NEWS & VIEWS: Thawing Out, Waiting for Marcum, Ted Berg on Vegas, the Wheeler Goes Round and Round, Marquee Matchups, Arms Undone by Shoddy D, and . . . “HARVEY’S BETTER!”

IMG_0331Jimmy:

I was at my son’s modified baseball game on Thursday, the air was damp, the wind was whipping, the kids — most of ‘em sleeveless, too cool to wear jackets while on the bench — were shivering. Not ideal for baseball. The parents were frozen, miserable, stamping our feet to stave off frost bite. I got back in the car: 53 degrees. So I’m ready to forgive most of everything that happened in Colorado.

Mike:

Games are always bizarre events because of the altitude. I never know what to make of anything there. It must be tough to be a Rockie fan, every home game of your life is like September 2008 was for the Mets. No lead is safe.

Jimmy:

We knew there would be days like this. It was very encouraging that Shawn Marcum threw four innings on Thursday down in Port St. Lucie.

MetsMarcumMike:

Marcum is known to pitch well or not at all. The not at all part is a very real percentage with Shawn. I never expected 30 plus starts, I was hoping for 20. But with Wheeler being held back I also hoped to get any Marcum activity sooner rather than later. The four innings was good to see, his next start should be for us. Like Chris Young you don’t waste a lot of rehab starts with Shawn Marcum. When he can go you need to get what you can where it counts.

Jimmy:

Add Wheeler to the mix — say, in three weeks — and the entire picture changes dramatically. It’s a ripple effect. Hefner gets shifted to the proper role of long man, Frank-Frank returns, maybe Feliciano — who now has his fastball up to 62 MPH, btw — could help, too. We need guys other than Harvey and Niese to routinely go six, seven innings or the bullpen is toast.

Mike:

Speaking of Wheeler, did you see Ted Berg’s article on how great a location that is for developing pitchers?

Jimmy:

Yes I did. This isn’t anything we didn’t know, and underscores the poor management of the organization for getting stuck out there. Curveballs don’t break, routine flies go over the wall, it’s a ridiculous social environment for anybody, and hell on pitchers — yet this is where Wheeler is going to refine his command? I just hope he survives it without going backwards.

Mike:

Yes. And I’m not putting that on Alderson, this seems more like another handicap the hapless Wilpon family has stuck on him. Notice this quote from Berg,

“J.P. Ricciardi, a special assistant to the Mets general manager, served as the Blue Jays GM from 2002 to 2009. In that role, he said, he tried to keep as many pitchers as he could in Class AA.”

I doubt J.P. is on the record on that if Sandy thought Vegas was a great idea.

Jimmy:

Good point. When I read that, I was like, “Holy Crap, it’s as bad as I feared.” On the bright, at least they know. I read a blog piece this morning that offered up Wheeler’s cumulative stats for three games so far and concluded, “He needs more time to refine his command,” or some such platitude. No mention of losing Spring Training, a cursory comment about the blister, and nothing about Vegas itself. I’m at the point where I think 98% of what’s written about Wheeler now is complete bullshit. Opinions and speculations and spin.

Mike:

Everyone is wasting a lot of effort trying to figure this out. It’s simple, just trust Sandy.

Jimmy:

1970 K LeadersOne thing about last night’s marquee matchup: that kind of thing happens all the time when you’ve got a true ace. In the Seaver days it seemed like every time we looked up it was Seaver vs. Drysdale, or Gibson, or Carlton, or Jenkins. Lots of 2-1, 3-2 games that hinged on defense. Nobody appreciated Bud Harrelson more than Seaver. We recall the 1969 World Series and all anybody talks about are the catches made in the outfield.

Mike:

Well no risk of that discussion with this years team, unless it’s just amazement that they caught a routine flyball.

Jimmy:

I haven’t seen every inning, but I can’t remember one great catch, though it was sort of starting to see Valdespin run and catch a ball. A combo we haven’t seen much of this year. Moving along: As you know, I’ve never believed in Josh Edgin. The secondary stuff isn’t good, period, and the fastball isn’t hot enough. He’s aggressive so folks get excited. But so do hitters. Even so, these relievers — contact guys like Burke, for example, or Rauch last season — get victimized by the defense. I  don’t believe this team can ever, ever fix the bullpen without first fixing the overall defense; pitching and defense are inextricably linked.

