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Mike SteffanosWednesday, July 23, 2008
By Mike Steffanos

Game 100: Phillies 8 - Mets 6

Games like this make you wish you never became a fan, at least for a little while. They used to absolutely kill me years ago. I handle them better now, but they still suck.

A bad loss like last night's make it very tempting to play the "what if" game, but it's something I've forced myself to get away from over the years. Yeah, I was disappointed that Santana didn't at least start the ninth inning, but a bullpen should be able to hold a 3-run lead against the bottom of the order even when the closer in not available.

The Mets did a good job piecing together a bullpen in 2006. The last couple of seasons haven't worked out quite as well, for a number of reasons.

A drop in performance from key guys is one factor. Aaron Heilman is an easy example, but Pedro Feliciano is also a good example. I thought he was the secret weapon in 2006 -- an effective lefty specialist who also did a good job getting righties out. Now he's not even that great against lefties.

Another factor is having a bullpen with guys who are so similar to each other. Heilman and Sanchez both depend on a changeup for their out pitch. Other than Wagner, most of this bullpen pitches to contact. The Mets could really use a young, hard-throwing pitcher that can come in and get a strikeout. Maybe Ambiorix Burgos comes back next year and gives them that, but right now they don't have anyone to do that.

Finally, you have a closer who is getting older and has trouble holding up physically over the course of a season, but you don't really have an understudy to hold the fort when he is unavailable. I'd love to see the Mets develop some young hard-throwing pitchers of their own and try to grow their next closer from within.

Every bad relationship I've ever been in seemed to entail the feeling that I didn't know what scared me more -- being with that person or losing them. Last night in the ninth inning I felt that way about Wagner. I realized that the only thing that scared me more than him coming in to save the game was him not coming in. This means I officially have a new dysfunctional relationship in my life.

So now we all wonder if the Mets can bounce back from yet another bad loss to the Phillies. Then again, if they can't, they're not really worth losing sleep over. I suspect they're more resilient this year than they were last year, but that bullpen may yet be the death of them. Minaya has some work to do this off-season. What he has now may squeak through this year if things fall right, but what was once a vital source of strength for this club is mediocre, at best.

View Johan Santana's Full Season Stats

Box Score

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 (6)

I'm willing to forgive and forget, but 2-3 after the Allstar break has a familiar eerieness to it. One win, one loss, two wins two losses, it was that way before the "streak", and I'm just hoping they can buck that trend. Come on Mets, rip off a good 20-5 run and claim this division that is yours for the taking.

The Mets had better be looking for their heir apparent to Billy Wagner. No heir was anywhere near apparent in Tuesday night's ninth inning.

Last year, the buzz on Ambiorix Burgos led me to surmise he'd be the next flameballer waiting in the wings to close. This March, Joe Smith looked to be the next in line once Wags calls it a career.

Today? I don't see another Met ready to save a game if this nagging injury sidelines Wagner for any stretch of time. Heilman? The Other Pedro? Smilin' Duaner? No, no, and definitely no. You can't win a division, much less a post-season game, if you don't have someone ready to slam the door late.

Wags has 2009 in his contract, and the Mets could always try to keep him for 1 to 2 more years, while they develop/search for a suitable replacement. Kunz I keep hearing stuff about, but I don't know if that's what'll happen. The Mets could always go after Huston Street or Brian Fuentes, and hold them in reserve for the closer role.

Then again, Heilman could work his way into the closer role, if need be.

L.J. - I think we'd all love to see something like that.
Nostra - I don't think they're going to be able to trade for that guy now. The price is too steep for even a competent guy like Fuentes.
Jason - The problem with Wagner is with him holding up physically. He's also said that he has no interest in playing beyond his current contract -- not that he couldn't change his mind, of course.

I think the Mets bullpen is alright, a couple of stupid collapses like that not withstanding. Smith has been good, and he 'got' his out Tuesday. Wagner is certainly as good a closer as we can really expect. Schoneiweis has been good, and Heilman has turned it around. Feliciano is struggling a bit, but he's usually okay and better situationally. Sanchez has also been pretty good for the most part. The priority still has to be a bat.

Ceetar - The bullpen is pretty mediocre, and they can really fall apart some games, but they could get by with it if the starting pitching continues to do well. If I was the GM I'd probably go for a bat, too.

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