Jun 28

Matz Makes It All Right For One Day

Quality start doesn’t even begin to describe what Steven Matz gave the Mets today at Citi Field in his major league debut. His pitching, power and poise highlighted a 7-2 victory over Cincinnati. He also broke up a double play and started one after fielding a hard comebacker to the mound.

“He was as good as advertised,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He was ready for this. It was time. … He was ready to show he belonged.’’

MATZ: Shines in debut. (AP)

MATZ: Shines in debut. (AP)

Matz was making his major league debut five years removed from Tommy John surgery; after the Mets toyed with the decision to bring him up; and, after more than a three-hour delay so the Mets could finish a 2-1 victory over the Reds in a completion of suspension game.

“The more time I had, the more the anxiety went away,’’ said Matz, a sign of his composure.

His composure also surfaced when his first pitch of the game was something out of “Bull Durham,’’ a fastball to the backstop. On his fifth pitch, Tony Phillips hit a replay-reviewed homer.

Matz set the Reds down in order in the second and then, using Las Vegas teammate Matt Reynolds’ bat, ripped a two-run double. He would later hit a hit-and-run single and two-run single.

All the while, he toyed with the Reds on the mound, giving up two runs – Todd Frazier also hit a solo homer – on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts in 7.2 innings.

Matz went further in his debut than Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler went in theirs.

While Harvey grew up rooting for the Yankees, Matz’s childhood passion growing up on Long Island was the Mets and spent many nights at Shea Stadium. Of course, the Mets want to play on that emotional attachment and as the team struggled through the past month there was a growing groundswell for his promotion. And, for the Mets, it was to attract more than the 130 family and friend he could sometimes hear from the stands.

There’s speculation the Mets promoted Matz to divert frustrated their fan base from their recent plunge in the NL East standings and a woeful offensive slide. That’s for another day, as this one was to enjoy a glimpse into a promising future.

However, while it was gray at Citi Field, there was a glimmer of sunlight, and he wore No. 32.

Jun 22

Willie Randolph Deserved Better From Mets

It was nice to see the Yankees honor Willie Randolph, but it was also a reminder of how shabbily he was treated by the Mets during his short tenure as manager. Randolph’s lifetime 302-253 record is the third highest record among Mets’ managers, behind Davey Johnson and Bobby Valentine.

RANDOLPH: Back stabbed in the end. (AP)

RANDOLPH: Back stabbed in the end. (AP)

The Mets were on the verge of becoming a National League power when they last made the playoffs in 2006. Their payroll was over $140 million, and this team could hit with a healthy David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado.

Hitting was no problem, with the primary issues being the back end of the rotation and bullpen, which was exposed in 2007 when the Mets blew a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining. The Mets also coughed up the NL East on the final weekend in 2008.

The Mets’ pitching began to decline at this time because of injuries and ineffectiveness, and as the team started to lose Randolph found himself unfairly in the crosshairs in 2008. Johan Santana was injured; Mike Pelfrey failed to reach his potential; and Oliver Perez was a mess. In 2008, Randolph’s last season, the Mets used 24 pitchers.

Randolph’s tenure was also sabotaged by the front office, which made increasingly bad acquisitions, but worse spied on the manager as assistant general manager Tony Bernazard was a constant presence in the clubhouse. There were also reports Delgado, who was not a Randolph fan, ripped the manager to Jose Reyes.

So much was going on behind Randolph’s back and he was powerless. That he was fired shortly after midnight after a game in Anaheim – 3 in the morning in New York – was an inevitability.

Too bad, because the last time the Mets were formidable was under Randolph.

 

Jun 19

Mets Should Sign DeGrom Over Harvey

Should the Mets opt to sign just one of their wunderkind pitchers to a long-term contract, my choice would be tonight’s starter, Jacob deGrom. And, if they opt to trade one, I’d first offer Matt Harvey.

Ideally, after this season they should make a run at signing all three to long-term deals. The money would be high, but not nearly what it will eventually be. They must be aggressive and determined, but do you really see that happening?

DE GROM: A keeper. (AP)

DE GROM: A keeper. (AP)

I can’t say for sure deGrom would be easiest to sign or cost less. That’s a hunch. But, it certainly wouldn’t be Harvey, whose agent, Scott Boras, is known for not leaving any money on the table. Boras’ plan has traditionally been to wait until a player reaches free-agent status and play the market. Undoubtedly, this is what he wants with Harvey, and ideally, he wants to play the Mets against the Yankees.

