Sep 07

Mets See Good In Zack Wheeler Despite Loss; Scott Rice Season Ends

The result wasn’t what the New York Mets wanted, but overall they must be pleased with what they’ve seen from Zack Wheeler this season.

Even Friday night when he walked five in five innings in a loss at Cleveland.

WHEELER: Not a kid anymore.

WHEELER: Not a kid anymore.

I thought Wheeler might have been rushed to the major leagues because he didn’t dominate at Triple-A Las Vegas, and that idea seemed to be reinforced when his control was off early. Wheeler seemed to correct the problem, but it resurfaced against the Indians.

However, after the game he told reporters his shoulder was “flying open.’’ That he understood that flaw, no doubt pointed out by pitching coach Dan Warthen, but limited the damage are positives.

What’s next for Wheeler’s development is to not only notice a mechanical issue by himself, but also be able to correct it during the game. The great ones cannot only recognize a flaw by where their pitch went, but correct in during the at-bat.

During his first two starts, the Mets went overboard in calling his pitches – perhaps in the wake of Terry Collins getting messages Wheeler was tipping his pitches – but they quickly abandoned that plan and allowed him to use his fastball.

Although the Mets will limit his innings for the remainder of the season, Wheeler, 7-4, could get another three or four starts, and should he run the table, will have won more games than Matt Harvey.

Who would have thought that in April?

Who also would have envisioned at the time that Scott Rice would still be around?

Everybody expected big things from Harvey, but Rice was easily the Mets’ most inspirational story of the season. Harvey was the given; Rice was the underdog who made good.

The 31-year-old lefty reliever toiled for 14 years in the minor leagues before hooking on with the Mets this spring. He didn’t stick because of the state of their bullpen, but because he deserved to in leading the majors with 73 appearances.

Rice was 4-5 with a 3.71 ERA, but his most important statistic was the .174 average lefties hit off him. As a lefty specialist, that’s important. Rice walked 27 and struck out 41, and could go into spring training as the lead lefty in the pen.

Rice’s season, however, ended with the news he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia and will be out for the remainder of the season.

Even so, Rice was a good Mets’ story this summer. Maybe the best.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 06

Mets Finally See Scott Kazmir Pitch

It is September 6, do you know where your New York Mets are?

They are in Cleveland, Ohio, not on a traffic layover, but for the start of a three-game series against the playoff-minded Indians. The Mets long ago lost those aspirations.

KAZMIR: In the day.

KAZMIR: In the day.

This is nothing against Cleveland, where I spent many afternoons in that monstrous stadium watching the Indians flail into mediocrity and freeze during Browns’ games in December.

Of course, that’s when they were the real Browns, not the fake Browns who were thrashed by Denver last night. Fake Browns II will be playing Sunday.

But, that’s another issue in the tales of: “What’s Wrong With Sports?’’

This could be my last chance of the year to rail against interleague play, which I will never grasp. I loved it in spring training where at a time it was unique, but hated it with the first pitch – I don’t care if Dave Mlicki did throw a shutout against the Yankees that day – and continue to loathe it to this moment.

I’ll watch because it is the Mets, and because I don’t get to see the Indians that much anymore, but the sporting essence of the concept is wrong.

The essence of baseball is the regular season, one in which every team used to run the same race from April until October. There was no variation to the schedule, totally balanced. With interleague play and the unbalanced schedule, schedules can be measured by degree of difficulty, much like college basketball and football, the latter being the only high-end sport without a legitimate championship process.

That’s another issue.

I understand Bud Selig’s economic reasoning, but Major League Baseball is a multi-billion-dollar industry and would still be without interleague play. If interleague play had a purpose, it is gone.

Tonight the Red Sox are in the Bronx in a match-up with teeth. The only other series this weekend with a real playoff sizzle is the Pirates and Cardinals.

The other match-ups have the playoff implications of the manufactured wild-card, but save those two series the schedule is barren of playoff race games. As if the National Football League didn’t have it easy enough in its opening weekend, there’s little playoff tension for a distraction.

And, about your Mets, Scott Kazmir is the opposing attraction against Zack Wheeler. A former “pitcher of the future,’’ against a current “pitcher of the future.’’

