Aug 03

Pet Peeve: Out Of Control Umpires

NOTE:  I’d like to introduce something new – Pet Peeve – where I respond to something in baseball, not necessarily pertaining to the Mets.

An umpire’s position merits respect much like a cop on the beat, but at the same time, shouldn’t they have to earn it?

They earn it by being consistent. By being fair. By keeping their emotions in check. By having patience. By not losing control.

The episode the other night in Philadelphia with plate umpire Bob Davidson is the perfect example of what the players complain about, and that is being a bully. Upset over a fan reportedly yelling at him – over and over –  “you suck,” Davidson walked over the stands next to the dugout and had the fan ejected from the stadium.

It wasn’t the first time he had a fan tossed. He did it several years ago at a Cardinals-Brewers game in Milwaukee. He had a field day that afternoon, bouncing players, managers and a fan.

What happened In Philly was arrogance to the highest degree. Not only did he act outside his jurisdiction, but what he did underscored one of the things players hate about umpires: That they have rabbit ears.

Heckling is part of the game, and if Davidson is that sensitive to where he can’t take it he should retire.

Were the fans sitting next to this guy angry enough to where they called security? Not to anything I’ve read. Davidson said the Philadelphia fans cheered him, but that’s hard to believe.

It is up to the Phillies to maintain their crowds. They should monitor the crowd to ensure things are under control; nobody is threatened or uncomfortable; and that everybody is having a good time.

Apparently, Davidson wasn’t, and that’s just too bad.

Davidson’s actions could have provoked something ugly. What if this guy broke free as he was being escorted and charged the field? What if he was part of a group?

What if? What if?

What Davidson should have done if he was so concerned about the women who might be offended – that was his claim – was to have security tell the guy to tone it down. Davidson didn’t do this. Nor did he tell the fan himself to shut up.

Davidson exceeded his authority and should be reprimanded. I don’t care how. Fine him. Suspend him. Do both.

It’s bad enough many of these umpires fly solo and insist on their own strike zones, but to police the crowd, to be cop, judge and jury goes over the line.

Get Davidson out of here.

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Jun 28

Harvey Needs To Pitch Bigger Than His Ego

Readers of this blog know I have been critical of Matt Harvey and this “Dark Knight” and “Today is Harvey Day” nonsense. It comes with a gut feeling he’s been seduced by the trappings of being a “New York Sports Star” and being a celebrity is what drives him.

HARVEY: Needs to pitch bigger than his ego. (AP)

HARVEY: Needs to pitch bigger than his ego. (AP)

However, with a 29-27 career record, can he really be considered a star?  He’s more celebrity than star. More smoke than fire. More sizzle than steak. Perhaps a Kardashian in cleats. I could go all day, but the bottom line is for a variety of reasons ranging from injuries to poor performance to a mental block, he hasn’t developed into what we think he could be. Or, maybe what he should be.

Two games over .500 is not a big deal, and never mind the new wave stats: wins and losses are important.

Harvey craves the attention and spotlight. The Mets have tread water the last two months, but with a grueling schedule entering the All-Star break they face the real possibility of falling into a downward spiral. Yes, there is such a thing as a “must win” game in June.

Monday night might have produced their worst performance of the season in an 11-4 trouncing to the Nationals. They are in third place in the NL East and would fall five games back with a loss Tuesday night. From a team perspective, a case can be made tonight is one of Harvey’s most important starts. The Mets desperately need not only a victory, but a stellar performance from the pitcher they still consider an ace.

If Harvey gets torched tonight, and with the prospect of not having Steven Matz on Wednesday, the party that is 2016 could soon be over. It’s quite simple, Harvey needs to pitch bigger than his ego.

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Jun 04

Mets Wrap: No-Names Spark Victory

If the Mets return to the World Series, they’ll get there with their young starting pitching and the power that has become their offensive trademark. However, they’ll also need what they received in Saturday’s 6-4 victory at Miami; a representative start from Bartolo Colon and important contributions by their non-descript players; those off the bench, at the bottom of the order and newcomers.

CONFORTO: Breakout signs. (AP)

CONFORTO: Breakout signs. (AP)

All came into play to support of Colon, who gave up two runs in five innings.

“We’ve said all along that we need guys to step up and pick each other up,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

With David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud on the disabled list, and on a day when Yoenis Cespedes was a late scratch with a sore right hip and they didn’t homer, the Mets got:

* Three more hits from Wilmer Flores, Wright’s replacement at third. He has five hits over the last two games.

* Matt Reynolds, who collected his first career RBI with a pinch-hit single in the eighth for what proved to be the game-winning hit.

* James Loney, acquired to replace Duda, had three hits, including a double in the eighth, and scored the tying run on Michael Conforto’s single hit.

* Juan Lagares made a diving backhand catch to rob Ichiro Suzuki of two RBI to end the sixth.

