Feb 21

Collins Says Mets Capable Of Playoffs

Is it genuine optimism for the New York Mets or simply unfounded wishful thinking? In the past two days, both GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins alluded to the playoffs. No guarantees, and with the qualifier, “capable of” if they execute. Hell, anybody could have told you that.

“Now we’ve just got to go play,’’ Collins told reporters Saturday in Port St. Lucie. “It’s all about execution. As we’ve seen in the past, there are teams that were world champs and the next year they’re in last place. And there are teams that were in last place that the next year they’re in the playoffs.

“If we play up to expectations and what we think are the caliber of players we have, we’ll be playing in October.’’

Collins’ thinking is based on the potential of the Mets’ pitching; the additions of Michael Cuddyer in right field and John Mayberry for the bench; and healthy returns of David Wright and Matt Harvey.

There are other issues: Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler must progress; the bullpen is seemingly sound, even without Bobby Parnell available at the start of the season; the leadoff spot is unsettled between Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson; Wilmer Flores is an unproven commodity at shortstop.

Harvey is a huge key, and Alderson acknowledged there’s nothing concrete about his innings ceiling. It was initially reported Harvey would probably miss the start of the season, but likely pitch the home opener. Collins said today Harvey would start one of the season’s first five games.

I prefer something more definitive, but it is early. Things change.

“We’ve been sitting around for four years asking everybody to be patient and even the players,” Collins said. “Well, it’s time.’’

A lot has to happen if the Mets are to reach the playoffs, let alone have their first winning season after six straight losing summers.

Sure, there’s reason to be hopeful, but the playoffs? Well, I’ve heard this before from the Mets so I’m not swallowing this hook, line and sinker.

October baseball? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Feb 16

Mets Matters: Gee Wants To Stay; Figueroa Signs

The top news of the day is Dillon Gee reported to spring training and threw off the mound. Gee, whom the Mets tried to trade in the winter, told reporters he wants to remain with the team and is willing to move to the bullpen.

He admits hearing the rumors.

“As long as I’m playing baseball, I don’t really care where it’s at,’’ Gee said. “The majority of me wants to stay here because I have all my buddies here and I think this team is going to succeed and I want to win. I want to help the team win. To me, though, as long as I’m on that mound pitching, that’s where I’ll be happy.’’

While pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Thursday, several Mets are already in camp, among them: Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Jacob deGrom, David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda.

Pitchers and catchers will workout Saturday, with position players scheduled to report, Feb. 24, and the first full-squad workout to be two days later.

The Mets’ first exhibition game is against Atlanta in Orlando.

SNY MOVE OFFICIAL: Nelson Figueroa signed a contract to replace Bobby Ojeda as a studio pregame and postgame analyst for SNY.

Figueroa started 16 games for the Mets in 2008 and 2009 and went 6-11. In five years with the Mets (1986-1990) Ojeda was 51-40 with a 3.12 ERA.

Ojeda has been critical of the Mets, but the reason for the split with SNY is believed to be financial.

Feb 13

Wheeler Must-See Watch In 2015

Of all the Mets, Zack Wheeler is the one I am most curious to watch this summer. Wheeler made a strong first impression in 2013 and improved last season to 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA while working 185.1 innings in 32 starts.

WHEELER: High expectations. (AP)

WHEELER: High expectations. (AP)

His durability last year indicates 200-plus innings is within reach. We don’t know Wheeler’s ceiling, but our expectations are realistically high.

Wheeler averages over nine strikeouts per nine innings, but also just over four walks which is  red-flag worthy.

There’s no doubting his stuff, but his command must improve. It’s not just the walks, but consistently running deep into the count. Consequently, he only worked into the seventh just 13 times. By comparison, 41-year-old Bartolo Colon pitched into the seventh or longer 18 times.

When looking at the development of a young pitcher, innings pitched might be most important as it indicates an ability to work out of trouble to give his team a chance to win.That’s why 200 innings was important to Colon last year and to Dillon Gee the previous season.

If Wheeler can cut the four walks he gave up in half and convert them into outs, that could have pushed him into the seventh nine more times last year if not longer because it would have reduced his pitch count. As it was, he threw over 100 pitches 24 times and at least 110 in 13 games.

This is the step Wheeler must take this summer. If he can, a lot of good things can happen.

 

Feb 09

Niese Faces Pivotal Season

Every spring there is that singular player whose career might hang in the balance as is Jonathon Niese’s with the New York Mets.

NIESE: Will it ever happen for him?

NIESE: Will it ever happen for him?

It was in 2012 when the Mets signed him to a long-term contract through 2016. They signed him for all the right reasons. He threw hard; is left-handed; the contract provided cost certainty; he had some degree of major league success; and at the time was relatively healthy.

In the three years since, he’s won just 30 games, hadn’t pitched 200 innings in any season, and sustained one form of injury or another every year.

With Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard and left-hander Steven Matz waiting in the wings – and let’s not forget Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee remain on the 40-man roster – it doesn’t take much to figure Niese’s value to the Mets is rapidly diminishing, especially since they put him on the block over the winter.

All the reasons why the Mets signed Niese, and why he was coveted by other teams in trade talks, aren’t as prevalent. If 2015 is anything like the last three seasons, next year at this time we might not even be talking about him in the rotation as Matz could supplant him.

Of all the Mets who need a big and healthy season, Niese ranks at the top of my list.

 

Feb 06

Assessing The Real Value Of Harvey

This is the year the Mets pointed to with the return of Matt Harvey to their rotation. With Harvey, they hope, they could be a legitimate wild-card contender. Despite their holes, with Harvey the Mets have a good chance of winning every fifth day. He makes them a representative team, one worth watching, one that gives cause for optimism.

HARVEY: Has more than mound value. (Getty)

HARVEY: Has more than mound value. (Getty)

The Mets regard Harvey, who has 12 career victories in 36 starts in parts of two seasons, as their pitching rock, but he’s much more.

If Harvey turns out to become all he’s cracked up to be, and the Mets answer their other questions – including the continued development of Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom – their rebuilding program could turn out to be the real thing and not Sandy Alderson’s wishful thinking.

However, Harvey’s value to the Mets transcends the numbers he posts on the mound. He’s not only the future, but gives them flexibility and other assurances.

A healthy and productive Harvey could give the Mets confidence he’s worthy of a long-term deal, which translates into financial certainty. That’s invaluable to a franchise having economic problems.

In addition, if Harvey is sound it could give the Mets the freedom to deal one of their other pitchers to address other needs. A healthy Harvey also takes away the urgency to rush Noah Syndergaard to the majors.

However, it isn’t hard to imagine the Mets’ position if the reverse is true. There could be the urgency to force Syndergaard to Flushing or overspend next year in the free-agent market.

Yes, the Mets are counting on a lot of things this season from Harvey, most importantly, to be the future they envision.