April 19th 2010. It was a day that sparked a renewed optimism for the Mets, and gave new hope for their fans. After last season, fan confidence was low; it grew a little bit during spring training, and then was once again shattered during the teams 4-8 start. In a move that was clearly scheduled to happen right from day one, on April 19th the Mets called up first base prospect Ike Davis whom all the fans had been waiting for. The move has looked great so far; Davis is hitting .318 with a Home Run and 2 RBI’s in his first week in the big leagues. More importantly the Mets are 6-1 since calling him up. April 19th could be looked at as the day that saved the Mets season, but it wasn’t. April 19th 2010 is the day that ruined the 2010 Mets season, and has possibly caused more long-term damage.
Lets be fair, this is not an “Ike Davis is not ready for the majors and should still be developing in the minors” article. This is an “Ike Davis may be saving Jerry Manuel’s job article,” and that is a problem. The Mets might be playing great baseball right now, and Manuel may look like a genius for moving Jose Reyes to the #3 spot in the order but there is no way the Mets can make the playoffs with Jerry Manuel running the show.
When Jerry took over in June of 2008 he immediately steadied a sinking ship and put the Mets right back at the top of the division. The Mets started pitching, Carlos Delgado started hitting, and the Mets were winning again. They looked like they were going to move past the collapse of 2007. What happened next was almost an exact repeat of 2007, only this time it was different culprit, the bullpen simply could not close out a game.
By the time September of 2008 came around the Mets bullpen was exhausted. It became a struggle to hold onto a four run lead over two innings. At the time it looked like the Mets bullpen just lacked talent, but really there was a bigger reason for the bullpen collapse, Jerry had no idea how to use them, and now were heading for more of the same.
I know its only April and it is still early but there is no way the Mets can go to the playoffs if they continue to be managed like this. Coming out of spring training, confidence was high about the Mets lineup, however many questions were raised about the starting rotation and the bullpen. Through almost one month of the season, the lineup has been pretty bad, until Ike arrived, the rotation has been amazing and the bullpen has been amazing. The problem is our bullpen has been usage is among the highest in the league. There is no reason I should be reading that going into Sunday’s game Fernando Nieve had pitched in 12 of 18 games. There is no reason that Pedro Feliciano, who has set appearance records for the Mets in each of the last two seasons, has at least warmed up in 14 of 18 games. There is no reason that K-Rod should have thrown 100 warmup pitches in the bullpen before entering the 20-inning marathon game against the Cardinals in 19th inning. Actually there is a reason; when it comes to the bullpen, Jerry Manuel has no idea what he is doing.
Jerry said at the beginning of the year he didn’t have roles for any of his relievers yet, but we all know Jerry favors certain guys. He said on opening day that 20 year old phenom Jenrry Mejia would not pitch the 8th inning. So for some reason Mejia never pitches the 8th inning even though he’s been stellar this season, as Jerry opts to use Nieve and Feliciano instead, even if they are tired. Jerry will always call to his “comfort pitchers.” Right now they are doing great, and even better, were learning Feliciano can get right handed batter out too, but how will this end?
There is history behind the situation unfolding, very recent history actually. In fact every year in April we become shocked to learn that Pedro Feliciano can get right handed hitters out as well as left handed ones. But then every year in May when we start playing the Phillies Feliciano moves back into the left-handers only role, with Jerry refusing to let him pitch to anyone else. By the time mid-summer comes along, Feliciano is already tired and overworked, and can’t get those lefties out anymore, thus turning him into a guy who warms up pitches to one batter and leaves the game.
Question marks were also raised this season about the Mets rotation. With the exception of some shaky John Maine starts the rotation has been awesome. The one problem has been, they’ve barely been pitching. I’m not a big fan of pitch counts but I do understand their merit. However Jerry is living way too strictly by them, especially since he doesn’t change it depending on the pitcher. They say the number of pitches a pitcher throws should be around 100, but that number is too low. Pitchers really can throw up to 125 pitches a game before completely losing effectiveness, but they should not be hitting the 125 mark every outing. In reality pitchers should be looking at 110-115 pitches a start. Jerry has the bar very set at 100. Even when pitchers are doing well, even if the pitcher is Johan Santana, too often Jerry has removed pitchers after 6 innings and 103 pitches. Over the last week he removed Oliver Perez and Jon Niese before they completed the 6th inning despite good outings. He used lines like “I want Olli’s confidence to remain high so I took him out after a good outing.” This can’t keep happening, at a certain point you need to let your starters, even your young ones go out there and work and get through tough times, or you need to say to Johan, we need another inning out of you go get it. I know its early, but at this rate this bullpen is going to be exhausted by June.
When Jerry took over the Mets in 2008 it took him just 2 and a half months to tire out the bullpen. He has no idea how to use it. Mets games used to last 2 hours 50 minutes. Now I’ll turn on a game in the 7th inning and still be watching 90 minutes later because Jerry needs to make a pitching change every batter, at a point your just overdoing it. The Mets need a manager who understands you don’t need to use your bullpen 3 innings every single night, and you can’t have every pitcher warm up every night. My anger culminated last night when the Mets played a rain shortened 5-inning game. The game was called 1 pitch into the 6th inning. Even though our starting pitcher did not give up a single run, Jerry still managed to find a way to warm up TWO different pitchers on the night. It may only be April, and we may be winning right now, but very soon these pitchers are going to be exhausted from throwing every day, and the Mets will be unable to turn over a 4 run lead to their bullpen, and all the positives will be wiped away. Mets fans may be happy now, but at this rate, they will be very angry, very soon.