Kazmir was dealt at the trade deadline for Victor Zambrano, in at the time was considered a controversial, then horrendous trade, from a Mets’ perspective. But, as these fade over time, the feelings softened as Kazmir’s career was derailed by injuries.

However, in a two-year span of 2007 and 2008, when the Mets’ collapsed down the stretch and were nosed from the playoffs on the season’s final day, Kazmir was winning 13 and 12 games, respectively, for Tampa Bay.

Those were the only times where it really was, “what could have been.’’

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 31

Tom Seaver Partially Correct On Treatment Of Pitchers

Tom Seaver, the best player to ever wear a New York Mets uniform, has forgotten more about pitching than any of us will ever know.

So, in explaining Matt Harvey’s injury, I am buying into his argument pitchers of today are babied. Up to a point.

SEAVER: Go to the whip on today's pitchers.

SEAVER: Go to the whip on today’s pitchers.

We will never again see the likes of pitchers such as Seaver, who 11 times threw over 250 innings. Or Juan Marichal, who threw 30 complete games one season and 27 the next. Think about that for a moment. Fifty-seven complete games in two years is more than a pitcher starting his career today will likely have by the time he retires.

From the high school to college to the minor leagues to the majors, pitchers today are babied. They are handled with kid gloves. God forbid somebody throws over 100 pitches or works past the seventh inning.

They are babied in part because that’s the thinking of today’s managers and pitching coaches, who believe they are protecting their future assets.

That’s the key word – assets.

Look who’s protected and who is not.

High-profile picks Harvey and Zack Wheeler are protected not just because they represent the Mets’ future, but because the club already sunk a considerable amount of money into their future. They are an investment, and as such, they are to be protected.

Like a fine car, artwork, jewelry or cash, they are to be handled carefully as to not squander the investment. You aren’t careless with china or porcelain; teams aren’t careless with pitchers.

I believe Seaver is correct in saying these guys must be built up instead of being held in reserve and “babied.’’

As a part of the body, the arm, elbow and shoulder gets stronger the more it is worked, not the less it is exercised.

It used to be pitchers threw, and threw, and threw. Today everything is monitored, from the innings to the pitches, to the type of pitches thrown. Some teams even monitor and count warm-up pitches.

While the word from above is to be careful with these guys because of the investment made, something else must also be taken into consideration.

A bulk of today’s pitchers are athletes. They are strong, fast and powerful, and as such they throw with incredible violence and torque that pitchers didn’t necessarily have in Seaver’s era, but if they did they were protected by their high volume of throwing.

Seaver is correct, but he didn’t get into the main points, that today’s pitchers are babied because of the investment made in them, and so strong that they outmuscle their mechanics.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 27

No Surprise, Mets Mishandle Matt Harvey Injury

When the New York Mets hired Sandy Alderson as general manager a new culture was promised, including the handling of injuries. It has not come to be. With the Mets and injuries, it remains “speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil.”

Another Mets mess with injuries.

Another Mets mess with injuries.

Tightness in Matt Harvey’s elbow, and lack of response to it, could put his career in jeopardy. After talking of the need to protect Harvey by capping his innings, he is done for the year and possibly next season with a tear in his elbow that could require Tommy John surgery.

Tell me, is anybody shocked at how the Mets handled this?

Alderson said he knew about the forearm issue for around a month, which would be a week or so after the All-Star break. Terry Collins said he found out about it a few days ago. Harvey said he told the medical staff before the break, which is why his turn prior to the All-Star Game was cancelled.

One is telling the truth. Of the three, I believe Harvey.

Whenever a player, pitcher of not, receives treatment, a report is given to the general manager and manager. This makes Alderson’s and Collins’ comments “challengeable’’ at best. Does anybody seriously think the training staff would withhold information on Harvey receiving treatment?

Even if Alderson is telling the truth, why wasn’t a MRI ordered immediately? Not doing so is the epitome of irresponsibility. Alderson said the Mets didn’t make a trade because he wanted the team to finish strong. But, that objective doesn’t coincide with the need to protect the team’s best pitching prospect since Dwight Gooden.

