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April 2015

Sitting Down With Dillon Gee

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Dillon Gee will start against the Florida Marlins tonight in Miami as the Mets return to tackling NL East opponents whom they are 13-3 against this season. I had a chance to talk to him about his role on the team, his recent talk with Terry Collins and his view of the 2015 Mets. Here is that conversation:

426 Coutinho With Gee

 

 


Matt Harvey Is The Toast Of The Town

Harvey

Make no mistake New York City--Matt Harvey has become the biggest sports star in this town and proved it on a stage like Yankee Stadium which Met fans transformed into CitiField North on a Saturday afternoon where he dominated from start to finish.

He threw 8.2 innings of 5 hit ball but more importantly showed New York that the Mets are ready to take this town over. Sure the Rangers and Islanders are in playoff runs and so are the Brooklyn Nets (remember them) and the Jets have built an impressive off-season resume but this town is turning Met crazy because of the righthanded arm of Matt Harvey.

I have lived in NY for over 5 decades and have seen Met pitchers do this in the past. Ther names were Tom Seaver and Doc Gooden and to me I feel like I am in an echo chamber. This is a guy who brings 4 pitches to the mound and is not afraid to throw them at anytime. Even Alex Rodriguez commented after the game when asked about Harvey that he comes off as advertised.

But more than that he has brought a bravado and confidence to an organization that badly needed it. The Mets had won 11 in a row but were beat by the Yankees on Friday night and Harvey knew he had to have an immediate answer for that.

The Mets are now 14-4--the best record in baseball and lead the NL East by 5 games over the Braves and 7 games over the Washington Nationals. Now don't get me wrong--it is still very early but hot starts give you a cushion when times get tough like they always do in a baseball season.

Back to my original point--Matt Harvey is one of the big reasons for that and his it factor is painfully obvious to the opposing teams especially the New York Yankees who must feel like the town is slipping away as it did in the mid 80's. A win tomorrow night could cement that notion but remember this cool April afternoon in the Bronx as the day the Mets took over New York with Matt Harvey driving that bus leaving the New York Yankees behind as a flyspeck in their rear view mirror.


Despite Injuries Met Determined To Keep Winning

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In many ways, it was a strange week for the Mets. They have continued to win--in fact no Met team has ever started the season better than 10-3. They chased the Marlins out of town 7 games behind them in the early season standings and remain 1.5 games ahead of the second place Braves.

But injuries are starting to mount as both Travis d'arnaud and Jerry Blevins suffered fractures yesterday putting them each out of action for at least 6 weeks. In many ways, this will test the Mets depth which many experts feel was much deeper in 2015 than in years past. Certainly, that was tested in the early going this season as the Mets have lost many other players to various injuries as well.

The interesting part about all of this is that adversity has motivated this team in a bizarre way. Talking to many of the Mets they are determined to be a playoff time and injuries are just a speed bump which might make things harder.

"Nobody wants to see anyone hurt but we are all in this room for one goal-make the playoffs and that goal will NEVER change", said Met catcher Anthony Recker. And you walk around this locker room and you feel that vibe-concern for their injured teammates but one singular purpose. That's why you see injured players in clubhouse helping the guys who are filling in for them.

Think about the negativity around the Mets in past few years-or just take a stroll on Met Twitter--and understand that this organization is tired of hearing all of that. You talk to these guys one on one and they understand the negativity but will not feed into it. And that positive energy is alive and well in CitiField both on the field and in the stands.

Sure--it is rough to see injuries to players who are red-hot like d'arnaud but with injury comes opportunity and all you Met Tweeters who criticized Sandy Alderson for not trading his prospects for major league talent may want to re-think that viewpoint.

The depth in this organization is real and will show the baseball world that these young players are not only talented but have been coached into a winning mindset. A mindset that won't let a few injuries stand in the way of taking over this city.

 

 


My Conversation With David Wright

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After today's Mets 2-0 Opening Day victory over the Phillies, I had a chance to talk with Met captain David Wright. We chatted about the heavy expectations surrounding the team as well as how well the Met pitching has been in the early going this season  Here is that conversation:

 

4-13 Coutinho With Wright


 

 

 


Harvey Day Was Just What The Mets Hoped It Would Be

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The New York Mets could not have asked for a better day. Matt Harvey took the mound and threw 6 scoreless innings and their offense put 6 runs up on the board as they took 2 out of 3 from the Washington Nationals.

Matt Harvey has undeniably brought life and purpose into the Mets organization and believe me the rest of the National League has noticed. He faced 23 Nationals in his start and threw a first pitch strike to 20 of them--that my friends is off the charts for any pitcher but for one coming off Tommy John surgery it is downright amazing.

Bryce Harper has commented the last few days that he thought the Met pitchers were tough but he might want to redefine that word as he was struck out 3 times by Harvey and in each of them he was overpowered by the stuff of the Met pitcher.

