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Sympathy for the Heilman

Mike SteffanosThursday, May 3, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Fact: Aaron Heilman gave up the home run to Yadier Molina in game 7 of the NLCS last year.

Fact: Aaron Heilman has struggled early this season.

The above two facts are undeniable. What rather bugs me is the beating that Aaron takes from some of the faithful. Heilman is still an important member of this bullpen, and has done a good since moving to the 'pen during the 2005 season. Every player has his ups and downs over the course of the year, but whenever Heilman endures a rough patch he becomes the whipping boy for a lot of fans' frustrations.

We all know Heilman wants to be a starter, but the notion of some that he is "sulking" about not being a starter whenever he goes bad is baseless. While Aaron makes it clear that he would like a chance to be a starting pitcher, he's never issued any ultimatums or acted unprofessionally about his role with the team.

Heilman's biggest public relations problem seems to be that he's somewhat nerdy and low-key. While both he and Duaner Sanchez slumped at the same point last year, fans seemed quicker to forgive the guy with the big personality and the cool goggles.

Questions about whether Heilman strikes out enough batters or has the great stuff that we like to see from our late inning guys are somewhat moot until someone clearly demonstrates they are a better choice for the bridge to Billy Wagner. Perhaps Joe Smith will continue to shine brightly, but I'm cautious about a kid whose big league career has spanned all of a month. I'm optimistic about him, that's for sure, but I'd like to see him do what he's doing after the league gets a good luck at him before I feel comfortable that he's more than a good righty specialist. He's done well against lefties so far, but he's only faced 13 ABs against them. That doesn't quite qualify as a track record.

Perhaps Guillermo Mota will come back and perform as he did in his brief time with the Mets last season, or perhaps he will revert back to the ineffectiveness of most of the previous two years.

Maybe Ambiorix Burgos will become all that he could be. I don't really trust him at this point, however. Do you?

Heilman doesn't have the personality to inspire love from a New York fan base. It's easy to write off his accomplishments and concentrate on the negatives. For me, though, I respect a guy who has a track record of being able to do one of the most important, yet thankless, jobs in baseball in the white-hot glare of this market. He's proven that he can bounce back from adversity. He's been booed, but not cowered. He may indeed be a nerd, but he's a nerd that has proven he can handle -- even thrive -- under pressure.

It may be that the Mets will have guys will step forward this year and take the eighth inning job for their own. If that happens, Heilman may indeed be traded elsewhere to fill a need for this team. For now, though, there simply isn't a better option for the end of games. In any case, I will always respect the job that Aaron Heilman has done for the Mets these past couple of seasons. I remember all too well the countless leads squandered away by the Ricky Bottalicos, David Weathers and Mike DeJeans of this world. Heilman hasn't been perfect, but he's been pretty damned good at his job.

Mets-Marlins Pics
Our fiend Gary Sparber has some great pictures from yesterday's game posted here.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (8)

Am I the only one who thinks Heilmanns days are numbered as a Met Mike ? I just get this feeling that he dosen't want to be here if he isn't starting , and although it is assumed he has excepted his role in the BP , you can see it in his eyes sometimes that he is just not a happy guy with the way things are for him right now . I would also think aaron would be better off in another ML Organization that would be more accomodating to his wishes , and that just might happen sooner than later if Omar can get some Fair Value in return fo him in a possible Future trade . Even the Met Fans at Shea show open disdain for him when he pitches there . I would even go so far as to say that presently , he is the most disliked player on this 2007 Team . I for one do not feel that way about him , and just hope he goes somewhere soon where he will be more appreciated by the Home Town Fans there .

No, you are NOT the only one to think that way, Mark Fonte. Another somebody posted almost the same exact thoughts right after your post.

Hey, I am on record as being a supporter of Aaron Heilman, and I am glad to see him getting a little love, even if it's tough love.

Off topic alert!!

For those of us interested in unusual feats, statistics, or lexiconic oddities for that matter, do try and catch the Mets game versus the Snakes tonight.

