May 05

We Are About To Learn What Mets Are Made Of

It’s not about the “blips,’’ for the New York Mets, it’s about how they rebound from them that will tell the story of this season. Beginning tonight, we shall see what the Mets are really made of as they have lost three straight series after their 11-game winning streak.

ALDERSON: A lot of thinking to do. (AP)

ALDERSON: A lot of thinking to do. (AP)

Most frustrating is with the exception of the first games of their series against the Yankees and Nationals, they lost five games by a composite nine runs, three of them by one run, including the last two by 1-0 scores.

When manager Terry Collins said there would be “blips,’’ and wasn’t lying.

When the Mets were winning 11 straight there were comments about their strength of schedule. Since the Yankees and Nationals righted their collective ships, the Mets have lost seven of ten games; they have gone from the best record in the majors to the seventh best; and their eight-game lead over Washington has been trimmed from eight to 3.5 games.

However, this isn’t the NCAA Tournament, overall strength of schedule isn’t the issue. The issue is winning your schedule.

What their winning streak accomplished was to buy time to take such a hit, and there is no mistaking the Mets were clipped big time and so far they’ve won at a clip that could get them into the playoffs.

That the Mets stayed close in games was a tribute to their overall strong pitching and a few players hitting in the clutch.

However, this stumble exposed the following: 1) Jacob deGrom must make some adjustments to his game; 2) they miss David Wright; 3) the defense is shaky up the middle; 4) there’s an overall lack of power from Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda; and 5) their overall clutch hitting has been poor.

Collins said there “would be no panic,’’ but signs of panic always come first from management in the form of benching and/or trading players and other roster moves that suggest an overhaul.

* Wilmer Flores was told he has a long leash, but sat the last two games. Whether or not he plays against the Orioles could determine a lot.

* There have long been rumors of trading Daniel Murphy and Dillon Gee, and the Giants have been scouting the former. What’s happening there? Do you trade Murphy while you’re still in first place?

* Eric Campbell replaced Wright, but was subsequently benched for not hitting. In the process Dilson Herrera was promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas to play second and Murphy went to third. This was done to showcase Murphy at third, but Herrera isn’t hitting, so what will they do? Wright’s return is far from imminent.

There are a lot of moving parts for the Mets now and how GM Sandy Alderson and Collins respond will go a long way to determine the success of this season. If they panic, that winning streak will be a memory.

May 01

Mets Game Thread: Harvey Pulled

Even with that double play, Matt Harvey is out of the game in the seventh with 93 pitches.

OK, why would the Mets let Harvey throw 105 pitches and work into the ninth in his last start, an 8-2 rout of the Yankees, and yet, even with an extra day of rest get pulled after 93 pitches in a 1-0 game?

How the hell would I know? Based on what the Mets had been saying, I would have thought they would have taken him out to preserve him for situations such as this. Had they done so, maybe Harvey would still be in there.

However, we don’t have all the information. It is possible Harvey could have told manager Terry Collins he was gassed, or felt something.

Mets 1, Nationals 0 (8th)



May 01

Why I Like Matt Harvey

There seems to be the feeling in cyberspace I have it in for Matt Harvey, that I don’t care for the Mets’ most exciting pitching prospect since Dwight Gooden. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have nothing against Harvey and he’s done nothing to me to warrant any anger.

He’s been gracious whenever I ask a question and is reasonably accessible despite the many demands on his time.

HARVEY: I love this passion. (Getty)

HARVEY: I love this passion. (Getty)

What I don’t like – and this is noted in every article in which many deemed anti-Harvey – has been the Mets’ inability, or refusal, to be consistent with him. What I don’t like about Harvey personally have been some of his decisions and actions, which are well-documented. There’s no need to go into them now.

Frankly, many of those negative perceptions go in part to explain what I admire and makes him potentially a great pitcher. He’s not yet Gooden or Tom Seaver – can he pitch one complete season first? – but he makes you wonder about a future that could be bright.