What is the point of building for the future if you put your best pitcher at risk just to sell a few tickets and have the spotlight on him at the All-Star Game? Was is worth losing Harvey until possibly 2015?

Damn, if Harvey or Zack Wheeler sneeze, get a MRI.

As for Collins, there’s no way I believe he just found out about the injury. It puts his objectives in question and brings to light the problem of a lame duck manager. Collins’ primary goal is to win now and secure an extension, and if that means running Harvey out there with the blessing of the general manager, so be it. There is absolutely no way Collins didn’t know.

Having an asset such as Harvey and not protecting it with an immediate MRI exam the first time he complained of discomfort is reckless and stupid. It is having a Lamborghini and not parking it in a garage.

I understand Harvey’s competitive nature, but sooner or later he has to learn he’s in this for himself. It’s a team sport yes, but he can’t help anybody if he’s hurt. He has to raise his arm – before he’s unable to – and say, “something is wrong, I can’t pitch.’’ Nobody will think less of him.

By not raising a stink, Harvey cost himself the rest of this season and possibly all of next year with Tommy John surgery.

Yeah, I know injuries can happen at any time, but they are more likely to occur when the arm is sore and tight. Maybe it would have happened anyway, but we’ll never know. What we do know is the appearance of how the Mets handled this was fast and loose. Shoddy.

Yeah, yeah, I hear how dozens of pitchers recovered from Tommy John surgery, but how many have not? Surgery is not an exact science. I defy anybody to guarantee 100 percent the result of a surgery.

No doctor would make that assurance and considering their history in handling of injuries, the Mets definitely can’t.

This is a mess and if I’m Harvey, I’d be angry at myself for not being more proactive and at the Mets for their reckless handling of the injury.

As I’ve written dozens of times, when it comes to pitching injuries, always bet the over.

ON DECK: Will the Mets deal now?

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 27

Looking At Life For Mets Without Matt Harvey

Who didn’t watch the New York Mets-Phillies game last night with a bit of indifference? Sure, Zack Wheeler against Cliff Lee possessed an element of interest, but the air was sucked out of the Mets’ season with news earlier in the day Matt Harvey would be lost for the remainder of the year with a partial UCL tear in his elbow.

Tommy John surgery is expected.

HARVEY: Bare facts, Mets not same without Harvey. (ESPN)

HARVEY: Bare facts, Mets not same without Harvey. (ESPN)

Most of the night my mind was as if channel surfing with a remote, bouncing from issue to issue, from the blame game to where the Mets go from here.

Carlos Torres will get Harvey’s start Thursday, but from there, would it be him or will we get a look at Rafael Montero? Then again, will the Mets be overprotective of him, as they were with Wheeler, pulling him with two outs in the seventh after 105 pitches with the opposing pitcher coming up.

From an organizational standpoint, where will the Mets go from here?

The team has been promising it would compete in 2014, but that will be harder to do without Harvey. Then again, should the Mets not make a run for it next year because of Harvey’s injury, what message does that tell the rest of the team?

It basically tells them “sorry boys, you’re not good enough without Matt.’’ That’s not a great message to be sending your team. Look for the Mets to attempt to add a veteran arm, an innings eater, if you will.

He’s not a veteran in the conventional sense, but if I were the Mets I’d be considering Phil Hughes, who’s probably in need of a change of scenery, especially in Citi Field’s vast outfield.

The Mets, who not just two weeks ago were flirting with the idea of a six-man rotation, will be going with a patchwork staff.

The Mets might bring up Montero to fill in for Harvey for a couple of starts at least, even if it means a 40-man roster move. This might be a prudent move as preliminary spring training in anticipation of Montero replacing Harvey in the rotation next season.

Without Harvey, and the Mets after Wheeler’s loss last night, are now losers of five straight, seven of nine and 10 of 14 can pretty much say good-bye to .500, and with 13 games coming up with playoff contenders Atlanta and Cleveland, and seven against the Nationals, second place is fading fast.

ON DECK: Facing the prospect of not having Harvey next year, the Mets could reverse course and suddenly listen to offers for Marlon Byrd and John Buck in the final days of the deadline to make waiver deal.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos