Jul 18

Many Questions Loom For Mets In Second Half

Although the New York Mets closed the first half on an up-note, it’s too soon to say they have turned things around. The wildcard would take a near historic run, but .500 is not out of the question.

On this date in 1973, a year they went to the World Series, they were 40-50, so there is precedence. No, I have not forgotten that team had Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, but the rest of the team weren’t all shining lights, either.

It can be done. To finish .500 they have to be at least three games over each month, and they are already 8-5 in July. When it is broken down into little pieces it’s much easier to grasp.

Even so, for it to happen the following questions must be answered in the positive:

Q: Will the Mets keep the status quo and not blow up this team?

A: GM Sandy Alderson said the plan is to maintain the present team and not be sellers. Then again, he’s changed his mind before. The first ten games of the second half are key. If the Mets unravel in that span, there are no guarantees.

Q: Can Matt Harvey continue his run?

A: Harvey had a great first half highlighted by starting the All-Star Game. He also had ten no-decisions. He’s going to need more offensive and bullpen help, but there are times he’ll have to bear down even more as great pitchers find a way. But, that might be difficult if they are cutting his innings.

Q: What can they get out of Zack Wheeler?

A: He has pitched well at times since his promotion, but not as good as his 3-1 record would indicate. Wheeler needs to focus more on fastball command. That’s the first step.

Q: Can Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee continue to pitch well?

A: Arguably, they might be two of the biggest factors to the Mets showing turnaround signs. Remember, each started slowly but something clicked. Also, remember neither have pitched well for a complete season.

Q: Can Bobby Parnell keep grasping the brass ring?

A: Parnell is finally taking to the closer role. But, there are two halves. If they don’t trade him, and management said they won’t, he has to keep mixing in that fastball with his knuckle-curve.

Q: Can they stay healthy, especially in the rotation?

A: Gone are Johan Santana, Jon Niese and Shaun Marcum, three-fifths of the projected rotation entering spring training. Niese is expected back by mid-August, but the others will never play for the Mets again.

Q: What do we make of the bullpen?

A: It has been good at times, bad at times and atrocious at times. It’s been good over the past three weeks, but there’s still not an overwhelming feeling of comfort. Also, they must avoid burning out Scott Rice?

Q: Can Terry Collins avoid not driving John Buck into the ground?

A: Anthony Recker has been getting more playing time and coming up with the long ball. After a fast start Buck tailed because he was getting worn out. Tired catchers aren’t a plus. And, let’s forget about Travis d’Arnaud. This is a lost season for him.

Q: Can All-Star David Wright sustain?

A: On the field and in the clubhouse, Wright has lived up to his captain status. He is a good reason to keep watching. He might not be spectacular, but he’s more than solid. Looking at .300, 25 and 90 from him, minimum.

Q: Omar Quintanilla and Eric Young were positive surprises. Can they keep it up?

A: Quintanilla and Young replaced Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda, respectively, and frankly, neither are missed. Collins said Tejada must win back his job and Young is playing so well, Duda isn’t an option at all anymore. They’ll keep him around in the chance they lose Ike Davis.

Q: Speaking of Davis, does he have a strong second half in him?

A: It sure doesn’t look that way. They won’t get anything for Davis in a trade, and Alderson said the team is running out of patience. With a poor second half, don’t expect the Mets to tender him a contract.

Q: Who plays center field?

A: Both Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Juan Lagares have shown glimpses, but nothing sustainable. Nieuwenhuis is getting most of the time now.

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

 

 

 

 

Jul 03

Matt Harvey Making All-Star Push

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HARVEY: Should be named NL starter in All-Star Game

After tonight’s start for the New York Mets, the next time Matt Harvey steps on the Citi Field mound should be to start the All-Star Game.

Support for Harvey to start has gone on for several weeks to the point of it now being a brushfire. San Francisco and National League manager Bruce Bochy all but named Harvey the starter yesterday in a national radio interview. Speaking on MLB Network Radio, Bochy marveled at Harvey’s dominance and acknowledged the location of the game, “should play a part, if all things are equal.’’