I’ve said numerous times Harvey yearns to be a Yankee. If I am right, that’s fine, that’s his prerogative, that’s his right, but the Mets shouldn’t get caught up in a bidding war. If they want to keep Harvey for the duration of his career, they need to strike before the market opens. But, I don’t think Boras will let that happen, unless, of course, the Mets would be offering 2019 money, which is the year he becomes a free agent.

I don’t believe that will happen, either. However, if the Mets are as committed to building a winning team as they claim to be, they must dig deep.

The guess here is deGrom and Noah Syndergaard might be easier to sign.

DeGrom (7-4, 2.33) is pitching the best so far this season – he is 4-0 with a 1.25 ERA over his last six starts – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He could have won another had his defense and bullpen not coughed it up for him tonight.

There’s a lot to like about deGrom, including his mound composure, command and ability to locate his pitches. Harvey has those things, too, but this year his command has been off as evidenced by all the home runs he’s given up.

So, if it boils down to one in deGrom vs. Harvey and whom to keep, I’m going with deGrom. He has about the same amount of talent, could be financially a better investment, is not a diva, and ultimately, I can’t shake the belief Harvey’s heart is really in the Bronx.

That’s what I believe. I also believe if the Mets had to trade one, my first choice would be Harvey for the same reasons.

Jun 09

Baseball’s Scheduling A Joke

There probably is if I thought hard enough about it, but for now there are few things more absurd in baseball than its scheduling. While the sport is bent out of shape about the playing time of games, it might be more prudent to come up with a better scheduling format.

Seriously, how ridiculous is it for both the Mets and Yankees to playing at home tonight, against the Giants and Nationals, respectively? The teams were also home the same time for Opening Day and Memorial Day.

Of course, this is the byproduct of interleague play and the unbalanced schedule. Neither of those money-grabbing brain strokes has improved the game or the integrity of the schedule.

At one time, there was an even number of teams in each league and every team played every other team – home and away – the same number of times. They say a baseball season is a marathon, but currently not all teams run the same race. Some run 26 miles, while others run 24 or 28.

It’s just not the same race and that’s wrong. It’s emblematic of a sport without integrity.

 

May 28

Mets’ Six-Man Rotation Proof They Didn’t Get It Right With Harvey Initially

While some are giving the Mets kudos for the inventiveness of going to a six-man rotation, they are doing so to protect Matt Harvey and his surgically-repaired money elbow. More to the point, they are doing it because they didn’t properly calculate a program to monitor his innings in the first pace.

The Mets entered the season with a “play it by ear” approach with Harvey, but it didn’t take long to second-guess several decisions by manager Terry Collins, and yes, to take some jabs at the young star.

HARVEY: The fly in the six-man ointment. (AP)

HARVEY: The fly in the six-man ointment. (AP)

First, they let him pitch with a strep throat, when Collins should have told Harvey to stay home. However, Harvey wanted to pitch that day – of course, he did – and left the impression he wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer, which is to paraphrase Collins.

Starting him was bad enough. Letting him pitch into the seventh that day compounded matters.

When they had a chance to rest Harvey, the Mets spit the bit. Soon it would bite them in the butt.

Entering the season, part of the Mets’ “play it by ear,” plan was to take advantage of one-sided games to give Harvey a few innings off. But, when they could have pulled him after seven in a blowout win over the Yankees, he pushed the envelope because he wanted the complete game.

Collins, of course, caved.

What followed were back-to-back no-decision games for Harvey in which the bullpen coughed up 1-0 leads. Obviously, with benefit if hindsight the Mets would rather have had Harvey pitch longer in those games than stay in for a few more innings in a meaningless game against the Yankees.

Then Harvey was hammered in the worst start of his career and Collins thought he had a “tired arm.”

The goal, said pitching coach Dan Warthen, is to have the pitchers make 30 starts over the course of the year instead of 34.

The fatal flaw to this plan is pitchers are creatures of habit and it is difficult to jump into this format in midstream, a move that has all the pitchers annoyed to some degree.

At the start of spring training, I wrote the Mets should map out Harvey’s starts from April through September with a definitive idea of how many innings he would throw in each start. Well, the Mets didn’t want to do that because they didn’t want to come across as having a leash on Harvey, an idea he despised.

However, in the end it looks as if they will have to do what they should have done in the first place.

There’s a saying the smart carpenter measures twice but saws once. However, the Mets come across as Gilligan trying to build a grass hut.