Jul 14

DeGrom Provides Mets All-Star Memory

Jacob deGrom didn’t pitch long, but long enough to show why teams would salivate for the chance to get him if the Mets were to put him on the market.

DEGROM: Gives us a memory. (AP)

DEGROM: Gives us a memory. (AP)

The 2014 NL Rookie of the Year struck out the side in the fifth inning, and needed only ten pitches to do it.

Overpowering is too tame a word. He was nasty. He was filthy. He was special. He was so good that Madison Bumgarner, who is pretty special himself, waited on him when he returned to the dugout with a drink of water.

“He’s a nice guy,’’ the typically understated deGrom said of Bumgarner during a between-innings interview.

DeGrom also said, “I remember being nervous running out there, but not much else.’’

Even so, he gave Mets’ fans a memory that will rank among the franchise’s best in All-Star history as he joined Dwight Gooden as the only Amazin’ to strike out the side (in 1984).

The others on that list are:

2013: Matt Harvey throwing two scoreless innings at Citi Field.

2012: R.A. Dickey tossing a scoreless inning.

2010: David Wright getting two hits and a stolen base.

2006: David Wright homering.

1979: Lee Mazzilli hitting a pinch-hit homer in the eighth to tie the game and drawing a bases-loaded walk in the ninth to drive in the game winner.

1968: Jerry Koosman striking out Carl Yastrzemski to end game.

1967: Tom Seaver earning the save in a 15-inning game.

1964: Ron Hunt became the first Met selected and collected a single in his first at-bat in the game played at Shea Stadium.

 

May 01

Why I Like Matt Harvey

There seems to be the feeling in cyberspace I have it in for Matt Harvey, that I don’t care for the Mets’ most exciting pitching prospect since Dwight Gooden. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have nothing against Harvey and he’s done nothing to me to warrant any anger.

He’s been gracious whenever I ask a question and is reasonably accessible despite the many demands on his time.

HARVEY: I love this passion. (Getty)

HARVEY: I love this passion. (Getty)

What I don’t like – and this is noted in every article in which many deemed anti-Harvey – has been the Mets’ inability, or refusal, to be consistent with him. What I don’t like about Harvey personally have been some of his decisions and actions, which are well-documented. There’s no need to go into them now.

Frankly, many of those negative perceptions go in part to explain what I admire and makes him potentially a great pitcher. He’s not yet Gooden or Tom Seaver – can he pitch one complete season first? – but he makes you wonder about a future that could be bright.

Most of all, I like his talent coupled with the rare ability to keep composed under pressure. Perhaps the most meaningful game of his career was last Saturday against the Yankees. That is, of course, until tonight against the Nationals. Strange as it sounds on May 1, this is a game the Mets need to win. If you want to say “must win,” go ahead, I won’t stop you.

Franchise pitchers stop losing streaks. Harvey did it last week and the Mets need for him do it again. Best of all, he’s not shy in wanting that responsibility. Shrinking violets don’t win 20 games, don’t win Cy Young Award and don’t go to the Hall of Fame. Sure, Harvey has a big ego, but most great athletes do.

Another thing I like is when he points fingers, it is usually at himself. You don’t hear him throwing coaches and teammates under the bus. If he makes a bad pitch, he admits it. Believe me, players get tired of having their pitchers blame them. Wilmer Flores took responsibility for his error last night, but Jacob deGrom said he needed to pick up his shortstop, whose confidence is shaky. Believe me, Flores appreciated that gesture, and it is one Harvey has also made.

As readers of this blog know, I stress pitching and Harvey is the real deal so far. He’s vital to their success this year and will be in subsequent seasons. That is why when I moan about his innings, it is because I don’t want him to get hurt. I’ve covered a lot of pitchers whose careers were cut short by injuries and I don’t want him to be one of them. We’ve already experienced losing him for a full season and don’t want it to happen again.

Who doesn’t love that he wants the ball, and will pitch even when not 100 percent? Sandy Koufax pitched in constant pain at the end of his career. So have many others. However, pitching in pain and discomfort and not offering full disclosure, while making good copy, contributed to his elbow injury.

I don’t want him to get hurt again. After all, haven’t Mets’ fans endured enough bad things without seeing that again?

About that bright future many project for him, well, I would like to see it.

ON DECK: Tonight’s lineup.

 

Mar 24

Mets’ Handling Of Harvey’s Starts Leads To Speculation

On one hand, I admire Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s veiled attempt at honesty. He admitted today the decision not to start Matt Harvey over Jacob deGrom for the Mets’ home opener is partially based on ticket sales. The Citi Field home opener will likely draw a full house anyway, so the Mets are saving Harvey for later in the homestand.

HARVEY: Already there are questions. (MLB)

HARVEY: Already there are questions. (MLB)

Alderson explained to reporters the timing of when to pitch Harvey: “Look, we take a lot of things into account. I think the first and foremost is: Does any pitcher deserve to pitch in a game of that sort? And I think that was the primary focus. You’re assuming people are more interested in seeing Harvey pitch than Jacob. That’s probably true, but not something that I would acknowledge.’’

Of course, he won’t because the Mets’ decision spoke for itself. Alderson also acknowledged other considerations and didn’t discount ticket sales. How the Mets handled announcing their starting rotation and saving Harvey for later in the first homestand screams several things, and none of them very good:

* The front office isn’t on the same page with manager Terry Collins. But, if that’s not the case, then Collins – as I suggested Monday – isn’t being decisive. There have been reports Alderson and Collins aren’t working in harmony and this doesn’t discount that thinking.