Most of all, I like his talent coupled with the rare ability to keep composed under pressure. Perhaps the most meaningful game of his career was last Saturday against the Yankees. That is, of course, until tonight against the Nationals. Strange as it sounds on May 1, this is a game the Mets need to win. If you want to say “must win,” go ahead, I won’t stop you.

Franchise pitchers stop losing streaks. Harvey did it last week and the Mets need for him do it again. Best of all, he’s not shy in wanting that responsibility. Shrinking violets don’t win 20 games, don’t win Cy Young Award and don’t go to the Hall of Fame. Sure, Harvey has a big ego, but most great athletes do.

Another thing I like is when he points fingers, it is usually at himself. You don’t hear him throwing coaches and teammates under the bus. If he makes a bad pitch, he admits it. Believe me, players get tired of having their pitchers blame them. Wilmer Flores took responsibility for his error last night, but Jacob deGrom said he needed to pick up his shortstop, whose confidence is shaky. Believe me, Flores appreciated that gesture, and it is one Harvey has also made.

As readers of this blog know, I stress pitching and Harvey is the real deal so far. He’s vital to their success this year and will be in subsequent seasons. That is why when I moan about his innings, it is because I don’t want him to get hurt. I’ve covered a lot of pitchers whose careers were cut short by injuries and I don’t want him to be one of them. We’ve already experienced losing him for a full season and don’t want it to happen again.

Who doesn’t love that he wants the ball, and will pitch even when not 100 percent? Sandy Koufax pitched in constant pain at the end of his career. So have many others. However, pitching in pain and discomfort and not offering full disclosure, while making good copy, contributed to his elbow injury.

I don’t want him to get hurt again. After all, haven’t Mets’ fans endured enough bad things without seeing that again?

About that bright future many project for him, well, I would like to see it.

ON DECK: Tonight’s lineup.


Apr 30

Mets Wrap: DeGrom Beaten; Wright Not Ready; Montero To DL

Well, today sure did stink for Mets, whose day began with the news Rafael Montero will go on the disabled list and David Wright is at least a week from coming off it. The day ended with Washington ripping Jacob deGrom and sending the Mets an 8-2 message they are far from ready to concede the NL East.

The loss was the Mets’ 15th in their last 16 games against Washington at Citi Field. It is now time to refer to their fast start in the past tense as they’ve lose five of their last seven games.

De GROM: Takes blame. (AP)

De GROM: Takes blame. (AP)

“We got off to a good start, but the last seven games have been disappointing,” manager Terry Collins said. “We have to go back and do what we were doing, which is catching the ball and not walking guys. … We knew there were going to be blips, and this is a blip.”

Just as they had against the Yankees, the Mets had deGrom and Matt Harvey set up for the first two games. DeGrom was torched by the Yankees last Friday and the Nationals did the same tonight.

The Mets gave him a 2-0 lead, but Wilmer Flores‘ sixth error of the season set up a three-run fourth for the Nationals. Yes, the error and uncompleted double play hurt, but part of a pitcher’s job description is to minimize damage. Sometimes a pitcher has to pick up his defense.

“It might have disrupted his thought process,” Collins said. “Obviously it didn’t help.”

DeGrom, a stand-up guy, pointed the finger at himself and made no excuses.

“I have to do a better job of picking Flo up right there,” deGrom said. “Normally, I do a pretty good job of it, but I started overthrowing.”

Naturally, SNY’s post game was all over this, but analyst Nelson Figueroa showed he’s in over his head as he jumped on Flores relentlessly and let deGrom off the hook. It’s always easy to lay off the bigger name and go after a non-name such as Flores.

Washington chased deGrom in the sixth and broke the game open with a three-run ninth.

At the start of the week, the Mets held an eight-game lead over the Nationals. It is now down to five and the Mets must rely on Harvey to stop the flood Friday night.

Meanwhile, Wright returned to baseball activities today in Port St. Lucie. GM Sandy Anderson said Wright is at least a week away.

Remember, when it comes to the Mets and injuries, always bet the over. Especially when Alderson is laying the odds.

The Mets also received bad news when Montero was placed on the disable list with swelling in his rotator cuff.

“It shouldn’t be serious,” Alderson said.

