Jun 04

Jeremy Hefner Pitching For Rotation Spot – Again

In which direction will the streak-prone Mets go? After winning four straight against the Yankees, they turned about face and were swept by the Miami Marlins.

They are in Washington for the start of a three-game series tonight, but these aren’t the same Nationals the national media gave a bye straight into the World Series.

Bryce Harper is on the disabled list and Stephen Strasburg might soon join him, and the struggling Nationals trail Atlanta by seven games. They are vulnerable to be taken and it would have been great to imagine the edge to this series had the Mets swept Miami instead. However, even without the Nationals’ two top players, they remain a formidable opponent in the NL East.

Tonight, Jeremy Hefner (1-5, 4.74) goes against Jordan Zimmerman (8-3, 2.37). Hefner has pitched better recently than his record would indicate, but overall, he’s 1-5 for a reason, and that is he’s vulnerable to the big inning. Hefner does not have the ability to shut down an inning quickly after trouble surfaces. One run quickly becomes two, then three and then it is call in the bullpen.

Hefner is pitching to keep his job in the rotation when Zack Wheeler is promoted in the next few weeks. Hefner is third in the pecking order behind Shaun Marcum (who’s making $4 million) and Dillon Gee (who has a greater window of consistency).

Hefner claims he’s beyond worrying about his spot in the rotation, saying, “I don’t worry about it anymore.’’

Even so, the scenario still exists, and if the Mets are bent on promoting Wheeler soon, somebody will be demoted, or their spot could be altered. For example, Hefner could work in long relief and Collin McHugh could be optioned.

Here’s the lineup the Mets hope will give Hefner a fighting chance:

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck, C

Ike Davis, 1B

Jordany Valdespin, RF

Rick Ankiel, CF

Jeremy Hefner, RHP

METS MATTERS: Wright trails San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval by over 120,000 votes at third base in the All-Star balloting. The only other Met listed is Buck, who is third behind Buster Posey and Yadier Molina. … Catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud will be in a protective walking boot for at least another week. … The prognosis of Dr. James Andrews is Scott Atchison does not need elbow surgery. … Congratulations to Kevin Burkhardt, who’ll call NFL games this year on FOX. … If you want to read an excellent piece on Wheeler, check out ESPN’s Adam Rubin’s story here.

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

May 23

Wilpon rips Reyes, Beltran; say a prayer for Gary.

Good Monday morning all. Still ailing.  Spent the weekend in the hospital and will be here maybe through tomorrow.

WILPON: Rips Reyes, Beltran.

I asked Joe D. from Mets Merized Online to post during the weekend and grateful he did. I had my laptop brought to me, so I will get back to posting, including Today in Mets History later this afternoon.

Never mind the games, it wasn’t a great weekend all around for the Mets, beginning with the news of doctors discovering four small brain tumors after Gary Carter complained of headaches.

I’ve spoken with Carter on several occasions. I don’t know him, but always found him to be cooperative and pleasant. I wish him and his family well and ask you say a prayer.

Now there’s the latest Wilpon mess, which will take more than a prayer to fix.

In an article in The New Yorker, Wilpon is quoted as taking shots at Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, questioning their value and performance.

Reyes will be a free agent after the season and Wilpon has to consider the reported $100-plus million the shortstop is seeking. To listen to Wilpon, he’s certainly not going to get a monster payday.

Said Wilpon: “He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money. He’s had everything wrong with him. He won’t get it.’’

Ouch.

Crawford’s deal with the Red Sox is $142 million over seven years, which is steep. I never thought Reyes would get that, especially since Wilpon is correct when saying everything has gone wrong with Reyes.

Reyes is playing well, but has been injured and produced little the last two seasons. A player heavily reliant on this legs, what will Reyes’ game look like at the end of a long-term deal?

That’s the gamble question the Mets, or any team considering Reyes for the long haul, must consider. I’ve said the Mets would like to deal Reyes at the deadline if they can find any takers, and still feel that way. I am even more sure of it after Wilpon, who, in questioning Reyes’ value hurt himself in his asking price.