* Alejandro De Aza hit a two-run double iced the game in the ninth.

* Another strong relief appearance from Addison Reed.

Although the Mets didn’t homer and stranded 14 runners, they did string together 15 hits and went 5-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

There will be more days like Friday when they ripped three homers – something they’ve done 11 times this year – there will be more when they don’t and will need what they received today.

METS GAME WRAP

June 4, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #54          Score:  Mets 6, Marlins 4

Record: 31-23     Streak: W 2

Standings: Second, NL East, 1 game behind Washington.  Playoffs: First WC, 1.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh.

Runs: 54    Average:  3.8   Times 3 or less: 26

SUMMARY:  Reynolds, Loney and De Aza – the non-stars – backed Colon, who gave the Mets five innings despite not having his best start.

KEY MOMENT:  Lagares’ diving catch – in which he bruised his left thumb – robbed Suzuki of two RBI and possibly stave off a potential big inning.

THUMBS UP:  The struggling Conforto drove in two runs with a single and sacrifice fly. … Another strong inning from Reed, who has 12 holds. … Jim Henderson relieved Jerry Blevins to get out of the seventh. … Reynolds, Loney, Flores and De Aza combined for eight hits and four RBI. … Lagares’ defense.

THUMBS DOWN:  Kevin Plawecki failed to touch the plate on a force play. … Jeurys Familia remains an adventure in the ninth. … Hansel Robles, quick pitch or not, gave up a run on a hit and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Cespedes was scratched 30 minutes before the game with a sore right hip and is day-to-day. … Lagares bruised his left thumb on the catch and was unable to grip a bat. The DL is a possibility. … Jacob deGrom pinch-hit for Reed and popped out to end the ninth. The Mets had a three-run lead at the time. It begs the question of why risk an injury to a starting pitcher. Just let Reed hit.

QUOTEBOOK: “I bruised my finger a little. We’ll see how it feels [Sunday],’’ Lagares on his thumb injury.

BY THE NUMBERS:  13.1: Consecutive scoreless innings by Reed.

NEXT FOR METS: Matt Harvey (4-7) goes for the sweep Sunday against Marlins ace Jose Fernandez.

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Jun 04

Hoping Flores’ Opportunity Is Legit

I am on record as being an advocate of Wilmer Flores long before the tears. He’ll be getting his second straight start Saturday in Miami as David Wright‘s replacement at third base. Here’s hoping this opportunity is legitimate.

FLORES: Be patient. (Getty)

FLORES: Be patient. (Getty)

By that, I mean if he goes hitless for two or three games that he goes out there for a fourth game. He played a lot last year when Wright was injured and Terry Collins needs to keep him in the lineup now. It has to be Flores’ job to lose.

Pulling him after a week for Eric Cambell or Ty Kelly isn’t a good idea. If they can pull off a solid trade now, go for it, but it really is too soon for a major trade.

I floated several trade options Friday, among them getting Kelly Johnson back from the Braves, Milwaukee’s Aaron Hill, San Diego’s Yangervis Solarte or the Angels’ Yunel Escobar. All are making more than Flores, but honestly, are any of them that far superior they should get the job instead?

Probably not.

It is also premature to move Neil Walker off second base and bring up Dilson Herrera. The latter has done nothing to prove he’s more deserving of a full time shot than Flores.

The Mets will never learn of Flores’ true abilities – and value – if he’s not given a long-term opportunity. If he’s not adding something offensively by the All-Star break, then explore other options before the trade deadline.

If the Mets appear too eager now in the trade market, they could overpay, so it’s in their best interests to stay with Flores right now.

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May 31

Mets Wrap: Looking At Wright’s Future And The Bullpen Meltdown

A bad back ended Don Mattingly’s career, one that could have landed him in the Hall of Fame had he not been injured and forced to retire at age 34. A bad back ended Larry Bird’s career. The Mets are facing the same prospect with David Wright.

WRIGHT: What's he thinking now? (AP)

WRIGHT: What’s he thinking now? (AP)

Wright spent four months on the disabled list with spinal stenosis last season. He’s currently facing the prospect of the disabled list with a herniated disc in his neck. The Mets delayed the disabled list when they made room for James Loney by sending Eric Campbell to Triple-A Las Vegas.

When the Mets gave Wright a long-term contract in December of 2012, they pared down the amounts for the last two seasons in anticipation of his skills diminishing. Wright will get $20 million a season through 2018; $15 million in 2019 and $12 million in 2020.

With his recent injury history, manager Terry Collins told reporters he’s sensing those skills fading now.

“This guy has been a special player,” Collins said. “Certainly being the captain and the face of this organization, a manager’s worst nightmare is to see a star start to fade. I think David’s got a lot of baseball left in him because of the way he prepares and the way he gets himself ready. But it’s hard to watch what he’s going through.

