A few days ago, Mike Pelfrey made the mistake of admitting the reality that we all knew since the beginning of spring training: that the Mets were unlikely to win the World Series in 2011. In case you missed the quote from the New York Post:
The beleaguered right-hander, speaking about his struggles and possible future with the team, told The Post it was a pipedream to believe the Mets could immediately become something special under the new regime of general manager Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins.
“It’s unrealistic for anybody at the end of last year to come in and say, ‘The Mets, this is a one-year thing, next year we’re going to win it all,’ ” Pelfrey said before the Mets’ 4-3 loss to the Diamondbacks last night. “It’s unrealistic.”
Granted, most of us “realistic” Mets fans shared this opinion. But, we don’t want to hear it from a player.
This latest media snafu comes less than a month after Pelfrey criticized the front office for being sellers rather than buyers. Hmm … on the one hand, he didn’t believe the Mets could win the World Series; on the other hand, he’s angry the front office waved the white flag at the trade deadline. Sounds like a confused and conflicted young man.
One has to wonder if Pelfrey’s loose lips will sink his ship as a New York Met. There has been some speculation that the Mets could non-tender Pelfrey this winter, as he’ll be in line to make somewhere between $4M and $6M+ next year thanks to the arbitration process. Will his price tag and recent remarks make the Mets cut him loose?
Even though Pelfrey had a meeting with Terry Collins after the NY Post article and seemed to do an OK job of damage control, what was said, was said — he can talk all he wants about being taken out of context or believing he was being positive. The bottom line is that he’s in no position to be talking about anything. As a teammate said in response to Pelfrey’s words:
“He’s cutting his own throat,” the player said. “What’s his record, six and nine? He’s supposed to be the ace of the [bleeping] staff. Why don’t you go and win 12 or 13 games?”
Precisely. In other words, who is Mike Pelfrey to be saying anything?
Popping off about the front office or the team’s chances would carry more weight if Pelfrey had assumed the role that was bestowed upon him — that of ace of the pitching staff. Instead of building on what was a strong 2010, he allowed his mind to get in the way, placing internal pressure on himself. From the same NY Post article:
“I went out there and tried to be too good,” Pelfrey said. “I almost tried to force it, because I wanted to do so well. I tried to force being dominant, and tried to put every pitch on the black in a perfect spot and almost looking back, it’s almost like I was nibbling.
“That was stuff I was doing three or four years ago and not stuff I should be doing now.”
Pelfrey elaborated further to Andy McCullough of The Star-Ledger:
“All that pressure stuff, I don’t buy it. I think it’s more self-inflicted. I think after last year, as good as it went, I tried to come out and I tried to be better. I tried to force it. I think that’s where I got into trouble. I tried to make the perfect pitch. I tried to make everything sharp. It just wasn’t working.”
There are a few problems with these quotes. The first is that this thought process is happening with a 27-year-old, world-class athlete who spent at least two years in mental training with one of the top sports psychologists in the world (the late Harvey Dorfman). Proper mental focus isn’t easy for many, but it is certainly attainable.
Second is the fact that Pelfrey felt this way rather than believing in himself — particularly after his excellent 2010 campaign. Confidence begets confidence, but if you can’t build off of previous successful performance, then confidence will never build within you — it can only be lost.
Third is the geography in which Pelfrey experiences these thoughts — New York City. To be a leader in this town requires enormous confidence, strong self-image, and an insatiable desire to succeed. Any bit of weakness is immediately exposed and attacked until the athlete either turns it into a strength or gets chewed up by it.
We have witnessed enough mental implosions by Pelfrey on the mound to know which way he tends to go when a vulnerability rears its head. It doesn’t mean Pelfrey is incapable of being the horse he should be for the Mets — but it does mean he has a long way to go to get there.
Will the Mets give him that chance? I think they have to. People may argue that $6M is far too much for someone who has shown to be a #4 or #5 starter. But at the same time, getting a pitcher of Pelfrey’s caliber, who can give you 200 innings, is fairly healthy, and is under the age of 30, is likely going to cost at least $6M on the open market — and probably going to require a multi-year deal. For all of his underachievement, Pelfrey still is a valuable asset, and has the physical skills that retain a glimmer of hope that he can be a #2 or #3 starter. Maybe the key is simply to adjust expectations and perspective.
What do you think? Will running off his mouth get Mike Pelfrey run out of town? Does it make sense to keep him around for at least one more year — even if he may not be worth his pay grade? Express yourself in the comments.
About the Author
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.