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?

Mar 09

Inside The Mets’ Clubhouse; Today’s Lineup Against Astros

Good Saturday morning. A little talk in the clubhouse about the USA losing last night to Mexico. The operative word being “little.’’

I’ve only been here a few days, but trust me on this one, after doing 20 some spring trainings the days are usually all alike. We’re usually in the clubhouse by 7:45 in the morning, sometimes earlier depending on where the game is that day.

The first thing most players do is head straight to a corner wall where the lineup is posted. Most guys know the night before if they’ll be playing, but it is a force of habit for many.

The Mets’ clubhouse has changed over the years. Once shamed about not honoring their past, photos of Mets’ alumni are plastered over the walls. Tom Seaver, Ed Kranepool, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Mookie Wilson and Jerry Koosman.

Always fun to look at.

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Mar 07

Harvey And d’Arnaud Could Be A Long Time Team

Matt Harvey in PSL (Photo credit: Larry Marano, NY Post)There’s a twinge of anticipation this morning as Matt Harvey gets the ball today against the Miami Marlins. Stephen Strasburg is an exceptional talent in Washington, but in Harvey the Mets also have a young arm this franchise can build around.

If there’s one thing the Mets are noted for it is the development of young pitchers. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden and now Harvey.

How long, or now successful he will become is one of baseball’s delightful mysteries because this could be the start of something special.

“I am excited about getting the chance to work and grow with him,’’ said catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, who isn’t in the lineup today against the Marlins “It has been fun so far.’’

Harvey is coming off a start in which he and d’Arnaud were crossed up, but there was a show of poise on both parts as they met at the mound to get their signs correct.

“It’s a matter of trust,’’ d’Arnaud said. “He has to trust what I put down, and he has to trust himself that it is the right pitch.’’

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Nov 14

Dickey Wins NL Cy Young; Now Show Him The Money

R.A. Dickey was just named the NL Cy Young Award winner, collecting 27 of 32 first place votes.

Dickey was a sub-.500 pitcher entering the season, but had a year for the ages going 20-6 to become the first knuckleballer to win the award. Prior to the end of the season, Dickey was asked what winning would mean to him.

“It would put a silver lining on an otherwise sad season,” Dickey said. “That’s one. Two is, it’s something fantastic to celebrate with the fan base.”

He reiterated that sentiment in a statement just released by the team.

“I want to thank the BBWAA for this prestigious award,” said Dickey, who became the first knuckleballer to win the Cy Young Award. “I owe so much to my teammates for their support during the year, especially Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas, who did such a great job behind the plate all season. I’d like to thank the fans. They stood behind me every time I took the mound. I wouldn’t have won this award without them. To have my name linked to Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden is quite humbling.”

Dickey joins Seaver (1969, 1973 and 1975) and Gooden (1985) as the only pitchers in team history to earn the NL Cy Young Award.  He finished tied for second in the majors with 20 wins, led the NL in strikeouts (230) and was second in the NL in ERA (2.73).  Dickey recorded 27 quality starts in 2012 to lead the majors and became the sixth 20-game winner in franchise history.

Dickey was named to his first All-Star team in 2012 and established a franchise record with 32.2 consecutive scoreless innings from May 22-June 13. Dickey became the first NL pitcher since 1944 to toss back-to-back one-hitters when he one-hit the Rays on June 13 and the Orioles on June 18.

“All of us here at the Mets congratulate R.A. on winning the Cy Young Award,” said Mets COO Jeff Wilpon in the statement. “R.A.’s tremendous accomplishments this season were a thrill for everyone in the organization and our fans. This recognition is a tribute to his hard work and determination.”

“This is fitting recognition for a remarkable season,” said Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson.  “We are very proud of R.A. and what he achieved in 2012.”

Said manager Terry Collins: “It was an honor to work with R.A. throughout the year and have a front-row seat to his historic season. R.A. is a great teammate, fierce competitor and even a better human being.  No one deserves this award more than him.”

There is one more plateau for Dickey to reach this year, and that is to be signed to a long-term contract extension. The Mets already picked up his $5 million option, but there is speculation he would be traded if a deal can’t be reached.

Nov 14

Dickey Leads Cy Young Race; Verlander In AL

CAN DICKEY’S INCREDIBLE SEASON CONTINUE?

Baseball’s annual postseason awards continue this evening with the announcement of the Cy Young winners, a moment that could thrust the Mets into proud, yet potentially embarrassing moment.

Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey could be in position of winning the award and then being traded if a contract extension isn’t reached.

Only the Mets.

NATIONAL LEAGUE: The Mets’ feel good story this summer that was Dickey has a chance to get better in a few hours if he’s able to join Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as franchise winners of the Cy Young Award.

The man who scaled a mountain last winter climbed another this season when he literally carried the team on his shoulders to go 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, and he did it with an abdominal tear that required surgery.

Dickey’s competition for the award, Washington’s Gio Gonzalez and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, pitching for winning teams. Dickey’s Mets were 14 games under .500 with a winning percentage of .457. Dickey’s winning percentage was an amazing .769.

There aren’t enough ways to say how incredible that is.

The Mets didn’t hit for the second half and their bullpen kicked away leads all year. There were nights when he did it all by himself.

“To win 20 on a club with struggles is pretty big,’’ Mets manager Terry Collins said.  “Especially during the times we weren’t hitting, he was still winning games.’’

Dickey’s ERA was second to Kershaw’s 2.53; his 20 wins were second to Gonzalez’s 21; but, he was first in strikeouts (230), innings (233.2), complete games (five), shutouts (three) and quality starts (27).

Other than a knuckleball bias, I can’t see Dickey not winning.

AMERICAN LEAGUE: Things might be more up in the air in the American League between Detroit’s Justin Verlander, Tampa Bay’s David Price and the Angels’ Jered Weaver.

Both Price and Weaver had the type of seasons worth of a Cy Young, with perhaps loftier numbers, but Verlander is the best pitcher in the sport and could become the first repeater since Pedro Martinez  (1999-2000).

Price and Weaver were 20-game winners, but Verlander dominated again and took his team into the playoffs.

My thinking is Verlander is the incumbent who pitched well enough to win again. Until somebody blows away the field, he should get it, because repeating excellence might be the single most difficult thing in sports.