Jul 20

Zack Wheeler Tries To Get Mets On-Track

Well, so much for that fast start out of the second-half gate for the New York Mets.

That great ERA Jeremy Hefner was sporting going into the game? Not so much anymore. The Phillies nailed him for eight runs on ten hits. The carnage was accumulated over 63 pitches, 38 of them in the first inning.

HEFNER: Hammered by Phils, again. (AP)

HEFNER: Hammered by Phils, again. (AP)

The first inning and the Phillies have not been a good mix to Hefner over the years, and before you knew it, the Mets were down 11-0.

Terry Collins tried to put a positive spin on the rout.

“I’ll tell you what, down 11-0, make it a game, pretty impressive by our guys,’’ Collins told reporters after the game, most of who had their storied written by the fifth inning.

Uh huh. Forty years in the game should know by now there are no morale victories in baseball. Few of them, anyway, and last night wasn’t one of them.

Unfortunately for the Mets, them chopping away at the lead provided the illusion there was a chance, and consequently Collins had to go to his bullpen for seven innings.

Otherwise, Collins might have left Hefner in to take his lumps for the team to save the bullpen.

Either way, it was a hot, muggy miserable night, one better spent watching The Great Escape on the Military Channel.

Nonetheless, it is only one game and the Mets have their two of their best, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, going the next two games of this series. After that, it’s four more home games at home against Atlanta before hitting the road to Washington and Miami before the trade deadline.

So, there’s plenty of time for the Mets to make a run at .500 and make the second half of this season worthy of watching. The last four years after the break effectively ended the competitive part of their season.

Was there anything good out of last night’s game?

Juan Lagares had a good at-bat and Ike Davis had a couple of hits. Kirk Nieuwenhuis looked like Mr. Magoo in center field. Other than that, not too much.

I wasn’t crazy about Collins’ managing last night. David Wright did homer in the ninth, but after a busy All-Star break, he should have been pulled and given a rest. The same goes for John Buck, who cramped up.

Here’s today’s lineup against Cole Hamels:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Josh Satin, 1B

Juan Lagares, CF

Anthony Recker, C

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Zack Wheeler, RHP

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

Jul 19

Opening Day II For Mets Lays 2014 Foundation

Welcome to Opening Day II of the New York Mets.

This is the time last year when the great collapse began.  In early June in 2012 the Mets were eight games over .500, and seven games over heading into the last game of the first half, but were routed, 7-0, by the Cubs at home. They went on to lose 10 of 11 coming out of the break. The chance to upgrade was lost and the season spun out of control.

HARVEY: What's in store for second half? (AP)

HARVEY: What’s in store for second half? (AP)

That would be a valuable reminder for Terry Collins to tell his players. Nobody is thinking playoffs, but .500 is a reasonable and realistic goal. GM Sandy Alderson seems inclined to keep a pat hand to see if the Mets can sustain their recent play. Adding a bat would be helpful, if for no other reason, to demonstrate his confidence.

The Mets have had four straight losing seasons in which they finished in fourth place. The Mets open the second half 4.5 games behind third place Philadelphia and five behind second place Washington. Both are within reach.

If Matt Harvey can sustain and Zack Wheeler gains command of his fastball, improvement is possible. Yesterday, I asked several questions the Mets must answer in the positive if they are to lay the foundation for 2014.

“I don’t think there is any question about it,’’ manager Terry Collins said after the team won in Pittsburgh to close the first half. “We’ve been preaching, ‘Hey, it’s coming.’ We have to fix our minor leagues, we have to find some players, and they’ve done that.’’

The Mets have been surprised by Dillon Gee, Jeremy Hefner, Eric Young, Josh Satin and Omar Quintanilla. If these players have strong second halves, it could shorten GM Sandy Alderson’s shopping list.

We probably won’t see Rafael Montero in the second half, but maybe Jenrry Mejia can show he’s healthy and become a viable member of the bullpen. That would help that need.

Daniel Murphy has played well enough to warrant eliminating the need for a second baseman. Once and for all, they will not make a run at Robinson Cano. Not happening.

We’re not going to see Noah Syndergaard, but perhaps he can show he’s worthy of Triple-A next year.

The forecast wasn’t positive after the R.A. Dickey trade and coming out of spring training, but the Mets broke the gate at 7-4, then went on a long slide that had them bottom out at 15 games under .500. They are nine games under now, but it’s not totally gloomy.

