Mike Pelfrey: One Foot in Mouth, Other Out the Door?

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.


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. Paul August 15, 2011 at 7:30 am
    If the Mets have the cash to pay Pelfrey next year, they may as well keep him… but he does not seem to be mentally suited to ever becoming an ace.
  2. fred August 15, 2011 at 7:45 am
    Didn’t Dickey say something about the Mets organization needing to temper their expectations earlier this season? Something about the team just not being very good.
    As a fan, RA and Niese are the only pitchers I’m not afraid of right now. I can brace for the two or three bad pitches from RA, but relative to Pelf, his starts are pretty fun and easy to watch.
  3. Izzy August 15, 2011 at 8:17 am
    Non tender Pelfrey we read…non tender Pagan we read; yet less than a month ago we read that the genius (NOT) Alderson wouldn’t even attempt to trade anyone but his stars. Free ride apparently never ends for this guy. Non teneder Pelfrey I don’t care; he’s nothing more than mediocre. But not trying to get anything for him in July before you dump him for absolutely nothing is the act of a very poor GM. Not allowed I know; Alderson is perfect; afterall his best teams led the world in steroids. He was a man ahead of his time!
  4. Joe August 15, 2011 at 8:35 am
    I agree with your comments except to the degree that such an attitude can pollute the clubhouse and it is not out of the realm of possibility that someone can fill his shoes.

    Niese / Gee / Capauno have shown signs of late of slipping and having problems with all their innings, but overall, will they give you less than Pelfrey? He is expendable. If he is in his proper role — back-end starter — sure, you can keep him. But, he’s expendable.

  5. Walnutz15 August 15, 2011 at 9:03 am
    This isn’t the first time this year Pelfrey’s opened his mouth about things upstairs in the executive suites….

    While I love to see fire from players, it’s probably not the best thing for him to do if he wants to stay here.

    …………then again, maybe he doesn’t?

    Same time: I can’t see someone like Sandy Alderson being too enthralled with what he’s seen in “Year 1” from Pelfrey anyway.

    I’m of the belief that Pelfrey’s outta here as soon as the Mets can make a solid deal. Maybe he can be packaged over the winter to take on some kind of similar “change of scenery” candidates from another organization…..someone who won’t be all that cheap, himself. Pelfrey will get some kind of raise this winter regardless – just a shade under $4MM base in 2011.

    I was always of the belief that he could have been pitched to the Cardinals; and seeing what they ultimately took on for Colby Rasmus……..I’d say that Edwin Jackson is a pretty good comparison to Pelfrey.

    We’ll see what happens…….but I think it’d be a good “break” for both parties. Especially if Pelfrey ever hooks up with another legitimate pitching coach.

    Dan Warthen sucks.

  6. JoeBourgeois August 15, 2011 at 9:40 am
    I assume that Alderson is going to expect reports from all of the coaching staff at some very early point in the winter discussing what, exactly, their plans are for improvement for each of their players.

    Will Warthen have anything to say about precisely how he’s going to work with Pelfrey? Or with anybody?

  7. hart August 15, 2011 at 10:19 am
    It’s not so much Pelfrey’s words, themselves, that trouble me so much; it’s more that they’re yet another indication of his mental lack of command. He’s probably on some sort of double secret probation by now, and I suspect his days at Citi are numbered. He does have a live arm though, less worthless than (mentally) weak, and so I’d like to see the team at least get something for him. Too bad it’s coming to this.
  8. NormE August 15, 2011 at 10:55 am
    Most of the comments about Pelfrey are valid. I find it painful
    to watch him pitch. The loss of Dr. Dorfman was a setback he hasn’t been able to overcome.
    Having said that I believe that Alderson will trade him only if
    he can get value in return. Otherwise the Mets will probably
    keep him.

    Joe I have always enjoyed your opinions and those of your commenters. However, I think the potshots at Alderson are unfair simply because they are based on too little a body of work with the Mets. If there is no improvement by 2013, taking shots at the GM is realistic.
    We shouldn’t let our frustrations hinder rational criticism.

    • Joe Janish August 15, 2011 at 11:47 am
      Norm, there is more than one “Joe” here in the comments. To which are you referring in regard to the “pot shots” at Sandy Alderson?
  9. derek August 15, 2011 at 11:25 am
    as of now aldy has to keep pelfrey. he is basically a .500 pitcher that will give you 200 inn…we need healthy arms that will give inn this yr and nxt yr…

    after next yr i think aldy will be able to help mold his team. he will have 2 drafts under his belt,alot of dead contract weight off his shoulders, and some young pitchers will be ready. then he can decide next offseason what to do with pelfrey or even trade hm at deadline nxt yr if he is pitching well. this mess wont be fixed in one offseason

  10. Garett V. August 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm
    there is evidently idssent on the part of Pelfry. He is trying to get himself out of New York City he obviously wants out already, let him go, get some prospects or guys who actually want to be a Met. F..orget him, Sandy.
  11. Garett V. August 15, 2011 at 12:11 pm
    ** that’s Dissent.
  12. NormE August 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm
    Sorry Joe(s),
    I was not referring to either one of you. I thought that Izzy’s
    frustration with the Mets has led to his taking unwarranted (for now) “pot shots” at Alderson.
    I completely understood Alderson’s Frankie R. and Beltran moves. They were probably necessary.
    I applauded his Castillo and Ollie cuts.
    His off-season signings were a product of a very limited budget and a lack of available talent.
    Terry Collins has worked out better than I had believed. His handling of a mediocre starting staff and a retread/castoff bullpen is much better than the way Jerry Manuel burnt out arms.
    Out of necessity, too many roster spots are filled with questionable talent from the minors.
    Alderson and Collins will have a chance to be more reasonably “pot shot” at as we move into 2012 and 2013.