Of course not. It’s never serious when it isn’t your shoulder.


Apr 27

Nuggets From The Bronx; Beware A Trap Series With Miami

After sleeping on Sunday night, what can we make from the Mets losing two of three over the weekend to the Yankees? To listen to talk radio – which in cases like this is seldom good – absolutely nothing constructive.

Contrary to what you might have heard, or read, this morning, the Mets’ world is not falling apart. Also, what happens in the next three days in Miami is more important to the big picture than what occurred in the Bronx. The Yankees series is the interleague gimmick; the three games with the Marlins are within the division.

HARVEY: Bright spot this weekend. (AP)

HARVEY: Bright spot this weekend. (AP)

The lesson the Mets should take to Florida is when you pitch and play well, odds are you will win. When you don’t, odds are you will lose. Both Jacob deGrom and Jon Niese pitched poorly – and the Mets also had brain cramps on the bases and in the field Sunday – so what happened was to be expected. Even in the best of times, when the Mets play poorly they rarely will win.

“We had a bad night,” manager Terry Collins. “For the most part, they’ve played well.”

They have and don’t forget still own the best record in the sport. Here’s what I took from the weekend, which I won’t call lost because they weren’t destroyed and it is still only April:

* Citi Field is superior to the bandbox joke that is Yankee Stadium. Sure, excluding last week, it hasn’t always given the Mets a home field advantage, but it is a fairer field. And, along those lines, for all the bitching and moaning the Yankees will do when they eventually pay Alex Rodriguez over his PED-tainted home run totals, can we also look at the cheap homers from playing in that park? It staggers the imagination what Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle might have done in those dimensions.

* I like how Lucas Duda is playing and hope playing in Yankee Stadium won’t screw up his approach.

* I’ve not lost confidence in either deGrom or Niese, and expect both will come out strong in their next start.

* For those who believe I don’t like Matt Harvey, that couldn’t be further from the truth. While I don’t like some of the things he does and how the Mets are erratic in their handling of him, it doesn’t take from the belief he will be the real deal if he stays healthy. A true indicator of an ace is his ability to rally a team around him following a loss, which is exactly what he did Saturday. And, while I am in the corner of preserving his workload, I admire his competitive, bulldog nature on the mound. Hopefully, he’ll have a lot of opportunities to pitch in key games – and come up big – for the Mets.

* Am I the only one puzzled by Daniel Murphy’s fielding and mental lapses over the last five games? There are times he looks lost. It’s one thing to throw the ball away, but he’s making poor decisions.

* Kevin Plawecki does not look overmatched at the plate, or behind it, either. Still, it is early and needs time. Speaking of not being overmatched at the plate, the same applies to Wilmer Flores. And regarding his throwing error, if you carefully look at the replay you will notice how he didn’t step cleanly on the base as he began to throw. It is similar to a quarterback’s wobbly pass as he is hit.

* Before it is over the Mets will rely on their bullpen even more. Consequently, I’ve changed my opinion on Jenrry Mejia. If his head is screwed on straight, I can see the Mets using him again after his suspension, but barring an injury, Jeurys Familia will keep the closer job. That Bobby Parnell and Vic Black suffered setbacks in their rehab is concerning.

* It would have been fun to watch Juan Lagares play centerfield in the original Yankee Stadium where it was 463 feet to dead center.

* I like Michael Cuddyer more and more and see him developing into a veteran presence the Mets will rely on even when David Wright is ready to return.

Cuddyer called Sunday “ugly,” and “we’re going to go to Miami and play better.”

Let’s hope so. I’m not concerned the Mets lost two of three to the Yankees. What I am concerned about is the Miami series. Sandwiched between the Yankees and Nationals, there might be the tendency to overlook Miami, a place where the Mets haven’t played well in recent seasons. Call this a trap series.

The Marlins are playing better than when they were at Citi Field, which is why this series is more important to the big picture than last weekend. The Mets were due for a setback, but playoff caliber teams win against teams they should beat, including on the road.

It is important to play well in Florida and face Washington this weekend coming off a positive experience.