Category Archives: Steven Matz

WHICH METS STARTER WOULD YOU TRADE FOR A SORELY NEEDED BAT?

The New York Mets have some big decisions to make this winter. Assuming they are not willing to put up the money it’s going to take to sign Yeonis Cespedes,images-134 (left) or even better they don’t want anything to do with him – they will need to move on a trade to replace his bat – one that clearly rejuvenated a struggling lineup and powered them to the World Series. To do this, teams will be looking at their core of young starting pitchers saying “Okay, for this guy, we’ll give you him but if you sweeten the deal with HIM we’ll give you HIM”. So, what is the best move for the Mets? Continue reading

PACKAGE HIM UP AND SEND HIM ON HIS WAY

All you really need to know about Matt Harvey is not the fact that he pitched eight credible inningsimages-32 for the Mets in the final game of the 2015 World Series (as the ace of any staff is expected to do)……..it’s the fact that he missed a mandatory TEAM workout the day before the Playoffs began. And the fact that neither the Mets organization or Harvey himself have publicly addressed the issue gives you a glimpse into the”play” on both sides.

Look, full disclosure here……..I’ve had a problem with Matt The Brat since he announced to the masses that he was the second coming of Derek Jeterimages-35 and his singular goal in life is to have as many girls as Jeter (whatever that’s supposed to mean). To make it worse, the New York media fell right into step snapping photos of him with a girl on each arm for Page Six for weeks on end. Continue reading

AS THE GAME TURNS……

Just when it looked like the Royals had their gears in synced motion and their lineup was ready to quiet the raucous crowd at City Field with one of those keep the line moving rallies that has become their signature in this year’s Playoffs, the game turned on a dime in the second inning when a call at third base was overturned by replay.

The play (shown here in this MLB video) occurred when David Wright took a throw from left fielder Michael Conforto and the runner, 635818530669234576-USATSI-8892351Alex Gordon, was called safe on a very close play putting runners on first and third with one run in and nobody out.. However, Wright immediately raised his hand signalling to the dugout and Terry Collins pleading for a replay. Collins acknowledged his Captain and Gordon was ruled out by the replay umpire – resulting in runners on first and second with one out. Not necessarily a game turner but the play certainly swung the momentum back to the Mets and they never looked back from there. Continue reading

TAKE A DEEP BREATH – IT AIN’T OVER YET

Before the World Series began, I asked what I believed were two pertinent questions. The first one revolved around the contest of the Met starters who consistently average between 95-97 mph and have a litany of strikeouts as their major weapon – and how that would fare against the Royals offense which doesn’t strike out, images-1seldom walks, and seems to have a propensity to string together five or six consecutive hits creating the big inning that often decides what was (until then) a close game.

You may already get the drift of where I’m going with this, but I also pointed to the distinct possibilityimages-38 that most (or even all) of the Mets rotation has ( or would soon) run into a wall based on innings pitched and plateaus never realized until now. Never was this more apparent than the wall Jacob DeGrom (above) smashed into last night. Cruising images-19along with electric and dominant stuff, all of a sudden he left a few pitches up in the zone and voila – the Royals being the Royals capitalize on these mistakes and turn the game around – for good ( Congrats Johnny Cueto – above right). Continue reading

GET IT WHILE YOU CAN – OR NOT?

 We can all recall the decision of the Washington Nationals to shut Stephen Strasburg down prior to their Playoff appearance a couple of seasons ago – and we all know the ensuing history whereby the Nationals are still waiting for a return visit. The reason XXX C01 ANDREWS 25 S ALfor their decision was that he was coming back from “Tommy John” surgery performed by the pioneering Dr. James Andrews (left) and they wanted to protect him from another injury.

Unfolding now is a similar dilemma faced by the New York Mets as we await the start of the World Series on Tuesday. Except in this, we have not just one but four tender and spectacularly young arms in play, images-23with two of them (Harvey and Matz) in the rebound year of  their surgeries. Adding to the drama are the events surrounding Matt Harvey and his agent Scott Boras late in the season when both nearly tore the team apart when they declared a 180 innings limit for “The Brat”. Luckily, Doc Gooden and others stepped in to reason with Harvey and the fiasco fizzled out.

Nevertheless, all four of the Mets starting pitchers are approaching or have already surpassed their highestimages-33 inning totals in their brief career. In fact, in Harvey’s case, if he indeed starts game one (probable but not yetimages-38 written in stone), and if the Series is extended beyond four or five games, he will have pitched the most innings ever for a player coming back from surgery, and this includes Tommy John himself. 

As it was for the Nationals, this almost certainly is a lose-lose proposition for the Mets. Because if they play it safe by shutting down one or possibly even more of these young studs and lose the Series, they’ll have all winter to answer to that decision. On the other hand, if they win the Series and one or more of them suffers a career threatening injury, they’ll have all winter to answer to that decision. 

