Nov 28

Mets’ Top Five Issues Entering Spring Training

I trust you all enjoyed Thanksgiving with your families. With Christmas fast approaching, followed by the Super Bowl, it is time to forget about the Jets, Giants, Knicks and Nets, and focus on hockey and the upcoming baseball season.

The spring training countdown begins at the conclusion of the Super Bowl. With that, I’ll take a look at what I consider the Mets’ top five issues entering the season.

HARVEY: No hiding he's a key. ESPN

HARVEY: No hiding he’s a key. ESPN

If you disagree, and that’s the point of this exercise, I would be interested to hear your issues.

1. DAVID WRIGHT’S HEALTH: I touched on this the other day, and rank it first because it is the lead domino. If Wright returns to All-Star status it alleviates a lot of pressure from the offense. It takes away a potential distraction and goes a long way toward making the Mets whole.

2. MATT HARVEY’S RETURN: If not Wright, then it has to be Harvey’s return from Tommy John surgery. The Mets have to handle him with kid gloves whether he likes it or not. There will be an innings limit, which has yet to be disclosed which figures to become an issue.

3. THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BULLPEN: For as long as Sandy Alderson has been here, building the bullpen has been a major issue. With Bobby Parnell’s injury, the Mets went with a patchwork bullpen last year that saw the emergence of Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia. Manager Terry Collins said the job is Parnell’s when he returns, but that’s premature. Let Parnell ease into form. As of now, Mejia, Familia, Parnell and Vic Black bring a lot of heat from the sixth through ninth innings. The Mets need another lefty to complement Josh Edgin and there’s a need to bring back Carlos Torres.

4. THE CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT OF JACOB deGROM AND ZACK WHEELER The Mets claim their foundation is young pitching, which means they need an encore year from deGrom and Wheeler to pitch up to expectations. For Wheeler, that means lowering his pitch count and giving the Mets depth. It can’t all be Harvey.

5.  WILMER FLORES’  ABILITY TO TAKE TO SHORTSTOP: Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t going to land a marquee shortstop, either through trade or free agency. It is time to see if Flores can produce. This should he his shot.

 

Nov 15

Mets Matters: Figures To Be Slow Winter; Injury Updates

Speculation has Michael Cuddyer being the highlight, and probably the only light, of the New York Mets’ offseason. That means, and you’ve heard this before, it will be a relatively quiet Winter Meetings.

Yeah, there’s talk of obtaining an offensive shortstop, but GM Sandy Alderson doesn’t have the chips to pull off a major deal, nor the inclination to spend big in the free-agent market.

“At this point we’re not looking for somebody who is strictly a defensive player,’’ Alderson told reporters in Phoenix. “We’d like it to be somebody who is good on both ends. But right now we’re not looking for someone who is defense only, and we’re not thinking about settling for somebody who is defense only. Now things can change.’’

What won’t change is in order to get something you have give up something and that’s not happening soon.

What also might not change is the possibility of Stephen Drew hanging around looking for a job in January. We’ve seen that movie before and it won’t be any better the second time around.

In addition to shortstop, the Mets want a lefty reliever.

WRIGHT UPDATE: The news continues to be good for David Wright. His rehab continues to go smoothly and he’s all but out of the woods regarding possible shoulder surgery.

Wright is scheduled to begin baseball activities, which would include hitting, in early December.

“I think we are past that,’’ Alderson said about surgery. “I think everything we know about David’s shoulder is positive. I couldn’t tell you that he’s 100 percent today, but he’s substantially there.

“Any time anybody is coming back from an injury that required him to be shut down the year before, there’s some uncertainty. But right now I’m not worried about it.’’

PARNELL UPDATE: Whom the Mets are worried about is closer Bobby Parnell, who is not expected to be ready for Opening Day. Parnell is coming off Tommy John surgery.

Parnell is throwing on flat ground at 120 feet and the timetable is for him to get on the mound after Christmas.

Nov 14

Mets Bracing For Innings Showdown With Harvey

It’s getting close to spring training because the topic of limiting innings for Matt Harvey is again a topic. GM Sandy Alderson indicated as such at the GM meetings this week in Phoenix and manager Terry Collins said so Thursday during a public appearance at a food pantry.

