Strange Bullpen Options
With the Mets’ bullpen breaking down due to overuse and gross mismanagement, desperate and curious considerations have been brought to the table. The most recent and ridiculous suggestions involve starters John Maine and Pedro Martinez.
First, let’s discuss Maine, who has no business throwing a baseball and should have had his surgery two weeks ago. Maine has managed to finagle a few bullpen sessions, at which he’s thrown well under his usual mid-90s velocity and with questionable control. The Mets are allowing John to do this because Jerry Manuel ran his top five relievers to the ground over the last four months, and Omar Minaya did absolutely nothing to fortify the bullpen against the predictable breakdown.
Naturally, Maine’s most recent session ended with a lot of positive remarks from the Mets’ staff and players. But did he REALLY look good, or was it desperate desire to see success clouding reality? The mind plays tricks on judgment in times like this — not unlike visions of an oasis in an empty desert. Yes, I’m talking mirage. One must step back from the situation and judge the session detached from the Mets’ bullpen performance of late. For example, if the Mets bullpen was doing a fine job, would Maine’s BP throwing look quite as impressive?
Even if his 86-MPH tosses did look great, what does he bring the Mets, other than a warm body? Let’s call a spade a spade: John Maine stunk prior to the shoulder injury. Perhaps time — or again, the bullpen situation — has glazed over the fact that John Maine was NOT an effective pitcher in June, July, or August. His performance, in fact, was not only down from 2007, but got worse as his velocity dropped. Even if he can top out at 92-93 MPH, that’s not enough for Maine to be a valuable asset — it makes him, essentially, another Duaner Sanchez or Aaron Heilman. We won’t even get into the precariousness of the situation — the possibility that he’ll hurt himself even worse. Sure, the “experts” claim that Maine can’t do any further damage to his shoulder — but that doesn’t mean he won’t change his already screwed-up mechanics to compensate for the pain, and hurt something else.
Even if Maine doesn’t hurt himself, and can get his velocity into the mid-90s for a one-inning stint, there are two other issues. First, there are six games left in the season — so when is he going to get a “safe” opportunity to pitch in a game? What are the chances that the Mets will be in a game where they have a five-run lead and can give an inning to Maine as a test? Second, I will point out this number: .300. That’s the batting average of the first batter to face Maine this season. That stat would suggest that Maine would only be effective starting an inning, with the bases empty.
Which makes for a great segue into the Pedro Martinez issue. Pedro made news by announcing he’d be willing and happy to come out of the bullpen in the postseason if necessary. Gee, Petey, that’s great, since there’s no chance in hell you’ll get a start if the Mets can help it. But let’s get right to the brass tacks: first hitters against Pedro are pounding him to the tune of .471! Yeah, that’s exactly the type of guy I want coming into a bases loaded situation … don’t we already have Scott Schoeneweis to clear the bases?
I can see Pedro pulling an El Duque in the playoffs — coming in to relieve Oliver Perez in the third inning of one of Ollie’s “Mr. Hyde” games, and giving the Mets four or five strong innings. But otherwise, I’m just not seeing him as an effective middle reliever — and that’s what the Mets need right now.
So if Maine and Martinez are not the answers, what can the Mets do for innings 7 and 8 (assuming Luis Ayala has the ninth covered)? Well, they might make trade for someone like Chad Bradford, Jon Rauch, Brian Fuentes, Scott Eyre, Arthur Rhodes, Anthony Reyes, David Weathers, Todd Coffey, Damaso Marte, Jamie Walker, or someone else who is available on the cheap. But then, that ship has sailed, as the Mets “didn’t have a match” for any of these men.
But the Mets didn’t have to wait until the trade deadline to pick up an arm. There were many pitchers available last winter, and mentioned here. Just a few off the top of my head: Joe Nelson (huh, we thought he was a good idea back in November 2007!), Troy Percival, Octavio Dotel, Eddie Guardado, Scott Strickland, Jorge Julio, and David Aardsma. All of those arms were available for next to nothing and would have been very useful.
Since the Mets had no “match” for an external option, it’s necessary to solve the problem from within. Using Bobby Parnell before the last week of the season might have been a nice idea. Having Eddie Kunz on the expanded roster could have been of benefit. Eddie Camacho out-pitched both Parnell and Jon Niese with the B-Mets, and came out of the bullpen all season — why not give him a shot? One also wonders why the Mets kept Willie Collazo and Ruddy Lugo on the 40-man roster all season, only to DFA them both at the beginning of September — exactly the time when they were desperate to add arms to the ‘pen. Nate Field struck out 55 in 50 IP at AAA New Orleans, in the hitter-friendly PCL … where is he?
All these people are NOT on the team, yet we have Adam Bostick, Ramon Martinez (why is this guy on the roster?? did someone owe him a favor??), and Gustavo Molina hogging spots on the 40-man, not to mention Billy Wagner and Maine, who both should have been transferred to the 60-day. Oh, and did you know that only 38 of the 40 spots are currently filled? For the second straight year, there are serious questions about the way the September roster has been handled.
We keep hearing how the bullpen stinks, and the Mets just have nobody to turn to in the late innings, but looking back, they had plenty of opportunities to avoid this situation. Bottom line: there’s been mismanagement at every level, from the field up through the front office. At this point, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best. It shouldn’t have come to this.