I’m of the mind that they (and in particular Dan Warthen, their underrated pitching coach) should look closely at their mechanics and body language when they are throwing. If one or more of them “looks” different now from the way they looked in July, then that should be a red flag demonstrating possible strain that could lead to injury. In this regard, Jacob DeGrom deserves a close look as he’s seemed a bit “off” in his last two starts, even though in both he was able to grind it out and secure two wins. As with Strasburg, this must be a management decision since all of them are too young to know their own bodies yet. Plus, they’re all bulldogs with a competitive edge and they’ll never shut themselves down voluntarily.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the Mets have two proven and stable starters on call in the ageless Bartolo Colon (left) images-51and Jonathan Niese who bounced back nicely in his last few starts when there was serious discussion about him even being on the Playoff roster. But in the end, it should be a “feel” decision made by the Mets and it should be done individually and not collectively. The Nationals were wrong when they shut Strasburg down even before the Playoffs began. To their credit, the Mets didn’t do that even when they could have when Harvey gave them the chance to. They hung in there and so did Harvey. Now, it’s game on! Continue reading

THE METS CAME TO A FORK IN THE ROAD – AND THEY TOOK IT

There are several ways to win a Division Title. The Dodgers and Cardinals did it by pretty much leading wire to wire competing mainly against themselves. Another way is what the Rangers are doing to the Astros with their late surge “got you last” game of tag against a team that seemed destined to fade. The New York Mets did it the old fashioned way……grinding it out and always looking over their shoulders at the Nationals who were virtually everyone’s pre season pick to win – except they didn’t – the Mets did.

You may recall the torrid start to the season when they opened the eyes of many and perhaps even their own eyes. Hope was the buzzword back then as in “Hey, maybe we do have a pretty good team here”.images-17 That hope images-28turned downright nasty though in June when they lost seven in a row and dipped below .500. The swoon continued into July as scoring four runs in a game was considered an outburst while the young arms tried to hold the team together. This writer included pleaded with Sandy Alderson (right)  to make a move to get a big bat or two at the trading deadline. Meanwhile Terry Collins (left)  the Manager of the Year ( he should be) kept a cool confident air even though he must have been thinking to himself “S__t, this is my job on the line here”.

The rest is pretty much as they say (recent) history. Alderson did get the big bat in Cespedes (below) with minutes to spare while picking up two qualityimages-134 relievers in Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed. Along the way, he also solidified the bench with Ryan Franklin and Uribe. Andimages-9……….in perhaps the most important development David Wright (right), the Captain of the team came back with a home run in his first game and at bat. Suddenly, there was fresh air to breathe, The Mets came to a fork in the road and they not only took it (as their former Manager Yogi Berra said)  –  they seized it. They not only survived the long haul of a baseball season but they have emerged as a team knit tightly together and one with battle wounds to prove it. 

So now, the Mets have a little more than a week to prepare and repair their regulars (give Wright, Murphy, Granderson a blow), rest the bullpen and especially Familia, and get that all importantimages-1 starting rotation New York Mets Spring Training at their Minor League practice facility located within Tradition Field in Floridain order and ready for a all out attack throwing pitch counts and innings off the table. Matching (in order) DeGrom ( left), Syndegaard, Harvey (right), and Matz against Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greineke, and……let me see who else……….. leaves the Mets with a bit more than hope at this stage of the season. Don’t be surprised if you see Kershaw and Greinke in games four and five for that reason. It’s the crapshoot playoffs and it will be fun watching the Mets take the stage. Continue reading

BARTOLO COLON – AGELESS WONDER – AND A PITCHER

Bill Lee, images-39(right) the former tall flamethrower for the Boston Red Sox ( also known as Mr. Spaceman for good reasons), was once asked by a reporter, ” Bill, what is your best pitch?” Without hesitation, he succinctly replied “Strike One.”

Bartolo Colon, the winningest pitcher on the New York Mets at 14-11, knows that. images-47More importantly, he has learned to execute that often decisive first pitch to almost every batter he faces.  And this all comes at the tender age of 42. With 218 wins logged thus far, he is not likely to be destined for the Hail of Fame, but the nearly 3,000 innings he has thrown has to catch your attention as one of those “rubber arms” of the past who simply took their turn when it came up – and pitch count were words from a foreign language.

I once met “Bart” as he is known to his teammates when he was with the White Sox in images-512005 when I attended a game at Yankee Stadium. At the players entrance, he paused to say hello to an acquaintance. I recall being struck by his stature – kind of roly poly – built strong. Nowadays, he has almost become a caricature of himself as he has somehow managed five hits and four RBI ” running” the bases.

Bartolo Colon is not a flamethrower. In fact, he seldom touches 90. What he does do however is keep hitters off balance while constantly changing their eye level. In essence, most times they get themselves out. This is a practiced art. It seldom can be taught. You have to buy into it…….and then (maybe) it can be taught. It’s a formula more “throwers” should take notice of.

All of this becomes more interesting as the Mets move forward to the Second Season and a playoff rrotation is formed. Jon Niese has pitched his way out of that rotation and probably even the roster. That leaves (pick yours – you only need four with ample days off) DeGrom, Harvey, Syndegaard, Matz, and Colon. One man is out but relegated to a all important bullpen role. Who should it be? 