“He’s still special. He’s still a great player. We just hope this neck thing goes away in a few days and he’s back in our lineup.”

Wright didn’t play in Tuesday’s 6-4 loss to Chicago to miss his fourth straight game, and the injection he received will take at least two more games before taking effect. That makes the disabled list a real possibility.

It won’t happen this season, but the Mets and Wright should be thinking about the next four years because it is fairly obvious he’s not going to make the end of his career at third.

There are several options:

FORCED RETIREMENT: They could buy him out, which is what they did with Jason Bay and Michael Cuddyer. Neither side wants this, but Wright’s pride probably will make him consider this option over time.

Wright, at 33, has seven homers, but only 14 RBI, He has a respectable .350 on-base percentage. What is not are his strikeouts, with 55 in 137 at-bats. Wright is batting .226 with 31 hits. If you flipped the strikeouts with hits, his average would be .401. That emphasizes the importance of the strikeouts.

There are a lot of reasons for the strikeouts, with his back one of them. I know Wright doesn’t like how he’s playing, but I also know he has too much pride and integrity to just take the money. He has to know something has to change.

POSITION CHANGE: Where would he go? First base and left field are the only possibilities.

I floated the idea of left field last summer because it would have the least amount of stress on his back. His throwing shouldn’t be a problem because he wouldn’t have to throw sidearm.

There’s less pounding on his back in the outfield because he won’t have the deep bending before every pitch. I know you’re thinking about Michael Conforto, but it wouldn’t hurt to try him at right field. As far as Curtis Granderson, he has one more year after 2016.

Yes, there’s crouching at first base, but it isn’t as intense as playing third base because a lot of time he’ll be holding runners which does not require as deep a crouch.

As a corner infielder, Wright should quickly pick up the nuances of the new position. As for Lucas Duda, the Mets don’t have to offer him arbitration and he can leave as a free agent.

METS GAME WRAP

May 31, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #51          Score:  White Sox 6, Mets 4

Record: 29-22     Streak: L 1

Standings: Second, NL East, two games behind the Nationals.  Playoffs: Tied with Pittsburgh for No. 1 WC.

Runs: 194    Average:  3.8   Times 3 or less: 24

SUMMARY:  Steven Matz finally broke down by giving up three runs in the sixth inning, and the bullpen imploded by giving up three runs. The consensus was Matz was rushing his pitches. Matz worked 5.2 innings, but he was getting hit so I have no problem with pulling him at that time. I don’t think Collins had a quick hook.

Noah Syndergaard, who threw only 34 pitches Saturday before being ejected, worked the seventh and threw 17 pitches. If they were going to use Syndergaard in relief, why not let him work one more inning? It would be like his throw day between starts. Had Syndergaard worked the eighth, there wouldn’t have been the Hansel Robles meltdown.

Robles gave up three runs on one hit – Tyler Saradino’s two-run homer – and two walks.

Giving Syndergaard another inning would’ve been the way to go, especially since he said Jeurys Familia wasn’t available.

KEY MOMENT: Saradino’s two-run homer. … Matz was coasting before he gave up a two-run homer to Todd Frazier.

THUMBS UP: SNY had a good night with its feature on catching. Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling calling the game from the stands was a nice angle. By the way, a little ketchup on a hot dog isn’t such a bad thing. … Matz for five innings was pretty good. … The Mets manufactured a couple of runs on two sacrifice flies. … Neil Walker’s two-run homer was his 13th of the season. … Granderson had two hits. … Jim Henderson and Syndergaard in relief.

THUMBS DOWN:  If Collins wasn’t going to use Syndergaard for more than an inning, then why not give Henderson a full inning? He only threw two pitches to get out of the sixth. Maybe using Syndergaard screwed up Collins’ bullpen rotation. If that is the case, then Syndergaard shouldn’t have been used. … Watching Saladino steal second and third uncontested in the sixth and score on a single is giving away a run. Overall, the White Sox stole four bases with ease. … Mets hitters struck out nine times, went 2-for-7 with RISP and stranded nine runners. … The idiot who called Collins “coach.’’

EXTRA INNINGS:  James Loney started at first base and committed an error. He went 0-for-4. … Before Tuesday night, Matz had given up two runs or less in seven straight starts. … The Mets have homered in 11 straight games. … The Mets’ bullpen has given up 20 earned runs in its last 21 innings. … Overall it has given up 15 homers.

QUOTEBOOK: “He said he was rushing a bit and all the balls were over the middle of the plate.’’ – Collins on what catcher Kevin Plawecki said of Matz’s problem.

BY THE NUMBERS:  4: Number of walks and homers Robles has given up in his last 13 hitters.

NEXT FOR METS:  Jacob deGrom will start Wednesday afternoon.

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