May 05

No Empathy For Harvey

Mickey Callaway was generous when he said, “we failed Matt Harvey.’’ In actuality, Harvey failed himself, with help from the Mets. Sometimes, when a pitcher loses his fastball, or a slugger’s bat slows down, the end can be delayed by his track record, or his popularity in the clubhouse, or the goodwill garnered within the organization.

It’s why the Mets were patient with Johan Santana and David Wright. Harvey accrued none of that goodwill. None.

Because of their histories, you root for some players. You have empathy and compassion for them.

Maybe only Harvey’s family and agent have empathy for him. I can’t imagine anybody pleased Harvey’s career was derailed by injuries, including two season-ending surgeries.

However, it is the way Harvey carried himself and alienated his teammates, how he made himself bigger than the team, how he made everything about him, that has him alone and without any emotional support in his darkest professional hour.

Perhaps that, more than his injuries, is what makes this a modern-day Greek Tragedy. It’s difficult to show compassion for somebody who showed little for anybody else.

Harvey’s selfishness was never more transparent than it was when he bullied former manager Terry Collins into giving him the ninth inning in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. I don’t know how any of Harvey’s teammates that night can condone Harvey’s actions that night.

What happened the night he traveled two hours from San Diego to Los Angeles for a restaurant opening the night before a game, was not advisable although not technically wrong. However, Harvey’s penchant for enjoying the nightlife has already run him afoul with the Mets’ front office and teammates.

Why – other than selfishness – would Harvey chase fates? That GM Sandy Alderson sounded resigned Harvey would do such a thing spoke volumes. Alderson didn’t have to say he was fed up with Harvey. It was implied.

Harvey wasn’t worth the energy to get angry about any longer.

In previous years the Mets bent over backward to placate Harvey, and a case could be made they enabled his boorish behavior by not standing up to him.

It took a while, but it is about time.

Apr 21

Harvey Should Get Another Start, Then What?

The Mets should know more about their options on what to do with Matt Harvey after Jason Vargas is re-examined later today. Barring no setbacks, Vargas will then pitch in a Minor League rehab start Monday.

HARVEY: What options does he have remaining.  (AP)

HARVEY: What options does he have remaining. (AP)

With Harvey’s next start scheduled for Tuesday in St. Louis it stands to reason he’ll make at least one more start before Mickey Callaway makes the most important decision since becoming the manager.

There will eventually be a messy divorce with Harvey, but it’s up to Callaway to determine when the papers are filed.

Since Harvey’s contractual status allows him to block a move to the minors, the only way for it to happen is for him to have a drastic change of heart. If he doesn’t, the Mets’ options are to invent a phantom injury so they can place him on the 10-day disabled list. They could also work him out of the bullpen, but he clearly won’t have his heart in it.

Finally, the Mets can attempt to trade him, but considering Harvey’s performance and injury history since the end of the 2015 season, his value is limited. Of course, in the end, they could simply release him, but things would have deteriorated beyond recognition if that occurred.

I gave up on the pipe dream of Harvey turning his career around and re-signing with the Mets in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. I’m a proponent of Harvey getting at least one more start because that is the only way the Mets can salvage anything from this fractured relationship.

No doubt, Harvey has spoken with his agent Scott Boras, whose advice should be is to do whatever the Mets want him to do. That’s the only way for Harvey to maximize whatever value he has remaining.

Apr 10

Rob Manfred Doesn’t Understand Baseball

Major League Baseball’s primary problem is its leadership. The men running the sport have no clue as to why people love the game. They are obsessed not with the unique nuances and strategies of their sport, but with tinkering and tweaking to the point where it is becoming unrecognizable to its lifelong supporters.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is following in Bud Selig’s footsteps. Selig never understood the fabric of the sport with interleague play and out-of-control expansion, and his attempts to break the union over money culminated in the tactic approval of steroid usage and asterisk-marred home run records.

Manfred is doing the same with juiced baseballs and his attempts to shave time from the game, and now he wants to legislate the use of relief pitchers.

Speaking on ESPN Radio last week he would be in favor of restricting pitching changes during an inning or game.

