By Joyce Mandelkern
Editor's Note: Joyce wrote this piece before the Dodgers series. - M.S.
My daughter-in-law, whom I love and adore with all my heart, and I, have a long standing "joke" that she is to put on my gravestone, "Here lies my mother-in-law...the Mets bullpen put her here." Granted some years have been worse than others, some closers have been worse than others, and certainly some losses have been worse than others. But all in all, you have to have a very strong heart to watch the Mets bullpen try and close out a game, especially in the midst of a pennant race.
Maybe its as simple as the fact that I'm just too old for this sort of thing. I know a lot of you think that being in a pennant race is fun. Personally, I'd prefer less drama and to run away with the division as we did last year. Of course that doesn't make the playoffs any easier when the problem resurfaces in the post season. I have a confession to make. I don't usually watch our bullpen pitch. When I'm at Shea, I have my head buried in my hands because I can't bear to look. The crowd usually tells me by its reaction what I need to know. At home, I usually hide somewhere in the house or outside until Pete gives me the all clear signal. Our bullpen is not for the faint of heart. And I have to learn to stop living and dying with every win and loss, but that comes with being in a pennant race.
Sometimes I get lulled into a false sense of security and get my hopes dashed, like last night. I actually thought that Billy was going to come in and save the game. Silly me. I didn't, however, think that Heilman would hold them. I'm not that silly. Willie keeps running Mota out there as much as he used to go to Schoeneweis, regardless of how futile it becomes. I promise you this is not hindsight when I say that the other night, after Mota pitched a great 6th inning, I knew sending him out there for the 7th was a mistake. And leaving him out there after he got 2 on, was a disaster. I fear Sosa's arm is going to fall off from overuse. The entire bullpen needs to become more mentally tough. They need to make a pitch when they have to. I don't care if they're getting squeezed. I don't care if the ump blows a call. Make a pitch and get out of the damn inning!! If you've got 2 outs and 2 strikes on a guy, close the deal!!! You guys tell me, am I asking too much?
We need to keep winning. Yes, I like the fight I am finally seeing in this team. Yes, the offense seems to be clicking. Yes, I would like to see Carlos Delgado moved to 6th in the order and Alou 5th. But what I would most like to see is the bullpen get its act together. Can you imagine if the pitching and hitting actually were both working at the same time? We'd actually be dangerous!
I think what bothers me the most is the lost opportunities to put some distance between us and our opponents. I keep thinking how we could've picked up 2 games on both the Phillies and the Braves and totally demoralized them. While I'm happy we didn't lose any ground, I lament the fact that we didn't pick up any and we could have. So close, yet so far. Pete says I should think about how frustrated the Braves and the Phillies must feel about not being able to take advantage of our losses. Well guess what - I don't really care about them - I only care about us and all I see are lost opportunities that I hope don't come back to haunt us.
I have no idea how to fix this problem. Bring Joe Smith back? Maybe. Try Pelfrey or Humber out of the pen? Maybe. Keep praying - for sure. Right now I think the solution is just to have our starters go deep into the game, stop leaving so many RISP...in other words - score, score and score some more. I'm a genius, don't you think? Maybe Omar will to pick up this year's Mota without the steroids and find lightening in a bottle once again. We can only hope.
All I know is that I never ride roller coasters and that is what this season is. I just want everyone to get healthy, stay healthy and play good baseball. And like Mike says, just win games. My heart can't take much more of this. If this keeps up, I might be needing that gravestone sooner than I'd like.