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.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. RockStar78 September 23, 2008 at 7:17 am
    I got the impression that Omar also thought that getting Duaner Sanchez back was equivalent to getting back the 2006 version of him. Assuming he was going to pick up right where he left off was a big mistake. Oh, and the thought of having Scott Schoeneweis around for another year makes my skin crawl.
  2. isuzudude September 23, 2008 at 10:22 am
    I like Omar, I really do. And I credit him immensely for turning this team from a group of underachieving bums in 2005 to the perennial NL East contender they are today. But this is starting to become too much of a pattern for him to consistently leave this team an arm or two short as the season heads to a conclusion. Of course, matters are compounded by having back-to-back managers who think relievers can appear in 100 games per season with no negative repercussions. But you really have to figure, even if the Wilpons are content with having Omar and Jerry has their GM/manager for 2009, we as fans should start to become a little more boisterous in our displeasure for the way management has been handling things the last few years.

    Even if the Mets make the postseason this year, the “mirage” effect will remain in effect, because there really is very little the Mets are doing over the last couple weeks of the year that makes you think they deserve to be one of the final 8 teams vying for a world championship. If they eek into the playoffs, it will be because the Marlins and Brewers stunk it up even more than the Mets rather than anything the Mets accomplished. And you have to figure the 1st round series against the Cubs will prove that theory correct. But I’m worried that, even if the Mets get swept by Chicago in the NLDS, the season will still be deemed a success because of how many injuries the team had to overcome and how Jerry sparked the team to care about winning again. But the truth will be this team could have been so much better if Omar had put the right players on the roster and Jerry put the right players on the field. And then we’ll be doomed for yet another late-season collapse in 2009 because management preferred to admire their small successes rather than focus on correcting their errors.

  3. joe September 23, 2008 at 10:42 am
    The four million tickets sold this year secured Omar’s job and an extension. Unfortunately, the bottom line is money, not winning – except that winning can bring in more money through a playoff appearance. The Mets stood pat at the deadline not because of a problem with a “match” but because the front office was satisfied — all one had to do was read between the lines of Minaya’s quotes in the week afterward (I wrote about it a month ago here: http://gothambaseballmagazine.com/mets/brand-building.html).

    Remember the Wilpons’ famous quote, “playing meaningful games in September”. Not October. This is why the Yankees rule the town and the Mets will continue to be second citizens.

  4. Micalpalyn September 23, 2008 at 6:36 pm
    All three of you are right. But its not fair that we are critiquing this 6 games from the end of the season.

    That said Mike and Mike were discussing the panic button mentality with …of all people Peyton Manning this morning and he had good words. THIS moves says that the Wilpons and Mets upper level is NOT pushing the panic button.

    The Mets HAVE had a good year and (recently) had the best 2nd half of any team ( i think in baseball). Fact is if Billy was his first half self we are probably the 2nd seed right now. This does not factor Moises, Heilman, Maine and El Duques injuries…..and over reliance on Pedro and duaner as well as 3-4 rookies from AA. Yet we could (realistically) win 90 games.

    Next yr we WILL have a new closer, i predict Fuentes. I also think we will have at least one more BP arm, and a re-made rotation. Given that Pedro (10M), El duque (6M) and Ollie (6M) could be gone….I think Santana and Pelf, Niese are likely starters, Maine after recovery, then a FA possibly AJ Burnett, ben Sheets, even CC is brought in. I think Dontrelle, and Freddy Garcia are also possible. also I think there mifght be movement at catcher.

    Also next yr I think F-Mart is possible in LF. And the Wilmer flores-Ruben Tejada-franc Pena watch will heat up.

  5. joe September 23, 2008 at 7:46 pm
    Mic, we’ve been discussing these exact points here since March — perhaps longer.

    Interesting perspective …. you see inertia as “not pushing the panic button”, and we see it as not caring enough about October. And BTW, you must have meant to type “lack of moves”.

    But in fact, watching what JM has been doing with the bullpen, he has absolutely pushed the panic button (if the front office hasn’t). His incessant bullpen moves have made the weakness more glaring and have told his bullpen staff, “hey, I don’t trust you to pitch to more than one guy” and “you’re not good enough to handle a tough situation”.

    As for ’09, Omar has stated that the Mets will fill the closer role from within — whatever that means. But Fuentes is a possibility. Who knows, maybe we’ll see Izzy make a return.

    I wouldn’t count Niese as “likely” just yet — he’s behind where Humber was this time last year, and I’m not sure Humber would have had a spot had he remained with the club. Also not sure about a starter at the Sheets/Burnett level … we’ll discuss that when the time comes.