“Well Fred, if you don’t think that much of him, then you can’t expect much in return, can you?” would be be the logical thinking of any owner talking to the Mets about Reyes.

Reyes could be traded to a contender as a rental and then test the free agent market. However, I can see Reyes pushing for a deal with the Mets or a new team because the collective bargaining agreement will expire in December. He’s obviously won’t get that deal from the Mets now.

Because of the CBA, figure a slow free-agent season early in the winter, and that’s something Reyes would like to avoid.

Wilpon is dead-on about Reyes, and also Beltran, whom the Mets signed after his monstrous 2004 postseason with Houston.

Wilpon said: “We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series. He’s sixty-five to seventy percent of what he was.’’

Hard to tell if that schmuck was then GM Omar Minaya or if Wilpon was talking about himself. Kind of think it was the latter.

To be fair, the Mets received production from Beltran early, but little the last two seasons because of injuries. However, the Mets must accept some responsibility for Beltran after mishandling his knee injury in 2009.

According to the author of the magazine piece, Jeffrey Toobin, when asked if the Mets were a cursed franchise, Wilpon pantomimed Beltran’s checked swing strikeout that ended the 2006 NLCS against St. Louis.

In all fairness, there is no guarantee of what would have happened had Beltran swung, or even had he made contact. It was nasty pitch from Adam Wainwright.

Also, the Mets had several opportunities earlier in the game before Aaron Heilman coughed up the series-losing homer to Yadier Molina in the ninth inning.

Wilpon did say the Mets were snakebitten, but how can a franchise whose history includes the 1969 miracle and the Bill Buckner-Mookie Wilson play complain about bad luck?

Most of the Mets’ run of poor luck is self-induced with poor management decisions and even worse play on the field.

I can’t see how Wilpon helped himself any in the Mets’ attempts to deal Reyes and/or Beltran by ripping them.

 

Jan 24

Jan. 24.10: Let’s big-picture this.

MR. MET: Can he really be happy about things?

MR. MET: Can he really be happy about things?

In 2006, the Mets finished 97-65, winning the National League East by 12 games. It would be fair to say that is when the window was open at its widest for this core of Mets. And, we’re talking David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. While that core has remained largely productive, the rest of the team, in particular it’s pitching, has not.

The strength of the 2006 team was arguably its bullpen, which picked up the slack for a consistent, but hardly spectacular rotation.

Despite signing Billy Wagner, at the time an All-Star caliber closer, Omar Minaya let two significant keys to that pen, Darren Oliver and Chad Bradford, get away. The Mets have been struggling to get a bullpen chemistry since. An argument can be made the chemistry started to fizzle with the decline of Aaron Heilman, who was so good in 2006 save that pitch to Yadier Molina.

Even so, the team started strong in 2007, taking a 34-18 record into June. Would we all agree that 2006 and the first two months of 2007 was when the Mets’ star burned its brightest?

They finished 54-56 the rest of the way in 2007, including a collapse in which they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play. Much of the downward spiral was traced to a bullpen bridge that could not get to Wagner.

Since June 1, 2007, the Mets are 20 games below .500 – including another collapse in 2008 – and the refrain was the same after each season: The pitching is the problem. The 2008 team, by the way, blew 29 save opportunities.

It’s a double-edged sword: The bullpen is overworked and ineffective. But, the reason it is overworked is because the Mets aren’t getting quality innings from their starters.

For those who think I’m being too negative, those are the numbers.

I realize 2009 was a unique season because of injuries, but even under the assumption the core offensive players return to form this season, there remains largely the same pitching staff. Never mind the team’s hot start one-third into the last season, more representative of their performance was the remaining two-thirds.

Getting Johan Santana was a significant gesture of improvement, but he makes 34 starts a year. The pennant is won or lost in the remaining 128 games, and this is where the Mets are weak and have not improved.

