list and eventually had Tommy John surgery. Harvey missed the 2014 season and returned the following year, showing glimpses of his previous dominance and finished at 13-8.

I thought he would be hellfire this year, in fact, wrote he’d be so fueled by what happened in Game 5 of the World Series that he’d win 20 games and compete for the Cy Young Award.

It didn’t happen. After two surgeries in three years, I look at Harvey’s career with caution. He’s young enough to bounce back, but he’s had a big enough window to make one wonder.

It’s an oversimplification to say his mediocre career record is just a lack of run support. Great pitchers find a way to win and too many games have slipped away from him.

I’m asking the same question Harvey should be asking: Why?

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Aug 17

Has Syndergaard Turned The Corner?

UPDATED: Adding quotes by Syndergaard and Collins.

For awhile last night it appeared Noah Syndergaard turned the corner and all would be right with the Mets again. However, as has been his pattern, he ran into the wall otherwise known as the sixth inning and was haunted by familiar ghosts.

I won’t go into the bone spur issue because when you live in a 98 mph., neighborhood, your arm has to be sound. Stolen bases are a problem – the Diamondbacks had four more Tuesday night and nine in his two starts against them – but one he should eventually solve with his experience.

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

The main issue with Syndergaard has been his pitch-count efficiency and inability to put away a hitter or shut down an inning. It’s why he doesn’t give the Mets the number of innings he should considering the number of pitches he throws.

Of his 23 starts, he has gone at least seven innings only nine times. Only twice did he venture into the eighth inning. Twice.

Last night he cruised through five innings and was good as advertised but unraveled in the sixth. Yes, he was hamstrung by T.J. Rivera‘s defense, but when you’re supposed to be an ace, you must find a way to get out of the inning. The Mets survived the inning, but not Syndergaard.

This is not what you’d expect from somebody deemed an ace, much less a Super Hero.

Roughly one of four pitches he throws is fouled off, meaning he’s not putting away hitters. He averages over a strikeout an inning, but only four times has he reached double-digits in strikeouts, the last being June 15 against Pittsburgh.

Double-digit strikeout games signify going deep into games. Syndergaard went deep with a two-run homer in the fifth but was done an inning later. He expects more of himself.

From how he overpowered the Diamondbacks early in the game, his final line of four runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings was a disappointment despite going to 10-7 in the Mets’ 7-5 victory. Also discouraging was he threw 106 pitches.

Syndergaard took a six-run lead into the sixth. He should have coasted the way he did against Pittsburgh and the Cubs on July 3, his last win before last night. He went into the eighth in those games.

Jake Lamb reached on Rivera’s error and moved to second on a wild pitch. Syndergaard struck out Yasmany Tomas, but gave up a single to Wellington Castillo and two-run triple to Mitch Haniger. A second error by Rivera let in another run. After an infield single, Syndergaard left in favor of Jerry Blevins and the last image of him was throwing his glove in anger in the dugout.

Sure, blame the inning on Rivera, but it’s up to the pitcher to overcome disaster and put away the next hitter, something Syndergaard didn’t do. With his mounting pitch count manager Terry Collins didn’t have the confidence to let him finish the inning.

When Syndergaard cruised early in the game, he challenged hitters inside, his command was sharp and his curveball had bite. All encouraging signs.

“In the middle innings I thought he threw the ball great,” Collins said. “When he commanded his fastball in the right spots they weren’t able to do much against him.”

But, he couldn’t sustain. Whenever he loses it quickly, it raises the question about the bone spur. The Mets believe – and Syndergaard concurs – this is a pain tolerance issue. The spur is something that should be dealt with by surgery in the offseason as it will be with Steven Matz.

“My arm felt great,” Syndergaard said. “I was fluid in my delivery. I felt it was a step in the right direction.;;

There are games, like those against the Pirates and Cubs – and for five innings last night – where he dominates and pitches to the ace-like levels of Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver. But, he’s not there yet on a consistent basis.

The elbow spur bothers me, and I’m sure it bothers Syndergaard more than he lets on. Of his last seven starts he reached the sixth three times before being pulled. Is it the spur or did hitters catch up to him?