HARVEY: Caution, caution, caution. (AP)

HARVEY: Caution, caution, caution. (AP)

It’s a no-brainer with Harvey coming off Tommy John surgery. With Harvey’s return, the Mets are pointing toward 2015 as when they believe they will be competitive. The one thing they can’t afford is to lose Harvey.

“Certainly we might skip him here and there once in a while, just to save him,’’ Collins told reporters. “That will all be explained to him and there’ll be arguments and he’ll throw a tantrum in the office but it’s all part of the job because he wants to pitch and he wants to win.’’

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That sounds good. Sounds heroic. Sounds inspiring. Sounds like a lot of nonsense.

If Harvey can’t understand the Mets’ reasoning for limiting, then he’s not as bright as he has been portrayed. Then again, pitching smarts and off-the-field smarts are two different things.

Don’t get me wrong, I like what Harvey brings to the table, but he can’t bring anything if he’s hurt. He’s already been a thorn to Alderson and Collins for how he handled his rehab and insistence of wanting to spend more time in New York instead of Florida.

He made a big deal about wanting to be with his teammates, yet went to Yankee Stadium to watch Derek Jeter. Nobody connected with the Mets says anything negative about Harvey for fear of alienating him.

Never mind that, my take is Harvey tweaking the Mets’ brass and Alderson’s often testy relationship with the pitcher’s agent, Scott Boras, says he’s a goner once he becomes a free agent.

Of course, that’s a bridge Alderson has to jump off of later. For now, it’s now to cut the innings.

The best way is to tell Harvey during spring training and making sure he understands this isn’t negotiable.

There are six months in a baseball season, so missing one start a month shouldn’t be hard to figure out. Assuming six innings a start, that’s 36 innings saved. They might also consider missing more time in April when the weather is still cold and there’s a greater chance of hurting his arm. Then, there are shaving innings in blowouts, one way or another. Put a cap on his starts at seven innings.

This shouldn’t be hard to figure out for Alderson and Collins. As for Harvey, he has to realize he’s not in charge. With only 12 major league victories, he’s hardly in position to be calling the shots.

 

Mar 19

Mets Playing Unreasonable Hardball With Harvey

The New York Mets have long been accused of mishandling injuries, from Carlos Beltran to Ryan Church to David Wright to Oliver Perez to Ike Davis.

That’s only a few.

HARVEY: Irritated by Mets' position. (AP)

HARVEY: Irritated by Mets’ position. (AP)

Mishandling ranges across a broad spectrum and you can see storm clouds forming with Matt Harvey.

A few weeks ago, I took Harvey to task for his adamant stance of wanting to rehab in New York instead of Port St. Lucie. I’ve softened on that approach following the incident stemming from a one-on-one interview the disabled pitcher had with Andy Martino of The New York Daily News.

Harvey has the union-negotiated right not to rehab the entire time in Florida, which is the Mets’ preference. Harvey prefers New York, and insists it’s not because of the Rangers and the nightlife the City offers.

By contrast, Port St. Lucie offers Chili’s and an Outback. You can’t even get a good pizza slice down there.

Harvey fully argued his position, and I better understand his desire and frustration, a product of his treatment by management.

“The biggest part is wanting to stay with the team,’’ Harvey said. “To learn the league. To learn Travis (d’Arnaud).  To learn how to bond with the other starting pitchers, and the guys in the clubhouse, and the David Wrights who I plan on playing with.

“I expressed that seven months in Port St. Lucie is a long time. For me, I strongly felt that my best opportunity, and my motivation to come back quicker, stronger, work harder would be to be with the teammates. That’s kind of what I have always said.  I have worked so hard to get to the big leagues and be with this team, it just felt like all of a sudden I was shooed to the back.’’

Unfortunately, it’s usually that way with injured players; they become invisible.

But, Harvey makes sense. In contrast, the Mets have not responded with a passionate defense of their position, other than to say most players have always rehabbed at the spring training site.

That’s like a kid questioning his mother and hearing,  “because I said so.’’ That answer doesn’t fly when one is eight, let alone 24.

General manager Sandy Alderson said the team would discuss a full rehab plan. Huh? He says that in March? This should have been decided in late October following Harvey’s Tommy John surgery.