After tonight, factoring in four complete days of rest, Harvey’s next starts should be July 8 at San Francisco in an up-close audition in front of Bochy and July 13 at Pittsburgh. The latter date is the Saturday prior to the break so there shouldn’t be any scheduling snags.

Terry Collins will undoubtedly speak with Bochy when the Mets are in San Francisco, and already said he would change his rotation if it meant getting Harvey a start.

St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw are having strong seasons, as are Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman and Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee. All are worthy in most years, but Harvey’s season is flying off the charts. He’s not first in wins, ERA or WHIP, but in the top five.

Harvey has just seven victories, but nine no-decisions, with him giving up three or fewer runs in seven of them.

“You look at Harvey, I don’t think what team he’s playing for,’’ Bochy said, which is a polite way of suggesting playing for the Mets shouldn’t count against him

“This guy should be strongly considered to start the game. It hasn’t been determined. That’s how good he is.’’

Starting the hometown pitcher is considered a goodwill gesture by the All-Star manager, but in Harvey’s case Bochy knows there’s no charity involved. Toronto’s Cito Gaston wouldn’t pitch the Orioles’ Mike Mussina in the 1993 game at Baltimore – Mussina made the team – and was booed the remainder of his career in Camden Yards.

Bochy is smart enough to know not to make any enemies if he doesn’t have to.

While the Mets have had a myriad of pitchers in the All-Star game, only Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver started.

While Harvey is nearly a given to make it three, David Wright is currently running away with the vote over the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval at third base to the point where he has nearly an 800,000-vote lead with two days remaining in the balloting.

For Wright, it will be his seventh All-Star Game and fifth as a starter. Seaver is the franchise leader with nine All-Star Games, while Mike Piazza and Darryl Strawberry each made it seven times.

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

Jun 30

Was Wheeler A Premature Promotion?

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WHEELER: On an island (AP)

Can we stop pinning the greatness label on Zack Wheeler? If they hadn’t already, the New York Mets surely learned Sunday, Wheeler has a long way to go before he’s the next Matt Harvey, let alone the next Tom Seaver.

Nobody knows how Wheeler’s career will unfold, but there’s one camp believing he was rushed by the Mets. The arguments from that corner are carrying more weight after Wheeler was pounded by the Nationals in Sunday’s 13-2 rout.

Before Wheeler was brought up from Triple-A Vegas, there was the feeling of some scouts – and even a little from the phenom himself – he wasn’t ready. Contrary to the sentiments of his minor league manager, Wally Backman, Wheeler had problem with his command and secondary pitches.

Backman was wrong; Wheeler was not ready.

In his first two starts, Wheeler had problem with his command, and it surfaced in his second game he was tipping his breaking pitches. Tipping his pitches wasn’t no much the issue against the Nationals as it was simply making bad ones. The problem was again command.

“The first inning I was hitting my spots. Everything was working,’’ Wheeler told reporters after his first Citi Field start. “And then I just started leaving some balls up. I’m starting to learn the hard way you can’t get away with mistakes up here as much as you do down there.’’

Which only illustrates Backman was premature in his assessment.

Wheeler gave up four runs in the second, starting with a first-pitch homer leading off the inning by Adam LaRoche on a fastball. Jayson Werth took him deep in the third. Wheeler threw 80 pitches in 4.2 innings, a clear sign his command was nowhere to be found. He struck out five, which averaged to one an inning, but that was overshadowed by giving up five runs on six hits and two walks.

With eight runners in less than five innings, Wheeler was continually in trouble. This is not the way it is supposed to be with a phenom who has it all together.

The bottom line is Wheeler doesn’t have it all solved. By his own admission, he has a lot to learn, and he’s trying to do it all on the fly. Wheeler was rushed to the Mets, and each pitch is a test, one he is not passing.

