Aug 18

How Will Mets’ Rotation Shake Out In September?

Sorry for the no-show yesterday folks. Had another setback and back in Ohio for more rehab. There are good and bad stretches, and I’m currently on one of the bad ones. It happens, but like your Mets, I have to keep plugging away. It’s the only way to get from here to there, and in the case of our heroes, that would be the playoffs.

We’re two weeks away from the Mets playing meaningful games in September, and for the Mets what will again entail the return of the six-man rotation. That is, of course, if management follows through on its intent to keep the starters on their innings limitations.

It all begins when the rosters are expanded Sept. 1 with Steven Matz. The Mets will also throw a spot start or two to Logan Verrett, who was added to the roster today in Baltimore. Verrett will work both as a starter and reliever, with an emphasis on the latter now that Bobby Parnell is back on the disabled list.

The driving force behind the innings limits was to protect Matt Harvey, who already has thrown 154 and is on pace for 211, which is roughly 15 more than the Mets wanted. This is an issue I’ve been pounding on all season and I can think of several games in which Harvey should have been cut off but wasn’t. There was the Yankees game in which he was hell bent to try for a complete game during a blowout. There was also the sore throat game in which he should have been skipped. That accounts for almost six innings right there. Can you see now why that was important?

Noah Syndergaard has thrown 135.1 innings this year after 138 last season. The Mets are thinking a 35-inning jump maximum.

Jacob deGrom threw 178.2 innings last season and already has 146.2 this year.

There are no limits for Jon Niese or Bartolo Colon.

On of the residual issues here is the bullpen, which is now getting dangerously thin. Without a reliable bullpen to carry some of the workload, it will add pressure to the starters. This is where the Mets can get into trouble.



Aug 15

Mets Bullpen Is Achilles Heel

There have been some really great closers – Mariano Rivera and Dennis Eckersley, to name two – but what complemented them was the depth of their bullpens. Both the Yankees and Athletics were championship deep.

The Mets have faith in Jeurys Familia as their closer and Tyler Clippard in a set-up role. However, as evidenced by Bobby Parnell Friday night and future ex-Met Jenrry Mejia, depth is a problem.

PARNELL: Reliability a concern. (AP)

PARNELL: Reliability a concern. (AP)

For the most part, I’ve liked what Hansel Robles has done. At one time Carlos Torres was considered reliable. Not anymore. And, Sean Gilmartin and Eric O’Flaherty aren’t quite a comforting cup of hot cocoa on a winter’s night.

Familia has had implosion moments and it must be remembered this is the first time he will pitch under playoff-type pressure.

The bullpen has an Achilles Heel quality about it, so if GM Sandy Alderson has a chance to snag somebody off the waiver-wire scrap heap he would be wise to do so. Waiting for Jerry Blevins to return isn’t a sound strategy.

The Mets have a nice lead, but one capable of evaporating with a bad week by the bullpen. You might recall September of 2007.

The bullpen is a significant question moving forward. The Mets would be wise to act now rather than lament later.


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.