In Spring Training Harvey was absolutely dominating but we all know that is just Spring Training. The bell rang today and Harvey looks absolutely as dominant as he looked in Port St Lucie. Let’s remember the Mets lost 14 of 19 to this Nationals team and in last 4 years were 16-42 against them. But Harvey in 4 career starts versus this team has pitched 27 innings to a 1.00 ERA walking only 7 while striking out 35.

And Harvey is only one of 2 pitchers in the last 100 years to allow one run or fewer in 20 of his first 37 career games. You want more? Harvey has the 3rd best WHIP of any pitcher since 1921 in his first 37 career games. Those numbers are courtesy of STATS LLC.

But Matt Harvey is about more than just the numbers. He provides this team with a mindset about winning in much the same way Tom Seaver did in the late 60's. Now he has a long way to go before he comes close to Tom Terrific but the comparison is obvious--this team has been down for so long it needed a talented, confident, no-nonsense ace pitcher to lead the way. And they have that.

The season is still in its infancy stage and there is so much baseball to play but the way Met fans and New York in general followed every pitch today shows how far the star power of Matt Harvey has risen. There is no player in New York on either side of town that commands the coverage of the media and that intense coverage will only grow as the season progresses.

But more importantly, when you walk around the Met clubhouse you can see how much confidence Matt Harvey has bred inside the minds of players who wear The Orange And Blue. I have not seen anything in this clubhouse like that since the days of Keith Hernandez. Even on a day when the Mets took a series from the Nats, there was no tough talk no bravado--there was knowledge that there is still much work to do and this was merely a minor Step #1

A step taken with the help of a young man who is poised to lead the Mets into success and also ready to take New York much in the way #41 did some 46 years ago. It will great to watch and for Met fans they got a small taste of that on a cloudy April DC day.

 


The Real Story Behind The Met Lineup

Collins
When I arrived in DC I expected to talk about Mejia's injury or maybe Matt Harvey returning in the finale of this series on Thursday afternoon but instead I was caught in the middle of this insane story about whom constructed the Mets Opening Day lineup. Was it Terry Collins or Sandy Alderson?

Well I decided instead of pontificating about the merits of the insanity I heard on the airwaves I was going to have some conversations with both Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson. Now there's a novel concept--actually talk to the people involved before going on a rant.

Terry generally meets with the media 3 hours before the game and I decided I would talk to him after it rather than in a group setting. My 30+ years as a reporter has given me access to many things and one of them is that good managers get feedback from all sources inside their organization and hearing these stories I found it hard to believe that Collins and Alderson had a "Moneyball" type of conversation we saw in the aforementioned movie.

During the pre-game presser as a joke, Sandy Alderson came in and gave Terry a lineup card which further proved to me the story was a bunch of nonsense. But Terry and I spoke privately and he told me the following, "Rich I had the first conversation about the lineup with Bob Geren back in February while we were bowling together in Port St Lucie and again while we were in Texas finishing up our pre-season schedule. At no point was I EVER ordered to run a certain lineup and that notion is totally untrue."

Speaking to Sandy, I got the same response and please understand this--General Managers constantly talk to managers about lineups and that feedback is important but the final decision rests with the manager. I can tell you this because I was one of few reporters who got along with BOTH Bobby Valentine AND Steve Phillips and Bobby was NEVER ordered to run a certain lineup. And that was two men who lets just say were not best buddies.

What really annoyed me about this was this story got in the Twitter universe and the 2 people involved were never quoted until today. But it speaks to a grander problem in our industry--the game is not enough. To me the Met story today was who will be the closer tonight? Will Jacob deGrom have a great second season?  How excited is the team about Matt Harvey's return? That's baseball and the other stuff is all nonsense. Does this guy like this guy? Do they get along?

When did we all become gossip columnists or National Enquirer editors? Who cares who chose the lineup--it was a group effort and the baseball people (including Terry Collins) thought it was the best way to win. And guess what? The Mets won the game so what is the big deal?

I am sure Joe Torre in all his years with the Yankees asked for other opinions on lineup construction  from Willie Randolph or Don Zimmer for instance and it was never a story. A good baseball manager asks for input because he wants to corner all facets of a certain lineup decision in order to put a winning lineup on the field.

The other thing here is people thought they had the answers to LineupGate when they are never around the team and more importantly never have to face the people they have cast dispersions on in reporting about this.

Enough of LineupGate. The next 2 days are about a Met team that is trying to send a message to themselves they can beat a Nat team that leveled them last year. Granted it is a Nat team that is missing some key players but nonetheless it could be an important start to the 2015 season for the Mets.

That's baseball talk folks and I love talking about a sport I love. I will leave the gossip talk to the people who produce those shows. It honestly does not interest me one bit not when I am about to see last year's Rookie Of The Year battle Jordan Zimmerman and then see Matt Harvey take on Steven Strasberg on successive days.