    F-Mart in LF may be a possibility if he shows progress over the winter. It would have been nice if the Mets made a play for Aubrey Huff, but I guess there wasn’t a “match” — he would have been a nice bat right now and a good guy to keep the corner warm for F-Mart.

  6. Micalpalyn September 23, 2008 at 10:28 pm
    1. With Pedro’s slow recovery and age, Ollie’s pending FA, the fact niese is a lefty, cheap and young….the impending 22M in rotation money PLUS the talent in FA……I say omar dabbles.

    2. Having restocked the farm, Ollie’s Fa yielding 2 picks…and the need for a top shelf righty i think omar dabbles.

    3. as you pontificate over NON moves consider Omar stumped the pundits in dealing for johanand getting 220+ innings so far. yanks stood pat when phil hughes and Ian kennedy plus Melky might have done it…then in Aug the yanks dealt for Damaso (bust) X-man. …too late.

    4. In 2006 The Mets got Billy and jettisoned Looper. it was obvious the mets HAD to overbid. they will have to again, but why start the bidding now? The Mets have called for Fuentes for 2 years…..
    Others the Mets will look at: I think bradford, wheeler (ex-Mets) are possible.

    5. F-Mart will be in spr tng. Why cant murph stay in LF? I am not enamored with schneider. I think Casanova or Cancel could do as well. i am intrigued with FA Ivan Rodriguez and also Benji molina.

  7. isuzudude September 24, 2008 at 6:11 am
    Shouldn’t we be spending our nervous energy concentrating on the playoff race instead of offseason moves? There’s going to be plenty of time for this conversation in a couple weeks. It would probably be wise to see how arbitration dealings work out before we start naming off all the free agents the Mets need to pursue this winter.

    However, Mic, there’s one name you bring up I just can’t resist criticizing. Dontrelle Willis? Really?? This guy is as lost on the mound as Rick Ankiel was a few years back, and unless you plan on converting Dontrelle to the OF, he should be the LAST guy on your shopping list this offseason. Not to mention, what has prompted you to have this personal vandeta against Brian Schneider? You’ve wanted this guy traded since the moment he got here it seems. Do we really need an upgrade at catcher that badly?

  8. Micalpalyn September 24, 2008 at 10:35 am
    Isuzu: looking at the Mets as a franchise and the off season helps distract from the pins and needles of the next 4-5 days.

    I dont see Dontrelle as any different than Ollie, and his 10M tag makes him unviable for all but a handfull of teams. This is the guy that single-handedly closed our season LAST yr on the last day.

    I’ll back of Schneider.

  9. isuzudude September 24, 2008 at 11:35 am
    You don’t have to back off Schneider if you don’t want to, I’m just curious why it seems like you’re constantly putting him into trade offers and looking for a replacement. I think he’s done a very effective job as the #8 hitter while providing solid defense and coaching to the pitching staff.

    To me, the difference between Dontrelle and Perez is gigantic. When acquired, Perez was making next to nothing contractually. He was the throw in to the Nady-for-Hernandez swap and was viewed as a project that if the Mets couldn’t fix, no big deal. He was also a 95+MPH pitcher with an excellent slider and was only 24 at the time he was acquired, which gave him plenty of time to mature, develop, and blossom into the pitcher he is today. However, Dontrelle’s contract makes him an immovable object and an albatross if he is unable to regain his former form. He is owed $22 million thru 2010, which is MUCH more of a pricey gamble to take than it was for Ollie. Additionally, Willis is coming off back to back poor seasons, he’s 26, and his stuff is nowhere near as nasty as Perez’. Not to mention, in order to obtain Willis you’d have to trade for him and who knows what the Tigers a liable to ask for in return. I don’t see anything about Willis that makes him even remotely attractive to acquire. Sorry

  10. Micalpalyn September 24, 2008 at 12:06 pm
    http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080921/SPORTS02/809210449/1048
    \

    based on this article possibly we swap Luis Castillo back to his old division……:)

  11. isuzudude September 24, 2008 at 12:15 pm
    Somehow I doubt the Tigers are interested in Castillo when they already have Polanco embedded as their 2B. Unless you are inferring the Mets make a deal for Willis and Polanco, and give them Castillo and someone else. But my question is who would that someone else be? I’d imagine Detroit would ask for Jon Niese right off the bat, and even I’m not that desperate to get rid of Castillo.
  12. Micalpalyn September 24, 2008 at 1:57 pm
    WOW!!! now you have me hooked.

    maybe not Niese, but I think talking to detroit about the 3 players we have discussed is enticing. in addition remember Detroit has also had long standing interest in Heilman. Niese is not the only player we could spin in a deal.

  13. joe September 24, 2008 at 4:08 pm
    how about we trade Carlos Beltran to the Tigers for Miguel Cabrera, and let them to throw in D-Train’s contract?

    :-)