“You have a star at third,’’ Collins said of David Wright “You have a star on the mound in Harvey and you have another one coming in Zack Wheeler. I plan on seeing a lot more games like the one [Wheeler] pitched the other night in San Francisco. The more confidence he gets, the better he is going to be.

“We’re not by any means happy where we are,’’ Collins said. “We know we have to get better.’’

Ironically, they have gotten better despite three major disappointments in what was to be their core. Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda have not come close to producing as expected. Davis is now in a platoon with Satin, Tejada is in Triple-A, and Duda is on the disabled list and they shouldn’t even be thinking about cutting into Young’s playing time.

Answers to those three players, and the center field platoon of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, are something Alderson wants to get. Plus, there’s the question of Jon Niese’s shoulder, whether the bullpen will continue to improve and if Marlon Byrd is worthy of an extension.

Not all of things will be answered in the positive. It rarely happens that way. But, if enough are getting out of fourth and a winning season are possibly, and that’s something few of us could have predicted.

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

Jul 14

Mets To End First Half Standing Pat

The first half of the season for the New York Mets, despite losing their last two games in Pittsburgh, ends today on the plus side with comments from GM Sandy Alderson his intent to keep Bobby Parnell and Marlon Byrd.

Alderson said not to expect a second-half makeover. It would easy to trade either, but doing so would create further holes. Doing so would be taking a step in reverse.

BYRD: Looks like he's staying.

BYRD: Looks like he’s staying.

Regarding Byrd, Alderson told Newsday: “We’re not looking to move Marlon. Obviously, we have our eye on the future, but we want to be as good as we can be this year as well. Now, if what we can get for the future exceeds the value of the present, we’d have to look at that. But we’re not anxious to do it.’’

The Mets entered spring training needing an outfielder, and Byrd has produced 15 homers while playing strong defense. Nobody would be saying anything if he were ten years younger, but production is production, and they are getting it from Byrd. They are also getting a sense of professionalism.

Maybe Byrd will ask for two years in the offseason as Scott Hairston did and the Mets will let him walk. But for now, they aren’t going to do much better.

As far as Parnell, if the Mets are to compete next season as they anticipate, they will need a closer who is an economic bargain. That would be Parnell, who after several stumbles, is finally grasping the brass ring.

“We’ve been looking for a closer for two years. Looks like we’ve found one,’’ Alderson said. “Why would we want to give him away immediately? This is not a guy we’re looking to move, either.’’

If the Mets are blown away with offers for either, they should look at them. But, they shouldn’t trade just because somebody called their phone.

The statement the Mets are making is to see how good they can be this season, so they’ll have a clearer picture of their off-season decisions. Trading what commodities they already have will be taking a step back. And, the Mets have made enough of those in recent seasons.

After Saturday’s loss, the Mets optioned Jordany Valdespin, who was on a 2-for-36 slide, to the minor leagues. With Kirk Nieuwenhuis playing well, and before him, Juan Lagares, plus Byrd and the acquisition of Eric Young, there was less playing time for Valdespin after his failed audition at second base.

The Mets were never enamored with Valdespin to begin with, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we never saw him again. I would suggest trading him, but Valdespin’s value is clearly diminished.

The Mets end the first half excited about Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, and before long could have two other young pitchers in their short-term plans as prospects Rafael Montero (World Team) and Noah Syndergaard (Team USA) will start in today’s Futures Game at Citi Field. We could see Montero before the season is over.

In addition, 2011 first-round pick infielder Brandon Nimmo is on the Team USA roster.

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

Jul 11

Mets Should Hold On Tight To Bobby Parnell

The New York Mets are finally showing signs of life to the point where their rebuilding plan could be believable. So, what should their next step be? Hmmm, according to some they should trade Bobby Parnell.

Unless they are offered a knockout package – that would include the likes of Jackie Bradley – they should hang tight to Parnell.

PARNELL: Keep him.

PARNELL: Keep him.

Because of the save rule, which needs to be modified, the save is undervalued and the stock argument is a closer can always be found.

If that is the case, tell it to the Tigers and Red Sox. Tell it to the Yankees, who, if they haven’t already, will admit to being spoiled after Mariano Rivera retires.

Dave Robertson is the one who will slide into the ninth-inning role for the Yankees next year. But, he will learn there’s a vast difference between being the set-up man and THE MAN. There’s something about the ninth inning with no safety net that changes your perspective. It’s not as simple as measuring the basket in Hoosiers and discovering “it’s 10 feet, the same as in our gym back in Hickory.’’