The Mets were adamant once Wheeler was brought up that he would stay, and with injuries to Jon Niese and now possibly Dillon Gee, that’s the way it appears it is going to stay. Wheeler is now here out of necessity.

Even if the promotion might have been a mistake in the first place.

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

Jun 23

Mets’ Matt Harvey Good, But Hold Off On Great

Matt Harvey is having a terrific season for the New York Mets, and the team and its fan base should be thrilled and excited about his future. But, can we have a little perspective please?

I read a blog post where the writer said he wouldn’t trade Harvey for any pitcher “on the planet,’’ which is an overused expression to begin with, one having cliché proportions.

HARVEY: Good, not great. (AP)

HARVEY: Good, not great. (AP)

Harvey will be making his 26th career start this afternoon, so that’s clearly jumping the gun. As good a season as he’s having, there are others having better years; others with better career numbers; and others with futures seemingly as bright.

Clayton Kershaw and Clay Buchholz, Patrick Corbin and Jordan Zimmerman, Adam Wainwright and Felix Hernandez. They are all good, young pitchers with bright futures as gleaming as Harvey’s. And, don’t overlook Stephen Strasburg.

There’s also the majors’ best pitcher this year in Detroit’s Max Scherzer, and his teammate, Justin Verlander, who is regarded as the best pitcher in the majors overall.

Twenty-five career starts is not enough of a sample to say he’s the best. Very good, but let’s have a reality check for a moment.

It is understood Harvey pitches for a bad team this year, but in the 15 starts he’s made he’s had eight no-decisions. That’s not a great ratio. Great pitchers, regardless of the quality of their teams, usually find a way to win.

Like most everybody else this spring, I am fascinated by Harvey and he is must-see for me, whether at the park or on TV. But, he’s not the best pitcher “on the planet.’’ He’s trying, which is the best thing to like about him, but he’s not there.

If Harvey is to become a great, franchise pitcher the way Tom Seaver once was, he must find a way to convert those no-decisions into victories. And, if you think I’m dumping on Harvey, he would be the first to agree.

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

Jun 19

Mets Should Enjoy Harvey And Wheeler For Now; Let Future Take Care Of Itself

Nobody can say with any certainty how the careers of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler will unfold. We’ve been bombarded with the comparisons to Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden for both.

Hell, Gooden even tweeted late last night about their future. Imagine how Twitter might have blown up if it was around when he played?

WHEELER: Enjoy him now. (AP)

WHEELER: Enjoy him now. (AP)

Will they live up to the expectations and follow Seaver into stardom, or they flame out as Gooden did?

Harvey was dominatingly spectacular in winning for the first time in over a month to break a long string of no-decisions. Wheeler, as anticipated, had control problems, but pitched out of three significant jams in six scoreless innings.

Since the trade of Carlos Beltran for Wheeler, the Mets have promised a bright future built on pitching. Throw in Jon Niese, and with Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero in the minors, and it didn’t have the feel the Mets selling us a bill of goods.

We got that feeling by watching their inaction at the trade deadline and in the free-agent market.

The Mets gave us reason to believe things might be improving with a 7-4 start and after beating the Yankees four straight. This morning, following Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ game-winning homer Sunday with Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep and there’s that rise in optimism again.

The starting pitching, with Johan Santana gone and the back end of the rotation horrid early in the season, has been remarkably good the past month. The bullpen, defense and especially the hitting have dragged them down.

Yes, the game is about pitching, but a team still needs to score some runs. The Mets finally did that yesterday, and they did it in a place, and against a rotation, that has made their lives miserable over the years.

It would be easy to get carried away about yesterday and say the Mets have turned the corner. But, we can’t go there because they have quickly faded and disappointed before.

In the big picture, we don’t know what will happen with Harvey and Wheeler. But, let’s not even think of it.

Let’s just enjoy them now and watch their journey.

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