The reason being, today the Mets sent Chan Ho Park back to New Orleans, calling up Lino Urdaneta.

It might be our only chance to see a pitcher called into a game, have that pitcher's lifetime stats spread across the screen, and see the legend "infinite" under the ERA category. I never saw that, did you?

Gulp, I hope he gets someone out if he does get into the game. An infinite ERA is an interesting oddity, but not something anyone would wish to hang onto.

But: I know it was not a life time ERA, but in his fantasy 2005 season, Looper in blowing a chance to get a save in Pedro's debut also sported a season ERA of infinity...for a day.

Heilman certainly deserves more leniency from Met fans than he has received. Yes he has been frustrating to watch this year, but so have David Wright, Carlos Delgado and some of the other relievers in the pen.

The guy, for all his supposed whining, came up huge for us last year when Duaner went down. If it wasn't for him, we would have had alot tougher time getting games under control for Wagner to close. And while he gave up the shot to Molina, Heilman didn't lose game 7 for us. That honor is much more deserved by the offense that abandoned us during the playoffs. I recall a bases loaded, none out situation where our guys couldn't plate a run, just after what might have been the greatest defensive play in recent playoff history. Heilman was just the scapegoat when the wrong team won.

And let's not forget why our pen has any questions at all. It was Sanchez who didn't rehab properly. And it was Sanchez who came to camp 15 lbs overweight. All Heilman has done is pitch through injury and try to help this team.

No he hasn't looked great so far. But give the guy a chance. We need him to succeed. It might do him wonders to come out to a lound standing ovation at Shea for being such a warrior, rather than boo birds for trying and not succeding.

Let's love this team, and let's enjoy this ride. Let's Go Mets!!

I woke up this morning to see a 9-4 Mets win and our A. Heilman gets the win. That makes me happy and I am sure it makes Heilman happy. King for a day. You can add me to the list of Heilman going in a trade. I think Omar is looking for a starter and one or two on this roster may go to get one. Heilman may be the one who makes it happen and another( Lopper ) starter is born someplace else. I would like to see Heilman get a chance to start and see what he could do, but I don't think that will happen with this team.

I like Heilman out of the bullpen, overall. I'd rather see the Mets keep him, because there's really no one to replace him in the short term, unless Mota/Padilla can come back and preform at a high level. He'll get over his arm problems down the line, so I'm not worried about that. It's early right now.

I'd rather not see Heilman start, because he's just not that kind of a pitcher. He's got 2 effective pitches, and by the 5th inning of any start, he'd be very hittable with his arm tiring out. He'd also be another Milton/Park, with the ability to strike anyone out, or the ability to give them a home run. It's the fact that he has the ability to be the former that's going to make alot of teams want him- and his good bullpen work.

If the Mets trade him (and Milledge), I want something really good in return. Miguel Cabrera, anyone? Carl Crawford?

Mark - Can you really read what he's feeling by looking in his eyes, or maybe are you reading into it what you think he's feeling. I think the fans who are really down on him are being unfair -- not the first time that has happened to a player at Shea.

There could come a time when the Mets are in a position to trade Heilman, but they certainly can't do it now. They're thin in the bullpen, and no one knows what Mota is going to be yet. Joe Smith has been great, but the league doesn't really know him yet. Schoeneweis and Feliciano are struggling, Burgos isn't ready. You need a surplus of options before you think about trading one of your best.
Salman - I know he hasn't pitched that great this year, but I don't understand why people feel he's so expendable right now when nobody but Joe Smith has really stepped up in the bullpen this year.
Al - I agree that he's not likely to get the chance to start here, but I don't think they afford to give him up in a trade at this point.
Jason - You're not getting either one of those guys for just Heilman and Milledge. I know Crawford is a very good young player, but it doesn't make sense to me for the Mets to give up so much for a young OF when all of their best position prospects are OFs (Milledge, Carlos Gomez, Fernando Martinez).

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