“MATT THE BRAT” – A BIG PAIN IN THE METS BRASS

Already at the young age of 26, Matt (“The Brat”) Harvey is at a critical turning point in his career not only with the Mets, but in New York City as well. What has unfolded over the last week and continues to confuse and alarm Metland moving forward towards the Playoffs leaves everyone gasping for breath and thinking…..”You can’t make this stuff up”.

Here’s a quick recap. Throughout all of the previous year while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery, Harvey hounded and cajoled the Mets to pitch in Septemberimages-28,images-17 well before the normal recovery time. They wisely refused telling him in so many words….”Shut up and do your work”. This year in the beginning of Spring Training, the Mets brass (GM Sandy Alderson and field manager Terry Collins) got together and came up with a soft number of 180-185 innings for Harvey to pitch before they would turn their stallion stud loose next year.

Then as the Mets playoff possibilities emerged, they decided to skip one or two of his starts to save the innings for October. Harvey balks loudly in the media saying repeatedly “I am ready to pitch not only now but in October and beyond”. Later (much later) he recants agreeing to go along with a six man rotation the Mets can easily afford. So far so good, right? The man’s a bulldog and just what is needed in a Ace.

Not so fast. This week, his agent Scott Boras (the Donald Trump of player agents) comes out swinging and says that Harvey (based on his surgeon’s images-44recommendations) images-35will only pitch 180 innings this year. With 162 already in the books, this leaves open the chance that Harvey will start only three more games ending his season before October even begins. For his part, Harvey announced in a crowded dugout press conference that he is inclined to agree and shut himself down to protect the future of his career (read $$$).

Now mind you, this is the same Matt (The Brat) Harvey who seized every opportunity in the two years prior to this latest episode to thrust himself into the New York media spotlight (the photos above speak for themselves) saying at one point – paraphrasing – “My goal in life is to have more girls than Jeter”.  Say what?

For a time, this was all entertaining and it reinforced his persona as the big man in town, something the Mets sorely needed as they fight for space on the back page with the Yankees. But  first of all, Harvey can’t (and will never) even hold Derek Jeter’s jockstrap on or off the field in New York. Secondly, his career won-lost record in the Majors is a rather pedestrian 24-17. And he’s won the same number of games this year as 42 year old Bartolo Colon………

What the Mets should do (and they shouldn’t wait) is say “Okay big boy (emphasis on boy) , we agree with you……….180 is your limit this year and after that WE shut YOU down!” After all, it’s not like they are hurting for starting pitching. Plus, this would actually solve the problem of whom to move to the bullpen for the playoffs. DeGrom, Syndegaard, Colon/Niese, and Matz sounds more than good enough for me………..in October and beyond. Continue reading

A NEW DIRECTION IN NEW YORK TAKES HOLD

Major League ballclubs have always invested heavily in their farm systems as a means of developing new talent. Not so  much for the Mets and Yankees though. With big money to spend, they have traditionally used their their “bonus babies” as a lure to trade for or sign marquee players in the free agent market. This strategy has often saddled them with long term contracts that leaves talent in the minors with nowhere to go because positions on the roster – let alone starting lineups – are not available. Case in point…….consider this….the New York Mets are still paying Bobby Bonilla (the poster child of bad signings in New York) 1.2 million dollars a year…..and they will continue to do so for several years more…….until 2035! When was the last time he had an at bat for the Mets? ( I looked it up…..14 years ago) .

In The early stages of July, New York media were screaming for both teams to “do something” before the trade deadline. The Yankees just had to have David Price or Cole Hamels…..or what the hell…..images-25.images-29why not both. The Mets needed a couple of run producers in their sluggish lineup. Like old times, it was time to sell the farm. Instead, they did virtually nothing in the trade markets (although Cespedes was a nice grab by the Mets) while promoting promising rookies like Greg Bird (left) and Michael Conforto (right) who are making significant contributions to both teams.

For the Yankees, this is a relatively new strategy in team building since they hit the jackpot with the Core Four who leveraged The Run in the late Nineties.images-34 images-42In addition to Bird who is already proving to be a run producing machine, others like Luis Severino (left) and Rob Resnyder (right), and Gary Sanchez (a catcher rounding his skills at AAA) have scouts and Yankees coaches salivating. In the case of Severino, he too has already made the step up and is fast becoming a vital part of the starting rotation while Refsnyder only needs to improve his defensive skills at second base.

For the Mets, they have been in a rebuilding mode for some time now. Their strategy of stockpiling starting pitchers is now paying off. images-38 images-33So much so that the biggest problem they face right now is who gets dropped from the rotation and goes to the bullpen for the playoffs. Jacob DeGrom (left) is proving that he is the real thing following his Rookie Of The Year season last year while Steven Matz (right) has looked brilliant and unflappable in his starts to date.

New York teams are not the only ones adopting this approach to team building. In fact, it can be said that they are relatively late coming to the dance. Both the Royals and Cardinals model this strategy and look where they sit today. For this writer though, it’s refreshing and energizing to see my New York teams make the leap while teams like the Blue Jays (David Price) and Texas (Cole Hamels) continue down the road we used to travel. As the Yankees have proven in the past, both strategies can and do work. It’s just more fun to watch these kids play a boys game with a future ahead of them – instead of behind them.