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The Mets Need to Find Some Answers Soon

Mike SteffanosSaturday, May 13, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

I've spent some time this afternoon looking at what others have had to say about various aspects of the starting pitching situation. Tomorrow is Lisa's birthday, and I'm taking her out tonight, so I may not watch tonight's game. Normally the prospect of missing a game gives me at least a touch of regret, but I have a feeling that missing this one might prove to be a blessing. After a respectable 2003 season with Tampa Bay, Jeremi Gonzalez has been awful the last two years. Yet he might be all that stands in the way of us having to watch Jose Lima start another game for our suddenly struggling team.

As a Mets blogger, I have the flexibility to mix fact and opinion in any way that I choose, in that I have no one to answer to for what I write in this space other than myself. But I do feel that I have a responsibility to those who bother to read what I say, and to the truth itself, to try to keep things fair and balanced. I've tried to consider things from the point of view of the club as I feel my panic rise while the Mets trot out another sub-par pitcher to the mound. I've been able to understand the reluctance to rush Pelfrey and Soler, or break up a wonderful bullpen combination. Baseball decision makers cannot afford to allow panic to dictate what they do. I think the sense of urgency is rising, however, even within the hierarchy of the club.

Items of interest from my earlier reading:

On Jose Lima
Just some of the opinions on Jose Lima from other blogs:

Can't Stop The Bleeding:
The only reason Jose Lima should be allowed a 3rd opportunity to start for the New York Mets is if the club's entire farm system were to succumb to an outbreak of the bubonic plague.

The Eddie Kranepool Society:
Hey the Mets gave this guy a shot but in the grand tradition of James Baldwin and Scott Erickson Lima Time is past his expiration date and should not be taking up a valuable spot on the 40 man roster any longer.

Blog about the New Mets:
Jose Lima just doesn't have good enough stuff anymore to be a decent pitcher. Anytime a control pitcher begins to pile up the walks, it is a sign that he's afraid to throw the ball over the plate and that's what it looks like right now for Lima.

Mike Pelfrey and Alay Soler
At NY Baseball Central, Mike McGann, formerly of Gotham Baseball, in an article on the struggles the Mets' Triple-A Norfolk franchise has been experiencing this season, mentions the perceived long-term plan of the Mets in regards to prospects Mike Pelfrey and Alay Soler:

... More interesting, though, could be the arrival of either Mike Pelfrey or Alay Soler, both pitching well at Binghamton after dominating in the Florida State League with St. Lucie. Soler, sources suggest, will be first to head to Norfolk as early as next month, if he continues to pitch well. Pelfrey will probably follow sometime around the All-Star break.

This would seem to indicate that the Mets are pushing both youngsters very aggressively. It's not surprising if they push Soler a little harder and faster -- he's 26 years old and has pitched for the Cuban national team, Pelfrey is 22 and pitched for Wichita State. The Mets might yet have to rush one or both of these two more than they want to, but I can understand the fact that the organization is trying to take a responsible approach with 2 kids that can conceivably be contributing members of this pitching staff for the next few years, although some opine that long-term Soler might be better suited for the bullpen.

Aaron Heilman
In his excellent ..getting paid to watch blog, former Mets assistant trainer Bob Sikes makes some great observations from the standpoint of someone who was once on the inside of successful teams:

To be blunt, it takes much from an everyday line-up when a rotation isn't consistently keeping the team in the game. The frequency of early leads and first inning scoring will lessen. Late inning comebacks will become increasingly rare. A pendulum shift of momentum occurs.

So with a lead that once was felt would only grow, two injuries in a rotation prompted a shrinking to two games. ... Today journeyman Jeremi Gonzalez goes against a greatly improved Milwaukee Brewers team. ... This game has the makings of lots of scoring in the first half and a bullpen duel during the final four innings. The current configuration of the staff promises more games as this, and the bullpen won't be able to sustain its early season excellence. This is characteristic of a club which plays below .500. So don't expect the Mets to take this path for long.

Its unlikely Lima will get many more shots and his lack of success doesn't figure to allow Gonzalez a long leash either. As the price for a starter of significance such as Livan Hernandez is currently prohibitive, a meeting that will be held soon to determine a course of action. If the powers that be decide its too soon for Mike Pelfrey or Alay Soler, then the only course of action left is for Aaron Heilman to return to the rotation. And sooner, rather than later.

I would hate to see Heilman moved out of the bullpen. I don't believe that Jorge Julio is ready to step up and assume Heilman's old role, and to some extent I buy into the notion that, as a two-pitch pitcher, Heilman will not be nearly as effective as a starter. Still, I would expect him to be more effective than anyone on the staff besides Pedro and Glavine. I think he would give the Mets a chance to win more than half the time when he pitches. Trachsel can't even seem to do that right now. Most of the other guys the Mets trotted out can seem to give them any chance at all.

Bob Sikes is right. To stay on the path of trotting out guys with no chance of winning 2 out of 5 days is a prescription for disaster for the 2006 Mets. The offense is already experiencing inconsistency and a tendency to try too hard. The pressure of being constantly behind isn't going to help. The bullpen will be overused and overexposed. The pressure to win on days that Pedro and Glavine pitch will drastically increase. Trachsel himself can't seem to pitch well enough to give the Mets a chance to win his starts most of the time, he hardly needs the pressure of trying to pick up 2 clowns following him.

I don't want or need the Mets hierarchy to react to the fans' sense of panic and do something we'll regret for years, like, say, dealing a terrific rare prospect for some league-average hack. At the same time, there can be no repeat of the Kaz Ishii fiasco from last season. And I don't believe the brain trust has any intention of allowing that to happen.

So, while my common sense and my years of closely following this sport tell me it's not time to panic, I also understand that this situation cannot be allowed to fester for too long. Omar Minaya and company may quite soon be forced into a decision regarding their promising young pitchers or their effective setup man they'd prefer not to have to make. The alternative might be to allow a promising season to whither and die, and that is something this franchise cannot allow to happen.

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Comments (2)

I am actaully happy that we disagree on the subject of Heilman. I always wanted this guy to suceed. I was at his first start ever at Shea so maybe I am being a little sentimental. He didn't pitch all that well but he was the symbol of hope in some regards during what turned out to be a terrible season. I am not sure there was anyone happier when he threw the one hitter last year against the Marlins. He was brilliant in the pen too. But I do think enough is enough. With 2 and a half (Trax) good starters, we are going to be in trouble as the schedule changes and we start playing better teams. While I won't argue for Pelfrey, or even Soler, to be called up, do you not think that those two or Heilman can throw better than Lima, Gonzo or Maine? In the spirit of the Tom Cruise "classics," I leave you with this quote which I am sure Mr. Heilman wants to say:

"Let me drive, I won't make a fool out of you." - Cole Trickle - Days of Thunder

Give the kid a shot.

I'm not really sure why you think we disagree on Heilman. I think, and I said, that he's their best option as a starter right now, and I only hate to take him out of the bullpen because I think he is an elite setup man. He will not be a top of the rotation starter, but I believe he would be their #3 immediately. And I only want Pelfrey and Soler to wait for their own benefit. I believe both to already be more palatable choices than Lima and Gonzalez.

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