“You know the problem with relief pitchers is that they’re so good,’’ he said. “I’ve got nothing against relief pitchers but they do two things to the game: The pitching changes themselves slow the game down, and our relief pitchers have become so dominate at the back end that they actually rob action out of the end of the game, the last few innings of the game.’’

Evidently, Manfred has never seen a compelling pennant race or World Series game that boiled down to a confrontation between a great reliever and great hitter, with the tension rising with each pitch.

Mets fans relish the memories of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the “ball gets by Buckner,’’ game. That one play has become the face of the game, but the real action is what lead up to that play, where the Red Sox bullpen imploded.

That statement confirms Manfred isn’t the right person to lead baseball because he doesn’t understand baseball. Baseball is about pitching.

Instead of bowing to the millennials who want to speed up the game and crave instant offense he should take the time to really watch a game. He’s missing a good show.

Mar 19

Who Is Sold On Mets’ Rotation?

By default, the one-time Mets’ vaunted rotation will enter the season intact. Jason Vargas fractured right thumb opened the door for Steven Matz, who, by his credit, made a strong bid for the spot when he gave up two runs with nine strikeouts in six innings against Houston on Monday.

Working in Matz’s favor is the Astros played with the same lineup that won the World Series last season.

“You saw it, and obviously, the strikeout total was high, but that’s maybe the best lineup he is going to face all year,’’ manager Mickey Callaway said. “That’s a pretty potent lineup and he went after them. That is what I thought was best about him today.’’

But, don’t be fooled by this bit of news because the Mets’ pitching is far from settled.

Despite Monday, Matz is far from a done deal. Likewise with Zack Wheeler. And, despite his vows to the contrary, is anybody really sold on Matt Harvey?

Jacob deGrom experienced back stiffness earlier in camp but insists he’s fine now. The same applies to Noah Syndergaard, who missed most of last season with a torn lat. He’s throwing over 100 and is blowing away hitters, but I have reservations with him.

I hope I’m wrong but to me, Syndergaard is suffering from the same malady that has stricken Harvey, and that is falling in love with his press clippings and Comic Book persona.

Thor was an immortal fictional character; Syndergaard is a mortal who spends too much time on Twitter.

Jan 23

Mets Continue To Overplay Their Hand Since 2015 Series

Mets COO Jeff Wilpon can try to spin his payroll anyway he chooses but it comes down to one simple fact: Declaring you want to win and doing what it takes to do so are two different things.

“We certainly want to win,’’ Wilpon told reporters today at Citi Field. “There’s nobody going there trying not to win and not do their best to put us in the absolute best position to win.’’

The Mets’ payroll last year was $155 million and they finished 22 games under .500. It was $135 million in 2016 and $101 million in 2015 when they reached the World Series.

That last year, their Series rotation of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz earned a combined $2.18 million, the odds of repeating which fall into the catch-lightning-in-a-bottle category. That is just plain lucky.

Wilpon said he’s not interested in the Mets being a top-five team in payroll, something we’ve known for years. Instead, he said the Mets are concerned with wins and losses.

The problem when looking at things that way is it reduces 2015 to a fluke season, something the Mets have been riding the past two years.

The following four things conspired to put the Mets into the Series that year:

  • Because of injuries and poor performances, the Nationals had a miserable season in 2015 which gave the Mets their opening.
  • The Mets caught lightning that summer with the Yoenis Cespedes trade. Cespedes had a historic six weeks that propelled them into the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, the Mets tried to parlay that trade with a $110-million, four-year contract that will set them back for years.
  • There was their sterling rotation mentioned earlier. Also, unfortunately for the Mets, that rotation hasn’t stayed healthy, and including the fifth member, Zack Wheeler, those five have yet to make a complete turn.
  • That postseason will always be remembered for Daniel Murphy’s blitz through the National League playoffs. Without it, maybe the Mets don’t get past the Dodgers in the Division Series. Unfortunately, the Mets played hardball with Murphy and let him escape to Washington as a free agent.

While it’s never a bad thing to reach the World Series, a case can be made the Mets overplayed their hand and overestimated just how good they were that season and have been paying for it since.

From signing Cespedes to letting Murphy go to overestimating their rotation it has been one bad decision after another.