Mike:

It’s so bad that I am officially breaking away from you. I now want Byrd in all the time. He actually runs after a flyball like a major league outfielder. On a team that puts Mike Baxter in for defense this is no small thing. The outfield defense makes me sick. The day den Dekker is ready he needs to play centerfield for the Mets. He could hit .200 and help this team.

Jimmy:

Baxter for defense says it all. We’re giving away doubles out there. We talked about Cargo the other day and that’s another strong thing in his favor, which is clearly undervalued around Flushing. He can go get the ball.

Mike:

I’ll let you talk about Strasberg versus Harvey. I want to talk about the crowd. You could hear them all night. I loved the chant — “Harvey’s Better!” Last night was a very nice night to be a Mets fan.

Jimmy:

You know what? Forget the considered opinions, the dire predictions, all the things the experts (and bloggers) say about this as a “lost” season. Anything I’ve said, forget it! Because games like last night make you believe. Baseball is funny, crazy things happen every year. And sometimes you think, “Why not us?” I know, I know. But it’s the thing that bugs me the most, this pervasive acceptance that it’s all lost before it even begins, so it’s not even worth the effort of striving.

And I want to say: it’s always worth the effort of striving, and I sure hope our GM understands that. I visit schools and tell kids all the time that the two most important words for a writer are, “What if?” They open the door to possibility. Well, games like last night — Ike! Duda! Harvey! — make you willing to suspend disbelief, to stand up and chant into the night air, “HARVEY’S BETTER!”

Let’s go Mets! So great to see that feeling in the ballpark, and for Citi Field to become the vessel for a new, happy memory. That 7th inning, bases loaded, Matt Harvey on the hill, a little bit gassed but still determined. He simply was not going to let them score another run.

You know who he reminded me of?

cultures-escape-bulgaria-gandalf-you-shall-not-pass

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7 comments

  1. Watched most of the game last night. Harvey will be fun to watch all season, but I have to wonder what kind of innings cap they might put on him? Will they shut him down after, say, 170 innings pitched? If he pitches something approaching a full season, he looks like he’ll be in the running for the Cy Young award. But I doubt they’ll let him go that far.

    • Harvey threw 170 IP last season, so conventional wisdom says no more than a 30-35 IP jump per season.

      He’ll need some 6 IP starts in the mix, but should go very deep into the season, IMO. Possible shut-down last two weeks, maybe.

      A lot of contingencies at this point.

  2. Ken H. says:

    I’m in my 40s, so it’s been a long time since I viewed baseball players as anything resembling role models. It has been decades since I said things like “I want to be like that guy,” when speaking about a professional athlete.

    However, when I watch Matt Harvey — not just how he pitches, but how he goes about his business, overall — I have to admit that I am brought back to a much simpler time when the talent and character exhibited by a single player could provoke me to emulate his batting stance or pitching motion in a stickball game. Sure, nobody was watching the game, but imitating my idol made me feel like I would be a rising star in no time.

    While I won’t be emulating Harvey’s pitching motion anytime soon, it’s fair to say that when it comes to his character and how he handles himself in general, I think I might just want to be like that guy.

  3. Alan K. says:

    Mike, you’re killing me on denDekker. Unless he proves he’s a major league hitter, he shouldn’t be an everyday CF, no matter how great he is defensively. The Mets need an OF who can field and hit, and it’s Alderson’s job to fill that need.

  4. Michael Geus says:

    Hey I’m the guy who wanted Span, but he is not here. In the meantime we can either have a player who is a tremendous defensive center fielder and most lilkely a bad hitter, or guys who are below average everything.

    Given those choices I pick the defensive centerfielder. We also prove or disprove whether DD can hit. If he stays down and mashes in Vegas, a hitters paradise, we learn zip and leave Alderson the ability to sell him for 2014.

    And if he proves he can hit? Wouldn’t that be great? I don’t know why we wouldn’t try it.

    Sorry, I just can’t see this team making the playoffs, I think 2013 is about getting answers. What could happen? He hits .100 for a month and we win 69 games instead of 71? That doesn’t faze me.

  5. Alan K. says:

    The numbers at AAA were ugly…200 BA and struck out 90 times in 295 at-bats and hit only .222 BA in spring training. Instead of hoping for a miracle from DD, Alderson needs to to find better options instead of “going with the guys he has” which has been his stock answer.

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