* The indecision when Harvey would make his first two starts indicates they don’t have a definitive plan to limit his innings. They will fly by the seat of their pants and hope for the best, just like many of us thought all along. Frankly, I believe the Mets are afraid to annoy Harvey, who has already shown little regard for management’s decisions. If they are thinking placating Harvey now will give them an edge when he becomes a free agent, they are kidding themselves.

* If weather is a factor as suggested by saving Harvey for the afternoon game in Washington instead of Opening Day, that raises concerns about his physical status. The Mets are banking on a warmer day for the season’s third game instead of the first. If it’s really cold in Washington when he’s scheduled to pitch, will the Mets pull him? Either he’s ready or he’s not. It’s not that hard. If that’s the case, then why not keep him in Florida for an extended spring training and bring him up in May? If they did that, then both the weather and Harvey’s innings become moot points. They obviously won’t as to not alienate Harvey.

* If saving Harvey for later in the first homestand is so the Mets can sell a few more tickets, that tells you how financially solvent they are heading into the season. What difference will those extra tickets make? How will that money be spent? Harvey might be the Mets’ best pitching draw, but he’s no Tom Seaver or Dwight Gooden in that regard. That’s penny pinching and it tells you they really aren’t ready to compete, because that costs money.

Basically, we’re talking about several thousand extra dollars. If that’s going to make that much of a difference, then the Mets aren’t ready to get off the porch and run with the big dogs.

 

 

Jan 24

Missing Ernie Banks

This one hurts. Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub,’’ passed away last night at 83.

Unquestionably, one of the highlights about covering baseball was meeting the game’s greats from when I first started following the sport. Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Pete Rose, Al Kaline, Tom Seaver and, of course, Banks.

Mets’ fans, of course, should remember Banks from the 1969 season when he was one of the few likable members of the Cubs. Some might actually have felt sympathy for Banks as he missed the playoffs for yet, another year.

Banks was the longtime face and persona of the Cubs. He was a Wrigley Field fixture who was a pleasant and kind visitor to opposing dugouts. Players loved to shake his hand and listen to his stories.

And, Banks loved to hold court, whether for a group or an individual. If you had a question, or just wanted to say hello, he would greet you and make one feel welcomed.

We’re in an age where too many of today’s athletes prefer to distance themselves from the public that adores them. That was never Banks. People liked him because he genuinely liked people.

The baseball world is a little poorer today without him.

Jan 07

What Goes Through The Mind Of A Hall Of Fame Voter?

What goes through the mind of a Hall of Fame voter? I was upfront with my selections and a good number of my colleagues did the same. That’s not to say I understand the reasoning behind their votes or comprehend the logic behind their agendas, and, let’s face it, there are some with a plan or ax to grind.

I was glad my colleagues hung strong and didn’t vote for those clearly linked to steroids, and we’re talking Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.

I did not vote for a player directly linked to steroids, either by a failed test; testimony from other players on the record; or mentioned in the Mitchell Report. I don’t put much stock in a player accusing another off the record. That’s gutless.

I don’t buy the argument some had Hall of Fame careers before they were linked to steroids. They still cheated, but how do you determine when the cheating began? I agree these players are part of baseball history and should be recognized. However, don’t acknowledge them in the Hall of Fame unless there is a notation on the plaque and Major League Baseball puts an asterisk by their names and numbers. Given that, I would include Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, but with the notation being their connection to gambling.

Not only did those players tarnish their names and era in which they played, but continue to do damage to the game. Yes, there are writers with agendas, and one is to eschew voting because they believe the influx of those linked to steroids provided too many qualified players. Granted, if Bonds and Clemens were already in somebody else would get those votes.

It’s a privilege to vote and I can’t understand not voting because you can’t come up with ten under the thinking there are so many candidates. What garbage! After covering baseball for at least ten years any voter should know enough to pick ten players from the list. If he or she can’t, then maybe they aren’t qualified to vote in the first place.

All of a sudden, there are grumblings about increasing the number to more than ten.

This isn’t the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where everybody seems to get in, even the groupies. If you want to vote for a cheater, by all means that’s your right. But, what I can’t grasp is one writer who voted for Bonds and Clemens – the poster children of the steroid era – but not Mike Piazza, who didn’t make it largely because of circumstantial evidence. We’re talking about the greatest hitting catcher in history.

There are other puzzling ballots.

Some writers refuse to vote for an obvious candidate, say Randy Johnson, who appeared on 97.3 percent of the ballots. How do you not vote for a 300-game winner? Then again, there were some who didn’t vote for Craig Biggio and his 3,000 hits last year.

I’ve heard several explanations, neither of them any good. Their belief is no player is worthy of being a unanimous selection and want to make sure there isn’t. What a crock. Your job as a voter is to vote for a worthy candidate and not ignore him because they don’t believe in a unanimous selection.

Yes, there are players that good. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Cal Ripken Jr., Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax to name a few. And, I’d like to ask what those handful of writers were thinking when they ignored Tom Seaver.

Another explanation I heard for the non-unanimous vote was the writer figured others would vote for that player and he or she wanted to save a vote for a personal favorite.

That’s not right, either.

However, to me the worst thing a voter can do is throw away their ballot by refusing to vote because he or she wants to make a statement about the process.

If you want to make a statement don’t forfeit your vote one time, but give it up permanently.