Even Santana is a partial question as he’s coming off surgery. The team says he’ll be ready, but said the same thing about John Maine. Maine’s durability, along with his presence, are questions. We don’t know what we’ll get from Oliver Perez inning to inning, much less game to game. And, Mike Pelfrey has regressed. And, well, there is no fifth starter, yet.

Yes, Jason Bay will improve the offense, but in reality aren’t we subbing his numbers for that of a healthy Delgado? And, there’s another hole with the loss of Beltran. So, just how much better is the offense, really? And, what if Wright doesn’t regain his power stroke? Can we say for sure Reyes is back?

Bottom line: We can’t say the core is back to normal or will get that way.

In that case, it falls again on the pitching, which is the same pitching that failed miserably the last two-and-a-half seasons.

Oct 19

Is it better to have loved and lost?

Is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?

That’s a tough question, especially at the time when the misery has peaked. The Mets aren’t in the playoffs, they are scattered throughout the country. Some might be watching, others might not care enough to turn on their sets.

This date has not been kind to the Mets in the playoffs, prompting the question.

Today in 2006, Yadier Molina’s two-run HR in the 9th inning off Aaron Heilman is the game-winner as the St. Louis Cardinals win in seven games. The game ends when Carlos Beltran is frozen on a nasty curveball by Adam Wainwright.

The game is remembered for Endy Chavez’s home-run robbing catch of Scott Rolen’s drive, but the Mets can’t sustain the momentum and blow an opportunity in the bottom of the inning to break the game open open.

The season that unfolded with so much promise and potential was over, but little did we know at the time that so was the Mets’ window of opportunity. They blew two September leads the following two seasons and derailed completely this season.

Now, the organization is faced with the question of whether they need tweaking or an overhaul.

Also, on this date in 1999, the Braves defeated the Mets‚ 10-9 in 11 innings‚ to take the NLCS in six games.

The Mets came back from three games down to force a sixth game, and rallied twice from deficits of 5-0 and 7-3 to force extra innings on Mike Piazza’s homer.

However, Kenny Rogers walked in the winning run in the 11th inning to end that dream.

Aug 19

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #120; Where did the season go?

METS CHAT ROOM

METS CHAT ROOM

Where did it go? Where did the season disappear to? There are 42 games between now and winter, although, truth be know, from a competitive standpoint the season ended a lot time ago for the Mets.

The goal now is .500, and with it, limited respectability. They are now reduced to the Washington Nationals-like role of spoiler. How distasteful is that? The World Series window that seemed wide open when Aaron Heilman grooved that pitch to Yadier Molina has slammed shut with two year-end fades and this summer’s collapse.

The Mets are looking at the future with Bobby Parnell (3–4, 3.50 ERA) making his third start tonight against the Atlanta Braves.

Parnell’s first start was essentially a 60-pitch ineffective relief appearance, but he looked much better in his last start, an 80-pitch effort, last weekend against the Giants. His ceiling is 100. He could get maybe four more starts after tonight, which should give the Mets a good indication of whether they can slot him into next year’s rotation. That would eliminate a huge off-season headache.

As it always is with young pitchers the question is whether he’s able to command his secondary pitches to go along with his 97-mph. fastball. The fastball stuff he has, the command and movement is still a work in progress.

Here’s the Mets’ line-up against Jair Jurrjens (9-8, 2.99 ERA):

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Gary Sheffield, LF
Daniel Murphy, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Fernando Tatis, 3B
Omir Santos, C
Anderson Hernandez, SS
Bobby Parnell, RP

NOTEBOOK: Jurrjens is 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA in five starts against the Mets. … Parnell has a 1.62 ERA in his two starts. … Johan Santana said he never asked to be traded. … Sheffield was pulled off waivers when a team tried to claim him which means he can’t be traded. Should Sheffield be put through waivers again and is claimed he’s gone. He said he believes he’ll be gone. … Billy Wagner said he has no designs on closing when he’s activated this week, but next year will be different. There are several teams in need of a closer, including the Chicago Cubs, and others in need of lefty relief, including the Yankees. I don’t see the Mets doing business in the Bronx.