Second-best Acquisition of 2008
Without much fanfare, the Mets made an under-the-radar announcement that didn’t even get picked up by most news and blog sources, yet could have an impact on the Mets’ pitching staff that is similar to the acquisition of Johan Santana.
No, Tom Seaver has not come out of retirement (neither has David Cone), and Omar Minaya is not even thinking about adding Roger Clemens.
The name is one you likely never heard of: Dan Warthen.
Amidst all the hoopla surrounding Johan Santana’s entrance to the Mets organization, it’s not surprising that the signing of a AAA pitching coach would go undetected. However, one must consider that Warthen is kind of like the Rick Peterson of the minors — a highly respected and successful pitching coach who has a knack for helping young pitchers get to the next level.
Warthen was the Mets’ AAA pitching coach in 2004-2005, and may have been the sole reason for the success of Jae Seo, Jose Parra, Heath Bell, and Juan Padilla, among others. He spent the last two years as the bullpen coach for the Dodgers, but Joe Torre brought in his own staff so Warthen returned to the Mets.
Although Warthen has experience as a big league pitching coach — with the Tigers, Padres, and Mariners — his value seem to be in the minors, fine-tuning and accelerating the development of young arms on the cusp of the big leagues. Looking at the Mets’ potential AAA staff, we see some specific youngsters who could blossom under Warthen’s guidance: Mike Pelfrey, Jason Vargas, and Adam Bostick.
OK, at face value, Johan Santana means a lot more to the organization than some AAA coach. But if 2008 turns out to be as close a race as 2007, the emergence of Pelfrey or Vargas or someone else from the farm could be the difference between first place and second (for example, imagine if the Mets had not lost five of Brian Lawrence’s six starts?). Maybe Warthen is the personality who can push Pelfrey to the next level — which would benefit the Mets in ’08 and several years beyond. Every little bit helps.