Jun 30

Was Wheeler A Premature Promotion?


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

Jun 18

Mets’ Harvey Not Motivated By Wheeler Promotion

Don’t buy for a second Matt Harvey’s scintillating start this afternoon had anything to do with the attention piled onto Zack Wheeler. The New York Mets have been saying one of Harvey’s signature attributes is his focus. Harvey said the same thing with his “24-hour rule,’’ in which he gives himself a day to think about his performance, good or bad.

In doing so, he’s also telling us he’s about concentration, not letting little things get to him and being single-minded in purpose. He wouldn’t be doing any of that if he used Wheeler’s promotion as a motivational tool. And, the flip side is also true in that Wheeler has enough on his mind than to attempt to equal Harvey’s performance.

The two just aren’t related. It’s a nice story, but there’s nothing to it, simply talkshow and backpage fodder.

Harvey admitted after the game he was running out of gas and probably shouldn’t have gone out for the eighth. A couple of starts ago Harvey didn’t say anything until it was too late he had tweaked his back. I appreciate Harvey’s desire to stay in the game and compete, but eventually he’ll have to trust his teammates.

Harvey has shown to be a special talent with as bright a future as any young Met pitcher, including Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, but he can’t do it alone.

Hopefully, Wheeler shows that tonight. He said he’s not a savior, but much is expected of him. Wheeler was not dominant in Triple-A, and had some physical ailments this year in a blister problem, strained oblique in spring training and missed one start with a tender shoulder. Wheeler wasn’t going to be promoted until his Super Two status was no longer an issue, but even with that no longer an issue, there’s question of him being ready.

Nobody can realistically expect Wheeler to equal Harvey’s performance. For tonight to be successful for him you’d like to see him refine his command, as his velocity won’t be an issue. You’d like to see him work out of trouble and minimize the damage when he can’t.

Oh, and one other thing, when tonight is over, let’s hope Wheeler doesn’t say it was just another game. It is not. Tonight is the first of what could the first of many in what the Mets are hoping will be a long career.

It’s not important that Wheeler becomes the second Harvey, or Gooden, or Seaver. Let’s just hope he becomes the first Zack Wheeler.

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

May 08

Will Matt Harvey Ever Get That Great Moment?

Alex Rios’ two-out infield single was the only thing that stood between Matt Harvey and a perfect game.

Managers don’t usually say these things, but Terry Collins thought in the fifth inning Harvey was heading toward history. Even Harvey knew he was on Tuesday night.

HARVEY: Sniffs perfection. (AP)

HARVEY: Sniffs perfection. (AP)

“Everything was obviously working,’’ Harvey told reporters last night. “When I can throw my slider for a strike and also bounce it when I need to, that’s when it starts getting fun. That was definitely the best I felt all year.’’

He was that on and didn’t get it. The way baseball works, and Harvey understands this, is he could get it on a night he feels awful.

While we are engrossed in the no-hitter pursuit, they are rare because of the nuances in the game. Jim Qualls broke up Tom Seaver’s perfect-game bid in 1969 with a clean single, but as Rios showed they all aren’t line drives.

Rios beat out a dribbler in the shortstop hole. Other no-hitters have been broken up by broken-bat bloops or balls lost in the sun, or bunts. And, who doesn’t remember how Armando Galarraga lost his perfect game on Jim Joyce’s blown call?

Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone threw no-hitters with other teams, when their electric stuff lost some voltage.

No-hitters are flukes, thrown by forgettable names, and not thrown by the greatest arms the sport has ever witnessed. That Nolan Ryan threw seven and Sandy Koufax threw four, and Johnny Vander Meer had them in consecutive starts is incomprehensible. They had skill and stuff, but perhaps it was a matter of the Baseball Gods smiling on them those days.

Harvey has already lost two no-hitters after seven innings this year, so we know the stuff is there, but it isn’t always about stuff. Hey, if a guy swings a bat anything can happen.

What I liked about Harvey was his stuff, his demeanor and his concentration. Do you know how hard it is to breathe and focus when you nose is stuffed with cotton? Harvey started the game with a bloody nose that continued in the early innings.

His focus only sharpened.

What I also liked about him was his acceptance in losing the perfect game. He didn’t regret the slider he threw Rios, and praised Ruben Tejada’s effort.

“In that hole it’s tough,’’ Harvey said. “Obviously anything going away and then making that long throw, I knew it was going to have to be absolutely perfect. He made an awesome attempt.’’

Harvey remains at 4-0 after three straight no-decisions. His 58-12 strikeouts-to-walks ratio illustrates dominance on both the stuff and command levels. What can you say about a 1.28 ERA?

One more number about Harvey is intriguing, and that is his “24 Hour Rule,’’ in which he gives himself a day to relish in a good start or lament something negative, such as losing a perfect game.

Then, it is back to work. On Thursday he will start focusing on Sunday’s start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Yes, Harvey has no-hit potential. No, I can’t say he will ever throw one, but I don’t care. Harvey might not ever get that great moment, but he’s on the way to a great career, and I don’t want to miss a start.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos