SNY analyst Bob Ojeda raised the issue on Wednesday’s post-game show after Wily Peralta moved Wright off the plate with a fastball up near his head, and on Thursday Matt Harvey essentially said it’s time someone responds as a way of protecting the Mets’ best player.
“It’s hard for me to watch David keep getting pushed back," Harvey told the Daily News. “I’m not happy about it. It’s not right how guys are being able to manipulate his entire at-bat by pitching him up and in.
“It’s tough for him. He’s had to adapt to a different style. And it’s frustrating to watch from the sidelines and not be able to do something about it.
The subject who, if pitching, would have been able to "do something", that is, retaliate to stop it.
“When it would happen once in a while last year, I’d be the first guy to throw one behind somebody’s ear. And I don’t forget. Once I’m back I’ll be excited about getting the chance to help the captain.’’
Being "the first guy" indicates that there would be others. The context, however, is that there is no one else protecting David Wright on the field.
Harvey said that because he’s sidelined as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery, he doesn’t feel it’s his place to talk to teammates about the situation and tell them how to handle it.
But he clearly has strong feelings about what should happen.
“It’s out there, everybody knows,’’ Harvey said. “If guys don’t know by now that something needs to be done, it’s going to continue to happen and that’s not acceptable.’’
"by now" indicts the other Met pitchers, and, perhaps, the coaching staff. Has no one said anything while their best player is targeted?
And as it turned out, Jon Niese did hit a pair of Brewers, Rickie Weeks and Aramis Ramirez, on Thursday night. But he hit both below the waist, and neither of the pitches had the look or feel of retaliation _ or anything like what Harvey was suggesting.
More significantly, Niese also threw a gem but, as usual, the offense was anemic in a 5-1, 13-inning loss, and that’s the real issue here.
The Mets desperately need Wright to look like his old self rather than the singles hitter he has been this season. And though he remains mired in a 2-for-31 slump, he did hit the ball hard a few times on Thursday while going 1-for-5, including a rocket off the wall in left-center on which he was thrown out at second.
Nevertheless, scouts say Wright hasn’t driven the ball this season to right and right-center, long considered his power zone, and Ojeda believes that’s the result regularly being backed off the plate.
“Some of these pitches are too far inside for my taste," Ojeda said on Wednesday’s post-game. “I don’t like seeing one of my teammates, if I was on the team, getting these buzz jobs. He gets them almost on a nightly basis and when he does, it opens up the outside (for the pitcher).
“David gets very aware of the inside. He’s not afraid; it’s more like he wants to meet the challenge when they come back inside. But when he gets aware of the inside, he won’t go out there and get the outside pitch."
Wright, meanwhile, said he is always on guard against becoming too inside-conscious.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with getting hit," he said. “When I start getting in trouble, it’s when guys are busting me in and I start looking for it in and trying to do too much, and I get myself in a funk."
Wright acknowledged that getting pitched inside is an issue that sometimes demands a response.
“They always tend to pitch me inside," he said. “And I’ll say this: when we used to play the Cardinals and Tony LaRussa was there, if you even nicked Albert Pujols, they were getting two of your guys, and (the pitches) were going to be right in the middle of your back.
“So I think there’s something to be said for having your teammates’ back. Last year we did a couple of things, and I don’t want to get into specifics _ I don’t want to get anybody in trouble _ but we did a couple of things where pitchers had my back.
“But overall I don’t feel like I’m getting pitched in more than normal. If it gets to that point, somebody will do it for me. I’m not worried about that.’’
Whatever the cause, Wright’s lack of pop has to concern the Mets. It’s not early anymore yet he has a career-low .365 slugging percentage, as well as a career-low .329 on-base percentage.
“He’s always driven the ball to right and right-center, but he’s not doing it as much this season,’’ an NL scout said on Thursday. “The book has always been to come in on him, but is it affecting him more this season? It’s possible."
That’s reason enough for the Mets to let other teams know there will be a price to pay for coming too far inside on Wright. Especially when their best pitcher is saying that anything less is unacceptable.
Sheriff Harvey, however, won’t be on the mound anytime soon.