Before last night, Syndergaard had four losses and two no-decisions in his previous six starts. In looking for an explanation for what’s happening one thing surfaces.

This is Syndergaard’s first full season and there are growing pains. His fastball averages 98 and his changeup averages 89, but there’s more to pitching than throwing hard. Just because he throws lightning and is built like a linebacker doesn’t mean he’s automatically Don Drysdale.

Syndergaard is ahead of most with his experience level, but not where he envisions himself. He needs more polish. He must learn to take something off his pitches; to reach back for the 100 mph., heater when he needs it, not with every pitch.

The bone spur is an issue, but one surgery should resolve. The real problem with Syndergaard is the expectations are exceedingly high from the Mets, his teammates, the media, and the fans. Everybody expects more of him – including the pitcher himself – than he is capable of giving.

Too many expect him to be the second Seaver instead of letting him develop into the first Syndergaard. He is still growing. He’s not the force he expects of himself to be.

Not yet, anyway.

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Jul 24

Piazza: “The Thing I Miss Most Is Making You Cheer”

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For eight years, Mike Piazza heard you, and today’s induction speech by only the second Met, joining Tom Seaver, to be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame was his way of saying thank you for the encouragement, the prodding, the enjoyment, and most of all, for the love.

“How can I put into words my love, thanks and appreciation for New York Mets’ fans?” was one of the many highlights of his Hall of Fame induction speech, which timed out close to 31 minutes, which was the number he proudly wore during his magnificent career.

“You have given me the greatest gift and graciously taken me into your family. This brings me back to the best time of my life. … You guys are serious. The eight years we spent together went by way too fast. The thing I miss most is making you cheer.”

Today wasn’t about numbers, but emotions and memories and Piazza made sure to thank his father, Vince, saying: “We made it, dad. The race is over. Now it’s time to smell the roses.”

But, not before thanking a few more special people, from managers Tommy Lasorda and Bobby Valentine, to scores of teammates, including John Franco, who gave up his No. 31 when the former 62nd round draft pick was traded to the Mets.

Piazza’s speech embodied the way he played – from the heart.

We loved him for the numbers and moments, including his post-September 11 home run, with a reference on his plaque saying, “it helped rally a nation.” But, we also loved him for his class and humility.

Piazza acknowledged how many noted that home run in the proceeding weeks, but he chose to honor the first responders who selflessly gave their lives.

That home run might have been a symbolic gesture, but what the police and firemen did was a greater sacrifice.

Piazza gave us numerous memories to love him over those eight years. Today he told us he loved us back.

May 06

Mets List: Hall Of Famers With Mets’ Ties

Tom Seaver is the Mets’ only home-grown Hall of Famer, but unfortunately didn’t play his entire career with the team. Neither will this year’s inductee, Mike Piazza.

There have been no Met with Hall of Fame ties whose entire career was spent in flushing.

With today being Willie Mays’ 85th birthday, and yesterday’s post on Warren Spahn prompted this list of Hall of Famers with Mets’ ties:

Seaver, 1967-77, 1983

Richie Ashburn, 1962

Yogi Berra, 1965 (player), 1972-75 (manager)

Gary Carter, 1985-89

Mays, 1972-73

Eddie Murray, 1992-1993

Nolan Ryan, 1966, 1968-71

Duke Snider, 1963

Spahn, 1965

Casey Stengel, 1962-65 as manager

 

Apr 22

Mets Today: On The Blog

Good morning. The Mets are in Atlanta today for the beginning of a three-game series with one of their biggest rivalries, although things have cooled off in recent years as the Braves plunged into mediocrity.

mets-logoball-2 Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom will start for the Mets who will be going after their third straight series win.

Today on the blog I’ll have for you:

* Today In Mets History.

* A list on some of the most memorable moments in the Mets-Braves rivalry, with the promise Armando Benitez won’t be in any of them.

* A short piece on Harvey.

* Today’s lineups.

And, of course, an analysis on any breaking news.

ON DECK: Today In Mets History: Big Day For Tom Seaver

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