There’s a mentality shift in becoming a closer and not everybody can make it happen like Rivera. Ron Davis found it a lot harder being the closer than the set-up man for Goose Gossage.

The fact is closers aren’t a dime a dozen. While it seems every team has somebody with 25 or more saves, then why are so many teams still looking?

It has taken time, but Parnell is finally grasping the ninth inning role. He’s spit the bit before, but this year it’s coming together for him and the contenders are noticing.

And, like vultures circling what they perceive as a dead carcass in the Mets’ season, they are waiting for Sandy Alderson to make Parnell available.

However, there’s no longer the inevitability this will be the Mets’ fifth straight losing season. The Mets were 15 games under .500 on June 15, and were losing in the ninth inning the following day when Kirk Nieuwenhuis homered off the Chicago Cubs’ once invincible starter Carlos Marmol.

They have scrapped back to eight games under today. In that span, Matt Harvey has won two games, lost one and had two of his ten no-decisions.

Harvey’s overall year, plus Zack Wheeler’s promise have painted the picture of the Mets being relevant in 2014. Will trading Parnell push them over the top?

No, because if they deal Parnell they will put themselves in position of needing a closer. Trading Parnell tells us the gap to competitiveness is a lot wider.

What the Mets should do is nothing. They should keep Parnell, keep Marlon Byrd and keep whatever other chips they might have and try to make something out of this season.

Will they reach the playoffs? Probably not, but if management lets them play out the season we would get a clearer picture of their needs heading into the offseason.

If the Mets traded Parnell and Byrd, it would signify surrender, which could lead into a tailspin and blur how good or bad they are.

Trading Parnell, or even suggesting it, displays a loser’s mentality.

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

Jul 10

What Message Are Mets Sending With Matt Harvey Decision?

The New York Mets officially pulled the plug on Matt Harvey’s start Saturday in Pittsburgh, but did they do it for the right reasons? Was it to give his blisters a chance to heal and begin a program to limit his innings or prepare him to pitch in the All-Star Game?

Or, is it a matter of coincidence as to the timing? The Mets did not pull the plug on the All-Star Game, and if the blisters aren’t healed, they wouldn’t say if they’d keep him out of what is basically an exhibition game.

WHEELER: Stars against Giants. (Getty)

WHEELER: Stars against Giants. (Getty)

For the past three weeks the buzz has been not will Harvey pitch in the All-Star Game, but would he start? And, if not him, then how about Zack Wheeler after what he did today in San Francisco? Kidding, but if these guys develop as the Mets hope there will be plenty of All-Star opportunities for both, but admittedly this might the only chance to start at home.

Of course, the Mets want Harvey to start Tuesday night as it puts their franchise in the national spotlight in a positive way, and most assuredly Major League Baseball wants him to start for the TV ratings. Let’s face it, money is the great motivator, and always has been for the sport.

But, if you’re a Met player struggling to make something out of this season of lousy weather, extra innings, grueling travel, injuries and losing streaks, how good can you feel about being deprived of your best pitcher against the Pirates yet have him available for an exhibition game? Exactly what message does that send?

For his part, Harvey wants to pitch and downplays the All-Star angle.

“I don’t like not pitching,’’ Harvey told reporters in San Francisco. “But, I’d rather miss a start now then miss all of September with an innings limit. … It’s between the blister and the innings limit [as to why I’m not pitching Saturday]. My goal is to finish the whole season.’’

Harvey is on pace to pitch close to 250 innings, which won’t happen. Factoring in not starting Saturday, Harvey should start 14 more games in the second half. Six innings a game would be 84 more innings, which should put him close to 220 for the season.

After a brilliant start which includes the trappings of a national magazine cover, dating a model and posing nude in another magazine – he doesn’t need the attention of the latter, does he? – Harvey hasn’t been as sharp recently.

As good a season as Harvey has had, think of how much better it might be if not for ten no-decisions. He might have three more wins if the Mets chopped up the seven runs they gave Wheeler today over three of those no-decisions.

All Wheeler needed today was the three the Mets gave him in the first inning, but they were all appreciated.

“Any time you have a lead you can pitch to contact,’’ Wheeler said. “You feel more in control when you can throw everything for strikes.’’

That’s something Wheeler did on the first pitch to 19 of the 27 batters he faced. That’s what Harvey did a lot earlier this season. And, if Wheeler can keep it up, maybe he might pose next year.

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