Why did this issue have to be in the air for the better part of five months? Ridiculous.

Funny, but when Harvey was introduced as the GM, COO Jeff Wilpon said better handling of injuries was a priority.

Why can’t there be a compromise? Say, one month in New York and one month in Florida? Or, rehab when the team is home and return to Port St. Lucie when it is on the road?

Think of the frequent flier miles. This shouldn’t be all that hard.

Harvey also complained his locker was moved – along with Jeremy Hefner – to the corner of the room, which he said isolates him from the team. He is the Mets, or at least will be next season, so why agitate him?

Alderson claimed he didn’t order the move; instead saying it was the decision of the clubhouse manager. Since when does a clubhouse manager run things?

Harvey should have said something a month ago if he was unhappy. If he did, there’s no excuse why this has lingered when he should have been relocated to his original locker location. The same goes for Hefner. There’s not a good reason to do this and alienate Harvey.

Harvey was also peeved, and rightfully so, when his interview with Martino was intruded on by a Mets’ official. Not being allowed to talk with the press is unreasonable. Just as bad is having his discussion monitored.

That the official also lingered after Harvey said everything was cool, and had a testy exchange with the reporter, not surprisingly reached print to further make the Mets look bad.

On interviews, Alderson said: “My recommendation is to manage doing interviews in a way that doesn’t interfere with his day-to-day-activities.’’

That’s absurd. Players always do that. In over 20 years in major league clubhouses, I never experienced a player who didn’t leave when he was scheduled to be somewhere else. “I gotta go. Let’s finish this later,’’ is the stock statement.

Besides, Harvey’s work ethic would never prevent him from doing his rehab. He probably has his day structured tighter than the Mets’ format.

So, the player who wasn’t supposed to be a story became one because of three decisions, or indecisions, by Mets’ management.

The first thing I thought of is why would the Mets push Harvey when all of this could have been alleviated with a little common sense? Why irritate your best pitcher, the guy you’ve been touting as the key to your rebuilding process?

Just plain dumb.

This is so petty. Don’t think for a moment that if the Mets continue to play hardball with Harvey, that he won’t do the same with them in 2019, when he becomes a free agent.

Mar 03

Mets’ Harvey Gets Valuable Advice From Strasburg

Shelved New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey has received unsolicited, yet valuable advice, from the opposition. First Roy Halladay, prior to his retirement this winter, spoke with him on whether to undergo Tommy John surgery.

STRASBURG: Advises Harvey (AP)

STRASBURG: Advises Harvey (AP)

Now, Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg, through an interesting column by The New York Post’s Kevin Kernan, counseled him on his rehab. Strasburg, who blew out his elbow in his 2010 rookie season, advised him on the slow rehab process. Strasburg, who shares the same agent as Harvey in Scott Boras, also volunteered to speak with him.

Strasburg said it is a long, slow process, and the idea of taking things day-to-day isn’t always the best method as it can get frustrating.

“You’ll feel great one day, and the next day it’s terrible,’’ Strasburg said. “The best advice I got was, `Look where you were at the start of the month and then at the end of the month. Don’t look at where you were yesterday.’ ’’

It’s kind of like dieting in that stepping on the scale every morning can drive you crazy. There will be setbacks, whether it is a donut or a little tightness one morning.

Veteran pitchers know their bodies, while Harvey is just learning how his responds to pain and injury. There were times Harvey eschewed talking to the trainers last summer when he felt discomfort. Perhaps, this was overestimating his recuperative powers.

“It’s a different beat,’’ Strasburg said about the differences between rehabbing and training. “Recovery is huge, once you learn how long it takes for your body to recover and how often you need to let your body relax and just get back to full health.

“That’s when you can really accomplish the durable things that pitchers do.’’

The Mets suggested it, but haven’t put Harvey not coming back this season in stone. That might be a prudent thing to do because it takes away the carrot of possibly pitching in late September. Harvey long-tossed this morning and doesn’t have a date when he’ll throw off the mound.

This is part of the problem. What date will Harvey throw from the mound? When will he pitch batting practice?

Just say no, and leave 2015 as the target date, not late this summer.